Posts Tagged ‘hell’

1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 5 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of blogs, we are talking about the false teachings of the Christian faith that are prevalent today. Today, we will look at a doctrine that we have virtually gotten rid of in Christianity in the post-modern era (the world as we know it since the end of World War II).

I will introduce this foreign concept to us with a bold statement. Let’s bring hell back! Such a statement seems a shocking one to the 21st century ear, even those who considered themselves Christians.

The existence of and doctrine surrounding hell is no longer a universally accepted concept among Christians and Jews much less those of other religions or of those who hold no religious beliefs at all. It is not surprising that in an increasingly secular American landscape that only 27% of people who consider themselves non-religious believe in the existence of a place of eternal punishment in the afterlife, according the 2015 Religious Landscape Study performed by Pew Research Center. Overall, only 58% of all survey respondents (including religious and non-religious alike) believe in the existence of hell.

Even among Christians, the statistic vary. Belief in hell is not universally accepted by Christians in the 21st century. Although belief in hell is highest among historically black Protestant churches (82%) and evangelical Protestant churches (likewise 82%), the belief level drops to 63% among Catholics, 60% among mainline Protestants, and 59% of Orthodox Christians. It was also noted in the survey that only 22% of the Jewish respondents believe in hell. Among other religions, 76% of Muslims surveyed believe in hell while not surprisingly Buddhists and Hindus surveyed affirmed the existence of hell at a rate of 32% and 28% respectively. It is worthy of noting that more non-religious respondents believe in hell (27%) than the Jews surveyed (22%). The alarming point here is that, depending on your denomination of Christianity, a pastor can look out over his congregation on Sunday and find that anywhere from one-fifth to half of his parishioners do not believe in the existence of hell. As noted earlier, outside the doors of the church, it can be extrapolated that three-fourths of the people one meets on the street do not believe in hell. One can discount the non-believer being dismissive of hell as it would be opposed his firm belief in the lack of existence of God, would dismiss his belief in moral relativism, would dismiss his belief that man controls his own destiny, and would dismiss an everyman’s ticket, where we are judged on the weight of good deeds plus good intentions to outweigh our negative nature. When deeds and intentions are weighed against our bad deeds, then, most if not all of us will ascend to some sort of nirvanic afterlife (which we will talk about tomorrow). This sentiment, we can dismiss as the product of human pride that blinds us to our own ignorance in the face of God.

That idea of the elimination of hell from our theological lexicon is what came to mind this morning when read through this passage about the choice that Jonathan had to make – to be obedient to his father or to honor his friendship with David, to follow his father’s command which was not biblical or to follow that which was right and true according to God. Jonathan was being asked by his father to ignore a biblical truth because it was inconvenient to his father, Saul. Expediency was most important to Saul not what was biblically and universally true according to God’s Word. That kind of thinking is what has become of the concept of hell in Christian theology today. With that idea in mind let us read about the choice that Jonathan had to make:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. In general, not just as children of our parents, we must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God. If someone omits a portion of the full counsel of God’s Word just to make a biblical truth more palatable or more expedient, we must be discerning about those things too.

Saul thought like many of us today that there was no real punishment for evil deeds as long as we do more than we do bad. He seemed to think that doing evil could be offset by good deeds. All we have to do is do more good. Then, we become the judge of our goodness or badness, and, of course, we are always going to come down on the side of us being good enough or having done good enough or having done less bad than good. We are the judge of our own judgment – the fox in charge of the hen house, so to speak. Saul had situational ethics here in this passage. He thinks like many of us think. He, by his actions, appears to believe that there is no real judgment for his evil deeds and all he has to do is make up for it with a prayer here, a good deed there, a promise to God there, a ceremonial sacrifice here. He, in a sense, made himself the judge of his own fate. Jonathan had to decide whether he was going to follow his father’s belief system or follow the moral absolutes and the eternal truths of God.

In the absence of hell, we are certainly the arbiters of our own eternal fate. In the absence of hell, there is no one who judges us. In the absence of hell, God is only love but not justice. Most of us in the 21st century world have a problem with final judgment and hell. The loss of the doctrine of hell and judgment and the holiness of God does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts—our understanding of God’s grace and love and of our human dignity and value to him. The gutting of the harsh doctrine of hell always minimizes the wonderful good news of the gospel. To preach the good news, we must preach why it is good news. We must understand why the gospel is the essential good news and that nothing else but Jesus will do.

The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ because of the true nature of man and what that true nature garners us in eternity. In a post-modern non-traditional world, we see ourselves as basically good people. However, the truth of the matter is that none of us are good at all. Have you ever really took notice of all the evil thoughts, the little lies, the outright lies, the meanness that comes out in us each and every day in one form or another. We believe that it requires goodness to get to heaven and that if we just do more good than bad that we will get into heaven. We don’t realize that like an ink drop into a glass of water permanently changes and stains the water irreversibly, so is committing any sin. Sin is imperfection when compared to the holiness of God. One drop of ink in a glass of pure water does it all. The same with sin. We commit one sin and we are done. It is the ultimate one and done scenario.

However, we are not just one-time sinners. We are habitual sin criminals that have been through the sin court system far too often. We sin every day like a common thief who steals something every day. We have a rap sheet a mile long of a lifetime of sins. We deserve the punishment of a career criminal in the court system having committed heinous crime after heinous crime. Our record belies anything that we can say in our defense before the righteous Judge that is God. We deserve hell. We really do. Once we commit one sin we are done, finished, not to mention a lifetime of habitual sinning. We kid ourselves that we are more good than bad because we don’t want to think of the fact that we tell lies, we hurt people, we lie to ourselves, we offend God each and every day with our prideful sinning. We are career sin criminals standing before a righteous Judge who looks at our record and has every right to throw the eternal judgment of hell at us. We deserve it. We have no excuse. No quippy comebacks. No way to talk ourselves out of what we deserve. We deserve the fiery pits of hell where Jesus said there was pain, sorrow, weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. It is the place of eternal suffering.

The very realness of hell is what make Jesus Christ so incredibly important to us. He is more than just some great philosopher that is one of the many ways of self-actualization and self-improvement. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to the Father. Without the doctrine of hell, Jesus is just a way to self-improvement along with Muhammed, Buddha, Confucius, and others. With the doctrine of hell, Jesus is our Savior. Jesus as part of the Holy Trinity of God came down from heaven to live a perfect life and become the sinless sacrifice for our sins. He went to the cross to take on God’s eternal punishment for man’s sins, past, present and future. And to prove that He was of one and the same essence as God, He arose from the dead. By dying on the cross and by arising from the dead (all of which are historical facts that have yet to be realistically disputed), Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God and that He did indeed die for our sins.

Jesus doing these things would be unnecessary, truly, in the absence of what he did it for – to save us from our eternal judgment. In the absence of hell, Jesus did not need to come down from heaven and suffer as he did for us. All we need do is do is more good than bad. Jesus’ sacrifice would be the grandest excess of all in the absence of eternal judgment, in the absence of hell.

That is what makes or should make Christians the most joyous people in the universe. We have been saved from what we know as hell. The fiery pits of eternal punishment we know that we deserve. We have had our blinders taken off and see ourselves as the dirty rotten sinners that we are. The grace of Jesus Christ then becomes amazingly wonderful and just the greatest gift that could ever be given – the pardon from the fiery eternal death that we deserve. How can you have this joy when there is no judgment, there is no hell. We have been saved from what we know we deserve!

That makes Jesus even more awesome that just some great philosopher. It makes Him the Savior to whom we owe everything and to whom we owe all thanksgiving and daily praise and great joy.

That is the eternal truth of the gospel. That is the Jonathan choice. That is to walk away from the situational truths of Saul and embrace the eternal truths of God.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 4:1-12
Boaz Arranges to Marry Ruth

In this day in age in which we live, if you are single and in your 30’s or 40’s, it is a great likelihood that you have been married and divorced at least once. In you are a woman in your 30’s or 40’s and you are single, you most likely have either small children, pre-teens, or teens at home with you. It is a statistical fact that mothers of children end up with custody of their children in 90% of divorces nationally. Either men don’t want the responsibility of day to day care of children, the mothers don’t trust them to do the myriad of things that are required to get children up and out the door each day, or the men don’t trust themselves. It is also a statistical fact that 27% of fathers see their children only when required by their court order or do not see them at all.

So in the American dating scene out there (not that I am familiar with it anymore myself, but these statements are made based on statistical probabilities), any time a guy meets a gal in her 30’s or 40’s (heck sometimes even in their 20s), there is a high probability that she has kids at home. Somebody’s keeping them while she is having a girl’s night with her gal pals. If you really want to get to know her, the breaking point for any such relationship is going to be about the fact that she has kids or that the kids get in the way of the relationship. There are too many guys out there that just want to have fun with the gals with kids but want none of the responsibilities or the drawbacks of dating a woman with kids in tow. With so many of these men, they are absentee fathers themselves. They feel “tied down” when they have their own kids with them. I know there are some great dads out there but there is a growing majority of dads who disappear from their own kids lives and shy away from any relationship with a woman who has kids. There are a growing number of men out there that just want to have recreational sex with women (even if the woman has kids at home) but split when there is mention of getting to know her kids. These men don’t want women with baggage. They want the fun but not the baggage that comes with most women who are “single again.” With the divorce rate out there where 50% of first marriages fail, 67% of second marriages fail, and 83% of third marriages fail, there is a great possibility of any woman a guy meets is going to have had a past and is most likely to have children at home. But like I said, there is a growing number of men who are baby daddies out there and not fathers. They want the fun of women but none of the responsibility that comes with having a relationship with a woman with kids.

There was a movie out there a while back called “Courageous” that was a faith-based film that was extremely popular even with the secular movie going public. The famous tag line from that movie was “Where are you, men of courage?” It was the story that men are often removed from their kids lives and are even less involved with their kids when it comes to faith issues. The point of the movie was to urge men to take hold of their God ordained place as being the priests of their homes, leading their family in all things but especially in leading their families in the family’s relationships with God. It takes courage to be a man of faith. It takes courage to be a real dad these days when it is so easy to wash your hands of the family your procreated. Where are you men of courage today in this broken world where practically every woman you meet has kids at home? Where are you men of courage willing to accept the baggage that comes with a woman who has kids? In this broken world we live in, it is a simple fact of life that virtually everyone who meet and potentially can have a relationship with is a person who has been married before. It’s not the world that God wants for us. He wants us to examine who we will marry before we marry them. He wants us to think long and hard before we get married the first time because He wants us to stay married to who we married the first and only time. However, in this sin-filled broken world, we will most like be married at least twice in a lifetime. That’s a sad fact but a true one. So, given that, we must be willing to accept the baggage of the person that we are attempting to have a relationship with and potentially marrying any time after the first marriage is done. Men especially must be willing to accept what a single mom is bringing to the table of the relationship.

That’s the thing that came to mind this morning as I read through Ruth 4:1-12 – the difference between Boaz and the unnamed man who was closer in line to be the redeemer of Naomi and Ruth. The unnamed man wanted the property but not the women who came with it. Let’s read through the passage here right now and then we will finish our discussion after that:

4 Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there. Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. 2 Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. 3 And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”

The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.”

5 Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.”

6 “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.”

7 Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. 8 So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”

9 Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”

11 Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.”

In this passage, we see that Boaz cleverly presented his case to the relative. First, he brought in new information not yet mentioned in the story – Elimelech. Naomi’s deceased husband, still had some property in the area that was now for sale. As the nearest relative, this unnamed man had the first right to buy the property (Leviticus 25:25). But then Boaz said that according to the law, if the relative bought the land, he also had to marry the widow, Ruth (because Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased husband and Elimelech’s son, had inherited the property). At this stipulation, the relative backed down. He did not want to add a complication to his own inheritance to his existing children because of the new children he would have had with Ruth. That was the most likely reason, but he could have just not wanted to complicate his life with another woman. Whatever his reason for backing away, it cleared the way for Boaz to marry Ruth himself.

That’s the thing that made me think of today’s messed up dating world out there is because in this story, the unnamed relative wanted the property but not the baggage that came with it – Ruth. He wanted the additional wealth that came with owning more land but he did not want the responsibility of another wife and raising more kids and complicating his financial situation. That so reminded me of how men out there today just want women for recreational fun but they don’t want the baggage that often comes with women in today’s world of divorce. They want the fun but not the responsibility. That’s why men are often divorced anyway is that they could not face up to the lifetime of responsibility that is marriage – kids, mortgages, schooling, kids activities, and no time for themselves.

What if God was like that with us? What if He did not want all our baggage? Our sins condemn us in His sight. He could just throw us away into the pit of hell and walk away and be right in doing so. He could just say I don’t need this and that be it! However, God has greater love for us than that. Even though our first sin condemns us to hell and not to mention the lifetimes of sins that we commit, He could say that you have too much baggage for me to deal with and cast us into hell. But He doesn’t. Boaz represents God’s love for us. Boaz did not care about all the baggage that came with Ruth. He simply loved her. He knew that she had a past and had been married before and knew that she was not originally from the people of Israel. He knew all the baggage she brought to the relationship. But he loved her anyway. He was willing to marry her when the unnamed relative was not. He was willing to set aside all the things that would make Ruth undesirable for marriage and took her in marriage anyway. God is the same with us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to earth to become the perfect sacrificial lamb to take on God’s punishment for our baggage, our sins. In that way, through Jesus, He can set aside the punishment we deserve. He can set aside our sins because Jesus paid the price for them. Through Jesus, we are made clean before God. We are made into marriage material before the bridegroom. We are made new and desirable again to God. We are redeemed by a God who loves us despite our past sins, despite our past baggage. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, we no longer carry around the baggage of our sins that condemns us in the sight of God. Through Jesus, we are made into a beautiful bride ready for the bridegroom. We are made into something beautiful and desirable by God. He loves us that much. He loves us enough to redeem us when we have all this sin baggage. He sets it aside, through Jesus, and welcomes us into His house and makes us His bride with all the rights and privileges that go along with being a child of God.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 18:1-31 (Part 2 of 3)
Idolatry in the Tribe of Dan

Right now, I am working on a research paper for my D.Min. degree and the premise that I was assigned was “what does theology have to do with the everyday life of a Christian?” In that paper, I decided to approach it from the point of view, of course, that theology has everything to do with the everyday life of a Christian. After working with a few ideas, I decided to entitle my paper, “Let’s Bring Hell Back! (And Other Basic Doctrines of the Christian Faith)”. The title is intended for shock value and to get the readers of my paper to actually pick it up and read it. The shock value is that there is so much truth in that statement. In this post-modern world in which we live, the doctrine of hell is a forgotten but essential one. It is wrapped up and tied up with the doctrine of man. With these two doctrines of the Christian faith, it creates the basic difference between it and the rest of the religions, which are all man-made, of the world.

From the Bible we learn of these doctrines throughout. We come to learn from Genesis to Revelation that man has inherited its sin nature from Adam almost immediately from the creation of man. Christianity forces us to take an honest look at ourselves. We are sinful creatures just by our very nature. On the other hand, God is full of purity, justice and love. He has no sin in him. Sin cannot exist in his presence. He is truth, and light, and justice, and agape love. The sin nature that we have is a time bomb that goes off quickly. Just think of your two year old child or two year old niece or nephew or the 2 year old child of a friend. We learn quickly from birth to preserve ourselves. We learn to throw others under the bus to save our own skin at an early age. We learn to lie at any early age to preserve our rights to the things that we want and desire. We will be mean to our siblings at a very early age to get what we want at their expense. So, to think that man is ever in a pure state or that he can achieve it through a lifetime of effort is a laughable and unrealistic notion. Have you ever tried to go through a day without having a sinful thought – of anger, of lust, of greed, of theft, of … you name the sin. Even if we do not carry out our sins in a physical sense, we commit sins by the hour in our heart and mind. According to Jesus, our thoughts are sinful just as much as our actions are. That which has any tinge of sin in it cannot exist in the presence of God. Just one sin, even if it is a sinful thought, convicts us before the Righteous and Pure Judge that is God. That’s all it takes. Just one sin. No more. One sin committed in a lifetime taints us just as one little drop of ink in a glass of pure water permanently changes the water. It is no longer pure. It is now tainted with the ink. And there is nothing that we can do to remove the ink from the water. The water has been permanently changed. Add to that we keep dropping ink into our water every day with each additional sin that we commit after the first one. Our water is so black with the ink of sin that you no longer can see through. Our water is so black with the ink of sin that it no longer resembles water but rather the ink that was dropped into it.

For our lifetime of sins, we are right to be judged by God to be condemned to hell. Scripture tells us that hell is as the following:

Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

II Thessalonians 1:9 “And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Mark 9:47-48 “”And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Revelation 20:10 “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Matthew 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Scripture is very clear that hell is where we will be conscious of our eternal torment forever is what we deserve on our own merits. Just think about that even our evil thoughts taint us from being in the presence of a pure and almighty God in heaven. Hell is what we deserve for our first sin much less the lifetime of sins that we commit. We deserve hell. We deserve eternal punishment. God does not sentence us to hell. He does not send us to hell. We do it to ourselves and that is what we deserve. Hell is what we deserve.

That my friends is why Jesus is so important. He is first and foremost above anything else our Savior. He saves us from what we deserve. He saves us from our just and correct sentence. A good judge in a courtroom today is considered a good judge because he carries out the punishment that we decide as a society that is fit and right for the crime committed. We would think that any judge who lets criminals off easy or did uphold the just punishment for a crime to be a lax judge and we would call for him to be removed from the bench if he did not execute the punishment that we as a society have deemed as appropriate. So, it is with God, He has commands that we must obey because He knows what is just and right and He is Justice And Rightness. So, we stand accused of violating God’s commands and that is called sin and we deserve the full weight of justice against us for our sins. However, even though God’s justice is there, He is also a loving God who expresses Himself in three ways, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.

He loves us so much that He sent the Son to come to earth to live the perfectly sinless life and to complete the Old Testament sacrificial system by becoming the sinless lamb that was to be slain for our sins. He took the punishment that we deserve for our lifetimes of sin – in deed and in thought. He makes us clean. He makes our glass of water pure again. He makes it so that we can exist in the presence of God in heaven by cleansing us of the tainted ink of our sin. We are clear and pure through Him. We cannot do any effort on our own to earn our salvation because of our tainted glass of water. Without Jesus, we deserve the sentence of a habitual sin criminal. We deserve hell. Hell is what we deserve.

Think about how much more we would value our salvation if we really thought about the truth and reality of hell. What if we brought hell back to our pulpits.

However in today’s world, we preach less and less about hell. We talk less and less about hell because it is offensive to our senses as post-modernists. We have a fear of preaching and teaching the truth of hell and what we deserve. We would rather preach and teach a gospel where there is no mention of hell. Jesus just saves us from ourselves. Jesus without hell is our self-help guru. Things going bad in your life. Jesus is the answer. Not having luck in your life. Jesus is the answer. Feeling bad about yourself. Jesus is the answer. Without hell, Jesus is our buddy that helps us live a better life. Without hell, Jesus doesn’t save us from all that much other than our bad mistakes in life.

We preach and teach nothing of hell these days because we like to think that if we do enough of the right things that it will outweigh the bad. We do not think of ourselves as inherent sinners. We think of ourselves as good people that occasionally do bad things. We think that if we do enough good things, read the right books, hang out with the right people, that we can compensate for the occasional bad things that we do. We also equate God’s blessings with how good we are doing in this life. We teach and often preach a prosperity gospel that if we do enough of the right things that we will be blessed and highly favored in this life and if we are not we must have some hidden sins that we must get rid of by reading the right books, doing enough public service at churchwide events, and hanging out with right people. This is not the truth and reality of God’s Word but it sells. Because we don’t like to hear that we are destined to hell on our own merits. We would rather hear about God’s love only and not His justice. Skipping over God’s justice is how you make a megachurch today.

That idea of creating a soft religion that suits our needs is what I thought about today when I read this passage once again. My thoughts were directed at the priest in this passage. He sold out to keep food on his table. He developed a religion personally designed by Micah that met Micah’s needs. The priest was his own personal priest so the religion was set Micah not by God. Real faith in God would have required Micah to change, to admit that he was not the center of the universe. The priest created a soft religion for Micah that would soothe his soul instead of teach Him of his real nature in the presence of God.

That’s the thing that I thought of today when I read through Judges 18 for the second of three reads today. Here, we see:

18 Now in those days Israel had no king. And the tribe of Dan was trying to find a place where they could settle, for they had not yet moved into the land assigned to them when the land was divided among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the men of Dan chose from their clans five capable warriors from the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol to scout out a land for them to settle in.

When these warriors arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, they came to Micah’s house and spent the night there. 3 While at Micah’s house, they recognized the young Levite’s accent, so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you here, and what are you doing in this place? Why are you here?” 4 He told them about his agreement with Micah and that he had been hired as Micah’s personal priest.

5 Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.”

6 “Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the Lord is watching over your journey.”

7 So the five men went on to the town of Laish, where they noticed the people living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure.[a] The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. And they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.

8 When the men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their relatives asked them, “What did you find?”

9 The men replied, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to go and take possession of it. 10 When you get there, you will find the people living carefree lives. God has given us a spacious and fertile land, lacking in nothing!”

11 So 600 men from the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 They camped at a place west of Kiriath-jearim in Judah, which is called Mahaneh-dan[b] to this day. 13 Then they went on from there into the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

14 The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish explained to the others, “These buildings contain a sacred ephod, as well as some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol. What do you think you should do?” 15 Then the five men turned off the road and went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly. 16 As the 600 armed warriors from the tribe of Dan stood at the entrance of the gate, 17 the five scouts entered the shrine and removed the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol. Meanwhile, the priest was standing at the gate with the 600 armed warriors.

18 When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”

19 “Be quiet and come with us,” they said. “Be a father and priest to all of us. Isn’t it better to be a priest for an entire tribe and clan of Israel than for the household of just one man?”

20 The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image. 21 They turned and started on their way again, placing their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them.

22 When the people from the tribe of Dan were quite a distance from Micah’s house, the people who lived near Micah came chasing after them. 23 They were shouting as they caught up with them. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?”

24 “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?’” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!”

25 The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.” 26 So the men of Dan continued on their way. When Micah saw that there were too many of them for him to attack, he turned around and went home.

27 Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked with swords and burned the town to the ground. 28 There was no one to rescue the people, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob.

Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there. 29 They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish.

30 Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses,[c] as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. 31 So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.

Here, in this passage, we see that Israel’s moral decay affected even the priests and the Levites. This man accepted money, idols, and position in a way that was inconsistent with God’s laws. He compromised the man that he was supposed to be so that he could have money and position. He gladly set aside his beliefs as a man of God to get what he wanted. Instead of preaching and teaching about the truths of God, he created a religion that suited Micah’s tastes. Are we not doing that today as Christian leaders, teachers, preachers, and witnesses?

Sure, a street corner preacher with a sign saying “You’re going to hell!” has never saved but a few souls, but we have forgotten the basic truth that we are sinners who cannot wrestle ourselves out of our just and right sentence which is, indeed, hell. We need to bring hell back to the conversation. We need to bring our sin nature that condemns us to hell in the absence of Jesus. We need to make Jesus essential to us again not just our self-help buddy. We must see ourselves as totally dependent on the grace of Jesus Christ again. When we take away hell, we might make our faith more palatable to the non-believer and even to ourselves, but when we do we cheapen grace. Grace is of such great value to us because exactly of the reality of hell. That is what Jesus saves us from when we submit our lives to His authority. He saves us from hell where there is gnashing of teeth and the burning of flesh…forever. That’s the reality of the doctrines of our faith that come from God’s Word. That’s the reality. Even if we quit talking about it, that’s the reality. If it were not for hell, Jesus becomes less of a Savior and more of good buddy. When I think of hell and know, know, know that’s what I deserve, it makes me so so so thankful to God for giving me the grace He has given me through Jesus Christ. In the light of hell, I see the wondrous glory of Jesus Christ. In the light of hell, I see the amazing love that He has for me. In the light of hell, I find it impossible to fathom the great love that He has for me. I don’t deserve it but I got it and that makes me giddy beyond belief. Thank God that Jesus saved me from hell!!!

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Dealing with a Rebellious Son

Have you ever thought in your mind, “Man, I just wanna kill that kid!” Many of us, even as believers, have become exasperated with our children that we have used this term as a hyperbolic statement, though we do not mean it literally. This passage is another one of those harsh Old Testament passages that we, as maturing Christians in the 21st century would just as soon ignore as to have to explain it to less mature Christ followers or, at worst, to non-believers. To stone a rebellious child seems excessively harsh. It is in complete contrast to what we often see today in parenting.


Often times today, we see parenting in public or when visiting friends with young children where you see the parents trying to be “enlightened” in their parenting. They want to negotiate their children into good behavior. They treat their child as if to anger the child could be the worst possible thing. They tolerate temper tantrums as they try to reason with their child. You often see children of such parents become just little brutes that are incorrigible. Children of such parents can sense their parents’ disciplinary weakness early on and take advantage of it. Children who do not respect their parents often grow up to be insolent and disrespectful adults. And, watching this enlightened parenting just misses the whole fact that children actually do desire their parents to give them guidance and boundaries. Children are wired to want their parents to be parents to them. It has been statistically proven that children who grow up in homes where they were not disciplined are more likely to become criminals. Children need their parents to be authoritarian and set rules and boundaries that are intended to make them become responsible adults and that there are real consequences for bad behavior. When you see parents try to reason with their 4 year old while he or she is having a meltdown, you just wanna go over to them and just say, “you iiiiidiot!” (reference to Ren & Stempy Show). There are times that we need to discipline our children to teach them that there are consequences for bad behavior. We must teach them to respect us as the final authority in the home.


My dad, the man who I could write about his oft-repeated sayings, had a saying about this, “as long as you push your feet up under my table, you will do what I say!” He meant that as long as I am living in his home, I will obey his directions. There was no negotiation. He was dad and I was son. I knew where the limits were. I knew who was in authority. I did not always like and he would make me so angry sometimes with all his rules and consequences. But one thing is for sure when I was growing up in my dad’s house was that I respected him. I knew he was the boss and I was the subordinate. It is ironic that I write about this today. It is my dad’s 78th birthday today. After living these 54 ½ years of my own, I do appreciate that my dad had expectations of my behavior. I do appreciate that he had boundaries for me growing up. I do appreciate that he was consistent in his application of those rules. He was always very clear where the boundaries of behavior were and was consistent about consequences being applied when those boundaries were crossed. I am thankful that my dad was just as much a disciplinarian as he was the dad that would play football with us, wrestle with us, and do fun stuff with us. I have told my dad on several occasions that I had no complaints about how he raised me. He made me into a man who could function and survive and thrive in the world. That’s all a dad wants for his kids – for them to be able function, survive, and even thrive in a rough world out there that is “not all about them!” The world is a no-excuses, suck-it-up-buttercup kind of place and a dad wants his kids to make in that world.


18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.


In this passage, disobedient and rebellious children were to be brought before the elders of the city and stoned to death. There is no biblical evidence that this punishment was ever carried out. However, the point of the passage seems to be that disobedience and rebelliousness against one’s parent in the parental home was not to be tolerated or allowed to go unchecked. This passage was not a license to publicly or privately abuse children.


Note that it requires the agreement of both the mother and father. Both the father and mother must take hold of the child and bring him to the public place of justice. Have you ever met a mother than would be willing to have her child publicly stoned even in the worst of circumstances? Fathers may have a lower threshold for the disobedience of children but mothers, by nature of how they are wired and by the fact that giving birth to another human being and nursing them, are the unconditional lovers of their children. Therefore, to have a mother who is willing to take hold of her son along with her husband, there must have been some longstanding, longsuffering point that has been reached in the parents’ relationship with this child. And, too, even though dads are often tougher on kids that their moms, would a dad really want to see his son stoned? It must have had to be a really, long series of problems with a son that parents would have come close to even considering this remedy and it took them both being in complete agreement on it.


I think back to raising my girls over the years. Often the threat of “the black spirit of power”, what I called my belt (a term I borrowed from the master of sayings, my dad), was as much a deterrent for bad behavior as the actual use of it. I had to whip both my girls on a handful of occasions only. The threat of punishment though was used many, many times. I think this passage acts in that vein. Parent, instead of saying, “you better chill out! You don’t want a whipping, do you?” Back then, they could have said, “You better chill out! I could take you to the city gates and have you stoned, you know!” So, before we start talking about how harsh God is in the Old Testament, let us remember that there is no biblical evidence that this requirement was none other than for deterrent’s sake.


God wanted the household to be a model of our relationship with Him. Parents should be the ultimate authority in the home just as God is the ultimate authority in our lives. Rebellion against parents should have consequences, just as our rebellion against God has its consequences. We are destined for hell because we are rebellious children of God. It is only when we accept God’s authority in our lives through accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord that our rebellion is wiped away. In the absence of accepting God’s authority in our lives through Jesus, we are destined to pay the price for our sins – an eternity cast out into the fiery pit of hell. We are cast outside the city gates of heaven. We are willful children having a meltdown when we do not obey God’s commands and submit ourselves to His authority. Let us, as parents remember the consequences of our rebellion against God and how long it took so many of us to come to our senses. Let us then raise our children to respect us so that they will respect God. Let us raise our children to understand that there are consequences to bad behavior so that they will be more readily able to understand the consequences of sin and about submitting to the authority of God in their lives.


Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 4 of 7)

A Call to Love and Obedience

Last week in a conversation in a meeting, I mentioned that we can never forget the joy of our salvation. When we hold on to that joy, we remember why it is that we are here in leadership positions within the bride of Christ, his church. If we forget our own salvation and what we are saved from – eternity separated from God in hell, then our leadership becomes about getting things done. It becomes about getting the assigned task done. When we forget the joy of our salvation, we forget the vision. We forget the urgency. We all have people that get under our skin in this life but do you really wish eternal damnation on even your worst enemy. When we forget that immediacy of knowing what we really deserve is hell for our sin-filled lives but that we are saved through grace by faith. Really think about it! You and I both are sinners and we, according to what God has said in His Word, cannot exist in the presence of God in heaven on our own merits.


When we commit our first sin, we are disqualified from heaven and from the presence of God. Done. First time. That’s it. Much less a lifetime of sins. Each one of us disqualifies ourselves on a daily basis with each and every sin that we commit. And we commit them! Don’t lie! Just think about the stuff that you just think about but don’t do. We are judged for even every sinful thought that we have. We must be perfect to go to heaven. We cannot just do more good than bad. There is no scale that will get weighed as some religions suggest. What is required is perfection. We cannot achieve through meditation and through becoming one with the universe. We cannot get away from the fact that you and I are just basically evil people who cannot get through the day without having a sinful thought much less action.


What is it that we deserve? If God is a God of justice and He is a fair God, then everyone does not get to go to Heaven. In our modern sanitized world we want to sanitize the heaven and hell issue. If everyone gets to go to heaven no matter what they have done. It means everyone right. Otherwise, there would be a flaw. In that vein, then Hitler gets to go heaven. Unrepentent rapists, murderers, you name it. We all get to go. There is no justice in that. Therefore, because God is loving and just there is this choice. Accept Jesus as Your Savior and let him fundamentally change your life. Go to heaven and enjoy Revelations 21:1-7. Reject Him, shaking your fist at Him and continue living your own way according to your own rules regardless of who gets hurt. Revelation 21:8 tells us you will go to hell.


