Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hard Question

Here's a question to contemplate.

Let's say you die today and find yourself standing before Jesus Christ. Now, you walk up to Him fully expecting Him to open the gate for you. But what if He looks at you and says, "Away from Me you worker of iniquity, I never knew you!"

Whoa! Now what? As the fear wells up in your heart, you remember all the times you were sitting in church instead of at the ball game. All the times that you wrote out your check for 10% of your gross income to the church where you sat in the front row, every Sunday. You remember how you invested your time in helping out with the youth, even passing out Gospel tracts on the street, telling everyone you knew about Jesus Christ, even leading many in the "sinner's prayer." All that you sacrificed for your beliefs, all that you did, was it all just a waste of time?

This frightening scenario will happen to many who stand before Christ at the end of time, fully expecting entrance into heaven (Matt 7:22-23).
How would you react? What would your answer be? What would you say?

Here are a couple of answers, and they will reveal a lot about ourselves.

Would you say, "But Lord, I believed in You, I prayed every night, I was in church every time the doors were open! I did all that you commanded, was it all in vain, for nothing?"
Maybe you'd wish you had never even tried, that you had just lived your life for yourself, denying yourself no pleasure, doing whatever you felt was right at the time. The end result is the same, but now you feel as though you've wasted your entire life.

-Or-

Would you say, "Lord, I know that I deserve nothing but the darkest depths of eternal hell. Nothing I've ever done can even begin to earn my way into Your kingdom. I've broken Your Law, I've lived my entire life under the curse of sin. My life was filled with wickedness and I have nothing to offer that could even begin to correct that. I put my trust completely in You and Your finished work on the cross for my salvation. But I know what I deserve, and Your will be done."
Maybe you'd be honored to have had the privilege to live your life for Him and now accept His judgment. Even though the end result is horrific, you can think of no better way to have spent your short life, only wishing you could have done more, even if the outcome were the same.

So, which one would be you? You don't have to answer here, just be honest with yourself before God.
In the first instance, it becomes clear that you were counting on your works, and your religious tradition for your salvation, and were not truly serving the Lord at all.

In the second, you accept His will for you, regardless of what it is, because you know that He is holy, righteous and just. And you would have served Him all the days of your life, regardless of the outcome and your eternal destiny because you know that He alone is worthy.

Just some stuff to think about. What are you truly putting your faith in? And what is your motivation for doing so? Are you simply jumping out of the line to hell and into the one going to heaven?
Are you reading your Bible every day? Are you going to church? Are you praying? Are you telling others about your Savior? Are you growing in holiness (that is, are you more holy today than you were a year ago)?
None of these things will save you. But they are evidences that you might be saved. God knows the heart. Read the Book of 1 John to test yourself and see if you are truly saved or not (1 John 5:13).

Here's what Paris Reidhead said, near the end of his famous sermon "Ten Shekels and a Shirt":
If I were to say to you, "Come to be saved so you can go to heaven, come to the cross so that you can have joy and victory, come to the fullness of the Spirit so that you can be satisfied", I'd be falling into the trap of humanism.

I'm going to say to you dear friend, if you're out here without Christ, you come to Jesus Christ and serve Him as long as you live whether you go to hell at the end of the way, because He is worthy!

I say to you Christian friend, you come to the cross and join Him in union and death and enter into all the meaning of death to self, in order that He can have glory.

I say to you dear Christian, if you do not know the fullness of the Holy Ghost, come and present your body a living sacrifice and let Him kill you so that He can have the purpose for His coming fulfilled in you and get glory through your life.
It's not what you're going to get out of God, it's what He is going to get out of you.
Let's be done once and for all, with utilitarian Christianity that makes God a means instead of the glorious end that He is.
Test yourself.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday 07-24-10

We had a WOTM Crash Course on Saturday, and had a couple of people from the class join us on the streets of Mill Ave to share the Gospel. David, Harry, Tom, Catherine and myself met Leigh, Alan and Joe out there.
I also brought the cross that I had recently put together with the words "Are You Ready?" printed on the cross beam. (See The Lawman Chronicles for more info on the cross).

