Tag Archive | sin

God Is Love, 1 John 4:16

Buddy.Cute.WP

One reason I love this photo is because I love Buddy. He is great company, particularly when I’m alone in the house at night. And because I love him, I don’t think about the bad boy things he has done: I see him as perfect and totally lovable.

The Apostle John, who laid his head against Christ’s breast when Jesus walked the earth, declared that “God is love,”–1 John 4:16

When most people think of Heaven, they think of angels on clouds and green meadows full of flowers and meeting their loved ones again, looking young and healthy. They usually don’t think of it as a place where God dwells.

Since God is love and dwells in Heaven, guess what Hell could be defined as? Not as a place of fire and brimstone, but a place where God does not dwell, a place totally absent of love.

Please think about that. Hell is a place with no mercy, no kindness, no laughter, no joy, no peace, no faithfulness, no goodness, no patience, no freedom…(Galatians 5:22) I’m sure you can think of many others.

I think most people, if mentally healthy, would prefer to go to Heaven and not Hell, but they have a misunderstanding about how to get there. This will shock most people: IT’S NOT BY BEING GOOD! or , like pictured in an Egyptian papyrus painting, I have, “IT’S NOT BY HAVING YOUR GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGHING YOUR BAD.”

To address the latter firstly: If you think it’s by having your good deeds outweighing the bad, how do you define your good and your bad deeds? God is perfect. His definition of “bad” is far broader than ours is. The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize how bad I really am, because I become more familiar with what God’s standards really are. When someone asked Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life”, Jesus responded, “No one is good except God alone.”–Luke 18:18

This seems to me a really iffy program to place my hope on to obtain eternal life in Heaven. How do you really know when your good deeds outweigh your bad? How many points does gossip get versus donating a toy to Toys for Tots? That method would keep me awake at night.

Most people don’t understand the gospel (which means “good news”). It’s not good news to tell me that I need to work really hard to be good and hope that maybe I did well enough to pass muster on Judgment Day. God cannot tolerate evil, i.e. sin. He demands perfection. In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus declared, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:48  I blew that one a long time ago.

That’s why Jesus had to die. Only He was good enough, being God in the flesh, to live a perfect life and take our punishment for God’s wrath against sin. We don’t do anything to earn Heaven except humble ourselves and admit we’re sinners and need Jesus’ blood to cover our sin for us. And because He rose from the dead, proving Himself to be God and His sacrifice acceptable, ask Him to empower us by giving us the Holy Spirit to live His life through us.

Then God sees us as perfect and totally lovable, just like I love my Buddy.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

And that’s good news, not working for my eternal life but accepting that Jesus already did it for me.

Sadly, admitting they’re not perfect is just too difficult for most people.

PS. If someone says this is wrong, it’s not by faith in Christ but good works, then ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

***

If you agree with me, “Hey, I’d like to go to Heaven and live with this loving God for eternity, and I know I’m not perfect, I’ve missed the mark,” please pray:

Dear Father, I’m sorry I’ve screwed up and fallen far short of your standards. I know I’m far from perfect but I believe you love me and want me to spend eternity with you. I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and died for my sins. That He lived the perfect life I couldn’t live. Please forgive me and grant me Your Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Amen.

 

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Good People Go To Hell, Matthew 5:3

Buddy.guilt

Did that title get your attention?

Buddy sits by the front door to see what’s going on in the neighborhood but he’s looking in the wrong direction. However, since he has seemingly supersonic hearing, he can still hear what’s going on outside.

Many people hear God’s call or message of salvation, but they look the other way and don’t accept it.

During His famous Sermon On The Mount speech, Jesus began with this verse:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”–Matthew 5:3

Speaker and teacher Kay Arthur explains that being “poor in spirit” is to admit one’s spiritual poverty, one’s utter spiritual bankruptcy and inability before a holy God to have any righteous standing. To admit one’s utter sinfulness.

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;”–Isaiah 64:6

Most people think that Judgment Day is like what is depicted in Egyptian paintings: There is a scale on which one side rests all of one’s bad deeds and the good deeds on the other. If the good deeds outweigh the bad, you get to go to Heaven. If the bad outweighs the good, you go to Hell.

But God is so pure and holy that we can never stand before Him on Judgment Day in our own righteousness. “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:48   God’s standard to get into HIS HOUSE is perfection.