For a moment let us try to imagine what it would be like to die and go to hell. Try to imagine that for every single moment, throughout all eternity, a time without end, every inch of your body will be in absolute pain. It will be more suffering than anything you have ever had before, worse than the most excruciating

sunburn. You might possible say to yourself, “Surely the pain will subside!”, but it never comes.  An eternity without rest or relief. Your throat becomes raw from screaming and wailing as spasms of anguish drop you into the molten lava. You go under the surface gnashing your teeth. As you rise for air, A pleading scream comes from your burning, flaming, fiery lips. A cry for “Water” is felt throughout your whole being as you begin to bitterly weep. Without warning, you find yourself falling in the darkness. You can feel something solid next to you and you grab on. `Oh, if only I could stop falling!’ you think and you try to cling to the solid surface, but the lava is too much…you are slipping. Again, you fall into the bubbling lake and you swallow another mouthful of burning slime. The horrid smell of blazing sulfur combine with the sickening odor of burning hair and scorching flesh linger in your nose and nausea overwhelms you. Something suddenly reaches out of the darkness and grabs you. In terror, you cry out as you begin to feel teeth gnashing at your flesh. You violently struggle, desperate to shake the gnashing person off in the darkness. And this, this, my friends is just one scene from an eternity there. This goes on for eternity and that’s a long time.


When we forget that this description of eternity is what we deserve for our lives that are less than perfect and full of sin, we forget the utter joy of our day of salvation. Jesus covers us in His perfection when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord. When the Father looks upon us, He sees Jesus. He’s the one who took the wrap for us. We cannot be perfect so we cannot be in the presence of God in eternity without the covering of Jesus Christ’s perfection. He imputes it to us. He gives it to us. We do not earn it or even deserve it because we cannot take away our stain of sin. Only He can do that! When we forget what we are destined for, we forget the joy of salvation. We forget that we have been set free from our sentence to hell.


When we remember, that’s a game changer. When we remember, we live lives of thanksgiving and of service to our Lord. Let’s read Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 together today with that in mind:


12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?


14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Love and Obey the Lord


11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done


In this series of blogs, we are talking about how we should relate to God. Today, we are talking about serving the Lord. Why do we serve the Lord? We serve the Lord because we are eternally in His debt for what He provided us through Jesus Christ. We serve the Lord because He is sovereign and it is He who provides for us everything that we need.


We also serve the Lord because we want others to be drawn the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When people see us serving the Lord by serving others, we are seen as different and unique and there is something about that which draws people unto the Lord. We serve the Lord as thanksgiving and that thanksgiving should give us an urgency to see souls saved. When we remember the joy of our salvation, no longer can we say oh it’s somebody else’s job to teach people about Jesus Christ.


When we remember what we have been saved from (like Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed right before they fall into the swimming pool in It’s A Wonderful Life), when we remember how we have danced on the edge of eternity in hell in the absence of Jesus Christ, then, it should well up in us to serve God and to serve others as an urgent act of thanksgiving each and every day.


When we forget the joy of our salvation…when we forget what we deserved in the absence of our salvation…ministry becomes a job. It becomes about getting tasks done. It becomes about the next show and the next project and the next event. Getting it done. When we remember the joy of our salvation, we jump right in there and serve the Lord because we love Him so much for what He did for us on the cross. We jump right in there and serve because we see it as an opportunity to draw others unto the Lord no matter what we a doing. We see it as everything making a difference. Including making sure connection cards are in the seatbacks of chairs so people can turn in their prayer requests so that a pastor can call them and pray with them and maybe even lead them to Christ over it. What if that connection card is not there? Everything matters when we serve the Lord from the point of the joy of our salvation. Nothing is unimportant.


Never forget the joy of your salvation. Comprehend what it means, really! Think on it! It will restore your joy and it will re-energize your need to serve the Lord. That’s why we serve Him. He saved us! Never forget it!



Amen and Amen.

Luke 23:13-25 — Barabbas, who was he? From the book of Mark, we know that he was a prisoner of Rome during the time of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion for having murdered a Roman soldier and for having stirred up a small but fleeting rebellion against the Roman occupying forces. Although to the many of the Jews, he may have been a hero. His arrest and incarceration were completely justified. He did the crime and was doing the time. But do we really know who he is other than what he did? Other than his rebellion and capital crime, he is mentioned nowhere else in the sequence of the gospel story nor is he mentioned in the subsequent books of the New Testament. Even his name is non-descriptive. Bar-abbas. It means son of daddy. That does not give us any help! Never in any mention of Barabbas in the gospels do they identify who his father was as was done so often in Hebrew literature, including the Bible. For example, Peter before his name was changed was often referred to as Simon, son of John. Barabbas, I guess, then was not connected to his family in any way. He was a rebel to the core. Since he was not identified with his father, he must have been a loner. He must have chosen to go his own way. In these ways, Barabbas is so symbolic of who we are before we encounter Jesus Christ.

Barabbas, not tied to his family in any way. He must have been an angry man searching for meaning in his life. Not tied to his family in any way could mean two things. He had dishonored his family in some way and was sent away to never return to his family. Or, he could have had a horrible home life that caused him to run away and never return. Many Barabbas had to strike out on his own because his father died and there was no uncles to step in and take care of his mom and the rest of his family. Either way, Barabbas was out there on his own. This is a very real possibility for who Barabbas was. Family was of extreme importance in Jewish society. Sons always honored their fathers by saying that they were son of… We know of no such references about Barabbas that would have led the writers of the gospels to mention this fact when writing of Barabbas. So, maybe Barabbas was just a young punk in the streets of Jerusalem that had to grow up hard. Maybe, he was just angry at the world because of all that. Many of us today may hate our government for what it has become but we do not murder government officials or members of the military because of it. It would have been true in Barabbas’ day too. Many Jews detested the presence of their Roman occupiers in their country. Yet, most did not try to lead rebellions and kill people. Barabbas was an angry man. Without a connection to his father in how he was publicly address, it means that he had nothing to lose in his mind. His life was full of anger to the point of lashing out against Rome. That’s pretty serious stuff. The Romans often dealt harshly with citizens of occupied lands who rebelled against Rome. Crucifixion had been perfected by the Romans as the most humiliating and painful way to die. It was very public and very painful. Imagine being so angry at the world that you lash out against the military of the most powerful nation on the planet. He was in complete rebellion. He was out of control. In his mind, it was OK to murder and create mayhem. His life has been so rough that he deserved to take it out on the Romans. Barabbas is so like you and me before we meet Jesus Christ. We are in rebellion against God. We shake our fist at him. We go against his Word and revel in our sins. We are searching for meaning in things of this world. We think that we deserve the pleasures of this life and seek after them and justify why we deserve them. We are Barabbas.

The irony of this scene is that Barabbas is standing there on one side and Jesus on the other. Each is accused of leading a rebellion. For one it is true. Barabbas had rebelled against Rome and wanted to lead others in doing so. For the other it is a lie fabricated by religious officials trying to preserve their way of life. Barabbas was guilty. There was no doubt about that fact. Other Roman soldiers had seen him commit the crime. Roman soldiers had witnesses him stirring up the crowds into an assault on soldiers in Jerusalem. Of his guilt, there was no doubt. He was convicted by the evidence of his sins against Rome. On the other hand, Jesus was not guilty. He was a sinless man who had committed no crime other than speak the truth to men who did not want to hear the truth. Jesus was pure and spotless and had done no such thing as lead a rebellion against Rome. But Barabbas was released even though he was a criminal against Rome. He was to face certain death without his release. In effect, Jesus died in Barabbas’ place. We are Barabbas at this moment when we meet Jesus.

Barabbas new what his crime was and probably was aware of what happens to criminals against Rome. They are sentenced to death, a death of painful proportions that seems to take forever. Many who were crucified took several days to die. Most on the cross wished for an immediate death that would not come. It was slow, excruciating and painful beyond belief. Imagine his relief and utter joy when his death sentence was lifted. Who knows what happened to Barabbas after this moment? But we can imagine his utter joy at being released from a sentence of certain but slow death. We are the same way when we meet Jesus Christ. We come before Him knowing that our sins separate us from God. We know that one sin is all it takes but yet we have committed so many. We know, finally, for the first time in our lives that we do not deserve heaven. We finally realize that no matter the amount of good that we do in this lifetime we do not deserve heaven because of the ever increasing pile of sins that convict us to hell. Hell is like crucifixion but just eternal. Crucifixion may have seemed like an eternity to a person on the cross. But hell is basically eternal crucifixion. Hell is real. Jesus spoke of it often. When we realize that we truly deserve the eternal pain and suffering of hell, that is when we meet Jesus.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, Jesus dies in our place. He takes the punishment for that which we deserve. We are set free from the penalty of eternal damnation that we deserve. We are Barabbas. We are set free from the crime for which there is incontrovertible evidence to convict us and send us to hell. One sin will send us there not to mention the hundreds that we commit each day, each week, each year of our lives. We are career criminals in that regard. But, yet, we are set free by the Innocent One who had no sin but was sent to the cross on our behalf. He took on the full punishment of God for us. We are set free by Jesus’ death sentence which he did not deserve. We are Barabbas. We run joyfully away from the judgement seat. That is the joy of our salvation that lives in our hearts. We as Christ followers know what we deserve and the joy that we have or should have in our lives is knowing that Jesus set us free from the penalty of and punishment of hell. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our sentence is lifted. We are pardoned. If you do not have basic inner joy because of that, then, you do not understand salvation. We have seen the eternal crucifixion of hell that we deserve and we have been pulled back from the brink. Thank you Jesus. Thank you! Thank you!

The most amazing thing here is that Jesus took the punishment that Barabbas deserved and we do not know what Barabbas did with it. The most amazing thing is that Jesus died on the cross in Barabbas’ place and in our place. He did this because He loves you and me and wants us to be reunited with God. He did this before you and I were born. He did this while we were yet sinners in open rebellion against Him. He did this knowing full well we might reject Him. But all we have to do to accept the reward of his death on the cross is to ask Him to come into our hearts and change us forever. When we do that, the sentence that we deserve is commuted. No matter how much we have rebelled. No matter what we have done. When we accept His gift, we are made innocent in His death on the cross. When we ask Him to take away our sins against God and change us from the inside out, we are set free. We are set free. Are you Barabbas today? Do you want to be set free from the hell that you deserve? Come to the cross. Accept what Jesus has done in your place there. Accept what He has done for what you deserve. Ask Him to be your Savior. He has already done the work for you. Ask Him into your heart and make you a criminal against God no more. No more rebellion. Change. Permanent change. We have seen where we belong but we have been set free. Join your brothers and sisters in Christ! Amen and Amen.

Luke 16:19-31 — You know, for several weeks now, as we have progressed through Jesus’ teachings in His parables, one thing that pops out is that a lot of these parables are about possessions and money. Today is no different. Today, we look at the Parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar. Many of us think that there is always more time. Just give me a little more time to live as I want to and then I will come to Christ.

It is a bit ironic that we run across this passage today. Last night, my wife and I were sitting on our back porch (our favorite spot at our house, especially in the spring and summer), and it was raining. My cat, Flash, was out there with us. It was raining pretty hard outside but yet my wife does not like to let my little buddy in the house too often. So, there sits Flash on the porch. Can’t go outside because of the pouring rain. Can’t go inside because of Elena. So, he just sat on the floor stairing aimlessly outside. I said “Poor lil Flashy! He’s in porch purgatory.”

That got me to thinking. Where did the Catholics come up with the doctrine of purgatory? According to Catholic tradition, this belief has existed since the beginnings of the church (remember the Catholic church was the original church of Jesus’ disciples, catholic is Latin for universal. The church did not get this official name until it became the official religion of the Roman Empire around 300 AD). Research shows that Judaism believes in it as well. Islam does too in a sense with Islam’s levels of heaven. So, the Catholics are not alone in this belief that there is some type of cleansing that goes on for a period of time before we get to go to “real” heaven where we are cleansed of our imperfections. It is said that half of all Christians have this concept as part of their beliefs and most all other religions do too. Only we Protestants (all non-Catholic) believers dismiss the concept as having no basis in God’s Word itself. Man has developed this belief that there is always more time. More time to get ourselves straight with God. The dogma of purgatory almost gives us the idea that we do not really have to get it right while we are here on earth. We have a chance to get it right after death and before our final eternal destination. What a crock this is? It almost eliminates the need for Jesus and eliminates the urgency to come to Him. We’ve got time, always more time. I can put off til later dealing with this salvation thing.

This passage reminds us that purgatory is not biblical. This passage reminds us that hell is real. This passage reminds us that we are not guaranteed tomorrow so salvation and evangelism are essential.

As we see here in this passage, the beggar went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. This means that there is an immediate assignment of our soul to its eternal destination. There is no purgatory. There is no second chance. Purgatory is just an invention of man to make himself feel better about his loved ones who have passed on or about our own lifestyle as it is lived out day to day. It takes away the urgency of evangelism and it takes away the need for salvation. Jesus never spoke of purgatory. He only spoke of heaven and hell and we see it here clearly that there are only two options. Live a life of hard-heartedness. Live a life of rejection of God and His Word. Live a life of never accepting Jesus as your Savior and you will get your answer about the afterlife immediately.

This passage reminds us that hell is for real. There is no purgatory. There is the “hell express” immediately upon death for those who do not come to Christ in this one life chance that we have. Hell is not a pretty place. The rich man complains of the unquenchable thirst that he has and that he is in anguish. Let’s get this straight first. The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich and had much wealth. He went to hell because selfish. He refused to help the beggar right at his doorstep, a man so sickly that even the dogs licked his sores. Let’s remember first century Jews had no love for dogs the way we do. They were considered mongrels and were considered unclean, nasty animals and were never kept as pets. To be so sick that dogs would feed on you meant that you were lower than low. The rich man would not care for the beggar at his doorstep who begged for food. He refused to take the beggar in or even care for him. The rich man was hard-hearted despite his many material blessings. This man went to hell because his wealth was his god. He was blinded that Moses and prophets preached that God wants us to show love to the less fortunate. In the caring for the less fortunate, we learn not to love our things and make them our God. Caring for the less fortunate helps us to show the world that there is a God who loves them and will give them hope. Yet this man probably felt that his wealth and the maintenance of it was more important than helping his fellow man. When we make anything else other than God our god during this one chance at life that we get, we destine ourselves to the anguish of hell. It is a place of eternal suffering, pain and thirst and fire and the gnashing of teeth and bone and burning flesh and stench and emptiness. It is real and it is immediate. Do you want to keep putting off your coming to Jesus, the only way to the Father? The only way! No other way! Is living this life with some sense that you have time to get this right later on really a good bet? The rich man in this parable probably thought he had a long life to get things right but He didn’t. How much time do you think you have? Hell is for real. It is permanent. It is immediate when you die. I am not trying to scare anyone into salvation. That never works but it is so common for us when we are non-believers to think that we have more time to deal with our eternal destiny.

Why is it that we think that we always have time to deal with Jesus later? We think we are going to live forever. All of us, even Christ followers, do not like to think of death as being right around the corner. As Christ followers we know we are secure in heaven at death but we do not like to think it could be when we step our door to go to work this morning. The reality however is that we are not guaranteed one more minute in this temporal life that we are living now. We could indeed step out the door this morning to go to work and never make it there, even if you live less than two miles from work like I do. Death is always out there. We do not know when it comes. Why is it then that non-believers think they can put off dealing with Jesus until later. I put it off for 39 years. Let me live my life the way I want to right now. I can deal with Him after I have sowed all my wild oats. I am having too much hedonistic fun right now to deal with Him. I am too busy reveling in my sins right now. I will deal with Jesus later. We are not guaranteed one heart beat more than the next beat. Don’t put off coming to Jesus. Come to Him now. The rich man in this parable thought he had all the time in the world. We think we will live forever. Tomorrow I will deal with Jesus. Tomorrow. But tomorrow may never come. We may die today. Come to Your Savior now. As the captain of the space shuttle on Armageddon said, “We’ve got no time. No time!” Today may be your last day. Don’t put off knowing Jesus as your Savior. The rich man thought he had more time but died suddenly and putting off and putting off landed him in a place of eternal anguish known as hell.

The fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow not only should give the non-believer a sense of urgency to deal with Jesus but as Christ followers it should give us a great sense of urgency to share the gospel message. We put off sharing the gospel but it has been statistically proven that a person typically has at least 8 gospel encounters before they finally accept Christ. If we miss our divine appointments because we feel uncomfortable sharing, we are stretching out the time frame that a person has before the come to Christ, if at all. We are not guaranteed tomorrow as Christians but non-believers are not either. Hell is for real and is immediate upon death as we see in this parable. That raises the stakes for us as Christ followers. We must share the gospel when the opportunity arises. We must have a sense of urgency. Now. Now. Now. Hell is at stake. Souls are at stake. One chance at this life. It is short. Non-guaranteed long life. Today is the day. We should have that urgency on our mind when gospel opportunities are laid before us. Let us live with gospel urgency!

“All too often, we view heaven as the default eternal state for humankind. We assume that our race simply deserves heaven, that God owes heaven to us unless we do something really bad to warrant otherwise. But as [the Apostle Paul tells us] in Romans, this theology is just not true. All people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.” — p. 147, Radical, by David Platt.

To dissolve ourselves of the need to share the gospel, we have made it easier for the hard truth of the Bible to swallow by saying that all religions are the same and that they all lead to God. This absolves us of the urgency that the Bible calls us to. We are comfortable. Don’t give us something hard. As David Platt goes on to say, “Many professing Christians have come to the conclusion that if certain people around the world (and I add, here at home) don’t have the opportunity to heart about Jesus, then this automatically excuses them from God’s condemnation.” There is no biblical evidence to support this idea. We all stand condemned for rejecting God whether we have heard of Jesus or not. This is the hard truth of the Bible. But, God did give us Jesus as the one and only way out of the condemnation, the default state of hell, that we deserve.

In deluding ourselves that all roads lead to heaven it has made evangelism the job of some specially trained on-fire go-getters. It is not someone else’s job. It is ours. There is a whole world outside our door, outside our country that have never heard of Jesus. Why does this not break our hearts? Why does this not energize you? Why does this not energize me? We should be aching for the lost here and around the world. If we believe the Bible as perfect and true (and it is), people will not go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. No alternate gospel of it’s OK whatever you believe. No exceptions for those have not heard of Him. We all reject God. We stand condemned, all of us, in the absence of Jesus. This should be our desperate passion. It should make us hurt and ache.

Father, help me to not blow this off. Help me to want it. Help me to be so moved by this that I never forget. Help me to care about the destiny of souls who have not heard the gospel. Help me to care about it. Help me to be so stunned that someone might go to hell without having heard of Jesus that it moves me to action instead of sitting on the sidelines. Amen.