We prayed and handed out some tracts. I did some trivia questions then went into the Good Person Test with a man selling flowers out on the streets. We had talked with him before, and he knew all the questions that we would ask. Still, I was thankful for him stepping up, because we do this through the PA system and many others are able to hear us going through the Ten Commandments and can judge themselves by God's standard and hear the Gospel proclaimed.

Tom was doing some Open Air, offering some ice cold water if someone could answer the question, "Are you good enough to get into heaven?"
Michael stopped by. He had tattoos on his arms and neck and was carrying a purse for his girlfriend (I assume) who stayed far in the background. He claimed that he was Michael the archangel and the conversation went downhill from there. For more on this, check out Tom's Blog, as he was the one talking to him.

Later on, Marcus came out, returning from his travels back east to WV. We've missed him, it was good to see him back in town sharing the Gospel on Mill Ave.

I spoke to a young man named Zach who was a Mormon, but open to hearing other points of view. I explained some of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. He didn't seem to know a lot of detail about his current religion, but Marcus is well versed in Mormon theology and he talked to him for a while. I had taken him through the Good Person test and explained that every religion in the world is works-based and only Christianity is different. The works Christians do are out of gratitude rather than attempting to earn their way to salvation. Please keep him in prayer, that the Lord would reveal the truth to him.

Michael "the archangel" stopped back by later. Most everyone else had left, but he came and asked Alan, Marcus and I for a "positive Word" from the Bible and some prayer. So Alan quoted some Scripture for him and we prayed for him. He thanked us and continued on his way. It was an interesting night.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Cross

The cross may be foolishness to the perishing (1 Cor 1:18), but we will be fools for Christ (1 Cor 4:10), for it is the power of God to us who are being saved (1 Cor 1:23-25). We will not be ashamed of Him before men or He will be ashamed of us when He comes again (Mark 8:38).

We must humble ourselves, pray and seek Him (2 Chron 7:14), denying ourselves and taking up our cross to follow Him (Mark 8:34), boasting in nothing of ourselves, but solely in the Lord, for the world has been crucified to us (Gal 6:14) and we are to be separate from the world (2 Cor 6:17).

Inspired by  The Lawman Chronicles - Cross-Stories

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making Sense of Christianity

Many have a mistaken idea of what Christianity is. From televangelists with rolexes begging for money on TV every week, to the "prosperity gospel" messages, to Benny Hinn's crazy antics, to cults claiming the name of Christ, to hypocrites, false teachers and deceivers, to the power hungry Catholic church, it's no wonder people are confused. It's a mess out there, but our God is not a God of confusion, so let's sort through it all and see if we can figure out what a true Christian belief is.

In my experience, I've found that a lot of people have a warped sense of who God is, due to incorrect preaching that they've heard and/or creating a god in their own mind from their own thoughts, which is called idolatry. I am guilty of that one myself before I understood Christianity.

Here are some thoughts:

"We're all God's children"
"He created us this way"
"You can believe in evolution and the Bible"
"All religions lead to the same place"
"God is so loving that He'll eventually let everyone into heaven"
"God would just be evil and mean to send anyone to hell"
"We all have freewill"

These are all false, idolatrous ideas of what God like. The one true God has revealed Himself to us through His Word, the 66 books of the Bible, anything else is guesswork at best, and most likely, our own attempt to justify our selfishness by creating a god for ourselves - whether we accept or reject that made-up god.
So, let jump into the objections.

"We're all God's children"

This is a common belief because God is the Creator of all, but these words are not found in the Bible. Actually, quite the opposite. Some are children of the devil (John 8:44).

It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be made adopted children of God, prior to that we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

"He created us this way"

While it is true that God created the first people the way that they were, and it was good, we have become corrupted and now live in a fallen world under the curse of sin. Being created the way that we are does not give us the right to do anything we want to. The Bible calls us to endure, persevere and overcome, not embrace our flaws. Anyone who has children can understand this, can't they? Do you allow your children to eat whatever they want or do you prepare meals that are good for them, even though they might not understand why? Do you let them do whatever they want to, or do you lead and teach them to make disciplined decisions later in life? In the same way (but on a much greater scale), we need guidance for our own good.

