Friday, February 22, 2019

The Rewards of Ministry in The Salvation Army: William Booth's Vision of Heaven

Audio Message:

This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

We are each called by God to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as officers of The Salvation Army to love and serve him supremely all our days, to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of our lives, to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends. Today we gather to celebrate the rewards of ministry! We gather as a body of believers, as Christian soldiers. But we are not alone.

We find ourselves surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, down through the ages of history, that attest to the life of faith. And it goes back much further, to the very beginning, when one man named Abraham dared to believe God and strike out into the unknown. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, David, Solomon, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Erza, into the new era of John, Peter, James, Matthew, Paul, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, William Booth, Samuel Logan Brengle, Evangeline Booth, Paul Rader, Israel Gaither, Linda Bond, on and on the list goes. Look to your left and your right and you will see a present day hero of the faith. And they speak volumes.

Throughout human history, a lucky few, like you and me have had the privilege of being added to the number who are called by the name of Christ. That lineage goes back through history, and to the present day, where in these last days Christ has called you and me, to be preachers of this gospel.

There is a road, leading through the murky wastes of this life (can you see it?) It leads toward the brightness of God’s glory. Millions today are walking on this path home. And along this sacred road, God has assigned us, as way-makers, on the pathways home. We’re soldiers in the army of God marching along passage ways of glory, leading souls out of the darkened wilderness, and onto the pathways of life. What an amazing ministry we have! What a great journey we’re partaking of, to call God’s people home to Him.

Some of us sooner, and some of us later, will be sent out to outposts along these roads of glory, assigned to serve as officers of the Salvation Army. And we know though trials will come, we look forward to life full of the blessed rewards of ministry.

There are two areas of reward in our ministry. The first area is in the now, today. We experience the presence of God with us each day. 

As we serve in ministry, we get to watch as God changes people’s lives. We will see miracles happen in our corps. We will see people healed as they are prayed for by the congregation. We will get to see hopeless alcoholics and drug addicts suddenly change. We’ll get to teach children about Jesus, and watch their eyes light up as they realize how much Jesus loves them. We’ll spend our lives going from place to place in the mid-west of the United States setting the fires of revival and great awakening amongst the ranks of fallen humanity. We’ll get to minister to people of all walks of life, the poor, the rich, the mighty, the weak, and the hurting. Many of us will even go beyond the borders of the United States, to different parts of the world
 overseas to different parts of the world, like India, China, Tanzania, Kenya, Brazil, France, Pakistan, and others. We will come to people who no longer believe in a future or a hope, and get to see the moment when God relights the fire of hope in their soul. Like He did for me.

For many of us, we will have the honor and joy of serving alongside our own spouse, our wife, our husband, in ministry together, both called as one couple to serve together in officership. That is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine. Serving God together… how romantic… to live out the war romance of the Salvation Army.

The second area of reward in ministry, is in the future.
In the future, when we share in eternal life, with God almighty on the new earth, in the city of God called the New Jerusalem. There we will share in particular closeness with God, as we venture into a future of joy, peace, and unparalleled intimacy with God. In the new city of God we will experience an infinite future of new adventures that we can hardly imagine.

And as ministers of the gospel, having faithfully completed our calling, and won the race, we will be rewarded for every good deed we did, every soul we won to Christ, and every need we met in the world. 

William Booth experienced a foretaste of this blessed future in a dream once. Booth had several visions from the Lord in his life, the most famous being the vision of the platform, and those drowning in the sea. But he recorded another vision, in which he saw a heaven, from the book “Amazing Visions” Booth wrote:

“I am constrained to say no human eye ever beheld such beauty, no earthly ear ever heard such music, no human heart ever experienced such ecstasy as it was my privilege to see and hear and feel during the first hours I spent in the celestial country. Above me was the loveliest of blue skies. Around me was an atmosphere so balmy that it made my whole physical frame vibrate with pleasure. By the bank of roses, on which I found myself reposing, there flowed the clearest and purest of rivers, which seemed to dance with delight to the murmurings of its own waters. The trees that grew on its banks were covered with the greenest foliage and laden with most delicious fruit, sweet to my taste beyond all earthly sweetness. By lifting my hand I could pluck and eat the fruit to my heart’s delight. In every direction, above and around, the air was not only laden with the richest of odors yielded by the loveliest of flowers but also rendered vocal with sweetest sounds and filled with fairest forms. Floating about me were beautiful beings I felt by instinct were angels and archangels, seraph and seraphim, cherub and cherubim, together with the blood-washed and perfected saints who had come from the world below, sometimes far away and sometimes drawing nearer. The blue sky appeared at times to be full of white-winged, happy, worshiping, joyous beings, while the whole country—apparently of limitless extent—seemed to be filled with a blissful ecstasy that could only be realized by being experienced.”

