Pass the test and you’ll have eternal life. But, how?
Not many in today’s “Christian culture” associate the gospel with the wrath of God, but in fact they go hand in hand.
Man – as the Bible reveals – does not have a choice as to when he is born or when he dies (yes, even death). That’s because our Sovereign God wants us to see that one’s physical birth and death are but shadows of true (spiritual) life and death. It is this life and death that He wants us to choose by faith in Christ.
In this wonderful country of ours, that allows all Americans freedom of religion, some people believe the Bible was written by inspired men. They believe it describes a God who created man, the earth and the entire universe. They also believe it contains God’s plan of redemption, from the Old Testament through the New Testament culminating with Christ’s death on the cross. In God’s plan, Jesus lives a sinless life and was sacrificed so we can have forgiveness of sins. The New Testament also describes the establishment of the Lord’s church, and the spread of the gospel throughout the known world. We believe the New Testament reveals that men will be judged and will either go into heaven to be with the Lord or suffer in hell with the devil and his angels.
There are other people who choose not to believe in God. They refuse to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and that when we die there is no life after death. There are still other people that believe in parts of the Bible. They believe there is a God and some of the Bible is inspired by Him, but some of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was written by uninspired men and is mostly composed of myths and fables.
Now let’s consider the above scenarios. I believe with all my heart the Bible is from God and that we will be judged for the way we live. But for this discussion, let’s say there is no Heaven or Hell, when we die, all ends. Those individuals that followed the Bible lived a wonderful stress free life. They did not cheat on their spouses; therefore they were not eaten up with guilt, always afraid of being caught by their mate. They did not cheat on their income tax; therefore, they are not afraid of an IRS audit which would catch them. Because of their spiritual training before they married, they do not commit sexual sins that might lead to a pregnancy or contracted some type of sexually transmitted disease. If they get sick or become incapacitated in any way, their brothers and sisters in Christ will take care of them. When they lose a loved one, their brothers and sisters in Christ will be there to comfort them, prepare food for their family and many other acts of kindness. There are many more reasons I could give why being a faithful Christian results in a wonderful life on the earth.
Now for all those that reject God and his Bible nor accept God as our Creator but reject parts of his Holy Scriptures, would their life be as happy as the individuals described in the above paragraph? I have personally known some that I worked with that rejected God and his teaching. They decided to enjoy the worldly life style. They wanted to have a good old time doing what they wanted to do. Some were having affairs, always lying to there mate, always worrying about getting caught. I have known others addicted to drugs and alcohol that lost their family and jobs. They were mental wrecks. I have known others addicted to the internet and all the things it had to offer, i.e., pornography and other impure things. They would spend hours on the computer filling their mind with filth and garbage found there. How could anybody be happy with this life style?
Now let us fast forward to the end of time, and we find out there is a God, there is a judgment day when all people will be judged for the way they lived. We find out there is a Heaven and a Hell. What happens to those that loved the Lord and lived their lives as His children? We read in Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are those who do my commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and enter through the gate to the city.” Also in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from your eyes there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
This is what happens to those individuals that reject all or part of God’s Holy Scriptures, and lived a life contrary to the scriptures. We read in Luke 13:27-28, “He will say I tell you, I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from me all you workers of iniquity. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the other prophets in the kingdom of God and yourself thrust out.”
Also, in Revelation 21:7-8, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But the cowardly, unbelievers, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstones, which is the second death.”
What if you make the wrong choice???
The old Scouts motto of “be prepared” has stood the test of time. In whatever endeavor one undertakes, preparation is of the utmost importance. I think of two of the all-time greats in professional football: Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice. When anyone who is knowledgeable about the sport speaks of these men, their unsurpassed work ethic and relentless preparation in plying their craft is mentioned. Peyton Manning, according to the experts, spends more time in film study of his opponents and his own team than any other current quarterback. He understands the talents of his team and knows the tendencies of his foes. When he enters a game, he has a firm grasp on what plays he needs to call without being greatly surprised by what he sees on the field. Jerry Rice had a workout routine during the off-season that made him a superior physical specimen, which complimented his skill as a receiver. When others attempted to adopt his workout, they often felt it too tough, and quit. These men prepared themselves to be the best they could possibly be and the results prove their efforts were worth the work of preparation.
