Posts Tagged ‘necessity of the cross’

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.

Luke 18:31-34 — Sometimes we hear what we want to hear and we ignore the truth. Has this ever happened to you? Sometimes we don’t want to go through the hard stuff to get to the good stuff? Has this ever happened to you?

It is like when football season begins at a big time high school football program. I qualify this as big-time programs because at my high school, if you were a warm body, you at least made the team. But at big time programs, it’s different. There are many who come out for tryouts. There are many who make it through the initial tryouts and make the initial cut. But as the grind of summer workouts and practices begins to take hold, they are some that begin to drop away. Only those that are committed to the team are the ones that remain when the season begins. They get to enjoy the spoils that go to football players. They are the big men on campus but yet they have to go through a lot of guts to get to the glories of Friday nights. No guts. No glory. Many want the glory but are not willing to put forth the investment. Many hear the stories of the glories accorded to football players but few truly hear about the costs involved.

It is like when you desire to get a cancer-free report about your colon. It is great news on the other side. But before you get to the other side, you’ve got to go through a day of no solid food and an evening of taking medicine to cleanse your colon. Then you have to be put to sleep the next morning and have a doctor place a foreign object with a camera on it up your colon so they can see inside your colon. On the other side of it, like yesterday morning, you get the good report that you have no polyps and that your colon looks really good. You have to go through the pain to get to the good stuff. You have to go through a night of going through gurgling sounds in your stomach after taking the cleansing medication and drinking tons of liquids. You have to go through “showers of power” as I called them on the toilet. You have spill your guts out to get to the other side, to get to the glory of the good report. If you didn’t do the pain, you don’t get the gain. Without the night of pain, there could be no colonoscopy and there could be no knowledge that you have no polyps that lead to cancer in your colon. No guts. No glory. Some men are not willing to go through the night of many bathroom visits to get to the glory of hearing that you are healthy inside.

In today’s passage, I think the disciples were much like my illustrations. The heard what Jesus was saying but I think they did not want to hear the truth of the matter. I think they wanted so bad that the Messiah be a conquering hero that they did not want to hear of the suffering that had been predicted for the Messiah throughout the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus had predicted already twice (in Matthew) that He would suffer and die as predicted by Scripture and, as predicted in Scripture, that He would arise on the third day. In Matthew, they did not hear the prediction and proceeded to argue over who would be ranked highest in heaven. They did not want to hear of the required suffering. Just as sometimes young men in high school here only about the glory of football but not the excruciating hard work of it. They want Friday night without the Monday through Thursday. Scripture is plain. Jesus was going to suffering and die. The reason was that it was not because He was some pawn in a political game between the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman occupying overlords. The reason was not because he bucked the established order and lost. The real reason is because of sin. God orchestrated the events of Jerusalem during Passion Week because of sin. He used the events right down to the casting of lots for Jesus’ clothing to fulfill all the prophecies of the Messiah who came to be afflicted for our sins. His whole life was leading to the Week of His Passion in Jerusalem. His whole life on earth was a prelude to the cross. The suffering was necessary. Jesus knew it and Jesus went through it because it was necessary. The whole sacrificial system for atonement of sins was a prelude to the once and final sacrifice for all time by Jesus. Man is sin-filled. We are sinners. The disciples are sinners. All of us have committed at least one sin in our lives. All of us have committed many sins in our lives. All it takes is one sin to separate us from God for all eternity. One sin. That’s it. Just one! And done. The disciples did not want to hear that. Their minds could not grasp that. They wanted a conquering Messiah that would take over the throne of David and drive out the Romans. They wanted to be elevated members of the new order that the conquering Messiah would bring. They did not want to hear that the real necessity of the Messiah’s coming was our sin and that He was going to pay the price for it on the cross. For their sin, for my sin, for your sin. He HAD to go to the cross because of God’s love for us juxtaposed against His justice against sin. Sin cannot exist in the presence of a perfect God. It must be consumed. It must be burned up. It must be punished. Jesus HAD to go to the cross to be the sacrifice for sin, to take on the punishment of all sins for all time. All sins for all time. How much wrath do you think that was! A whole bunch. The power of not just an F5 tornado but let’s day an F50 tornado of wrath poured out on Jesus was necessary to pay the price for all sins of all time past, present, and future of all mankind. The sheer force of that punishment Jesus felt and exclaimed for the first time in eternity that He felt separated from the Trinity. The force of that punishment was necessary because God though a just God is also a God of love who wants to be reunited with His created. The disciples did not want to hear the reality of the necessity of the death of Jesus in Jerusalem. They wanted an untouchable conquering hero. They did not want to hear that suffering was going to be involved. Just as some high school boys want the glory of Friday nights under the lights, they don’t want to hear about or deal with the fact that much suffering is involved Monday through Thursday and that it is necessary to get to Friday night, the disciples did not want to hear of a suffering Messiah. Just as some men are not willing to go through the pain of the night before a colonoscopy and refuse to hear anything about it further, the disciples did not want to recognize the necessity of what Jesus was talking about. His death was necessary for the expiation of their sins and yours and mine. The pain was necessary for the gain.

What was then the gain for the pain? It was at the other end of the suffering and death. Just as the pain of running the hill as football players until you think your legs are going to fall off and your guts are going to jump out of your mouth to get away from you, there was a goal to Jesus’ suffering and death. Just as all the wind sprints have a point. Just as all the six inches have a point. Just as the endurance running has a point. Just as all the tire runs have a point. Just as all the man in the middle exercises in football have a point. It is all to get your prepared for the battles on Friday night. It is all to get your prepared for the game. It is all to get to the glory. Just as all the medicine taken in prior to a colonoscopy has a point. Just as not eating solid food has a point. Just as having the showers of power has a point. Just as having absolutely nothing to eat at all the day of the procedure has a point. It is to enable the doctor to see and report. It is to get to the glory of the other side of the pain and suffering. The disciples heard of the necessary pain and stopped. They did not hear the good stuff. At the other end of the necessary pain and suffering was the resurrection. The resurrection was the good stuff. The resurrection means that the pain and suffering had a point. The necessary gives way to the reward. The price was paid to get to the what was purchased. The purchased was our freedom. The purchased was our freedom from the penalty of the law. The purchased was the pardon from our eternal separation from God. The resurrection proves to us that we have new life in Jesus Christ. We no longer have to pay the price of eternal separation from God. The resurrection proves that Jesus Christ is greater that sin and death. We see through Jesus that death is no longer the end. We have proof through His resurrection that there is eternal life. We see that there is a promise of resurrection for us all for those who believe in Him. We had to have the suffering and death on the cross to get to the resurrection. Without the suffering and death and the penalty paid by Jesus for our sin, the whole thing is pointless. The purpose of the suffering and death on the cross was to solve the sin problem and to reconcile us to God. Without the pain, the joy of the resurrection is not near the joy that it is. Just as the joy of Friday night on the football field is realizing that all that hard work Monday through Thursday made you ready for the game, made you ready for anything that happened during it, made you have the endurance to handle anything that happened in the game, so is Jesus on the cross necessary to get to the empty tomb. Just as all the cleansing necessary the night before the colonoscopy is necessary to get to the report of the doctor on the other side, Jesus on the cross is necessary to get to the Risen Savior. No pain. No gain.