The rewards of ministry are many, today in the joys of service, and tomorrow in the eternal life we’ll inherit. We are blessed beyond measure, to be chosen by God for this task. Let me leave you with this thought:

If Jesus Christ is really real, and the true and only way to eternal life, then what we do, proclaiming the gospel, is literally the single most important job on the planet. Nothing is more meaningful than what we do. Nothing is more critical. That is our greatest reward. And the saying is absolutely true: We are doing the most good imaginable. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Everything a Christian Needs to Know about Sex, Gender, and Marriage

How can a Christian live out sexual purity in a relativistic world?  And what should Christians believe about issues like sex, gender, and marriage?  We'll delve briefly into an array of issues, looking at how we can live out a holistic worldview of Christian purity.  

The goal of living out the Christian ethic in this area is holy wholeness, of embracing healing, life, integrity, peace, joy, and truth in the areas of sexuality that we navigate through in life.

Sexuality is a gift from God to humanity.  That much is quite certain from the scriptures.  One need only read scriptures like the Song of Solomon, that depicts the intoxicating romance between Solomon and his wife to realize sexuality is a good and holy thing.  God designed humanity in a basic format, as male and female from the beginning, which is shared with us in Genesis.  And God commands the first humans, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful, to have children and fill the Earth with their descendants. Jesus himself quoted from Genesis, in the book of Matthew when questioned about marriage and divorce. 

Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV) “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

God designed marriage from the beginning to be a bond between a man and woman that would never be broken in this life.  But of course we know that things went terribly wrong in the garden, and humanity turned against God. Humanity betrayed God, embraced the lie of Satan, and as a result creation was cursed, human nature became fallen, and humanity was expelled from paradise. 

Thus we face many situations where the good, holy, and blessed gift of sexuality becomes distorted, misused, and even used for evil.  Yet in our lives as Christians we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out sexual purity.  The gift of sexuality is still a free gift from God, and we can actively participate in it, assuming we are willing to navigate the world carefully.  

First we consider marriage.  Marriage is a sacred union of one man, and one woman, in which two people become one flesh.  They join their lives together, and this joining cannot easily be broken. Sadly, divorce is a common occurrence in our society.  The Bible says that God hates divorce, which is very strong language.  But one can see easily the terrible effects a divorce has on a family, for the reasoning behind why God hates divorce.  Divorce causes great sorrow, pain, and brokenness.  Marriage is not a simple contract, but a permanent bonding.  And there is only one biblical mandate that allows for divorce, according to Jesus, that is adultery.  Leaving a marriage in divorce just because of disagreements, or stresses, or because we "fell out of love" is worldly madness of the most foolish kind imaginable.  It's based in selfishness.  Of course there are situations, like when abuse is taking place, when one should meet one on one with their pastor/minister and discuss reconciliation and intervention.  

The act of sexual intercourse between husband and wife is a sacred act, by which male and female become one.  This union is powerful and not only emotional, but physical in nature.  This is why sexuality is meant to be practiced only in the context of marriage.  You'll notice that those who practice sexual intercourse with many partners will often appear disgruntled and empty.  When one unites with many sexual partners, one leaves behind pieces of themselves.  

Often today we treat sexual intercourse as a try out while dating.  This is not a wise or biblical practice for sexuality.  While sex with multiple partners is harmful emotionally and spiritually, it can also be harmful physically.  Many STDs are rampant throughout the human population, along with HIV.  

Of course of utmost concern is the chance of becoming pregnant.  It's ironic, that we as humans treat sex so cavalierly, as if it were some sort of sport, yet when the realization of pregnancy comes upon us, and the testing stick shows the red lines, we suddenly wake to the realization that sex is actually a sacred act, that produces a sacred God-given life, and we're shocked with the reality that we've treated God's gift of sex as if were some damp rag to be used to get our jollies off. 

What about masturbation?  Surely if a Christian must refrain from sexual intercourse outside marriage, and given that young adults are getting married at later and later ages, surely God must allow for masturbation as an antidote for those pesky lustful desires?  Fortunately God is much wiser than us.  And masturbation ought to be considered clearly outside the defined boundaries of biblical sexuality.  And masturbation, far from being an act that drives off the lustful desires of youth, actually intensifies them, and as masturbation is practiced, the lustful desires become stronger and stronger.  Interestingly enough, as masturbation is refrained from, the lustful desires lose more and more power.  Eventually their power is defeated, and God's victory is declared in your heart and life.  If your caught up in masturbation, pray constantly to the Lord about this issue, and He will set you free.  

