Friday, September 07, 2012

The Cain Game

If you read the Bible from the beginning [Genesis] you will see that the first murder [in the physical sense] happens in Genesis 4. A man named Cain, murders his brother Abel, then he hides his body in the ground, where he thinks no one will be able to find it...out of sight...out of mind.

One problem...the God who created Cain...and all all-seeing...all-knowing.

God comes to Cain with a question that was intended to work a sense of sorrow for sin, and also to work out a confession for that sin in the life of Cain.God asks Cain..."where is your brother?"

Even though Cain knew very well where his brother was...this is because he killed him and buried his cold body in the ground...he denied before God that he knew of his whereabouts.

Cain murdered...then he acted as if God did not know about his murder by trying to hide his murder under the dirt.

Christians today play this same foolish game. They deceive themselves into thinking that God cannot see the murder that they have buried deep inside the dirt!
Yes, God is all-seeing...but surely He can't see through dirt, they seem to assume!

Where is the dirt that they try and hide their murders? Deep inside their own hearts!

Remember, when God first created man, He made him out of the dirt...and when we die we go back to that original state [ashes to ashes, dust to dust].

When we hide murder in our hearts...we are trying to accomplish the same "fools errand" that Cain did. What does our murder look like? Let's let God speak on this one;

"In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest:Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." [1 John 3:10-11]

Did you catch that? God is telling us that the family traits in God's family are manifest...or obvious. 1.The first family trait is a changed heart. When the Holy Spirit comes into a person's life...He brings Spiritual life and health. He begins to give the Christian new holy motives for living...and the power to begin overcoming sin and temptations in your own life. The Apostle John is saying that if you merely hold Jesus on your lips...but Jesus has not become the great love and Lord of your life...then your family membership is not obvious at all. 2. When the Holy Spirit gives a person a new heart...this new life causes the person to have a new love for God...but also a new love for all of God's adopted children. This means that Christians have NO excuses...they must love their fellow Christians. We are also called to love our neighbors...and yes...even our enemies. NO Excuses!!

As we continue on in the same passage...notice the example that the Holy Spirit gives us [through the Apostle John];

"Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." [1 John 3:12-15]

When we go back into Genesis we discover that Abel offered a sacrifice to God that was pleasing to Him. Cain also offered a sacrifice...but his sacrifice was not pleasing to God. Instead of discovering why his sacrifice was not acceptable to God and then offering an acceptable sacrifice...Cain began to harbor hatred in his heart.

This hatred began to overflow onto his face [a bitter, angry countenance].

God in mercy warns Cain about the hatred He sees in his heart...and tells him that he must master must cast it out!

Cain rejects God's all-wise counsel...and instead begins to secretly plan to destroy his brother.

Christian's must not think that they can hold the Lordship of Jesus on their lips and then freely give their hearts to Satan, the Great Red Dragon!

Jesus came to destroy the works of the Dragon. He did so first and foremost on Calvary's cross! This victory was clearly announced from the cross when Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "It is finished!"

Jesus proclaimed to the world of angels and men that His work of the salvation of sinners was accomplished...the empty tomb three days later verified Jesus announcement from the cross!

Jesus work to destroy and undo the works of the dragon did NOT end 2000 years ago!

When mankind listened to and followed Satan's temptation in the garden of Eden...they fell into sin and corruption of their natures. This corruption of human nature is the dragon dwelling within us.

Jesus suffered and died, not only to pay for our sins...that we may be forgiven by God the Father...but also to undo and ultimately destroy the dragon within His people's hearts.

When a person is trusting in Christ, the Holy Spirit is dwelling within them...enabling them to do so. This same Holy Spirit is working in them they whole lives...fighting against the dragon...and the sin that dragon has brought with him.

One of these sins is hatred, bitterness and the unwillingness to forgive others.

If the Spirit of God is truly dwelling within a person...and that person is submitting to the Spirit's working...then the works of the dragon will eventually and ultimately be put down!

If a person holds Christ on the lips...and yet continues to follow their old master...the dragon...then they can go through numerous religious activities...but the nature of the dragon will continue to rule their hearts.

Christians can be a sneaky bunch. We know that hatred, bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive others is wrong Biblically...but some instead of crying out to God to uproot the dragon and destroy this hatred and murder in their hearts...hang on to their hatred like it was some kind of cherished treasure...and then hide it in the dirt.

