The Will of the Holy People

Rom_11_25_26A few days ago, two Palestinian men killed a group of Israelis in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. Naturally, Hamas cheered the incident, but most parties condemned it. Yet, after sifting through all of the commentary, it was Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni who had the most interesting assessment. She felt the recent uptick in violence between Palestinians and Israelis resembled more of a religious conflict, and as she put it, “a religious war cannot be solved.”

Now, with all due respect to Ms. Livni, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has always been religious in nature. Let’s be real. The Jewish people aren’t hated because they are back in their historical homeland. After all, they were persecuted long before 1948. No, they’re hated because of their God, even if they’ve rejected Him.

Sure, Israel is a largely secular country. After all, they recently chose to issue “gay-friendly” ID cards for children of same-sex couples. That doesn’t exactly sound like they’re observing the Torah (Leviticus 20:13). Despite that, whether they like it or not, they remain God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). Chosen for what exactly?

Well, Romans 3:1 asks “What advantage then does the Jew have?” The next verse says their advantage is that “the oracles of God were entrusted to them” (Romans 3:2). Most (if not all) of God’s Word was written by Spirit-inspired Jewish people. In addition, Jesus, the Savior of the world, came through the line of Abraham (Matthew 1). Likewise, the Jewish people show us what it means to have a relationship with God (Isaiah 43:10-12). To summarize, although we have all rebelled against God, He hasn’t given up on us.

Indeed, Jesus promised that along with Christians, Jews would suffer through “great tribulation, such as has not happened since the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). The testing of the Christian’s faith produces endurance (James 1:2-4), but why would the Jewish people suffer through this? In Daniel 12:7, we find out that “when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.” In other words, God is going to allow the Jewish people to fall under the wrath of Satan, so He can bring them back to Him.

With this in mind, Ms. Livni’s comment about not being able to solve a religious war is fitting. Like many Israelis, she would rather negotiate and compromise for peace. Eventually, Israel will have a negotiated peace, but it won’t last. Since they continue to trust in their own ability to protect themselves, and not the Lord, they will make a false peace with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). God will let them experience the results of the “peace” they worked for, and as a result, they will be humbled and turn to Him. In Romans 11:25-26, we read that “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.” I say the sooner, the better.

Eat, Drink And Be Merry

Luke12_34In 2013, Americans spent just over 600 billion dollars celebrating Christmas, Kwanza and Hanukah. Where is all of the money coming from? That’s a really good question. After all, real median household income in the United States hasn’t exactly been going up. Just check out this chart:

So, what’s the deal? One word: debt. Here’s a chart looking at all of the consumer, government and commercial debt in the United States since 1949:

The United States, as a whole, is 57 trillion dollars in debt. To put this in perspective, that number was just over 13 trillion in 1990. Our total debt has roughly quadrupled in the last 25 years. Instead of sacrificing present pleasure for future gain, people are mortgaging their futures at a rapid pace. In other words, the party is over, but no one wants to turn the lights out.

Now, obviously, not all debt is bad. In fact, it can be very useful. Yet, when someone goes into significant credit card debt, it makes the person a slave to whatever they’re trying to gain from it. Jesus once said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Everyone serves something, and it’s far easier to serve our own desires. Of course, the Bible says “by that which a man is overcome, to this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19). People are enslaved to what they treasure most. It could be popularity, power or prosperity, but whatever it is, they dedicate their lives to obtaining it.

Jesus said “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Yet, He offered this glorious promise: “Therefore if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Christians have been freed from sin to become slaves of God (Romans 6:18). Since we have been bought with a price, Christ’s death, we are His slaves. We’ve been purchased from the slavery of sin, so we can no longer serve the sinful desires of the human heart (1 Corinthians 7:23). We can no longer follow other people into sin. We must obey Christ. Like He said “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13).

Eventually, the debt-fueled party will come to an end in the United States. The illusion of prosperity can’t be maintained forever, and when it comes crashing down, what will people turn to? It’s tough to say, but the Bible offers this great promise: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

The Land of the Lukewarm

Rev_3_15_16Although the United States is known as the “Land of the Free,” the results of a new study suggest it could also be called the “Land of the Lukewarm.” Recently, LifeWay Research conducted an online survey of 3,000 Americans about their thoughts on Christian beliefs. LifeWay’s own Ed Stetzer concluded that “People like to believe in a generic Christian-ish god with cafeteria doctrines.”

Now, I don’t expect non-Christians to accept the core beliefs of the Christian faith, especially when so-called Christians don’t. After all, according to the study, “About half of Americans (48 percent) believe the Bible is the Word of God.” That’s not too bad, but unfortunately, 76% of Evangelicals, 67% of Black Protestants, 50% of Mainline Protestants and only 49% of Catholics believe the Bible is God’s Word.

Well, 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” If the Bible isn’t God’s Word, 2 Timothy 3:16 is false. If we can’t trust the Bible’s claim in this passage, how can we trust the rest of it?

