Friday, October 24, 2014

What If Ebola Doesn't Kill You?


Now upon seeing those two words, some are immediately going to think, "gee whiz Josh, here you go again with your gloom and doom scare tactics!" 

Yes, I have been accused of such things.  Some think I spend too much time talking about realities like sin, death, hell, etc.  They, like so many today think that the world has had enough of that.  Many think like Joel Osteen who says, "people don't need to be told that they are sinners.  They already know that." "It's not really my place to tell people that they might be going to hell."

I intend to show you that these statements are grossly unbiblical and that sin and death are a very real reality and must be spoken to.  The bad news is as important of a reality to understand as the good news.  It is every Christians responsibility to share both as often as possible.  Sin and death are not scare tactics, they are realities of the world we live in.  We are fools if we ignore them and we do an injustice to every soul with whom we do not share them.

I want to speak to the realities of sin and death because if what Joel Osteen says is true then Christ's commands, along with the rest of scripture, are pointless.

If that is true, then the question must be asked, "Why aren't sinners more concerned about their sin?"  

Here's the thing.  We live in a world where you hear about violence and death in the media seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.   Some think that they are plenty aware of mortality because of this, perhaps more than they would like to be.  We also live in a world where death is trivialized, in parody and drama alike, to the point that we become numb to it's reality.  

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I used to be like that.  It wasn't that I didn't believe people died or that I would one day.  I just had no idea how often people die.  If the truth be told, I did not want to know.  It was not something I meditated on much.  Most people don't want to think about such things.

For the last five years I have worked in a hospital emergency room.  There you become acutely aware of the fragility of life and the frequency of death.  There, you do not have the luxury of avoiding it.  

Whether we are believers in Christ or not, one thing we must all be believers in is death.  Unless Christ returns we will all face it.  The flaw most of us face is in waiting until some big disease is imminent or we are diagnosed with something potentially fatal before we consider our eternity.

Let me tell you, people drop dead every day.  People die unexpectedly of ailments or in accidents of various kinds every day.  Sadly, sometimes it happens intentionally.  It cannot be avoided.  It will not be avoided.  As I said, this is not a scare tactic.  It is simply something we all must give more attention to.

No Assumptions
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Only God knows the day we will die.  He numbers our days.(Psalm 139:16, Job 14:5-7)  We must not assume tomorrow.  2 Corinthians 6:2 says,"Now is the day of salvation".  

In Acts 17:22-34 the Apostle Paul is explaining to the men of Athens who the statue of their unknown God is actually representing.  He has explained to them that their unknown God is the Lord of heaven and earth who made the world and everything in it.  He has explained that He is not a God who lives in temples, nor is he served by man as if he needed anything.  He in fact, gives life and breath and everything to all mankind(Acts 17:24-25).  

Once Paul has established who God is he explains this in Acts 17:30.  He states, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

No one has the luxury of assuming tomorrow.  "It is appointed to men once to die, then the judgement"(Hebrews 9:27) 

The Apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 1:18-32 that everyone of us has knowledge of God through His creation. Yet we suppress the truth in unrighteousness and reject God.  That is why we are guilty.  That is why we are condemned without Christ.  That is why we will be judged.  Let's be clear, we are all in need of a Savior.  The righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ placed upon us, is the only hope we have.  None of us is righteous, no not one.(Romans 3:11-18)

Christian Responsibility
There is a difference in the eternal expectations for believers and unbelievers.  Those expectations begin the moment we are saved.  As I have said before, our concern is not for this life.  We need not fear death and how it may come.  This is because we know that in many ways our eternal benefits have already begun and will only continue in their fullness after we pass from this life.  Christ's righteousness is ours.  At the judgement, in which we will stand before God to give an account, Christ's active obedience will be the credit by which we gain entrance into heaven.

Consequently, our responsibilities become to be concerned for God's glory and; the eternities of those who are not giving Him the glory He is due, because they do not know Him.  Neither are they able to enjoy relationship with Him.  They cannot obey God, nor can they please Him because their minds are set on the flesh rather than the Spirit(Romans 8:6-8).

The weight of the truths that I have stated above for unbelievers are not something that we have the luxury of forgetting simply because we have hope in Christ Jesus.  In Matthew 28:19-20, known as The Great Commission, Christ commands all of His disciples then and now to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."  

In fact, Jesus states in Matthew 16:24 that "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  The weight of this statement would become more clear upon His death at the crucifixion.

Jesus gave these commands because He knew the weight and consequence of sin.  Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone else in the bible.  He called people to repentance because He did not want to see people go there.  

The Message
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Romans 1:16
Jesus understood the necessary means by which sinners would come to repentance.  His Gospel was and is the answer.  Christ designated that the Apostle Paul would do a considerable amount of the New Testament teaching that we have today.  

In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains the way in which this gospel would be made available.  He spends the first half of the letter speaking to our sinful state, our desperate need for a Savior, and sharing the Good News that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are the answer.  

He then spends the first half of Romans 10 explaining the simplicity of the gospel.  He explains that "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  He goes on to explain that this process is available to everyone regardless of race, color, creed, or previous sinful behaviors or thoughts.(Romans 10:9-13)

Then comes the weighty part that every Christian needs to feel.  It is true that the Holy Spirit changes hearts and causes people to believe.  However, in Romans 10:14-17 he explains that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.  He explains that none can call on the name of the Lord unless they have believed, and none can believe if they do not hear, and none can hear unless someone preaches, and none can preach unless they are sent. 

That's The Answer!  
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We are the answer.  Every single believer is the answer to the dilemma of how the lost will hear.  We are the answer to why unbelievers do not seem very concerned with the sinfulness of sin or fear it's consequences. We are the answer to why they do not see the value in the gospel. 

We are the means of spreading the gospel that the Holy Spirit uses to change hearts.  We are the answer to them understanding that they are already DEAD in their transgressions and sins and; that they need to be made ALIVE in Christ.  We are the answer to their understanding of the need for a saving faith that is a gift of grace.(Ephesians 2:1-10)    

We are commanded by Christ to look for every opportunity to make sure that every unbeliever understands their need for a Savior.  We are commanded to ensure that every unbeliever hears that this need has been satisfied if only they will repent and believe.  We are commanded to let them know that "there is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of LIFE, in Christ Jesus, has set them free from the law of sin and death"(Romans 12:1-2).

As long as you are a believer who has been given another day to live this life, everything in your life is intended to be a means to that end.  Nothing in your life past, present or future is a mistake.  It has all been purposed so that we can have opportunities to bring God glory by letting our light so shine before men that they would see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven(Matthew 5:13-16).  

You Can Be The Answer Too
If you are an unbeliever, Jesus died so that you could hear this good news.  The good news that there is hope and a new beginning and; it's only a heartbeat away.  The good news that you can be delivered from your slavery to sin and disobedience and set free to obey Christ as a slave to righteousness(Romans 6:17-18).  You can look forward to enjoying all the benefits of being in relationship with the Creator of the universe.  You get to be adopted into the family of God as sons(Romans 8:14-17).

So cry out to Him to save you.  Confess your sin and surrender your heart to Him.  You will know grace and joy in Christ.  Your desires will change and you will want to share this good news with others.  It is not a burden but a joy.  Run to the cross and learn to live according to God's word.

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God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  So find your satisfaction in Him today, that you may be justified and He may be glorified.

In Jesus name,


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear? (Not Just A Lyric)

King David's love for God's creation
King David was a great psalmist.  Many of the psalms in the bible are attributed to him.  In Psalm 19:1-2 David says,
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge."

Before King David was king, he was a shepherd. He had the pleasure of lying out under the night sky and observing the constellations, maybe seeing a shooting star here and there.  During the day he watched the sun move across the sky.  He probably observed those neat moments when the sun and moon both appear to be in the sky at the same time.

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In this day, we are so busy that we don't even notice the sun except to be bothered by it's brightness and put on sunglasses.  At night, especially in the city, you have to work really hard to see the stars.  We still seem to be fairly enamored by the moon and it's phases.  Not to mention when it gets really big or takes on some beautiful and unusual color as it reflects the suns' light or is eclipsed.

Childlike love for creation
The greatest way to enjoy the glories of the day and night sky are through the eyes of a child.  For myself, those eyes first came in my oldest son Ryan.  When Ryan was a toddler and learning to speak, his first word was moon.  He loved the moon.  He would ask for it and when he saw it, his face would light up as big and bright as the moon itself.  But when it went out of sight, he would get sad.  His whole countenance would change.  To this day he still loves nature and science.

We recently had the pleasure of getting up at 5:30 in the morning and watching a lunar eclipse as a family.  The stars were so clear in the night sky.  It was awesome and Psalm 19:1-2 kept coming to mind and I quoted it a few times to the boys.

Taking creation for granted
I believe David's appreciation for the life of the sky was as vibrant as that of Ryan's with just one difference.  A young child does not realize that they are looking at the very handiwork of God.  Do you?  As adults we get so busy with day to day life that we very rarely look up and appreciate God's handiwork.  We certainly don't think of it as declaring God's glory.  Oh from time to time, on a peaceful night and somewhere that there aren't many lights, I can get a good look at the sky.  When I do I actually remember, to some degree, the awe and wonder that is God's creation.

Do you take God's creation for granted?  I know I do.  I don't spend nearly enough time appreciating and expressing gratitude for what God has given me.  My boys Ryan and Alex know that nature is God's handiwork but at ages ten and six, I can already see them enjoying it, but not with the same awe and wonder that they did when they were smaller.

Teach your children!
What about your children?  That's where we come in.  Not only do we need to make a consistent effort at appreciating the splendor of the trees, the birds in the air, and the stars in the sky but we must remind our children.  We must help them never to forget that, not only is nature there, but it is crying out
 "Look at our Creator!  I'snt He Majestic?" 

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 "Glorify Him for He has done great things!"

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Once you hear it, teach your children to be active participants.  Ask them, "Do you hear it?"  "Do you hear what I hear?"  The heavens are declaring it.  All of nature is declaring the glory and majesty of our Almighty Creator.  Now obviously this is something we learn to see with our eyes and perceive with out hearts by God's grace.  However, we must teach our children to desire to do the same and pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to it.

Creations Revelation, Our Rejection.
Romans 1:18-21 states, and I paraphrase, that the very condemnation that necessitates a Savior is ours, because what can be known about God is plain in the things that have been made.  This is known as general revelation.  It says that we are guilty and without excuse because we know our Creator and yet we reject Him.

At the fall, Adam and Eve decided that what God had provided wasn't good enough if they could not take of the one tree that they were instructed to leave alone.  God's creation has been crying out to us about himself since the beginning.  We have been rejecting God's provision and God's authority ever since.

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That is why we are all guilty, condemned, and damned to hell.  That is why Jesus had to come to earth, take on flesh, live the life of perfect obedience that we could not live and die the death that we should have died.  He took the punishment by becoming sin.  He took all of the wrathful response to that sin which should have been ours.  He satisfied our debt.

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Good news!
The good news is, HE IS RISEN!!!  He conquered death.  Now the righteousness of His active obedience and victory over sin are available to us so that we can have eternal life.  Isn't that amazing?  We rejected God!  Yet, He sent His Son to live righteously and die to take the punishment for our sins; then raised him from the dead so that we could have access again to the Father for all eternity.

All we have to do is repent and have faith.  By God's grace we can have that childlike faith which once again appreciates all that God has done for us and yearns to obey Him.  If you have never known this gift of faith that leads to belief, repentance, and eternal life, you can have it.  Cry out to God.  He hears our cries and He can save you and change your life right now.

May we all come with childlike faith and learn to enjoy the majestic handiwork of our Heavenly Father, from creation to the cross, once again.

In Jesus name,