The Book of Proverbs explains this type of person;

"He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself." [Proverbs 26:24].

Notice, the person explained above really does hate someone...but when asked if they hate them...hides this hatred with a further sin of deception. They lie and say that they don't really hate them...deceiving others, deceiving themselves...but not God!

If you have ever prayed the Lord's should make you tremble if you harbor hatred, bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive others. Why? Because in the Lord's are asking God to treat you treat others. You are asking God to forgive you forgive others.

May we see hatred for the murder that it is...and cry out to Jesus to remove this work of the dragon from our hearts. If we refuse to cast off the nature and deeds of the dragon...we will surely partake of his future.

Some try and fool themselves by thinking that their lack of mercy and forgiveness towards those who have offended them really isn't an indication of their love towards God...but God tells us otherwise!

"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from God: that he who loves God must love his brother also."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Objections to Hell #4

As we look at the fourth objection to hell, it seems so true at first sound, but like so many other cons, when you look beneath the surface you will discover the very opposite to be the case.

4.God is a God of love…therefore hell cannot exist!

Ask people who say that hell does not exist if they lock their car, house? Do they have a bank account or just leave their money on the front lawn hoping that no one will come and take their money? Do these people have secret pin numbers for their debit and credit cards? If they have children, do these people leave their most prized possessions alone with people who are known pedophiles or murderers?

Why not!?

If we give ourselves the right to protect what is ours, even though everything we have is only borrowed from God. If we give ourselves the right to protect our loved ones, why do we all of a sudden change the rules when it comes to God?

Would it be loving for God to allow wolves into His heaven to prey upon His sheep? No!

Would it be loving for God to force rebels to turn from their sin, against their wills? No!

Would it be loving for God to call all to repent and come to Him for free forgiveness, but those who refuse to come will get what they wanted…an eternity without God and without His pesky people…Yes.

For those who reject the Bible’s teaching about hell because they say it takes away from God’s love…need to answer the following question…how deep is their God’s love?

What does their God do to show His love? What does His love cost…Him?

If God is all powerful then what sacrifice is it for Him to simply zap gifts for people? If God can speak the worlds into existence with a word…then it would be nothing for Him to speak gifts for us…costing Him nothing…because in the end He has an unending bank account.

This last objection tries to protect God’s love…tries to magnify it…but in the end…it makes God’s love something that is superficial…shallow…love in only word…but not in sacrificial deeds.

Jesus suffering was more than just physical…something infinitely more!

The teaching of hell does the very opposite of diminishing the love of God…it shows to us how deep and great God’s love really is…

On the Cross, God suffered the infinite wrath that was due our sins…showing that His love for us is without bounds…and He was willing to do anything to deliver us!

Every gift we experience and enjoy, we do so at God’s expense!

When you enjoy a good meal, a good laugh with friends…or simply enjoy a cool glass of water [remember the rich man in Jesus parable was denied a drop of water]…remember that the only reason why you can do so…is because God is love…and that at the Cross of Calvary…God showed His love by suffering and dying to bring you those blessings…and not just eternal life!

Each sin deserves wrath, not blessing…Jesus took the wrath in order for anyone to experience God’s blessing. If Jesus did not die on the cross there would be absolutely NO good gifts, NO blessings for those who sinned EVEN ONCE!

May our hearts daily trust in this Great God, and may we spend the rest of our days…and into eternity…worshiping Him, adoring Him, and thanking Him for His great love, that was willing to suffer the pains of hell…so that we would not have to!

If you have not surrendered your heart to this God do so today! Look at His unfathomable love! Look at His immeasurable forgiveness! God is abundant in loving kindness and mercy! He doesn’t want sinners to suffer the torments of eternity without Him…this is why He was willing to suffer in their place.

Go to Jesus Today! Today is the day of salvation!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Objections to Hell #3

Before we read the third objection to hell, ask yourself the following question, “Who do I believe, God or man?” The reason why some objections to hell get off the ground and begin flying is because Christian’s allow the runway for take off to exist. The Bible tells us that God is true, even if every man is proven a liar. If the whole human race says one thing and God says another, who do you believe? God is all wise, all knowing, all seeing! He knows with perfect knowledge the effects that sin has brought upon the human heart. Sin has warped our thinking, it has distorted our judgments. Even our judgments of how we view ourselves! This is why we MUST go to God for our answers, even if God’s answers contradict the whole world of unbelief!

