Category Archives: Hell

Amazing Grace And Why I Love Verse 2

Imagine being a 17-year-old girl who read just enough of the Bible to know she was a hopelessly wretched sinner deserving of eternity in hell. Imagine her not understanding that the Son of God took her place on the cross, shedding His innocent blood to satisfy the Father’s wrath towards her selfish, wicked thoughts. But then imagine her profound relief when she finally heard the Gospel and gratefully received God’s grace.

I don’t have to image that scenario. I lived it almost 47 years ago.

Looking back on that time, I praise the Lord for allowing me to sense my wretched condition, despite the pain of knowing that I belonged in hell. As strange as it sounds, God’s grace opened my eyes to see my sin. Until He did that, I was blind to my need for a Savior.

The hymn, Amazing Grace, always brings me back to that 17-year-old girl who experienced both the terror of her sins and the joy of God’s forgiveness. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved beautifully encapsulates my testimony. Does it describe yours?

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I Make A Decidedly Putrid Message (And So Do You)

Putrid worksIn recent years, the notion that we can “be the message” has resurrected the old cliche, “Preach the Gospel–if necessary, use words.”  The social gospel movement, in particular, capitalizes on this cliche for the purpose of using works of charity almost in place of preaching the Gospel. They rationalize that, because of their acts of service, people will ask what motivates them to serve, thus opening the door for evangelism.

In an effort to discern the validity of this popular idea, we need to examine it in light of what the Word of God teaches. I’ll refer to several Scriptures, so please click the links; quoting so many of them directly in one blog post might put me in danger of violating the ESV copyright permission.

I agree that a person’s behavior, in general,  demonstrates his true beliefs.  James 2:14-26 indeed maintains that  “faith without works is dead.” Jesus Himself warned that He will reject those who call Him Lord while actively disobeying His commandments (Matthew 7:21-27). The proponents of the social gospel must be commended, therefore, for their desire to address the obvious disconnect between what evangelicals profess to believe and how we actually live. The non-Christian world sees our hypocrisy, and uses it as an excuse to reject Christ.

That said, our good behavior, in and of itself, can only (at best) lead people to ask us about the Lord (1 Peter 3:15). Of course, we should remember the broader context of this verse. 1 Peter 3:8-22 offers guidelines to Christians in the midst of suffering for their commitment to  Christ. The First Century believers to whom Peter originally wrote amazed their critics by clinging to Jesus when simply renouncing Him would have liberated them from persecution. They did far more than live good lives. They proclaimed Christ in an empire that made such proclamations punishable by death.

Their potential martyrdom went far beyond “right living.” Good behavior certainly reflects God’s standards for personal holiness, but without accompanying words about the grace of God that transforms a sinner, such good behavior degenerates into self-righteous morality that the Lord considers putrid (see Isaiah 64:6).

As a matter of fact, dear readers, not one of us leads a life that replaces the need to articulate the Gospel. We are declared righteous by virtue of the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection rather than by our deeds, meaning that our lives continue to be tainted by our proclivity to sin (see Romans 7:7-24). We should, of course, walk in obedience to the Lord, but we dare not entertain the notion that social justice is enough to win anyone to Christ.

The Gospel requires that you and I actually talk about sin, hell, repentance and the fact that only Jesus provides salvation from God’s wrath. We can dig wells, help children with disabilities and run food pantries all we want, but unless we accompany those activities with a clear proclamation of the Gospel, people will see no difference between us and members of the Elks club. And they’ll be looking at us, not at the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Pardon There Was Multiplied To Me

One of the saddest aspects of evangelicalism is that people make professions of faith without genuinely understanding why they need salvation. Evangelicals often present Jesus as an agent of life enhancement rather than the One Who bears the wrath of a holy Judge on our behalf.

But how thankful I am that the Holy Spirit confronted me with my sin 46 years ago! Knowing that I deserve eternity in hell has made me so appreciative of the Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross for my sin! Only those who see how terrible their sin is realize what a wonderful thing the Lord did for us on Calvary.

