Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fire and Brimstone

Today is a busy and long day and so today's post will necessarily be short.  I just want to continue on yesterday's theme of those times where we ignore the Word of God thinking that somehow someway we know better.  Today that subject will be in preaching and sharing the Gospel.  There is much said today against teaching fire and brimstone.  I am not saying we should all walk around threatening people with Hell, but to only discuss the love of God and not also the judgement of God gives an incomplete picture.  Some say that we should be teaching Jesus from every Scripture.  Surely every Scripture does speak to Jesus, but we also need to remember that Jesus is not only our Savior, but He is also Judge.  He will judge our works, He will judge unbelievers, and He will determine what rewards we receive and do not receive in eternity.  Not only that, but by neglecting the mention of "fire and brimstone" teaching, you are leaving people out of hearing the Gospel message.  Here is the Scripture for today:
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling [them] out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Jude 1:22-23 NKJV
The fact is that some will respond to the grace message, but others need to fear judgement before desiring to hear about grace.  Some will be compelled by the love of Christ as Savior, some will turn to Christ as Savior after being compelled by the fear of Hell.  We think we know better many times and want to only share the message of grace and love, but not sharing God's hatred of sin, many will not even understand why they need a savior.  Thinking that there is no need to speak about fire and brimstone denies Scripture that some need to hear that message and it also denies history.  The Great Awakening in America was a fire largely kindled by a sermon entitled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."  Jesus also often spoke of Hell and spoke of it as a horrible place. 

That said, just as the message of grace is incomplete without the message of judgement, so is the message of judgement without the message of grace.  If you do speak on Hell, you need to speak of Jesus paying the price so one does not have to go to Hell.  If you speak of impending judgement, you need to speak of Jesus dying to save one from that judgement.   The message of grace is pointless without teaching why grace is necessary and the consequences of not accepting that grace.  The message of judgement is pointless without the message of salvation.  I will end with a beautiful and complete presentation of the Gospel as presented by the One who is the Gospel. 
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. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  John 3:16-18 NKJV

Monday, January 30, 2012

God's Word Can be SO Offensive, Let's Just Edit It

This morning I read an article about certain Bible versions and translations editing how God is referred to so as not to offend Muslims.  Among other things, it edits out such things that would offend a Muslim such as referring to Jesus as the Son of God.  This is part of a long-standing yet troubling trend in the church, and it is our attempts to "help" God make his message less offensive.  The problem is that idea is not Scriptural.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV
Not only is not not Scriptural, but it is also not in the example of Jesus.
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us [His] flesh to eat?"  John 6:48-52 NKJV
Jesus says something very controversial.  He says that he is the bread of life.  He even says that in order to live forever, they must eat of the bread of life.  They really do not grasp what He is saying and assume He means that they should literally eat of His flesh.  There was great controversy and people were offended.  Did Jesus change His message? 
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard [this], said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?" John 6:53-61 NKJV
We can clearly see that He did not.  He did not try to explain it nor did He try to make it more palatable.  He knew of the controversy that was brewing with His words, yet He continued on with the message that the Father had given Him.  At this point, even some of his disciples started to complain.  Jesus asks if His message offended them.  Surely it did and surely now Jesus will begin to work to alleviate the offense, right?
"[What] then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [they] are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." From that [time] many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  John 6:62-66 NKJV
Jesus did not back away from His words except to say that His words are spirit.  He also brings up that some of those who are offended are ones that do not believe.  Again, He did not change His message to lessen the offense to the nonbelievers, but let His words stand.  As a consequence, many of His disciples walked away.  I am sure at this point, Jesus went after them to try to bring them back in and begin to work to reconcile their offense.
Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  John 6:67-69 NKJV
Instead of chasing after the ones who left, Jesus asked the ones who stayed if they wanted to leave as well.  Jesus was not one to change His message so as not to offend anyone or call them back if they had fallen away.  Of course, Peter tells the reason that those stayed who stayed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."   Such a beautiful phrase and such an amazing truth.  It also illustrates an important point, which is that if someone truly believes in Jesus, that person will have faith to stay even if the message gets hard to understand. 