Most of the religious world is under the belief that getting to heaven requires little or no preparation or hard work on an individual’s part. God, they think, requires little or nothing on our part to be saved. God told Israel in Amos 4:12 to prepare to meet their God. It was not for the good but for evil they had done that they needed to be prepared. Are we prepared to meet God in victory or in defeat?
We are not in a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Satan is our opponent. He has proven throughout the history of man’s existence that he is a formidable opponent. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had not prepared themselves for the cunning of their opponent. They sinned. When we are poorly prepared, we sin. Paul wrote the Ephesians about our warfare that takes place with the prince of this world, Satan. In his encouragement to them about putting on the whole armor of God, he told them “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15, NASB). This phrase is in the past tense. We are to do battle with our feet already shod with the preparation of the gospel. When we prepare ourselves, there should be no real surprises when confronted by our vicious enemy; who is not only vicious, but also relentless. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us the devil is like a “roaring lion” prowling around to find someone to devour. Peter admonishes the reader to be sober (clear thinking) and alert (watchful). In other words, be prepared.
As relentless as the devil is in trying to devour our souls, we need to be that much more diligent in preparing ourselves to preserve our souls. If we are to attain the victory, our preparation is not going to come from any other source than the gospel. Not with self-help books, textbooks, or any other research books; only the gospel which God has graciously given us. It contains the game plan from God to gain the victory. If we will see victory, it will only come through our knowledge and obedience of the gospel. We cannot fight this battle alone. Jesus is the ultimate victor. According to Romans 1:16, He has given us the “power of the gospel” to guide us. He has given us prayer to call on Him “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NASB).
Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice did not read the game plan and automatically have success on the playing field. They studied it until they thoroughly understood it and were prepared to execute it without flinching at whatever the opponent threw at them. Paul told the Ephesians to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, NASB). It can be understood! To not have the understanding of the gospel by diligent preparation, according to Paul, is “foolish.” Ephesians 5:15 tells us we have a choice to be wise (understand His will) or to be unwise (not understand). It is up to me and you; He allows us to choose. Joshua chose to follow God. God told him to be strong and courageous and He would give him the victory. Joshua and the Israelites were required to fight, but God gave the victory. The victory was attained only by following God’s plan and going to Him for consultation. When they did that, they were victorious; when they didn’t, they experienced defeat.
Let it not be said of us what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 78:8 (KJV) of Israel’s forefathers; “And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Let us prepare our hearts with the gospel and have a spirit to be faithful to God. Let us be prepared and enjoy the victory that God promises us through His son Jesus.
-by Ron Adams
In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus told the Parable of the Prodigal to rebuke the Pharisees and scribes for grumbling against Jesus who was eating with tax collectors and sinners. I recognize that in the context the prodigal represents the sinners, the older brother represents the scribes and Pharisees, and the Father represents Jesus or God. He was asking the scribes and Pharisees to rejoice that the sinners were coming to Him. They just couldn’t get it.
However, as we apply this story to us today, I can’t help but ask when the prodigals come seeking help, how do I respond. Am I like the father or like the older brother?
Keep in mind what is happening here. The prodigal son had made all kinds of mistakes. The prodigal’s demise was completely of his own making. He was in dire straits because he had done stupid and sinful things. He hadn’t lived right, but life treated him poorly. He hadn’t just been a victim of circumstance. In the story, notice that he didn’t actually come back to the father seeking forgiveness; he came back seeking help. He didn’t say, “Forgive me and accept me back as one of your sons.” He planned to say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Why was he planning to say this? Because he was eating with the pigs and the hired servants in his father’s house were better off than he was. His father could help.
