God’s Judgment and Sin

Several weeks ago on the radio the discussion of religion came up. Radio hosts should stay away from the topic of religion because they do not know what they are talking about! The topic was Pat Robertson. Pat Robertson made the statement the fires in California were God’s judgment because of Planned Parenthood. Katrina hit New Orleans because of same-sex marriage (even though that was not legal at that time). The radio host went on to say that if this were true (as I have said before) then why didn’t the French Quarter flood? The host went on to say that the God he believes in does not inflict judgment on the earth due to our sin. He is wrong.

Katrina did not hit our city because we are worse sinners than anyone else. Katrina, as well as forest fires and drought, floods and tornadoes, are due to the fact that not only are we sinners but that our sin is the cause of God’s judgment on the earth. Romans 8:22 says: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

The host went on to entertain callers who were stating who they thought God was. The Biblical ignorance is sad. Many of us remember growing up without locked doors or fear of our lives. Many wish we could return to those days.  Though there were people who did not believe in God, there were still many families who raised their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. For example in my teen years, there were many Presbyterian churches in our city that had between 400 and 500 members apiece! God still played a large part in our culture. What went wrong? Parents quit teaching their children about the things of God and in a space of a few years, we are Biblically ignorant. This reminds me of what we read in Judges 2:10: “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.”

Is it any wonder then, that some people would ask what kind of God would bring judgment on people through nature? They went on to say that we are good people and that God has a live and let live attitude toward us. As I said in a sermon several weeks ago, if we were good we would not need a Savior but we are not good. Matthew 15:17-19 says: “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” We are not good people. We are sinners saved by the undeserved grace of God.

This brings me to another point. Sin is rarely if ever mentioned today not only in churches but in society. We know as Jesus said in Matthew 15 the state of our heart.   We are  guilty of rage,  anger,   selfishness,  lustfulness,  etc.   If we are no longer sinners, how do we define aberrant behavior? When Josh Duggar confessed his sexual addiction, a secular psychologist said that he needed help beyond the spiritual guidance the church could offer. He said that he had a mental illness. He is not mentally ill, he is a sinner. Now I will say that there is such a thing as mental illness but all addictions, sexual or otherwise, are not necessarily mental illness. It is caused by sin. We should not categorize people with real mental illness with our sinful behavior. In Ephesians 4:31 the apostle Paul said: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.” How many people have been senselessly murdered by someone’s rage and anger? How many feelings have we hurt through our rage and anger? How do you explain road rage? Again, it is sinful anger.

Another explanation for our aberrant behavior is that we are victims. If a person commits a heinous crime we often hear people say that he/she is a victim of their upbringing and/or his environment. In other words they are not responsible for what he did. We could all be victims. We could say that we have been affected by our upbringing or our past but that does not discount the fact that we are sinners. So what is the answer to the ever-growing violence in our society? I can give you many verses from the Bible and I will give you John 3:16 and 17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

See you Sunday.

Dick

Peace and Joy

Several months ago I did a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Several weeks ago in the Pastoral prayer I mentioned two of the fruits that are ours as Christians: peace and joy. The reason I did this is that I have recently been talking to a fellow Christian who said that due to the circumstances in their life they have had no peace or joy. If we are Christians this cannot be true. In Matthew 12:33, Jesus said: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” The sinful nature produces sin because it was a bad tree to start with. The Spirit, by contrast is a good tree producing lush and abundant virtue. The Fruit of the Spirit is…peace and joy.

First of all what is joy? It is in the same Greek family of words as grace. What is grace? It is God’s undeserved favor. He lavishes His love upon us at all times regardless of our circumstances. God’s joy is not a fake smile or pretending things are okay when they’re not. It is not a response to some temporary pleasure. It is based on our rejoicing in our eternal identity in Jesus Christ. This is something that is with us always. We may not feel outwardly joyous but that should it no way quench the joy that Christ died to give us.