"You can believe in evolution and the Bible"

The two are simply incompatible. The Bible clearly states that all animals reproduce after their own kind. This means that giraffes give birth to giraffes and monkeys to monkeys and nothing turns into anything else, no matter how much time has elapsed.
Darwinian evolution seems to teach that large amounts of time are the magic ingredient to life and changing life forms, but it makes no sense. Many believe it and point to their evidence to support their beliefs, but I am not here to get into all of that. I am simply stating that you cannot believe in both, they are contradictory.

"All religions lead to the same place"

In a sense this is true, all paths lead to the same place - the judgment seat of Christ. It's where you go from there that's going to make all the difference in eternity. Religions are all alike, every one of them is works-based. That means that you've got to do something to reach toward God, something you have to do in order to appease Him for your salvation.
But Christianity is not a religion. It's a relationship with Jesus Christ, following Him and His teachings. Christianity teaches that you cannot earn your way, there are no works you could do to get you there. In His great love for us, He provided a way, and there is no other. If you believe you can do something to earn your way into heaven, you will never see it, because it is impossible to get there by your own merit.
Now, Christians do good works, but not as a means of salvation. They do them out of gratitude for the undeserved grace and love that has been given them, in a desire to be like Him, even though we will always fall short this side of heaven.

One last thought to consider: If there was any other way that you or I could get into heaven through our own works in some sort of religious ritual, then Jesus Christ died in vain. There would have been absolutely no reason for Him to die for our sins.

"God is so loving that He'll eventually let everyone into heaven"

Here's another common one, but actually the opposite is true. God is just and cannot allow wickedness in His presence. Every time God's love is mentioned in Scripture, it is mentioned in conjunction with the sacrifice on the cross. That is the expression of His great love, that He actually took the punishment for us. Reject that, and you face His righteous judgment.

Let's put it another way. Let's say you go home today to find your entire family slaughtered. You see the murderer wringing the life out of the last victim as you arrive, the police show up, apprehend the killer and take him into custody.
When the trial day comes, the man says to the judge, "Judge, I know I raped and killed that family and that it was wrong to do so. I'm truly sorry and will never do anything like that again if you'll just let me go free."
How would you feel, if the judge said, "Well, I am a loving judge, you can go home to your family."

Would justice be done by letting him go? Of course not. If he were a just judge, he might say, "Of course it was wrong and you should be sorry, but the fine must be paid in order for justice to be served."

You see, God is not ONLY loving to the exclusion of all His other attributes. He is holy, righteous and just. His love is shown to us in the cross of Jesus Christ.

"God would just be evil and mean to send anyone to hell"

This kind of goes with the previous one, doesn't it? We normally attempt to trivialize our own sins and claim that an eternal punishment for such a small infraction would be unjust. That's what makes men such hypocrites.

Let's try this analogy:
If I were to tell a lie to my dog, there wouldn't really be any consequences. If I tell a lie to my children, I might feel guilty for a while. If I tell a lie to my wife, I may end up sleeping on the couch. If I tell a lie to the police, I could be arrested. If I tell a lie to a judge, I could be jailed.
Do you see? The same infraction, yet escalating consequences as the level of authority goes up. And there is no higher authority than the eternal God.

If you see a news story that a man broke the law and got a small fine, you know that it must not have been too great of a crime. But if the news says that a man received 3 consecutive life sentences, you know it was a far greater crime.
We may think that our little sins are no big deal, but God sees them as a huge deal, as can be seen from the punishment. The punishment is eternal because we've sinned against an eternal God, and you can see how seriously He takes that transgression against Him by the punishment given for it.

Once you can understand that every one of us deserves hell for our law breaking and rebellion against our Creator, only then can we begin to comprehend the great love He has for us in providing salvation through the sacrifice given at the cross. Then you can begin to grasp the true meaning and it can make sense, whether you agree or still reject it.