We must not try to help God in our outreach to make his message more palatable to those who are offended.  You may bring more bodies into churches, but you are not winning any believers.  God never compromised His message and so we should never either.  His message will be an offense and for good reason.  Think about it, you are telling Muslims that their god is a false god and that their prophet was a false prophet.  It is going to be offensive.  For the Hindu, you are saying that all of their gods are false gods and that there is only one true God.  To the Buddhist, you are saying that Buddha was a liar or a victim of tragic deceit and currently resides in Hell.  To the atheist, you are telling him are her that they are entirely wrong to say that there is no God.  To the general "great-grandfather-in-the-sky" nebulous and common religion, you are saying that no matter how "good" they or their loved ones may have thought they were in this life, they are going to spend an eternity in Hell lest they receive Jesus. 

The Gospel is an offense because it is so uncompromising in its insistence that Jesus is the only way.  It leave no room for other faiths or beliefs nor does it allow for any other god.  It gives no way to earn your way into Heaven, but declares that only though faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can anyone be saved.  It takes any other belief other than a true faith in Jesus Christ and exposes it for the Hell-bound lie that it is.  That is going to cause offense. 

Finally, the Gospel is offensive because it permits salvation to those whom we may consider to be the worst of the worst.  It is hard to believe that a serial killer, child rapist and murderer, brutal tyrant, slave trader, or any other horrible person we can think of can also be forgiven through Jesus Christ.  It is even harder to believe in a faith that calls us to love those people and reach out to them with the Gospel.  So the Gospel is an offense not just in that it declares any other belief as wrong, but it is also an offense in that all can be saved. 

In the end, we must not try to help God by changing His message,  He knew what He was doing when He wrote His word and God have mercy on us should we ever think we know better and decide to change it.  Those who altered the Word to make it less offensive will have to stand before God and explain why they thought they knew better.  I hope to never be in that position.  God's word is an offense.  The Gospel is an offense.  That offensive message changed the world when it was first proclaimed and continues to change hearts to this very day.  We need to proclaim that message, not hide from it.  Do we really think we know better than God?  Or are just scared to face the consequences of having an offense message?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  Romans 1:16 NKJV

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Foolish and Futile Attempt to Argue the Pro Choice Position

The following is an excerpt from a letter to the editor published in The Star Ledger newspaper by one Martin Caroll of Watchung, NJ:
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of those men who believe that they have the right to pontificate and legislate on this issue (abortion).  Female reproduction should be left for the women to decide; all men should recuse themselves from this topic.  As for the men who insist on preaching on this matter, please ignore the arrogant blowhards.  (nj.com)
For some reason, this letter got under my skin a little.  The reason is that I did not ask for anyone, including Mr. Carroll, to apologize on my behalf for anything.  I also posted this, using Mr. Carroll as an example, to show the foolishness and illogical babbling and hypocrisy of the argument for abortion.  This should be no surprise. 
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.  Proverbs 15:2 NKJV
And foolishness it is.  This man is commenting on a subject by saying that no man has a right to comment on it.  I wonder if he sees the problems with his own logic?  He says that men have no right to speak on a decision made by a woman regarding her body, yet he is presumptuous enough to apologize on behalf of someone who more than likely does not want or need one.  Considering Mr. Carroll is speaking on this subject, does that make him an arrogant blowhard as well?  I am sorry to pick on this one person.  He is not alone in the utter foolishness of those who try to argue in favor of sin.  It always leads to this kind of twisted logic and hypocrisy.  He is doing exactly what he says no man has a right to do.  This exposes his hypocrisy because it is not that he does not want men to speak out, it is that he only wants those who speak out who agree with his pro-choice opinion. 

Again, he is not alone.  Another ironic twist in this is that I found this post through Facebook.  That is not ironic, but the person who "liked" it is.  The person who shared this article on Facebook is heavily involved in anti-bullying efforts in our schools.  I just do not get it.  I just do not understand how someone can be against picking on children so much that she is for passing laws and decreeing punishments for doing so, but yet wants that same legislature to pass and protect laws giving her the right to slaughter her unborn child.  Apparently hurting someone's feelings is worse then ripping them apart limb from limb?  Apparently, children must be protected unless of course they are an inconvenience to others.  Quite honestly, the only logical way that kind of belief system can work out is if that belief system is steeped in selfishness.  Actually, it is more than that, it is selfishness to the point where self is god. 