However, he didn’t even get to finish his speech. The father was so excited that the son had realized his errors and was seeking him, he jumped in and said, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him…” You know the rest.
There was a fly in this ointment. The older brother got home and learned about the father’s compassion and mercy. He learned that the father hadn’t simply treated the prodigal like a servant but like a son. That “son of yours” didn’t deserve it. He had brought his misery on himself. He had made his mistakes. The older brother had never made mistakes. He hadn’t wasted his inheritance. He had always done just what the father asked. But the father hadn’t even given him a young goat. It would have been one thing if the younger son had lived like the older brother and life had just mistreated him. If he had ended up with the pigs through no fault of his own, the older brother could potentially see a reason for help. But this was ridiculous. It was perhaps even sinful. This was the wrong response. The right response was punishment. The right response was leaving him to suffer in the natural consequences of his own stupid, sinful mistakes.
Sadly, the older brother was unable to see the grace of his father in his own life. He hadn’t recognized that the clothes on his back came from the father. He didn’t see that every meal he had eaten in that home had come from his father. All he could see was his work and how he had accomplished so much for the father. This celebration should have been his, not the prodigal’s. The father should have declared a feast for him because of his goodness, not a celebration of this prodigal’s profligacy. The father should have shouted from the highest rooftop, “Look at my older son. He is awesome. Look at how well he has managed his life in my service. Let’s have a feast for him.” It was a slap in the face to his good service to watch this younger brother be helped when he hadn’t been as wise as the older. Which shows another struggle. The older brother didn’t understand what the celebration was about. The feast was not a reward for the prodigal’s sins. It was a celebration of the prodigal’s return. The prodigal recognized he had done something wrong and turned to the father for help. That should be celebrated. That should be met with mercy and compassion.
But what about us? When prodigals seek help, how do we respond? Are we like the father, responding with compassion and mercy? Or are we like the older brother, responding with self-righteous indignation? When the drug addict comes forward for the 100th time, do we turn up our nose or are we willing to embrace him and compassionately help him in this decision to return to the Father? “Why do the elders keep putting up with that man? Haven’t they noticed me? I’ve never done drugs.” When someone’s child goes astray spiritually, are we willing to weep with the parents who weep or do we remain aloof asking, “What did they expect with the way they raised that child?” Do we think to ourselves, “Why does everyone rush around to support them? I’m the one who raised good kids”? When poor stewards of money come to say they are in dire straits and they need advice and help, do we embrace them for recognizing their problem and offer compassion or do we judge them saying, “You made your bed, go lie in it. Nobody ever gave me any handouts. I’m doing so well because I’ve worked at it”? Do we grumble, thinking, “It just isn’t fair. It’s all these people who mess up their lives that get help. Nobody ever helps me”? When the adulterer whose family is falling apart asks the congregation to pray for her, do we not only pray for her but with her or do we walk passed with eyes askance, avoiding her look because we just can’t understand how anyone could do such a thing and then have the nerve to ask us to pray for her. Do we think, “How dare she come here asking for this after what she’s done. She should be more like me. I’ve never committed adultery”?
Of course, we are certain we are like the father because if folks from the world come to us with these awful stories but are willing to become a Christian, we race to them, embracing them, forgiving their past, and offering to help. However, keep in mind in the context of this story, the sinners and tax collectors were not “alien sinners” coming to God. They were children of the covenant who hadn’t kept the covenant. The Pharisees and scribes were lawyers of the covenant, spending their days and nights studying it to the nth degree. Yes, we’ll often be the father to folks from the world coming in, but what about to our younger or older brethren who have made different mistakes from us? Are we the father to them? Or are we the grumbling older brother, complaining, resting in self-righteousness?
Finally, at the heart of this story is the fact that the older brother did not recognize his own prodigality. It is utterly ridiculous for him to claim, “I never disobeyed your command.” He may not have gone off into the far country. He may not have been as vile and rebellious as the prodigal. However, there is not a son alive and never has been (except Jesus) who never disobeyed his father. He didn’t realize how much he needed the father’s mercy and compassion himself. He thought he had earned what he had and that the father hadn’t actually given him what he deserved. Perhaps if we can all recognize how prodigal we’ve been, how much we need mercy and compassion, we’ll be more like the father to our brethren.
Let us make a deal. You read this short article concerning the reality of life and how we look at it and accept it. If it does not create some thoughts as to how we view our lives while on earth, then my time writing this would not have accomplished what I would have liked. On the other hand, if these few thoughts will cause even one person to look at the events in their lives and consider what the point of this article is, then I would have accomplished my intended purpose.
We prepare and train for important contests; it does not matter the type. We push ourselves; we sweat and suffer through rigorous daily routine preparing ourselves to meet our or someone else’s goals. How much effort and energy do we put into training and preparing for jobs and careers. Don’t we think ahead and make plans for our children and their future education?
Do we ever plan for a vacation? Wow, the thought and planning that proceed this coming event. Just think of the time and effort that goes into making sure the event goes well and is well remembered by all those involved. When it’s over, it’s back to the regular and normal life after having enjoyed that for which we made so much preparation.
May I redirect your thinking with this question. Is there a place that you and I will be going to and never return? You have heard this statement sometimes in your past: “From the cradle to the grave.” This is certainly a true statement concerning man’s existence on this earth. It is an accepted truth that we are not immortal; we don’t live forever in this earthly body. Simple evidence: look at the records of our relatives or, more simply, look around and see the evidence of natural aging up to the point of one passing from this life and not being here on this earth anymore.
By observation and plain understanding, we see there is a place we are going and will not return. Shouldn’t we make plans and prepare for this last trip before our existence here on this earth ends.
Let’s see what the Scriptures say in Hebrews 9:27, “And it is appointed for man to die once but after this the judgment” (NKJV). In Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead small and great before God and the books were opened and another book was opened which is the book of life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books”(NKJV). Certainly the question arises, how does my name get into the book of life? The context of the verse is those who labor and work in the Gospel are there.
Is this not a reasonable conclusion that we prepare and make plans for trips in this life but neglect to make plans and prepare for the journey that we will not return from? These Biblical instructions are for our thinking and consideration. May God give us ample opportunity to consider these most important matters as we live.
When mankind sets out to discover the truths that the Bible holds, with what mindset do we enter into this journey of discovery? Do we begin it with an earnest and honest desire to find truth or do we hold some agenda other than an honest study of God’s word? Over the centuries, many have searched diligently to find untruths or inconsistencies to make some sort of scholarly debunking of the Scriptures. In this effort, there have been those who not only have seen the truths contained in them, but eagerly searched for answers to spiritual questions they have developed in their search. They have actively sought those who have read and come to similar conclusions; God does exist and His Scriptures contain the words that will put them in a relationship with the Creator they have discovered.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who maintain that there are truths that are not consistent with the Scriptures. These individuals confidently assert that their intelligence is superior to that of believers. And, their intelligence coupled with their education leads them to be superior in wisdom. Well, what is wisdom? First, let’s look at some definitions in which these individuals feel superior. Intelligence: the capacity for learning. Knowledge: the acquaintance with facts gained from study. Education: the process of acquiring knowledge. And, wisdom: knowledge coupled with good judgment. Where the difference lies between the wise of this world and the wisdom of believers is the source of knowledge and from whom it is obtained; in other words, secular wisdom versus heavenly wisdom. These two types of wisdom contain two types of judgment.
Fortunately for us, God anticipated that man would gain so much self confidence that he would eventually feel superior in judgment to God and His children, and finally dismiss Him altogether. He has given us insight into what true wisdom is. The writer of Ecclesiastes, who I believe was Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote much about his life’s pursuits using his great wisdom. He wrote about the futility of seeking answers to life through things like pleasure, riches and earthly wisdom. He said in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” If you seek wisdom, seek it from God not from the scholars of this world.