"We all have freewill"

This is a tough one and many great theologians are divided on their understanding of this issue. But I've recently heard something that helped it make sense for me.
If you take a lion and offer him a slab of raw meat and a nice salad, which one would he choose? You can predict this pretty easily, he will take the raw meat every time. Why? Because that's his nature. We don't have to be psychic to figure that out!

In the same way, we humans have a fallen, sinful nature. Left to ourselves, we will choose sin every time because that is our nature. Only when God reaches out to us, changes our heart and nature can we even begin to choose anything different. It is solely through Him that we can have salvation, so that none can boast.

We can make choices, and we have a will, but it is not a free will. We are all enslaved either to our sinful nature or we submit to the Lord, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We give our lives to Him for freedom from the bondage of sin.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tolerance

"Tolerance is a virtue for those without conviction."  -G.K. Chesterton

This quote tends to anger people in these days of tolerating anything and everything except Biblical Christianity.  That's because this Christian nation has fallen far from where it began.   We are closer to the pagan or Satanic view than the Christian perspective as a nation these days. 

It's nothing new, though.  In this age of "If it feels good, do it" and "What do we care, they're not hurting anyone" and "It doesn't bother me any" sort of attitude. 
"Do what thou wilt" is an old expression that Aleister Crowley adopted from Fran├žois Rabelais, who in 1534 wrote, "DO AS THOU WILT because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor". (Robinson, B.A. "The Wiccan Rule of Behavior: The Wiccan Rede. Origin of the Wiccan Rede: Updated: September 27, 2007. Available Online at: Religioustolerance.org, Visited 28 December 2007.)

And there's another similar quote, "An it harm none, do what ye will."   both quotes sound alot like "tolerance in all things" don't they?  But the Bible gives us clear moral standards for living, and sin is an offense to the holy God who created you, and whom you will stand in front of to give an account for your life.  

You might say, "I'm no pagan or Satanist, but to do what you will as long as it doesn't harm anyone sounds fine to me."  So, why shouldn't we be tolerant of all the religions and beliefs in the world?

These ideas on tolerance lead us to believe that mankind is basically good, but that's not what the Bible tells us.  Scripture tells us that there are none found good, not even one (Psalm 53:3). It says that all our "good works" are as filthy rags before the Lord (Isaiah 64:6).  But in spite of all this, it says that we'll still proclaim our own goodness in Prov 20:6.
In reality, we've sinned against a holy, righteous and just Creator who will hold us accountable for every deed, every word and even every secret thought and desire we have.  We will fall far short and find ourselves condemned by His moral Law on Judgment Day. 
There is only one hope which God has provided us a way out and that is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).

So that's why I cannot consider tolerance a virtue. 
It's as simple as this.  As a Christian, I cannot respect a lie, because all lies come from the father of lies (John 8:44).  And if anyone is deceived by a lie, I cannot respect their beliefs.  It's not that I don't love and respect them as a person, but they're deceived, and I cannot respect that deception - I hate it.  It will cost them for eternity if they remain deceived. 
You can hate me, but if it makes you consider your beliefs and to question and search for truth, it's worthwhile.  

"Tolerance is a virtue for those without conviction."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Saturday 07-10-10

Tom and I met Alan and Joe on Mill Ave to proclaim the Gospel to the lost.

Tom talked to some Native Americans that stopped by from a basketball league. They said that they worship Jesus Christ in a different way, by their own practices. It seemed that they thought that Christianity was the same as all the religions in the world.


Tom did some Open Air, offering an ice cold bottle of water for the answers to a few questions. A young man named Keegan stopped. He was not real receptive, but did take some tracts to check out more later.

I talked to another guy who came up during this to ask some questions. He had some of the common objections and when I answered them he would just jump to another. Typical stuff that can be found on the internet – two different creation accounts, why can’t we wear blended clothes and eat shrimp, etc. The interesting thing is that the answers to all those objections can be found on the internet as well, if he only wanted to find them.

Our friendly neighborhood atheist showed up alone with a megaphone to heckle us during open air. She played a flute in the time in between. We offered her water a couple of times, but she wouldn’t take any from us.

