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The Kindness of Joseph of Arimathea

“And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Sanhedrin (but did not consent to the death of Jesus) who was from Arimathea and was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He took it down from the cross and wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock where no one had ever lain.”
Luke 23

We tend to think of the Jewish Elite of Jesus day as all villains, but Joseph was an exception. The key phrase is “he was waiting for the kingdom of God.” Everyone else sought the kingdom of man, not of God, as they claimed. Joseph waited for the city not made by human hands. He took down the body of Jesus, carefully wrapped it, and placed it into his own tomb where no one had laid. Despite the fact Jesus would soon rise and have no use for either, I doubt our Lord would forget this measure of kindness from Joseph, the one who waited for Him.

Today as I reflect on the death of my mama, I want to thank the folks at Sanderson Funeral Homes for taking such good care of my mama’s body. For taking good care of it and laying it in a tomb no one has lain in. For although I know she has no further need of it, I will not forget the care and kindness they have taken with the one so dear to me. I also hope that they all, like our friend Joseph, are waiting for the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and long for His appearing.

I believe in Resurrection.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Do Not Stop Speaking


jesus.heal_Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:31-37

God does not do everything in a public forum. We offer a public invitation to repent and submit to Jesus Christ in churches every Sunday, but in reality people are not required to walk down the aisle to be saved. Some people have very public salvation experiences, and some are very private ones. Some are saved while the preacher is speaking, while others are saved once home and meditating on the things said. There is no one experience that is better than another.

This man was healed privately. Many of Jesus’ miracles, such as His feeding of the 5,000 men, were very public. Others, like this one, were very private. What connects them all is what happened afterwards.

Acts 4:1-22

Peter and John were threatened with prison, violence and death. Their response? “We cannot stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.”

They couldn’t stop. They were compelled. They were driven to speak about Jesus.

When Jesus touches someone, they cannot stop speaking about it. Even if Jesus tells them not to speak, they cannot help themselves.

What about you? How often do you speak about His love? How often do you proclaim His good news to others?

No one is stopping us. There are not yet soldiers in the streets to arrest us, beat us, or kill us. And yet we are stopped by sneers and ridicule, or simply indifference.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

We hold back because we want to please men. Even in the Church, a dangerous practice of pleasing men in a thin veneer called “seeker churches.” These people try to be “seeker” sensitive, not being overbearing towards those who come to their church seeking God.

Except, no Lost soul is seeking Him, for it is written:

“No one understands; no one seeks for God.”
Romans 3:11

Men do not seek God. God seeks out men to save them. The world has so blinded itself with sin that it is oblivious to the coming Judgement. We are the watchmen called to sound the trumpet and warn the people.

Ezekiel 33:1-9

We are required to sound the trumpet and warn the Lost. God will hold us accountable for every soul we had a chance to tell but did not. Every soul we tell that does not repent and heed our warning we are guiltless of. We cannot convince people of the truth, for it is also written:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1st Corinthians 2:14

In his natural, sinful state, humans cannot understand, cannot see the beauty of the Gospel. In fact, it’s complete nonsense. Only God can change that heart of stone to a heart of flesh, but He often uses us to do it.

Titus 2:1-10

“Adorn” here means to make alluring or attractive. So in a sense we are to make the Gospel more appealing to the Lost, but not by downplaying sin and Judgement, or by working around penal substitution, but by living according to the teachings of Christ in every way, showing the world that God’s way not only works, but is the best way to live.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1st Peter 3:13-17

No one is saying go grab a sandwich board and stand on the street screaming at people to “turn or burn.” What the Bible says is to live a godly life and revere Christ as holy. Then, when people inquire as to why you live and love thus, you share the Gospel. We do not do this harshly or in judgement, but as dying men to dying men.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
Colossians 4:5

Don’t stay silent. Be wise among unbelievers and look for opportunities. If you see one open up, you go for it!

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Christology

 

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The Sandheap and Sin

Pictured: A heap of sand. Maybe.

Let us begin with a famous paradox (The Sorites’ Paradox). One has a heap of sand made up of 1,000,000 grains of sand.

We assume;
1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand. (Premise 1)
A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Therefore,
Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand.

What does this have to do with sin? Everything.

Reformed theology affirms that the Bible teaches that it is sinfulness, and not individual sins, which condemn a person to Hell. Reformed theology affirms that any person not living in the grace of Jesus Christ is sinful and condemned, regardless of how many (or how few) sins he may have. It also affirms that anyone who is in Christ is totally saved and secure no matter how many (or few) sins he may commit.