Third Objection. ‘It is unfair to be eternally damned for making a wrong choice, when there are millions of choices. If the stake are so high, then God should make things way more clear!’

If you remember, in the parable that Jesus is telling, He has the rich man in hell asking if God would raise Lazarus from the grave and go warn the rich man’s five brothers about the place of wrath and torment. God tells the rich man that his brothers have God’s word to warn them about hell, and if they won’t listen to God’s word then they won’t listen even if they see someone raise from the grave!

Jesus has the rich man in the parable insinuating “if” things would have been more clear…if he would have had more information…if he would have seen some miraculous event…THEN…he would have never gone to hell!

Has God been unclear? God tells us “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

God tells us that He has clearly shown Himself in the created order. God has clearly revealed Himself through the things He has made.

His finger prints are on everything!

So why do people then reject Jesus and reject the Gospel? The answer is frightening!

Jesus gives us this answer in the Gospel of John, in the most popular Scripture passage in our land.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish [go to hell] but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved! [John 3:16-17]

What an amazing, wonderful truth! God came into the world to save sinners from eternal destruction! So then, why aren’t some saved? Is it because God hasn’t shown Himself in a clear enough way? The passage continues on, and reveals to us the reason why some people don’t come to Jesus.

“He who believes in Jesus is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” [vs. 18]

Now, read the following verse very carefully.

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” [John 3:19]

Light is very clear! It shines clearly into the dark! Jesus is telling us the reason why some people don’t find God is because they don’t want to. They love their sin and refuse to give it up!

These people say that they are open to the truth and are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, but in reality they are running as fast as they can from the truth.

In history, Jesus really did raise a man named Lazarus from the dead! Did this amazing feat cause the religious leaders of Jesus day to stop fighting against Him, and begin to follow Jesus? No! Instead they began to plot in how they could kill Lazarus, because his very presence was causing a lot of people to follow Jesus. The religious leaders wanted to get rid of the evidence so that they could continue believing the lie!

And what happened when Jesus Himself rose from the grave on the third day? Did His enemies change their minds? Praise God, some did! But others paid off the guards who witnessed the resurrection! They gave the guards large sums of money to lie about what they saw! In other words, they got rid of the evidence!

In this parable [Luke 16:19-31] Jesus tells us that God has clearly revealed Himself and His salvation in the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New…if a person refuses to bow the knee to Jesus because of God’s Word, then they won’t do so even if they see some miraculous event!

The Bible shows us that God is abundant in loving kindness and mercy. For many He is not only the God of second chances…but of 100’s of chances! But may we not be mistaken! God owes no one second or third chances! God owes no one mercy!

There are times when men and women continue to run away from God, and run into their sin and lies, and God says to them, “if that is where you want to go, then so be it.”

What a terrifying day that would be!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Objections to Hell #2

Now, its time to look at another objection that people have to the place God calls hell. In all truthfulness I am not writing these first and foremost for the unbeliever, in order to convince them. I am writing these to try and equip Christian’s to enable them to answer the critiques and objections that unbelievers give for hell. It can be easy for a young Christian, or a Christian who hasn’t spent much time in the Bible to be pulled away from God’s truths. Of course my desire is also to show the unbeliever that if he or she looks at hell through God’s eyes instead of their own, then all their objections don’t have a leg to stand on.

2nd Objection -- It is unfair for God to send people to hell forever for the sins that they committed in the short time that they were here on earth.

This objection contains several misunderstandings and for times sake I can’t deal with them all at length now.
Let’s look at just a few of them.

1. People view their sin as insignificant and little, why?

Because we sin in thought, word and deed throughout the day…every day…year afer year, for our whole lives.…and lightening never crashes down upon us striking us dead!

God in response shows His patience and grace and continues to pour gifts into rebels lives.

Why does He do this? Showing us that He is merciful, encouraging rebels to turn from sin and come to Him for mercy! But rebels willfully interpret God’s patience and His gifts as God’s acceptance of their sinful lifestyles…and they therefore view their sin as cheap and insignificant! Not every interpretation is correct!

