Fluffy, Sparky & Acceptable Idolatry

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I promise, I’m not intentionally trying to offend you, but I might.  I don’t really desire to agitate or irritate people but I do sometimes.

My job is to proclaim the truth.  If I’m going to sell something I’m going to sell the truth.  The truth is not cheap.  In fact most people don’t want it because it’s sort of offensive…  I know there have been plenty of times when I don’t want the truth because it hurts.  It cuts and it opens you up. That’s what the Bible tells us it will do.

Just before the writer of Hebrews tells us it’s important to go to church he tells us part of the reason why.  And it’s a good reason why and it’s also part of what I desire to do today.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works… – Hebrews 10:23-24

The word “stir up” is also “provoke”  παροξυσμός paroxysmós, par-ox-oos-mos’; (“paroxysm”); incitement (to good), or dispute (in anger):—contention, provoke unto.

It means to irritate and agitate.  I’ll be honest I don’t like doing that with people.  I don’t like to get people angry with me.  But that is the purpose of other believers and the church.  So we can stimulate other believers to love and to good works.

I want to address an acceptable form of idolatry today.  There are lots of things that we accept as idolatry in our world.  Our children, their sports programs, their extracurricular activities, our sports programs, our leisure time and on and on…

But what about our pets?

Do you think you have an idolatrous relationship with your pet or pets; because one is never enough right?  I mean they need companionship don’t they?  Don’t they get lonely also?  Here goes a few ways we might want to consider our pets.

Who serves who? 

Paul discusses this doesn’t he?  I don’t think that all Christians worship their animals the way Romans 1 tells us, but there are those that do.  They are four-footed animals and they do need to be served.  A cat won’t clean its own litter box and a dog won’t pick up after itself, have you ever seen people walking their dogs down the street?  What is it they are carrying?  Who is doing the serving?

Romans 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen. 

Is it good stewardship? 

This might be touching a raw nerve for some but we must sincerely ask this question.  What kind of money do you spend on your animals?  Does this honor God with all your possessions?

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.

Seeking Comfort in them and not in the Lord? 

Jesus Christ is to be our only need and our only desire when it comes to needing comfort from the ravages of the outside world.  Do you love to see your dog because he has no demands of you?  He licks you and wags his tail and never says, “Hey Kevin, did you get that done today?”  He seems to “love” you unconditionally right?  This is comforting.   Is the Lord Jesus Christ being replaced by Fido?

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Are you a slave to your animal? 

Does your pet keep you from being able to go do things?  I can’t go to this place because I need to find a “sitter” for the cat.  Our older girls are constantly watching the neighbor’s cat and dog.  It’s easy money for sure, but what if you didn’t have to worry about it?  Wouldn’t that provide some freedom?  It seems things have been reversed and animals have taken dominion over mankind.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26

Dominion means to subjugate and to rule over.  Man has done that with dogs when they used them for working purposes, such as to herd or hunt but just like so many other things in our society these roles have been reversed.

Animals are only temporal creatures.  Man was created with an eternal soul and that soul will live on forever in one of two places.  For believers they will forever worship their King.  For those that have never turned to Christ for forgiveness and repented of their sin they will live forever in Hell under the wrath of God.  It is an awful and fearful thing.

Animals will die and return to dust.  You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. – Psalm 104:29 

I realize this is a sensitive topic because people love their pets and I’ve been there.  I’ve seen it and lived it.  I’m not making a blanket statement that having a pet is a sin or it is even necessarily wrong, but I want us to ask to what end and for what purpose.  What is the goal and am I honoring God in all of this.  Nothing is neutral.  What is not from faith is sin and that is something we should be consistently thinking about.  Me especially.

Kevin

Suffer

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“Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering…” These lyrics appear in a popular, modern, worship song by Matt Redman. But what does it mean to suffer in today’s Christianity, as I’m sure many people sing along with this song but have no concept of real suffering.

I think most people equate suffering today, in the “church” as something that comes from numerous sources, none of which are biblical standards of suffering. I expect that even making this statement will be offensive to many because when we are suffering we want to believe we are suffering biblically, especially if we name the name of Christ.

What is it to suffer?

Experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant) – this is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition. I could probably dig a little deeper, but this is what most people will consider to suffer.

When we feel bad, or when we feel like we didn’t get what we deserve, we feel as though we are suffering. Some might be suffering the loss of a loved one, or suffering the loss of a job. These are certainly unpleasant things that occur, and nobody likes them, but are they really suffering as the Bible would describe it?

Our family has recently been watching a series about heroes of the faith. These are people that endured prison, endured beatings, and many of them endured martyrdom. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned in Communist Romania for speaking out against Communism. He spent over eight years imprisoned and three years in solitary confinement with no lights or no windows. He was beaten and tortured, physically as well as psychologically and yet he maintained his sanity by preaching sermons during the night to himself. His survival and proclamation of the gospel is beyond what we can imagine today.

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:10-12

Paul is instructing young Timothy how to be a faithful minister of the Word. He is setting the example before him of his own life. He is telling him how it’s going to be…and Timothy must know how his future will most likely turn out. Only a true believer will set himself up for this, because it’s not going to be fun.

I’m challenged by this, and I hope you are as well, because I think we need to be. I think we must be…

We don’t currently experience this today, at least not in this country, mostly… But I believe we will, and I believe I must prepare my children. It’s why I think it’s important for them to see those that gave their lives for the faith. They suffered and died to proclaim His name.

Consider these great heroes of the faith, their names are unknown to us, but their example lives on, and it’s one for us to consider when we are afraid to open our mouths and hand someone a gospel tract.

…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11:35-40

This doesn’t sound like my Christianity? I realize we are in a different time period, and the place we live right now, is unlikely that I’m going to be destitute and or sawn in half. But should I then say, this has no place in a conviction in my life? Absolutely not, this should shame me when I won’t open my mouth, or I look at my 401K statement and think, boy if I only had a little more, I’d be in pretty good shape.

No, how about giving until it actually effects my 401K? How about standing on a corner and proclaiming the name of Christ and actually praising God for the ridicule that will no doubt ensue? Would this be better or worse than being slain with the sword? That’s not a mutually exclusive proposition; I can do one without the other. I probably won’t be slain, but I will probably be made fun of, and that would be a slight way in which I could suffer for Christ sake, wouldn’t it?

Could I, or could you risk some embarrassment every now and again, to give someone a message of love? To tell them they need Jesus, because without Him they are on a crash course for Hell? Do we believe that? If we sort of don’t…then we won’t… If Hell is real, then its consequences are real, and we need to tell people, we need to warn them.

I’d like to consider this verse in a different way today.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” But ou do nt give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. – James 2:14-17

This verse is clearly and plainly for believers, please don’t be confused, and here is how I want us to think differently about it. If we don’t live out our faith in a tangible and real way, proclaiming Christ to dead people, we are doing the same thing to them. We might even give them something warm and fill them with food; in fact lots of misguided ministries do just that. But…..do they give them the bread of life?

Do we tell them God is holy and man is sinful? Do we tell them Jesus is the answer to their sin problem? Do we tell them they must turn from their sin, and embrace a new life in Christ? This is the gospel, this is necessary, and they need to be born again, or they will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So, let’s go out and suffer, just a little bit this week. Just a little bit, so we can learn to suffer a little bit more and then someday, maybe we can really learn how to suffer.

 

Kevin

“Is it I?”

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When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” – Matthew 26:20-21

The mere thought or reading of this verse is devastating to me. I can barely take in the magnitude of what was happening at this moment in time. The closeness of the relationships that had been formed for three years between Jesus and the twelve is probably hard for us to grasp at this point in history. We have very little to compare that level of relationship, these men traveled and ministered together, and were with each other for nearly every moment.

Judas was a good liar, and he was adept at concealment. He knew how to blend into each and every situation. He might have started out with wonderful expectations of the Messiah. Perhaps, he thought the Messiah would deliver them from the hands of Rome…finally, and then he would achieve the goals he had, the fulfillment he desired, or whatever it was that he really thought he wanted. He clearly, in his inner most being, had no desire for Christ for spiritual reasons.

But don’t we all have those tendencies and desires sometimes?

When I put the work into examining my motives for what I do, and why I do them, I really must stop sometimes and say, “What are you doing?” “Why did you do that?” “Was that for God’s glory or for your own pleasure, your own personal fulfillment?”

Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” – Matthew 26:25

Did he know?

Isn’t this a profound question, something for us to really think about?

Did Judas realize what he was doing, or did his sin blind him so much that he didn’t think that far down the road. In fact the Lord said, “It would have been good for that man, if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24) Can you imagine that it would have been better for Judas to have never been born, to never have walked the earth, to never have breathed a breath, or have his heart beat, to never have seen the sun, taste good food, or to have walked with God Himself on this earth?

He spent time with his Creator, he knew Him on a very intimate level, but yet he really never knew Him at all. Just think, Judas associated with Christ, but he never “knew” Christ, there are many people out there just like Judas. Many of them have a deep intellectual understanding of Christ, yet they don’t know Him.

Why?

They are holding onto something… To truly know Christ, means denying yourself, it means that you will abandon everything you have ever, or will ever place your trust in, outside of Him. Charles Spurgeon once said that “If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.” Those that evangelize to the dead, or preach the gospel of peace, know this reality. You know people don’t like what you are telling them. They don’t want to face their sin. It means they have to let go of something. It means they have to admit “it would have been better that they never had been born”, and this is so very true isn’t it? Because what’s the alternative? The alternative is a short life, here on earth, grasping for 30 pieces of silver. When we get that silver, we realize it never held any real satisfaction…a temporary fix at best. Its blood money, but most don’t see it that way.

This past week I had a conversation with a guy that I’ve known for a long time and as I listened to him tell me things I could see that what he thought about himself was really important. However, my heart was crying for him, because he is so lost, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s a nice guy, in some respects, but he doesn’t know the wrath of God abides upon him. He doesn’t know that it would be better that he had never been born, unless he repents and believes the gospel.

From his book “Twelve Ordinary Men” John MacArthur wrote this:

“He was a coward. He knew the popularity of Jesus.   He was afraid of the crowd. Like every hypocrite, he was obsessed with concerns about what people thought of him, so he was hoping to betray Jesus as quietly as possible. He was looking for the doorway to hell that was most convenient. And when he found it, he plunged right in.” [1]

What happens when we fall into sin? Are we a Judas or are we Peter? Do we have sorrow that leads to death or sorrow that leads to repentance? This is the difference and if you’ve never understood that you are a Judas outside of godly sorrow leading to repentance, then you are still a Judas. Judas deceived himself, and he never knew his eternal fate had been sealed when he committed himself fully to Satan’s plan.

You will either be broken on the Rock, or smashed to pieces by it. Today is the day to get right with God. Today is the acceptable day of salvation for those that truly understand they are hanging by a thread over the eternal flames of hell. Those in eternal torment right now, with no way out, know it. Don’t find it out too late. Repent, and turn from your sin and be saved.

Kevin

“So expert was he in his hypocrisy that he fooled everyone but Jesus, right up to the very end.” – John MacArthur [2]

 

 

[1] John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men (Thomas Nelson, 2002) 193

[2] Ibid – 192

Go to Hell!

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How many times have you said this to someone? Well, as a Christian I hope you would never say this to someone, but as a Christian how many times do you say this to people in act or in deed? I’d say we all do this more times than we can imagine. I actually shudder to think how many times I do this.

Just recently a man died. His name was Jack. Jack woke up not knowing this day would be his last. I’m sure he had a lot of things on his to-do list that day and I’m certain he expected he’d accomplish all, if not most of his tasks. I didn’t know Jack; in fact, I know almost nothing about Jack except that he was in his forties. I’m sure he was a family man with a wife and kids. Maybe he was a church going man, I’m not sure. Maybe he wasn’t.

The thing is it’s possible I’ve talked to Jack at some point in my life and I wonder if in that encounter I told him about Jesus? I wonder if I told him that there is a Holy God that we will give account of our lives. I wonder if I told him that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of This God’s glory, and because of that problem justice must be served.

We are all guilty criminals; guilty of the most heinous of all crimes, against an infinitely Holy God. That God has given us life and everything good that we experience on this earth and we really have no thoughts of Him and we certainly don’t care to thank Him or honor Him. No, we just go along in our daily endeavors rarely thinking, if ever thinking, that this day might be our last, that today will be the day that we must stand in His courtroom and tell of all our deeds.

This courtroom has a much higher level of strictness and judgment than any earthly courtroom could have. In fact it is so strict that it requires perfection or we will be found guilty. In this courtroom anger is considered murder, in this courtroom looking with lust, or sexual desire is the same as adultery.

I don’t know if Jack knew that or not? I’m sure there will be a funeral where a minister will say a lot of nice things about Jack. How he was a good father, a good husband and probably a “good” man. But I wonder if that minister will remind those people that today or tomorrow could be the day they will face the judge?

Today I wonder if you or I, Mr. and Mrs. Christian, will tell people that today could be the day that they will face the judge. Will we tell them that He is a righteous judge, and that He is angry with the wicked every day? That if they don’t turn from their sin, and place their trust in Christ Jesus as their only hope that they will spend an eternity in a place called Hell, the place where God punishes guilty sinners just like I was, or just like you were?

Do we tell the guilty sinner that the only hope they have is in Christ? Not their own goodness?