To many this doctrine is offensive and unfair. Many believe that a person with few sins may enter Heaven without Christ, and others believe that those with many sins may not enter even with Christ. To these people I say this: answer the paradox. How many grains of sand constitute a heap?

Either one grain of sand constitutes a heap, or there is no such thing as a heap, or there is a specified number of grains which constitute a heap.

Therefore when applied to the question of sin we find one of these must be true;
(Truth 1) One sin is sufficient for condemnation.
(Truth 2) No amount of sins are sufficient for condemnation.
(Truth 3) A specified number of sins are required for condemnation.

If #1 is true, then Reformed theology is correct in this matter, and all sinners are equally condemned without Christ, and all saved persons are equally secure in Christ.
If #2 is true, then all of Christianity is bunk because there was/is no sin debt with God and therefore no reason to send Christ to die for us.
If #3 is true, then there should be a specific number of sins laid out clearly in Scripture, underneath which there is no condemnation (Christ or not) and above which there is no salvation (Christ or not).

What does Scripture say?

Galatians 2
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

First, Paul makes it clear that a person cannot be made right with God through his own effort (works of the law). This is critical, for many believe the sand heap can be thus altered in size by one’s good works. It cannot. We cannot reduce its number. Just as a thousand good deeds done by a murderer cannot bring the victim back to life, so we cannot undo our own sins.
Second, Paul also makes it plain that if it were possible to attain righteousness on one’s own, Christ’s death would be meaningless. Therefore if one ascribes to the idea of Christianity, truth #2 must be discarded. The sand heap is very real. The only question is, how many grains of sand constitute a heap?

James 2
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James makes it clear that there is no partiality among sins. Anyone who breaks God’s law in just one place becomes guilty for breaking all of it. QED, one grain of sand constitutes a heap.

John’s Gospel 3
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

1st John 5
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

God used John the Elder to make it plain to us. If you are in Christ Jesus, then you will not be condemned. If you are not, you are already condemned. That is, the number or severity of your sins is really irrelevant. If you have ever sinned (and all humans have) then you are a sinner and sinful. Either you will believe in Jesus, trust in Jesus and repent and therefore find full grace and forgiveness in Him, or you will refuse Him and be condemned to an eternity separated from the Father of Joy in eternal torment.

Romans 1
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

2nd Corinthians 3
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Galatians 6
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

1st Corinthians 4
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

No matter how few sins you have committed, or how many good works you have done, you cannot be saved apart from Jesus Christ. Likewise, the man in Christ is not judged on the quantity of his sins after repentance nor is he judged on the number of good works he has done in Christ. What counts, as Paul says in Galatians 6:15, is a new creation. The new man in Christ is a changing man who is changing from faith to faith and glory to glory. He is being sanctified out of sin but is so long as he breathes a work in progress, which should not be judged on some arbitrary system of men, including his own.

Romans 5

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, andso death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

One grain of sand is a heap. One sin results in total condemnation. One act of true righteousness (the Cross) is sufficient to pay for all.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Soteriology

 

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Just Wait

Picture 100“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”
– Psalm 127:3

I can still remember the day the Holy Spirit quickened me. My dead spirit came alive and I received my new heart of flesh. The Gospel was preached to me, and for the first amazing moment, I understood this message was for me. His story was my story. Jesus died for my sins. He was crushed for my  iniquities. With every whip of the scourge on His flesh, my wounds were healed. The Lord laid on Him all of my evil. The decision I made that night was not to be saved, because that had already happened through the work of the Holy Spirit. The decision I made was to follow Christ because I was saved.

The next day I was baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I can still remember the old preacher Charles White telling me as I came up from the water, dripping wet: “This is the song of your new life. Whenever you hear it from this day on, you will remember this day.” The song they were singing was “Happy Day.” Yes, Charles, I still remember.

I was on fire that day, and nothing could stop me. Nothing that is until my first deliberate sin after my conversion. From that day onward, I have struggled with feeling like a failure. I felt like God had given me this great new life and then I let Him down. My earthly father, who himself struggled with the same feelings in his walk, did his best to comfort me. I felt like any day, God would have had enough of me and leave. When I shared these feelings with my dad, I will never forget what he said.

“He is your Father, son. He will never leave you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You won’t. Not until you are a father.”

Years passed and I never understood that. I struggled. I doubted God’s love for me. I doubted I could measure up, so I stopped trying to. I wandered from Him. I spent some of the best years of my youth wasting away in a “far country.” Then one day, grieved over my lifestyle of sin, unable to live in a far country anymore, I turned my heart back towards home. Unsure if I was even welcome, I called upon the Lord. In that instant, I felt His overwhelming love wash over me. His hand guided me back to Him, and soon God sent Curtis Jones (an old friend and recent convert) to help me find Steven’s Street Baptist Church. I knew the story of the Prodigal Son that day, and it is beautiful beyond words. He left the 99 to find the one, and I was the one.

But even with this, I still did not understand His love for me. There were deep sins I could not conquer within, and so I still believed He might regret His decision to save me and call it quits. Every failure, every sin, brought me closer to losing Him. Or so I thought.

God sent Joey Norsworthy into my life to take me under his wing. That man of God trained me up in the basics of theology and hermeneutics. I soon began to have an intellectual understanding of His never-ending love and His long-suffering, but I still didn’t understand it in my heart. My struggle continued, but this time I persevered and stuck with Him even though I felt any moment it might be over. I chose to believe it in my mind even though I did not feel it in my heart.

Then God brought me into a relationship with the love of my life, Gena Cohoon. She began to teach me in only the way she could that God’s love was for keeps. I still remember a bookmark she gave me before we even dated that had scriptures on it that pointed to God’s eternal love and who I was in Christ. God’s child. God’s treasure. No wonder I fell in love with her! It helped me carry on, but I still didn’t understand in my heart.

Then God enabled my wife to conceive. She bore me a son, Joshua. I was so excited for so many reasons. In the secret place of my heart, I also hoped my dad was right, and I would finally understand what he meant.

I did.

I soon understood that my love for my son is unconditional. I loved him before he was even born. I loved him before he did anything good or bad. I accepted him completely. I could never think of doing him harm. I want to do him good all the days of his life. I want to raise him in the Lord and prepare him as best I can for all he must face. I will never cast him out or turn him aside. If he asks for food, I will feed him. If he leaves me in disgust and scorn, I will sit on my porch looking for his return. When he does, I will run to him and kiss him and throw a party for him. Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 that if I am evil and yet know how to love my kids, how much more does God love me and know how to give me good things?

My children have taught me more about God’s love for me than any other experience in life. There are so many things I would not know without them.

I still don’t get it all, oh no. His love transcends any love I have for my children, but my dad was right. He is my Daddy. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will never regret saving me! He has begun a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it in the Day of Jesus Christ!

So for those of you who do not yet have children and struggle to believe in the love of God, JUST WAIT!

Additional Resources

God will never regret saving you.

Children: a joy or “just wait?”

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Theology

 

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Jolly Ole St. Nick?

Santa_Claus1

There are children in Christian homes who can tell you more about this guy than Jesus.

Last Christmas, I shared with you the history of the holiday we call “Christmas”.

In that post, I also discussed the Santa Claus myth, and my personal opinion on the issue of teaching young children to believe in that myth.

In short, I believe it’s wrong to teach your children to believe in a lie, but my concerns transcend that simple moral, though I believe that alone should be enough to convince believers not to engage in this kind of behavior.

No, the problem of Santa goes deeper and further than this, but it has little to do with Santa Claus himself, and more to do with people’s view of God.

Myths are great, IF they have a scent of the “true myth” (as Tolkien called it) of the Gospel. This is what makes myths like the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings so wonderful. They were written by Christians and contain a scent (sometimes much more than a scent) of the true myth of the Gospel, the very real and true story of Jesus Christ the Hero.

Of course, none of us are teaching kids that Narnia really exists and they might be able to reach it through an old wardrobe, but I digress.

What makes the Santa myth so terrible and dangerous is that, quite apart from having a scent of the true myth of the Gospel, it is totally in opposition to it.

Rather than write more, let me share a video with you that explains what I mean in a short, catchy poem.

So now you see what I mean. The Santa myth is a false gospel. Children, especially in the ages we are dealing with, are so very impressionable. Maybe when they discover you lied to them about a false god when they turn 7, or 8, or whatever, they will understand and move on. But the underlying message, that of merit, entitlement, and materialism, will likely remain, if only beneath the surface.

Believers say without Santa Claus, Christmas loses its magic and mystery for kids. The mystery and power of Jesus Christ are not enough? If that is true for you, then you are forgetting your first Love. We must never lose the wonder of the Cross. Besides, there are much better ways to do fun Christmas things with kids. Like the Jesse Tree, among others. Shoot, tell them about the REAL St. Nick, he was one awesome guy!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Theology

 

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Theodicy

ancient-philosopher“If God is good, why does evil exist?”

First, to answer the question, we must first define evil. God defines evil/sin as something that falls short of His intended purpose (Rom 3:23). Therefore, evil is the privation (or lack of) good. Evil is not a thing in and of itself, rather, it is the absence of what is good, a lack of total perfection.

Secondly, humans, and not God, are the cause of this want of good in Creation. God gave us the responsibility to ensure His goodness endured in this world by obeying Him, and we squandered it. (Genesis 2-3) He could have dealt with sin and evil right then and there, and prevented any of the terrible consequences of evil (lack of good) in the world. However, to do so would have meant our immediate judgement and destruction, we being not only part of but also the cause of the evil (lack of good) in the world. In order for God to deal justly with evil and sin, He must punish all sin and remove all evil, not just the parts we don’t like. (Ez 18:25)

But God, rich in mercy and love, did not want us to be destroyed. (Ez 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9) Instead of dealing with evil in the garden, He permitted the world to continue in evil (that is, lacking perfection) with all the flaws and consequences thereof (death, hate, suffering, etc) in order than at the right time (Romans 5:6, Galatians 4:4-5) He could send His Son Jesus into this evil (imperfect) world to Himself suffer evil and die a sinner’s death in order to redeem humankind back to Himself (John 3:16-18).

Why did God allow an evil (imperfect) world to continue afterwards? Because God intended to save not only those present at the time of Jesus’ death and Resurrection  but also humans from every single tribe and tongue worldwide (Rev 5:9, Rom 11:25, Matt 24:14). Until the full number of God’s people are redeemed, God will hold back His judgement which will in fact end all sin and evil (imperfection) from the world forever and ever.

So, God withholds His solution to the “evil problem”, which ultimately finds its source in the sins of human beings, so that He can save humans from it. His patience means our salvation (Rom 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).  If God had dealt with evil in the Garden, or after the Cross, and not permitted evil to continue until this time, you and I would have been cut off, excluded from the Promise and without hope.

In short, God doesn’t destroy evil because we are evil and He loves us. There is coming a day, however, set and known only by the Father God, when He will bring in the last of His people and deal with evil with all justice and judgement. Today is the day of salvation, do not resist God if He stirs your heart to repentance.

Praise God for his mercy and patience!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Theology

 

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The Good, the Bad, and the Rewards

justice-scalesThe Church I grew up in taught me this axiom: People who do bad things are punished, people who do good things are not punished.

From what I hear, they are still teaching that.

This was hard on me as a young Christian. If I screw up, I’ll go to hell. If I work hard and do what’s right, I won’t go to hell. Basically, it framed God in my mind as a vengeful deity who was so angry at us miserable ****roaches that the slightest misstep would invoke His wrath. If we watched our step and minded our manners, He might let us in. Maybe.

It also implied that there were no rewards with God. The “reward” was that you would not be sent to hell for all eternity and go to Heaven instead. Well that sounds great, but there is a catch there. While people didn’t (and don’t) like to admit it, some Christians are working harder and doing better than others. Some in our church avoided known sins and were somewhat charitable. But others gave up their careers and dreams and whole lives for God. Are they all equal in Heaven? If so, why not just obey the commandments and “skim” by with the rest?

The answer I always recieved for such questions was that all such thinking was evil and that I was being selfish and should get my act together.

But I thought “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Interesting.

Not only is not foolish to talk about rewards, the Bible says that if we don’t believe God will reward us then we have no faith, and if we have no faith we cannot please Him. To understand what the Bible really teaches about rewards, punishment and the escape thereof, we must first define some terms: There are good people and bad people, and good works and bad works. One does not necessarily always go with the other.