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Saturday Sampler: May 7 — May 13

Five Easter BabiesHymns have lessened in popularity over the past 50 years. And that trend has truly impoverished the Church. In his blog for Concordia Publishing House, Joe Willmann shows us that Teaching the Truth in our Hymns can be a powerful and easy way to learn essential Christian doctrine.

John Ellis adds brilliantly to the conversation about Jen Hatmaker and her endorsement of same sex marriage in his article, The Cowardly Defense of Sin: Jen Hatmaker’s Rejection of the Bible, written for PJ Media. I can’t applaud Ellis enough for this one! (Did I mention that it’s brilliant?)

Similarly, Summer White of Sheologians joins the discussion on Hatmaker by writing On Redefining Words and Character Assassination. Summer gets to the true issue in this controversy: Hatmaker’s implicit denial of God’s holiness.

You might not completely agree with Leslie A.’s post, Learn to Discern: Reawakening the Conscience, in Growing 4 Life. I’m a little uncomfortable with her presentation, afraid that she may be imposing her personal convictions on her readers. That said, her main point about the influence of entertainment on our conscience deserves prayerful consideration. For that reason  I encourage you to read this post and think about her points.

Similarly, Kevin Halloran of Anchored In Christ gives us Ten Questions Christians Should Ask of Their Entertainment. His perspective offers more leeway, while still encouraging us to be discerning.

Biblical illiteracy causes a great deal of the problems among evangelicals. Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day writes The More Sure Word to demonstrate the importance of relying on Scripture rather than personal experience.

In a group post, the ladies at Out of the Ordinary share the Pivotal Doctrines that have influenced their relationships with me Lord. Interestingly, two of them write about justification. As you read these posts, you may connect them with some of my posts on the Reformation.

Writing for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Leslie Schmucker confronts us with The Uncomfortable Subject Jesus Addressed More than Anyone Else. No ma’am, I’m not going to tell you what it is! You’ll have to read the article for yourself. 🙂

 

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How Self-Esteem Undermines The Gospel

dark-bibleThe concept of self-esteem dominates psychology and psychotherapy. Even a cursory Google search on self-esteem will reveal the strong relationship between the two. Psychotherapy aims at helping boost a client’s self-esteem, showing them their supposed inherent value and importance. Ultimately, it teaches the client to love herself, frequently adding that self-love is absolutely foundational to good mental health and healthy relationships.

This emphasis on self-esteem, however, directly contradicts the basic Gospel message. John MacArthur, in his sermon, The Gospel: Self-love or Self-hate?, demonstrates from Scripture that the person clinging to self-esteem can never benefit from the Gospel because she can’t truly face the truth of her sinful condition and utter dependence on Christ as her only source of righteousness.

The Bible, in stark contrast to psychology’s emphasis on self-esteem, teaches that salvation comes only as we recognize our depravity and consequently come to hate ourselves. Jesus said, in no uncertain terms, that feeling good about ourselves would automatically prevent us from receiving God’s mercy.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~~Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

I know some of you are objecting that this parable talks about pride, not self-esteem. But if you think about it, isn’t self-esteem simply a socially acceptable description of  pride? Look at the Pharisee and the tax collector again. Wouldn’t you agree that the Pharisee had pretty high self-esteem and the tax collector suffered from low self-esteem? And yet Jesus said that the tax collector was justified by God, Who looked on the man’s humility with favor.

The Gospel asserts that every human being, with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a sinner by nature and by choice. As sinners who habitually violate God’s Law, we rightfully deserve eternal punishment in hell. Because of our helpless condition, Jesus came to earth as a Man (without ceasing to be God) to live a sinless life. He suffered a criminal’s execution on a Roman cross, shedding His innocent blood in payment for the sin of all those who would believe in Him. On the third day He rose again, proving that God the Father accepted His sacrifice and will therefore raise believers to eternal life.

The first component of the Gospel, you’ll notice, focuses on our sinfulness, which in turn verifies our desperate need for a Savior. Self-esteem, however, denies the gravity of our sinfulness, falsely assuring us what we have something to contribute to our salvation. As a result, we skew the Gospel, diminishing Christ’s work while subtly claiming some of the glory for ourselves.