Indeed, this may explain why 67% of Catholics, 55% of Mainline Protestants, 33% of Black Protestants and even 19% of Evangelicals think there are many ways to Heaven. Jesus disagreed. In John 14:6, He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Call me crazy, but if you don’t believe one of Christ’s most fundamental claims, why are you following Him? If you can’t trust what He said here, why trust the rest of what He said?

Finally, we find that “Most Americans (71 percent), and in particular Black Protestants (82 percent) and Catholics (87 percent), say people must contribute some effort toward their own salvation.” Of course, Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast.” In our natural state, we couldn’t enter into a relationship with God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Yet, we have been enabled by God’s grace to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. That’s why God’s grace is so amazing.

In His message to the church at Laodicea, Jesus said “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). Why is it better to be cold instead of lukewarm? Simply put, if you’re not following Christ, you’re against Him (Matthew 12:30). Non-Christians look to Christians for what they should believe about the Bible and Jesus. So-called Christians who reject the truth of the Bible and the sufficiency of Jesus for salvation are leading people away from the faith they claim to hold.

The good news? Jesus said “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be zealous and repent. Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:19-20).

Praying For Leaders?

1_tim_2_1_4It’s election time in the United States again, and that means horrendous television ads, malfunctioning voting machines, and likely, a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:1-4 about praying for our leaders’ salvation and blessing. Sure, it’s easy to mute the ads and shake our heads at “calibration errors.” Yet, it’s a lot harder to pray for our leaders’ salvation and blessing. The good news? We’re not commanded to do so.

Indeed, 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says the following: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” What is this passage saying?

Well, Paul begins by saying that we should pray and give thanks for all people. I doubt this means we should be praying and thanking God for the entire human race all the time. Instead, Paul is saying that we shouldn’t just pray for the people we like. Quite the opposite, he adds that we should be praying for rulers and all those in authority. How exactly are we to pray for these rulers?

This is the part that seems to throw everybody off. Paul says we’re to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Notice what Paul doesn’t say. He doesn’t say we need to pray that our leaders rule well. He also doesn’t say we should pray for the salvation of our leaders. Rather, we’re commanded to pray for our leaders in order that we as Christians can live and do God’s work in peace, so people can be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Paul goes on to say that this pleases God, who wants everyone to be saved. In other words, Paul is urging us to pray that the government leaves us alone so we can preach the Gospel without any restrictions. Now that’s something I can pray for!

Of course, we can certainly pray that our leaders are successful. Likewise, we can pray for their salvation. In this passage, however, Paul is not urging us to pray for either of these outcomes. The purpose of the prayer is clearly stated (1 Timothy 2:2). So, this election, remember that the most important thing to look for in a candidate is whether or not they will leave us alone to preach the Word.

Holy Rigidity

1_Peter_1_15_16Pope Francis is no stranger to making absurd and controversial remarks. When you run your own city-state and roughly a billion people think everything you say is “infallible,” you usually get away with it. Unfortunately, the fall-out from the Synod of Bishops on the Family illustrates this point.

At the conclusion of the two-week conference, most of the bishops in attendance rejected the idea of making the Roman Catholic Church more accepting of homosexuality and divorce. Francis wasn’t happy, and he threw a mini-tantrum. He said the Roman Church needs to adapt to the “changing conditions of society” and added that “God is not afraid of new things.” He also accused anyone opposed to his agenda of “hostile rigidity.” Curiously, he removed Cardinal Raymond Burke from his post for disagreeing with him. That seems mildly hostile, and it’s definitely rigid. Regardless, Francis received a standing ovation, but why?

After all, there isn’t a single place in the Bible where Christians are commanded to compromise God’s Word to suit the culture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Quite the opposite, Jesus said “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). He added that “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20). Jesus didn’t say adapt to the “changing conditions of society.” Frankly, such compromise reeks of cowardice, and there’s no place for that in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:9).

In addition, God doesn’t change because society does. On the contrary, God has declared that “I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). As a result, what He said about homosexuality in the Bible hasn’t changed. Of course, the Bible says “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). It doesn’t matter what Pope Francis says or does, because God doesn’t show partiality (Acts 10:34-35). He is no respecter of persons (Colossians 3:25).

Certainly, men who claim to speak for God can bless same-sex marriages all they like. Yet, it will not legitimize the sin of homosexuality in God’s eyes. Sure, you can try to convince yourself otherwise, but that’s a dangerous game. The Bible says “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

When it comes to sin, God has a zero-tolerance policy (James 2:10). You might call it holy rigidity (1 Peter 1:15-16), and that’s why Jesus is the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). Now, for agreeing with God that sin is still sin, you’ll probably be accused of “hostile rigidity.” That’s fine. Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). I’d rather hear the angels singing in Heaven (Luke 15:7, 10) than have a standing ovation on this earth. Who wouldn’t?