What does everything come down to? Everything. Everything. Everything comes down to whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not. God places almost all importance on believing in Jesus Christ. From our perspective, you could say it is everything. If we were to think through all the possibilities of what could be that important, perhaps other things might come to mind. People today might think it is getting water to needy, drought-ridden countries, not littering or polluting, saving the planet, preserving animals or the fragile ecosystem, or sharing the wealth. Some would say it is to give a man his human or civil rights, tolerating whatever lifestyle he chooses, and getting along with one another. God says it is believing in Jesus Christ, because everything doesn’t revolve around man and what he thinks. Whatever makes sense to him is not necessarily right and not probably right. It is usually wrong. It’s also not a good thing to say or think, “I’ll go ahead and risk it, and go with what I think or feel is important.” It is the greatest and most costly risk by a long ways. When you look at life from God’s perspective, which is a biblical one, it does make sense that believing in Jesus Christ it is. And God explains it, so we can get it. On a root level, we already get it, but we’re rebellious. We won’t get anything out of rebellion except the worst possible end.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
I don’t have a lot of dreams any more, and when I do, I assure you that I don’t think I’m receiving divine revelation. I believe dreams relate mainly to what we’re thinking about during the day, so there isn’t new material. God has stopped giving revelation, according to His own Words. I don’t take anything new from this dream, except that it gave me thoughts about God’s judgment. I was shown eternal torment, the lake of fire, someone entering into it, the entrance being shut forever, and the knowledge that it was over. Then I woke up. I know that once someone goes to hell, he’s there forever, but it is hard to imagine it. I don’t think it is real to most of us most of the time. That doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in it. The dream didn’t tell me anything new, but it brought to mind the reality of the finality of eternal punishment from God. We have to, in a sense, project ourselves forward to that point, when we consider it by faith. We experience lost opportunity in this lifetime, but nothing like that. A person at that moment will be in the greatest pain of his existence. I believe at that beginning of eternity for him, he will think it won’t last. He will try to escape. He will know that isn’t possible. And then the thought will settle in that he’s there forever, like those drowning and the door to the ark was closed. His experience there will never end.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 139:14, the well-known words, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our person created by God – body, soul, and spirit – inspires awe from us. As you tick off the various systems of your body alone, you acknowledge the wonder. That doesn’t mean you comprehend your brain, your circulatory, nervous, digestive, muscular, excretory, and reproductive systems. And that’s before you start with the spiritual aspect of you. God made you and He has a plan for you. You’ve come a long ways if you understand that you were formed by God, and if you can accept that, then you can go further and believe that you’ve been ruined by sin. That’s why this world and you are breaking down. That explains the problems we see all around us. But it doesn’t stop there. God has a means of redemption. As much as this is a complex universe with all of its moving parts, God in His sovereignty works it all together like clockwork. We learn about it from His Word. God is not the Author of sin, but He still will be glorified by redeeming men from sin’s bondage through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son. As amazing as is His creation, we should expect further amazement in the story as it progresses. We should not expect it to become less amazing. God is still at work and He wants us to spread these truths to others.
Salvation is by grace through faith alone, but grace is not to sin or for sin, but from sin. God by His grace saves us from sin. Paul talked about this in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Did you know that “God forbid” translates the strongest negative in the Greek language? The Greek term for “God” doesn’t appear, but since there was no English equivalent, the translators gave it the most negative expression they could, so “God forbid.” Grace is not license to sin. As much as church members might answer “no” to that as a question, I believe they might live like “yes.” “If salvation is by grace through faith, do you have license to sin, since it’s all forgiven anyway?” Are you living like you are taking advantage of God’s grace? Since we’re not saved by works, then you don’t have to do works, or at least little to no works. Is that true? Of course not. A corollary to that thought relates to the clarity of scripture. If scripture is not 100% knowable, then men explain how that they don’t need to keep it all. They would keep it all if they could understand it all, is the excuse. Yet, God says we can understand it all. A child can(1 Timothy 3:15). God’s grace is a powerful agent to change into obedience to God. Is that what you see happening?
This week I was asked about an eyewitness evidence of the Gospels. I referred to Luke 1:1, 1 John 1:1,3, and 2 Peter 1:16, which all speak of eyewitness testimony. Then the Gospels read like it too—the accounts corroborate with one another, but are not copying one another, so they read eyewitness, which wouldn’t be identical, but wouldn’t contradict either. People often want something extra-scriptural and first century figure, Papias, wrote, “For unlike most people I took no pleasure in those who told many different stories, but only in those who taught the truth. Nor did I take pleasure in those who reported their memory of someone else’s commandments, but only in those who reported their memory of the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the Truth itself.” John in his Gospel expressly claims to have written as an eyewitness (1:35-40, 13:23, 21:24). Regarding Paul, the flow of 1 Corinthians 15, argues for the bodily resurrection and he says that he saw Jesus like Peter and James, etc.—vv. 5-8, and in v. 8, “last of all he was seen of me also.” “Also” translates kago, which means, “in like manner” —in a passage on bodily resurrection he says that he saw Jesus in like manner as the other apostles. 1 Corinthians 9:1, “Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” He saw Jesus as they.
When we say there is one truth, we mean in part there is one story. There are not two versions of the story of this world. Someone may perceive something different to have happened, but only one thing happened. People may have a different version, but the facts are the facts. When it comes to the basics of this, we have the Bible. God gave it to us to understand, but we have to want to understand it. We can know it, but we have to humble ourselves under it. It is not a play thing or a hobby. The Bible, however, does present the truth about life, answering those most basic questions. It tells the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story like we are supposed to know it, because it is the truth. Someone may choose something different, but it is not the truth. We can know it, and we actually do know it. Romans 1 says we know it, but we suppress it. We may invent a different ending to rejecting it, but that’s a lie. Sometimes I say we have to project ourselves forward into eternity. We do. This is living by faith, but it is also something God designed us to do. We do it all the time. We see an end and then we function to reach the most desired. A child sees a test at school. Time draws near. He prepares, foreseeing how he will be tested. We have a project at work and we do what it takes to get ready for it. We should apply that same tack to our life.
I think most people reading here would want the nation to change. You the reader think that many changes are needed. Right now as you read this, do you agree? Do you think that changes are needed and that you would like changes? With that established, how will that take place? To start, we can’t allow things that are already established, that are right, to slip. We’ve got to be sure that we keep everything that we have, like it is, except better, which it should always be. The first step is maintaining what we have, not dropping it, and being vigilant to do so. It takes vigilance, because we face constant erosion, as you know. The pressures are against preservation of the truth in belief and practice. We shouldn’t easily forsake what we have practiced for decades, even centuries, because we prefer a different application of scripture. The second step is growing. We can’t preserve without gaining. Some kind of stalemate will only lead to loss. We can’t go backwards. We must go forwards. But all of this is our responsibility. We can’t expect others to maintain and grow if we will not do so. All of this, that I have written, starts with you personally, then your family, and finally the whole church. These three are “we.” We are not ready to change other people and other families, and then other churches, if we can’t keep ourselves where we should be.
After God created the world, before the fall, He gave man a mandate, which we read toward the end of Genesis 1, which was first to raise a family, stated as be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth, and second to earn a living, written as subdue and have dominion. Those commands have not been rescinded for mankind. Christians then still are to be doing these. That means that our work, as long as it isn’t sinful, can contribute to that instruction from God. Married couples should have children and raise them and the family improve conditions on earth with its work. It’s not just earning a living, but making things better in material, social, and spiritual ways. God’s Word gives a basis for fulfilling this mandate. So this is more than a matter of “evangelizing in the workplace.” Sure, that should be done and that would be a part of accomplishing God’s command in His way. However, the work alone can be God’s work. At the same time, a church must complete the Lord’s Great Commission. To get both done, a whole church needs to all be doing some of that. For the gospel to be preached to everyone, we need everyone, not just a few “really dedicated,” or maybe just those too gullible that they “don’t understand” that they don’t need to do anything. We’ve got to have everyone in the church be a part of we are to complete the mandate and the commission.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” I’m writing that because that is where we already stand, regardless of the condition of the world and this country. And I tell you that, because I think, and you might agree, we are at a pivotal, serious, consequential, sort of tipping point in history. We’ve had some hard times with the various wars we’ve fought in American history, and the time in which we live has not been one where we’ve experienced massive deaths like we have in the past. But that reminds me of the false prophets, who said “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace. Before things become the worst they’ll ever be, things very likely will look very good. They won’t look good to God, but they could look good to people with little discernment. You’ve traveled down descents that went from gradual to steep. You see those emergency pull-offs for big trucks. The steepness of our descent has increased and we’re getting to the bottom much faster than when we did before. Those factors that could slow us down have also deteriorated. While we sail at a faster descent down this slope, that doesn’t look or feel so bad to most. The hitting bottom is where you really find out. Let’s not be a factor that increases the speed downward or the descent. We should inhibit it, even if we were far from it.
A few years ago up in Sacramento I was talking to a man who did not like the biblical truth of one way of salvation. He wouldn’t take one way of salvation unless there were several ways. There is only one way. That’s the truth. I asked the man if he was against there being one cure for certain diseases, because that is often the case. He paused for a very long time before answering, because he knew he was in trouble. If he said, “yes,” then he was a hypocrite. To give him some credit, he said, “no,” and said that did give him reason to think about what I was saying. What I found was that it was just an excuse, not a reason. The real reason is that he likes being in charge of his own life, but that doesn’t sound very credible. If I talked even longer, or even again, we could explore the idea that he isn’t even in charge of his life, because there are so many factors related to the fall that leave him in slavery to the consequences of sin and its curse. Men go looking for the one cure for a disease. This is normal. Billions of dollars are spent by the general public to prolong physical life on average a few years. On the other hand, the public will spend nothing to extend life through all eternity. Men count on this life. It means everything to them, and the next life means almost nothing. Churches and the individual Christians in them take charge of the cure for the second death.