When you and I sin against God, we are dishonoring and violating His infinite character…this means the penalty for this sin must also be infinite in nature.

Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher of the 1800’s, hit the nail on the head when he said, “They must be infinite sins to require an infinite Person to lay down His life for their removal.”

Those who raise this 2nd objection are leaving something else out of the equation, aren’t they? Something very important, did you catch it?

2. If you live your whole life as a rebel against God, willfully sinning against God, willfully rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who do you think you will be when you die?

The Bible teaches that God created man in His own image. Man was to be a reflection of the God who made him.

God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity honored, and served one another in perfect harmony, putting each other before self.

When God created man, it is God who served man. God made the world for man to enjoy. God gave man food and drink. God painted beautiful pictures in the glorious sunrise each day. Fanned man with a cool breeze,. Played music for man with the singing birds and bubbling brooks. God gave Adam and Eve to one another for fellowship and enjoyment, the list is endless.

God loved and served someone that was infinitely lesser than Himself.

God gave man everything in creation to enjoy, except one thing. Adam could enjoy absolutely everything, except one tree that God said was off limits. Satan the deceiver, comes to Eve and Adam with a suitcase full of discontent. He doesn’t want them to see the glass as 99.9% full, he wants them to focus on that empty sliver of space there at the top!

He feeds them the big lie and tell them that if they disobey God and eat of the forbidden tree, then they will become like God.

God warned of death. Satan promises junior divinity. Satan lied. On the day they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve spiritually died. They were cut off spiritually from God [who is Spirit]. Even though they looked the same physically, they were very much different!

Now, man wanted to be a god too…but not like the True God…man didn’t want to focus on others and serve others. Sin made him self centered, self focused, self exalting…

Man would make up his own standard of what was good and what was evil, he would no longer follow God’s ways.

Jesus warned that man’s sinfulness was so deep…so engrained…that the only thing that could change him was to be Born Again! To be born again means to be given a new heart from God. To receive spiritual life, a new spiritual birth!

How does God give sinner’s new hearts? How does God set people free from their bondage to sin and Satan? God’s Spirit works through God’s Word to give people new hearts!

It is important for us to remember that God’s Word itself has a focus, Jesus and His Work of salvation are the focal point of the Bible…this is where God changes people’s hearts!

When God changes a sinful rebel’s heart, He begins the good work here in this life. When a person trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior God forgives the sinner because of what Jesus did for Him on Calvary’s cross. Jesus suffered and died in the sinner’s place!
But God work is not done there! Next, throughout this person’s life, God slowly changes them more and more to be like Jesus, this is the work of Jesus' Spirit working ‘in’ the person’s heart. This work will be fully complete on the day this person dies and sees Jesus face to face. The Christian will fight and struggle against sin throughout their whole life, but this battle will be over when they see Jesus face to face. On that day, they will be completely free from their old sinful nature and will never sin again!

This next part is very important!

God offers His Son, Jesus must be received by faith! The Bible tells us that faith is the “assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things NOT seen”. When we die and face God it will be too late for faith…it is appointed for men to die once…and then the judgment!

God offers the Gospel…God offers the new heart here and now…if a person dies without the gospel and without a new heart…they will have that same sinful, rebellious heart for all eternity! With that heart they will continue to sin against God, and God will continue to justly punish them for their ongoing sin.

In Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man in hell, never asks to get out of hell! He hated God in life and he hates God in eternity. He only wanted God for the things He gave in life and that’s the only thing he wanted from God in eternity. The rich man, even though he was in hell still viewed himself in an elevated place. He still viewed himself as a rich master and he still viewed Lazarus as someone lower than himself…someone to serve him.

Even in hell, even in eternity we see that he is self focused, and his being self centered has not gone away.

He was a God hater in life and he will be a God hater throughout all eternity!

Do note that the rich man’s request for even the smallest mercy is denied in eternity.

Those who think they can enjoy God’s gifts without God are going to be greatly disappointed!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Objections to Hell #1

I know that there are a multitude of objections to the existence of hell, we are not going to try and look at them all, but instead, over the next little while we will try and look at a handful of see if they really hold water or not.

As you read this today please remember that we are dealing with the God who made us and who now governs all things. This God cannot lie…He is Truth. Many of the objections to hell arise from the lies we tell about ourselves and God…and the objections die a quick death when these lies are rejected. Let’s look at our first objection.