We should also be enjoying God’s peace at all times. In Philippians 4:7 the apostle Paul said: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” What is peace? Peace is defined as “the smile of God reflected in the soul of the believer. It is the heart’s calling after Calvary’s storm”. Isaiah said in 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”

The Romans were used to the sight of Roman sentinels standing guard. They would guard government buildings so that no one could enter without permission. Metaphorically God’s peace will mount a guard at the door of our heart and mind. God’s peace will prevent threatening thoughts from entering our life. What are threatening thoughts? When I worry about things that may never happen. God’s peace gives us a calm in the trials that God sends us to strengthen our faith. His peace produces greater trust. Many times our circumstances cause us grief. It was brought about by our own pride; however, if we repent and confess our sin to God, we will be flooded with His peace even if there are consequences to my circumstances. What God teaches us in all circumstances in life is what we read in Hebrews 12:11: “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

The only way that we will deprive ourselves of the benefits of God’s fruit is when we as Paul said in I Thessalonians 5:19 “quench the Spirit”. What does this mean? The easiest way to illustrate this is to picture yourself turning on your hose in your yard, taking it to water your flowers and noticing only a trickle coming out. You wonder why so little water is coming out when you turned the faucet on full blast. You then look back and see that there is a knot in your hose and that’s why the water is not flowing. That is what it means to quench the Spirit. Therefore, we are not to smother the Holy Spirit in us by quenching its power.

Peace and joy be yours in the Holy Spirit.

See you Sunday.

Dick

The War on Hell

I have been reading a book by John Blanchard entitled Whatever Happened to Hell. It has taught me quite a few things about what Scripture promises for those who do not believe as well as for those of us who do believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We often use hell in every day speech. We say war is hell or my life is a living hell. We may have had hard experiences in life but I assure you they are nothing like hell.

The Bible talks about hell under several different terms. It is often translated with the word Sheol in the Old Testament. Experts are not sure about the origins of this particular word. It may come from a verb meaning “to demand” which could be linked to the ancient practice of people trying to contact the dead and ask them questions.  In the Old Testatment Sheol is translated hell 31 times, grave 31 times and the pit three times. The Bible indicates that God’s people would be delivered from Sheol.

The second term is the Greek word Hades. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Lazarus went to Abraham’s side but the rich man went to Hades. Therefore, Hades is in direct contrast to heaven.

The third word for hell is Gehenna. About 750 BC, King Ahaz was ruler of Judah. He adopted revolting heathen practices. Among the worst was the offering of human sacrifices. These atrocities were carried out in the valley of Ben Hinnom.  From being a place of idol worship righteous king Josiah turned it into a public rubbish dump into which all of the filth of Jerusalem was poured. The bodies of animals and even the corpses of criminals were flung there and left to rot or to be consumed by the fire that was kept constantly burning to dispose of the stinking mass of garbage. The Hebrew place name was originally Ge(ben)hinnom (the valley of the sons of Hinnom). The shortened form of the name was Ge-hinnom of which the Greek translation became Gehenna. It has thus become a picture of shame, disgrace, sin and guilt, judgment and punishment or hell. Therefore, the Bible paints a very unpleasant picture of hell.

These terms all refer to what is known as the intermediate state, the place where unbelievers go until the second coming of Christ. After that time, they go to hell. This is what Jesus refers to in Matthew 25.

In Matthew 25:30 Jesus said: “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Verse 41: “Depart from me, you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” In Verse 46 Jesus said: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” What do we learn from this? Is hell to be feared? Or do we shrug it off as a joke? In Verse 41 Jesus said hell is total separation from God.  Hell is also,  according to Verse 41  a place of bad association. It is the home of the devil and his angels. Some people think of hell as a place where the devils torment sinners. Jesus pictures hell as a place where fallen angels and rebellious human beings are together in their suffering. Hell is also a place of suffering. In Verse 41 Jesus referred to hell as “everlasting fire” and in Revelation 30:10 John said “burning sulphur”. If a literal burning by fire is bad, the reality of hell’s suffering must be immeasurably and inexpressibly worse. Even if the suffering is only mental, internal, or psychological it is something that produces an eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30).

J.C. Ryle said: “Who shall describe the misery of eternal punishment? It is something utterly indescribable and inconceivable. The eternal pain of body, the eternal sting of an accusing conscience, the eternal society of none but the wicked, the devil and his angels, the eternal remembrance of opportunities neglected and Christ despised, the eternal prospect of a weary, hopeless future—all this is misery indeed: it is enough to make our ears tingle and our blood run cold.”