Scripture teaches that God desires all things He created to be good: Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31

Scripture teaches us that all humans are bad people:  Romans 3:9-18

Scripture teaches us that all bad people are dead spiritually and that these spiritually dead are punished in Hell forever: Ephesians 2:1, John 8:24,  Revelation 20:11-15

Scripture teaches us that God has provided an escape from this punishment in Jesus Christ and Him alone: John 3:16-18Acts 4:8-12, John 14:6, 1st John 5:11-12

Scripture teaches that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we cease to be bad people and become good people: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, 2 Corinthians 5:21

Scripture teaches us that this atonement is a gift of God that cannot be earned through good works: Romans 3:19-20Ephesians 2:8-9

Scripture teaches that bad people sometimes perform good works: Luke 6:32

Scripture teaches that good people sometimes perform bad works: Romans 7:18-251 John 1:8-10

Scripture teaches that a bad person, whether he does any good works or not, will still be punished: Isaiah 64:6Psalm 49:7-9

Scripture teaches that a good person, even if he sometimes does bad works, will still be spared punishment: 1st John 2:1-2, 1st John 5:18

Ok, so we’ve cleared the air about many things already. To recap, here’s the deal: Everyone starts out as a bad person. At their core, they are sinful and have no relationship with God. They may occasionally do good works, but always for the wrong reasons, and anyway no amount of them can atone for their sins. The only way to escape hell and go to heaven is through Jesus Christ, who can take the sinful core out of a bad person, nail it to the cross, and then insert his righteousness which then turns them into good people. That is, good at their core. A good person has Christ living within them. Good people, however, still mess up and do bad works, because their flesh is still sinful, but this doesn’t change their core being. So, that being true, why strive (as Paul said to do 1 Corinthians 9:24) to perform good works?

Scripture teaches that good people who do good works are not only spared punishment, but rewarded: Matt 16:27, Revelation 22:12

*Note that Christ in both passages says “according to their works,” this is not a state of being a Christian or not, but according to one’s deeds and works. It cannot refer to salvation, because it is a reward according to works, and salvation is not by works, but by faith through grace – Ephesians 2:8-9.

Scripture teaches that good people who waste their life and fail to do good works are still spared punishment, but lose rewards: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

Again Paul paints an illustration of building a house, strangely similar to the fable about the Three Pigs, where the house is tested; not by a wolf’s howl, but by the fiery Judgement of God. If it is made of good and proper materials, it will stand the test and the builder will be rewarded. If it is consumed, the foolish builder will still be saved, but it will be like a man escaping from a burning building: singed, half naked, and nothing to his name but his life.

Of course, escaping Hell into Heaven with nothing but your shirt is still a huge blessing, but wouldn’t we rather please God and receive the great rewards He has for us? Pastor Johnny Hunt of Woodstock Baptist once said “If you want to hear ‘Well done faithful servant’ you will have to do well.”

Of course now the question is: what are the rewards? The answer is we do not know, and all the better, for it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1st Corinthians 2:9

I can, however, tell you what the reward is not. It is not a really big house in Heaven. There’s been a lot of misguided interpretation regarding the word “mansion” in many older translations, namely the KJV. The word “mansion” back in those days did not mean what it means today. As you should be aware, the English language of today is highly saturated with French loanwords. This is because way back in the Middle Ages, the French Normans invaded and conquered England and ruled it for a considerable period of time. During this time, English picked up lots of French words, such as le maison, which means “home” or “dwelling place.” The word “mansion” in John 14:12 simply means there is plenty of living space in Heaven for all who would accept the Gospel of Christ. Think about it logically. Jesus says “In my father’s house are many mansions.” How could a mansion be inside of a house? Modern translations choose the word “rooms” or “dwelling spaces” which is far more accurate today than “mansion” (and yet another reason it’s not a good idea to read the Bible in a language that hasn’t been used in four centuries without proper education).

Here’s the conclusion of the matter: We all start off with a sinful nature, bad to the core, headed for Hell. Nothing we can do can save us or change our destiny. Only by coming to Christ through faith in Him are we graciously saved from sin and death by God. When this happens, Jesus comes to live within us and make us into “good” people at our core, children of God, citizens of Heaven. From then on, our destiny is to become more and more good, or like Christ, until we are caught up with Him at the Resurrection and made perfect. Along the way, our sinful outer flesh can screw us up and lead us to make “bad” choices to do “bad” works. These things cannot steal our salvation but can cost us valuable rewards from God. Instead we should strive as a runner racing for the prize, in prayer and in the Word to become more like Christ and do the things He did, that is, “good” things. If we run well and do well, we have a promise from God that rewards await us in Heaven unlike anything we’ve ever seen, heard of, or even imagined in our wildest dreams. We have no clue what they are, but they are not big houses or material possessions; stuff like that is what got us in this mess in the first place. The last thing we need is more of it.

Be blessed, run well!

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Soteriology

 

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