But, then again, is that not the core of the pro choice position? Aborting a baby is the epitome of selfishness.  It is also the epitome of making oneself to be god by saying only you have the choice if that baby lives or dies.  It is saying to a child invited into a womb by virtue of having intercourse that he or she is not welcome there.  It is saying that whatever inconvenience you may go through over the next several months is not worth the life of a child.  It is saying that your ability to have a good time is more important then the right of your child to even live.  Did not almost everyone hate Casey Anthony for supposedly killing her own child because it interfered with her ability to have a good time?  How is abortion for convenience any less a hateful act?  In fact, you can even make the argument that if Casey Anthony did kill her own daughter, at least she did it by her own hands and to a child she knew.  With abortion, a woman does not even see the child she killed and that child is not even killed by her own hands.  Abortion is murder, it takes the life of an unborn innocent child, and it is always for selfish reasons.  Whether it be convenience, health, or because the child is the product of abuse, it is always for the sake of the mother.  We live in a society where we have legalized choosing to kill one's child so long as that child is not born. 

Some like to make the argument that what is killed is the "product of conception" and that the child is just a clump of cells.  Some make the argument that what is growing inside a woman is not sentient and does not feel or perceive pain.  Even if that were true, does that make it right?  Are we really saying that if a person does not feel pain it is alright to tear that person apart limb from limb?  Then again, it is not true.  Science has proven that what is killed is a growing human person.  That is why pro choice advocates fight tooth and nail against laws requiring the mother to see an ultrasound before the abortion happens.  If she were just removing an amorphous clump of cells or some meaningless thing called the products of conception" there would be no harm.  In fact, if anything, it would comfort the mother in her abortion because she would see first hand that she was only removing some formless thing from her womb.  That is not the case, though, what that mother would actually see is a growing baby.  She would have to look upon the young life she is about to slaughter.  She would have to see that what she is doing is killing a person. To say you are not killing a person when a baby is aborted is laughably ignorant. 

Getting back to Mr. Carroll, he also said that men should have no place in deciding women's reproductive issues.  That is a common argument.  Apparently, not being a woman I have no say in the matter.  Frankly, I do not care what a woman does with her body.  It is not my business.  It is also not my place to determine a woman's reproductive issues.  I do not believe I or anyone else should tell a woman if or when or what precautions to take when having intercourse.  That said, when she does make the choice, pregnancy is a possibility.  I am not fighting against a woman's right to have or not to have sex, but I am fighting for the right for the unborn baby to live.  Apparently, only a pregnant woman should be allowed to determine the right of her unborn child to exist.  That sounds a bit like a conflict of interest to me.  She is only speaking for herself, I am speaking for the baby.  I am defending the one who is defenseless and giving a voice to the one who can not speak.  I do not apologize for doing so.  Just as the woman she shared the article thinks that it is right for her to stand up for the rights of children everywhere to go to school and not be unduly harassed, I am standing up for the rights of unborn children to not be ripped limb from limb, burned alive chemically, or have their brains sucked out of their heads.  We live in a nation that prides itself on defending the rights of those who can not, To say I can not speak on the matter is laughable.  To say that no one is allowed to defend helpless babies is tyrannically barbaric. 

Abortion is the height of selfishness and the most brutal legal act one can do.  To think that we allow helpless defenseless babies to be killed at the will of the mother makes me shudder.  What will God to a nation that allows such a thing?  Just because God has given us space to repent of this national sin, does not mean that judgement is not coming.  A day will come when the period of grace will end and judgement will begin.  I wonder of the pro-choice people even understand what that means.  I wonder how they will answer God when they stand before Him unrepentant.  I wonder how they can possibly defend themselves.  Abortion is murder, abortion is brutal, abortion is barbaric, abortion is sin, and lest one repents, abortion will be judged. 

I urge you, if you stand for the pro-choice movement, repent now before it is too late.  If you are thinking of having an abortion, I urge you to change your mind.  If you have had one, I urge you to turn to Jesus.  The fact is that as filthy, wicked, abominable, and selfish a sin as abortion is, Jesus even died for that sin.  Should you turn to Jesus, Jesus will cleanse you of that unrighteousness and you will be separated from that sin as far as the east is from the west.  If you turn to Jesus, you will be saved, even if you performed, had, or advocated for abortions.  Someday you will face Jesus, that day He will either be your Savior or your Judge.  Each minute of each day is time God as given you to repent.  Use this time wisely and take the lesson of one named Jezebel who lived a long time ago.  
And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.  Revelation 2:21-22 NKJV

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Contrary to What You Have Heard, God's Definition of Marriage Has Not Changed

In my home state of New Jersey, the topic of homosexual marriage has come up again.  The legislature, despite a morbid economy, has chosen this issue to be the top issue of the new session.  Our governor has already declared that he would veto the bill.  Whenever this subject comes up, the same old arguments are brought up and misinformed Christians call into radio shows and get run over by a more skilled and knowledgeable radio host.  Today, I want to share the normal arguments given and better responses to those arguments than most people can muster.  When all is said and done, though, we will not be able to convince unredeemed sinners that their sinful views on sinful subjects are wrong.  It is ultimately the Holy Spirit that will convict them of their wrong ways and we should not feel discouraged when people will not listen to us.  So make your stand for righteousness, preach redemption through Jesus Christ, and pray.  What we should pray is for God to water that seed you planted so that it may grow to maturity. 
So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  1 Corinthians 3:7 NKJV
The first argument given is that homosexuals only want the same rights as everyone else.  The fact is that they already do.  They have the same right to form a family as any other person does, only they want more.  They want to be able to redefine what a family is in that they want to marry someone of the same sex.  Their predictable response is that the right is not the same because they do not have the right to marry the person they love as heterosexuals do.  But does everyone have the right to marry whomever they want? Can an adult marry a child?  Can a brother marry a sister?  Can a man marry three wives?  Of course all of those are not allowed no matter how much "love" there may be.  Their response to this is to change the rules once again.  Now it is not just the person they love, but the consenting adult that they love.  Alright, so that rules out adults marrying children, but what about one man marrying several consenting adult women?  Of course then they change the argument again in saying that the contract should be singular.  First of all (and I am not advocating for polygamy), polygamy is a collection of singular contracts.  If a man were to marry two women, there is no contract between the two women.  There are two singular contracts between the man and each woman.  So then maybe they would want to add only one singular contract as a new rule?  Even if they did, they run into the problem that there is no other place where contracts are singular unless that is actually part of the contract.  I have several credit cards, a singular contract with each one.  I also have contracts with my cell phone company, cable company, every email address or web account I have, etc.  Finally, there is the issue of incest.  the next new rule is that the person has to be adequately unrelated.  I hope you see the logical fallacy of their argument.  It is not that they want the same right as everyone else, they just want law altered specifically to suit their needs.  This so called "right" is that a person should be able to enter in a singular marriage contract with only one consenting adult who is adequately unrelated.  That sounds like an awful amount of rules to be a "right."  The fact is that if it were truly rights they were fighting for, just about all of those rules would have to be negated. 

The next argument is that one can not legislate morality.  In fact, that phrase is used in a lot of areas.  The fact is, though, that just about all of our laws legislate morality.  Why is rape a crime?  Because we find it morally wrong.  Why is incest a crime?  Because we find it morally wrong.  Why is prostitution a crime?  Because we find it morally wrong.  Why is theft or murder crimes?  Again, because we find it morally wrong.  You may make the argument that we are only protecting victims.  That is true, but that is only because we have the moral concept of victim-hood.  Think about it, slavery was once legal along with all the abuses performed against slaves.  What was done to them then under protection of the law would now be rightfully considered harshly punishable crimes.  The difference is that we realized slavery was morally wrong.  While we may not legislate what is moral or amoral, our legislated crimes are a reflection as to what society has deemed to be moral or amoral.  Homosexual marriage is not allowed because for the most part (even still), people find it to be morally wrong. 

Then there is the argument of civil rights. They make a connection between their plight and the plight of black people during the civil rights movement.  Not even the black people buy that argument.  The problem is that being black is a state of being, it is not a behavior.  People were not judged by their actions or life choices, but just by virtue of their skin color.  They were not judged for acting black, they were judged for being black.  Homosexuality, on the other hand, is not a state of being but a behavior and a lifestyle choice.  I know they like to claim that they are born that way, but that has never been proven.  They say they can not change, but I know for a fact that they can.  I am not naming any names, but I do know personally people who at one time considered themselves to be homosexual, but they, by the power of Jesus Christ, are now in loving monogamous and healthy heterosexual marriages.  The fact is that is a sinful lifestyle choice, many believing the lie that they were born that way.  I feel bad for those who are deceived into thinking they could never change.  I pray for them that the Lord show them the truth that no matter what kind of sin they are or have been involved with, Jesus Christ can set them free.  Homosexuality is not a race and so using the same argument about race is not applicable.   In fact, it is an insult to equate their plight when they live a chosen lifestyle whereas black people did not choose to be born black.  A black person can not become white, but a homosexual can leave that sinful lifestyle. 

The last argument I will address is their argument that they are just like everyone else and so allowing a redesign of the family structure will have no impact on society.  Many believe that they are just like everyone else.  That is a result of good PR and not reality.  The face of the homosexual movement has been defined by friendly portrayals in our entertainment and featured people who give a very good mainstream appearance.  If you want to see the true face of the homosexual movement, then attend a gay pride parade.  I wouldn't bring your children, though.  What you will see is a grand display of every kind of filth imaginable along with some you probably have never imagined.  They do all this in the presence of their own children. As for families, they can not actually form a family.  They can not have children (other than by adoption or other artificial means).  True, some heterosexual couples struggle with infertility, but that is an exception.  Homosexual arrangements preclude fertility from even being a possibility.  And, over time, it will greatly affect family structure in society as a whole.  As children are brought up in homes with a distorted picture of what roles a mother and a father play in their development, children will grow up with a new perception of what a family is.  Biological parenting will become less and less important and the idea of a nuclear family will become obsolete.  Furthermore, schools will begin to promote the new family structure and people who believe differently will be first marginalized and then demonized.  Family and marriage were created and instituted by God.  Mankind has no right to redefine what God has defined. 

Before I close there is one more issue I need to address.  This is not so much an argument as it is a response from the gay movement to Christians who disagree with gay marriage.  They ask how we could question how their acts will destroy marriage when we have our own problems with adultery, divorce, and spousal abuse.  They have a point.  They do not have a point when it comes to their position as pointing out our wrongs does not make their wrongs right.  Yes, adultery, divorce, and abuse are wrong, but that does not mean and gay marriage is right.  The point it does make though, is that our witness is extremely important.  It is hard to stand for the sanctity of marriage when so many Christian do not.  In fact, the 50% divorce rate applies just as much to Christians as it does to the rest of the world.  Christian husbands beat their Christian wives and Christian wives sometimes abuse their Christian husbands.  Adultery, especially adultery in our hearts whenever we look in lust at another, is rampant in our midst.  Shame on us for allowing our witness to be hurt by our sinful and wrong actions.  If we want to take a stand for righteousness, we need the behavior to back it up.  We must pull the plank out of our own eyes before we help the homosexual remove the speck from his.  We must clean our own house before speaking of the filth in the house of another.  We must have the lives to back up what we say to the rest of the world.  Judgement starts at the house of God, and it is high time we cleaned out our house and took marriage seriously in the church.  We need to take church discipline seriously in that we give an abusive or adulterous spouse a chance to repent but then we must follow through in removing them from our fellowships.  That is what the Bible says.  We need to stop accepting divorce for any other reason than adultery or when an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer.  And when someone is divorced for anything other than the aforementioned reasons, we need to stop allowing them to remarry in our churches and if they do remarry we must make sure they know that their adulterous illegitimate marriage is not welcome in our fellowships.  Again, that is what the Bible says.  If we do believe in the sanctity of marriage as an institution created by God, we must act like it. 

In the end, homosexuals are sinners in need of a savior just as we were before we met Jesus.  They deserve Jesus no more or no less than any of us did and the blood of Jesus flows just as freely for their sin as it did for ours.  They must know that.  They must know that Jesus can lead them away from that fallen lifestyle.  They must know they can be free of that bondage and live freely in Christ.  They must know that they do not have to remain how they are.  They must know that God loves them and wants them to come to Him and that He loves them too much to leave them as they are.  Before anything else, they must know the Gospel.  If God begins to change their hearts and lives and they begin to live free of the bondage of homosexuality, they will be a shining light to others looking to be free as well.  We must also understand that without Jesus they are slaves to their behavior and no argument is going to change that.  Share the love of God. Share the Gospel.  Plant those seeds of the Word of God and pray that God gives the increase.  It is fine to oppose gay marriage, but make sure it is done first and foremost with the love of Jesus Christ.  We can maybe change some minds with clever arguments, but only God can change their hearts.
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment John 16:8 NKJV