It Only Takes One Mistake

Bad choices – even a single bad choice – can lead to death and destruction.

Recently, a coworker and friend was sentenced to several years in prison for killing a man in a drunk-driving accident.

Brian (not his real name) left work a little after 10:30 one night a few days before Christmas, and stopped by a bar for a few beers and a few games of pool. After having more than just a few beers, he got in his car to go home. On the way, he hit another car, pushing it into oncoming traffic. The driver of the car he hit died; Brian nearly died as well.

Brian had no criminal history prior to this incident. He’s a quiet, laid back, hard-working guy in his late twenties. The closest he’d ever come to a brush with the law was a ticket for an expired tag on his license plate. Because he made one mistake – one very bad decision – a man is dead, and a family has been shattered by the loss of a husband and father. Brian’s life has been ruined as well, and his own family has been devastated.

As much as I grieve for the victim and his family, I was hoping the judge would go easy on Brian. After all, he’s a good guy, with a nearly perfect driving record up until the accident. He made a single bad decision. He’s apologized, and is truly sorry for the mistake he made. Surely, the judge could take into consideration all the good Brian has done in his life, and let him off easy.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for the judge to go easy on Brian, maybe giving him probation and community service, would be unjust. Brian’s actions that night cost a man his life. Brian’s one bad choice overrides all of the good he had done in his life; he deserved the sentence he received. Justice demanded that the judge send Brian to prison.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize, it’s much the same with us and God.

Most people do more good stuff than bad. Most of us wouldn’t intentionally hurt someone else. We do a lot of good things for other people. Sure, we make mistakes, but we do a lot more good than bad. And, most of us haven’t killed anyone. Surely, when we die, and face God for judgement, a loving God will look at the good and the bad, and the good will outweigh the bad, and He will let us into Heaven, especially if we’re really sorry and apologize.

Really?

Much like in Brian’s case, one bad choice makes all the difference.

God is not only loving; He is also holy and just. God’s holiness demands that the standard for goodness is perfection. And, God’s perfect justice demands punishment for anything short of perfection. As it says in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.” A single sin condemns a person to an eternity separated from God.

Many of my readers are probably thinking, “But that’s not fair! How can a single sin outweigh a lifetime of good?”

How can Brian’s one bad choice outweigh all the good things he has done?

Doing good things does not erase the bad things we do. Apologizing, feeling remorse, and promising not to sin again does not erase the guilt. No matter how many good things I’ve done in my life, I still deserve to be punished for the things I am guilty of. And,it’s not just one thing I’ve done wrong; over the course of my life, I’ve done thousands of things wrong, maybe even millions.

Also, it’s not just other people I’ve sinned against; it’s God Himself, my Creator, that I’ve offended. It’s one thing to sin against another person; it’s quite another to sin against God.

Here’s an analogy: If I shove a random stranger on the street, I could be charged with a misdemeanor assault charge. However, if I shove a police officer, I’ve now committed a felony. Why the difference? It’s due to the police officer’s position of authority over me. It is a greater offense to shove a police officer, because the officer has been placed in a position of authority. And, the greater the authority, the greater the offense. Shoving an everyday citizen is a misdemeanor, and shoving a police officer is a felony. And, if I were to shove the President of the United States, the penalty would be much greater than for shoving a police officer, because the President’s authority is much greater.

When I sin against God, I am guilty of committing an offense against an infinite authority. A single offense outweighs all the good stuff I’ve done for God, because God is infinitely just and infinitely holy. And, I’ve committed a lot more than one offense. Therefore, the penalty is an infinite penalty – eternal damnation.

Thankfully, in addition to being infinitely holy and infinitely just, God is also infinitely loving. God’s justice demands payment for sin. In His infinite love, God has provided an alternative to paying for sin ourselves – He has given us Jesus Christ.

Each of us is guilty of rebellion against God. Each of us has violated the perfect standard required by the perfect God, Who stands in infinite authority over us. Yet, because He loves us infinitely, God has given us his only Son, Jesus Christ, as a substitute. Jesus Christ has taken my sin upon Himself, and paid the penalty on my behalf. Because I have trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior, the penalty for my sin has already been paid. My guilt has been erased. God no longer holds me eternally responsible for the offenses I’ve committed against Him. It’s not because of anything good I’ve done to deserve God’s forgiveness, but in spite of the fact that I deserve nothing. Just as there is nothing my friend Brian can do to deserve being let off without punishment, there is nothing I can do to deserve God’s forgiveness. Yet, God offers forgiveness freely, through the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ. I have received God’s forgiveness, not because of anything good I’ve done, but simply because I chose to receive the Gift. God makes the same offer to everyone. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

A just judge could not simply set Brian free, and the family of his victim may never forgive him. However, God offers Brian – and every other person on earth – freedom and forgiveness. I pray that Brian seeks forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ. I pray that God uses this horrific tragedy to reach Brian with His love, mercy, and grace, and that Brian comes to know God in a personal and intimate manner through Jesus Christ. I also pray God’s peace and healing on the victim’s family, and that they would also come to know Jesus.

I also pray that if you, my reader, have not yet found forgiveness and mercy from God through Jesus Christ, that you would seek Him, and come to know Him in a personal, intimate way. It’s as simple as acknowledging before Him that you’ve sinned against Him, believing that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died to pay for your sin and take your sins from you, and receiving His forgiveness. You can then begin an incredible journey of getting to know the Creator of the universe, and of becoming more like Him.

It only takes one mistake to deserve Hell. It only takes one choice to receive forgiveness. Make that choice today.

Mercy and Compassion Toward Gays

inigo-montoyaIn reading comments and blogs by so-called “liberal” Christians on LGBT issues, I have noticed a common thread: Many of the arguments are based on the belief that in order to show homosexuals mercy and compassion, Christians cannot condemn homosexual behavior, but must accept their behavior as normal. They argue, gays cannot help being gay, so the merciful, compassionate thing to do is to accept them for who they are.

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya in the classic movie The Princess Bride: “You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”

What is Mercy?

According to Merriam-Webster.com, mercy is:

1
a
:  compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also
:  lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy>
b
:  imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder

2
a
:  a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
b
:  a fortunate circumstance <it was a mercy they found her before she froze>

3
:  compassionate treatment of those in distress <works of mercy among the poor>

Let’s consider the primary definition first. Mercy is “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender…” Mercy is shown to someone who is guilty. Mercy cannot be shown toward someone who is innocent.

If you appeared in court on a charge of shoplifting, and were found to be innocent, it would make no sense for the judge to say, “I have found you innocent; but I am going to show you mercy, and let you go.” It would only make sense for the judge to show mercy if you had been found guilty.

To argue that Christians must accept homosexuality as normal (not a sin) in order to show mercy, is like arguing that a judge must declare shoplifting to not be a crime in order to show mercy to a shoplifter. Such an argument demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of mercy.

What is compassion?

All three definitions of the word mercy include the word compassion or compassionate. What does compassion mean? Again, according to Merriam-Webster.com, compassion is:

: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

In the case of homosexuality, what the source of this distress? From the perspective of those who try to justify homosexuality, the distress is caused by society’s refusal to accept gays for who they are. If society would simply accept homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and embrace gay marriage, the distress would be alleviated.

I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. True, many homosexuals have been bullied, attacked, and rejected, often by self-righteous Christians. This is where the third definition of mercy applies: compassionate treatment of those in distress. Bullying gays is clearly wrong, and shows a complete lack of true mercy and compassion by those who perpetrate such actions. However, there is a much deeper source of distress for homosexuals. It’s called sin. All sin separates people from God, whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, pride, arrogance, hatred, lack of compassion and mercy, or gluttony. All sin needs to be alleviated. The only true alleviation for sin comes from Jesus Christ, who died in our place to take our guilt upon Himself. True compassion for the homosexual, or anyone else, for that matter, means confronting them with their sin and showing them Jesus Christ. The distress of sin can only be alleviated through repentance and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is where the second definition of mercy applies: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.

To argue that compassion requires accepting homosexuality is to misunderstand both the meaning of compassion and the seriousness of sin.

How should Christians show mercy and compassion to homosexuals?

There are several points that should be kept in mind as a follower of Jesus Christ in order to show compassion and mercy to homosexuals:

  1. James 5.11Homosexual acts need to be recognized as sin. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual acts are sin (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; Jude 1:7; and others). Don’t listen to those professing “Christians” trying to convince you that the Church has been misinterpreting Scripture for 2,000 years and that the Bible really doesn’t actually condemn homosexual behavior. Yes, it does. Read it yourself, and trust God’s Word, not people’s opinions about God’s Word.
  2. All have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). Embracing homosexuality is no different than embracing any other sin. All sin separates us from God. You and I are just as much sinners as any homosexual, and we all need the Savior.
  3. Combat anti-gay hatred. Christians should be deeply troubled about people being bullied for being gay and do all we can to combat it. In fact, Christians should be leading the way by showing Christ’s love to homosexuals.
  4. Be willing to admit that we don’t fully understand homosexuality. All sin is highly addictive; acknowledge that those who struggle with homosexuality may not have any control over who they’re attracted to. Isn’t that the point? We cannot control sin. Some people are compulsive liars; others have chemical or eating addictions. Others are addicted to other types of illicit sex, or power, or wealth. Some of us are addicted to pride. Everyone has areas of sin in their life, and none of us can stop it. There are undoubtedly deep psychological issues involved with many homosexuals, and there is much we still don’t know.
  5. Share the love of Jesus Christ. Get to know homosexuals the same as you would anyone. Build relationships. Make friends! Invite them into your homes and churches, go into their homes, share meals, have deep discussions, go to ballgames, whatever. Accept these people – not their actions – as you would anyone, and love them unconditionally, as Christ loves you.
  6. Share the Gospel. The only solution for homosexuality, or any other sin, is the grace of Jesus Christ. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do for a gay person, or any other person, is to explain how to obtain God’s mercy and compassion through the blood of Christ.

When followers of Jesus unwaveringly hold to the truth of Christ, while extending the love of Christ to the lost, including gays, hearts can be softened and changed. While Christians must be adamant about extending mercy, compassion, and a humble attitude toward the gay community, it’s also imperative that we be just as adamant about standing firmly in the truth. Homosexuality, like any sin, destroys our relationship with our loving Creator. Mercy and compassion do not mean denying the truth. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do is to share the truth about sin and the truth of the Gospel, while loving the sinner, as Christ first loved us.

Thoughts about the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams Over the last week, the evening news and social media have been filled with the sad details of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, who had struggled with depression and substance abuse for years, hanged himself, and was found dead on August 11.

Social media has exploded with commentary on Williams’ life and death. Opinions have run the full gamut. Many of the comments blame his death on mental illness. Others call him a coward for killing himself.

What I’ve found interesting is the comments from self-proclaimed Christians.

Here is a sampling I gleaned from the Facebook page of a well-known Christian band:

Lisa B. wrote,

As a Christian myself I take great comfort knowing that Robin Williams is indeed in Heaven. He brought laughter, support and happiness to so many and now is his time to escape his hell of depression and live with The Lord. Any other Christians that would claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves and take another good look at their lives. What makes them better than Robin Williams? That answer would be, absolutely nothing. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thanks for the joy you brought to my life.

Donovan E, wrote,

As a Christian, I have always been offended by this notion that someone goes to Hell for this or for that. If that is the case, we are all in trouble. It makes no sense to me for God to create us, just to destroy us in the after life. God is compassionate, and none of us are without some sort of sin, even on our death bed. Those like Robin with depression issues that they cannot overcome on this Earth, surely is at peace in the kingdom. Just my perspective.

Both Lisa and Donovan seem to be missing the entire point of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with being “better than” others, as Lisa suggests. Donovan was partially correct: none of us is without some sort of sin, and we are all in trouble. What both seem to be missing is the fact that God, being infinitely just, cannot simply overlook our sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God – hell. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself, fulfilling the righteous judgment of God. Nothing we do can make us “good enough.” It is only through Jesus Christ that forgiveness can be obtained. The only thing we can do is to receive Christ as Savior. If we accept Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we go to hell.

Robin Williams was well known for giving to a great number of good causes, often anonymously. He was, in human terms, a “good person.” However, in God’s terms, he was a sinner, as we all are. No amount of giving or good deeds can pay for our sin or get us into Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unless Robin Williams repented of his sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior, he is in Hell. While I don’t claim to know what God might have done in Williams’ heart during his last days on earth, there is absolutely nothing to indicate he ever was saved. Williams sometimes openly mocked Jesus Christ and the Bible in his comedy routines. And, while I do think deathbed conversions can be genuine, it seems extremely unlikely that a person can become truly saved – and then immediately kill himself.

Bradley T. wrote,

It is such a tragedy that there are so called “Christians” that seem happy about declaring that Robin Williams went to hell. I am a follower of Christ, I know that I did not know the state of mind of Robin Williams, and knowing Jesus does not mean that you cannot still suffer from severe depression. In the end what matters is what was in his heart those last few minutes of his life. I pray for his family that God will give them peace and comfort during this time.

Melissa H. wrote,

What kind of Christian would take pleasure in someone’s eternal damnation?????? I pray that Robin found his peace deep in the arms of the Saviour…… SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE THAT PROCLAIM CHRIST AND WISH HELL ON ANYONE!!!!!!

One of the disturbing trends I’ve seen is a small minority of self-proclaimed Christians who seem to take pleasure from the fact that Robin Williams is most likely suffering in Hell. I’ve seen posts commenting that he “deserved” to be in Hell because he mocked God – implying that while Williams deserved Hell, the writer did not. It grieves me that Williams is, in all likelihood, in Hell. It grieves me that most people reject Jesus Christ and go to Hell. It grieves me that, because of my sin, I deserve Hell. I just thank God that, through His grace and mercy, He reached me with the truth of His forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and I received Jesus as Savior. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else, or that God loves me more; it’s because I responded to God’s offer of salvation, which He freely extends to all, yet most reject.

It’s a sick person who wishes for anyone to go to Hell.

robin-williams-God-Laugh

I saw a comment somewhere to the effect that Robin Williams is in Heaven, making God laugh. In all probability, Williams is not in Heaven. God is not laughing; He is weeping. Satan is the one who is laughing.

Michael M. wrote,

Don’t know if that would be technically correct or not; I have seen a couple of recent interviews where he referenced being thankful for “a loving God”. Perhaps he had found some level of connection…according to his level of understanding. I sure hope so. In any case, this sort of ‘speaking ill of the dead’…to the detriment of friends and family…is NOT a ‘Christian’ thing to do. If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut.

The answer is not being thankful for “a loving God,” nor in finding “some level of connection…according to his level of understanding.” The answer is repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Savior. The apostle Paul put it this way:

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Belief is not simply an intellectual understanding. It involves commitment, repentance, and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. James 2:19 states that “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Demons are condemned to Hell, not because they lack intellectual understanding, but because they reject Jesus Christ. The same is true of people.

speaking-truth-loveOne thing Michael M. wrote that I wholeheartedly agree with: If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut. My fervent prayer is that anyone who reads this and doesn’t already know Jesus Christ as Savior will see this as a wake-up call to seek Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior, and be saved. While Christians are commanded to preach the Gospel, we are also commanded to do so in love. Sometimes, the truth hurts. It hurts to realize I am a sinner. It hurts to know I deserve Hell. It hurts to discover there’s nothing I can do about it. It hurts to know that, in all likelihood, Robin Williams is in Hell, as will be most of the people I have known or admired. It hurts to know that God had to send His only begotten Son to die in my place. However, I fervently believe it is the truth. And, I love people enough to tell them the truth, not to make myself feel good, but in the hope that others will come to know Jesus Christ. If I didn’t love people, I wouldn’t care if they went to Hell. The most hateful thing I can imagine is to know the truth, and keep it to myself, not caring if others go to Hell, or not. To those who think you’re better than others, or that God loves you more: SHUT UP. You’re fools. Take the log out of your own eye, and quit trying to throw sawdust in the eyes of others.

Lastly, Troy S. wrote,

How about this for a thought! What if the way he died is a fail safe that God has in place for people who just can’t find him, but he still wants him as his own, so this unjust death so it may seem ,just means he is allowed to be with God eternally, but has to go out this way! I just don’t see a loving God giving up on his children so easily.

While I disagree with the notion that suicide is an automatic ticket to Hell, I also disagree with the notion that suicide might be an automatic ticket to Heaven. Neither concept is found in the Bible. The Bible is clear. Salvation is based on whether or not one has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those that receive Christ go to Heaven; those who do not go to Hell.

My hope and prayer is that all of the discussion about the death of Robin Williams will cause some to seek the truth in Jesus Christ and be saved. I pray that other Christians will use Robin Williams’ death as an opening to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Christ. I also pray that the hate-mongers and self-righteous legalist would just shut up, repent, and seek forgiveness.

The Ten Commandments

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20:

  1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

  6. You shall not murder.

  7. You shall not commit adultery.

  8. You shall not steal.

  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

10CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments are only a small fraction of all of the commandments given in the Old Testament. In all, there are 613 commandments, covering topics including how to worship God, giving to the poor, sexual relationships, getting along with others, and many other things.

If we can’t keep them, why did God give them?

Contrary to what many people believe, the Ten Commandments are not a set of rules which, if followed, will gain a person entrance into heaven. Rather, they were given to make people realize they cannot possibly live up to God’s perfect standard.

The Apostle Paul said the following:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Romans 7:7-11).

Nobody can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Rather than being a means of salvation, the Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and all need God’s mercy and grace, which only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Even with a cursory glance, it’s pretty obvious that nobody can keep all ten commandments perfectly. I don’t know anyone who never dishonored their parents a single time, never stole anything (not even a cookie or a pencil), and never lied – not even a “little white lie.” God doesn’t grade us on the curve. He demands a passing grade of a perfect 100%. As James wrote, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” The point of the Ten Commandments is to show us that none of us can live a sinless life. This is why we need a Savior. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The Ten Commandments cannot save us. Only Jesus can save us.

10 Commandments

It’s a Great, Big, Stupid World (Part 1)

If Jesus came back today
They’d try to book him on the Oprah Winfrey show
‘Cuz it’s a great big stupid world
Great big stupid world

Randy Stonehill, “Great Big Stupid World,” Wonderama

This is the first in a series looking at stupid ideas people have.

Today’s topic: What Would Jesus Cut?

I ran across this ad while Web-surfing:

click to enlarge

It was printed in Sojourners Magazine in 2011, and endorsed by 28 “progressive” Christian leaders.

Why do I think this is stupid?

First, it assumes that Jesus would have anything to do with American politics.

I’ve read the New Testament several times, but I can’t remember reading that Jesus involved Himself in secular politics at all. The closest He came was to make the statement about Roman taxes, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus never stated anything about how those taxes should be spent. He never indicated anything about how the secular government of His day, the Romans, ought to do business. Most of His followers thought He would be a political Messiah, overthrowing the Romans and setting up an independent Jewish state. Jesus made it very clear that His kingdom is not of this world, and He intentionally stayed out of Roman political issues.

Secondly, although Jesus did make numerous statements about the poor, He never said the government should take care of them. Jesus made statements like:

“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Mark 10:21

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” Luke 14:13

These passages do show that Jesus taught that it is important to give to the poor. However, His comments were directed at religious leaders, not secular politicians.

Jesus also stated the following:

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Matthew 11:5

“For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” Matthew 26:11

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor” Luke 4:18

These statements demonstrate that Jesus was more interested in having the Gospel preached to the poor than in making sure their material needs were met. Jesus taught that it is more important that the eternal spiritual needs of the poor are met than their temporary physical needs. This obviously does not mean that meeting the physical needs of people is unimportant. Jesus Himself healed the sick. But, it does mean that Jesus was far more interested in drawing people to Himself than He was in meeting worldly needs.

Jesus never said anything about:

  • International aid that directly and literally saves lives from pandemic diseases
  • Critical child health and family nutrition programs – at home and abroad
  • Proven work and income supports that lift families out of poverty
  • Support for education, especially in low-income communities

Thirdly, I find it interesting that the “Christian” ad in question doesn’t quote any Scripture to support their position.  It’s also interesting that these “progressive” Christian leaders ignore what Jesus said about other issues, like marriage, prayer, and evolution.

To ask “What would Jesus cut?” is a stupid question. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Jesus would have involved Himself at all with the issue, and in fact, there is much to indicate He would stay completely out of the discussion. This ad is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to invoke the name of Jesus to promote a liberal political agenda.

Don’t get me wrong; the federal government should work to prevent diseases, feed the poor, help people get jobs, and support education. Both liberal “progressives” and social conservatives would agree that these issues need to be addressed, although they would disagree with how to best provide for these needs. But, to claim that Jesus would cut parts of the federal budget, but wouldn’t cut international medical aid, nutrition programs, work and income supports (aka welfare), or education, is completely unsupported by the Bible.

Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, neither a conservative nor a liberal. He is the Creator of the universe and Savior of mankind, not a political pundit. For any so-called Christian political group to imply that Jesus is on “their side” is heretical, ignorant, and downright stupid.

Seven Obstacles to Sharing Your Faith, Part 1

While web-surfing the other day, I ran across an article on christianitytoday.com by Chris Lutes entitled Seven Reasons Not to Share Christ (and why we should go ahead and do it anyway).  I thought it would make a good a good blog series.

Lutes writes for his first reason:

1) “I’m not smart enough”

Fact: Jesus’ disciples weren’t known for their brains or theology degrees. They were pretty ordinary guys, really. Take the time Peter and John were telling a hostile crowd of religious leaders about Jesus. Here’s how Acts 4:13 puts it: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (ESV). Look at that last part again: And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Maybe you’ve heard this saying: “It’s not what you know that counts. It’s who you know.” Knowing Jesus is what matters. You are smart enough to tell others about Jesus because you have a friendship with him. And the closer you get to him, and the better you know him, the more you’ll have to say about him.

It doesn’t take a theology degree to share the Gospel.  In fact, theologians often use so much technical language that nobody understands a word they say.

The Gospel is actually very simple.   All of us are sinners – we all do things that offend God.  Sin separates us from God, and the penalty for sin is death.  There is nothing we can do to get rid of sin – our good works simply cover up the problem.  The only way to for us to get rid of sin was for a perfect substitute to take the penalty in our place.  Jesus Christ was that perfect substitute.  In Jesus Christ, God became a perfect man, who lived a perfect life, and who voluntarily died on the cross as our substitute.  His resurrection is our guarantee of eternal life.  If we repent of our sin and ask Jesus Christ to forgive us, and believe God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.

Many people want to add a lot of deep, theological stuff to the Gospel message.  While the extra stuff may very well be theologically and Biblically correct, it’s often more information than a person needs in order to be saved.  If you are a young Christian, and don’t understand all the deep, theological stuff, don’t let it stop you from telling others about Jesus.  As you study God’s Word, over time, you’ll start getting a better grip on all the deeper theology the Bible contains.  In the meantime, don’t be afraid to tell others about Jesus.  Just tell them how you were saved, how you came to know Him as your Lord and Savior, and how He has changed your life.  If you’re not comfortable doing this, just ask them to come with you to church, or have a Christian friend talk to the person with you.  Like anything else in life, the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the better you will become at sharing your faith.  If the person you’re talking to starts asking a lot of questions that you don’t know how to answer, don’t panic; just explain that you don’t know the answer yet, and that you’ll get back to them.  Then, have a Christian brother or sister help you find the answers, and then share the answers the next time you talk.

More Than a Conqueror

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 8:31-39:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What is Paul referring to when he says, “What then shall we say to these things?”  “These things” refers to the entire breadth of God’s grace to lost sinners in the letter to this point.  For the Christian, God’s grace and our relationship with Him are the foundation for everything else in our lives.

When Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” he does not mean that Christians will never face opposition;  rather, he is emphasizing that the conflicts we do face are greatly overshadowed by God’s love and grace toward us.  The basis for our confidence in God is that He “gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  Since God the Father was willing to sacrifice His own Son in order to be reconciled with us, we can be confident that He will also give us the protection and security we need to follow Him.

What does Paul mean when he rhetorically asks, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?”  In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called the “accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.”  Because those of us who have received Jesus Christ as Savior are justified before God the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ, God sees the Christian as if they had never sinned.  The perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for my sin; therefore, God considers me blameless before Him.  Satan has no basis for accusing the Christian before God; the Christian’s sins have already been paid for.  As Paul puts it, Christ makes intercession for us. When Satan accuses the Christian before the Father, Jesus says, “I’ve already got it covered.”

Paul then rhetorically asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” He then lists a catalog of situations that we think might be able to separate us from God: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword.  Often, Christians think that when bad things happen, it’s because God has somehow rejected us.  We think God’s angry, so He’s punishing us by allowing us to suffer.  To emphasize his point, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22:

Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Paul’s point here is that God does not punish the Christian; Jesus Christ already took the punishment.  God does allow bad things to happen to the Christian, but not because God is punishing us.  Rather, God uses trials to produce character and hope.  In Romans 5:3-5, Paul tells the Christian:

3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Paul finishes Romans chapter 8 with one of the most profound promises found in Scripture.  Through Jesus Christ, the Christian is promised victory – and nothing can take that away from us.  Whether dead, or alive, we have victory in the love of Jesus Christ.  Angels cannot take our God’s love away; neither can demons (“principalities”) or human authorities (“powers”).  Time cannot affect our standing before God; nor can anything else in the universe.  We cannot even throw it away ourselves!  Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is completely sealed; absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When I am struggling with my faith, or going through difficult times, I come back time and again to this promise for the strength and courage to press onward.  Times may be difficult – but nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord!  I may be overwhelmed by my sin – but nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord!  Those I love may let me down – but nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord!

Yet in all these things I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me.