What is the future of believers? The Bible talks about the intermediate state of believers before Christ’s second coming. The author of Hebrews talks about the intermediate state of the righteous as “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23).  The souls of the righteous are not wondering around in space. They are alive and well and living in God’s presence. In Paul’s phrase they are “away from the body” and “at home wit the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). This emphasizes not only that death being separation, but that the souls of the righteous go immediately into God’s presence—and as nothing unholy can exist in God’s company, we can be sure that they are morally perfect. Our joy is not complete but in the words of J. C. Ryle we are “in happiness and safekeeping”.  After the general resurrection at the last day, believers will enjoy the blessings of heaven. This we read about in Revelation 1 and 2. What do we do in the meantime? Among other things Peter said: “Therefore brethren be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure…” (2 Peter 1:10)

We’ll talk more on this next week but I want you to see the realities of not only hell but the blessings of heaven for those of us who are called by God and seek to do His will daily.

See you Sunday.

Dick

The Protected Right to “Choose”

fdvdfThere has been a lot of talk lately about the horrendous practices of Planned Parenthood. It is sickening to think that the body parts of human beings are being sold for medical research to help prevent diseases in living persons.  The end does not justify the means. There are other ways to prevent disease. Our president at a recent banquet for Planned Parenthood stated that as long as he was president a woman would have the “protected right to choose”. That means the right to murder her unborn child. At the end of his speech he had the audacity to say “God bless Planned Parenthood”. He is asking God to bless an organization that murders children!

When the United States House of Representatives recently voted to stop funding Planned Parenthood, former speaker of the house Harry Reid said: “The Republicans have lost their moral compass”. How can we sanitize abortion and say that it is moral for a woman to murder her unborn child? I am sure you have heard the story of the dentist who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. This man is a dentist who has lost his license to practice and is now in hiding for fear of his life. A petition has been signed by hundreds of thousands of people demanding his extradition to Zimbabwe for trial and prison time!

Human life is made even less valuable when we are told that there is no difference between human beings and animals. Ingrid Newkirk of PETA said: “When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” She’s saying that we’re all the same; however, if we are all the same, why are there laws protecting endangered species but not human life?

What does the Bible say about life? In Psalm 51:5 David said: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He is not saying that his mother committed sin in having him but that there was never a time that he was not a sinner but the emphasis is on the word conceived. From that moment on he was a human being.

21233220_SAPsalm 139:13-16 reads: “For You formed my inward parts, You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for You are fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none.”

The body is truly a miracle of God. We know that every living creature is made up of microscopic cells so small that the letter O would contain between thirty and forty thousand of them. Each cell is a micro universe of almost unbelievable complexity. Such a complicated and unerring development of cells cannot possibly be the result of chance. The Psalmist said “He created me”.

Today people argue that the fetus is not yet a person but simply a part of the woman’s body like a gall bladder that can be removed. That’s why the language in describing unborn children has been changed. Years ago everyone referred to the unborn child as a baby. It’s hard for anyone to think rationally about killing the baby so today we call it tissue mass. To get rid of tissue doesn’t sound so bad but that is not how the Bible describes unborn children. Growing medical knowledge of unborn children undermines that illusion.

James Boice said: “The Greek philosopher, Aristotle speculated that the fetus becomes human when it quickens in the womb, that is when the mother feels it move. We know today the movement of the fetus is only a matter of degree, the baby is moving all the time. Others have argued that the fetus becomes human only when it is old enough to survive outside the womb,  but advances in the care of premature babies make it possible for even extremely small infants to survive, certainly infants that are younger and smaller than many being aborted. It is increasingly common today to identify life with brain activity, though we know that there is brain inactivity in the unborn child even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. For that matter, there’s a beating heart and the circulation of the baby’s own blood as well.”

The problem with trying to determine a point before which the developing child is fully human is that there isn’t one. In the Psalm David speaks of his unique individuality from the first moments of his existence in the womb. From that very first moment, God knew him and ordained what his life was to be.

The apostle Paul said in Romans 1:25: “Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

I hope you see now how heinous abortion is and how we must do our utmost to preserve life.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

 

Church of “None”

dfvdgvbfOn the religion page in the Times Picayune recently there was an article entitled “The Church of ‘None’ – Cultural Christians have morals without a belief in God.” The article is too long for me to go into in any detail but I would like to highlight one paragraph. It said: “These are the people who identify with ambivalent, ambiguous statements like ‘I am spiritual but not religious’; ‘I am kind of agnostic’; ‘Now I am an atheist, but I grew up Catholic’; or ‘I believe in something but I don’t know if it’s God’.”

