Category Archives: Knowing God

GOD, ADAM AND THE GARDEN: LOVE AND TRAGEDY IN PARADISE

        GOD, ADAM AND THE GARDEN: LOVE AND TRAGEDY IN PARADISE

 

When I recently read the first few chapters of Genesis, I felt the full measure of God’s overwhelming creative power and love for me as He, and the Holy Spirit (see Gen. 1:2) designed and built a beautiful, and glorious habitation for His beloved new creation – man. I felt the intimacy of God’s thoughts towards us as He created thick green grass to cover the barren earth, and a multitude of seed-yielding herbs and fruit trees to provide us life-giving food, sweet and delicious to the taste. God then created lights in the heavens to govern both the day and the night – for signs and for seasons and for days and for years. God also made a multitude of creatures to fill the earth, the waters, and the sky with abundance. He blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth … and He saw that those things He made were good.

 

Then God formed man in His own likeness, and gave him dominion over all of the glorious things that He had just created, and He blessed us and told us to be fruitful and to multiply. God then viewed all that He had carefully labored over… and He saw that it was very good.

After God made Adam from the dust of the ground, He put His mouth up to Adam’s face… and gently breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and Adam became the first living soul. Genesis 2 goes on to state how God Himself went and “planted” a garden in a place called Eden, designed specifically for Adam, with every tree that is “pleasant to the sight” and that was “good for food.”

As one who loves to plant palm trees, bamboo and other tropical vegetation, the above passage touches a deep place in my soul, painting a beautiful and intimate picture of the God of heaven and earth personally designing and building a gorgeous and life-sustaining garden for man. God specifically created it so that, not only are there an abundance of plants which are perfect to sustain him physically, but there were also many trees, shrubs, and flowers which were placed there by God solely for Adam to enjoy with his other senses – his eyes, his nose and his tongue. When I picture this garden, I envision lush green queen palms blowing slowly in a soft, warm wind. I see huge, grand Canary Island date palms; purple and translucent Hawaiian Ty; thick pink, white, and yellow oleander; and waves of flowering purple, lavender and orange bougainvillea, all surrounded by endless open spaces full of thick, lush dark green grass.

I had never noticed the fact that, after creating the garden, God gives Adam his very first job, a job, which I greatly envy. “The Lord God took man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15). What a great and innocent vocation – to tend to all of the beauty and glory that God specifically fashioned for him, all the days of his life. If only….

Besides the fact that God actually designed and planted a lush beautiful garden specifically for Adam, where he could live and reign forever, enjoying the beauty and glory of creation each and every second, the verse that struck me the most about God’s intimate and personal love and delight in man, was Genesis 2:19. In this verse, it says how God formed all of the birds and animals, and brought them to Adam “to see what he would call them.” I envision God, like a loving, deeply interested father, sitting back and watching with a big, warm smile, as His precious son Adam, thinking and imagining for himself, perhaps for the first time, comes up with creative names for all of the living creatures God made just for him. It reminds me of watching my little daughter with a new doll wrapped up perfectly for Christmas, opening it, naming it, smiling joyfully at it, and holding it close to her heart…and then giving it her very favorite name. The feeling I get as a father when I see this, is just a little taste of what God must have felt as He finished His six days of creating this wonderful planet, and watching as His plans, His purposes, and His dreams for mankind are fulfilled through Adam.

But God didn’t want robots to fill this glorious place that He carefully and lovingly designed for us, so He gave Adam and Eve free will. He allowed them to decide whether or not He, the God who made every single thing on the earth for them, was enough. Would they choose to love Him? Would they choose to trust Him? So God planted a tree, that if eaten from, would give them the knowledge of good and evil – and He specifically told them to enjoy all of the other trees and plants but not that one.

God loved them (and us) so much that He did not want us to lose our innocence and be burdened with the knowledge of evil, and He gave us every opportunity to avoid it. He simply hoped that we would be content tending the garden, enjoying the beauty, the peace, the love, and the friendship that Adam and Eve had with each other and with all of the animals, and He wanted us to walk closely with Him…in the cool of the evening.

But it wasn’t enough for Adam, and it wouldn’t have been enough for me. The unceasing beauty and majesty of creation – which speaks loudly to the hearts of each and every human through the soft clouds and a warm summer wind – is not enough. No. We, in our selfish ambition and desire to be as gods, prefer to close our eyes and hearts to God, and to pursue the cravings of our flesh. As a result of Adam’s choice, he and Eve were ejected from the garden God designed for them, and the ground was made firm and difficult to till so that they would have to eat from the sweat of Adam’s brow…and the intention of God, to make them immortal in their innocence, was shattered, and God declared that from dust they were created and to dust they shall return (Genesis 3:19, 22, 24). A cherubim and a flaming sword were placed at the entrance to the garden, preventing mankind from ever accessing the tree of life again…until Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, provided us a way back to intimacy with God through His precious blood shed in agony on a hard wooden cross.

What a great tragedy mankind turned out to be. We continued to hurt the heart of God even after the garden to the point that, just before the world was destroyed by a flood in Genesis 6, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth and it grieved Him at His heart.”

The fact that we have the capacity to so wound the heart of the living God, shows me in a tangible and powerful way, just how much He does love us and just how grievous our sin is to Him. This same God, who made us in His image, and placed a rich and verdant garden in which we could have dwelled forever in unceasing peace and beauty, was pierced deeply and personally because of our unceasing wickedness. And to consider that, despite the fact that every inclination of our hearts was evil, He still sent His one and only Son to live spartanly and die brutally, shows that His love and desire for our hearts has not waned. May we return that love to Him by seeking His face and His face only, and recalling His wonderful plan for us at the dawn of time. For if we truly repent and believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will, one glorious day, be restored to Him and to His eternal kingdom, and there we will finally eat from the tree of life, and we will live and reign with Him in paradise forever.

Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

Grace, Obedience and Salvation: The Narrow Road

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

FORGIVENESS: TO THE MERCIFUL, GOD SHOWS HIMSELF MERCIFUL

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven… 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

Matthew 5:43-46

There is neither a greater, nor more difficult calling by Jesus Christ, then the call to forgive even our worst and most spiteful enemies. Jesus himself exhibited this most difficult act, while hanging cold, naked and in agony on a cross. His ability to forgive those who destroyed his body and humiliated him in front of his enemies was truly the product of a life of love, trust and obedience to his Father in heaven…and only when we do the same through the power of the Holy Spirit can this beautiful and powerful fruit of the Spirit be birthed in us.

The Lord’s Prayer is, in my estimation, one of the most important passages of scripture because it consists of Jesus, the guy we pray to (jointly with his Father), telling us exactly how to pray. Every time I read it however, I get hung up on a few certain verses….

12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

I would much prefer it say, “forgive us our sins forever, and punish quickly and with great and unfettered vengeance, those who have dared to disagree with us or hurt us.” J

But it doesn’t say that because that is not the heart of our great God. As long as we live on this earth, we are called to love – and even bless our enemies, not just with words and gritted teeth…but in the depths of our heart. To truly do that, I believe that we must know Jesus as he is in the word, and seek to comprehend exactly what it is that he did for us during his 33 years on this planet.

There are many verses that describe the love of Christ, and his death for us while we were sinners, but to me, the passage below seems to capture his mercy, his love, his obedience and his surpassing greatness, perhaps more than any other pre-Revelation passage:

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:23-24

Surrounded by his taunting enemies, hanging cold and naked on a cross, Jesus Christ, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who could have called down twelve legions of angels to save him, instead chose to suffer, bearing our sins…my sick and wicked sins…in his body, so that I might die to those sins and live for righteousness…for by those wounds, I am healed. Therefore, I must, by his Spirit, also learn to forgive, and even to suffer in forgiveness, just as he did for me.

The parable of the unmerciful servant below is an excellent illustration of what exactly Jesus expects from those who love him:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

 

The unmerciful servant sounds a bit too familiar to me. Sadly, it is like a huge, cracked mirror held up to my face.

I know that I must forgive, in the deepest places of my heart, the people who have hurt me, especially those who have hurt me the most. Why? Because Jesus has forgiven me for so much – yet I so easily forget all of the people that my gossip, slander and selfishness have maimed. I have committed so many sins against both God and man that if I truly know Jesus as he is in his word, I will seek to become even more aware of those sins, and of his great, unmerited mercy, towards me so that I might, through the spirit, share that beautiful gift of mercy with those who have hurt me.

I cannot fake forgiveness, but what I can do with the help of Jesus, is make a decision in my mind and in my heart to forgive someone, knowing that even if I still ache inside from the rejection or shame, the choice is made – and it is final. To walk in that forgiveness, I simply ask the Holy Spirit to help me love the one who hurt me and to destroy any root of bitterness growing in my heart. I also make a point of praying for the person who wounded me, never asking that I would be justified in their eyes, or that they would see things my way, but that the Lord Jesus might take hold of them and show them more and more of his love and eternal power. Really, it is the same prayer I pray for myself. And when that bitterness starts welling up like a poisonous fountain, I ask that God would send his consuming fire to burn it up…and he does. Sometimes it is a constant battle, but knowing the life, love and death of Jesus Christ through his word, and knowing the sacrifice our Father made to allow his precious son to come to earth and suffer years of rejection and abuse, makes it a little bit easier.

Each of us has been deeply and even catastrophically wounded by others, including those we love and trust. But in many ways, through Jesus Christ, those wounds are a gift in light of eternity, because they force us to seek his face, since often, only his love can salve the pain. I have also found that deep wounds, especially those caused by the ones I trust, cause me to look intently at my own sin and the hurts I have inflicted on my close friends and family. When I consider the darkness of my own deceitful and wicked heart, it truly does make me more grateful to Jesus for inexplicably saving me…vengeful, selfish, proud me…and it pushes me to desire conformity to his likeness even more, so that when I am scorned and gossiped about, I, like Jesus and through Jesus, can put aside vengeance, and instead entrust myself to the only one who truly judges justly.

While only Jesus Christ can save souls, the wounds we receive from other people, especially the deep ones can be used as instruments of mercy to draw others to him, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must all grasp the depth of our own selfishness in order to understand the depth of the love and mercy of God, which, through his precious son, has freely offered to us all. In a small way, our human mercy, extended even to those who despise us, is an opportunity to show that beautiful and eternal gift to others who may have no other chance to see it. May Jesus Christ help me grasp my own sinfulness so that I might, through his spirit, share this great gift of mercy.

The purpose of this short life is to know and love the one true God, and his son Jesus Christ. It is not, as I often think, to avoid pain and slink into heaven as quickly and as safely as possible. It is funny how my personal journey to seek Jesus as he truly is, became harder but much more focused, intense and authentic, during and after being rescued from my greatest failure and deepest pain. What the Lord did in my heart during that time period reminds me of the story of the Pharisee and the prostitute in Luke 7:36-50, where Jesus tells the self-satisfied and scornful Pharisee, that the prostitute who is washing his feet with her hair loves much because she has been forgiven much. Were her sins worse than the Pharisee’s? Not likely – they were just more obvious. But God judges the deep things of the heart, and she was clearly more aware of her sin, and understood what a beautiful gift it was to be forgiven by God. I too have been forgiven much…may I also love much.

I strongly believe, that, in order to truly understand Jesus Christ, we must always be aware of our sin – not out of a sense of failure or guilt, but as proof that the Holy Spirit in us, since Jesus told us in John 15, that after he departed the Spirit would convict us of sin. We must continue to walk in repentance, so that we don’t become like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3, where our love and awareness of him wanes to the point where he is just about ready to spit us out of his mouth. The closer we are to him, the easier it seems to capture sinful thoughts and deeds before they metastasize. Thus, it isn’t a burden, but a joy to live in a place where the death and resurrection-life of Jesus are woven into every aspect of our existence.

EPILOGUE

If we only love and forgive those who love us or apologize to us, then we really are no different than the world. Jesus tells us, in no uncertain terms, that in order to be forgiven by him we must forgive others…with our hearts and without condition. The only way to authentically do that is by understanding the life of Jesus Christ, who bled and died for our many sins. How can we not, through the power of the Holy Spirit, forgive those who have hurt us, making the choice to free them from the chains of guilt and unforgiveness, and freeing ourselves from the poisonous vine of bitterness?

Each time that someone who has wounded us comes to mind, regardless of whether they have apologized to us, according to the clear mandate of scripture, we are to take that thought captive, and bless them, praying sincerely, that they might grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus. That is the only way to squelch the bitter and spiteful voice of revenge that rears itself in our flesh. And as we do this, with our eyes firmly set on Jesus, we will come to understand even more deeply, the height, breadth and depth of his love and mercy towards us. Because, he did after all, bear my sin in his body on the tree, so that I might die to sin and live for righteousness…for by his wounds I am healed. May we generously extend that same love to others.

Favorite scriptures #3: Whether the Lord Gives or Takes away…Blessed Be His Name! (Job 1)

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

Favorite Scriptures #4: God Chose the Weak and Foolish Things of the World (1 Corinthians 1:17-25)

“Greater works than these shall he (we) do….” What is the meaning of this scripture?

 What Does the Scripture Mean: “Greater Works than these shall he do….?”  

 John 14:12

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  John 14:12 (KJV)

Jesus Christ says, In Matthew 18:8-9, that if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, for it is better to live this life maimed than to have two hands and two feet and to be cast into “everlasting fire.” If that wasn’t clear enough, Jesus goes on to state that even if one of our eyes is causing us to sin, it is better to pluck it out and throw it away than to have two eyes for this life, but to be cast into the fires of hell for eternity. In John 5:5-14, Jesus heals a man who had been infirm for 38 years, and after finding him in the temple a few hours later…said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14)

The point of the above passages seem to be that physical health – and even bodily wholeness – pale in comparison to having our hearts turned away from sin, and fixed instead on the eternal things of God. Jesus Christ, the maker of both heaven and hell (John 1:1-5; Matthew 25:41; Colossians 1:16), is telling all of us, in no uncertain terms, that we must focus our minds and our hearts on the things of God and not on temporal things, because ultimately, everything temporal…even our physical bodies, will burn in hell if we choose the short term pleasures of sin over the everlasting love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

When I consider the previously referenced passages in Matthew 18 and John 5, in light of John 14:12 (quoted at the top of the post), and the life of Paul, it seems clear that the “greater things” Jesus is referring to, are eternal things…. things that draw the hearts of men away from the temporary and deceitful pleasures of this world, and into a real and permanent relationship with the Living God, through the death and resurrection of our great Lord. By the mercy of Jesus, and by his great sacrifice, we have the ability to, as co-laborers with Christ, draw others away from that infernal place called hell, which God prepared for Satan and his angels, to an eternal kingdom…one that can never, ever be shaken…and to treasure that can never perish, spoil or fade. By the grace of God, this great and everlasting inheritance will belong to us – and to those we help lead to repentance, not by healing their bodies or by performing signs and wonders, but through boldly sharing the unfettered power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth….”  Romans‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭

The scriptures clearly testify that healing sick bodies and even raising people from the dead (which of course our omnipotent God can do through us if he so chooses), are small and temporary things in light of eternity. Jesus says that the angels in heaven cheer for even one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7), so how much more valuable is a life dedicated to “greater things” such as drawing others to the cross of Jesus Christ, opening up a door for them to eternity in heaven? While a life of relentlessly sharing the gospel message of Jesus Christ in gentleness and confidence through the power of the Holy Spirit will not make us rich or famous, we will be serving our great God, who is a consuming fire…and we will be fulfilling His first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) by loving both God and man.