Psychology, precisely because of its relentless promotion of self-esteem, rips away the very foundation of the Gospel. As Bible-believing Christians, we must categorically reject psychology because of its integral ties with the self-esteem movement. By recognizing psychology’s unbiblical underpinnings, we embrace the biblical teachings on sin which prepare us for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Saturday Sampler: April 30 — May 6

Sping LaceI’ve been angry at God. I admit that terrible fact with shame, grateful that He has forgiven my arrogance toward Him. So I wholeheartedly agree with Denny Burk’s blog post, It’s never right to be angry at God. Ever. His Biblical approach to this issue leads to practical counsel on dealing with suffering.

Rachel Miller, who authors Daughter of the Reformation, writes Policing the Blogosphere? We’ve Been Here Before as an intriguing response to the idea that women bloggers need more church oversight. I’m still weighing her assertions, but I found her parallels to the Reformation absolutely fascinating! Invest some time in this essay; you won’t regret it.

In her hard-hitting essay, “Sorry I Never Knew You” – Should we sing about God’s judgments?, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time challenges the prevailing reticence to preach and sing about eschatology. She includes the song, “Sorry I Never Knew You” by The Sego Brothers & Naomi. Even if Southern Gospel Music isn’t ordinarily your preference, please listen to this important song and consider the points Elizabeth makes.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis enumerates Reasons to Avoid Churches Who Will Not Practice Church Discipline. He raises issues I’d never consciously considered, but that make perfect sense.  His article again assures me that I’m in a healthy, Biblical church with leadership that shepherds me well.

Like most Christians, I fight the temptation to take credit for my salvation. Tim Challies provides a wonderful antidote to that temptation. If Only I Had Been Saved By Merit! demonstrates how our corrupt natures would pervert God’s grace if we actually had a hand  in saving ourselves. I think I’m glad the Lord did all the work!

It’s fashionable to speak about social media with a hint of disdain in your voice. But Michelle Lesley, in 9 Ways Social Media Is a Blessing to Believers, reminds us that the Lord uses the Internet to do some pretty amazing things. Of course, I may be a tad biased regarding this topic — I met my husband online!

 

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I Wish I’d Blog About A Cuddly Jesus

Ladies Study 01Wouldn’t it be nice to follow a form of Christianity that just got along with everybody? That emphasized God’s love and minimized His righteous standards? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to embrace homosexuality and find common ground with people of other religions?

Of course, many liberal churches offer just that sort of belief system. They imagine a false Jesus that never judges sin and, because “God is love,” never really sends anyone to hell. I spent my first 17 years in such a church, giving me direct experience with that type of thinking. To be honest, part of me misses having that kind of Christianity. It was such a comfortable way to relate to God!

And frankly, I don’t take a whole lot of pleasure in challenging people who contradict God’s Word. In writing about the Reformation each Tuesday, for instance, I don’t think it’s particularly enjoyable to tell Catholics that they hold unbiblical views. Losing friends as a result of my position on Beth Moore hasn’t been a whole lot of fun either, if you want to know the truth.

But Scripture explicitly says that those who follow Christ and cling to the Word of God shouldn’t expect to win popularity contests. As a matter of fact, Jesus actually warned that popularity with people usually indicates a person’s unfaithfulness to God.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. ~~Luke 6:26 (ESV)

Please don’t misunderstand me to say that Christians should be deliberately belligerent. Jesus continued, in Luke 6:27-31, by instructing us to love even our enemies, leaving us no room to be nasty or unloving to those who oppose our message. Rather, He meant that bearing the Gospel would naturally result in causing people to dislike us. Truth offends sinners.

It offends them precisely because it exposes their rebellion against Him. They prefer false teachers and belief systems that affirm their supposed goodness and/or affirms their autonomy. Therefore, Christians who take firm stands on the clear teachings of Scripture anger and annoy them. We’re unpopular because we dare to uphold God’s standards without apology or compromise.

As much as my flesh would love to write a chatty little blog that kept God tame and cuddly, my responsibility is to represent His Word as accurately as I can. Most people won’t like what I write in these posts, and sometimes their reactions will sting. But I pray that, when I stand before the Judgment Throne, the Lord will find me faithful.

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