“No one is good except God alone.”–Jesus, Mark 10:18

The people Jesus was harshest with, as reported in the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), were the Pharisees, the religious leaders who thought they were good and didn’t need to listen to Jesus’ message or rebukes.  Jesus upset their spiritual apple cart by declaring that those persons that the Pharisees considered to be the most sinful members in their society would get into Heaven before they would.

“Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”–Matthew 21:31

Because the Pharisees believed they were good, they didn’t see a need to repent and accept the righteousness of Christ as their own.

Sadly, I know a lot of good people who refuse to believe they need to repent of their sins and accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as payment for their sin. They think they can stand before a perfect God and prove themselves holy by their own deeds.

Pride is the opposite of “poor in spirit.” I pray that pride is not keeping you from accepting that Jesus died for your sins.

***

I stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d like to give credit to my spiritual mentors:

Martin Luther,  Kay Arthur, Dr. Charles Stanley,  Pastor Chuck Smith, Pastor Chuck Swindoll, Pastor Bob George, Pastor Max Lucado, Pastor Ben David of Hope Fellowship and Dr. Michael Youseff

 

Bronze Serpent: Numbers 21:4-9

buddy-wp-vet

The day before I flew out of town last December, my little Buddy was in a great deal of pain and had to be rushed to the vet. Above, he is trying to get onto my family member’s lap in the vet’s office. Not only was he in pain, but I was in pain, listening to him squeal whenever we walked near him or tried to pick him up. I just wished he could tell us what was wrong.

Many skip reading the book of Numbers in the Bible as it has a lot of lists and numbering of tribes and persons, etc. which is, honestly, a bit of a snoozer and likely interesting only to archeologists. But there are some story gems sprinkled in the book.

The Jewish people were getting impatient with the journey to the Promised Land. They wanted immediate possession, not wandering about in the wilderness to get there. They didn’t trust God to lead them safely to the land in His timing. Once again they sinned by grumbling against God, displaying no faith in His goodness or willingness to bless them.

“The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.'”–Numbers 21:5

The food being referred to was the manna that God miraculously provided for them. Talk about ingratitude. God didn’t take them directly to the Promised Land because they would’ve immediately encountered hostile tribes before they were properly prepared for warfare. The indirect route was His way of protecting them.

In response to their grumbling, God sent fiery serpents among the people which bit and killed many of them. When the people acknowledged their sin and asked for the serpents to be removed, God commanded Moses to create a bronze serpent set upon a standard. All anyone had to do to be healed of their wound was to look at the serpent. Those with faith in God’s Word through Moses, looked at the bronze serpent and were healed. Those who scoffed and refused to look at the serpent and focused on their wounds instead, died.

Jesus referred to this incident as recorded in the Gospel of John, 3:14-15:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the serpent image echoes the serpent in the Garden of Eden who led to the downfall of Mankind, causing Adam and Eve to sin, bringing both spiritual and physical death to their offspring. We all have a choice in life: To listen to the devil and focus on our sins, or by faith, look at the Cross of Christ. By simple faith, we can have eternal life by acknowledging our sin and believing in Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for our sins.

But, not only that, every day we all have a choice as Christians: to focus on the wounds the serpent, Satan, inflicts us with and our sinfulness, or look to Jesus for healing of those wounds by accepting His love and forgiveness. We can choose to be miserable, focusing on our hurting wounds and failures, or look to Him Who promises:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 4:8

The choice is yours: focus on Jesus Christ and His might, mercy and love, or wallow in your sin, hurt and guilt.

Not that I am perfect. How often do I agonize over my failures or someone’s bitter behavior toward me till I remember to look to my dear friend and Savior, to finally find peace for my soul.

Make the better choice, my eternal friend in Christ.

By the way, it turned out that Buddy had strained a muscle in his neck. When we walked near him, he was shrieking to warn us to stay away so that we wouldn’t accidentally touch him and injure his neck further. He’s doing great now, after a rather pricey vet bill, but I’m thankful I had the money to pay for it.

Note: All Scripture quotes are from the NASB. And I gratefully acknowledge the great Christian leaders who’ve shared their Biblical knowledge over the years so that I could put this blog together. It is their teaching, distilled today, that I share.