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Archive for November, 2009

Most people will tell you that they are hoping to go to heaven because they feel their good outweighs their bad. Such thinking, however, is foreign to biblical Christianity. The Bible clearly declares that all of us are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all of us deserve eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Maybe you have heard of the man, believing that life was unfair to him, cry out to heaven, “God, just give me what I deserve!” There is hardly a more dangerous prayer because the best of us deserve the wrath of God.

God, however, did not simply leave us in our sins so that we might face his just and unavoidable wrath. The apostle Paul reminds us that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:4-5a). Salvation does not begin with man’s realization of his sinful con­dition and consequent search for a solution. He does not have that desire or capability within his sinful nature. Salva­tion begins with God. It was the kind and loving God who saw man in his lost condition and chose to save him.

Al­though man deserves to perish eternal­ly, God desires that he repent (2 Peter 3:9). Man has fol­lowed the way of this world and the spirit of Satan (Ephesians 2:2). He has lived to fulfill his own lusts, showing that in his nature he de­serves God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). God, though, gave his Son to be man’s Savior, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

William Barclay writes accurately, “God is character­ist­ically the Saviour God, whose last desire is to condemn men and whose first desire is to save them.” It is God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is God who “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

No person will ever enter heaven on the basis of his good works. All who spend eternity with God will do so because of the grace of God through repenting of their sin and believing in the Lord Jesus. The Bible states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you are a true Christian, you have much for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving season. God has not left you to toil in a vain attempt to earn your salvation. In his infinite mercy he has freely given you eternal life through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

If you have not turned from your sin and believed on Christ, do so today. He took the wrath of God due believing sinners and counts all such believers righteous in his sight. “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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These are words often repeated after death has ended the physical suffering and mental anguish of someone who has endured much for an all-too-long period of time. Loved ones, having witnessed horrific suffering, feel relief that the ordeal is finally over for their parent or sibling or friend or whomever. “Well, at least she’s in a better place.”

That may be true, and then again, it may not be. As one who has presided over many funerals and graveside services, I neither preach someone into heaven nor into hell. I believe in the reality of both, but the eternal Judge determines that deceased person’s fate.

We must not be glib about eternity. Our loved one may be in a better place, but he is in the presence of God only because he is God’s child, having turned from his sin and believed on the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The person in that better place than this fallen world is there only because Christ bore his sin upon the cross, taking the wrath of the thrice-holy God for the repentant one’s sin and pronouncing the believer righteous.

For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).

Otherwise, that loved one will languish in hell for eternity, separated from God and from all hope. This reality, though pooh-poohed by atheists and “Christian” liberals alike, will not fade away like a bad dream simply because one believes it unthinkable that a loving God, if indeed there is a God, would cast anyone into hell. Jesus himself spoke without ambiguity.

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, ESV).

A better place? I sincerely hope so, but it isn’t so just because we wish it. May our loved ones know the only One who will receive them unto that better place, in his presence, for eternity.

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The following started off as a response to some posts in an off-topic thread on the Logos Bible Software Forum, but I decided to put it here instead. (By the way, the new Logos Bible Software 4 is worth checking out!)

  • Sarah Palin has been stereotyped by much of our news media (opinion writers masquerading as journalists) in the same way that Dan Quayle was. That, on the surface, she did poorly in early interviews may have been as much of the McCain handlers’ fault as hers. Put a microphone in front of any of us and we’ll say some pretty stupid stuff that can get constantly replayed by those who disagree with our basic positions.
  • Do those who believe that a display of superior intelligence is essential for the vice presidency honestly consider Joe Biden to be one so endowed? Really? For every Palin gaffe, I’ll give you a Biden.
  • Why does Barack Obama come off as one possessing superior intelligence? We can throw in some jaw-dropping Obama responses, too, with our Biden gaffes, but they don’t get much play in our “news” media. Obama is super cool and gives a wonderful speech from the always-present teleprompter. He bounces down steps without touching the handrail. Cool is often confused for intelligence.
  • Frankly, I think Palin and Biden and Obama and McCain and George W. Bush are decently intelligent people.
  • Most of the news media in the U.S. are quite liberal on the political spectrum. Those who champion their causes (pro-choice on abortion, homosexual rights, etc.) are portrayed as wonderful, intelligent leaders. Those who do not are portrayed as doofuses. Reagan was denigrated by our press, as most conservatives are. Carter, Clinton, and Obama are portrayed as deep thinkers.
  • The word “evangelical” has lost almost all sense of meaning so as to have become essentially useless. When folks call Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen are viewed as evangelicals, we need a replacement term for evangelical.
  • Nations often get the leaders they deserve. We Americans so thrive on celebrities and entertainment that we have elected a man to the presidency because of what he has portrayed himself to be, not what he has proven himself to be. Where has Mr. Obama really shown himself to be capable of leading a nation? Did he excel in college and law school? He did become editor of the Harvard Law Review, but that position’s going to the student with the highest grades was changed in the 1970’s. What about after law school? Our president has shown himself capable of being elected to office, from editor of the HLR to Illinois state senator to less than three years as a U.S. senator to now president of the U.S. We’ll have to wait to see what really comes of it, but no one that I’ve read has been particularly impressed with what he did as either a state senator or U.S. senator.
  • Citizens in other nations often cast aspersions upon the U.S., but they have their issues, not so dissimilar to those of the U.S. They’ve got their poverty and discrimination. Admittedly, a lot of the evidence put forth is anecdotal. Much, but certainly not all, of the poverty in our country is a result of bad choices. I’ve been in homes of people who seemed quite destitute to find them with a cable television package that I could not justify for my own home. Drugs and out-of-wedlock births greatly contribute to poverty. And yes, the leaders of other nations are also often portrayed in a quite uncomplimentary light.
  • God is sovereign over the affairs of men. Even in a representative democracy, God ultimately chooses who leads. And yet we as believers are to be involved in the process, attempting to understand the issues at stake and how those seeking to be elected will deal with those problems.

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We Southern Baptists say that the Bible is without error, that it is God’s authority over our lives, and that it is sufficient for leading us to God and rightly ordering our lives. I wonder, though, if we really believe what we say we believe.

It seems that we have our belief system that we profess and we have our “but’s” that we live. We say we believe that God created all things, but it looks really dumb to believe he did it in six twenty-four-hour days. We say we believe that men should lovingly lead their wives and that wives should lovingly follow that lead, but we engage in the best (worst?) of the battle of the sexes when our partner is not treating us according to our satisfaction. We say we believe in the church government taught in the Scriptures but many of our churches have deacons acting as though they were elders or, even worse, a church council acting as an elder board. We claim that church membership is to be taken seriously, but Southern Baptist Convention churches have millions of members who rarely, if ever, attend corporate worship in the church where their name persists in being on the roll.

We say we believe a lot of things, but our actions reveal what we really believe. Maybe that’s the reason denominational leaders are constantly trying to devise new means to renew our churches. Perhaps a more effective strategy would be to repent of our sin of violating our professed beliefs with our unbiblical actions and really become submissive to the teaching of the Word of God.

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Confusing cool for intelligence

As Barack Obama came to national attention as the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, many were caught up in the aura of the Illinois state senator. He had a presence about him, an ability to deliver his speech, the way he held his head–all of these would draw great crowds at campaign stops and would eventually catapult him into Presidency of the United States.

The one almost universal description of candidate Obama, and now President Obama, has been that he is intelligent. He is widely considered to be more intelligent than almost anyone else in politics, indeed more intelligent than any other man elected to lead this nation. He just has that aura about him.

And I think that helps explain a great deal this fawning over President Obama–his aura. I am really not convinced that he is particularly intelligent. I do not mean he is ignorant, and I certainly do not denigrate him as so many did the younger President Bush. There simply is little hard evidence to support the commonly-held position that he is possessed of lofty intelligence. As far as I know, his grade point averages at Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard have not been released. (I recognize that one’s GPA alone does not signify intelligence, but the media made a great deal of President George W. Bush’s GPA.) As President, Mr. Obama has not really done anything that is widely considered brilliant, while he has made some noticeable gaffes that seem to be fairly overlooked by the national media.

I have to ask: What is there about President Obama which brings about this almost universal acclaim of intelligence? In a word, I think it is the “cool” factor. The President is a cool dude. He bounces down the stairs without touching the handrail. His chin is up while he makes a speech. He looks pretty good with a basketball. He just looks cool.

In America, where a large portion of our citizenry swoons over celebrities, there is great difficulty in distinguishing between intelligence and cool. We fawn over actors who are attractive and can play the part of a character before the cameras. We yawn at the scholar backed by serious research who says something that will actually impact the way we live. We are willingly led by what appears to be than by what actually is (cf. John 7:24). We cannot tell the difference between intelligence and cool.

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November’s free audio download from Christian Audio is Desiring God by John Piper. In a cultural Christianity that too often sees God as a means to an end, we need to understand that God is the end, and in him alone is true joy.

Insert NOV2009 into the coupon code in order to receive the book free. Enjoy!

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