Obviously as we consider masturbation the issue of pornography instantly comes up.  What you'll notice, and what I've noticed more and more over time is that these sexual issues in our culture are all connected to one another.  Pre-marital sex to abortion, masturbation to pornography, pornography connected to human sex trafficking, and so on and so forth.  It's all a tangled web, intricately connected.

Pornography is the act of watching pre-recorded materials of two or more human beings, created in the image of God, engaging in sexual intercourse.  Pornography is obviously a destructive perversion of God's will for sexuality.  Sexual activity is meant to be between two people, and when another person enters as an onlooker the sacredness of the sexual act is lost.  Often times the argument for pornography is simply this: "Everybody is doing it, and if you say you don't, your lying." This is a lie.  Many, many people don't use pornography in any form.  This is a bandwagon fallacy, suggesting everyone is doing it (which is false) and thus you should do it (which is also false).  Even if every single human does something, I still have a choice as to if I'm going to do it or not.  And the truth is, many, many people don't view pornography.  As such they shouldn't, because it's simply evil.  Many of the actors and actresses in the pornography business may actually be sex trade victims themselves.  Pornography fuels lust, pornography fuels the sex trade industry, pouring money into it, and thus those who view pornography inevitably end up supporting sex trafficking in some form.  Don't be part of that.  Cry out to God for freedom from it.  Pray against it. 

Human Trafficking is a great evil of our time, in which women, men, and children are kidnapped, coerced, or groomed into the industry of sex slavery.  Women are used as sex objects, repeatedly raped, until they die, and all of this for the purpose of making money.  Sex tourists travel, and use these men and women as sex objects for their own gratification.  Human trafficking must be prayed against, spoken out against, and stopped worldwide.  Human trafficking is evil.  And victims must be rescued from the sex trafficking industry, and traffickers must be stopped, healed, and delivered to healing as well.  Pray hard. Human trafficking is ultimately a consequence of the fall of humanity, and the desire of humanity to play god, and redefine sexuality to suit our own desires.

Abortion is another consequence of humanity's fall, and a consequence of seeing sexuality as a sort of sport arena for engaging in fun and conquest. Those pesky unborn babies end up showing up on the test, and humans are painfully reminded that sexuality is directly connected to procreation, not just entertainment.  Abortion is a sacrifice of a sort, in which an unborn child is sacrificed on the altar of expediency, on the altar of sexual fun, and tossed aside as a non-human being, a clump of cells, to be discarded based on convenience.  Abortion denies the sanctity of human life, and destroys a human life.  Abortion very simply is murder, and on a larger scale, is genocide.  

Next we consider the issue of homosexuality.  What is a biblical understanding of homosexuality?  Clearly, from a plain reading of the scriptures, we understand that to practice homosexual activity is sinful (Romans 1:24-29).  

1st Corinthian 6:9-10 states, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Now it's important to remember that this scripture says "the practice of homosexuality."  To have temptations toward homosexual behavior is not blameworthy in itself.  It is not sin to be tempted.  All people are tempted in various ways, I may be more inclined to certain sins, others have their unique temptations, and that is the way of things on Earth.  But one's willingness to abstain and resist temptation is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  

If you struggle with temptations toward this sin, God is calling you to celibacy and abstinence from the practice of this sin.  God may remove the temptations over time, or they may not be removed.  It's same with any other sin.  Sometimes we find we are no longer tempted through prayer and scripture study, other times our 'thorn in the flesh' remains.  

There is never any excuse to treat someone who is homosexual, abstaining, or active, with any less dignity than you'd treat any other person.  We are all made in the image of God.  And we are called to love people, and help them to find the love of Jesus Christ.  Of course we also can't encourage homosexuality as a positive good, for that would be encouraging sinfulness.  And as teachers and leaders, and people of the body of Christ, we will not be held blameless if we lead others astray in this manner.  So the equation is to show great love, mercy, and dignity to those who struggle in this area, while also guiding them toward the truth found in the scriptures and the freedom found in Jesus Christ.

More and more so, we find that those who embrace homosexuality, more so than just embracing a preference in sexuality, are placing their whole identity in that lifestyle.  And we have to help people understand that their true identity is in Jesus Christ, not in sexual desire. 

Lastly, we consider the topic of gender.  There is an increasing amount of confusion about gender in our society today.  Might you be wondering why this is?  Well, one of the ideologies prominent in our society today is post-modernism, which brings with it relativism, and naturalism.  These ideologies look to deconstruct in many ways preconceived notions about society and how we live.  They are essentially working to overturn many of the assumed Christian beliefs that had informed western civilization in the past.  So if the only basis for gender is found in the Bible, and in historic civilization, they look to deconstruct that, and change that if some people are being left out, and so on.  

Thus we find ourselves with many new genders being created, seemingly out of thin air.  I've read that something like 56 exist, with more being created over time.  The basic idea is that "gender" is a social construct, meaning to them: It's not really real.  Thus they believe since it's simply a social construct that they can take it and adjust it to fit the needs of less fortunate individuals. If someone thinks they are gender fluid, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming, then that must be true, because in post-modernism the desires of the individual are king.  

As Christians we know that gender is not simply a social construct, but the way in which God created us, male and female, from the beginning. As it says in Genesis 1:27 (ESV) "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

As people are increasingly confused about gender and what it means, we as Christians can be a prophetic voice to the lost people of society, calling them to embrace the truth of God's word, and understand that gender is not simply a human construct, but a divine gift of God.  Once again in gender confusion we find people are put their whole identity in their gender, in transitioning from male to female, or female to male, they place their whole identity their.  And we must help people to see that their identity is rooted in Christ, in the divine image of God, and the hope of eternal life. 

Thanks for reading, and please be in prayer for those who struggle in many of these areas, from families ruined by divorce, to those addicted to pornography, and those struggling with the results of human trafficking and pornography, and of course those who struggle with homosexuality and gender confusion.  

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Should Christians use the "White Privilege" label to Help Others?

One of the evils of society that Christians should and do fight against is the evil of racism.  Racism is a great evil in that it destroys the unity of humanity, and divides people.  It destroys the image of God in others, by causing people to hate and distrust one another because of the color of their skin.  Racism is the idea that one race is superior or inferior to another, which is of course completely false.  

In the word of God we see that really the only distinction God viewed in humanity was the distinction between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews).  But even then, once the new covenant came, and Jesus Christ won the victory for us on the cross, we see a foundational scripture that declares a total unity in the body of Christ.  

It's found in Galatians 3:28 which states,"You are all one in Christ."  There are no more prior distinctions, like male or female, slave or free, or Jew or gentile.  The body of Christ is a unity.  It's one body.

Recently in society, particularly in the west, the label of "white privilege" has begun to spread throughout some sectors of society, usually in larger cities.  Is this a label and ideology that the Christian church should adopt in fighting racism?  Why or why not? 

The idea of white privilege is to show that people of color, are systemically oppressed, or disadvantaged in western society.  The idea is that Anglo-Saxon peoples are born with privilege in society, people whose heritage is from Europe, such as Poland, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, Germany, Russia, and so on.

The American ideal is that all people should be treated equally.  That is the hope that was enshrined in the declaration of independence, and it was implemented to varying degrees, imperfectly, until the modern time.  Of course people aren't always treated equally.  One example is of course slavery in the past, and after that Jim Crow laws, that kept races separate.  Sixty years after the abolition of such laws, we continue to see the debate rage in American society about mistreatment of people of color.  

Is it true that people of color are treated fundamentally different in western society?  Some say yes, and some say no.  Many would point to police brutality toward African-american young men.  Others point out that when looking at statistics nationwide, more white people are killed by police than black each year per capita.  Others say that racism went underground after Jim Crow and continues to be a constant struggle in society.  Still others say that the election of President Barack Obama was a signal that society had moved into a new era of racial peace and equity.  Overall, there are arguments on both sides that have decent support.  Is there inequity?  Probably in some aspects of society, and probably not in others.  

But let's set aside the question of if it's actually true.  Because the more pertinent question for us is, does saying "white privilege" and telling people to "check their privilege" help anyone?  To me the answer to that question has to be no.  

When someone indicates "white privilege" one of two things will happen.  Either a person of color will believe that society is fundamentally racist, and that white people are fundamentally oppressing them.  This contributes to a mindset of victim-hood.  And when someone views themselves as a victim, very little good can come from that.  A victim mentality often leads to a self-defeating mindset that one is can't hope to escape the evils of racism and inequity in society, and thus they shouldn't try.  Instead they can quickly become self-defeated, and pessimistic, and even hostile toward society.  

The other situation is that well-meaning white people become guilt-ridden, and disturbed, and in the worst case, they can become hostile, and begin to believe that people of color hate them, and are racist toward them.  This is not a good thing my friends.  

When the label of white privilege comes up, fundamentally, it divides people.  It causes people of color to view the world as fundamentally racist and hostile, and it can cause white people to take on self-defeating guilt, and even hostility.  The label of white privilege does not sow peace, or unity.  Instead it sows division, and divides people against each other.  It divides whites against blacks, it divides blacks against whites, it divides Asians against whites, whites against Latinos, and on and on the list goes. It sows guilt, hostility, hatred, racism, and division. 

Instead of pushing the concept of 'white privilege' we as the church should proclaim the concept of 'unity in Christ.'  We should insist on total unity and equity between all believers in Christ.  We should call our people to reach out to people who are in need.  But we should fundamentally work for unity, whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, and all peoples uniting as a single unity, a single body of Christ.  We are one.  We are one people, undivided.  I don't even like using these labels of white and black and Latino and so on. It just subconsciously promotes more disunity and division.  We are one people.  And we must treat each other with love, truth, equality, and liberty.  The best way to do that is to promote unity in love, not the resentment, hate, and divisiveness of concepts like "white privilege."  

In a time of mounting seemingly endless disharmony, disunity, and polarization, we must work twice as hard as Christians to promote love, compassion, forgiveness, equality, and unity in these times.  Remember, we are one body, the body of Christ, and though we are diverse elements of this body, we are fundamentally a united body of Christ.  Amen. 

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Living as Exiles in Babylon: Christians in Culture

As we look at 1st Peter chapter 2 and 3, we consider the background of this epistle. Peter wrote his letter to Jewish Christians in the dispersion throughout Asia Minor, in the Roman Empire. Jewish Christians were the recipients, but Peter also speaks clearly to the gentile Christians throughout Asia Minor as well. And Peter writes to these people, exiles, foreigners, people who are scattered, and he instructs them on how to live as exiles in a foreign land. But we will see that its more complicated than just Jews in exile, but more so, Christians in a fallen world.

Peter addresses many questions for us, that we even have today: How do we live in a society that doesn’t honor God? How do we live in our little Babylon, honoring God, but also obeying the laws and precepts of American society?

Watch this video from the The Bible Project titled “Exile.”

1st Peter chapter one begins with a greeting, then goes into a beautiful depiction of the salvation message, split equally between grace through faith in Christ, and then a strong message of holiness and purity in the world. This section about holiness, which the NIV titles “Be holy” concludes by saying “put aside all sin, and grow up in your salvation.” So the context for our scripture today is this exhortation to be holy as God is holy. That leads into our portion, which seems to be the “how” of holiness. It starts “As you come to him, the living Stone…” How do we be holy? Continuously coming to Christ.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” -1st Peter 2:4-5

From the Reformation Study Bible: “living stone. Christ is this stone (1 Cor. 10:4). The image of “rock” and “stone” is common in the Old Testament (Ps. 118:22; Is. 8:14; 28:16) and is applied by Jesus to Himself (Matt. 21:42). “Living” indicates that Christ is the source and giver of life (John 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:45). Jesus often uses imagery drawn from stonemasonry, a trade He was intimately acquainted with. Carpenters in antiquity worked with stones as well as wood.”

Question: It says Jesus was rejected by humans but chosen by God. How in your life have you experienced a rejection from humanity? Have you noticed ways in your life that God shows he considers you chosen and precious?

Question: We’re spiritual stones, being built into a house of God. What spiritual sacrifices do you offer to God? (morning detail, 6 am snow shoveling? Big or small, doesn’t matter)

We are exiles in the world, and yet we are so precious and chosen, and being built as a holy priesthood in a lost world.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” -1st Peter 2:9-10

Question: What was it like before you knew Christ as Lord? “Once you were not a people.”

It was very dark for me. I was a badly addicted soul. Several times in early twenties I was near suicide. I didn’t know what life was really about. And I called out to God that night and I felt only emptiness. Life without God is very dark, at least for me it was.

Question: What’s it like now to live with Christ in the light?

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” -1st Peter 2:11-12

The sinful desires of this life wage war against our very souls. Which tells me that I’m in danger. We find ourselves as foreigners and exiles in a kingdom that is not our own. We wrestle with the sins of Babylon, and try to throw them off ourselves. And that’s what God calls us to. Abstain from sinful desires God says to us. Abstain by prayer and the Spirit’s victory in us.

For me, I’ve had to really wrestle, to kind of see past the indoctrination our society has put in me. If I don’t resist, I’m prone to become selfish, materialistic, always accumulating more possessions, loving my Starbucks and my high tech gear, and my luxurious accommodations more than I love God. The idol of self is the primary false god of modern society, in my view.

God gives us a radically different way: Live such pure lives among the people here that even if they accuse us of evil, they will see the good we do, and give glory to God.

Question: Have you ever worried that you might have one foot in the world, and one foot in the faith? How can we overcome and give all to God?

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” -1st Peter 2:13-16

Peter didn’t write to the diaspora exiles saying, “Work to overthrow the Roman empire.” Or “Gather yourselves to initiate revolts.” Instead Peter writes saying submit yourself, for the sake of God, to all human authorities.

The irony of these statements, especially verse 14, is that Peter writes that governors and leaders are “sent by God to punish those who do wrong, and commend those who do right” and it’s interesting because of how the authorities in Jerusalem persecuted the church. And soon the church would be under heavy persecution from Nero. Yet despite all that, Peter says submit to all human authorities. “Live as free people” it says “but don’t use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” How many of us have seen Christians who live worldly lives and when you try to encourage them to change, they say, “Well your just being legalistic.”

I’ve encountered that many times. We can certainly abuse our freedom in Christ by using it as a vale for sin, and every time we sin we say, “Well I’m free in Christ.” That is not a proper use of God’s freedom, because God’s freedom calls us to be free from sin, and slaves to Christ.

Question: How do you see the contrast of freedom in Christ and slavery to God play out in your life?

Freedom in Christ I see as freedom from the shackles of sin. Sin is addictive, and Christ sets me free from it. But paradoxically, I’m also a slave to God, one who is called to take part in good works to his service. But I enjoy those works of service, and the shackles of sin offered no such eternal rewards as service to God does.

“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.” -1st Peter 2:18-19

Some of the diaspora Jews and believers would be slaves in the Roman empire. Did Peter write to them saying, “Overthrow your masters, kill them in their sleep?” No he didn’t.

Does this mean that the Bible condones and approves of slavery? Of course not! This scripture simply points out a reality of the ancient world. He is instructing slaves to obey God, and through submission to authority win others to the cross of Christ. And if one suffers under the yoke of slavery, they are glorifying God.

Of course God knew that slavery would one day be abolished, by Christians like William Wilberforce. But in the context of 2000 years ago, it was simply a reality of ancient society. Remember, Peter didn’t write to Christians telling them to overthrow governments, instead Christians were called to walk in the tension of ultimate worship of God, and submission to human authorities.

“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. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” -1st Peter 2:23-25

In verse 23-25 we see a picture of Christ’s perfect form of submission. People hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate. He suffered, but made no threats. And instead he trusted Himself to God. And not only that, Jesus put our sins on himself in his body on the cross. So that we could die to sin, and live for righteousness sake. We were once empty, lost, confused people without a true place. But now we have come back to the shepherd, and walk in his flock. So while we walk in the world, we are exiles, caught in the tension between submission to God, and submission to the various Babylon’s in which we live.

Question: How have you failed to submit to government, authorities, and employers? How have you succeeded?

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. -1st Peter 3:1-2

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. -1st Peter 3:7

Here we see the concept of submission, which has moved from government, to masters, to the example of Christ’s submission, and now comes to wives and husbands. God gave us the great gift of marriage, between man and woman, exclusively, and he gave us guidelines which are quite clear: mutual submission. That doesn’t mean we meet halfway, that doesn’t mean we put up which each other’s nonsense, it means we submit to each other.

Wives are told that if they have unbelieving husbands, that the purity of their lives will win their spouses over for Christ.

Husbands are told to be considerate of their wives, and treat them with respect. Don’t look down on your wife, don’t treat her like an object, don’t be harsh with her, but be respectful. And respectful in a manner such as this: the realization that you and your wife are heirs of the gift of eternal life. Heirs. Now let me ask you this: What are heirs? They are receiving an inheritance. Now in the context of the body of Christ, heirs are considered what in authority? Equal. Equal heirs of eternal life. Isn’t that interesting? Of course it also refers to the woman as the “weaker partner.” And it also gives the reference that Sarah submitted to Abraham and called him her lord, but we should balance that with a general sense of equality (Galatians 3:28).

So what’s the overall message we can take from these scriptures in 1st Peter chapters 2 and 3? First of all, we know we are chosen, from out of the world, from darkness, and we’ve been brought into the light. And we’re a temple of God. In fact, it says we were predestined for this. We recognize that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of this temple we’re a part of.

Second, we recognize that each of us are like bricks in this house being built up. We’re each different pieces of this puzzle which fits together to form the body of Christ.

Then we are told that we’re foreigners and exiles from the world. We’re a gathering of refugees out of the world, who live in this tension between being citizens of heaven, while still being in this fallen world. We’re told to live such pure lives among Babylon that the Babylonians are amazed and it helps win them to Christ.

Then we’re given this exhaustive list of submissions that we’re supposed to live in. We’re to be submitted to government authorities. We’re to be submitted to our masters, to our leaders. And we’re to be submitted to our wives and to our husbands.

Bullet Points:

-Chosen as part of God’s temple.

-Live pure lives in exile.

-Submit to God, to government, to masters, and to your spouses.

Application Questions:
Question: Do you really see yourself as part of a new kingdom? Or do you still live like an average American chasing the dream of money, family, and good insurance policies?

Question: What parts of your life do you need to unhook from this fallen world to live out a more authentic Christian walk?

Question: Do you practice submission to government authority? Do you practice submission in your marriage relationships? Do you practice submission to those you work for? How can we live it out more fully, the act of Christ-like submission?

Bible Gateway. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2019, from
Bromiley, G. W. (2001). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
Mackie, T., & Collins, J. (n.d.). The Jewish Exile. Retrieved January 28, 2019, from
Sproul, R. C., & Mathison, K. A. (2008). The Reformation Study Bible. Orlando, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Can One Sin In My Life Lead Me to Hell?

"Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." -Romans 13:13-14 ESV 

In our modern day we as Christians can assume that we're fine with one foot in and one foot out.  We've got the whole grace through faith in Christ equation going in our lives.  That's what it's really all about right?  I mean, if we have some active sins in our lives, no big deal right?  I mean, nobody can be perfect.  Especially if it's just some of the 'small sins.'  After all we've got grace, right?

Part of the equation of salvation is the recognition that we've set aside our old selves, which were corrupted by sin, and we've "put on" our new selves which are being built up in righteousness.  Indeed, the equation of salvation is fairly simple, as Jesus put it, "repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). 

"Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." -Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)

And again, "Be holy as I am holy, for without holiness no one will see the Lord" 1st Peter 1:15-16.

Also it is written: "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." -Hebrews 12:14

So, let's say I'm a Christian, and I live my life in service to God, preaching the gospel, and living a set apart life.  But during my life I never repent (turn away from) the sin of stealing.  I occasionally download music illegally from the internet.  I do that in my life, then I die, and face God in the judgment at the end of the world.  Do I go to heaven or hell?  

Another example, we have a woman, shes a Christian, lives for God, and serves in lay ministry.  But there's a sin in her life that she treasures, it's the sin of gossip.  She loves to speak about others, and share details about their lives, and she can sometimes be harsh and cruel in her private judgments.  So she dies, and she goes to face God on judgment day.  Where does she go?

Another example, we have a man who is a Christian, but he holds out a fair amount of unforgiveness toward people who have hurt him.  Other than that, he leads a pure life, but he feels justified in not forgiving others who have sinned against him.  He dies suddenly, and goes before God.  Where does he go?

Still another example, a man struggles with pornography and masturbation.  He's a minister, and he preaches to a large congregation.  He gives a good witness, but has a private addiction that he never addresses despite the Holy Spirit prodding him to do so.  Where does he go when he dies and faces God?

One final example, a godly Christian woman has led dozens of people to Christ, she's done great deeds in His name, but she hangs on to a certain habit.  She asks a friend at a local pharmacy to get pills for her, and give them to her, for a sickness she has, which she could pay for, but since her friend works there, she gets them for free. The Holy Spirit has convicted her many times, but she refuses to set those things aside. As she passes away, and faces God, where will she go?  Heaven or hell? 

The truth is that each of these people in these scenarios would not go to heaven, they would go to hell.  Can a Christian end up going to hell?  Yes they very much can.  We each have a requirement in our personal lives of living in holiness and purity before God.  

This is a high standard of living, but it's quite thoroughly livable in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Thankfully for each of us, the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, convicting us, rebuking us, comforting us, and helping us live out our Christian walk.  But we have the choice of resisting the Spirit's leading, and clinging to our old sins.  And if we don't "repent and believe the gospel" but remain unrepentant (unwilling to change) we shouldn't expect to inherit eternal life.  Instead we'll inherit condemnation.  

Ephesians 4:30-31 "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice."

Our sins are washed away by the powerful blood of Jesus Christ.  He has paid our debt of sin.  But it was a high, high cost to pay.  Jesus didn't die on the cross, so we could continue sinning in our earthly lives, and use him as a constant damp rag to wipe off our own sin over and over again.  Sadly, we often have a cavalier attitude toward sin in our day and age.  We comfort ourselves with catch phrases about grace, grace, and more grace. In fact it seems as if many of these grace-junkies in the church worship the idea of grace more so than God himself. Now grace is absolutely a central theme of our faith. But it's not the end all be all. Many have used the concept of grace as an excuse to live in sin, not realizing that the scriptures clearly tell us that we've been called to live pure, holy, set apart lives.  

If you are caught in a sin in your life right now, realize this: Jesus Christ will set you free.  The Holy Spirit is right there with you, willing and able to set you free.  Follow His leading!  Any sin that we commit on Earth, as long as we come to Christ in prayer, confess the sin, and repent (turn away from it) we know we will be forgiven.  The important thing is to move into the future and not continue to habitually commit that sin again and again.

Our God is a God of great love.  In fact the word of God tells us God is love.  But our God is also a consuming fire. Heaven and hell are both realities.  We should live in light of that, trembling before our Heavenly Father, and learning to fear Him and as such, live holy lives of reverence and awe for God.

Sadly, this is a somewhat lost teaching in the pulpits of modern day Christianity.  Pastors don't wants to offend anyone.  Pastors don't want to risk losing church members by preaching on those pesky "sin and judgment" verses.  After all it's the message of love that will get people saved right?  Well, yes and no. Love is very important, yes.  But often times we need a good dose of some raw facts about sin and hell, to motivate us toward repentance and change.  Should we share about these things in order to scare people to change?  Not at all.  But people should be taught, and should be warned about the many messages about purity and holiness in the scriptures. We're abdicating our duty if we ignore them. We can't ignore and minimize the warnings of hell and eternal torment in the scriptures.  We can't just write these things out because we don't like them, or think they might offend someone.  

Holiness is our calling.  And holiness we must have, in order to see God.  We all struggle, and stumble in many ways. But in the journey of our lives, as the Holy Spirit convicts us, and calls us out of sin, we should be quick to respond, and quick to repent, realizing that to remain in sin, even as a professing Christian, is to leave our souls in great danger.  God loves us.  Jesus will help us be free from sin.  But we have to take dutiful action as the Spirit convicts and leads us.  But please don't be afraid.  As it is written, "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" -Philippians 1:6.  

But I will remind you, that this is not a message that you will hear from many pulpits in our modern day and age of feel good worship experiences and self help sermons.  Which is why it's more important then ever that Christians read the Bible for themselves, carefully, and understand everything that is written.  Don't trust in theological systems, don't trust what the pastor or priest says, trust what the Bible says, line by line, and carefully studied.  

I've made the mistake in the past of clinging too closely to a preferred theological system, whether it be Arminianism or Calvinism or whatever. Don't make that same mistake.  Hold closely to the word of God, and hold lightly to the theological systems of man.  I had noticed over the years of my faith that there seemed to be a disconnect between what I heard in pulpits and what I was reading in the Bible.  

But I comforted myself that the preachers must know better than me about the word, and theology.  But often times that's not the case, and if we see something in the Bible, we should study it and learn it, and follow it to it's logical conclusion.  Heaven is real and hell is real.  Jesus Christ is real.  Everything hangs in the balance.  Don't let any man or woman deceive you with empty words or hollow philosophy.  

As it says in Galatians: "We are each responsible for our own conduct. Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit." -Galatians 6:5-8 NLT

So what is the final answer? Can one sin in my life lead me to hell? The answer to this question is yes.  One sin that the Holy Spirit has repeatedly convicted you of, and you've consistently resisted that call to change, throughout your whole life, to the moment of death (which is an unknown moment for each of us) can and will lead you to hell.  

Our God is a holy, pure, perfect, righteous God of love, grace, and mercy.  He has given us everything we need to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  But if we snub the Lord, living with one foot in holiness and one foot in sin, we shouldn't expect for the outcome to be heaven, but instead hell and punishment.  I'm sorry, I know, it's a tough teaching, but that is God's standard.  

There are no big and small sins, to sin by breaking one command is to break them all.  But thankfully we have a great savior in Jesus Christ who actively walks with us through this life, and His Spirit is within us, helping us to grow further and further away from sin and deeper and deeper into righteousness.  If you walk with Jesus Christ, He will make you to be holier and holier day by day.  Do that carefully, giving consideration to your ways, and you won't have to worry about falling short of eternal life.  But if you resist the Spirit of God and lazily allow sin to prevail in your Earthly life, realize that the word says you'll reap what you sow.  

Trust in God, brothers and sisters, and give no provision for the flesh to obey it's desires, but live instead to obey the Spirit and fulfill His desires in you.  Amen. 

 Related Posts:
  1. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
  2. Israels flight from Egypt to the Promised Land
  3. A Heart of Love: What am I seeking in Life?
  4. The Forgotten Teaching in the Church: Holiness
  5. The Army of God will have Victory after Victory
  6. The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America
  7. How Holiness Theology Transformed My Understanding
  8. Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week
  9. An Investigation of the Biblical Concept of Hell 
  10. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life