Some “good people” stopped briefly to tell us we shouldn’t be judging and that they had Jesus but seemed to feel that they could do whatever they wanted without regard to God’s moral standard. This is the modern gospel so often heard in churches these days. The warm fuzzy stuff that leaves out God’s righteousness and His anger at sin (Heb 10:26-27). Without repentance and faith, they will hear those fearful words of Matt 7:23 when they stand before the Lord. Please keep them in prayer, that the truth would be revealed to them, that they would be convicted of their own sins and humble themselves to submit to the Lord for salvation.

Kaylee and Amanda stopped by again – we had talked to them on a previous night ( 06-12-10 ) and had left them with tracts and a Bible. Tom talked with them a bit more and we gave them each a bottle of water when they left.

I did OA trivia and a couple stopped. We went through the Good Person Test and, although they seemed to be Christians, we were able to make it more clear to them. His name was Isaiah Matthew, and we gave them some water and tracts to take with them.

Tom did a few more OA's for ice cold water and talked to a woman named Anne, even though her friends tried to pull her away. After going through the law and then grace with her, he talked with another woman that stopped by and said she respected us for what we were doing out there. So, Tom gave her a flyer for the next WOTM Crash Course so she and her friends could learn to do the same thing.

Then a guy named Joshua stopped to look at one of the IQ Test tracts I was handing out. He is in the army and recently lost a friend. He’s not really sure what he believes at this point, as he gets ready to deploy to Afghanistan, having already done two tours in Iraq. We talked to him for a while, thanking him for his service and explaining the Gospel. He had been raised with Christian beliefs, but was having doubts recently with a lot of difficult stuff going on in his life. We told him that bad things happen because we live in a fallen world, cursed by sin, and that Christianity is not about what we get in this life, but about the next. We had a good discussion and left him with a few tracts. We prayed with him there on the street and exchanged email addresses. We will be keeping him covered in prayer as he heads back into service for our country, and I would ask everyone reading this to do the same.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First Friday 07-03-10


First Fridays bring crowds of people to downtown Phoenix on the first Friday of every month to check out art vendors and musicians. Wherever there are crowds, it's a good place to witness to people. This month (as well as next month), there were no vendors as they seem to be planning on reworking First Fridays. But the crowds were still there and so were we.

Tom, Alan and I met Anne, Leigh and Joe downtown and we passed out tons of tracts. Tom thought of the idea to bring cold bottles of water and offer them to people who could give the correct answer a simple question, "Are you good enough to get into heaven?" Of course, this usually runs into further questions and discussion and we were able to witness to a lot of people in this way.


After a little while, our friendly neighborhood atheists showed up with a bullhorn and some of their "Anti-tracts." They put these together themselves and pass them out in an attempt to counter our evangelism efforts. They take Scripture out of context and mock it, but I find more of their anti-tracts tossed on the ground at the end of the night than our Christian tracts.

We talked to a lot of people, I'll just touch on a couple of them here.
I discussed the Gospel with a guy in a dress, but couldn't quite get through to him. He believed that it was all about love, and that all religions are the same, as is popularly taught today. He claimed to be a Christian and eventually went on his way.

Tom had just finished an Open Air and a girl came up and asked what we were talking about. He explained it to her and she wanted to hear more. Her name was Frida and she listened intently to the entire message. We gave her some tracts to take with her, and I also gave her a CD of Hell's Best Kept Secret and True and False Conversions (available to listen to freely at LivingWaters.com ).

Later we talked to a young man named Israel and a couple of his friends. They seemed interested and took some tracts with them when they left.

Alan gathered a crowd for some Open Air preaching, taking them through the law then grace of the Gospel.

 














We talked to a young wolf - very cool costume, the mouth even moved when she spoke. She kept saying that "we don't get what we deserve". I wasn't sure exactly what she meant by that, and tried to get some clarification. I said, "Some people get what they deserve", but she disagreed. I asked her if everyone would get into heaven then, and she just repeated that no one gets what they deserve.

It was difficult to understand her through the mask, though, and I couldn't really get anywhere. We talked to her for a little while and she claimed to be a Christian as she left us.

Over all, it was a great night of sharing the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria