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Matthew 25-26: Why People Go to Hell

I clearly recognize that following a different gospel leaves someone accursed (Galatians 1:9-10). I also recognize that not abiding in the doctrine of Christ means we will have neither the Father or the Son (II John 9). Thus, getting the gospel and doctrine of Christ right is important and necessary to our salvation. 

However, I can’t help but notice when Jesus very specifically talked about the sheep and the goats and who will be allowed into heaven and who will be cast into hell in Matthew 25:31-46, He didn’t talk about those who got the gospel and doctrine of Christ right. He talked about those who did good deeds for others. He talked about those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited those sick and in prison. Now, I recognize this is not talking about just general welfare. This is talking about love among brethren. 

We need to recognize however that it is not enough to know and teach the right gospel and doctrine. The gospel and doctrine of Christ must impact our lives such that we humbly submit to others around us and do good for them. If we close our benevolent hand to others around us, we are closing it to Jesus. In that case, we may be the soundest teachers in the whole world. We may debate with excellence and shut the mouths of all false teachers and yet we will still be cast into hell. 

If you want to go to heaven, take some time to get out of your study and off the debate podium and do some good works for those around you.

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October 29, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Matthew, salvation, Serving | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Matthew 23-24: 5 Sins of the Pharisees and Not One of Them is Legalism

Interestingly, I hear all kinds of accusations about the Pharisees. Today, evangelicals and ecumenicalists are free with pointing the finger at all those awful, rotten Pharisees out there. Of course, the Pharisee accusation usually means LEGALIST. I find that interesting when we read Matthew 23. This is the most in depth rebuke of the Pharisees and yet not once does Jesus rebuke them for being legalists. Notice instead what he does actually rebuke them for.

1. Not practicing what they preach.

In Matthew 23:3-4, Jesus said the folks should do what the Pharisees taught. But not do what they did because they didn’t practice what they preached. Further, they would lay all kinds of burdens on the shoulders of other people but wouldn’t lift the finger to lift these burdens themselves. Now don’t read into this. Jesus didn’t rebuke them for laying heavy burdens on anyone. He rebuked them for not lifting the heavy burdens themselves.

2. They were self-seeking.

According to Matthew 23:5-15, Jesus says the Pharisees weren’t doing what they did out of humble service to God so that He might be glorified. They were doing things so others might see them and praise them for being so spiritual. Again, Jesus didn’t rebuke them for being legalistic about what they taught or practiced but for their motivation behind what they did and taught. This self-seeking led to some pretty awful results. First, their self-seeking caused them to lead a double life. On the one hand, they were taking advantage of widows. On the other, they were making long prayers for a pretense. The second negative consequence was their self-seeking caused them to make followers of themselves instead of followers of God. Thus, when they found a proselyte, the person did not get in a right relationship with God but became twice the child of hell as the Pharisees.

3. They were dishonest.

Perhaps Matthew 23:16-22 is where some folks find legalism. Certainly, they are drawing a bunch of lines on when to actually keep their word. But Jesus is not rebuking them for their lines. He is rebuking them for their dishonesty. He wants them to simply tell the truth, not make up rules about when they have to tell the truth. Further, notice that this issue of line drawing is not about adding burdens of greater weight about telling the truth but about trying to figure out how to get out of the real height of honesty God demands. I find it interesting that so many want to ridicule the Pharisees for making serving God harder, when here they were trying to get out of what God had commanded.

4. Disobeying the weightier matters of the law.

In Matthew 23:23-24, Jesus rebuked them for attending to minor details while they disregarded the more important parts of the law. I find this one intriguing too because many like to use the figures of speech used in these verses to claim Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for legalism. This is odd since they are actually trying to avoid keeping the law here. We should notice something pointed in these verses. Jesus did not rebuke them for keeping minor details. In fact, he says they should have done that. Rather, He rebuked them because they did not keep the weightier matters. He did not rebuke them for straining the gnats. He rebuked them for swallowing the camels. But what was Jesus’ overall complaint for them? It was not that they were getting too legalistic with God’s law. It was that they were not legalistic enough. They weren’t keeping the Law well enough.

5. Hypocrisy

In Matthew 23:25-32, Jesus got down to the major rebuke against the Pharisees. I know we expect it to finally be legalism. But, it’s not. It’s hypocrisy. In actuality, we already saw this building in the other rebukes, but now Jesus just spells it out, repeatedly calling them hypocrites. They simply worked on the outside and not on the inside. This doesn’t mean the outside doesn’t matter. Rather, Jesus explains if we get the heart right, then the outside will follow. The Pharisees, however, since they were self-seeking were only focused on whatever would make them look good, not would actually let them be good. Sadly, this hypocrisy led to one major consequence. When real men of God came in their midst, they persecuted and even killed them.

As Jesus ended this discussion, He pointed out the Pharisees would be judged. But He never mentioned legalism. In fact, I’m actually still waiting for a rebuke in the entire New Testament where the Pharisees were actually condemned or rebuked because they were legalists. Seems to me that is merely a modern statement because so many people today want to get away from being held accountable by a real system of law. They seemingly want to make Christianity a kind of free for all that says we are all allowed to do whatever we want in the name of Jesus and no one has the right to draw any lines. After all, look at how Jesus rebuked those pesky Pharisees for their legalism. Yet, I keep trying to find the passage where Jesus actually rebuked them for that. 

Can you find it? If you do, let me know. Until then…

Keep reading and keep the faith,

ELC

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Matthew, pharisees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Thessalonians 2-3: Be Busy at Work, not a Busybody

Well, this morning I’m being convicted. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve been reviewing my work this week that this passage slapped me down. Or maybe it did so simply because it applies. Paul wrote in II Thessalonians 3:11-12:

“For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (ESV).

Most of the time I consider myself a very busy person. I pride myself on working a lot. But reading this passage has struck me how much of my time is not really being busy at work but being a busybody. No, its not the normal busybody like the young widow of I Timothy 5:13, who is an idler and a talebearer going from house to house getting in everyone’s business. No, my busybodying often seems noble. Instead of going from house to house to butt my nose into everyone’s business, I scour website after website and blog after blog to snoop out any inkling of error to stick my nose in. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe the man of God has to be able to defend the Word of God. I believe the man of God must be able to expose error where he finds it. This passage, however, has reminded me that when I spend several hours in a day arguing with people I don’t even know about some point of doctrinal disagreement but didn’t spend any time talking with the people I actually met face to face about Jesus or didn’t spend any time encouraging the brethren in the congregation with which I work, then I’m not really being a busyworker. I’m just being a busybody.

Gratefully, I have been doing better at this over the past few weeks. But, the passage still smacked me and reminded me of where my busyness needs to be.

What should your busyness be?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, II Thessalonians, Working for God | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8-9: Blessed to be a Blessing

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

II Corinthians 9:8-12 (ESV)

God has not blessed me so I can hoard what I have been given. Certainly, as Ecclesiastes taught, I am allowed to enjoy my blessings. But, I must remember that the main reason for which God has blessed me is so I may be a blessing to others. 

This is not the health and wealth gospel that performs good deeds selfishly only to receive more. No. This is the true gospel that points out God entrusts more to those with whom He can actually trust more. So often, we want and want and do not have because we only want for ourselves. We will be amazed how much God will bless us if we simply become channels for blessings to others. 

Of course, when I am not selfishly concerned about what I have and only about how I can help others, if God is not blessing me with something, I’m still content. The question is not how much I have, but how am I helping others.

I know this is tough to remember when every newspaper and television show is warning us that the sky is about to fall in financially. But this is God’s will for us no matter what our nation’s economy.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Blessing, Christian Living, Daily Bible Reading, II Corinthians, money, Sacrifice | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2 Peter 2-3: Are Our Righteous Souls Tormented by Sin

According to II Peter 2:8, Lot “was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard” when he lived in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I recognize a case can be made about Lot “pitching his tent toward Sodom.” I know he made some really bad decisions and we need to learn from those. But I can’t help but notice that at least the lawless deeds he witnessed tormented his soul.

Sometimes I fear for me and other Christians. So often I hear Christians laughing and reminiscing about movies they have seen that were filled with foul language, sexual immorality and even nudity. I certainly don’t know exactly when the line is crossed on movies and I’m not about to try to set up a list of those that are allowed and those that aren’t. 

This verse is simply a reminder to me that lawless deeds should torment my soul, not entertain me. I’m not exactly sure that I should spend much time berating Lot for pitching his tents toward Sodom if I’m pitching my $8 bucks to pay for entertainment that could have been filmed in Sodom.

I just have to remind myself of this again and again because I love movies. If I’m not careful, I catch myself getting more and more free with the ones I allow. I need to take a lesson from Lot on this one.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. At the risk of violating my own point above, I thought I would share this great little video from a preacher trying to comment on a similar point. I hope you enjoy it.

September 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, II Peter, Video | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Peter 5-II Peter 1: Now That I’m a Christian, What Must I Do To be Saved?

For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

II Peter 1:5-11 (ESV)

I recognize we cannot earn our way into heaven. If we are saved, it will be because God is good enough; not because we are. At the same time, I recognize not just everybody will be provided with an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems not just everyone who has ever believed and obeyed Jesus for a time will be provided that entrance. 

Rather, those who pursue this standard of growth will gain entrance. Our growth rests on the foundation of faith, but we must add to it. We must continually work on…

  • Faith–believing in God, believing God and trusting God’s way is right.
  • Virtue–the moral excellence to do what is right because it is right.
  • Knowledge–getting God’s word into our heads and hearts.
  • Self-control–doing what is right in the face of persuasion to do otherwise.
  • Steadfastness–stringing moments of self-control together in a row, even in the face of opposition.
  • Godliness–honoring God and revering Him with every action.
  • Brotherly affection–treating our brethren with kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness.
  • Love–obeying God from the heart and seeking what is best for others.

There are some things I recognize from this passage:

  1. “Going to church” is not the equivalent of being a disciple.
  2. I need to work on me; I need to work on my relationship with others; I need to work on my relationship with God; I need to work on these every day.
  3. I don’t get to rest based on what I accomplished yesterday, I have to keep growing.
  4. I don’t have to be perfect today, I just need to make progress.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Growth, II Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, salvation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 1-2: Cleansed!

 

Leprosy Victim

Leprosy Victim

The leper of Mark 1:40-45 amazes me. Jesus told him to keep his mouth shut and he couldn’t. What saddens me is Jesus has told me to keep my mouth open and I don’t.

 

The thing I need to recognize about this whole scenario is the leper couldn’t keep quiet because of the joy over his cleansing. He knew exactly how defiled and vile he had been. Therefore, he was overjoyed at his newfound cleansing. He had to tell someone.

Who do you think he told first? I imagine he told the only people that had stayed with him, the other lepers he had been relegated to live with outside the city. He probably told his family. He may have told his friends. I bet he told the next person he saw in the street. 

What I need to do is realize just how defiled and vile I was spiritually. Only then can I have the joy of the cleansing Jesus has given. Perhaps, when I remember that and meditate on it, I won’t be able to help telling people about it either.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Evangelism, forgiveness, Mark, Miracles, sin | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Philippians 3-4: Pressing on for the Goal

I’m not sure that there is a more comforting set of verses than Philippians 3:12-14.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

Wow! You mean Paul, the apostle, wasn’t perfect? He didn’t do everything right? I mean I know before he became a Christian he did some really bad things. I’ve always been certain he did become great the first day he was a Christian. But here he is writing letters to let people know how to live in their service to God and he claims he is still not perfect. He still has to grow. 

That just comforts me. I’ve been a Christian now for 22 years. That is hard for me to imagine. When I consider how badly I still mess things up spiritually I get very discouraged. Some days I even am willing to just throw in the towel. Why keep trying? 

Surely Paul felt that way sometimes. Yet, his response was to just keep pressing on. Think about it. If Paul could say he wasn’t perfect, then just like me, he could pinpoint somethings that had just happened that demonstrated his imperfection. Instead of allowing that to make him stop, he pressed on. He kept going. He understood that serving God is not about where we are, but about where we are growing.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint a dozen things and more that have happened in the past few days to remind you how imperfect you are. Don’t let those get you down. Keep looking forward. Keep pressing forward. Keep running the race. As long as you don’t quit, you will win the prize.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Encouragement, perseverance, Philippians | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippians 1-2: To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

DEATH!