Or do we really tell them to “Go to Hell!” I don’t want to take the time… I don’t want to risk the embarrassment…   I don’t want to risk the rejection… I don’t want to risk being labeled a freak…

In other words, you just don’t care about their soul. In other words, I don’t care about their soul.

If we believe the Bible, and I expect most reading this post will say they do, did we forget the imperative command of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He said “Go” and make disciples, teaching them to obey My commands? (Matthew 28:18-20) Did we also forget He said He would be with us, as we did it?

Did we forget that He said the first and greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself?  Loving our neighbor certainly includes calling them to repentance doesn’t it?

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.” – Ezekiel 3:17-19

My dear friends, if your evangelistic zeal is non-existent, or seriously lacking, please consider your testimony today. Do you really love people, or do you just love yourself? Do you prefer to protect yourself, or do you really desire to live for the glory of God?

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. – Luke 9:24

Let’s consider today, how many Jack’s we will pass by and tell them to “Go to Hell!”

 

Kevin

 

The Terrors of Hell – Part 3 – Is God just?

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Is God just in damning men eternally to hell?

Don’t pass over this question, because this is one of the hardest questions the Believer and non-believer will ever wrestle with.  I admittedly struggle with it myself, because I know people that, unless God pours out His mercy, will spend eternity in hell.  It really comes back to a fairness question in most people’s minds.

One of God’s attributes is justice and we can’t have a complete God without Him being just.  I will not be able to completely cover this subject in one post and if you are bothered by this writing I’d encourage you to dig deeper, this writing is meant to arouse sleeping souls, and stir up Believers to preach the good news.  Without the remedy of Christ we are all without hope.

As many question the validity of a place of judgment, Love asks, “Is God just in damning men eternally who sin temporarily in this life?”  Even if someone lives only a brief time on earth, Love claims that such divine action is just for the following reasons.  First, our punishment is not based on the amount of time that we sin, but on the fact that we sin, as when a thief is sentenced to prison for much longer than then the time it took him to break into a house.  Second, we commit sin against an infinite God and so deserve infinite punishment, just as the penalty for striking a public person, such as a prince, is much greater than for striking an ordinary man in the street.  Third, if we lived forever we would sin forever, or “as long as” we can, while we are alive.  Fourth, we continue to sin in hell even after we leave earth, and so further provoke the wrath of God.  Finally, even a momentary lapse into sin shows that we reject the infinite kindness of God and so deserve infinite punishment.  That momentary sin justly brings eternal punishment ought to cause us to avoid “slight thoughts” of sin against an infinite and just God who imposes such torments, and any accusations of severity against Him for imposing them.  Apart from His secret work of grace in salvation, He may even choose to do so in an infant who lives “but a minute in this world.” [1]

Most people will reject this.  Most people that consider themselves Christians will reject this, and we must not shrink from the discussion.  It will be unpopular.  The question will always turn to the fairness of God.  Friends, we do not want fair, we want grace and mercy.  If God dealt in “fairness” we’d be without hope.  It wasn’t fair that Christ suffered the wrath of God, the just for the unjust.

In connection with just in general comes a question related to the impartiality and universality of judgment; “Will most men and women in the world be tormented in hell?”  Love believes that most will, and his confirmation of it he consider to be “one of the most dismal Doctrines” that a pastor can preach.  First, most will go to hell because most do not look to Christ to deliver them from such a torment—whether Jews, Muslims, heathen, or Papists.  Second, even among those who “profess Jesus Christ,” many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:14), as most are “either profane in life, or hypocrites in heart.” [2]

Love cites four additional reasons that most are destined for hell and in conclusion says “If most are to be damned, we must see the folly of allowing the opinions of the majority to lead us in life and should try our hearts to know whether we are of the few that will be saved.  We should not be offended at the “fewness of the number of believers,” but lament over the majority that will face such torments, rouse ourselves from delusions of the great number of believers in the world, and not hold “any ill thoughts against the mercy of God” that most men perish. [3]

These words are painful for me to write, and humbling for me to consider.  Many people that I know, many people that I love, many people that you know and love will spend their eternity under the wrath of God.  Anything good we have now will be vanquished and only misery and torment will remain.   No waking up the next day and a better day is on the horizon, only pain and suffering.

Today there is hope if you are in Christ.  Are you a new creation?  Have you turned to Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sin?  Don’t fight against God and despise His truth, but turn to Him and be saved.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38

Kevin

  1. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 280-85. Cf. WCF, 10.3 and the Canons of Dort, 1.17.
  2. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 286-300.
  3. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 300-304.