1. It is NOT fair for God to send good, moral, and virtuous people to hell just because they didn’t trust in Jesus for their salvation.

The objector goes on to tell us that there are many good atheists and sincere people from other faiths who don’t trust in Jesus. Is God going to send these good people to hell?

A question must be asked at this point;

Good, moral, and virtuous? According to Who’s standard?

The Bible tells us that God is the Creator of all things. As Creator, God is the High King over all His creation [everything]. As King, He is the One who establishes the Law of the Kingdom. God doesn’t arbitrarily make up laws…God’s law is the expression of His own Holy, and unchanging character.

To violate God’s Law is to violate God’s Person!

And finally as King, God is the Judge who will right every wrong done against Him and His people…every wrong! [Isa 33:22].

This leads us to ask the following question, letting the above direct our reasoning.
Can a person be good, moral, virtuous if they break God’s greatest commandment?
Jesus, who is God become man, tells us that Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, is the Greatest commandment there is!

This means loving God as He has shown Himself!

God’s clearest expression of Himself was shown to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. God became man, He put in a personal appearance!

And God’s greatest expression of love was shown at Calvary’s Cross! God the Father showing His love by willing to send the One He loved most for sinner’s salvation.

God the Son willing to be sent, in order to suffer and die for sinner’s salvation!

Ask yourself this question. If people are so good, moral and virtuous…then why did God have to leave heaven to suffer and die for us?

The Bible teaches us that the greatest evidence that our hearts are evil, immoral and wicked…is revealed by our hatred of the God who made us…and our hatred towards His only way of salvation revealed in the gospel.

At this point we must think clearly and maturely. Hatred isn’t always expressed by someone saying “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” with their face reddening and their feet stomping on the floor! Jesus made it very clear…He said ‘if you love Me, then keep My commandments’. Jesus is telling us that our love for Him [God] is expressed in keeping His commandments, because His commandments are expressions of Who He is.

Of course the opposite is true.

Hatred is also revealed by ‘indifference’. Someone who lives their life ignoring God, His Word, His people shows their dislike for God.

Someone who is always too busy…purposefully steering clear of God…reveals in their actions that they really have an ax to grind with God…

As we look at the rich man in hell [Luke 16]… Jesus, the God who knows the hearts of all people, is revealing in this rich man, what every human heart looks like apart from God’s grace changing it through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The unbelieving heart is revealed in two types of people. One that never darkens the door of the church, and the other that hides in the church, wrongly thinking that God doesn’t have x-ray vision.

Vs 24, “Then the rich man cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’

Note- The heart of those who hate God want nothing to do with God Himself…they only want the good things that God has to offer. The rich man asks God to give him mercy…but notice he doesn’t repent, he doesn’t confess his sin…he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness/pardon…just mercy!

Don't let the important fact pass you by. The rich man never asks to get out of hell! He never says to God... "I want to be with You, I want to love You!" He just wants Lazarus to come to bring him mercy!

When we as sinners come to God for mercy…through the gospel, we are acknowledging that God is Holy, Just and Good…and the only way that we can be forgiven and receive mercy…and at the same time, God remain Holy, Just and Good is by God Himself becoming a man…and fully paying the debt our sins deserved, which is wrath and death!

But when a sinful person asks God for mercy without the gospel…he is saying I do not want to change. I am not asking for forgiveness. God, You change and become unholy and unjust…and give me the opposite of what my sins deserve.

On a side note, do not let the unbeliever define God’s omnipotence [All-powerful], we must listen to God as He describes it.

The unbelieving philosopher will say that if God is all powerful then He can do anything at all, but this is not the Biblical definition…so don’t get sucked into it!

The Bible reveals that God can do anything He wants to do. The Bible also teaches that God cannot lie, cannot be tempted by sin and cannot deny Himself. These things that God cannot do are not a sign of weakness…instead they further magnify His perfection and might!

If God showed mercy on rebels without paying for those rebels sins He would be denying His justice and holiness and thereby denying Himself…something He will NOT do!

When sinners willfully ignore God and His only way of salvation, in Jesus, and yet they still want to receive mercy…they are showing that they are any but good, moral and virtuous…they are showing that they want wickedness to reign unhindered throughout all eternity unchecked by God.

They are saying that God should change and be like them, instead of them changing and being like God! Total wickedness!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Before we begin to look at some of the objections to hell. It is probably a good idea for us to have some understanding of what “hell” is. Let me emphasize once again that I do not hold to the Bible’s teaching about hell because it fills me with the warm fuzzies. My emotional comfort, my minds understanding is never the ultimate authority in the universe…and I don’t want to rock your world…but neither is yours. God is the absolute!

Today, we will look at one verse and mull it over…

Vs. 22 “The rich man also died and was buried…and being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes…”

Jesus’ teaching in this verse stands in stark opposition to much of what people in our culture like to think about concerning death! I have been to quite a few funerals in my life and what I have found out is that it doesn’t really matter what type of life you lived, or what you believed…because…at ‘your’ funeral…not only is some guy going to dress you to the nines, and put make-up on you to make you look your best, physically, but people are going to say all kinds of nice things about you…whether those things were really a part of you or not!

To tell you the honest truth…it really doesn’t matter what the minister and the rest of the people say about me on this side of death’s veil…if it doesn’t match the info that God has about me on the other side of it. In the end…all the nice words that people make up about me and you means nothing if we didn’t really love Jesus and trust our never dying souls in Him!

Our culture wants to sugar-coat death…everyone gets a “get out of jail free” card!

There is a saying that is popular in our culture, “All paths lead to God.”

To a certain extent this saying is true…when we die we will all stand before God in judgment…so all paths do lead to God the judge…but all paths do NOT lead to salvation!

Jesus tells us very clearly that NOT everyone is going to spend eternity in heaven…and the only other option is NOT non-existence…it is going to a place of suffering…or as Jesus said…torment!

What will be the nature of this suffering? The Bible speaks in language of “fire”!

Some Christian’s interpret the fire language to mean “literal” fire, while others believe that the language of fire is speaking in metaphoric language. In either case, both sides believe that the “fire” whether it is literal or symbolic for something else is going to be horrific…and will cause suffering.

If you have never seen Mel Gibson’s, “The Passion” you should rent it. And as you watch it, witnessing the brutal beating that Jesus suffered physically…remind yourself that the worst torment that Jesus suffered on the cross was not due to the physical torture of the nails that were pinning Him to the cross!

While on the cross, Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath…the wrath of hell was poured out on Jesus…because Jesus had voluntarily taken the place of everyone who would trust Him, and call Him Lord!

Those who reject Jesus will drink this cup themselves for all eternity! The fire of God’s judgment and wrath will pour upon their rebellion for endless ages!

God is holy and perfect and His nature must punish evil and wickedness wherever it is found!

The Bible tells us that God is a consuming fire!

But…the suffering of hell is not merely going to be external…as horrible as that will be in and of itself…hell will also be, in a sense, self-made.

Hell is also going to be a place where the suffering is within. For all eternity a person’s lusts, hungers and thirsts will ever increase and yet never be fulfilled!

In hell, a person will fully remember every gift they were given by God, they will see their lack of gratitude in full light, they will remember every opportunity that God gave them to turn from their sin and come to Jesus for mercy, and they will remember their hateful rejection of those opportunities!

One of the most horrifying realities of hell will be that there is absolute no hope, no end in sight, no end…period!

Christian writer, C.S Lewis said that on the day of Judgment there will be two types of people. Those who say to God, “Thy will be done!”, and those to whom God will say, “thy will be done.”

If you want to try and understand what hell will like, begin by looking at the God who made us and then start subtracting!

In my first couple years as a Christian I can remember a man telling us to look in the Bible to see what God’s attributes are…here is a beginning list from Galatians 5: 22-23, God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Please note that the Bible doesn’t say that God merely has these characteristics…instead…He IS these things!

Next, this preacher encouraged us to go home and grab a Thesaurus…and find the antonym [opposite] of each of these attributes.

The people who tell God I want nothing to do with you…should really know what they are asking for…here are the opposites of God’s character.

Hell will be a place of undiluted hatred, turmoil, discontent, cruelty, wickedness, disloyalty, rage, and chaos.

Because God is absolutely perfect and holy, He cannot tolerate sin! Those who demand on clinging to their sin are telling God they do NOT want Him.