In the book of Job, God had some questions for Job and his counselors after they had expressed their views based on their own wisdom. Let’s read just a few verses containing God’s view of man’s knowledge and wisdom verses His own which is contained in chapters 38 through 41. Job 38:1-7: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said. ‘Who is this that darkens counsel, by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’” Get the message? When you start feeling arrogant in your intelligence, knowledge and wisdom, remember what is said here to Job, who are you to question God?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 about the wisdom of the world versus the wisdom of God. He knew the message of God would be deemed foolishness by man. In verse 25, he states “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” This is hard to swallow for the intellectually elite of this world. Those who would call into question the great miracles of our God recorded throughout His word from Genesis to Revelation, God would ask: who are you to question Me? They rely on the very gifts God has given them to bring into question His very existence. They rely on science and all the measureable facts contained in it to question God. He gave us the very science we are abusing by creating doubt about our heavenly Father. We need to be careful! Paul said in verse 26 that those answering God’s call would not contain many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty and not many noble. Look at the apostles; not many wise, mighty or noble.
James tells us in chapter 3 that there is a wisdom that comes from above and one that is earthly. They are not the same. God has given us the source of knowledge that will save men’s souls, and it is His word. He has told us what he wants us to know and that’s all we can know. He has knowledge that He has not shared with us. He is God and it is His right to do so. In Deuteronomy 29:29, He tells us there are things He holds secret from us, but what He has revealed is for us and every generation. We must resign ourselves to the fact we don’t know everything, but we need to be about the business of learning what He has given us to know. We need to pray for wisdom from God to understand what we have learned. And, we need to pray that as we gain knowledge and get wisdom from the Father that the word will produce a faith in us to trust Him and leave the secret things to Him. When we can do that, we will truly become wise.
In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus was told of Galileans whom Pilate had executed. Considering Jesus’ response, it seems the people expected Him to wax eloquent about how sinful the ones killed had been. That was why they suffered. At the same time, it seems the people also expected Him to say how innocent they must have been because nothing like that had happened to them.
However, Jesus said neither of those things. Rather, He turned this whole story around on the people. “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The people who died were not worse offenders. They were all offenders. The death of some Galileans was not a reason for other Galileans to say, “Look at me, I must be better because that hasn’t happened to me.” Rather, Jesus claimed that was an occasion to say, “I better look at me, because if I don’t bring my life under God’s control, that will happen to me too.”
This story is on my mind because of Steve McNair’s murder on July 4. I know it has been several weeks, but the story has played on my mind, especially with the scandal surrounding it. One newspaper headlined the story with: “Steve McNair’s death brings other side of his life to light.” Apparently, this iconic football star with great connections in the community, a seemingly good marriage, and four children had some sin struggles. Ultimately, those sins killed him in a very literal and physical way.
Sadly, most people view this story the same way the Jews did the executed Galileans and the folks on whom the tower of Siloam fell. Some have expressed shock. No doubt, some have suggested all high profile people are “like that.” Some have expressed disappointment. But the attention has all been focused on this “other side” of his life.
If Jesus were here and we said, “Hey, did you hear Steve McNair was shot by a girl he was having an affair with?” I believe He would say to us, “Do you think McNair was a worse sinner than all other Tennesseans because he suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Here is the point. Sin kills. Your sins kill. Whether you think they are small or great, your sins will lead right to this same point. Perhaps not to be murdered by a girlfriend. But they will lead to your death, if not physically, at least spiritually. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 7:11 says, “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.”
That is what sin does. That is what sin does to everyone. We sometimes like to make ourselves feel better when we can point to someone who has done worse or suffered worse consequences. But these stories should not cause us to be arrogant; they should humble us before God. For, unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish.