Tomorrow, my son will die.
My drive to work was like every other, uneventful. I stopped for tea as I regularly do each morning on my way into Nashville. The day would be filled with meetings, spending practically my entire day in the conference room, drawing processes on a dry erase board. There would be several “fires” of the day that would lobby for my attention and distract me from what I ought to be doing. The morning would fly by quickly, eating lunch in my office and back in the conference room for more of the same! The day was no different than any other, as matter of fact the days were all too routine.
Amidst all the things I had going on, I remembered that I had given my son a three day supply of his medications on Sunday, so I didn’t have to drive into Gallatin to see him until tomorrow evening to give him more meds. That was a relief, having to drive into town and give him meds every day was taxing, some days he wouldn’t be home or he wanted to be driven some place to pick up cigarettes or groceries, and usually at inconvenient times. Every time I left his apartment I smelled of smoke, so at least for today, I didn’t have to go see him. Whew!
Tomorrow came. Nothing different, no change in my routines, I would approach the day in like fashion, except today, I had to drive to Gallatin to give my son meds. My plan was simple, I would give him another three day supply and not have to worry about it for another few days; I wouldn’t have to go again until the weekend. I had it all figured out, a quick stop this afternoon and I was free from the needs of his care and I could continue doing what I wanted to do for another few days. These feelings were center of many conversations over the years, and now foster all too frequent remorse. He was indeed loved, but the routines become burdening.
In my eagerness of getting out of the office early, I was distracted when the phone rang. The caller abruptly told me that my son was dead, that they had found him in his apartment, unresponsive. My immediate feeling was frustration, my thoughts were ‘here we go again’, because his reckless behaviors have often ruined plans or disrupted agendas. I told myself, he better not be drunk and passed out or acting a fool. There had been times when he had drank too much, and had to be taken to the hospital and detoxed… comatose! This forced me to simply sit in the room with him and await his regaining consciousness, a process that often took many hours, well into the night and early morning hours. Such events usually left feelings of sadness, relief and anger. Nevertheless, I raced to get to his apartment, not knowing what to expect, my mind wandering… emotions teetering between worry, anger and shock. Nearing the apartment complex I saw the police, an ambulance, and a small crowd in the parking lot just outside his front door. The gathering was composed of family members, friends and neighbors. The looks on their faces caused my anger to dissipate and caused a pit in my stomach. I don’t remember having any feelings at that time, no emotion, dreamy.
Approaching an officer, as she stood at the base of his front door steps, I identified myself. The officer said that I could not yet go into the apartment, arguing that I needed to get inside and see him, still they refused me entry.
Later, entering the apartment, I climbed the few steps and pulled open the screen door, crossing the threshold of his apartment I saw a gurney sitting just inside. They had positioned him onto the gurney and covered him in a white sheet foot to shoulders. As my eyes made their way to his face, I saw his eyes were closed, he had a few abrasions on his cheek and a few days beard growth. Although his eyes were closed, he looked normal. Except this time, he would not open them again. Seemingly, within a few fleeting moments I would be back outside, they would have him covered and carried out. It would be months, years, before I realized how that dreadful day changed me. It was within those moments that my life was most impacted. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these minutes are forever in my mind and I relive them too frequently.
Since his passing, I have thought about all the good times, all the laughter and fun times together. He loved to joke, laugh, and eat! He loved his pecan pie, seafood, buttercups and time with family. So often when taking him meds, he wanted to come out and just spend the day at the house. Much of the time, once he was there, he would eat something, wander around the house or go lie in the bed and fall asleep. Just being there was enough for him, some place where people loved him, and some place where he felt safe. During the summer months he would want to come swim in the pool, sit in the swing on the pavilion for hours or go fishing with his grandfather. I must admit, his grandfather was the best thing in his life! For that, I will be forever grateful.
Poignantly, during those moments of identifying his body, that somber Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock, I never noticed whether he or his apartment smelled like an ash tray. Like I had noticed so many times before… I didn’t notice his house was in disarray or complained that he had squandered away all his money on other people, which he often did just to have their friendship. That afternoon, the thought of inconvenience never crossed my mind, I didn’t feel anything had been interrupted, and the memories of all the times he had talked back to me, cursed me, rebelled against me, ignored me, hurt me or disappointed me – never came to mind.
Unsurprisingly, I saw a three year old boy that refused to stay in bed at bedtime, a boy that forced me to get onto him repeatedly because he was so full of energy that he couldn’t sleep. I saw the boy standing at my back door in cowboy boots, shorts, a t-shirt and holding two rolls of toilet paper, standing beside the sheriff’s deputy that brought him home. I saw him riding his bike alongside his brother, hurriedly down the street, racing to get some place. I saw two boys playing army in the back yard, building a snowman, or boys vying to beat me at some computer game for the simple joy of beating dad! I see every facial expression, hear every giggle, and feel every hug. Strange how the bad moments of life pale in light of the good, and then only in light of a crisis. What are you waiting for, tell them you love them, today.
While simply writing these few lines of text, I am forced to reflect on those moments, the events of that day, and the sight of him laying on that gurney. My eyes are filled with tears, my mind clinching to memories and a heart scarred for life. It’s been
two three four five six seven eight nine ten years and I miss him every day.
Moreover, we all live life with some expectation that we’ll bury our parents, a pet or possibly our spouse, but never dream that you’ll bury your child. That explains why society has labels for these circumstances – losing parents makes you an orphan, losing a spouse makes you a widow, losing a child – simply leaves you with a big hole in your life.
Today, my eldest son is no longer frustrating my day, his demands and needs no longer disrupting my plans, the stench of smoke on his clothing no longer irritates my senses and I would give anything to have these things back in my life! If he were still alive, Tony would be thirty-eight years old – but he isn’t.
Yesterday, my son lived.
The death of an infant or child is profoundly painful – perhaps the greatest grief a parent is called to bear (personally, it tops my list). For Christian parents, most are comforted some in the knowledge that God is in control and a belief that their babies are in heaven!
Yet, for most Christians and non-believers alike, this belief is built upon hearsay alone. From a child we have heard said, “God is love, and how could God send a little, innocent baby to Hell”. More specifically, I have personally asked believers their reason for believing their sons or daughters went to heaven, and got answers like: “Of course they are, they’re now watching over us as angels”, or “they did nothing wrong, they didn’t commit any sins” and “God would never send a child to Hell!” Still, other responses might include “everyone goes to heaven” (a pluralists) or “all elect babies go to heaven” (Calvinist). Many people respond to this question purely from fear, sentimentality or ignorance.
Do you know for certain what the bible says about these children? This very question demands a careful biblical study and theological reflection.
For preface we must agree the Bible reveals that we are born marked by original sin, and thus we can know that no one (no child) is born in innocence. Consequently, regardless what you would like to believe, children do not go to heaven because they are innocent! Too, the Bible teaches that “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalms 58:3), we are “brought forth in iniquity,” (Psalm 51:5) and therefore bear the stain of original sin from the point of conception (which btw, is when life begins). The Prophet Isaiah said, “For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings” (Isaiah 7:16). It’s plain here that little children (infants, mentally impaired) do not have the capacity to make moral decisions nor take responsibility for their sins.
Therefore, we must acknowledge that God is absolutely, and unequivocally sovereign in salvation. No one, regardless of their age, deserves salvation and can do nothing to earn salvation, it is all of grace. The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient Savior, and that salvation comes only on the basis of His blood atonement (Romans 3:23, Titus 3:5, John 3:16, John 14:6). And lastly, whether you agree with me or not, the Bible teaches a dual eternal destiny – the redeemed to a literal Heaven, the unredeemed to a literal Hell. There was a time when you were not, but there will never again be a time when you are not.
Now, let’s delve into the Word to answer this question:
First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body (II Corinthians 5:10).” That is, we will face the judgment seat (the ‘Bema Seat’) of Christ and be judged (Romans 14:10-12, I Corinthians 9:4-27), not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each of us will answer “according to what he has done,” (Ibid) and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam’s sin (Romans 5) and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration (“salvation”), but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin.
So, what about infants? What about those small children? What about those mentally impaired? Are they going to heaven?
One biblical text is particularly helpful in answering these questions. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness after forty (my study shows 38½) years of wandering. “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers” ( Deuteronomy 1:35). But there is more! God specifically exempted young children and infants from this sentence, and God explained why: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” ( Ibid). The key issue here is that God specifically excused from the judgment those who “have no knowledge of good or evil” because of their [mental capacity or] age. These “little ones” would inherit the Promised Land and not judged on the sins of their fathers.
Noticeably, this passage teaches that infants and the some mentally impaired are blameless, that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die before “having the knowledge of good or evil”. Knowing neither good nor evil means that young children or those without the mental capacity to discern differently, are incapable of committing sins in the body – and die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (He who has an ear, let him hear; this is not identifying an age per se (i.e., 18, 21 years old), besides, it is parents duty to teach their children about Christ (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
Still another text bolsters my belief; “For what can be known about God is plain to them [that is, to mankind] because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Therefore, they are without excuse”. (Romans 1:19-20) The “therefore” seems to provide for an excuse if they had not seen clearly in nature what God is like. So, being that I do not think babies nor the mentally impaired can process nature and make conclusions about God’s grace, glory or justice, it seems they would fall into the category of still having an excuse.
The Lord himself declares, “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16).
In Mark’s gospel Jesus instructed his disciples that they should “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”(Mark 10:14). I believe that God graciously receives all those who die in infancy – not on the basis of their innocence or worthiness or age – but by his grace (Ephesians 2:8), made theirs through the atonement He purchased on the cross (Romans 3:25).
The next time you look into the casket of a baby, a child, one who’s mental capacity prevented them from committing sins in the body, do not place your hope and trust in the false promises of an unbiblical theology, in the instability of sentimentalism, nor in the conventional wisdoms of men. And, be forewarned, never presume upon God’s goodness and mercy.
Finally, I want to offer some clarity to my study so as not to be a stumbling block or to offer one a false hope.
- These aforementioned infants, children, and mentally impaired are not “saved”. In order to be “saved” one must have ‘the knowledge of good or evil’, recognize their own transgressions, and ask God to forgive them their sins. These had no need for, nor the capacity to, repent of their sins, and are therefore “safe” in the grace of God. The people in heaven will have gotten there through Christ alone, all through grace alone, and none because of their own goodness or deeds.
- The capacity to ‘have the knowledge of good or evil’ happens before most parents give credit, this doesn’t mean the child understands Christ’s propitiation, the kenosis, or where Adam got his wife. Rather, they become conscience of right and wrong (Romans 2:15), I consider this to be the “dawn of conscience”, their own consciences accusing them that they’ve done something wrong.
- My eldest son, was diagnosed at age 18 with paranoid schizophrenia and made a lot of bad choices the last few years of his life. When he died in 2009, he was not safe because he had a mental illness, prior to the onset of that illness he knew right from wrong. Fortunately, he was taught about God and responded to God’s call on his heart when he was fifteen.
“While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).
(Clearly, David believed that he would be reunited with his child in the next life).
a bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
…. there was a good man named Jesus.
This is what we’re telling our children, alongside the teachings of ‘Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. We have taught our children so many fables, told them so many stories, illustrated to them so much folklore, that we have possibly lost sight of what is true ourselves.
With like enthusiasm, we talk to our kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. To this point – the Church has done little to elevate Christ above Huckleberry Finn, Mary Poppins and certainly no higher than ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Jesus’ birth, life and death so often become mere “stories”! Ministers, preachers and priest alike stand in pulpits weekly making statements such as “Over 2000 years ago” and “the story” (of Jesus). In my opinion, statements such as these further dismiss the reality of Christ and His death. In subtle form, these statements placate the idea that they are mere fables passed down from generation to generation.
Our children grow older and often realize the stories they had been told, those they had read and the characters within them – are fictional. They learn that Santa doesn’t really come down the chimney, the tooth fairy doesn’t really leave money under their pillow, and possibly therefore assume that Jesus wasn’t really born of a virgin, nor did he actually walk on water or feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish.
All who are called to teach the Word, all who are in position of responsibility to rightly divide the Word, do so as the writer of Hebrews. Without diminishing all childhood story characters or abolishing your family traditions, take heed to simply exalt moreover, the One who died for you. Be careful not to diminish the heavens, nor the angels, nor the prophets, yet exalt Him far above them still.
We should guard against our children growing up to think that each chapter of their bible is prefaced with “Once upon a time….”. It is real. It did happen. And it happened recently, only 1,979 years ago, it wasn’t a long long time ago, it wasn’t ‘over 2000 years ago’!
Teach with passion, teach believing, teach like one amazed! Don’t defang God, His blood is not watered down nor has His Word paled, it brings forth life. Hearing His Word causes my belly to tremble; my lips to quiver, and rottenness enters into my bones
A bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
“Dog gummit!”, “Gosh Darn!”, “Jiminy Cricket!” and “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
Last evening while going to pay our final respects to a gentlemen that spent his life serving others in the church, we sang worship songs both to and from the funeral home. On our trip back home, while we were all singing a praise course, I was convicted of something I’ve stood in the pulpit and taught several times. Amidst my efforts to praise God and express adoration toward Him, I realized that I was taking the Lord’s name in vain. (No, I wasn’t “cussing”!)
So, you ask, what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? For most people, whether you are religious or not, you would not hesitate with your answer, “It means to say G-D.” Undoubtedly, there are far more people that can answer this than there are who can list the ten commandments, name the Gospels, or even tell you the difference between the New and Old Testaments.
For most, the ultimate violation of the third commandment, “You shall not take the Lord your God’s name in vain,” is to say “G-D.” Some people will stand before God and when asked “Why should I let you in to heaven?” they will proudly say, “Because I did not murder, bear false witness, and I never said “the G-D word.” (Albeit, I do not think God is going to ask this question.)
To begin with, allow me to preface my commentary with this summation: We are not to use God’s name insincerely. Consequently, the question now becomes: What does the Bible mean when it says not to use God’s name in an empty or vain way? Thus, what does the third commandment mean?
You would think that a simple word study on the Hebrew word naqa (vain) would provide us a clear understanding. Likewise, our understanding of a “name” and what it signifies is much different than what it meant in the context in which the biblical commandment was given. From the study of scripture (hermeneutics) we find two principles that must guide our study of this commandment. Understanding contextually (exegesis), as opposed to reading into the text (eisegesis), what the text meant then and consequently understand more clearly how it’s applied today.
It is my belief that on Mount Sinai, God was attempting to prevent the Israelites from treating His name similar to other pagan gods. They were exposed to many prophets from other nations continuously making decrees in the names of their gods, attempting to add weight to their decree, soliciting obedience and fear from their people. God was saying to Israel; do not take my name in vain like these other nations use the names of their gods. He did not want them to use His name falsely or in vain. Simply put, God did not want the Israelites to say their god was Jehovah, and not demonstrate daily a monotheistic life style.
Therefore, I believe that this commandment has nothing to do with the words we use (although, from out of the heart the mouth speaks), and everything to do with how we live. For example; when my mother married my father, in Memphis Tennessee, back in the 1950’s, she took my father’s name. She forsook her parent’s name, and took her husband’s name. The taking of the new name, echoed a change in life, and change in status and a change in priorities. She was no longer a single woman, she was married.
Had my mother changed her name, but not changed her lifestyle, she would have taken my father’s name “in-vain”. Throughout my Army career I wore a uniform almost every day, in doing so I took on the name of those whose uniform it is. Whether team uniform, a policeman uniform or military uniform, you assume the name of that team, law enforcement or soldier organization.
When you take the name of God, at a baptism, and tell the world that you are now part of the ‘bride of Christ’ (as the church is called), yet you do not live like a ‘bride of Christ’, you have taken His name in vain, and you will not be considered guiltless. For Christians, He is your groom, not a casual friend. A bride is supposed to be an intimate friend, companion, confidant, and passionate toward their groom. We are to protect His name, be careful to represent Him honorably, and to always present a conduct comparable to His character. To treat Jesus as anything less, is to take His name in vain.
Finally, for me, I was singing praises to Him, using words of adoration. Words like, “I seek your face”, “I lift your name on high”, and “I surrender all.” Notably, it wasn’t the words per se; rather it was that my lifestyle didn’t live up to my words. Proclaiming to be His, wearing His name like a badge of honor, yet my life doesn’t mirror that of my words…. I had not sought Him that day, I had not lifted His name in praise until we pressed start on the CD player, and I had not surrendered all.
I am a blood bought, Holy Spirit filled, adopted son of the Most High God and I have a mansion in glory. Yet, I’m not guiltless.
Thank God, there’s a difference between conviction and condemnation, the former is of God’s Spirit and the latter from that Father of lies. The Spirit of God brings conviction unto righteousness, conversely Satan’s condemnation is meant to kill, steal and destroy.
Today, I will sing unto the Lord, I will lift His name on high, and I will draw nearer to Him … and people will know I’m His not by what I say, rather they will know by how I act.
A bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
The firmament shows his handiwork and the heavens declare his glory (Psalm 19:1)…. creation beckons there is a God!
He placed within each of us a conscience (Romans 2:15), that bears witness that God exist!
The light came into the world, but men loves darkness more than light. (John 3:19). Therefore, anyone that goes to Hell, goes not from an absence of truth, conversely, they go from the despising of truth. This, in effect, is the only unpardonable sin (Mark 3:28).
Please, think on this fact: Of all the people you know who have died, how many do you believe were born again? Of those who weren’t born again, know this, like the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), those people are in Hell today, and everyday since their death they have been responding in the same manner as the rich man.
There will be those, who after the reaping of the harvest, stand realizing that mere knowledge of Christ wasn’t enough (Jeremiah 8:20). Will you be among the fools, the prideful, who stands crying out “wait!”, “what about me?!”, “I believed”. When the summer has ended, the harvest is over, reaping will be no more.
Imagine for a moment you were in Brentwood and you were driving the interstate the 27 miles to Goodlettsville, Tennessee. And, along the way, notwithstanding the pot holes and curves, you encountered more than 406 specific warning signs that danger lie ahead. The signs repeatedly advising that suffering, loss, even death were imminent if you remained on this road – would you continue to Goodlettsville? Probably not. Yet, the 27 New Testament chapters advise that without true repentance, without death of self, without whole reliance upon Christ – there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. And many, despise these warnings and continue as dead men walking.
If YOU are one that merely believes that god exist, if YOU are one that walked an aisle because it was the thing to do, if YOU are not completely confident of your salvation in Christ, then this blog posting is yet one more sign along the road you are traveling. He who has an ear, let him hear.
The creator of the universe willingly laid His incarnate body in a pool of His own blood, for YOU.
a bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,
Johnny was a lonely nine year old boy that had no friends and none of the boys in the neighborhood ever asked him to play. Every day he would walk the short mile to school, and on this particular day his mother had told him, “Johnny, this afternoon you hurry home from school, no lollygagging, come straight home!” He said, “Yes, Ma’am”, and with a goodbye kiss raced out the door.
That afternoon when Johnny left school, as he had done many times before, he passed by the make-shift ball field where the other boys played baseball. However, on this day, for the first time ever he heard the boys yelling “Johnny!”, they said, “Johnny, come play, we’re a man short and need someone else to play.” Johnny replied, “I have no glove”, to which they replied, “No problem, you can use one of ours!” Eagerly Johnny dropped his books, ran onto the field and for the first time, began to play with the other boys. For several minutes he played and laughed and had a great time, then suddenly, he recalled his mother had given him specific instructions to come directly home following school. Instantly, Johnny dropped his glove, ran off the field to grab his books and start down the sidewalk home.