Now, finally, we will begin to look at some of the objections that people have against the Bible’s teaching on hell…next time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Identity Theft

Before we begin to read the following passage it is good for us to understand what exactly we are going to be reading.

First, Jesus is the One who is doing the teaching in this passage.

Second, Jesus is teaching by the use of a parable. In very simplistic terms a parable is a story that uses earthly peoples and objects to point the listener to deeper truths about God’s heavenly kingdom and about God’s dealings with men. When we read a parable we are not reading a story about real people…BUT…we are reading a story that is teaching us about real 'types' of people and the 'real' things that God says about them. Jesus, as the perfect Teacher has made these characters up to teach us realities about everyday happenings in this life, and also what things in the afterlife will be like.

In a later post we will look to see who the rich man is specifically, but today we will try and understand him in a more general way. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the passage, let’s first look at it;

Luke 16:19-31 [NKJV]
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment‘. Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’

Our passage opens up [Verses 19-23] showing us the lives of two men, a poor man named Lazarus and a rich man in whom a name is not given. In these two characters Jesus is showing us the lives, deaths and eternal destinies of the whole human race!

Why is it that Jesus gives us the name of one man and not the other? Jesus is showing us that one man had invested his deepest identity in Something that endured past this life, while the other man did not. The reason why Lazarus still had an identity in eternity was for the sole fact that while in this life he had intermingled his identity with Jesus. He had trusted Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins and he had trusted in Jesus for his full acceptance before God and man.

This is the wisest choice that a person can make. To make the Creator of the universe your identity [as He has commanded us to] means that He is our greatest treasure, our deepest passion, our reason for living. It also means that our identity doesn’t end here and now. It means we have a purpose for living in the time God has given us in this life, and it also means that we have a purpose in the eternity that awaits us.

Please notice that Jesus doesn’t give the other man a name. The second man is known merely as ‘a rich man’. Remember, Jesus isn’t just talking about one man! He is using this parable to show us the only two categories that human beings are divided into. The rich man in Jesus parable is a person who makes anything BUT Jesus their ultimate identity. Anything! This doesn’t only mean sex, drugs and rock and roll. It means absolutely any other person or thing, other than Jesus! If you put your ultimate trust in money or power, then you will get your identity from money and power. When you have lots of money and power you will feel fulfilled, successful, and accepted. And if you ever lose all your money, because it has become your identity, you will think your life is no longer worth living. We can see examples of this sad reality when the Stock Market crashes and people ended up taking their own lives because they lost their fortunes. When they lost their money and power they also lost their acceptance of how they viewed themselves as successful,or in other words, they lost their identities.

God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift we enjoy. When we take His gift’s and make them our highest and most ultimate identity we become what the Bible calls idolaters. An idol isn’t only a block of wood or stone that is shaped into a false god. An idol is anything you put your ultimate trust in, a trust that is due to God alone!

Jesus is teaching us something here that we already know, even though we try our hardest to keep it pushed far back in the corners of our minds. What is He teaching? Jesus is saying that no matter who you are. You may be reading this and you are very successful, you live in comfort and have many things in this life, but one day you are going to die and then comes God’s judgment. You may have little in this life, the world may view you as a failure and things may be going hard for you in this life, you also are going to die one day and be judged by God.

As we will see in a later post, Jesus’ teaching in this parable is in agreement with the rest of God’s word. Because God is truth, God’s word will not contradict itself [even though there are places that may appear to contradict at first sight]. The Bible no where teaches that money is evil, or that the lack of it automatically makes a person righteous. The Bible teaches that the love of money is a root of all manner of evil. There are rich people in the world who are trusting Jesus, and there are rich people who are not. There are poor people in the world who are making Jesus their ultimate identity, and there are poor people who are not! Our eternal destinies do not depend on our social status, they depend on our what our relationship to Jesus is.

Jesus is teaching us that if our identity rests in the gifts that God is giving us, and not in God Himself, then when we step into eternity we will be left without God and without His gifts.

God cannot be fooled even though we often fool others and even try to fool ourselves!

You will devote your life to your highest and most ultimate treasure. You will prioritize your time, energy and money towards that treasure. You will make sacrifices for that treasure.

We cannot merely say with our lips that Jesus is our highest treasure...our lives must match this verbal declaration!