EPILOGUE

I encourage myself first, and everyone who reads this brief article, to consider everything – every word and every action – in light of eternity. Any little thing we do for the Kingdom of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is far greater than even the greatest thing we do for the flesh. May the Lord God, our merciful and loving Father, help us to see everything in this short life in light of the cross…until that glorious day when we meet Him in the air to be in the paradise of God…forever.

19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.  Luke 10:19-20

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.    1 Corinthians 4:18

Preach the Word boldly, and do not be ashamed of the gospel

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

Prayer: How to Approach God and What to Expect From Him

The Written Word: What Did Jesus, The Apostles, and the Psalmists say about the Eternal Written word of God?

Leadership In Christ: Our Responsibilities As Teachers and Hearers of the word

                          TEACHING, LEADING AND HEARING

” Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”  1 Timothy 4:16

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5

What and to whom are we leading people, as we follow Christ? Are we leading them to a “spiritual life,” to reconciliation with friends and family; to wisdom through the Bible; to brotherhood; to our own charismatic personality; to temporal success, power, and happiness; to signs and wonders – or are we leading people to Jesus Christ? If we lead people to anything other than complete surrender before the cross of Jesus Christ, to the acceptance of His blood as atonement for sin, and then to a new life of love, mercy, holiness, and obedience to God, then our leadership…is in vain.

Jesus makes it clear to his followers before he ascends to Heaven exactly how we are supposed to lead. We are to go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us. My purpose with this study is to examine as many scriptures as possible which specifically address the importance of sound, Jesus-centered teaching. Both teaching and hearing the word of God come with great responsibilities. Teachers must be careful to teach what is right and true before God because they are judged severely (James 3:1). Likewise, hearers must test and approve the words – and the spirit – they receive in light of scripture. So, as believers, we are all called to know the word – whether as a teacher or listener – and really, if the body of Christ is functioning properly, we should all be both teachers and hearers. Our God is a consuming fire, so let us teach, correct, rebuke and exhort each other with the holiness, love, mercy, and truth, which comes only from the Living God and His eternal, unchanging word (2 Timothy 3:16). Heaven and Earth will pass away but His words will never, ever pass away (Matthew 24:35, 1 Peter 1:23-25).

One of the scriptures which has most impacted my journey with Christ is 1 Corinthians 2:2, where Paul, after the Corinthians were divided by all kinds of “contentions” including arguments over whether they followed Paul or Apollos, boldly proclaimed, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He went on to state that his preaching was not about him, for he came to them not with eloquence or great wisdom, but in weakness and in fear and with much trembling so that his message would not rely on men’s wisdom but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 1:17, and 2:1-5).

Paul’s statement in the passage above is the very essence of sound doctrine: preach Christ crucified, and all that the cross means, and do so in weakness and in fear, and with the power and confidence of the Holy Spirit and NOT in the strength of our personalities. In Acts 20:24-35, Paul states that his life was worth nothing to him other than that he finish with joy the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace. He warns us to keep watch over ourselves and over the flock which the Holy Spirit has given us to oversee. We are shepherds of his church and we were all purchased with his blood.

In that passage, Paul warns us that savage wolves will arise from within the flock, and will try and destroy it by distorting the truth and drawing disciples away after them. Therefore, we are to vigorously and diligently testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to ensure that those we influence are not pulled away by hollow and deceptive philosophies, which rely on the wisdom and traditions of men (Colossians 2:8), or on the excitement and lust of unbiblical spiritual experiences.

If we do not waiver from the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified we will be in lonely – but good company. We should all be willing to make that blessed trade, because, as Peter says, all men are like grass, and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade…but the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:24-25).

20 “…That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20-21

In Romans 1:5, Paul states that the reason he received grace and apostleship was to call the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. He does not say that he was called by God to heal the sick, to prophecy over the brethren, or to perform signs and wonders. In fact, Paul actually takes pleasure in his weaknesses and infirmities (sickness) because he knows that when he is weak, God is strong (2 Corinthians 12:5-10 KJV). The purpose for the calling of this great apostle was to teach and preach obedience to the loving commands of Jesus – and Paul fulfilled this purpose by both his words and his actions. He made a point of emphasizing the importance of living what he preached. (Romans 15:17, 1 Corinthians 4:16-17).

In 1 Corinthians 3:3-15, Paul states that, as God’s workers we need to lay a foundation of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ only. The point of this scripture(as the point of 1 Corinthians 2:2), is to make sure that the only thing we never neglect to preach is Jesus Christ crucified for sin, for he is the foundation of everything. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-15, Paul again emphasizes that it is the Gospel upon which we are to take our stand. It is the Gospel that saves us and we must hold firmly to that simple yet powerful message. Therefore, Paul constantly teaches what he – and we – must continue preaching: the truth about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to pay for our sin.

In 2 Corinthians 4:2-5, Paul states that he does not use deception or distort the word. Instead, he sets forth the truth about Jesus plainly. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of Christ. Paul then emphasizes that he does not preach himself, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and himself and his brothers as servants for Jesus’ sake. The focus of all teaching must be strictly on Jesus Christ and not on any worldly principles. He goes on to state that teachers are called to demolish every argument and pretension, which sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

In 2 Corinthians 11:10-13, Paul states that the Corinthians are putting up with foolish teaching and Paul is jealous for them with a godly jealousy. He states that, just as Eve was deceived by the serpents cunning, the minds of the people have somehow been led astray from their sincere and pure devotion to Christ. He then states that, if anyone comes to them and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus Paul preached, or if they receive a different Spirit than the one they received from Paul or a different Gospel from the one they accepted, they put up with it easily enough. Paul is disgusted by both the Corinthians and the false teachers, and he states that the men who preach a different gospel are false apostles, deceitful workmen masquerading as apostles of Christ. No wonder he says, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and thus, it is not surprising that his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. However, Paul notes, their ends will be what their actions deserve.

Unfortunately, angels of light masquerading as apostles seem to be quite common these days, with very few well known pastors preaching the cross, repentance, love, self-control, humility, and obedience. Instead, disorderly, bizarre, and unbiblical signs and wonders reign, and prosperity is boldly and ignorantly considered godliness. We are hearing what our itching ears want to hear rather, than the true, humbling gospel message. It is equally as disappointing that the flock does not know the word well enough to perceive the fact that so many of the things going on in their “churches” have nothing to do with Jesus or the word. Like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, we are all to receive and examine the words we hear from all of our teachers – regardless of their fame or reputation – and test them against the unchanging scriptures to make certain that every single word we hear is true.

When Paul goes to Galatia, he finds much the same thing that he found in Corinth. He is astonished that the Galatians are turning to a different gospel, which isn’t really a gospel at all. Some imposters were throwing the Galatians into confusion and were trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. Paul emphasizes twice that if even an angel preaches a different Gospel than the one Paul preached to them, may they be eternally condemned (Galatians 1). Teaching right doctrine, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. May we never preach anything but the truth of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for sin, and may we be very careful regarding the things we approve of, lest we lead others astray and so condemn ourselves (Romans 14:22).

In Ephesians 5:3-7, Paul discusses sin and how no immoral or impure person has any inheritance with God. The key verse in this passage is verse 5, which applies directly to all who teach. Paul states that no one should deceive the people with empty words, for it is because of sins such as obscenity, greed, and sexual immorality, that God’s wrath comes on the disobedient. Clearly Paul is stating that all those who choose to teach have a great responsibility to avoid watering down sin and thereby leading God’s children to Hell by being afraid to speak the truth.

Ephesians 4:11-16, states that some believers will be pastors and teachers in order to prepare God’s people for works of service and to grow them into maturity. Maturity in Christ is important because it keeps the people from being “blown here and there by every wind of doctrine.” Thus, the calling of teachers is very serious and very clear – preach the truth of the gospel in order to, among other things, protect His precious sheep from the ferocious wolves that teach false and destructive heresies. Because the calling of teacher comes with such great responsibilities, James 3:1 says, not many of us should presume to be masters because those who do so will be judged more strictly.

Colossians 2:18-19, states that we should not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels to disqualify us for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what they have seen and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 1 Timothy 1:3-5, also states that we should not put up with men who teach false doctrines or who devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These people promote controversies rather than God’s work. The goal of this teaching is love, yet some have wandered away from the good message and have turned to meaningless talk. These people want to teach, but they don’t know what they are talking about and what they so confidently affirm. The above are two excellent scriptures which all of us can use to test the teachers and teachings we are hearing. If they do not line up with those scriptures, then they are not from God.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-7, Paul tells us that the Spirit has stated that, in later days people will abandon their faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Therefore, it is our responsibility to point out the lies of legalism, the prosperity doctrine, false signs and wonders, and hyper-grace. We are to have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales. Instead, we are simply to devote ourselves to the scriptures. As noted at the beginning of this article, in 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul implores us to watch our life and doctrine closely, and to persevere in them, because in doing so we will save both our hearers and ourselves.

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, Paul states that, if anyone teaches false doctrine and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words which results in envy and constant strife. In 1 Timothy 6:20-21, Paul tells us to guard what has been entrusted to our care. We are to turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called science, which some have professed and in doing so have wandered from the faith. In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul states that, what we have heard from him, keep as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus. We are to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to us with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells Timothy to show himself a workman approved by God, who studies the scriptures for himself, does not need to be ashamed – and most importantly, rightly divides the word of truth. This verse is important because it emphasizes the fact that we all need to… very carefully and very wisely, study and share the scriptures. We must make sure that what we teach lines up, not with what we have seen or heard from other men, but with the teachings of Jesus and with the apostles…lest we be found wanting. We can only do this if we ourselves become workmen, studying the scriptures carefully and frequently, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us as we devote our time and our hearts to the everlasting word of truth(John 14:26).

In 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Paul implores us to continue in what we have learned and on that of which we have become convinced. He tells us to focus on scripture because it is, inspired by God and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

While books and the words of men are interesting, if their doctrines do not line up perfectly with scripture, we should throw them out. Only scripture is inspired by God, while men and their wisdom will fade away….

In 2 Timothy 4:2-5, Paul tells us to preach the word and to be prepared in and out of season to correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine, but instead, to suit their own desires will gather around themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and will instead turn aside to myths. But we are to keep our head in all situations, endure hardships, and do the work of an evangelist discharging all the duties of our ministry. I believe Paul’s primary point in this passage is that if we preach the word and are prepared through the word (and the word only) to correct, rebuke, encourage with scripture, then we will never be teaching or preaching in vain. At the end, like Paul, we want to be able to say that we have fought the good fight, that we have finished the race, and that we have kept the faith.

In Titus 1:7-11, we are told that overseers who are entrusted with God’s work must be blameless and must love what is good. They must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught. False teachers must be silenced for they teach things they ought not teach and they do so for dishonest gain. Again, the message is clear. We are not to dabble in teachings and preaching that are not clearly in line with scripture. It is also highly relevant to determine whether or not the people we are listening to are making large sums of money preaching what the people’s itching ears want to hear instead of the true, pure, Gospel. The message of the Jesus – sin, repentance, forgiveness, love (and taking up our cross daily) doesn’t seem to draw the money and crowds quite like prosperity preaching, and seeing people getting “slain in the spirit,” soaking in prayer or barking and/or laughing uncontrollably on the floor do.

Titus 2:1-15, goes in more detail about what is required of a teacher. Titus states that, those who instruct must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. They are to teach temperance, self-control, reverence, purity, kindness and all manner of honorable behavior. All teachings must show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech which cannot be condemned so that those who oppose the teachers may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say. Furthermore, the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men, and it teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live lives self-controlled, upright and godly while we wait for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior. Jesus Christ gave Himself for all of us, to redeem us from wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, and who are eager to do what is good. We are to encourage and rebuke with all authority and we should not let anyone despise us.

Titus 3:9-10, says to avoid foolish controversies and arguments and quarrels about the law because they are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person twice and then have nothing to do with them. This passage is clearly stating that anyone who is dividing the church by arguing about irrelevant controversies that are not in accord with the word of God should be warned and then, as verse 10 teaches, “Reject a divisive man after a first and second admonition.”

Hebrews 5:14-61, states that solid scriptural food/teaching is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us all leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.

2 Peter 2:1-3, states that there will be false teachers among us who will secretly introduce destructive heresies. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit the people with stories that they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping. When examining many modern churches today, they seem to have an endless supply of these types of teachers. In spiritual lust, their flock craves false stories about angels and demons and heavenly creatures all while ignoring the doctrines of repentance, self-control, obedience and love.

In 2 Peter 3:15-18, Peter tells the church that Paul’s letters contain many things that are hard to understand and which ignorant people distort, as they do other scriptures, to their own destruction. We are told to be on our guard so that we might not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from our secure position. Instead we are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By focusing on scripture in its raw, unadulterated form, we will never have to worry about slipping into false teachings and heresies.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-15, Paul warns the church to not let anyone deceive them in any way because the secret power of lawlessness is already at work. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. He states that men perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God is going to send a powerful delusion to those who do not love the truth. They will believe the lie and all will be condemned who would not believe the truth but who have instead delighted in wickedness. He then advises the Thessalonian church to stand firm and to hold onto the teachings passed on to them by word of mouth or by letter.