The word strikes fear in the hearts of most people. Yet, it didn’t strike fear in Paul. In Philippians 1:21, he said “to die is gain” (ESV). Why? Because death was the doorway to being with Christ for Paul (cf. Philippians 1:23). Paul has accomplished here what few seem to be able to do.

We hear so much about living by faith. We also need to learn to die by faith. No doubt, I could probably write reams and reams and reams on what it means to live and die by faith. However, Paul actually gives us the key in Philippians 1:21. He wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (ESV). He saw two options. If he died, he would have personal gain, going to be forever with Christ. If he lived, that would benefit Christ and Christ’s plan because he would have fruitful labor helping the lost be saved and the saved be strengthened.

The fact is, the only reason “to die is gain” for Paul was because “to live is Christ” for Paul. If the first half of that statement were not true, then the second half would not be. If we want our death to be gain, then we need our life to be Christ.

Therefore, we need to ask, “What is my life? Is my life about Christ?” If living is not for Christ and has no fruitful labor for Him, then dying will not be gain for us. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t live our lives totally for ourselves pursuing our own goals, following the desires of our flesh, seeking our own pleasure and entertainment and then expect death to be about Jesus. It just won’t work.

If we want our death to be gain, then our life has to be Christ. What is your life about today?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 25, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Death, Faith, Philippians, salvation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galatians 5-6: Why Do So Many Christians End Up Committing “Major” Sins

If I plant watermelon seeds, I won’t get pumpkins and vice versa. Or as Jesus would say, we can’t get figs from thistles or grapes from thornbushes. We grow what we plant.

Therefore Paul says:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8, ESV).

All too often, as we Christians argue about where to draw our personal moral lines, we end up defending planting the seeds of the flesh. You may not agree with me regarding issues like the lottery, social drinking, couples dancing, etc. I just ask you to think about this passage.

What seeds are we planting if our best friends are drinkers? What seeds are we planting when we attend their parties filled with drink? What seeds are we planting when we hang out in casinos? What seeds are we planting if we look the other way as our friends get high? What seeds are we planting if unmarried couples rub their bodies together to the rhythm of the music? What seeds are we planting when we watch shows filled with the immodest and the immoral? What seeds are we planting when the songs that entertain us glorify immorality? What seeds are we planting if the books we read, the movies we watch, the tv shows we enjoy provide a constant and steady stream of the immoral?

I hear people all the time justify the “gray areas” in which they delight and then they wonder why they struggle so much with sin? Anecdotally, we hear of the increasing numbers of unmarried pregnancies, cases of adultery, alcoholism, drug abuse, homosexuality, prescription drug abuse, divorces, etc. These stories are not from the worldly but from within Christ’s body. I’m not sure a month has gone by over the past few years that I haven’t heard of another preacher or elder committing adultery. Of course, I cannot think about these who have fallen without thinking of my own sins and recognize but for the grace of God go I. 

What is happening here? Is the problem starting at the moment of the major sin? No. The problem is in our continual fight for our personal rights to claim we can watch what we want, read what we want, listen to what we want, go where we want, drink what we want and do what we want. Whether we realize it or not we are sowing seeds to the flesh. When our general practice is to justify and defend sowing the seeds of the flesh, we shouldn’t be surprised when we reap corruption. Paul proclaimed the hard and fast rule. If we sow seeds to the flesh, we will reap corruption from the flesh. 

Somehow, Christians today think we can plant thistles but get figs. We think we can plant thornbushes but get grapes. It doesn’t work that way. When we sow the wind, we will reap the whirlwind.

If we really want to help people overcome full blown immorality, we need to quit telling them to just say, “No,” to the biggies. We need to help them start planting the right seeds. We need to start planting seeds to the Spirit. We need to increase our prayer and Bible Study. We need to deepen our relationships with other Christians. We need to come clean and confess to our brethren. We need to assemble with the saints, worshipping God and edifying one another. We need to cut off our right hands and pluck out our right eyes if they get in the way. 

Here is the great comfort. If we plant grapes, we won’t get thornbushes. If we plant figs, we won’t get thistles. When we plant seeds to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. That cannot be helped. It is just the way things work.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 19, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Galatians, sin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment