Grace to you! Last week we saw that our modern society’s failure to hold to absolute truth leaves us unable to discern between good and evil. We also understood what Jesus meant to ‘not judge wrongly but righteously.” (John 7:24) Christians are called to make judgment calls about right and wrong and contrary to popular opinion that is not being judgmental. Again, those who harass others about judging are doing the very thing at that moment they are supposedly condemning others for doing: being judgmental. In short, how do you know I’m judging unless you are judging my actions?! Apparently with secularist’s thinking, it’s only their ‘judging’ that isn’t judgmental!
But we need further biblical reflection on the Chattanooga shootings. Jesus calls us to, “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.” (Matthew 5:44) Let’s talk about what this does and does not mean! First, what does this mean? It means that we should be for the shooter’s family in a certain, defined way. It means we should desire for his family, friends, associates, and others like him to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary that was murdered by tribesmen he was seeking to reach. His wife Elisabeth Elliot stayed to continue the work with the natives and prayed for them to come to know Christ. Later, many of the tribe’s people including Jim’s murderers came to savingly know Jesus Christ and their lives were radically changed! Their story can be found in the book “Through The Gates of Splendor.”
We should pray for and minister to all those who seek to promote evil. As a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, I shouldn’t mind losing my life for the sake of the gospel in sharing it with others. However, this is not the whole story. Wise ‘judgment’ has us to think of the other side of the coin. God has also made me a citizen of the kingdom of this world. It’s here where we find out what Jesus did not mean when He told us to ‘love our enemies.’
Christ’s radical call to love our enemies does not rule out what should be done to protect innocent lives in society nor the punishment of the wicked for their evil deeds. Assuming the shooter had survived, Christians should have prayed for him, ministered to him, sought to lead him to Christ, and called for the death penalty all at the same time. This is contrary to the world’s mindset who says give only mercy and therefore don’t take his life for his crime. Or others want to focus only on justice and therefore desire to see him ‘pay with his life’ for his crimes. But biblically, we should seek for justice and mercy. Just like at the cross. What happened there? Was it justice or mercy? It was both. The justice due our sin was poured out on Christ. Why? Because in mercy He decided to take our place for us. Why again? So God’s justice would be satisfied and I could be accepted by God in His mercy.
Grace to you! Wednesday, July 15, 2015 will be remembered a long time by Chattanooga area residents. A Muslim shot and killed 5 men in a vicious and unprovoked attack. Many are angry, worried about the potential of more attacks, and confused about how something like this could even take place. To understand some, though not all, of the context of the shooting, we have to dig behind the ideas that drive modern America.
John 3:16 used to be the most widely known verse. However, society today loves Matthew 7:1 more, “Judge not, that you not be judged.” This verse (wrongly) is used to banish any thought of judgment, discernment, or ‘discrimination’ of any sort in the public arena. Society insists that all things are to be accepted under the guise of ‘tolerance.’ The word ‘tolerance’ is the buzzword in our nation to silence any dissenting opinions about any issue. The public goes silent for fear of being labeled by others as ‘intolerant, racist, homophobic, mysoginist, etc.’ It’s the grown up version of what children do: name calling. The fallout effect is that no is publicly allowed to ‘judge’ any issue of any kind. However, to judge something means you must be able to discern that nature of a thing, whether it is good or bad. Ironically, society berates anyone who shows any discernment regarding morals, trends in society, or certain proclivities in people as being ‘judgmental’. Yet they are being discerning or judgmental in declaring others as being judgmental! In short, society proclaims, “You can’t judge others because I’ll judge you as being a bad person for doing so!”
To judge something or someone is not a bad thing. It actually means to have discernment. It means that some things are good and bad. Not all things are equal. Rape, murder, stealing, etc are bad and I have the right to judge you as a rapist, murderer, thief, etc if you do these things. That’s not being judgmental, that’s called having discernment. Only the naive looks at someone with bad character traits and buries his head in the sand in the name of tolerance. One who allows such people around their family is not being tolerant, they’re being foolish!
So what does Jesus mean by ‘not judging’? First, don’t look at other people’s faults without looking at yours first. Read Matthew 7:2-5. Second, verse 6 says we have to be discerning about the type of people we deal with so He’s not ruling out all judgment (discernment) of people. And third, He’s warning about placing unrighteous standards on people rather than God’s standard. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24) Jesus desires us to have righteous discernment and judgment based on His word in relation to a person’s character, rather than merely judging outward appearances.
America has lost all discernment and therefore will power to do anything about rising evil because of its naïve acceptance of the ‘tolerance’ mantra. Rather than make a good and righteous judgment about what needs to be done about evil, we make a foolish judgment and stick our heads in the sand in the name of ‘acceptance of all things’. Then we wonder why evil overtakes us. Love will move us to judge between what is righteous and what is evil.
Grace to you! Last week we saw that Romans 1:24-32 teaches that we have progressively fallen more under God’s wrath. The culmination of God’s wrath, after a people gives in to homosexuality, is that they should expect to see evil unleashed in all facets of society in greater degree. This certainly is not the positive message we would like to hear, but realistically it’s the biblical truth. Is there hope when a nation is steeped in a moral and spiritual quagmire? Thankfully, there is always hope with the biblical God.
First, no matter how great our sin the Lord is willing to extend forgiveness. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Israel had fell into deep idolatry, gross sexual sin, and even sacrificed (aborted?!) their children to the various pagan gods for a better life, freedom, crops, etc. Yet in the midst of all this godlessness, the Lord was willing to forgive and restore the people if they would forsake their sin turning back to the Lord Himself and His laws. Israel faced a momentous decision: either they would repent of their evil and turn to the Lord or God would use the more wicked nations to destroy them and their land.
America faces a similar decision. So far God has gradually been allowing more and more evil to take place. He’s done this for two reasons. One is for judgment by giving us the very evil things we want. Second, to show us that evil does not pay through the consequences we reap from it. The bitter results of sin are a merciful reminder from God that we should forsake evil and turn to Him and His righteousness. (See Matthew 6:33) The consequences of our evil also remind us as bad as they are the coming judgment in the future is going to be worse. Therefore, current fallout effects from our sin are both grace and judgment reminders. Grace to show us that sin brings bad things to incite us to move away from them. Judgment because they are a mere foreshadow of greater judgment coming if we don’t repent. But what if we do know Christ? What if it’s the others who won’t relent of their evil? Is there any hope for Christians? Yes, there is!
Second, even if the nation does not repent Christians still have the Lord. Habbakuk the prophet was told about the coming destruction of his country and wept over it. But he rested in this final hope: Though everything falls apart, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18) Jesus never promised the gates of hell would not succeed against America, but He did promise the gates of hell would not conquer the church. (Matthew 16:18) America may die, but the church of the risen Lord Jesus will abide forever! To God be the glory!
Grace to you! Is America under God’s judgment? Sadly, yes it is. There is a biblical diagnosis and way to measure the current state of our nation.
Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” We know the bible talks about a future coming judgment but here scripture says God has wrath RIGHT NOW and we can see evidence of His current wrath through three social movements in culture.
Sinful man as he begins to reject the knowledge of God begins to move from worshipping the Creator to worshipping something in creation, even if it’s himself or the planet. (Romans 1:25) This leads to the first stage where “God gives them over” to more sin. In the first stage we see God’s active judgment in giving a people over to sexual immorality. (See Romans 1:24) Have we had our society indulge in sexual immorality? The sexual revolution of the 60’s and continuing immorality of today are evidence of God’s judgment on us as a nation. TV is replete with sexually immoral relationships. People don’t even blush about sexual immorality these days as being wrong in God’s eyes.
If people don’t repent at this first level of judgment, God “gives them over” again to the next level of moral degradation for further judgment. God allows sinful men and women to pursue perverted passions into homosexuality. Romans 1:26,27 talks about men and women leaving natural uses of the opposite sex for degrading passions and burning in their lusts towards those of the same sex. They receive in their “own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Romans 1:27) Sexual disease is rampant but even more so in the homosexual community. Suicide rates are higher in the homosexual community. The sin of homosexuality, as with the other sins listed in Romans 1, are their own judgment. Have we seen a pro-homosexual movement in our country? Indeed we have. We have already crossed phase 2 of God’s judgment on a nation.
And yet if people will not wake up and repent, God has more judgment for them in the third phase of “giving them over” to their sinful desires. Romans 1:28 speaks of all kinds of lawlessness, evil behavior, and unrighteousness people willfully go into in their rejection of God. It’s evident we are now fully sliding into this third and final phase of God’s judgment.
Scripture gives a three-fold phase to know if we are currently under God’s wrath. In recent history, we have fulfilled all three phases. The choice is clear for our nation: either we repent of our rejection of Christ and His gospel which is manifested in these various forms of sin or we prepare ourselves for greater wrath at the coming of the Lord Jesus. “From Jesus’ mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:15-16)
Grace to you! This week we will take a look at what’s known as the Great Commission. It is the final instructions Jesus gave to His church right before He ascended back to heaven. Hear what scripture says: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
In this famous passage, Jesus charges His followers to tell others the good news of the salvation He gives to sinners if they repent and believe in Him. People follow Christ because He died for their sin and they in turn are commanded to go into the world and tell this same good news of how sinners can be saved through Jesus Christ to others. The word ‘gospel’ simply means good news. And Christians should be excited about the gospel because it indeed is good news of how the holy God through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection can now have a relationship with sinners!
It’s interesting to see that everyone everywhere shares a gospel. People love to tell others what they believe is the good news others need to hear. Some share about their grandkids. “Oh, did you see what little Sammy did? He is so precious. I can’t help but tell you how great my grandkids are!” This is a gospel for this person. They are sharing about what they treasure or what is important to them. Some share the gospel of hunting, shopping, the latest sexual exploit, etc. Anything can and has been a gospel for people. However, the problem with these alternative gospels is that they are ultimately counterfeits people trust in. Grandkids are great, but if they are your heart’s hope above Jesus Christ, then they have become a false ‘gospel’ for you. Some even rejoice in their sinful lifestyle as their ‘good news gospel.’ In the end, it doesn’t matter what form an alternative gospel takes. All end in vanity.
God has given us one gospel: the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (See 1 Timothy 1:15) This is indeed is very good news for sinners like you and me! So let’s do a heart check. Do you really treasure God’s gospel in Jesus Christ? Do you share the gospel of Jesus with others? Or do you share a substitute gospel with others? Everyone hopes in something and that hope is what they share with others, whether it’s a good thing or bad thing. No matter which it is, if your heart doesn’t move you to share the gospel of Christ then scripture would tell us we do not belong to Him. Whose gospel are you excited about? Yours or Christ’s?
Grace to you! If you were asked to name a scary verse in the Bible, what would it be? Perhaps Revelation 19:15, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty?” Maybe Luke 12:5, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” These verses soberly remind us of God’s wrath. They shake us out of our slumber to think about eternal destinies. But there are verses we often see and see nothing dangerous about them.
Matthew 4:19, as the New Living Translation says, “Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Well this verse seems innocent enough on its surface reading. Jesus promises His disciples He will make them a new kind of fishermen. Jesus plays upon their vocation and says “Yes, you are men who gather fish for a living, but leave this vocation and I will make you men who ‘fish’ for souls.”
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells His disciples again, “Go, make disciples…” Again, Jesus commands them to ‘go fish for men.’ The word ‘disciple’ simply means ‘follower’. This is an interesting parallel with Matthew 4:19 where Jesus had issued the command to “Follow me…” We too are called to make disciples of the nations. And this is where Matthew 4:19 gets very, very scary.
Jesus has defined what a follower of Him is: it is one who fishes for other men. Notice the root and fruit issue in the verse. The root or cause is “Follow me.” What is the fruit or result? Note the words: “I WILL (emphasis added) make you fishers of men.” Now in light of modern discussions among so-called believers, many say they just don’t have the gift to witness to others. But this flies directly in the face of what Christ says. He says His disciples WILL BE(!) fishers of men. Some say, “I follow Jesus but I don’t fish for men.” But this doesn’t pass Jesus’ test of what He says is a disciple.
The opposite is also true: those who do not fish for men’s souls do NOT follow Him. And to follow Jesus is what a saving relationship with Him is about. Jesus is not saying we are saved by evangelizing. But He is saying if the fruit of evangelism is not in your life, then you can be certain that the root of your life has not been changed by Jesus Himself.
The fault is not in Jesus’ promise to “MAKE US” fishers of men, but in our self-deception thinking we are believers when we do not do what He says. Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Grace to you! The fear of death can be overwhelming. We’ve addressed many of the reasons we fear death, but one big fear remains. We inherently know what it is even if we don’t openly admit it.
What is that fear? It’s that we know when we die we will face God in judgment. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) We know this is true: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) Why? Because “God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) God’s holiness will not wink at our rebellion we have done. God will righteously judge all our sin: what we’ve done, what we’ve not done and should have done, and what we’ve thought about! What person can face death without fear knowing they will meet God with all the sin they’ve committed? None.
This is a legitimate reason to fear death! So what is one to do? We can’t run from death. It comes calling for all of us. And we can’t run from the presence and knowledge of God! “7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in the grave, you are there!” (Psalm 139:7-8) There is nowhere for us to hide from God. So what can we do? Shall we just despair until we face God in judgment? Praise God, there is a wonderful answer for us!
How can a sinner be accepted by God? How can a person who has done wrong be made right with God? This is the wonderful news of the gospel. God did for us in His Son Jesus Christ what we could not do for ourselves. First, Jesus took the penalty of our sin. “God made Christ who knew no sin to become sin…” (2 Corinthians 5:21a) Jesus was punished as if He committed my sins. Second, Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father where I disobeyed the Lord. Jesus “knew no sin” so that He could put His righteousness on my account as if I had obeyed perfectly. “…so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) So the good news is this: Jesus died in my place to pay for my sins and He also lived an obedient life to give me His righteousness. It’s a double trade! Jesus gets my sin and I get His righteousness! So how does this happen? I simply receive it as a free gift from God. I admit my sin and need for Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. I turn from my sin and living for myself to commit my life to Christ who died and rose again on my behalf! Now when I face death there is no fear of judgment from God because God’s love for me in Christ has satisfied God’s holy demands on my life. Jesus is my righteousness!