Just then, an increasingly loud siren ascended behind Johnny! As he turned to look, he saw two fire trucks coming down the street, passing him and turning into a side street just ahead of where he now stood wide-eyed.
Without hesitation, in a seamlessly natural response, Johnny bolted across the street and was in pursuit of those fire trucks. They had stopped just in sight and as he got closer he could see the firemen running around with fire hose, spraying water onto a huge blaze. A fire had engulfed a two story house, flames were shooting skyward in upwards of one hundred feet! Johnny had never seen anything like this, it seemed everyone was out on the street staring at the fire and the bustling firemen! In the warmth and glow of the fire before him, his mother’s instruction to come straight home after school echoed in his mind. Speedily, he turned and began running home.
Down the sidewalk, into the yard, up the steps and through the front door he sprinted! His mother met him with worry in her eyes, but Johnny was so excited he could barely communicate his joy! As he began telling his mother about the experiences, she interrupted with “Johnny, where have you been, I told you to come straight home after school!” Johnny replied, “I know, but mamma, the boys asked me to play ball with them and they have never asked me to play ball with them before… and, mamma I saw a fire truck and big fire, the fireman were spraying water on the fire and climbing the ladder to the roof… mamma, you should have seen all the people….” His mother interjecting, said, “Johnny, I had asked you to come straight home, no go into the kitchen and sit down at the table!”
Johnny slumped his shoulders and walked into the kitchen, sat down at the table. For the first time that afternoon he had realized that he did not do what was asked of him. He knew his mother had told him to come straight home, but he had disobeyed her. He was so excited about the fire trucks and getting to play ball with the other boys. Even though he knew he had disappointed his mother, he was still very excited about all that he had done and seen on his way home from school!
His mother, rhetorically asked again, “do you remember, I told you to hurry home after school today?” She said, as she opened the freezer, “some of the ladies from my Sunday school class came by this afternoon.” Reaching in and pulling out a bowl of ice cream piled high with strawberries! She told him, “this is why I wanted you to hurry home, the ladies brought strawberries and ice cream for our social, but I saved mine for you.”
Wow! Being a parent myself, I remember well all the times I have been on both sides of this story. And today, what jumps off the page is the realization that Johnny did not get what he deserved! He disobeyed his mother, he did not do what he was told to do that afternoon. What he deserved, was a spanking! Something that would make him think about what he had done and hopefully cause remembrance the next time he was tempted to disobey. Instead, not only did he get out of a spanking, he got strawberries and ice cream! What is that? He didn’t deserve that!
Hmmmmm, this story demonstrates unequivocally the differences between mercy and grace. Johnny deserved a spanking, yet she choose not to spank him, that’s mercy. He didn’t get what he so rightly deserved. Moreover, his mother gave him strawberries and ice cream, something he did not deserve at all!
In all, Johnny did not get what he deserved and what he did not deserve, he got! He got mercy, then he received grace.
Perhaps, something in the morale of the story above answers the question I ask myself every day, why hasn’t God sent me to Hell already?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Primarily, Jesus didn’t die for you…
In the core of our fallen and sinful nature, we subconsciously elevate ourselves to be more than we really are. Even us Christians, and professing christians equally, we lift ourselves up to think that our cosmic creator molds His eternal will to fit our prayers and needs.
On the contrary, our existence rest upon the foremost purpose of bringing glory to Him, our foremost service is to bring glory to Him, our will and desire must compliment and subscribe to the holy, inerrant and infallible will of God the Father. Anything else – is sin.
Jesus died on the cross, willingly laying down his life, because it was the will of the Father. “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42
Are we the benefactors of His death, indisputably! Was His love for us a motivating factor for His sacrifice, unequivocally! Was our salvation through His death on the cross one of the reasons God sent Him to the cross, absolutely! (Although still, it was not God’s primary reason for sending His Son to die on the cross either.)
My biblical exegesis is not to take away from these things, nor to diminish the work of Christ at Golgotha, rather to exalt all the more His work on Calvary. His purpose, the reason for Jesus’ incarnate birth, the very act of God’s condescension was to demonstrate His holiness and to fulfill His sole will, unto the death of His only Son.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8
On the surface, and to the casual reader, the words herein blasphemes the average church goer’s religion. Some, maybe such as you, will take offense to all that I’ve written here. Still others, are already offended that a sinner such as I would even be posting on Christian topics. Nevertheless, I am confident that still others, those who feed on the meat of scripture, will as with second nature, be in agreement.
Liken to the writer of Hebrews, (which parenthetically, I believe is Apollos), deliberately he does not minimize the scripture, the angels, nor the prophets in his effort to exalt the Christ. He emboldens the significance of each, hitherto claims the Christ is above them all. There is no need to deduct from the former to realize the preeminence of the latter. Hence, I have undertaken the task to do likewise… obedience is greater than sacrifice.
Albeit, Christ did, in effect, die for our sins on the cross. He did, in effect, do so because of His love for us. However, His key motivation and primary resolve for going to the cross was His obedience to the Father. This obedience to God the Father, is a far greater thing than dying for me, a wretched sinner.
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His [obedient] Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” – Romans 8:29 (parentheses added for emphasis)
Despite all our sin, our rebellious habits, futile intentions, immature behaviors, and disheartened religious acts; He loves us and only wants our hearts. He must be our first love, He left no other option.
There are more to the encounters with Jesus Christ than is recorded in the gospels. Perhaps you are not sure what to expect when you encounter Him, permit me to give you a fresh view of what it was like for these three women to encounter the Christ and how these experiences changed their lives!
The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42)
The noonday sun beat down in oppressive waves as she made her way through the empty streets toward the well. Each step was heavy and labored. She was burdened with far more than her clay water jars. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, contempt . . . these were the weights around her neck, pulling her confidence to the ground rather than greeting others she may have encountered. Her reputation was well known in the community, forever marking her as untouchable, unfriendly, and unlovable.
What must she have been thinking? Fine, then. You people do not need me, and I certainly don’t need you. Or perhaps, Why should I care what you people think? You’ve never done anything for me.
Maybe, though, her spirit was more broken than she realized, and her inner voice squeaked out, “I wish someone would love me; if someone would just notice me; If only someone would want me to talk with them”
Whatever her thoughts, they were interrupted by the voice of the stranger sitting at the well. “Will you give me a drink?” he asked. Recognizing him as a Jew, the Samaritan woman could not conceal her shock at this surprise encounter. Racial tension was at an all-time high, and polite exchanges between Jews and Samaritans simply did not happen.
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” she responded.
(In her mind, a flurry of other questions arose. Can’t you see I’m here at this time of day because I don’t want to see anyone? Don’t you know it is improper for a man to approach a woman in public like this?)
The stranger’s answer confounded her. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink,” he said, “you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “You do not even have a jar to draw water from the well; where can you get this living water?”
The love in his eyes and voice broke through her defenses as he answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again.”
Her curiosity was piqued. “Sir,” she asked, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Suddenly, the stranger caught her off guard with a request. “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I . . . I have no husband,” she replied through gritted teeth and pursed lips. Her curiosity, which had turned to suspicion, now gave way to amazement and embarrassment as the man revealed his awareness of her private indiscretions and inner most thoughts.
Her heart raced. Who is this man? How does he know about my life? The current discussion was too personal for her comfort, so she attempted to change the subject to a more theological issue. The stranger redirected the issue back to her private affairs. She realized that he was genuinely interested, not in talk of religion, but in the condition of her life.
She had never seen such godly passion in any other person. She trembled as the man looked deeply through her eyes and into her soul and said, “I who speak to you am he.” And then, she knew. This was no mere man, no simple teacher, no ordinary prophet. This was the Christ, God’s Holy Son, the promised Messiah that the Jews and Samaritans had read of. Immediately, perfect love cast out all fear and her shame vanished and her guilt fled, as she stood boldly in the love of the Lord.
Zealously leaving the area, the woman ran back to town. Down the same path she had just crept quietly, hoping not to be seen, she now bounded wildly looking for people to tell. For the first time in years, she did not feel like a walking scandal, someone who was lesser than others around her. Instead, she had a new job: she was a messenger of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. She no longer hid; now, she yelled in the streets, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?!”
Perhaps to her own surprise, the people listened to her and they did come. They came in droves, and Scripture records that many in that area came to a saving knowledge of Jesus through this one restored woman’s testimony.
She was enslaved to a belief that she had no hope and no purpose. Jesus changed that. He used a most unlikely messenger to transform the lives of many in Samaria, and He began with the one person who needed Him most.
Rahab (Joshua 2:11)
With every wisp of wind, the cord scraped against the concrete sill of her window. It dangled down the outer wall of Jericho, stopping short of the ground by some few feet. To and fro it gently swayed, making its faint sounds and marking the days, constantly reminding her that it was the very sign of salvation and safety for her.
The spies of Israel had used the cord to escape from her home, a place known more for men clamoring to get inside than outside. She had been a harlot, but something was different about her now. Her heart wasn’t burdened, her countenance unstrained. Yeah, the people still whispered and gossiped when she walked by, but now she could think of the cord, think of what it meant, and crease an ever so confident smile.
She knew the cord swaying in her window, scarlet in color, was at once saving her life and marking her rebirth.
Perhaps this is how Rahab’s life unfolded in the few days after her encounter with two Israelite spies whom she protected from her king’s men and then directed to safety. Chapters Two and Six of the book of Joshua detail the story of this Canaanite woman of ill repute. She aided and abetted in espionage against her own city, struck a deal for the safety of herself and her family, and committed gross treason against her people all because of one fact: She came to the conclusion of who God really is.
“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” she tells the spies in Joshua 2:11. It is this statement of faith that reveals why Rahab was saved from the destruction of Jericho, her red cord serving as a sign to the Israelites that God would–and had–saved her.
Rahab’s sins had been scarlet, but the scarlet line freeing the spies, and remaining as a token of her safety, typified the scarlet blood of Jesus whereby the worst of sinners can be saved from sin and hell. “There was in Rahab’s mind, no matter how faintly understood, a distinct call from God, that she was being singled out from her own idolatrous people to aid the God she had a growing awareness of. Her faith of this God who worked great wonders was altogether awe-inspiring and extraordinary.
So marvelous was her faith and mighty her spirit that Rahab is one of only two women named in the famous Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. She was a pagan, a woman, and a prostitute. Nevertheless, she chose to become identified with the people of Israel, a decision based on faith,”
“Far from being dead or worthless, her faith moved her to risk her life to protect the spies. As a result, she was declared righteous. Rahab’s home, a shell sitting on beams atop the expanse of Jericho’s two tall walls, miraculously survived as the walls tumbled around her. She eventually would live amid the nation of Israel and apparently marry someone named Salmon.
Matthew 1:5, in giving the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals the depth of God’s love and forgiveness regardless of who we are or what we have done. For there, listed among some of the greatest names in history, is that of the sin-stained harlot named Rahab, a woman who in God’s providence was worthy of the family tree of Christ.
Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30)
Jesus Christ and His disciples were under considerable pressure. The hostility of the Jews had intensified. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the border towns of Tyre and Sidon in the northwest of Canaan.
While in the Syrophoenician region, Jesus entered into a certain house where He hoped He might enjoy some privacy, but, notably, “He could not be hid” (cf. Mk. 7:24), because His message was too wonderful and His deeds too powerful to be concealed. His fame preceded Him everywhere He went.
It was here that a heart-broken woman sought Him out. She was a Canaanite by origin, that is, she had pagan roots. The woman was deeply distressed due to the fact that she had a little daughter who was fatally besieged by a demon that possessed her. In view of her plight, the anxious mother followed Christ and those accompanying Him. She plead that He might have mercy on her, and heal her daughter. Jesus replied, “First I should help my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the Jews and throw it to the Gentiles.”
At first glance, His response may seem harsh, but a closer examination reveals that Christ knew the quality of this woman’s soul and He challenged it to mature. In an amazingly planned way, Jesus placed several obstacles in the woman’s path, each of which she overcame with radiant faith. Finally, Jesus exclaimed: “O woman, great is your faith,” and He healed her daughter without so much as laying His eyes upon the child.
This woman, though a heathen by background, had obviously been exposed to the Son of God. She believed.
Though she had been given no specific acts of obedience to perform, nevertheless, when Christ came into her region, she sought Him, pursued Him, worshipped Him, pled with Him, and reasoned with Him. Had she operated upon the premise that “so long as I believe it to be so, it will be,” her afflicted daughter would have remained in that woeful condition. This unnamed woman and her undaunted faith shine vividly from the gospel records.
by Larry Brashear
It’s a wonderful life!
For most of us, this time of year brings with it fond memories of childhood experiences and family. Our hearts our warmed with the sound of children’s laughter, echoes of our family gatherings and the unparalleled recollection of a deceased loved one’s embrace. Amid all the joys of Christmas, of these heartwarming thoughts, it is the latter that sometimes overpowers the former.
For believing families, losing a loved one, regardless their spiritual disposition, is difficult and painful. Yet, of those we know to be in Heaven, the pain and despair of their loss is rather comforted in the knowledge that they are in a better place. Resting on the promises of Love, our hearts take refuge in His Word. Others, those who have lost loved one’s that refused Christ, ignored the Gospel, and lived their lives apart from holiness; the pain can be excruciating. Hell is real and His judgments are real. As we know there is a narrow window in which we must be saved, the time of this present life, and after this there is only judgment (2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Hebrews 9:27).
To you, the son or daughter, father or mother, sibling or spouse of a late loved one, I ask you to recall the persistence of the Gospel!
Pause for a moment and speculate about whether the penitent thief (to the right of the crucified Christ) might have had any God-fearing friends or family members. If so, they probably would never have known about the thief’s final act, his appeal to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). They never would have heard Jesus pronounce, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). These believing family members and friends would have assumed, all their lives, that this robber was in Hell. They would have been shocked to meet this man in the kingdom of God. “We thought you were in Hell,” they might have said, as they danced around him in the heavenly places.
For the record, I do not believe you get a “second chance” for salvation after death. I do believe in hell and in God’s holy judgments. Still, from Calvary I am reminded of the surprising persistence of the gospel. The gospel offers forgiveness and mercy right to the threshold of death’s door, and gratefully, I know that the kingdom of God is made up of ex-thieves, and ex-murderers, ex-adulterers, and ex-atheists like us.
The gospel comes with numerous warnings that it will one day be too late (case in point, the unpardonable sin). Nonetheless, as long as there is breath, it is not yet too late! Death bed conversions are rare, but they do happen. But, I would caution anyone that wagering their eternal soul to chance is foolish.
Perhaps your loved one, persisted in their rebellion to the bitter end. Then, maybe not. Maybe they reflected upon the gospel they saw in your life, maybe it was your testimony that pierced their heart and led them to embrace His love. Maybe, when death was imminent, their last breathes were spent crying out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Saint Telemachus, a fourth-century monk who lived in a monastery, felt God calling him to Rome. He couldn’t figure out why God would want him in Rome, but he felt the pressure to go. Putting his possessions in a little satchel, he threw the bag over his shoulder and started out over the dusty, westward roads to Rome.When he got to Rome, people were running about the city in great confusion. He had arrived on a day when the gladiators were going to fight both other gladiators and animals in the amphitheater.
Everyone was heading to the amphitheater to watch the entertainment. Telemachus thought this must be why God had called him to Rome. He walked into the amphitheater. He sat down among 80,000 people who cheered as the gladiators came out proclaiming, “‘Hail Caesar! We die to the glory of Caesar.” The little monk thought to himself, Here we are, four centuries after Christ, in a civilized nation, and people are killing one another for the entertainment of the crowd. This isn’t Christian!
Telemachus got up out of his seat, ran down the steps, climbed over the wall, walked out to the center of the amphitheater, and stood between two large gladiators. Putting his hands up, he meekly cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!” The crowd laughed and jeered. One of the gladiators slapped Telemachus in the stomach with his sword and sent him spinning off into the dust.
Telemachus got up and again stood between the two huge gladiators. He repeated, “In the name of Christ, stop.” This time the crowd chanted “Run him through!” One of the gladiators took his sword and ran it through Telemachus’ stomach. He fell into the dust and the sand turned red as blood ran out of him. One last time, Telemachus weakly cried out, “‘In the name of Christ, stop.” He died on the amphitheater floor.
The crowd grew silent, and within minutes they emptied out of the amphitheater. History records that, thanks to Saint Telemachus, this was the last gladiatorial contest in the history of the Roman Empire.
The heavy door creaked on its hinges as He pushed it open. With a few strides He crossed the silent shop and opened the wooden shutters to a square shaft of sunshine that pierced the darkness, painting a box of daylight on the dirt floor. He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood for a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories.
He balanced the hammer in His hand. He ran his fingers across the sharp teeth of the saw. He stroked the smoothly worn wood of the sawhorse. He had come to say good-bye. It was time for Him to leave. He had heard something that made Him know it was time to go. So He came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber. Life was peaceful here. Life was so . . . safe.
Here He had spent countless hours of contentment. On this dirt floor He had played as a toddler while His father worked. Here Joseph had taught Him how to grip a hammer. And on this workbench He had built His first chair. I wonder what He thought as He took one last look around the room. Perhaps He stood for a moment at the workbench looking at the tiny shadows cast by the chisel and shavings.
Perhaps He listened as voices from the past filled the air. “Good job, Jesus.” “Joseph, Jesus – come and eat!” “Don’t worry, sir, we’ll get it finished on time. I’ll get Jesus to help me.”
I wonder if He hesitated. I wonder if His heart was torn. I wonder if He rolled a nail between His thumb and fingers, anticipating the pain. It was in the carpentry shop that He must have given birth to His thoughts. Here concepts and convictions were woven together to form the fabric of His ministry. You can almost see the tools of His trade in His words as He spoke. You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can hear the whistle of the plane as He pleads for religion to shave away unnecessary traditions. You can picture the snugness of a dovetail as He demands loyalty in relationships. You can imagine Him with a pencil and a ledger as He urges honesty. It was here that His human hands shaped the wood His divine hands had created. And it was here that His body matured while His Spirit waited for the right moment, the right day. And now that day had arrived.
It must have been difficult to leave. After all, life as a carpenter hadn’t been bad. It wasn’t bad at all. Business was good. The future was bright and His work was enjoyable. In Nazareth He was known only as Jesus, the son of Joseph. You can be sure He was respected in the community. He was good with His hands. He had many friends. He was a favorite among the children. He could tell a good joke and had a habit of filling the air with contagious laughter. I wonder if He wanted to stay. “I could do a good job here in Nazareth. Settle down. Raise a family. Be a civic leader.” I wonder because I know He had already read the last chapter. He knew that the feet that step out of the safe shadow of the carpentry shop would not rest until they had been pierced and placed on a Roman cross.
You see, He didn’t have to go. He had a choice. He could have stayed. He could have kept his mouth shut. He could have ignored the call or at least postponed it. And had He chosen to stay, who would’ve known? Who would have blamed Him? He could have come back as a man in another era when society was not so volatile, when religion wasn’t so stale, when people would listen better. He could have come back when crosses were out of style, but His heart wouldn’t let Him.
If there was hesitation on His part of humanity, it was overcome by the compassion of His divinity. His divinity heard the voices. His divinity heard the hopeless cries of the poor, the bitter accusations of the abandoned, the dangling despair of those who are trying to save themselves. And His divinity saw the faces. Some wrinkled. Some weeping. Some hidden behind veils. Some obscured by fear. Some earnest with searching. Some blank with boredom.
From the face of Adam to the face of the infant born somewhere in the world as you read these words, He saw them all. And you can be sure of one thing. Among the voices that found their way into that carpentry shop in Nazareth was your voice. Your silent prayers uttered on tear-stained pillows were heard before they were said. Your deepest questions about death and eternity were answered before they were asked. And your direst need, your need for a Savior, was met before you ever sinned. And not only did He hear you, He saw you. He saw your face aglow the hour you first knew Him. He saw your face in shame the hour you first fell. The same face that looked back at you from this mornings mirror, looked at Him. And it was enough to kill Him. He left because of you. He laid his security down with His hammer. He hung tranquility on the peg with His nail apron. He closed the window shutters on the sunshine of His youth and locked the door on the comfort and ease of anonymity.
Since He could bear your sins more easily than He could bear the thought of your hopelessness, He chose to leave. It wasn’t easy. Leaving the carpentry shop never has been. -Max Lucado
Allow me to share with you this Christmas Story, something I put together a couple years ago.
By Larry W. Brashear
Twas seven-hundred and three years before Christmas, and Bethlehem was anything but quiet. With the echoing words of Micah, declaring that a ruler of Israel would be born in the Judean city of Bethlehem Ephratah, suddenly the town became bustling. ‘Day star’, or better known as Satan himself, limited in knowledge, space and power, knew only that this ‘ruler’ was in fact God’s Son. (He knew this only through the reading of the Prophets words.) To the common Jew, Bethlehem was known as the place where Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, the city where David was not only born, but also anointed King by the Prophet Samuel, and now it is prophesied to be the birthplace of the God’s Ruler. Consequently, Satan begins his effort to trouble God’s plan, as he had persistently attempted hopeless times past. He would call demons from around the world to posses the people and town of Bethlehem, according to the number of demon possessions in the New Testament there might well have been more demons in Bethlehem then Jewish citizens. The little town of Bethlehem was saturated with demons!
Satan would be industriously trying to thwart God’s plan, seeking every way possible to locate and devastate this child to be born in Bethlehem. He would labor some 400+ years, never missing a day – for he knew what lay in the balance.
As was established by King David, the priest served in the temple by rotation of 24 groups, each serving a month as determined by lot of their own ancestry course. It would be Zacharias, from the course of Abijah, serving the month of October. And now, the time had come, hundreds of years later and God would again speak to His people. According to Luke 1:5 an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the temple saying; Zacharias, do not be frightened, for the Lord has heard your prayer and your wife will bear a son and you will call his name John. Now, scripture tells us also that Zacharias fulfilled his service in the temple before returning home. After returning home Elisabeth, his wife, became pregnant, and Luke 1:24 tells us that she hid herself five months. While this was happening, the ‘Father of Lies’, yes, ole Satan, was still busy frustrating the people of Bethlehem, seeking to destroy their lives, their hope, and more importantly their Savior given the opportunity.
It was in Elisabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy that God sent an angel to her cousin, a young girl named Mary. The angel told her that she would conceive a son and that she would call him the Son of God. Now, following a brief question and answer period with Gabriel, Mary went immediately to her Cousin Elisabeth’s house and told her of the good news. It was probably March or April; about six months after Elisabeth conceived John in October.
About nine months later in December, God moved upon the heart of Caesar Augustus to have a census. A divine plan to protect the fulfillment of prophecy, the very reason Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph were coming to the very city that the Devil had been watching and shadowing for more than 400 years; seeking only to murder their child. He and his demons lurked about and hunted out young godly couples who were pregnant. With the census, thousands of people came to the city; so many arriving from all around caused the lodging to be at capacity. They were unable to find lodging at the inn, for it was full. Consequently, they were forced to lodge in a stable and rested there until it was time for Mary to give birth. It may well be that Satan or his demons saw Mary and Joseph or heard of their being in the stable, but he thought he knew God and assumed that He would not use such human sinners to bring the Messiah into the world. Moreover, as Satan recounted the glory of heaven from his experience there as chief cherubim, he concluded that God would never allow His Son to be born in a barn.
That evening, as the black velvet skies peeled back and the glistening stars rose over Bethlehem, Mary did give birth to a son and they called His name Immanuel. It was at this time that all heaven rejoiced at the birth, their witnessing God’s incarnation as a child on earth. It was then that an angel appeared to the shepherds in the fields and gave them the news, telling them that this night a savior was born. These shepherds watched over their sheep that roamed the hills just outside of the city. Immediately, following the angel’s proclamation of Christ’s birth, a heavenly host, an army of angels, began singing “Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Wow! For all the angels to sing and rejoice like that, it must be no small matter to God. What could be so important that God would have allowed, all of heaven to rejoice – publicly!? According to the bible we are told that the angels rejoice over three things, in Job the angels rejoiced over creation and in Luke the angels rejoiced over the birth of Christ. When this happens we can know that it is no small thing, when heaven rejoices we should pay close attention.
The shepherds lay watch over no ordinary sheep that night; they were the temple sheep used for sacrifice. Moreover, it is this precise time of year that sheep give birth, how blessed is it that God’s lamb would also be born at the same time all the other sacrificial sheep were typically born. Some months later, some foreign visitors arrived bearing gifts and seeking ‘the one born king of the Jews’. Of course, their arrival created no small stir among the town people as they openly sought the ‘one born king of the Jews’. It would not be long before Satan heard of these from his demons, and hurry to the scene in hopes of finishing his murderous deed. But God, in His sovereign plan, saw to it that Joseph could take the gifts received from the Magi and finance a trip to Egypt. And it would be there that he, Mary and Jesus would stay and live a typical Jewish life until King Herod was dead, as he did a couple years later. An unusual childhood would have drawn attention to him self, something Satan would have certainly heard about and came running. However, this would not be the case and Satan would not find him. Satan knew only that some Magi had arrived in Bethlehem, and knew nothing of the angelic message to the shepherds or the departing of Joseph and Mary with Jesus.
Frankly, Satan had lost Jesus, for some thirty years he continued his toil in the city of Bethlehem.
It was not until Jesus, grown and now living in Nazareth, joined John in the waters of the Jordan River. And following the Holy Spirit’s nudging of John to declare “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” that Satan would find out of Jesus’ whereabouts. It was at this point in history that God finally seemed to say, “There He is devil”! Take your best shot.
With no surprise to God, the Devil did try and it almost seemed he had succeeded. However, It would only last two and a half days, and on the would-be third day of Satan’s hopeful triumph, God raised His Son as victor and Lord over death, hell, and the grave. Today, the Devil is still lurking about in Gallatin and in Bowling Green, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. Because of the Christmas gift we received from God some two-thousand years ago, man-kind need no longer worry about going to hell for their sin. Anyone that goes to hell now, goes only because they have chosen to disbelieve. Jesus is real, He is alive, and He is coming again.
Oh, and one last thing. Remember I said there were three things that the angels rejoiced over? Well, the bible says they not only rejoice over Creation and Christ’s birth, but heaven rejoices over every person who repents of their sin and places their faith in Jesus (Luke 15:7-10). That means that every person who accepts God’s Christmas gift, Jesus, is as important to God as His Son’s birth and His Creation of the whole universe. For it to be that important, He must really love us – a lot!
And although we do not know for certain the day nor month Christ was actually born, we do know and accept that He was indeed born to die for our sins, and in that we celebrate each year at Christmas.
Here are the things that neither prove nor disprove saving faith.
1. Visible morality: Just because a person is outwardly moral does not necessarily mean they have saving faith. The Pharisees were moral on the outside, weren’t they? Jesus said, “On the outside, you’re white, you’re clean, it’s on the inside you’re full of dead men’s bones and stink … but on the outside‑you look good.” Morality is a mark of a Christian if it comes from a proper internal motive, not from an external one.
2. Intellectual knowledge (or you could call it biblical knowledge): That doesn’t prove anything either. Sometimes you’ll meet someone who knows the Bible and they can rattle off Bible verses here and there and they can even interpret some of them. May I remind you of Romans 1:21 which says, “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God?” It’s possible to know all about God and have no personal relationship to Him. They had a form of knowledge. In fact, do you know that in the gospels, when the Jews were given the full knowledge of the Messiah, they rejected Him?
3. Religious involvement: God in the Old Testament just continually condemns Israel for being religiously involved and totally lacking a vital relationship with God. And this was the err of the Pharisees and you’re familiar with this. There are all kinds of people who are involved in religious activity.
4. Active ministry: Now one of the most active prophets in the Old Testament was Balaam and he didn’t serve God, he served the highest bidder. And then there was Judas, oh Judas, a public preacher of the gospel of the kingdom and never was there a son of hell more so than that man.
Matthew 7, Lord, Lord, we have done many wonderful works in Your name; we have cast out demons in Your name, it’s us.” He says, “Depart from me … what? I never knew you.” No, you see, visible morality, intellectual knowledge, religious involvement, active ministry … they don’t prove anything one way or another.
5. Conviction of sin doesn’t prove anything either: You want to know something? Mental hospitals all over this nation are filled‑with people who are convicted of their sin; they just have never gotten any deliverance from it. They’re just literally beaten into insanity by guilt. Felix in the book of Acts trembled under the preaching of Paul but he never left his idols. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment, John 16, but they don’t all respond. You know what happened when Jesus convicted the Pharisees of sin? They didn’t confess their sin; they became infuriated, didn’t they?
6. Assurance: You say, “Now wait a minute, you mean that a person could be sure he was saved and be lost?” That’s right. That’s exactly right. You want to know something? This world is full of people like that, isn’t it? If they didn’t believe that, do you think they’d stay in the false religion they’re in? I mean, the whole world is full of legalists who believe that. And so people go around, “I’m good, I’ll be all right. I’ll be fine. I’m not worried.” And they are lost. They just think they’re saved.
7. Testimony: Let me give you a seventh that doesn’t prove anything. People will come to be baptized and they will very often say, “Well, I received the Lord when I was … whatever…15 ( or, I received the Lord ten years ago,) but nothing ever happened in my life for the next ten years.” You want to know something? Nothing probably happened ten years ago either because you don’t get transformed by the Son of God, translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son and have nothing happen. By their fruit you’re going to see them.
Evidences of Saving Faith
So, now look at your life. You ask yourself the question ‑ is my faith real saving faith? You look at yourself and you say, “Well, I’m a pretty moral person … ah, you know, I know the Bible, I’m involved in the church, I have a ministry, I feel bad about my sin, I feel like I’m okay with god, I can remember the moment.” Those things don’t prove anything one way or another cause all kinds of people think those things are true about themselves and they are deceived… self‑deceived. That’s why they arrive in Matthew 7 and say‑‑, “Lord, Lord, it’s us.” And the shock of all shocks, “I don’t know you.” What a shock. Okay.
A man may be unsaved, but just completely committed to moral deportment, maybe well instructed in the doctrines of the Bible, a form of religion manifest. He may have a ministry and proceed in that ministry with marvelous giftedness. He may even have been a subject of conviction in his heart. He may even believe himself to be converted and regenerated… and still be lost. We’ve got to go a step further.
1. Love for God. The basic definition of an unsaved person is found in Romans 8:7 (paraphrased) “the carnal mind, the fleshly mind,” King James says, “is at enmity against God.” The carnal mind hates God. That is really a classic definition of an unregenerate person, they resist God, they hate God, The regenerated mind … loves God. God says, ‑Here’s how to fulfill My law, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength.
I believe when a person is really exercising saving faith, there is in his heart a great love for God.
Jesus put it very simply in Matthew 10.37, “He that loveth father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” If God is not your highest affection…check yourself. Is that your greatest love? Is that your supreme delight? Do you long from the deepest part of your heart to love God, to bask in the warmth of the relationship to Him? To draw nigh unto Him? That’s the mark of saving faith…of a regenerated heart.
In Psalm 73:25, I think it’s expressed by Asaph in that Psalm. Listen to what it says, I love this. “Whom have I on… in heaven but Thee?” And listen to this, “And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Now that’s marvelous. There is none on earth that I desire beside Thee. And then Psalm 42, 1 quoted it earlier, “As the deer pants after the waterbrook, so panteth my soul after Thee, 0 God.” Then listen to verse 2, “My soul thirsteth for God for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” And this is such a longing; he says my tears have been my food. The heart craves God. The heart adores God. That’s … that’s the stuff that marks true saving faith. If you’ve really been redeemed, you love God. He’s your highest desire … your deepest longing is to be in His presence, to fulfill His glory.
Now let me say this. There will be times when we fail to do that, won’t there? And I use a phrase that I use very often. None the less, that will still be the direction of our life if not the perfection of it. It will be the direction if not the perfection. And when I fail to love God as I ought and to seek Him as my highest good and to Dour out my affection and to be jealous for His holy name and to live for His glory, that in itself breaks my heart.
2. The second positive test for saving faith is repentance from sin … repentance from sin. I believe that really… this is a very basic, almost flip side of the first principle, if you love God, you hate … what?…sin, and the two are obviously connected. If you love God, you hate sin. And I think that’s very basic. That which calls out of us the love for God, calls out of us the hate for sin. In Proverbs 28:13 it says: “He that covereth his sin shall not prosper, but who so confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Mercy comes to those who confess and forsake their sins.
David had that attitude, didn’t he? He cried out in Psalm 51, after the terrible sin that he had committed, “Have mercy upon me, Oh God, according to Thy loving kindness, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. I acknowledge my transgression. My sin is ever before me. Against Thee, the only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” In other words, he realized in his great love for God how terrible was his sin against God.
Now you can tell a Christian, you can tell a person with saving faith‑‑they hate sin. Even while they may be doing it they hate it. Like Romans 7 again, where Paul says, “I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I want to do.” Even though our humanness draws us into sin, we hate that thing and you may have to admit that you’re not hating it while you’re getting into it but you sure do hate it a lot when you’ve done with it. And so, a believer is marked by love for God and hatred for sin. I think that’s basic to definition for the Christian’s life.
Now in 2 Corinthians 7, just to push the point a little bit, he says in verse 9, does Paul, “I rejoice not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance.” In other words, you turned from the sin. “For you were made sorry after a godly manner.” Now lots of people are sorry about their sin. Agreed? They’re sorry about it, makes them feel bad… reaps bad fruits, brings bad consequences, a lot of people who don’t know God are sorry about their sin. But they don’t sorrow unto repentance. That is, they’re not so sorry they stop doing it, they turn from it. But godly sorrow works repentance to salvation. You see? So salvation comes to those whose sorrow is a sorrow unto repentance, that is I’m not just sorry about it, I’m so sorry about it I want to turn from it, I want to be delivered from it. That is the kind of sorrow that is attached to salvation.
A proper love for God, then, results in a hatred of sin, grief over sin. True penitents are born of God. In 1 John, John gives us a test. He puts it this way. “If we are believers,” chapter 1, “we will be those who will confess our sins, but a non‑believer denies his sin.” And you can see it so clearly in 1 John 1, let me read you verses 8 to 10. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us.” In other words, forgiveness belongs to sin‑confessors. You understand that? It does not belong to sin‑deniers. “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us.” A true forgiven person, a saved person, one exercising saving faith, is one who turns from sin. So ask yourself the question, do I hate sin? Is sin a bitter and evil thing? Am I convicted deep within my heart when I see it in my life? Do I hate it not only because it is ruinous to my soul, but because it is so offensive to my God? Which gives you the most anxiety? Your sins or your misfortunes in life? That’s a good test. The one born of God is overwrought with his sin.
Someone wrote, “When God touches a life, He breaks the heart. Where He pours out the spirit of grace, there are not a few transient sighs that agitate the breast, there are heart‑rending pangs of sorrow,” end quote. And so, the true believer is marked by a hatred and repentance from sin.
3. Genuine humility. And this is linked with the last one, isn’t it? Where there is a sense of the love of God there will be a sense of the hate of sin. And where sin is hated, there will be humility because as you look at your life and see your sin, you are humbled. And so we see in the beatitudes, that one who comes to enter the kingdom comes mourning, comes begging in spirit, comes hungering and thirsting, comes seeking mercy. Do you remember the prodigal? The illustration of salvation. The son runs away to riotous living, spends all he has and then comes back and his father receives him. That’s a picture of salvation. Do you know what the son said? And I think this is so much a part of true saving faith. The son said this, Luke 15:21 “Father, I am not worthy to be called … what? … your son.” That’s humility… that’s humility. And that is the mark of saving faith. It doesn’t offer itself to God as if it were something very valuable. It doesn’t offer itself to God with the idea ‑ Well, here I am, God, aren’t You going to be blessed to get me? It is a broken spirit. It is a contrite heart that the Lord seeks.
And so, there is humility. The Bible says the Lord gives grace to the what? Humble. And the Lord rejects the proud. There is humility in saving faith. “If any man come after Me, Matthew 16:24, let him first deny himself.” That’s humility. Look at your life. Do you see love for God? Even though you fail, do you sense that great love, that delight in Him? Do you see hatred for sin? And a desire to turn from it? And do you find in your heart no good thing and are you humbled because of your sin in the presence of God whom you love?
4. Devotion to God’s glory … devotion to God’s glory. I believe that true saving faith is marked by the desire to glorify God above everything else. And there’s a certain sense in which you have as a life focus the setting aside of your own glory and your own attainment and your own designs and your own will and your own comfort and your own enterprise for the seeking of that which brings honor to God. The person who is truly experiencing salvation is one who is consummately committed to God’s glory. Hear the testimony of Paul. He says, “My earnest expectation and my hope is this, that in nothing I shall be ashamed but that with all boldness as always Christ shall be magnified in my body whether it be by life or by death.” That’s it. I believe one who is truly exercising saving faith will have his life marked by a desire for the glory of God.
Now I know this. I know this is not going to be always true all the time in our life. But as I said so many times before, if this is not the perfection of our life, it is at least the direction of it. We, like Paul, can say ‑ I have not already attained, but I’m running on this track seeking God’s glory. Look at it the other way. A person who seeks only his own glory, his own will, his own aggrandizement, his own reputation, could not be one who was exercising saving faith and had been redeemed because self had not yet died. One who has been saved and transformed will have as his direction the glory of God.
Now, these are general patterns, much like John gives us in 1 John. And we know there are exceptions. That’s why we need a high Priest who intercedes, right?
5. Continual prayer. One of the marks of a Christian is this, Galatians, very important word, chapter 4 and verse 6, and hear it, very simple: “Because you are sons,” all right, now we know who we’re talking about, Christians, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying … what? … Abba Father.” What is it that marks a Christian? A heart that cries to whom? To God, a heart that seeks communion. Now I would admit to you at the very beginning that I don’t pray as much as I should, but none of us perhaps has the sense of having arrived in our prayer life, but I can also say to you that my heart longs to commune with God. When anything comes into my life that is a problem, my first response is to take it to God. When I face any task that I know is significant, my first response is to depend on Him. And I believe that a true Christian, one marked by saving faith, will be one who expresses his heart in communion with God. Job in chapter 27 verse 10 demands that a hypocrite be evaluated. And this is what he says: “Will he delight himself in the almighty? Will he always call upon God?” And that was Job’s test for saving faith. If you want to find out about a hypocrite, find out if he calls on God all the time. If he doesn’t, then he’s a hypocrite.
Jonathan Edwards, that great preacher, had a sermon and here was its title: “Hypocrites are deficient in the duty of prayer.” It’s exactly what Job was saying. True believers commune with God. Test yourself. Do you love God? Do you hate sin? Do you find your heart broken in humility? Are you devoted to God’s glory? And do you find yourself drawn into communion with Him continually? Those are the tests.
6. Selfless love. I believe also that saving faith that is redeeming faith that is true Christianity is marked by love for each other. First John says this, “He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother is in darkness. He that loves his brother abides in the light.” In other words, the light is that of redemption. The truly redeemed love their brothers. Listen, ask yourself the question: Do you love the fellowship of believers? Now I don’t mean are you absolutely out of your mind for every other Christian emotionally, but are you enriched and thrilled and enthralled and rejoicing and caring for the fellowship of those of like precious faith? In 1 John 3:14 it says: “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” Isn’t that simple? You know, it’s one test that I can pass, if I have my choice between being with the people of the world and being with the people of the Lord it’s not much of a choice … it’s not much of a choice. I have no desire to be with them … none. I love to be with God’s people. I love to fellowship. And then in the fourth chapter of 1 John the seventh verse, it says: “Let us love one another for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God and he that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love.” If you have had true saving faith and been genuinely redeemed, you’re going to love the brethren.
7. Separation from the world. When we were saved, we were delivered out of the world in a very real sense. First John 5:5, verse 4 starts: “Whatever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” True faith, believing in Jesus as Son of God, results in overcoming the world. On the other hand, “If any man,” 1 John 2 says, verse 15 to 17, “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is … what? … not in him.” What do you love? What do you love? You love the world? Or do you separate yourself from the world? James put it, chapter 4 verse 4, “Friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore shall be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” The true test is separation from the world. And again I say, there are times when we drift back but the pursuit of our life is away from the world. You see, 1 Corinthians 2:12 puts it this way, when we’re saved we have not received the spirit of the world, but we have received the Spirit which is of God, and so our hearts are drawn away to Him.
8. Spiritual growth. I believe that saving faith that has truly regenerated will demonstrate itself in growth. If we learned anything from the parables of our Lord, particularly the parable of the soils, if we learned anything from the parable of the soils, we learned that you can tell true faith by its what? Fruit … by its fruit, by its product. It grows, it develops. That’s the mark of life. You see, life reproduces life and spiritual life reproduces spiritual life. In the parable of growth that the Lord ‘gives in Mark 4, He said: “And the Kingdom of God is like a man who throws seed into the ground and should sleep and rise night and day and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how for the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself. First the blade, then the ear, after the full grain in the ear, and when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in this sickle because the harvest is come.”
You plant seed and it grows. And Peter says that there’s an incorruptible seed planted in the heart and it’s going to grow. Paul’s great word to the churches was literally in all dimensions replete with the concept of the life of God producing fruit and results and growth. We are all growing, he said in the Ephesian letter, to the fullness of the stature of Christ. First John 2 says you start out as little babes and become spiritual young men and you mature to being spiritual fathers. Philippians 1 says that he which hath begun a good work in you will … what?… continue to perform it…till the day of Jesus Christ. You need to grow. And of course, growth is the sign of true spiritual life.
9. Obedient living. And again we go back to the beloved John, 1 John 2:3, “And by this we do know that we know Him if we keep His … what? … Commandments. He that says I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keeps His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected and by this we know that we are in Him.” You know you’re saved when you live the life of obedience. In Ephesians 2:10 it says we’ve been created unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. And so, the overwhelming habit of our life is not disobedience, the overwhelming habit is obedience. And there will be disobedience along the way, but as we grow that disobedience will become a decreasing factor. I believe with all my heart that if a person has exercised true saving faith, he has a great desire to live a life of obedience. You show me someone who doesn’t and I have every right to ask the question that is that saving faith, no matter what they claim.
reference John Macarthur, Romans
The Scriptural definition of debt is the inability to meet obligations agreed upon. In other words, when a person buys something on credit terms that is not necessarily debt, it is a contract. But when the terms of the contract are violated, debt occurs.”
One usually incurs debt through the violation of the contract because he violates Scripture in three other areas.
- He presumes upon the future (James 4:13-15). He assumes things will go just as planned (increased salary, inflation, etc.) and that he will be able to pay back as anticipated. As a result he incurs a lot of debt.
- He is not willing to wait on God to provide his needs within his means to pay. In other words, He borrows to get what he wants now rather than wait until he can afford it. (Psalms 37)
- He incurs debt by over leveraging himself with the motive of getting rich quickly. (Proverbs 37)
Sometimes there is a fine line between borrowing and debt. Let us encourage you to prayerfully consider the following Scriptures and ask God what He would have you do in your situation.
It is God’s plan that if one enters into a financial contract he must pay it.
“The wicked makes contract, and fails to pay: but the righteous shows mercy, and giveth” (Psalms 37:21).
“When you vow a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay that which you commit to. Better is it that you not vow, than that you vow and not pay” (Ecciessiastes 5:4-5).
Not only does this mean that bankruptcy is not an option for a Christian. It also means that if you are committing to a fiscal contract, you are scriptually obligated to fulfill that contract entirely to avoid it becoming sinfulness.
by Larry Brashear
Today, we put a lot of labels on a lot of things, the church is infiltrated with liberalism and new personalities, but the fact remains that using new terminology to describe something old does not change it from what it is. For example, you can call rheumatism arthritis but it hurts just the same, you can put poison in an aspirin bottle but it will still kill you. We can hold positions with titles and have great responsibilities in the church, and tell our wives that we are the ‘head of the house’ too, but these labels no more make us leaders than saying someone with athletes-foot is an athlete. Have you ever seen billboards or neon signs with letters burned out, or maybe some just flickering? That is representative of the average churches membership. Many churches today are teaching that they are to example leadership by standing with Isaiah and saying “Here am I, Send me”. But I submit to you that men burn out and flicker primarily because they have said “Here am I ” before they have ever said “Woe is me!”.
We are not equipped to say “Here am I ” until we have said “Woe is Me!” No where in scripture is a believer to be a ‘lone ranger’.
The Bible teaches that men need one another for encouragement, growth, and accountability (Proverbs 27:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:14; Hebrews 10:24). To be the man God purposes, men need to surround themselves with trusted friends who will be honest, transparent and confidential as things are shared. Relationships are crucial and will make or not, any ministry. All of us are more interested in relationship than a program. Authentic Christian piety necessitates we examine ourselves. Here are some suggested areas for looking at our most important relationships. I pray you will take one scripture a day, study it and meditate on it and allow God to change you from the inside out. I pray that my witness and yours is such that people can say of us what the Shumamite woman said of Elisha as recorded in II Kings 4:9 “I perceive this to be a Holy man of God, which passes by us regularly”.
Relationship with other Men: Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Proverbs 27:5-6 “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”. Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend does so by hearty counsel. [A true friend both gives and accepts good counsel.]
Relationship with God: Would the people who know me best say that I am a “slave of righteousness”? (Rom 6:18) Do I seek God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:33) and am I zealous for the good works He has redeemed me to do (Titus 2:14)? Am I walking in purity before God? (Ex. 20:5-6; Josh 7:15, 22-26; II Sam 12:11; Ps. 112:1-2; Jer. 32:38-39) Integrity before God…? Moral purity before God…?
Relationship with my Wife: Am I (actively) loving her as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25)? Am I jealousy guarding our oneness? (Gen 2:24, Eph 5:31) Am I ruthlessly repenting of anything that may threaten my commitment to that oneness (Mal 2:14-16)? Would she say you are considerate to her and that you respect her? (I Peter 3:7) Do I protect her (Neh. 4:13-14; Numbers 30) Do I lead her? (Josh 24:15) Is she my glory? (I Corinthians 11:7) Do I really nourish and cherish her? (Eph 5:29) Am I ever harsh with her? (Col. 3:19) Does she ask me questions about the Bible and get accurate and humble answers? (I Cor. 14:34-35; Neh 8:13)
Relationship with my children: Am I praying for my children? (Job 1:5) In my prayer and parenting, do I take hold in faith God’s promises to be a God to my children (Gen. 17:7; Isa. 32:14-7; 44:3-4; 59:21; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:39)?
a bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you, Larry
You may have heard this story before.
It has been said that that because the high priest could be killed by God in Holy of Holies if not properly prepared according to Divine instructions, a rope was routinely tied around his ankle. Then, if he dropped dead, his body could be dragged out. Various versions of this claim have been repeated in Christian and Jewish circles.
As yet, we have not located the original source, but apparently it originated long after the last Jewish Temple was gone. The biblical and historical evidence indicates that there was no rope, at least not in any common use.
Dr. W.E. Nunnally, a professor of Hebrew and early Judaism, has reported:
“The rope on the high priest legend is just that: a legend. It has obscure beginnings in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna, or any other Jewish source. It just is not there.”
The Biblical Studies Foundation (loosely associated with Dallas Theological Seminary), similarly reports that their research has put the “the rope around the ankle-or-waist-or-maybe-the-leg” legend “to rest.” They also point out that Aaron was to wear a blue ephod with bells on its hem (Exodus 28:31-35), when he entered the Holy Place (not the Holy of Holies) (Leviticus 16:2-4). When he enters the Holy of Holies, he washes and wears special linen garments, not the ephod with bells. “If there are no bells to jingle, there is no need for the rope either.”
A Messianic Jewish Fellowship points out the potential difficulty of dragging a dead priest out of the Holy of Holies:
“You could only drag out the priest if he died in the Holy place. The way the curtains of the temple were designed, the priest could not have been dragged out of the HOLY of HOLIES. The veil was made using many layers of cloth. The thickness was over three feet. The curtains overlapped and made a small maze through which the priest walked…”
When in history was Satan cast out of Heaven?
There are two important passages in the Word of God concerning the origin and fall of Satan. The first passage relating to Satan’s fall is found in Ezekiel 28:12-19 where Ezekiel describes the creation and judgment of a vile and vicious non-human creature whose name we find out later to be Lucifer. The second passage relating to Satan’s fall is found in Isaiah 14:12-14 where the prophet Isaiah presents the origin and fall of Satan. (THE DOCTRINE OF SATAN, by H. L. Willmington, p. 21)
With reference to a “specific” time in history when Satan fell from Heaven, it must be stated that there is no clear revelation as to exactly when Satan fell, but here are limits to the possible time which we may deduce from biblical evidence. “. . . Based upon information gleaned from a comparison of Ezekiel 28:12-19 with Isaiah 14, Jude 6, and II Peter 2:4, and other passages, the following picture of Satan begins to emerge. Satan was created as one of the host of angelic beings . . . an anointed cherub, i.e., the captain of the cherubic hosts. Sometime prior to the creation of the natural order, Satan became vain about his beauty and position, and his heart became rebellious against God. Apparently, he was able to secure a considerable following among the angels, resulting in their expulsion from Heaven (Luke 10:18; II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:4). Since that day, Satan devotes himself to opposing the work of God in every way possible and to attempting to destroy all of the good that God has created in the natural order. He (Satan) is allowed to continue this way for a period but will ultimately be confined to Hell for eternity” (Revelation 20:10). (THE CRISWELL STUDY BIBLE, p. 948)
If we assume that angels (including Satan) were part of the creation of Genesis 1:1, then their fall (including Satan’s) follows that point. However, it may be that angels were created prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth. In either case, angels (including Satan) were present when God “laid the foundation of the earth” and “set its measurements” (Job 38:4, 5), for it was then that the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7). This involved all the angels rejoicing with God. Satan and his angels fell, then, sometime after the original creation of the heavens and the earth.
It is certain that Satan had fallen before Genesis 3 where the temptation of Adam and Eve is recorded. He fell before man fell; but whether he fell before or after man’s creation, we cannot say for certain. (ANGELS ELECT AND EVIL, by C. Fred Dickason, p. 135)
Satan’s fall was a direct result of his self-exaltation that was manifested in his pride, the first sin (I Timothy 3:6). Motivated by pride, Satan set out on an irrational course to seize for himself God’s authority over the universe (Isaiah 14:12-14). Some commentators believe that this revolt of Satan towards God occurred after the creation week, but before the fall of man (Genesis 1:31; 3:1-6). It appears that the Devil became the prince of this world when he led man (Adam and Eve) to sins against God and thus brought the ruler of earth under his domination (Genesis 1:26:3:1-6; John 12:31; Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18). (PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, by Floyd H. Barackman, p. 176)
Satan has been judged by God for his sins, and will be further judged for his sins. There are at least six judgments associated with Satan:
1. He was barred from his original privileged position in Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16).
2. Judgment for his temptation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-15).
3. At the cross of Calvary (John 12:31).
4. Satan will be barred from Heaven during the tribulation period (Revelation 12:13).
5. Satan will be confined to the abyss during the millennium (Revelation 20:2).
6. At the conclusion of the millennium, Satan will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:10). (Excerpts from A SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE, by Charles C. Ryrie, p. 94)
The Bible gives reference that there are two occasions where Satan is cast out of Heaven; once with his angels, and once in the future. . . . Since the ultimate fall of Satan is actually yet in the future (Revelation 9:1) . . . Lucifer, himself, shall one day fall under the judgment of God. He, too, will be brought down to Hell in the final judgment of God [Revelation 20:10].
A study of the passage of Revelation 12:7, 8, reveals the beginning of the ultimate doom of Satan. In pre-time (before creation of time), Satan’s early fall was from the immediate presence of God to the second heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-15; Ephesians 6:10-12). . . . Neither was there place found anymore in Heaven.
The weaker the foe (Satan) will be permanently dislodged, never to regain access to Heaven.
Doubtless, Christ foresaw this in Luke 10:17-18. Satan’s forceful eviction from Heaven is a chief cause of the Great Tribulation (John 12:31). (LIBERTY BIBLE COMENTARY, Vol. I, p. 1325: Vol. II, pp. 821, 822)
This collection of answers was prepared by Jerry Falwell, Harold Willmington, Elmer Towns, and Larrie Schlapman at Liberty University for the questions most commonly asked. These answers have developed over a number of years in answer to questions that have come from many different sources. We appreciate your interest in learning more about the relevancy of Scriptures in today’s world. May you consult these answers with an open Bible and an open heart thus allowing God’s Holy Spirit help you find the truth (John 14:26).
What God was doing before Genesis 1:1
Posing this question causes people to seek answers, or fabricate them as did St. Augustine in his fourth century “Confessions”. Where he said, “there was before no time, thus there was no before”. Isn’t it amazing how much a simple man can find in the bible when he just searches it out for himself? I pray that this study topic led each of you to the Word.
Remember too, there is only one rule for answering ‘Iron Men’ questions: Answers can not be our opinions or worldly philosophies – but answer unequivocally from the Word of God itself.
1. Having fellowship with His Son
Proverbs 8:22-30: 22 “The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else. 23 I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began. 24 I was born before the oceans were created, before the springs bubbled forth their waters. 25 Before the mountains and the hills were formed, I was born-26 before he had made the earth and fields and the first handfuls of soil. 27 “I was there when he established the heavens, when he drew the horizon on the oceans. 28 I was there when he set the clouds above, when he established the deep fountains of the earth. 29 I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries. And when he marked off the earth’s foundations, 30 I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.
John 17:5: 5 And now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
John 17:24: 24 Father, I want these whom you’ve given me to be with me, so they can see my glory. You gave me the glory because you loved me even before the world began!
(For whatever reason He created Man, it wasn’t because He was lonely)
2. Creating the Angels and Stars
Job 38:4-7: 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5 Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? 6 What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7 as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
3. He was choosing the elect
Eph 1:4-5: 4 Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.
2 Timothy 1:9: 9 It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began-to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.
(Some may argue reasons for this election, but that can not argue the fact of the election)
4. Planning for the church
Eph 3:8-9: 8 Just think! Though I did nothing to deserve it, and though I am the least deserving Christian there is, I was chosen for this special joy of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. 9 I was chosen to explain to everyone this plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
(Before He created the upper atomospshere, he was planning the upper room)
5. He was preparing a kingdom
Matt 25:34: 34 Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
(In the mind of God the 1,000 year millennium preceded the one week creation)
6. God planned a Savior
1 Peter 1:18-20: 18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you.
Rev 13:8: 8 And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life, which belongs to the Lamb who was killed before the world was made.
(Long before He placed the first Adam in the garden, He prepared the second Adam for the cross)
References gathered from Dr. Harold Willmington, Liberty University
Marriage Is Permanent God’s design for marriage is that it lasts for life. Marriage is for the benefit and happiness of God’s creation, “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone’ I will make him a helper comparable to him.'” (Genesis 2:18). Marriage gets knocked a lot these days. Some view marriage as man’s greatest curse, but God intends for it to bring him happiness, “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Marriage is a permanent relationship because we enter into that relationship and responsibility of our own free will. When we make our vows to one another, and to God, then God binds us to our promise, “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few… When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it, for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-5). A person does not have to make such a commitment or pledge–but when he does, he has to stick with it. Marriage is a lifelong partnership–through good times and bad. By taking away our choice about whether or not we remain married, God is not imprisoning us–He is freeing us. Taking away the choice to divorce gives us greater freedom to work together to find a way of making marriage work. “Till death do us part” is more than an empty expression–it is a lifetime commitment “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” (Romans 7:2-3). Jesus’ disciples said, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said that not everyone would be able to accept that truth–but that was the truth (Matthew 19:11-12). Temporary Separation There are times when problems become so overwhelming that a couple may need a period of cooling down and internal reflection, before the marriage erupts with destructive, catastrophic force. Sometimes a temporary separation may be in order. The apostle Paul makes such a concession–not as something advisable, but as a concession–“Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a command.” (1 Corinthians 7:5-6). This is not a separation to determine whether or not a couple will work out their problems and stay together–it is a separation with the expressed purpose of coming together again. Notice the nature of this separation.
- By agreement between the two (7:5). This is not a decision for one to simply walk out on the other.
- For a limited time (7:5). But not long enough for Satan to tempt one for his/her lack of self-control.
- Devote selves to prayer (7:5). Fervent, penitent, praying hearts have a much better chance of succeeding than others.
- Come together again (7:5). The entire purpose of the separation is to work things out–not decide whether or not to work them out.
- This was a concession (7:6). It was not the ideal situation. It was not the best thing to do. It was arguably not even a good thing to do, but it was better than divorce.
If Martin Luther knew what was happening to the denomination that bears his name he would turn over in his grave. This photo shows Lutheran “ministers” (note the female clergy in the picture) holding the, “Evangelical Lutheran Worship book” while praying. The title of the article bearing this picture says, “As their church meets, gay ministers take a stand”.
Take a stand…on what??? Certainly not on the Word of God and the truth contained therein! You may, like me, find it disheartening that professing believers would even entertain votes relating to gay/lesbian ministers.
It is often said, and I believe wrongly, that the world has simply gone too far. It is my sincere belief that sinners have simply not gone far enough. They are born, like you and I were, sinners. In that state one must ‘come’ to a point of repentance and acceptance, thus leaving the sinner positionally needing to come from where they are and surrendered to His Lordship and grace.
The leading cause for depravation among the professing evangelical world is a lack of knowledge of God. Most churches today have little to no emphasis placed on expositional teaching of the scriptures or on its authority and sufficiency. Discipleship is the primary key to growing strong, maturing churches. The “world” is having greater impact and influence on generation ‘X’ and “Y” because the churches pulpits have abandoned the preaching of Truth for the sake of superficial tranquility among their parishioners. Pastors must foster discipleship and teach the truths of God’s Word to faithful men who will in turn carry it faithfully to the next generation.
It is saddening to think that we have come to the point whereby we are soliciting anyone to teach a Sunday school class for the sake of filling a position, rather than limiting our classes to the number of God called, God gifted, and God fearing teachers. We select pastors and deacons with similar recklessness, and all the while wringing our hands and wonder why those in the church are no different than those outside the church.
Pastor, Deacon, Sunday school teacher, or ministry leader – if you are not sold out and bought into the whole counsel of God, then get out, resign your position, quit hindering the church and its effectiveness on the next generations. You can have a good heart and be genuine in your endeavor, but if you are not willing to lay down your life for the Gospel than resign, you have not been called.
As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.