What these so-called Nones are saying is that truth does not exist in any objective sense. They are the new spirituality of our post-modern age. They are of the mindset that each person must decide for himself a standard of truth. Your morals belong to you and someone else’s morals belong to them.

I am sure that most of you have seen on a car around town the bumper sticker that says Coexist spelled out in symbols. This was designed by a Polish graphic designer named Piotr Mlodozeniec. Here’s what the symbols stand for.

For the letter “C” a crescent moon representing Islam is substituted

For the letter “X” the star of David representing Judaism is substituted

For the letter “T” a cross representing Christianity is substituted

For the letter “O” the peace symbol or pagan/Wiccan pentacle is substituted

For the letter “E” a male/female symbol or a scientific equation is substituted

For the letter “I” a pagan/Wiccan symbol is substituted

For the letter “S” a Chinese yin-yang symbol is substituted

Newer Coexist designs expand the tolerance message to also include earth-centered and Eastern religions as well as issues surround religion and science and gender, including homosexuality.

This kind of tolerance is not only unworkable but totally unbiblical. Fernando Sabater, a Spanish philosopher states: “Tolerance…the doctrine in vogue, is that all opinions are equal. Each one has its point, and all should be respected or praised. That is to say, there is no rational way to discern between them.”

This new tolerance says that everyone has the right to believe or say what they think is right, because all beliefs are equal. Therefore, all lifestyles are equal and all truth claims are equal.

rfvrfgI can’t help but think of the dialogue between Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate. In John 18:37, 38: “Pilate therefore said to Him ‘Are you a king then’? Jesus answered ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’. Pilate said to Him ‘What is truth’?…”

First of all, there is such a thing as truth. It is singular. It is not in fragments that require us to speak of “truths” in the sense of unrelated facts or items. Truth holds together. The Lord Jesus indicates in His statement to Pilate that truth is not only an entity, it is objective. James Boice said: “It is there to be observed and discussed, and we can observe it and discuss it without prejudice. This is involved in Christ’s statement that He has come to bear witness to the truth, as one might to any fact submitted in a court of law.”

In the Bible we see our true condition. We also find that God has done what needed to be done in sending His Son as our savior. Jesus died for us, He rose for us, He reigns for us. This is objective truth. When Jesus said to Pilate “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice”, He was saying that truth must come from above and He came to bear witness to the truth.

Pilate is the picture of the post-modern man who has nothing substantial in which to believe. He had no idea that truth was standing right in front of him and that his actions should have been guided by God and not the demands of the crowd. The same is true today. Truth is not based upon opinion polls or popularity but is embodied in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who has come to reveal Himself to us through His Spirit and make everything plain to all of those who will come to Him.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

Two Gospel Encouragements

ymunbgrvtefcdI would like to tell you two things that the Lord Jesus Christ that should give great comfort to us as believers. The first thing is what Christ has done for us as our suffering servant and the second thing is what He does for us as our all-sufficient God. First of all we will look at Christ as our suffering servant. It comes from Isaiah 53. This passage is directly cited no less than seven times in the New Testament and with more than forty allusions. Jesus, in Mark 10:45, weds Isaiah’s suffering servant to Daniel’s Son of Man (Daniel 7:13, 14) and thereby redefines for us who and what Messiah will be.

This is exciting: What does this text tell us about the servant of the Lord? The list is staggering. He bore our grief (Isaiah 53:4). He carried our sorrows (53:4). He was wounded for our transgressions (53:5). He was bruised for our iniquities (53:5). He was chastised for our peace (53:5). He healed us by His stripes (53:5). He bore our iniquities (53:6, 11). He was oppressed and afflicted (53:7). He was slaughtered (53:7). He was cut off (53:8). He was stricken for our transgressions (53:8). He was bruised by the Lord (53:10). He was put to grief (53:10). His soul was made a sin offering (53:10). He poured out His soul to death (53:12). He was numbered with the transgressors (53:12). He bore the sin of many (53:12). He made intercession for the transgressors (53:12). (Christology: the Study of Christ by Daniel L. Akin). This reminds us of the price Jesus paid to redeem us from our sin.

