Changed Lives?


I recently saw this quote on a church sign and I thought about it on my way to where I was going.  It really seemed like a good quote at first blush and as I thought more about it I wondered if it’s true.  I don’t mean to say it’s not true in the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives.  That is unequivocally true.  That is without a doubt what will happen in the life of a believer; they will be changed or they were never converted.

Paul tells us this plainly.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

This is absolutely about changed lives.  It is the evidence of a changed life.  God gives us new desires, new goals if you will…

Why write a blog article about this?  Am I mincing words?  Splitting hairs?  Picking nits?  It seems so judgmental in some ways to take what seems like a positive message and ask questions about it.  The reason I ask the question and the reason I want to think about this topic is that I see, with many evangelical churches, the idea is to appeal to emotion or appeal to our sense for a life that is better in a temporal or earthly sense.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10 

Well there you go…  an abundant life.  That is the goal Jesus has for everyone right?

But of course in the context of the Lord’s message he is contrasting killing and destroying with life.

This word life ζωή zōḗ refers to more than just a temporary life.  It means life eternal.  See Matthew 7:14, Matthew 18:8

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  

When we consider the message of the modern church it seems they mostly want to appeal to the desire for things to be better in the temporal sense and this is what drives them and in turn they teach from this perspective leading to more people thinking it’s all about them.

We must look at cause and effect because there is a cause and then there is an effect.  God is the cause and the effect that flows out of that cause is seen.  The effect is fruit and the effect is a changed life.  There is no doubt about this point.  Faith without works is indeed a DEAD faith.

What about the cause, how does the cause factor into the equation and why?  What is the purpose of all of this, although not completely wrong, why is the message somewhat misguided?

Jesus gives us a pretty good clue in His conversation with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus had bought the message hook, line and sinker.  He believed God was there to restore the nation of Israel to prominence.  After all these years of oppression and God’s silence, finally, someone arrives on the scene that is doing things nobody had ever seen.  No doubt this guy is sent from God.  Because NOBODY can do these signs unless God is with him.  That is what Nicodemus said, he clearly got it.  But did he?

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. – John 3:14

Whoa… did Jesus really just say that?  The Son of Man must be lifted up…  He of course was referring Numbers 21:9 and the Israelites needing to look to the serpent on the pole to be saved from sure death, Nicodemus didn’t miss this reference, but by being lifted up He is displaying the glory of God in the work that Jesus was sent to do, the work of salvation for His people.  He came to prepare a way for eternal life for those that would believe.  And in this conversation Jesus refers back to the message that He said Nicodemus should have already known.  In effect He said, “I can’t believe you don’t know these things.”  “What is the matter with you, aren’t you the teacher of Israel?”

What a stern rebuke.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, thus says the Lord God:  It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.  And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them.  And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.  Ezekiel 36:22-23

Here is the reason God changes lives.  He does it for His names sake.  It is His glory He is concerned about and while we are the recipients of Divine favor and Amazing Grace, it is all about Him.  That is a seismic shift in the thought process.  Is our thinking focused on His glory or our benefit?

The basic concept of Secular Humanism that all is for the benefit of man and all thought revolves around us.  Instead, Biblical Christianity says it is all about Him and we are just in awe of the mercy that He would show to despicable little creatures is beyond my grasp.

I know it’s subtle and I know to some it appears nitpicky, but what is at the heart of the matter is eternally important to God.  He saved us to be ambassadors to make His name known to all the nation’s and if we are mostly focused on us then it gets tough to think outside our theological boxes.

Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate.  I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it. – Ezekiel 36:36



The Terrors of Hell – Part 1

dark road to nowhere

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I’ve dabbled in the Puritans for a while since being saved, and as I read Puritan writers, I find myself wanting more.  I don’t believe they are perfect in everything they taught, but yet I don’t find very many areas of disagreement, certainly not on the major doctrines of Christianity.

Although I’m pretty glad the fashion industry has moved beyond those big stifling collars…

I was excited to dig into A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones when I received it several months ago.  Admittedly I’ve moved slowly through it, sometimes because I’ve been lazy, but mostly because I just want to really soak it up and meditate on this teaching.

The subject of hell is a major weakness in the teaching of most churches I would assert.  I know from my own past church experiences before salvation this to be true.  Just like God’s wrath it’s not a popular subject.  It doesn’t keep people in seats; it’s a real buzz kill for most people.   Because of this weakness conversion is surface level which is really not biblical conversion at all, just raise your hand, walk an aisle, pray a prayer type conversion.

Most preaching then becomes man centered and fulfillment based.  You know feel good stuff, “boy that was a great sermon pastor…  I really needed that pick me up today, that was a really funny story you told and I sure did enjoy the drama team today”.  Have you been to this church?

Yet the Puritans taught on hell frequently and with urgency.   How can we believe in heaven without believing in hell, we can’t believe Christ needed to save us, if there was nothing to be saved from?  This is an essential and necessary doctrine of the church and it must be preached with all urgency because everyday people are headed to an eternity of torment.

Today I’m beginning a series on what the Puritans taught about hell.  I’m hopeful it will lead to a better understand and therefore, a greater sense of urgency to preach to others the fear of the Lord, maybe even hear it for ourselves for the first time.

The Terrors of HellA Puritan Theology[1] (all quoted material is from A Puritan Theology as cited from the original works of Arthur Dent & Christopher Love)

Arthur Dent – “we should always live as if we should die, or that our bed should be our grave; we must live consistently as if Christ should come to judgment presently.”

This typical Puritan approach was meant to instill terror and expose sin, but always with a view to opening the way for the mercies of Christ. 

In Dent’s dialogue this causes the ignorant man, to “quake and tremble” with his talk of hell-fire and judgment: “I feel great terror in my conscience – I am afraid I shall be damned.” [2]

A preacher that will not preach on the terrors of hell is a worthless preacher, is he not? 

How can someone be saved if they don’t know what they are going to be saved from?  This is the reason we need Jesus, He is the hope…

Jesus Christ died to save His people and His people must understand they need salvation.

Dent continues “all who groan in their misery and grieve for their sin, to believe that “Christ is for you,” and that they must “apply Christ, and all the promises of the gospel” to themselves. “for we have not other remedy or refuge but only His merits and righteousness – He is our city of refuge, whither we must fly, and where we must take sanctuary – He is the balm of Gilead, whereby our souls are cured.”

When is the last time you really thought about the fact your soul needs curing?  We really don’t want to think about this, how often do you have your conscience pricked with the knowledge of your sin and the cure for your sin?  There is no salvation with no fear of death and the terror of the Lord an understanding that it is “Your” sin that had to be paid for.

Christopher Love – “the tormented condition of the damned in Hell.” for those for whom he has not “gained their affections” with preaching on the glory to come, Love seeks to “startle their Consciences.” by preaching seven sermons on the doctrine of hell.

“Love maintains that the word translated “hell” in the Scripture can refer to the grave (“thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” [Ps. 16:10], the “belly of the Whale” (“Out of the belly of hell, I cried unto the Lord” [Jonah 2:2]), the devil himself (“The tongue of man is set on fire by hell” [James 3:6]), and the place of eternal torment (Matt, 5:29; Luke 12:5; 16:23).  In seeking to motivate us to fear God more than men and to awaken “drowsy consciences,” Love focuses on the power of God to subject men to eternal torment, which ought to “work an awful fear of God” in our hearts.  Hearing of such torments should “startle” our consciences out of a false sense of security; strip away ungrounded hopes of glory, and drive us away from wallowing in sin.”

Even as in the times of Christopher Love, preaching on hell was extremely unpopular, and as they do today, people screamed “legalism”, yet Jesus was a gospel “good news” preacher.

“He spoke directly on hell more than anyone else in Scripture.  Also, the devil, does all that he can to give preaching on hell a bad name as he seeks to “nuzzle men in security in their sins.” 

“Love boldly claims that sermons on terror have done more good upon unconverted souls, than Sermons of comfort have ever done.’  In short, we cannot claim to preach the whole counsel of God if we ‘run only upon strains of free grace.’”[3]

Today there will be someone reading this that is headed for hell… 

They may not realize that is their eternal destiny.

Perhaps they are ignorant to God’s wrath or God’s plan for salvation through repentance and faith in Christ.  They might be deceived in their salvation.

They may have hidden or un-confessed sin.  Perhaps they’ve repressed this sin for so long they don’t even consider it anymore…

…Or they are counting on God’s grace and mercy.  Whatever miserable state you might be in there is hope in Jesus Christ, even though you don’t view your condition as miserable and plight as blinding.

Do not be deceived!

Hell is real, and its miseries are eternal.  The wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6).  Consider these chilling words from the Apostle Paul as he writes urgently to us today just as he did 2000 years ago.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Please join me on this journey for the next number of weeks and let us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, do not allow yourself to be deceived by your sin.  It is a worthy endeavor.


[1] Beeke & Jones, A Puritan Theology (2012) 830-831

[2] Dent, The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven; Wherein Every Man May Clearly See Whether He Shall Be Saved or Damned (1599; repr., Morgan, Pa: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994), 1, 277, 285, 287, 295-97, 300, 305

[3] Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 211-25

My Purpose

What does it mean to live your life on purpose?  To have a purpose creates hope and desire.  Have you ever thought on a deeper level about your purpose?  You see lots of purpose that is misdirected; the desire to fit in, the desire for things of the world, everyone needs a purpose or they become hopeless.  True hope is built only on the foundation of Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Here is my purpose statement.

To love the Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind

Deuteronomy 6:5 / Matthew 22:37

To lead my wife and family and to be the man God wants me to be

Ephesians 5:25-28 / Titus 2:1 / Deuteronomy 6:6-9 / Ephesians 6:4

To be obedient to the word of God in my daily life

John 14:15 / 1 Corinthians 7:19

Love and serve the body of Christ

John 13:35 / Galatians 6:10

Be an ambassador for Christ, spreading the good news of salvation and calling the lost to repentance

2 Timothy 4:2 / Acts 9:20 / Acts 8:35 / Ephesians 6:20 / 2 Corinthians 5:20 / Acts 17:30

Grow in faith and knowledge of the Lord

Acts 17:2 / Matthew 4:4 / Matthew 5:6

I don’t fulfill this perfectly but it is my hope and my desire to live this out to the glory of God.  My purpose becomes His purpose.  I don’t know of any higher calling.  I hope you are encouraged today to go through this simple exercise to write out a statement for yourself.  I keep mine in my bible and refer to it often.