In all the above scriptures, believers are told to be very careful that they preach only that which is in agreement with sound doctrine. According to Paul, that means that Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the primary piece of theology that must be taught. The foundation of all teaching must be the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ(John 1:1-18 is an excellent place to start). Those who choose to teach or lead are held to a very high standard of accountability before God. Those who have been entrusted with a flock must be very, very careful not to waiver to the right or to the left of the pure Gospel message.

Like the Bereans, all believers are called to know and understand the scriptures so that we are able to separate good teachers from bad teachers, and sound doctrine from man-centered lies. We are to be workmen who are not ashamed and who correctly handle the word of truth (2Timothy 2:15). We are not to seek signs and wonders, because as Jesus said, a wicked generation seeks after a miraculous sign (Matthew 12:38-42; 16:1-4), and as Paul says, we are to fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Instead, we are called to seek Jesus Christ Himself – not as our culture or our friends define him, but as he truly is in his word. Any image, teaching or prophecy that does not clearly line up with the eternal scripture must be rejected. Unfortunately, Paul notes that many “believers” don’t really want or even like the truth, but instead prefer satisfying their spiritual lust in seeking counterfeit miracles and signs instead of Jesus Christ, and because of that they will perish. Let all of us be on guard for such things, and demand that whoever preaches, teaches loving obedience to the words of Jesus and to the words of His apostles, as we wait, not for wealth, riches, health or happiness in this life, but for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:13-14, 17‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Harry Ironside on the meaning of repentance

What Exactly is the Gospel?

Favorite Scriptures #4: God Chose the Weak and Foolish Things of the World (1 Corinthians 1:17-25)

Teachers, Preachers and Mammon: Money and the Ministry

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

The Written Word: What Did Jesus, The Apostles, and the Psalmists say about the Eternal Written word of God?

Ecumenicism: Praying With People from Other Religions

Catholicism and the Worship of Mary

GRACE, OBEDIENCE AND SALVATION: The Narrow Road

                     GRACE, OBEDIENCE, AND SALVATION….THE NARROW ROAD

I believe in eternal security for those who are truly saved by the free gift of grace, through the blood of Jesus Christ. The bottom line: no one can snatch us out of Jesus Christ’s or the Father’s hands – not even we ourselves in our foolishness.(John 10:27-28). He will keep us and protect us to the end, faithfully completing the good work he began in us. Please see the top of my blog, which explains what I believe about salvation more extensively.

14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served … or the gods …in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.      Joshua 24: 14-15

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.30 I and my Father are one.   John 10:28-30

6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.   Philippians 1:6

14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

 

INTRODUCTION

It is extremely disappointing that in many churches today there seems to be an inordinate emphasis on the beautiful gift of salvation by grace alone, and yet there is so little teaching on the corresponding doctrines of obedience and fruit bearing through the spirit. The interplay between  those concepts is divine and in my view, is not fully comprehendible to our finite minds. Yet we all need to seek the truth – the whole counsel of God(Acts 20:27) – on these critical issues, ignoring easy, trite, christian cliches and pithy phrases that satisfy our desire for a quick answer, but may not fully capture the intention of God. Only the scriptures, viewed in-full, can truly teach us God’s definition of grace and what He requires of us as believers…not as works but as evidence of salvation.

In the writing below I am setting forth several key passages on the topic of grace, obedience and the call to bear fruit for the kingdom.  Titus 2:11-12 describes as clearly as possible, what the saving grace of Jesus is supposed to accomplish in our lives:

11″ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world….”

I view the scriptures as flames of truth, and as the burning bush spoke to Moses, so the word of God speaks to us – and it is telling all of those who call on the name of the Lord to: believe, surrender, repent, love, obey, and be holy – and I know that I can’t do any of that without calling on the Holy Spirit to help me put my proud and selfish ways aside. God doesn’t want an intellectual “decision.” He wants our hearts, our souls, and our minds. In other words…he wants our lives.

Grace and the Narrow Road….

“…Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto to life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14

I believe that anyone who takes the time to read the scriptures for themselves will see clearly, that Jesus (and Paul, Peter and James) speaks frequently and with great earnestness, about how loving God in spirit and truth results in obedience and fruit-bearing …. not as works, since we are saved solely by his free gift of grace, but as evidence of a sincere love for him – or as evidence of our faith. Jesus seems to equate love for God and salvation with obedience – especially in John 14:15-29(I will quote it below) and 1 John 2:3-4. How could a good and “just” God allow someone into heaven through his bloody, brutal death who didn’t actually love him but simply used him as a free ticket to heaven? I believe that the scriptures state without equivocation, that He can’t…and He won’t. He doesn’t want our words, He wants our undivided hearts set on him…and he will help us by the Holy Spirit once we have committed ourselves to him in truth.

There are two categories of scripture, which I think are important for understanding what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. One involves what it means to actually be saved, and the other involves the nearly 100 verses that don’t tie salvation to obedience, but make it abundantly clear that, as disciples, we are called, loudly and frequently, to flee sin and to obey. Isn’t that what we should want to do anyway if we really believe that Jesus had spikes hammered through his feet and hands, and hung cold, naked and humiliated on a cross for us in the presence of his gloating enemies??

In this writing, I am going to focus on the first category, going through the New Testament book by book after a few thoughts on “belief.”

What exactly does “believe” mean when Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

I think James, the brother of Jesus says it best when he says that even demons “believe” that Jesus is God (James 2:19). Thus, an intellectual belief alone is clearly not a “saving” belief. We must believe more deeply than with our minds – we must believe in our hearts, not just that Jesus is our saviour but also that he is our Lord. It is not a surprise to me that the new Bible versions delete out “the Lord Jesus Christ” many times, and simply put “Jesus” or “Christ.”

James seems to define what a “belief” leading to salvation is in James 2:14-24(and1:22), where he famously says, “faith without works is dead” and that we are justified by our actions and not on faith alone. Does this mean that we need works to be saved? No. It means that works, obedience and fruit-bearing are evidence that we really are saved because they shows that we truly understand, in our hearts, the meaning of the life, death and love of Jesus Christ. Belief as evidenced by actions seems to be the difference between believing in our hearts that he is Lord, versus only believing with our minds, as even demons do.

The Pharisees thought they were saved by their actions, without regard to their hearts. Now we have Christians doing the opposite. They say they are saved in their hearts, and yet they have no desire to honor the living God who made them, with their actions. Both are wrong and Jesus himself makes it clear on many occasions that salvation is not just an intellectual choice, but a decision of the heart. As John 4:23-24 says, the Father only wants those who worship Him with their hearts – in spirit and in truth. He has had enough of empty words….

Matt. 7:15-19 Jesus says that every good tree bears good fruit. You will recognize a good tree by its fruit. He goes on to say that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, Jesus Christ, the one who was in the beginning with God, the one who made all things, the one in whom is life and light, and who died for our sins and will judge us at the end…say, very clearly, that if we don’t bear fruit we will be thrown into the fire. Why? Because we were never truly saved in the first place.

Matt. 7:21-23 In this passage, Jesus says that not everyone who says to him “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact MANY (a lot of people who think they are believers) will say that they prophesied and cast out demons in His name (I find it interesting that he chose those as examples), but he will say to them, away from me evil doers! I never knew you. What we think about ourselves doesn’t matter. Our lives need to line up with the unchanging word of God to be saved. Obedience to His Word (and word) because we love Him and believe Him is how we do it. See, also 1 John 2:3-5.

Matt. 7:24-27 Whoever hears the words of Jesus and obeys them, will be safe when the storm comes because their foundation is God. Whoever hears His words and doesn’t obey them will be destroyed when the storm comes, because their foundation is like a house built on an unstable foundation of sand.

Matt. 10:37-39 Jesus says that whoever loves his father, mother, son or daughter more than Him is not worthy of him, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Jesus is not worthy of Jesus. Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it….Jesus seems to be saying that salvation requires surrender – a willingness to lay down everything – even family and domestic comforts – to follow God. This directly contradicts those who say a simple prayer is all that is needed to be saved.

Matt. 11:28-30 Jesus says to all those who are weary, “come unto me.” He then goes on to instruct them to, “take my yoke upon you and learn of me….”…This call to come to God requires more than just an acknowledgement that He is God. It requires a willingness to take on the yoke of God, surrendering our volition and desires to Him. I love the image of Jesus taking the reins of our lives from us and steering our life for us while we remain fully submitted to His will. Paul describes it as servanthood (KJV) to God. Servanthood? Yes, but we are a bondservant to the only one who knows us fully and who loves us unconditionally.

Matt. 13:3-23 & Luke 8:13-15 The parable of the sower is powerful on the reality of salvation being evidenced by fruit bearing. This parable describes people actually receiving the word, and even holding on to it for a time….but then the deceptions and troubles of life come and choke it away. I think the hyper-grace people are those who will lose the seed when persecutions come. They don’t realize it now, but because they don’t really understand what Jesus did for them (for if they did they would long to obey Him), so when trouble comes, they will gladly water down the truth – or even deny it – to protect themselves from pain, since the little prayer they said long ago already saved them.

Matt 16:24-27 Everyone who desires to follow Jesus must take up their cross and follow Him. Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of Jesus will save it……Clearly, those who follow Jesus in spirit and in truth, understand that our best life isn’t now…it’s later, in heaven with Jesus and the Father, forever. James the brother of Jesus also made it clear that friendship with the world is actually hatred toward God (James 4:4). John said essentially the same thing in 1 John 2:15-17.

Matt. 18:21-35 If we do not forgive with our hearts, the people who sin against us, we will be cast into hell….So, to enter heaven, the owner of heaven(Jesus) tells us that we must follow His example and forgive others deeply, with our hearts. Only His spirit can get us to that place of forgiveness, but if we love Him we will ask Him to help us forgive even the ones who have abused us or rejected. If we don’t care to do that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be cast into hell (vs. 33-35).

Matt. 24:9-13 Persecutions will come, and he who stands firm to the end will be saved….Again, salvation isn’t saying a magic prayer once. According to Jesus, it involves living a life of obedience and remaining in the truth all the way to the end….

Matt. 28:19-20 I always forget that, in the great commission Jesus tells his disciples to make disciples by…“teaching them to observe [obey]all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Discipleship requires obedience! It is not just hanging around together and watching football while we drink craft beer and talk theology. If we are not encouraging and teaching obedience to the life-giving commands of our great and merciful God, then we are not really being disciples or making disciples.

Luke 6:46-49 If you hear my words “doth them” aka  PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE, you are like a man who built his house on a rock. When the storm comes, you will survive, unlike the man who hears his words but doesn’t obey them. The storm will destroy his house and him along with it….Clearly Jesus is saying that storms will come to everyone – and if the Rock, who is Jesus, is not your foundation, then you will be destroyed.

In Luke 8:19-21, when Jesus’ family is trying to find Him and someone tells Him that they are outside looking for Him, He tells the multitude that those who HEAR and OBEY are his mother and brothers. Interestingly, in Luke 11:27-28, when a woman tells him that his mother Mary is a blessed woman, Jesus says, “…Rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and KEEP it.” So much for Mary worship.

Luke 12:35-48 This is one of the most instructive scriptures on the topic of obedience once we are saved since Jesus tells Peter – continue to obey me or even you will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with the unbelievers. It is impossible to read these words of Jesus Christ and not hear the call to obey Him, knowing that a life of disobedience, even for the Apostle Peter, means very bad things.

Luke 13:22-30 “Strive to enter in at the strait gate…” …. But we ate and drank with you, say the people. Away from me all you workers of iniquity, says Jesus… Entering through the narrow door does not consist of living like the rest of the world, while having an intellectual knowledge that Jesus is savior. The narrow door involves making Him Lord by taking his yoke upon us and forsaking the world. In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter says that we are “strangers and pilgrims” in the world. How then can we live like the world and be saved?? We are supposed to hate the world, not conform to it. See also, James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; and Romans 12:1-4.

Luke 14:25-34 If you are not willing to give up everything for Jesus then you cannot be His disciple….Clearly Jesus is not looking for people who want to get away with as much drinking, sex, greed, pride and sin as they can and still be saved. He wants those who worship Him and His Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

John 8:31 If you obey my teachings then you really are my disciples.

John 8:51 If you obey me you will never see death.

John 12:47-48 If you hear the words of Jesus and reject them, then you will be condemned by the Father on the last day.

John 14 is an excellent chapter on the love Jesus and the Father have for us….if we obey.

vs. 15-17 if you love me then you will obey me…and then(once you obey me) I will send you the Spirit, which the world cannot accept. vs. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will show myself to him. vs. 23 He who does not love me will not obey my teachings. These words are not my own but belong to the father who sent me. Then Jesus shows his own obedience to His Father in vs. 31. The glorious result of His life of obedience is beautifully and powerfully laid out in Philippians 2:5-11.
…If a person says that they don’t have to do anything to be saved except believe in Jesus intellectually,then they need to carefully study the words of Jesus in John 14. Jesus says, specifically, that you must obey his commands if you truly love him, and if you want his spirit. (Acts 5:32 reiterates the fact that we only receive his spirit if we obey him). John 14 is also a beautiful portrait of the intimate love both Jesus and the father have for us. Jesus wants to take us to be with Him…where He is. Jesus and the father want to make their home with us. Jesus will not leave us as orphans but He will come for us….

John 15:9-10 You will remain in the love of Jesus…if you obey Him, just as Jesus remained in his Father’s love via obedience.

Acts 26:20 Paul preached repentance for sins and told believers to…. do works consistent with their repentance.

Romans 1:5 Paul received grace and apostleship, not to call people to “decide for Christ”… but “for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” This passage makes it clear that obedience through faith, was the actual purpose of Paul’s great calling. Peter says that God chose us and sanctified us…unto obedience. 1 Peter 1:2. Peter says that God’s elect have been chosen “for obedience to Jesus Christ….” not simply to make a decision for Jesus then to live as you please.

Romans 6:1-7, and 11-14 In this passage Paul makes it clear that it is an absolute abomination to think that grace is a free pass to continue sinning. If we died to sin how can we live in it any longer? We were baptized with Jesus into His death, and just as Jesus was raised from the dead in glory, so we should walk in the newness of life. In verses 11-14, Paul goes on to state that we should consider ourselves dead to sin and thus, should not let sin reign in our mortal bodies by obeying its lusts. We are not to yield our bodies to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but instead we are to yield ourselves to God. For sin shall not have dominion over us any longer.

Romans 8:1 In the King James Version (which agrees with 98.02% of ancient manuscripts), but sadly, not in the other versions, Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. That last phrase was deleted from the Bible versions that flow from manuscripts Sinaticus and Vaticanus along with  the 1881 edits by Westcott and Hort Those deletions change the meaning of the entire verse. We have been given free will, and for there to be “no condemnation” on believers, according to Paul, we must be choosing to walk, not according to our sinful nature, but in accordance with the Spirit which we have freely received from Christ. Romans 8:4, in most versions, goes on to affirm the point made in 8:1 by the KJV, by stating that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled…by those who walk after the Spirit and not the flesh.

Romans 8:7-8 The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God and those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Romans 8: 11-15 Because Jesus is in us we have an obligation to put aside our sinful nature and, by the spirit, to put to death the misdeeds of the body. “If ye live after the flesh(sinful nature) ye shall die, but if, ye through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” So says Paul – the same guy who speaks so frequently and beautifully on grace.

1 Corinthians 7:19 The flesh means nothing. Only obedience counts.

1 Corinthians 15: 10 Paul states that the grace of God caused him to labor more abundantly than all of the other apostles. He was not bragging. He was simply illustrating how much he knew he needed the mercy of God and how grateful he was for it, since earlier in the chapter he expressed shame for previously persecuting the church of God. God’s grace did not whisper lies to Paul’s heart, like the serpent in the garden, to sit back and relax…not worrying about sin and disobedience. Instead It told him the profound truth that Jesus died a brutal death for HIM and that he was saved, despite his wickedness, by the merciful hand of Jesus Christ. This prompted him to, with great vigor, serve the Lord across the known world with no regard for his physical needs.

Galatians 1:6-9  Here, the Galatian believers were turning to a different gospel… a different Jesus. Paul makes it clear that if he or even an angel preaches a different Jesus or a different gospel… may they be eternally condemned.  So…if we are pulled off into heresy, teaching and preaching a false Jesus Christ, they will end up in hell.

Ephesians 5:3-8 Paul states with great clarity that no immoral or greedy person will inherit the kingdom of heaven…no matter what prayer he prayed.

Colossians 1:21-23 We are holy in Christ’s sight and are free from accusation….if we continue in the faith, grounded and settled, not moved away from the hope of the gospel….not as works, but as evidence of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 Avoid sexual immorality since God called us to live a holy life. Paul then says that rejecting this teaching is rejecting God himself.

1 Thess. 5:8-11 says be self-controlled to avoid suffering God’s wrath…..Believer or not a believer, whether Paul or a young disciple, all of us must, through the spirit (Romans8:13), discipline our flesh by obeying the unchanging word of God.

2 Timothy 2:19b Everyone who confesses the name of The Lord must turn away from wickedness.

Titus 1:16 Titus is an excellent book on the life we are called to live as followers of Christ. Titus 1:16 says that some people claim to know God – but by their actions they deny him. Clearly our actions matter. Titus 2:11-12 teaches us exactly what the true, saving grace of God should look like in our lives…and it isn’t the freedom to enjoy sin:

11″ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world….” 

Hebrews 5:9 Jesus is the author of salvation for….all those who obey.…Salvation is not for those who simply have an intellectual belief in Jesus Christ. We must also obey, and we will if we are truly saved.

Hebrews 12:14 This verse teaches us that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.

James 1:22 and 2:14-24 state very clearly that an intellectual belief in Jesus is not enough for salvation. We must prove our faith by our actions, since even demons “believe” or accept that Jesus is God. “Works” prove that our belief is real, but they don’t save us. Only faith in the blood saves us.

James 4:4-5 teaches us: 4 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?”

…If we are living, in large part, like the world and are fitting nicely into our sick and godless culture, something is wrong. We are to be set apart, not by legalistic actions, but by knowing God – by being holy, by exercising spirit-lead self control and by fleeing from the greed, materialism, drunkenness and lust that ties us tightly to this age. Each of us needs to test our actions in the light of the unchanging, everlasting word of the Living God. We must remember that Jesus told us very clearly in John 15 that if we truly love Him, then we will be hated by the world, and James 4:4-5 (above) tells us that friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God. That…is not something we can take lightly.

1 Peter 4:17-19 It is even hard for a righteous man to be saved so how much more the ungodly?

2 Peter 1:5-10 Make your calling and election sure by making every effort to exercise goodness, self-control and love.

Here Peter, as Paul frequently did, emphasizes that obedience is required to make our election certain. Again, I strongly believe that they are saying that, while “works” don’t save us, obedience and fruit are evidence that we truly believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, and has saved us from the dominion of darkness through His blood.

1 John 1:5-7 God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness we lie and do not live by the truth. …We can’t be in Jesus and walk unrepentantly in darkness.

1 John 2:3-6 Anyone who says that they know him but does not obey him is a liar and the truth is not in him. We know that we really know him if we obey him.

1 John 2:15-17 If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:24-25 If what you heard in the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the son and the Father…and you will have eternal life.

1 John 3:6-10 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen him or knows him. vs. 9 – No one who is born of God continues to sin. vs. 10 – Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.

2 John 1:6 What is love? It is walking in obedience to his commands.

2 John 1:8-11 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for(meaning rewards in this context). Anyone who does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.

Jude 1:3-4 We are instructed to earnestly contend for the faith, and avoid godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality.

Sadly, this is what happens when people don’t take the grace of god and the call to obedience seriously. The brutal murder of Jesus for our sins becomes a free pass to do whatever we want. But, as Galatians 6 says, do not be deceived…God will not be mocked.

According to Jesus Christ himself, who alone is the author and perfecter of our faith, an intellectual belief in his life, death and resurrection for our sins is not enough to be saved. He wants our hearts, our minds and our eyes fully focused on who he truly is and what he did on the cross to redeem us from hell (Romans 15:6, Colossians 3:2, Hebrews 1:1-3). He wants us to continue in repentance and obedience, not as works but as evidence of our love for him. He also wants us to have a faith that overcomes the world, not one that conforms to the world… and He will help us to make it to the very end, for the one who called us is faithful(1 Thessalonians 5:24).

EPILOGUE

All of these verses, and many, many more, make it abundantly clear that Jesus doesn’t just want men and women of words. He wants and demands action – not to earn salvation, put as proof of a surrendered heart. The action required is belief, proven by obedience, which leads to fruit. He wants us to bear fruit, fruit that will last, and this is to His Father’s glory (See, John 15.) There really isn’t any way around these scriptures. So let us put aside all of the legalists who have hurt us and have turned us away from the commands of God, and let us all seek to obey Him, not because we have to or because it earns us anything, but because we adore Him and desire in the inmost places of our hearts to honor Him with all of our being…and Jesus and the Father will help us make it to the end….See, Making it to the End: Jesus Christ and the Father Will Help Us

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

See, also...The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1 and The Loving Discipline of the Lord,

Teachers, Preachers and Mammon: Money and the Ministry

Hell and the Wrath of God-Almighty

What Is Important to God? Instructions For Life from Paul and the Apostles

PRAYER: How To Approach God and What To Expect From Him

                   PRAYER: How to approach Our Great God, And what to Expect From Him

 

 

 “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:3

21 “And (Job) said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. ” Job 1:21-22

 

 

 As I read the word slowly and with great deliberation, I find that prayer, as taught by Jesus Christ and the Apostles, bears little resemblance to the “name it and claim it” prayers (and attitudes) being widely taught today. With great frequency I hear self-proclaimed evangelists and teachers instructing the body to sow their financial seed to God (via their ministry) and then to tell God, in no uncertain terms, exactly what material “blessings” they want in return from Him – placing their order with God for goods, services, and health if you will. They are then instructed to wait on God to deliver…and if He doesn’t, well then it is their own fault for not having enough faith.

I have found the above method of prayer to be patently and outrageously false when tested in the refining furnace of scripture, given to us freely and graciously by our precious Lord. My hope is that we will all learn to pray, not as petulant children demanding money and a new car from our father, but as trusting and obedient sons and daughters, praying humbly and with great reverence to the one who know us and adores us. This attitude is perfectly illustrated by Paul in 2 Corinthians.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul states that Jesus Himself allowed a messenger from Satan to torment him, lest he become proud regarding his intimacy with and knowledge of God. Paul begs the Lord to remove this thorn in his flesh, pleading with Jesus three times…but Jesus Christ, who made Paul and knew with great precision what was best for him, said…no. His grace was sufficient to get Paul through all of the tribulations of this short life, despite constant and extreme suffering.

In the above referenced passage, Paul isn’t asking Jesus for material blessings, or for respect amongst his peers. He isn’t even requesting that his basic needs be met, since that was a continual struggle for him. (See, 2 Corinthians 11:22-33). Instead he was simply asking that Satan not be allowed to constantly torment him. This seems like an easy request with an obvious answer, right? Well, actually no. Our Great and Loving God, who made all things and who knows all things, declined to remove this painful trial from the life of His beloved apostle. Similarly, when Jesus was in Gethsemane, awaiting torture, humiliation, and a long slow death, He asked the Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him. The Father refused to change His plan for saving mankind, despite the fact that Jesus had already lived 33 perfect years of love and obedience on this earth.

What stands out to me about the prayer in Gethsemane is the fact that Jesus, who was Himself, God incarnate, didn’t demand that His Father save Him from the abuses and degradations to come. While He felt the freedom to ask His Father for anything…He ended the prayer with a beautiful picture of surrender and trust “…Yet not my will but yours be done.” Jesus knew that what He wanted at that moment in time might not be right in the eyes of His Father. So rather then make a demand or give an ultimatum, He simply submitted His own perfect will to the One whom He knew loved both Him and the world with an everlasting love.

Today, a prayer like the one by Jesus Christ in Gethsemane would be considered by many leaders to be weak and faithless…but in the reality of a life hidden in the arms of a loving and Omnipotent God, it is strong and powerful. Instead of demanding a certain result from God, the prayer of Jesus places the outcome fully in the hands of God no matter the short-term cost. Jesus, unlike us, doesn’t need a specific result to be at a place of complete peace and trust with His Father. The result of our own (my own included) prayers should, as Jesus exemplified, be fully submitted to God with absolutely no secret strings attached, and as Job so eloquently stated in the midst of total destruction, whether God gives or takes away…blessed be His name! (Job 1:21-22).

In Luke 11, when one of His disciples asked Jesus to teach them all how to pray, Jesus taught them what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. Two simple and oft overlooked parts of this passage, which speak deeply to my heart about what my disposition towards God should be as I approach Him in prayer are:

Thy will be done…”- meaning, not what I want God, but what You want and know is good, true, and right since you, and not me, are the God who knit me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139), and made this glorious universe for me to enjoy.

I also love the part of this great prayer where Jesus says, “…give us this day our daily bread….” He didn’t teach us to ask the Father to make us wealthy and successful so that we can impress our friends, neighbors, coworkers and fellow believers – and so that we won’t have to worry about our retirement. No. Jesus wants us to have to depend on Him every single day, lest the temporary riches and comforts of this world deceive our hearts and draw them away from the Living God. (See, Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21, and the Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:4-15).

In Luke 11:5-13, just after teaching the disciples how to pray, Jesus goes on to tell them that their Father in heaven wants them to have good things, just like any earthly father would. He then encourages them to ask, seek, and knock, for everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and to anyone who knocks the door will be opened to them. But what whispers to my heart from this passage, with gentle but strong conviction, is the last verse, which after stating clearly that the Father does give good things to those who ask, then goes on to define exactly what those good things are in His eyes. In Verse 13, Jesus says, If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Jesus seems to assume that true believers, meaning those like Paul and the disciples, who really love Him in the deep places of their hearts, and are seeking His eternal kingdom, will ask for…. not a big bonus check, a new car, or favor and respect among men, but instead will request more of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. Ouch. That’s not exactly what we typically ask for here in the western church…and sadly, that is not what we are taught to ask for. We are told to sow a big seed so that we are blessed with more seed to sow back in to the pastor’s ministry. And why don’t we, if we truly love Him, receive the material blessings we seek so earnestly in prayer? James the brother of Jesus says it perfectly. In James 4:3, he says: “When you ask you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Double ouch.

How many times, when praying for what we think we want or need from God, ask for more of the true Holy Spirit? Sometimes perhaps – yet Jesus seems to assume that we, as His disciples, will ask for it constantly, since it is the greatest gift that He has left for us on this earth. If we follow many of the well-known pastors and teachers of today, we are taught to ask for wealth, temporal success, creativity and children who are world-changers, along with a false “Holy Spirit” who is disorderly and often manifests himself in a fashion similar to the demons Jesus cast out and sent back to hell during His ministry. Yet here in the word, Jesus assumes that we, His beloved sheep, will simply want more of Him and His eternal kingdom, rather than the fading and deceiving pleasures of this ill world.

Luke 1 is another excellent example of how God relates to us in His unadulterated sovereignty. In the first half of this chapter, Luke makes it clear that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are honorable people in the eyes of God. They are righteous because, as verse 6 says, they walk in all of the commands and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. Since Sarah is barren, and they are both very old, it is easy to assume that they have prayed to have children for decades, with no success. Then one day, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple and tells him that he will finally have a son. Apparently, seeing this mighty angel of God in person wasn’t enough to convince Zechariah that what Gabriel said was true because he asks for another sign. Because of his unbelief, Gabriel prevents Zechariah from speaking until the baby, John the Baptist, is born.

Since God wanted Sarah and Zechariah to have a child, it WAS going to happen, regardless of whether they named it and claimed it. Their faith was completely irrelevant to God’s purpose being accomplished. They could have screamed at God, reciting His promises to them in Psalms and Proverbs, all day long…but that would have been of no effect. Instead, God saw the devotion of their hearts to Him, as reflected in their lives…and He gave them what they always desired but never thought they could ever have. In all things, His sovereignty and goodness will prevail. It just seems to take a long time…and in this particular case, it was almost a lifetime.

Similarly, if Jesus wanted Paul to have a thorn in His flesh, then it WAS going to remain, tormenting Paul as He saw fit, no matter how many times he begged God to remove it. Yet Paul, like Jesus in Gethsemane, accepted the final, painful decision of God, and instead of accusing God of wrong doing, he instead chose to glory in his weakness…for he knew with great certainty, that where he was weak, God was strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). May we all seek the eternal riches of Jesus Christ through His precious Holy Spirit, rather than the temporary comforts of this dark and dying world.

EPILOGUE

I am, without a doubt, a foolish man, who has expended much time and energy chasing the lies of this world. As I have, in failure and brokenness, turned my eyes and heart to the Jesus Christ of the Bible as fully as I am able, I have learned to pray for people, in every situation – not that they would be blessed, be healed or have temporal success. I simply pray that the Holy Spirit would pour Himself into their circumstances, and would draw, with His mighty power, all those involved closer to Jesus Christ, as He truly is in the word…because really, nothing else matters. Nothing. Eternity and eternity alone is what matters, because once that door to heaven closes…it can never, ever be opened. I encourage anyone who reads this to consider eternal things and only eternal things, as they pray, teach and share life with those they love, for what is seen truly is temporary, but what is unseen…is eternal.

Intimacy with and dependence upon Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, should be the sole goal of our prayers as we walk this path towards eternity.

***EXCELLENT BONUS SCRIPTURE FROM DANIEL 3 ***

14″ Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego knew that God could do anything – even save them from being thrown into a furnace by an angry king. But they didn’t demand that God deliver them…and they didn’t even, by their “positive confession,” attempt to save themselves through the power of their words (aka the occultic law of attraction). They simply declared, with great boldness, the absolute power of the One and Only God in the presence of their angry enemies – and in the face of a horrible death. Yet That was enough for them. They trusted the one who made them and loved them. They let God be God and they were His humble and faithful servants…even unto a fiery death. May it be the same for all of us.

Whether the Lord Gives or Takes Away, Blessed Be His Name!

Does God Always Answer our Prayers?

The Loving Discipline of the Lord

THE LOVING DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD

                                              THE LOVING DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD

11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12  

One of the most important lessons I have learned as a follower of Jesus Christ, is that the Lord does discipline those He loves, just as any loving earthly Father would. His goals are not for us to be happy and prosperous on this earth. His ways and His thoughts, which are far superior to our ways and our thoughts, are set firmly on eternity. And He knows that the only way for us to truly remain in Him – and to have true joy while on this planet – is for us to keep our eyes fixed on Him at all times, lest we be deceived by the lies of this world, and as a few of the verses I will cite state, perhaps gain the short term pleasures of this world but forfeit our very souls.

Job, who experienced extreme material and familial destruction at the hands of God, not as discipline, but to test his heart, had great insight and understanding when it came to the chastening of the Lord. Even in the midst of what appeared to be a total and inexplicable rejection from God, Job, in great wisdom, said:

17 “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”

Job understood that the Lord does discipline those He loves, and that all such discipline, if heeded, ultimately leads to great healing and restoration…from the hand of God Himself. Job finds out first hand, exactly how great and mighty the restoring power of the Lord is only a few weeks later, due, in great part to his unwavering trust in God, even in the most horrific of circumstances.

In Psalm 39:10-11, David asks the Lord to remove the mighty blow of His hand from him, for by it he was overcome. He then acknowledged how God deals with His precious children by stating that it is with rebukes that God corrects a man’s iniquity.

In Psalm 94:12-13, the author states that a man whom the Lord chastens and teaches is blessed, because through those things he receives rest from adversity.

Psalm 118 is one of my absolute favorite Psalms because it sets forth, with great clarity, the mighty attributes of our God. In it, the author praises the Lord for His mercy and power, and apparently, after turning away from serious sin says:

18 “The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”

 And despite this severe chastening, in verse 29, he writes:

 29 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  

What resonates with me so deeply about these two verses is that, not only does the writer understand that he needs the discipline of God to avoid what he describes as death, but he also understood that the Lord chastened him out of love and mercy…not out of anger and wrath. May I always see the Lord’s strong, reproving hand the same way!

Psalm 119 also speaks to me in a very personal way about the Lord’s discipline, perhaps more than some of the other passages, because many of the statements by the author seem to match how the Lord has dealt with me on many occasions. In verse 67, the psalmist writes that, before I was afflicted I went astray…but now I obey your law; while in verse 71, he writes that it was “good to be afflicted” that I might learn your statutes.

These two deeply profound statements speak directly to me, loudly and clearly. Often I don’t really seek the Lord with all of my heart unless I am suffering some type of failure due to pursuing sin or striving in the flesh. I have come to truly understand that it is a great blessing to suffer, even deep affliction…that I might turn to the Living God, receive His mercy, and be healed. Great intimacy with God has sprung up like a flower in the desert of my selfish heart from my acceptance of His loving discipline.

In Psalm 119:75-76, the psalmist states that he understands that the Lord’s judgments are right, and that “in faithfulness” the Lord has afflicted him. He then asks the Lord for His unfailing love to be his comfort.These are powerful and beautiful statements, illustrating a very different side to the love and faithfulness of God than the one the world is used to hearing. For, like Job, the author knows that whatever God does, it is good, right and true…and in faithfulness God afflicted him. Why? As verse 67 stated, he was suffering under the strong and loving hand of God because he was straying from the truth…living in the flesh…and God was jealous for him. He was weak, and he knew it, and God, like any loving father, turned him back to the way of truth through the only method that would work…discipline.

The author then goes on declare that he will meditate on God’s precepts (verse 78b) for, as verse 72 says, the law of the Lord is better to him than thousands of gold and silver coins. May we all view the riches of the everlasting word of God the same way! I

n 1 Corinthians 5, Paul confronts the church about the extreme sexual immorality going on amongst the brethren, which was beyond even what was typical amongst the unsaved. Apparently, one of the brothers was sleeping with his father’s wife and that sin wasn’t being dealt with as Paul expected. So…Paul instructs the church to…”deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved on the last day.”

Paul, like Jesus, was concerned about one thing…our souls making it to heaven to be with God forever. If we need to suffer – even great pain – on this earth to avoid the unquenchable fires of hell, then so be it. God (with Paul as His ambassador) truly is a loving father, who understands the unceasing horrors of an eternity in hell. Therefore, He is willing, and even eager for us to experience earthly affliction under His loving hand…because He knows that it will lead to the destruction of our flesh and a more perfect union with Him in spirit and truth, via repentance.

Even Paul, who lived a life of unrelenting intimacy with and dedication to Jesus Christ, suffered severe preemptive discipline at the hand of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul describes his journey up into the third heaven, where he heard and saw great and unspeakable things. Because of these great revelations, he received from the Lord a thorn in the flesh…a messenger from Satan to torment him lest he become proud. He begged the Lord to remove it, but God declined, telling him that His grace was sufficient for Paul and would carry him through his pain. And Paul, like Job before him (Job 1:21-22), embraced God’s decision to destroy his flesh, and accepted the fact that in his weakness, the power of God would be more fully evident…for where Paul was weak, God was strong.

In Revelation 3:14-21, Jesus rebukes the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm. Instead of pursuing Him, they were seeking the wealth and comforts of this world, and Jesus was just about ready to spit them out of His mouth. Instead of seeking temporal riches Jesus counsels them to buy from Him, gold refined in the fire to cover the shame of their spiritual nakedness. He then, as He always does, reminds them of His great love and mercy, and says that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves, so that they might repent, overcome and sit with Him on His throne in heaven.

The deep truth of the above passages is that eternity matters infinitely more to God than this short life does, and God is willing to allow…and even cause…suffering to come upon those He loves if it will turn their hearts away from the short term pleasures of sin and towards Him. I often reflect on my own journey and how I, even when I truly thought I was walking in His will, suffered great afflictions, only to discover through the truth of His word, that I was straying from Him in the deepest places of my heart. Be it wealth or earthly distractions, my heart has often wondered from the eternal riches of the Living God, and He, in His great love and mercy, has used pain and failure to bring me back to a place of humility and repentance, turning my eyes, my mind, and my heart back to Him. May they remain fixed on His glorious face all the days of my life…..  

Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

Favorite Scriptures #5: The Power and Love of God in the Psalms

Forgiveness: To The Merciful, God Shows Himself Merciful

HELL AND THE WRATH OF GOD ALMIGHTY

                                                    HELL AND THE WRATH OF GOD:

                                                      The Reality of What is Coming

 

11 “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.”  Revelation 19:11-16

43″ And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”                Mark 9:43-44

 

 

For many professing believers, including a large number of well-known pastors and teachers, hell and the wrath of God are considered to be unnecessary, “negative” doctrines. They are, however, clear and horrific realities, and they are absolutely critical for understanding our wicked enemy and the one who loves us and redeemed us from eternal torment with his own blood.

Teaching about the winepress of the fury and fierceness of the wrath of God doesn’t exactly bring the young and upwardly mobile into church, and it certainly doesn’t increase book sales. Some popular pastors and Christian authors are now taking this selective Bible belief one step further, and are actually denying that hell (and the lake of fire) exists, or postulate that it is simply a place of emotional and spiritual separation from God. To them the lake of fire is simply a metaphor for a permanently depressed state where God is absent…but the Bible, including Jesus Christ Himself, says otherwise. If the fierceness and fury of God’s wrath is coming…and it is…then I certainly want to know about it, and I want those I care for to know about it as well.

Jesus spoke of a place called hell frequently, and often in very specific terms. Jesus and the Apostles also spoke very clearly about the vengeance of God, which is coming with unmitigated fury on those who reject Him (see, Revelation 19:11-21, some of which is posted above and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). I believe that these doctrines must be taught clearly and frequently, and every believer MUST understand them, because they set forth, in stark terms, the reality of what happens to those who reject the love of the one and only God, who willingly gave Himself up for humanity as a sin offering…cold, naked and in agony, on a rough wooden cross. My hope is that by studying the scriptures relating to these important biblical doctrines, we will all be encouraged to turn further away from the lies and pretensions of this world and to instead urgently heed the call of Jesus and the Apostles to share the glorious message of salvation through the blood of Christ, with all of those we know and love.

It is impossible to truly understand what exactly Jesus Christ did for us by stepping off of His heavenly throne (See, Ezekiel 1:25-28) and becoming a man, unless we understand what He was saving us from. Jesus lived 33 dirty, sweaty years full of rejection and pain…because He loves us, and because He does not want us to go to the horrible place called hell, prepared for Satan and the angels who hated and rejected both Him. If we choose to reject this great salvation, which Jesus has freely and gladly achieved for us, then we are choosing to follow the prince of this world…and we will join him at death in a place of both darkness and fire, where the worm never dies and the fire is never, ever quenched.

Below I will summarize the many verses on hell and the wrath of God, which are found in the New Testament.

In Matthew 3:7-12, John the Baptist, when discussing the Pharisees and Sadducees, refers to them as a brood of vipers and specifically mentions the wrath of God, which is coming on the unrepentant. John then states that the axe is at the root of the tree, and every tree, which does not bear good fruit, will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

This passage almost certainly refers to the fire of Revelation 19:20, 20:10, and 21:8. In Revelation 20:10, the Apostle John specifically states that those who are thrown into the lake of fire will be tormented day and night forever.” The quotation in the previous sentence clearly destroys the “annihilationist” theory of many Christians today, whose minds cannot accept the fact that a loving God would allow people to be tormented forever. Hell is of course, difficult for any human to truly comprehend – it certainly is for me. However, the eternal destiny of man is a decision that only God, the One who made all things, can make, and it is a dangerous thing to ignore or reject His clear statements on hell because we don’t like or fully understand them. We (meaning myself, too) so willingly, substitute our own wisdom and judgment for the unfathomable wisdom and understanding of the one and only God. We do so…at our own peril.

In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus specifically declares that those who call their brothers a fool, are in danger of the fire of hell.

In Matthew 5:27-29, when discussing adultery and lust, Jesus states that if one cannot control himself, he should pluck his eyes out and throw them away, for it is better to enter life blind than to have your whole body cast into hell.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus states that wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus tells a crowd to watch out for false prophets. He states that we will know false prophets by their fruit, and that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and be thrown in the fire.

In what is generally considered Jesus’ greatest extended teaching, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-8, referenced above), Jesus mentions hell four different times, emphasizing that it is a very real, a very hot and a very horrible place where He doesn’t want anyone to go.

In Matthew 8:5-13, a centurion comes to Jesus begging Him to heal his servant. Jesus says that He will come to his house in order to heal the man. However, the centurion, who is obviously not a Jew, tells Jesus that he is unworthy to have Him come into his house so if Jesus will just speak a word of healing, the servant will be healed. Jesus, amazed by this man’s faith heals the servant and then states that, many who are sons of the kingdom (Jews) will be thrown into hell for unbelief, while many who are not Jews and who come from all over the world, will live and dine with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Matthew 10:26-31, Jesus tells the twelve disciples not to fear those who can kill only the body, but instead to fear God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

In Matthew 13:24-33, Jesus tells the parable of the weeds, noting that the weeds sown amongst the wheat will at the time of harvest, be gathered, tied in bundles, and cast into the fire. The wheat will then be harvested and will be placed in the safety of the landowner’s barn.

In verses 36-43, Jesus explains the above parable to His disciples, stating that, as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be at the end of this world. Those who do evil will be thrown into a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This parable and its explanation by Jesus also establishes, with a great deal of certainty, that the doctrine of annihilationism is false. The unsaved are not simply extinguished unto death, but instead they will experience “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” which means that they will suffer greatly in what is described by Jesus many, many times, as fire. The scripture below describes hell in the same terms as well.

In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus, for the third time in the same conversation, mentions hell. He states that the kingdom of Heaven is like a net filled with fish. Once on shore, the good and the bad fish are separated. So it shall be at the end of age when the angels come and separate the evil from the righteous. The evil will be thrown into the fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

In Matthew 18:6-9, Jesus teaches His disciples about the dangers of sin and warns them of the evil temptations to come. He then instructs them that if any part of their body causes them to sin, they should cut it off and throw it away for it is far better to live this life blind and maimed than to be cast into hell forever.

In Matthew 23:1-33, Jesus details the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees to a crowd, and then in verse 33 asks them how such men can escape the judgment of hell.

In Matthew 24:45-51, Jesus tells the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant. He makes it clear that the servant who is faithful at the time of the master’s return will be saved, but the servant who does not anticipate the master’s return, and tries to see how much he can get away with while the master is gone, will be appointed to hell with the hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Anyone who believes that salvation is one magic prayer said at any age should take a close look at the above passage, along with Luke 18:21-35 and all of Luke chapter 25. I would also suggest reading the scriptures laid out in my prior writing on grace and obedience. The word is clear: a saving faith is far more than reciting certain words, or making an intellectual decision. It is a deep belief in one’s heart, which, over time, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, leads to fruit…fruit that will last, for the glory of God the Father (Acts 26:20; Romans 10:8-11; James 2:14-26; John 15:1-8).

In Matthew 25:30, at the end of the parable of the talents, Jesus tells the unprofitable servant (the one who is given a talent but did not use it to benefit the master) that he will be thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is another one of the many parables of Jesus, which specifically states that hell is not a place where your soul is simply extinguished. It lives on for eternity, and it does so in utter darkness and torment.

In Matthew 25:31-46, the very next passage, Jesus tells the crowd about the Day of Judgment. At the time of judgment, Jesus says that He will separate the sheep from the goats. In verse 41, He tells the goats that they are going to an “everlasting fire” prepared for the Devil and his angels. Then, in verse 46, He states that those who do not love Him will go into “everlasting punishment.” 

These are two more scriptures that directly contradict annihilationism, and establish the fact that in hell, there is no escape, and there is no hope of death…but the soul lives on in a place of everlasting punishment.

***Mark 9:42-50***, is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible on the reality and severity of hell. In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples that if their right hand causes them to sin, they should cut it off and throw it away because, like the similar passages in Matthew, it is better to be maimed in this life then to have both hands and be sent to hell, where the fire is never quenched. Jesus then goes on to quote Isaiah 66:24, three separate times, when He tells His disciples to flee from sin, because in hell, where those who live in unrepentant sin go, the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched. 

43″ And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”  Mark 9:43-48

Regarding the foolishness of annihilationism, this might be the most convincing passage, since Jesus Himself, quoting from the Old Testament, states that in hell, the worm never dies and the fire is never, ever quenched.

In Luke 12:4-7, Jesus tells a large crowd exactly how much God loves them and that even the hairs on their heads are numbered. He also warns the people not to fear those who can kill the body, but after that can do no more. Instead, they should fear Him who after death has the power to cast them into hell.

Luke 16:19-31, is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, which may be the most definitive passage on both the nature of hell and the deceitfulness of riches. It is no mistake that hell and wealth are tied together in this parable. According to this passage, not only is the soul alive in hell suffering great agony and torment, but once there, no one can ever escape.

In this story, Jesus tells the Pharisees about an unnamed rich man who lived in great affluence, and was obviously far too enamored with his luxurious existence to be concerned with the things of God. However, Lazarus, a poor beggar who would have loved even the scraps off the rich man’s table and who had dogs lick his wounds since there was no one to care for his physical needs, died and went to be with Abraham in paradise. There he dwelt with God and the patriarchs forever.

What is most interesting to me about this story is how it illustrates just how hard it is for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The rich are often so deceived with the luxuries they have on the earth, that they never really give their hearts to God. (See, Mark 10:24 KJV). Jesus hammers that point home in finishing the parable by stating that, even if someone came back from the dead to warn the rich man’s brothers about the deceitfulness of riches and the reality of hell, they would not listen to them. That is the power unto hell that earthly wealth has.

On the contrary, poor, hungry, and sick Lazarus chose not to curse God and die, but instead chose to love and trust Him despite his afflictions. Lazarus had less than nothing, yet he trusted in a loving God. The rich man had everything, yet chose to ignore God. One went to be with God forever, and the other was sentenced to dwell in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels forever. This is a reality that we should not be ashamed of nor fear sharing with those we love who are deceived by the enticing comforts of wealth.

In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus tells the parable of a nobleman who entrusted his servants with money to invest while he was going to be away on a long journey where he was hoping to receive a kingdom. This man’s subjects hated him and tried to keep him from becoming king. After being made king, the man returned home from his journey…and he had all of his enemies executed in front of him.

This parable is analogous to what is happening on earth now (and back then), and it also explains what will happen at the end of time. While the world despises Jesus as He truly is in the scriptures, Revelation 19:11-21 states, in no uncertain terms, that one day Jesus Christ will return – and with a vengeance, destroying all of his enemies forever with the breath of His mouth.

The parable of the vineyard and the vinedresser in Luke 20:9-19, is similar in theme. The owner of the vineyard, whose servants and son were murdered by the greedy vinedressers, comes and kills the vinedressers, and states that the stone that the builders rejected has become a cornerstone and whoever that stone falls on will be crushed to powder.

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul teaches that the wrath of God is coming on those who suppress the truth through ungodliness and sin, because every single person ever created will have a chance to see and know God and His eternal power and deity through the glory of creation (see also, Psalms 19:19 and Acts 17:24-28). This passage then goes on to describe the things worthy of God’s wrath such as lust, idolatry, homosexuality, and ungodliness.

In Romans 2:5-9, Paul states that, because of the hardness of men’s hearts, they are storing up for themselves treasures of wrath on the Day of Judgment. On that day, the judgment of God will be revealed, and for those who do not obey the truth there will be tribulation and anguish.

In Galatians 6:7-9, Paul informs us that we must not deceive ourselves by living in sin. God is not mocked, and if we sow to our flesh we will reap corruption. But if we sow to the spirit we will, by the spirit, reap life everlasting.

In Ephesians 5:3-6, Paul states that, because of sins such as sexual immorality, greed, and idolatry, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. Colossians 3:5-6 says almost exactly the same thing: that because of sexual immorality and idolatry to name a few, God’s wrath is coming on those who disobey Him.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, reminds us that if we turn from our idols to Jesus, we will be saved from the wrath to come. For as 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-10, exhorts us to be patient in persecution and tribulation, because such an attitude is evidence of our righteousness. For God will repay with tribulation those who trouble us, and He will give us rest when He is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels and flaming fire to take vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey Him. They shall be punished with eternal destruction, isolated from the presence of the Lord.

In Hebrews 10:26-31, Paul teaches that, if we continue to sin after we have received knowledge of the truth, we should only have a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which devours the enemies of God. Paul goes on to state that, if we reject God after knowing Him, we deserve severe punishment for trampling the Son of God, who sacrificed Himself for us, under our feet. It is a dreadful thing to fall to the hands of the living God. I do believe that once we are truly saved, salvation cannot be lost, so God is either talking about those who know about God but reject him, or true believers who are carnal but make it in as one escaping through the flames per 1 Corinthians 3:15.

In 2 Peter 2 (the whole chapter), Peter teaches that false prophets, like the angels who rebelled against God, will be cast into hell where they will remain captive, in chains, in the gloom of darkness until final judgment. This entire chapter talks about hell and judgment, mostly in the context of false prophets, but Peter also mentions that those who walk after the flesh and despise authority will also inherit hell. In this chapter Peter  teaches, as Paul did in Hebrews 10, that those who know the way of truth but again become entangled in sin, are in danger of the fire of hell, and it would have been better for them if they had never known the way of righteousness. (See my comment on Heb. 10 in the previous paragraph)

2 Peter 3:7 -12, states that the heavens and the earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and the destruction of the ungodly. Yet the clock continues to tick because God is long-suffering, and is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Jude 1:5-13, is a powerful reminder to all of us that if we remain in our sin we will suffer the same fate as those who did not believe in God while they were in Egypt, and those who behaved wickedly in Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude specifically states that those places serve as an example to us of the punishment of eternal fire, which we will receive if we live in wickedness.

In chapter Jude 1:13, hell is described as the blackness of darkness. In Jude 1:21-22, Jude encourages all believers to remain in the love of God while we wait for the return of Jesus, having compassion on some, and with fear “pulling others out of the fire.”

Clearly Jude, the brother of Jesus, considers hell to be a very real place, and that place is full of eternal darkness and fire. I’m not sure how fire and darkness go together, but I can tell you this – I believe God, and what He says is true even if our brains cannot comprehend it. Please…may we all take hell seriously, and even if we must suffer short term embarrassment, let us seek to save those we love from its flames by sharing the gospel message of Jesus Christ, who redeemed us all from the flames with blood, sweat and pain. To Him be the glory, now and forever….amen.

In Revelation 6:17, we are taught that a great day of wrath is coming. Revelation chapters 6, 8, 9, and 16 go into great detail about the horrific events that will come upon the world before Jesus’ final return in victory, which is laid out beautifully in Revelation 19:11-21.

In Revelation 14:9-12, we are told in very clear terms, that whoever takes the mark of the beast and worships him shall drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out in full strength from the cup of God’s anger. Those who take the mark of the beast will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Lord and His angels…and the smoke of their torment will ascend forever and ever, and they shall have no rest day or night.

9 “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:9-12

No matter who you are, no matter what prayers you have said, and no matter what you believe about grace, if you take the mark of the beast you ARE going to into the lake of fire where you WILL be tormented day and night forever. The above passage also makes it abundantly clear that the lake of fire is not the permanent extinguishing of the soul. It is a real place where you will be in unrelenting torment…with no opportunity for rest, and with no chance of escape.

In Revelation 19:20, we are told that the beast and the false prophet of Revelation are thrown alive into a lake of fire that burns with brimstone.

In Revelation 20:7-14, the devil, after being let loose for a time at the end of the millennial reign, will be cast into the lake of fire where he will be tormented day and night forever. Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will also be cast in the lake of fire. This is called the second death.

Again, the doctrine of annihilationism is proven completely false via clear scripture, because, according to Revelation 20, when the Lord brings His final judgment on mankind, those who do not love Him will be cast into a lake of fire, where they will be tormented day and night…forever.

In Revelation 21:1-8, the beauty of the new Heaven and the new earth are described, and Jesus declares that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and those who overcome(by believing per 1 John 5:5), shall become His children, and will inherit all things. But the cowardly, the sorcerers, the unbelieving, the sexually immoral, the idolaters, and the liars shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (see also, Revelation 22:14-15).

According to the scriptures, The fury of God Almighty’s wrath is coming on those who disobey Him. Not only will they suffer torment on this earth during the reign of the antichrist, when all men will be greatly afflicted, but they will also suffer the pain of burning brimstone and sulfur in the lake of fire…forever. The reality of the above scriptures, especially those spoken by Jesus, should prompt all of us to seek out those we love, and to risk looking like a fool in order to share with them the saving message of Jesus Christ. There is not one person on this earth that I want to go to hell. So I pray that the Lord will give me the strength and the courage to reach out to the people around me with gentleness, love and confidence in order to speak the piercing truth of Jesus Christ, so that perhaps some, even one, might be spared from the horrid place called hell…where the worm never dies and the fire is never, ever quenched.

Additional Verses:

Several additional verses that refer to hell are: Psalm 6:5 (in hell who will give God thanks, David asks); Psalm 11:5-6 (upon the wicked He will rain coals of fire and brimstone, and a burning wind); Psalm 21:8-11 (the Lord will discover those who hate Him, and when He returns He will make them as a fiery oven, and will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will devour them), and also, Psalm 49:1-17 (Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches will waste away in hell), and Psalm 55:23 (God will cast the wicked into the pit of destruction).

Fortunately, those who love Jesus Christ, have heaven…..Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

See, also:

Piercing the Darkness: Preaching the Gospel in Key West, Florida

Boldly Preach the Gospel, With no Shame or Fear

Confronting Sin: Snatching those we love from the flames

The Written Word: What Did Jesus, The Apostles, and the Psalmists say about the Eternal Written word of God?

Heaven With God Forever: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

                            ETERNITY IN PARADISE WITH GOD:

                                             Your Best Life…Later

 

                                                          Part 2

 

3…And there before me was a throne in heaven…. and the one who sat on the throne had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

 Revelation 4:3-6

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalms 42:2

“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬
 

As I have noted in several of my other writings, the word is clear: as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to live, not for the temporary pleasures of this world – be they material, sexual, or reputational. We instead live for the never-ending glory of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a kingdom, which can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). Because of this unseen, everlasting and glorious reality, we should all seek, through the Holy Spirit, to release our grasp on everything that we hold dear on this planet, which interferes with our pursuit of Jesus Christ – as the parable of the Pearl of Great Price so perfectly illustrates. For truly, what does it profit us if we gain anything – or even everything – from this earth, and then, after seventy-five or so years, when we die, we forfeit our souls to the fires of hell for eternity?

Below I am simply going to go through some of the verses, which refer to the promise of eternity we have with our God in paradise.

John 14 is, in my estimation, one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. It is both intimate and powerful in describing exactly how much Jesus and the Father love us and desire to be with us forever…in their kingdom. At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus tells us not to be troubled in heart, but to trust in Him and to trust in His Father. For in His Father’s house He promises, are many mansions, and Jesus Himself is going back to heaven to prepare those mansions for us, and after He prepares them for us, He will come back for each of us and will take us back home to be with Him and His Father…forever.

As one who has always been intimidated by the glory, power, and omniscience of the Father, I love how verse 23 states that, if we love Jesus, and keep His Word, then the Father Himself will love us and will come and make His home with us! The Father God, the Ancient of Days, and Jesus Christ Himself will come and make their home with foolish, selfish, and sometimes lazy me?! Now that is a promise I can live for, regardless of my circumstances.

In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus tells the crowd of people he is preaching to during the Sermon on the Mount, not to store up for themselves treasures on earth where moths destroy and thieves steal. Instead they – and we – should build up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, which can never, ever spoil, be destroyed or be stolen.

In Matthew 25:34, Jesus promises those who love Him an eternal kingdom, which was prepared for us by God since the foundation of the world.

In Romans 8:18, Paul states that his suffering on this earth, which was extreme to say the least (multiple stonings, floggings, shipwrecks and imprisonments), is nothing compared to the glory of Heaven which one day shall be revealed to all of us.

In 1 Corinthians 2:8-10, Paul states that no eye has seen and no ear has heard nor has it entered the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.

In 1 Corinthians 15:41-43 Paul shares with us the glorious mystery of what our bodies will be like in eternity:  “41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another…and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” My old, weary and decaying body looks forward to this permanent upgrade.

2 Corinthians 4:16 through 2 Corinthians 5:2, states that, even though our outward bodies are perishing, our inward person is being renewed daily. For our light and temporary affliction is building up for us eternal glory. So we focus not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

When our earthly house is destroyed, we will gain an eternal building forged by God in the heavens – a house not made by the hands of men, but one made by God Himself.

In Philippians 3:7-14, Paul speaks eloquently and powerfully about how he truly believes that every single thing that profits him on this earth is a loss if it in any way interferes with knowing Christ and the power of His death and resurrection. Paul clearly understands that the temporary pleasures of this world are nothing compared to the glory that is ahead in and through Jesus Christ.

In Colossians 1:4-6, Paul reminds believers that their hope is laid up for them in Heaven, and not on this earth.

In Colossians 3:1-5, Paul exhorts the people to desire those things, which are above with Christ, and not earthly things.

In Colossians 3:22-25, Paul reminds the people to do everything on earth for God, knowing that we will receive an inheritance as a reward, for we live to serve not ourselves, but Jesus Christ.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-20, we are told to do good works in Christ because it builds up for us a good foundation for the coming age.

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul tells Timothy that as he (Paul) approaches the end of his life, he knows that he has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, and he has kept the faith. Therefore, he will receive the crown of righteousness that God has prepared for him in Heaven and also for all of us who love Jesus Christ and long for His return.

In Titus 1:1-3, Paul states that he is an apostle of Jesus in the hope that he will receive eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, has promised from the beginning of the world.

In Titus 2:11-15, Paul states that the grace that brings salvation teaches us to deny worldly desires and to live righteously with godliness as we await the blessed hope of the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We live, not for the temporary pleasures of today, but for the hope of living with God in Heaven forever.

In Hebrews 10:34, Paul notes that his brothers in Christ had compassion on him and they all joyfully suffered through the confiscation of their property knowing that they had, in heaven, far better and enduring treasures stored up for themselves by God.

How many of us would joyfully endure the confiscation of our property even if we thought that it was building up for us some type of treasure in Heaven? I can say fairly confidently that I would not joyfully endure it under any circumstance. I pray that the Holy Spirit of God will move in me to change my heart…because I have a feeling, that at some time in the not-to-distant future, it’s coming.

In Hebrews 11:23-27, Paul states that, by faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh, and instead chose to suffer afflictions with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short term pleasures of sin. He esteemed the reward of God as greater riches than the riches of Egypt and he looked to that reward as he lived.

Moses endured this life – not by holding on to the luxuries he enjoyed as Pharoah’s son – but by looking to the One and Only God. He knew that if he surrendered this life, and obeyed God’s commands, he would end up in a far better kingdom than anything this world could offer, for eternity.

Hebrews 12:28, states that we, as believers, are receiving a kingdom which can never be shaken so let us worship God with reverence an awe…for our God is a consuming fire.

In 1 Peter 1:3-7, Peter states that Jesus has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that does not fade away, but is kept in Heaven by God for all of us who believe. He also emphasizes that our faith is more precious than gold because it, unlike gold, is eternal.

In 1 Peter 5:2-4, we are told to shepherd our flock willingly and not for dishonest gain, because when Christ, the Great Shepherd appears, we will receive a crown of glory that will never fade away.

In Revelation 1:12-18, John describes Jesus Christ as He is today, and as He will be in eternity with us. His head and hair are white like wool, as white as snow and His eyes are like blazing fire, His feet are like bronze glowing in a furnace and His voice is like the sound of rushing water….

This is an accurate portrait of the God we love and the God who loves us. He is the One with whom we will reign forever.

Revelation 19:11-21, is extremely encouraging as I see this world slipping into deeper and deeper darkness because it illustrates exactly how things will play out at the end of the end of the world, when Jesus comes for us and takes His vengeance on those who hated Him and us. If I am ever poor, weary, persecuted and broken (as Jesus and Paul were so often)…those days will cease, and when they cease, our King will come in unmitigated power and glory, riding on a white horse with His robe dipped in blood, and with iron scepter in His hand. The armies of heaven are following Him, also riding on horses and wearing fine linen, white and clean. He will crush His enemies forever and will gather all of us to be with Him and the Father in glory, in heaven…forever.

Revelation chapters 4, 21 and 22 (which are at the end of this writing) give us just a little taste of the beauty and glory of our eternal dwelling with God.

I would encourage each one of us to make sure that we will be a part of the army of Jesus Christ when He returns – and not amongst those who are destroyed because we, in our hearts, put our faith and hope in possessions, our reputations and our pleasures, rather than in the One and only God. Jesus Christ the God who stepped off His throne to become man, who died for us cold and broken on a cross, who was raised from the dead to reign over all things in glory…wants us to be with Him in His Kingdom… forever. That life my friends will be our best life.

EPILOGUE

Below…is our eternal city.

The New Jerusalem

Revelation 22

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The River of Life

Revelation 23:1-6

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1

                              THE DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH: YOUR BEST LIFE…LATER

 

                                                                         Part 1

 

5 “…Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.But godliness with contentment is great gain.For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” 1 Timothy 6:5-11 KJV

 

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”   Revelation 3:14-19 KJV

 

 The above passages, especially the one in Revelation, are speaking, without doubt, to a huge portion of what passes as the “church” today. So many of our teachers and preachers have become rich, powerful and famous preaching a “gospel” of wealth, happiness and success. This, of course is no gospel at all – and their deceit and flatteries have stolen the hearts of many away from the things of God. The word is clear – while Jesus is concerned about every single detail of our lives, His focus is not on whether we are rich or happy, whether we like our job, whether we get a big Christmas bonus check – or even if we have a great marriage. He is primarily concerned about the deep, eternal things of the heart – because He knows that if we seek our best life now, we will forfeit a far better life with Him and His Father in eternity. And if we truly, in the deepest places of our hearts, seek HIM first…all of those things will be added to us as well (Matthew 6:33). While “these things” might not look quite like, say Joel Osteen’s $10 million dollar house or Kenneth Copeland’s Gulfstream 5, since HE is first, whatever you have…will be enough.

Jesus Christ frequently taught that the material things of this world are inconsequential when compared to the glory He has in store for those who love Him. He, Himself, came to earth in the form of a man, not to conquer…but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. He also promised us that, in His Father’s house are many mansions, and if we love and obey Him, we will dwell in those mansions with Him and His Father forever (John 14:1-3, 15-24).

Jesus and Paul placed absolutely no value on earthy possessions, and simply lived each day trusting God to provide for them as He saw fit – because, in Paul’s case, he knew with great certainty, that at death he would receive a crown of righteousness, which can never perish, spoil or fade away. Jesus also knew that, after completing His mission on earth, He would receive a name that is above every name and that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that He alone is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

What is important to Jesus Christ is that we, as believers, understand exactly how wicked and deceitful our hearts are before a perfect, holy and omnipotent God (Jeremiah 17:9). He wants us to know, in the innermost places of our being, that we deserve hell for rebelling against our glorious Creator who gave us the stars, and the still, quiet night sky, the soft, slowly-floating clouds, fiery burnt-orange sunsets, rich deep-blue oceans teaming with trillions of colorful fish, blazing-white mountain peaks, lush tropical jungles, fields of pink and yellow wild flowers, a myriad of rich tropical corals, white sand beaches, powerful frothing ocean waves, perfectly designed snowflakes, springs of clear cool water, cute, playful animals, precious innocent children, friends to laugh and cry with, and many different types of food and drink to taste and enjoy.

God has given us so many glorious tangible things to delight in each day. All of those things are an important part of His loud, loving voice (See, Psalms 19:19 and Romans 1:18-20), calling every man and woman to love and worship the One who first loved us. Yet the blessings of those God-given gifts are often obscured by our selfish, material pursuits. Many times each day we fail to recognize the beautiful blessings placed before us, as we wander from home, to work, to the grocery store, on a jog or walk, to a restaurant, and back to our homes again. How much more do we fail to recognize the depth of our sin and the marvelous gift of the death of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, on the cross for us…cold, broken and in agony…and His triumphant resurrection?

What we want, and have been taught to want, directly or indirectly by our pastors and our Christian mentors are: a second SUV, a bigger house, influential friends, children who excel at sports or academics, lavish vacations, a bigger bonus check and a fat retirement account. Why isn’t God giving us these things, we ask? We deserve them! My pastor and the deacons are all very well-off – and the pastor says we should expect to be wealthy too if we are truly in God’s will – and we need to give more (to him) to receive God’s blessing! Is God punishing me or is He just not listening to me? Am I a bad person? Does God not love me?? Is He a bad God?? These are all scandalous and outrageous lies propagated by the false church!

 

The scriptures below specifically address what Jesus and the Apostles said about wealth, material possessions, and temporal success, thereby instructing us how to view them as well. The message from all of these men is eternity…eternity is what matters to God. These men lived their lives for God’s everlasting kingdom, and they proved their beliefs by their actions. Jesus himself lived a life of deprivation upon deprivation upon deprivation, showing us that a life not centered on material wealth, but focused on obeying God, can be lived, even by a king. We, with the help of the Holy Spirit, should be eager to give up whatever we are asked to give up as well- whether it be money, possessions, reputations, or relationships – all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 5:42, Jesus teaches us to give to anyone who asks us for something, and to lend freely to those who seek to borrow from us.

Our hearts should not be tied to our possessions, which will ultimately burn…instead, our eyes and hearts should be set firmly on Jesus, loving Him and those He sends us to love – not just with our mouths, but with our time and with our possessions. It is not easy, but it is our calling in Christ, and we can grow into a more selfless heart with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches us to not store up for ourselves treasures on earth where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But instead, we should store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, which can never be stolen or destroyed. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Rarely has a truer statement been spoken – what we truly treasure in our hearts we reflect with our actions. Do we care more about keeping our house perfect than we care about showing hospitality to friends and neighbors? I know I tend to care more about an orderly house than sharing it with others, sadly. Do we care more about how we as parents come across to other people by our children’s behavior and success (or lack thereof) then we care about their precious little hearts? There are many, many areas we all need to examine in order to determine where exactly our treasure is.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says that men cannot serve two masters, for they oppose each other. We cannot serve God and money. Therefore, we should not worry about what we will eat or drink, because life is more than food and clothing. The lilies of the field do not work yet they are beautiful. If God takes care of flowers, which are here today and are gone tomorrow, how much more will he care for us? Take no thought of what we will eat or drink, but seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be given to us as well.

We all at times seem to forget the “seek first the kingdom” part, and instead simply want to be “blessed” with more and more material things. As a result, we often only seek Jesus half-heartedly; looking over our shoulder for that material blessing we’ve been hearing so much about at church. The real blessing, my dear friends, is Him.

Seeking Jesus first means truly and deeply surrendering all of our wants and needs to Him and then walking closely with Him in trust, knowing that Jesus knows far better than we do what we really need in this life in order to accomplish His primary goal: remaining in intimate union with Him until death.

In Matthew 8:18-20, Jesus says that foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has no place to rest His head.

Jesus did not even have a home. That is a fact that many of these prosperity pastors – and all of us really – should meditate on when we aren’t satisfied with our possessions.

In Matthew 10:9-10, when Jesus first sends out the twelve disciples, He tells them to take no money or clothes with them, since through their testimony, God will meet all of their needs.

In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus says that, whoever loves their family more than Him is not worthy of Him, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Him isn’t worthy of Him. He who finds his life in this life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of Jesus will find it. See, also Mark 8:34-37

This is a critically important scripture because it contradicts the majority of what is being taught in American churches today about wealth, prosperity, and even relationships. According to this passage, God is to be honored, even above our closest family members, and while Joel Osteen and company tell us to seek our best life now, Jesus Christ says, seek it later. Instead, we must lay down our earthly lives…all of it…and take up our cross and follow Him wherever He leads us. Then, when this short life is finished, we will join Him and our Father in paradise, where we will live and reign forever….

In Mark 10:24, we are told (only in the KJV btw)  that it is hard for a rich man to enter into heaven: 24 “…Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:24 KJV

Why is it hard for a rich man to truly be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ? Because wealth slowly and subtly steals our hearts from the things of God. The parable of the sower says it well. 22 “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22

Oftentimes, we think we are loving and serving God, but really we only “love him” if our business is successful and our reputations are intact; if our house is large enough and our vacations are frequent; if our kids are excelling in sports (or academics) and we are respected by our peers. All of these things will burn. Neither Jesus nor Pauls cared about such matters. They looked not to this life, but to the next one…the one that lasts forever. May we do the same.

In Matthew 11:7-8 (also in Mark 12:41-44), Jesus tells a crowd, who seem surprised that He is not dressed like a king, that men who wear fancy clothes are found in earthly palaces, and not in the kingdom of God.

This is another clear repudiation by Jesus of worldly values and the false connection between wealth and God. Paul specifically said in 1 Timothy 6:5-6(quoted at the top of this article, and only found in the KJV), that godliness and financial success are not connected.

In Matthew 13:44-46, Jesus says that the kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that is so precious that we should be willing to sell everything to obtain it.

Matthew 19:16-30, is the parable of the rich young ruler, where Jesus was asked by a young rich man what he must do to inherit eternal life. The rich man noted that he obeyed the law and thus, considered himself to be good. Jesus saw through his charitable deeds, and peered into the depths of his heart. Jesus saw the idols, which prevented him from loving God above all things, and thus, Jesus told him to sell everything he had and to give the money to the poor, and then he would be rich in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus knew that only by selling everything would the man’s heart truly reflect his words and thoughts about himself. This man walked away from the Lord dejected because he had great wealth and in reality, he loved his possessions more than he loved God. Only Jesus could have revealed the lie he believed – that he was somehow a “good” man because he obeyed certain parts of the law. This parable teaches us in very clear terms that Jesus wants more from us than self-righteous obedience…He wants everything. He wants our hearts.

Jesus then went on to explain exactly how difficult it is for a wealthy person to enter into the kingdom of Heaven by using the well-known biblical analogy of a camel going through the eye of a needle. Jesus further states that those who are willing to give up everything they have on earth for the sake of the name of Christ, including relationships, possessions, or anything else that He may require will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. The powerful and counter-intuitive message of this is that our prize is eternity with God in His kingdom, and it is a reward that will never perish, spoil, or fade away. If only more pastors would share this message with their flocks, or at least teach it without telling their congregations to give up their earthly possessions…to them.

In Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Creator of all things, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, triumphantly entered Jerusalem at the end of His journey to save mankind…on the back of a donkey, as prophesied approximately five centuries earlier by Zechariah. Isaiah 53 prophesied that Jesus would not be physically attractive lest he appeal to the flesh of men. Even upon victorious entry into His beloved city to win back the souls of men from the evil one, He came quietly, and humbly. By reverently submitting to the ways of His Father, He would take back the keys of death and Hell from Satan (Revelation 1:12-18), and all men would receive an opportunity to inherit paradise.

In Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus teaches the crowd that whoever wants to be greatest among them must be their servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled. But whoever humbles himself for the sake of the kingdom will be exalted – and like everything Jesus taught, He was the perfect example of these words. Jesus lived a quiet and humble life for His first 30 years, working as a carpenter and even during His ministry time, He wandered from town to town, city to city, on foot, without a home (Luke 9:58) and with no possessions but the clothes on His back.

In Mark 12:41-43, Jesus noted, when it came to money, like in the story of the rich young ruler, He sees deep into the heart of men. In this passage, both rich and poor were giving money to the temple, and a widow put in a single penny. Despite the fact that, in the world’s system of weights and measures, what she put in was almost nothing, in the eyes of Jesus it was everything because she had nothing more to give. She gave all she had, while the rich, who often made a show of their generosity and gave far bigger monetary sums, really only gave a tiny portion of what they owned. The heart of a man is what Jesus sees and it is all He wants.

In Luke 12:13-21, someone asked Jesus to tell his brother to split the family inheritance with him. Jesus responds by saying that the dispute in question is none of His business and notes that a man’s life does not consist of his possessions. The point of His response seems to be that Jesus did not come to resolve disputes among the rich. He came to give life – eternal life to those who will receive it, most of whom were poor.

Jesus then goes on to tell the tale of a rich man whose land produced plenty of crops, so he built huge barns to store all of his grain for the future. This man was very satisfied with himself, thinking that he was prepared for the future and could now relax and enjoy his life. Little did he know that the very night when he expressed his deep sense of security and self-satisfaction, that God required his life. Next, Jesus states that this is what happens to those who store up treasures for themselves on earth, but have not been rich in their hearts toward God. It is at this point in Luke when Jesus goes on to discuss how He clothes the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He reminds His little flock not to worry, for the good shepherd is guarding them and it is His good pleasure to give them eternal life with Him.

The message of the parable of the rich fool is quite powerful. Frequently, we waste our lives building up wealth for what is ultimately, no matter how long we live, short-term satisfaction. We often neglect the important things that we have been given like the scriptures, our families, the glory and beauty of creation, and sharing the sacred soul-saving message of Jesus Christ with the people around us – all to build things that will one day burn to ashes. Why do we not instead, expend maximum effort building up eternal treasure in heaven? Where we focus our time and our efforts on this earth reveals where our hearts truly are, no matter what we say with our mouths.

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. Jesus describes how the wealthy man had a sumptuous life, full of fine wine, food and clothing, while the poor man Lazarus had nothing, and begged for food every day, desiring even to have the crumbs off the rich man’s table. Lazarus was also covered with sores, which were licked by the dogs as he lay on the ground in agony.

However, Lazarus must have loved and trusted God, because, despite his extremely difficult life, when he died he was taken to be with Abraham in paradise. The rich man, who had a life full of wealth and pleasures, also died. Obviously, he did not see any need for God because of his wealth and comfortable life, and thus, he went to Hell for eternity. While in Hell, he was able to see Lazarus and Abraham together in paradise and he asked Lazarus for just a single drop of water to cool his tongue. Jesus then explained that, because the rich man did not trust God, but instead trusted in his wealth, he is forever separated from heaven and must live eternally in the fire of hell. Lazarus on the other hand, had nothing in this life but agonizing circumstances, yet he ended up in paradise with God forever. The obvious implication is that, even though he was scorned and rejected on this earth, and suffered greatly (this sounds very much like Jesus), he loved God in the depths of his heart… and inherited paradise.

This parable goes on to emphasize exactly how hard it is for a rich man to enter Heaven. When Abraham is asked by the rich man to go warn his brothers about the deceitfulness of wealth and the reality of hell, Abraham tells him that if they do not learn the truth about what God requires from the scriptures, which were readily available to them, they wouldn’t listen to a ghost returning from the dead either. That my friends, is quite the warning about the dark and all-consuming power of riches.

I think, unfortunately, that we will see more and more of this as the end draws near, especially amongst the rich in the church who presume to be saved because of their temporal success, and attendance at church and Bible study. I know that I personally, was the farthest away from Jesus in my heart when I was the most successful in business…but God was merciful enough to take that success away from me, that I might seek His face more earnestly and come to know Him and his surpassing love better, building up treasures in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot come in and steal.

My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36 … and neither is ours, thank goodness.

In Acts 20:25-37, Paul warned the flock about false prophets rising up from among the brethren. He reminded the people that they were purchased with the blood of Christ and were building an eternal inheritance through His word. To prove his sincerity and the purity of his motives, he reminded them that he did not seek anything material from them but with his own hands provided for all of his needs and also for the needs of others. He reminded them that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and he was embraced by the people with great emotion as he prepared to head to Jerusalem where he faced certain imprisonment and eventually, death.

Paul certainly provides us with a stirring example of how to build love and trust with other believers. He did not seek anything of material value from any of them, but simply nurtured them and taught them in purity and in truth, forging bonds of love and unity that only God can create.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Paul speaks boldly and clearly about the sharp contrast between the ways of God and the ways of the world. Unlike men, and even most churches, Paul stated that God chose the weak and foolish of the world as followers, not the rich and powerful.

Jesus knew that rich men are often proud and full of themselves, so He chose the weak and the poor. Poor men, especially back then, are rarely as concerned about their reputation as the wealthy since they are focused on survival from day to day, and as Proverbs says, the poor are often glad simply to have a friend. Jesus is honored to be their friend.

In 1 Corinthians 9:13-19, Paul noted that, although he does have the right to earn a living through his preaching, he rejected everything material from the believers in order to avoid the appearance of improper motives. He was willing to risk living without his needs being met in order to make sure that the purity of the Gospel remained intact. Paul summarizes his Christ-centered view of life, and specifically his perspective on temporal things, in Philippians 3:7-14, where he so eloquently states that he considered every single thing that was a benefit to him in this life a loss for the sake of Jesus Christ. He truly wanted to become like Jesus in his death…and so somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Paul didn’t just say these things with his mouth; he lived them every single day. He suffered all kinds of depravations and indignities, because he knew that he was living for an unimaginably glorious and eternal kingdom, one that cannot and will not ever be shaken. Instead of seeking material comforts, Paul pressed on toward the goal to win the prize of an eternity with Christ Jesus in Heaven (vs. 14).

In Romans 16:17-19, Paul warns the church to watch out for false and divisive teachers who preach certain things to serve their own fleshly appetites. (i.e. They preach what will make them rich).

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul states that, despite his suffering in Philippi, he traveled onward to Thessalonica, where he continued to preach the Gospel which was a trust given to him by God. He, unlike preachers today, did not preach with flattering words or with a pretext for greed because he knew that God Himself was a witness to his actions. Instead, with gentleness among God’s precious people, he labored day and night so as not to be a burden on them in any way.

Once again, Paul proved with his actions that preaching Jesus in purity and truth was his only goal. He was not willing under any circumstances, to risk that goal by asking anything from the people he was caring for as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. The world desperately needs more leaders in Christ like this, who care nothing for recouping the cost of their seminary degree and then pursuing a nice middle class life on the backs of their flock, but instead consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

In 1 Timothy 2:10, Paul states that he was willing to endure all things for the sake of the elect so that they may obtain salvation and eternal glory.

Eternal glory in heaven with God was the gift he knew that God had given him to share with those who would listen, and give it he did, no matter the personal cost.

In 1 Timothy 6:5-6 (only in the KJV), Paul tells Timothy to withdraw from men of corrupt minds who suppose that godliness equals material wealth.

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.But godliness with contentment is great gain.For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

How many churches in the United States are filled with proud, wealthy men, who have far too much respect and influence from church leaders and parishioners, simply because they are successful businessmen? When one is wealthy, character and godliness are often presumed, while in reality, families, business partners, and Jesus Christ are frequently trampled under foot as the wealth and reputation of these men grow like terminal cancer. Their gospel of materialism spreads further and deeper into the church, and many hearts are drawn away from the things of Jesus to the temporary things of this world by these enticing lies. This is a foolish and wicked practice, which opens the door to heresy in the church by allowing in false doctrines, which appease the rich and bring in new attendees who hopefully become eager donors.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul tells Timothy to command those who are rich in this life not to be conceited nor to trust in uncertain riches, but instead to trust in the living God who generously gives us all things to enjoy. The wealthy should be rich in good works, and generous in all things, laying up for themselves a good foundation for an eternity with God.

In Hebrews 10:34, Paul reminds believers about the persecutions they have suffered and he specifically reminds them to joyfully endure the confiscation of their property knowing that they have in Heaven better and enduring possessions.

In Hebrews 11:8-16, Paul notes that by faith Abraham obeyed God and went into a new country, not knowing where he was going, for he was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. Furthermore, Abraham’s descendants, not having received the promise, had faith, and desired a better country – a heavenly one – therefore God was not afraid to be called their God and He prepared an eternal city for them.

In Hebrews 13:5-6, Paul states that we should live our lives without the love of money and should be content with the things we have for God has said that He will never leave us or forsake us. We may all boldly proclaim that the Lord is our helper and we should not fear. What can man do to us?

In Hebrews 13:17-18, Paul has the people to whom the letter is addressed pray for him as he prepares to leave, and he asks that they specifically pray that in all things that he may deal honestly.

I appreciate the fact that Paul is aware of his own potential bad motives and the deceitfulness of his heart, and he wants to make sure that in all things he honors the Lord. He is not afraid to look bad by asking for prayer for this.

In James 1:9-11, James states that the poor man and the man of low status should rejoice in the fact that in Christ they are exalted. On the other hand, the wealthy man is made low and will pass away like grass. As the sun burns and withers the grass so will a man who trusts in wealth wither away and come to nothing.

In James 2:1-9, James implores the brothers to have faith in Christ without showing partiality to a rich man or to a man of high position. A rich man should not be given a position over a poor man since that is a type of judgment in God’s eyes. For God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He has made for those who love Him.

In James 5:1-6, James states that rich men should weep and howl for the miseries that they will suffer in eternity (See Lazarus and the rich man, above). Their wealth and their possessions are corrupted, and their gold and silver are corroded. That corrosion will be a witness against them and will eat their flesh like fire. The wages they have failed to pay the laborers who worked in their fields are crying out against them, and the Lord hears those cries. Many of the wealthy have lived in pleasure on this earth, straying from the path of truth.

1 John 2:15-18, tells us not to love the world, and that if anyone loves the world then the love of the Father is not in them. For everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the boasting of what we have and do, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires will pass away, but the one who does the will of God will live forever.

Many of the above passages are a stinging indictment of the wealthy – many of whom fancy themselves “believers,” yet they have abused and underpaid God’s precious children in order to store up more and more wealth for themselves. Those riches will ultimately condemn them, and, according to James, will eat their flesh like fire in Hell.

In Revelation 2:9, Jesus Christ Himself praises the church in Smyrna. Although they are living in poverty and are suffering great persecution, the church is rich in the eyes of God because of their works on His behalf and because of the tribulations they are enduring in His name. Unfortunately, the opposite is true of the church in Laodicea (quoted at the top of this writing), which closely resembles our prosperity-oriented churches today. Jesus sternly warns the Laodicean church that they are lukewarm, storing up for themselves earthly wealth rather than spiritual treasures; therefore, Jesus is preparing to spit them out of His mouth if they do not repent. They have sought riches in this world and have stored up good things for themselves thinking they are in need of nothing. Jesus tells them, that, despite what they think of themselves, they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked in His eyes. He then counsels them to buy FROM HIM the gold of the Spirit refined in the fire, that they may truly be rich. May this passage be a warning to us all.

In Revelation 18:11-17, at the end of days, when Jesus pours out his wrath on the earth, the rich merchants of the world and those who lived for material goods will watch as everything they have longed for and hoarded is forever destroyed…in an instant.

The Psalms and Proverbs also have numerous scriptures teaching us about the deceit of wealth and about true, eternal riches.

In Psalm 19:7-11, David states that the law of the Lord is perfect, right, pure, true, and is to be much more desired than fine gold, and that by obeying the word comes great reward.

Psalms 49:5, states that those who trust in their wealth cannot redeem each other on the day of wrath, nor can they pay a ransom to God. The fool will perish, leaving wealth to others. The rich take nothing with them in death and their glory does not descend with them. Men of worldly honor, without the understanding of God, will perish.

In Psalm 52, David writes that God will forever bring down the man who does not make God his refuge but instead trusts in the abundance of his riches, growing strong in wickedness. Trust instead in the mercy of God for as long as you live.

In Psalm 119:127, the psalmist writes that he loves the commandments of God above gold. Almost the entire 176 verse Psalm speaks of the eternal value of the scriptures in the eyes of God.

There are also many, many proverbs that instruct believers that wisdom and understanding are like fine silver and gold, and that wealth does not profit a man on the day of wrath. My primary point of this writing is to make it as clear as possible that Jesus was not wealthy, did not look wealthy, and did not seek wealth – and neither did Paul. They both taught all of us time and time again, to put our trust in the hope of the everlasting Kingdom of God rather than in material possessions, which rot, corrode, and ultimately will burn. Jesus Himself lived what He preached, humbly and in poverty, and Paul followed His example. We too should follow the examples of Jesus and Paul, and reject every single voice on this planet that says otherwise.

EPILOGUE

The road to heaven is narrow and few find it, yet according to Jesus it is even narrower for a rich man (camel/eye of needle). Yet how many rich men do we all know who think that God has blessed them, and that they are headed straight for heaven? Will they, and those they have influenced, discover, to their horror, at the end of days that, that, like the rich fool, in the deep places of their heart, they really trusted in their wealth, and simply honored God with their mouths? I challenge all of us to take this message, and the gospel message of sin, repentance, and the mercy of God through the cross to all of those we care about who are caught in the deadly trap of wealth. Perhaps some might hear, turn and be saved from the fire, where no lie will stand and where the rich man will dwell forever, in agony, from which no ransom or escape can ever be made.

Part 2:  Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

And on money and pastors/teachers:

Teachers, Preachers and Mammon: Money and the Ministry

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

Favorite scriptures #3: Whether the Lord Gives or Takes away…Blessed Be His Name! (Job 1)