The next thing to see is what the Lord Jesus does for us. In Ephesians 3:20, 21 Paul says: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

photo 1 (1)He who loved us so much that He spared not His own Son to make us His children (Romans 8:32) invites us to come to Him freely and confidently but He also promises to bring the full measure of the wisdom and powers of His Godhead to answer us. How do we measure what He can do? He holds the whole earth in His hand, He created the universe but continues to control the light in your room and the decay of an atom in the most distant galaxy. He make the flowers grow and the snow fall, He rides on the wings of a storm and holds a butterfly in the air, and He who was before the beginning of all we know still uses time as His tool of healing, restoration, and retribution. Our thoughts are as a window to Him, generations to come from us are already known fully to Him who loves our family more than we do. He looks at the length of our life as a handbreadth, and makes our soul, though sinful, His treasure forever. Such is the God who hears our prayers and is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or can even imagine. (Commentary on Ephesians, Bryan Chapell)

In Philippians 4:19 Paul the apostle said: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus.”

James Boice asks us “Who is the God of Philippians 4:19? He is the God who calls Abraham out of Mesopotamia when he was an idol worshiper like his contemporaries and sent him on his way to a new land promising that he would be blessed and there would be greater blessing to all people through his descendants. The God of Philippians 4:19 is the God who called Israel our of Egypt, who took her through the Red Sea, who preserved her for forty years in the wilderness, and who finally enabled her to conquer the land of Canaan. He is the God of David, of Elijah, of Jeremiah, of all the prophets. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our salvation and then triumphed over the tomb. This God stands behinds His promises.”

The God of whom Paul speaks is a God who will support His people and will never let down the one who trusts in Him. If you believe in Him and desire to obey Him you will find Him strong in your need and entirely faithful to you. These are just two wonderful attributes of who God is.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevermind

002In his excellent book The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi, he begins by saying: “On April 8 1994 an electrician accidentally discovered a dead body in Seattle, WA. A shotgun had taken the person’s life. The police investigation concluded that he victim of this ghastly tragedy was the rock legend Kurt Cobain (b. 1967) and that he had committed suicide a few days earlier. Cobain previous attempt at suicide by drug overdose had been unsuccessful. His wife, singer Courtney Love, is said to have called the police multiple times to have them confiscate his guns before he killed himself or harmed others.

Cobain, the lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Nirvana captured his generation’s loss of anchor, center, or soul so effectively that their album Never Mind sold ten million copies.

The phrase “never mind” means don’t bother, don’t concern yourself. Why should you mind if nothing is true, good, or beautiful in any absolute sense? Should a man be bothered about his adorable daughter’s on-going need for a father? “Never mind” is a logical virtue for a nihilist who thinks that there is nothing out there to give meaning and significance to anything here—be it your daughter, wife, or life.”

It was reported that prior to the 1960’s teenage suicide was virtually non-existent among American youth. By 1980 almost 400,000 adolescents attempted suicide every year. By 1987 suicide had become the second largest killer of teens after automobile accidents. By the 1990’s suicide slipped to number 3 because young people were killing each other as often as they killed themselves. And why? Because they had nothing to live for. If God does not exist then life has no real meaning.

A man named B. F. Skinner is the father of what we call “behaviorism”. This basically means that there is neither God nor soul. Human beings are chemicals turned animals, qualitative no different than dogs. Our life as human beings is determined by environment, chemistry, chance and cultural conditioning.

Another example of our hopelessness is defined by Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA. Among other things she has said: “Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.” This is laughable, but you see what little value she places on human life! We can abort millions of children with no consequence at all and yet she’s concerned about broiler chickens! She also said: “Animal liberationists do not separate  out  the  human animal,  so there  is no  rational  basis for  saying that a human  being  has  special rights.   A rat is a  pig is  a  dog is  a  boy.  They are all mammals.  When  it comes to the central nervous system,  and the  ability  to  feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Though this is partially true, human beings are not in the same category as animals.

That is our problem. We do not see ourselves with any significant purpose. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 God said “that He put eternity in the hearts of men.” This means that we were created for a relationship with God. Without Him our search for meaning is futile and as Kurt Cobain found, empty.

In the book of Genesis there is a distinction between man and animals. Man was given a soul, animals were not. In Genesis 2:7 the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.

Who are we? In Deuteronomy 7:6, God said: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” All men are created in the image of God and can understand the value of their life only in Christ. Therefore, it is only those who are believers who can understand their special relationship to God.

In I Peter 2:9, Peter said: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy  nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This is our identity and this alone gives us meaning and purpose in life. Let us therefore learn more and more about our relationship with God.

 

See you Sunday

Dick