Sept 3, 2017
The Moral Minority - Living a Godly Life in a Godless Environment
Pastor Dennis Elhard
True believers find themselves in the minority in this fallen world—the few on the narrow path that leads to life. Consequently, they face a growing number of unbelievers who stand in firm opposition to the cause of righteousness. A number of years ago Jerry Falwell began a movement in the U.S. called the Moral Majority through which he attempted to politically motivate what he believed were the majority of Americans who would subscribe to a Judeo-Christian ethic. He did achieve some success, since Americans are more conservative morally that Canadians. However, the last US election revealed a country now deeply divided politically and morally.
As believers in Canadian society today, we can often feel this pressure of being in a minority position – a moral minority – and especially because our culture is actually more post-Christian than the US. Our current Prime Minister was quoted as saying (before being PM): “Evangelical Christians are the worst part of Canadian society” - so we know where he is coming from! Our unpopularity largely comes from our intolerance of unrighteousness, and our belief in the authority and inspiration of scripture.
Psalm 12 seems to be written in the same kind of climate. The righteous were losing ground and the ungodly were calling the shots. David, too, has the same feelings of being in the “moral minority.” All around him talk is cheap, things are deteriorating and truth is in short supply. What do we do when we find ourselves in this situation? It’s not a comfortable place to be. Well, we do what David did, we turn to God. This psalm teaches us that, When believers find themselves in the minority, they should pray to the Lord trusting in his promises and protection. So let’s turn our attention to the text itself:
First: Cry for deliverance (vs.1-2). Many commentators categorize this as a psalm of community lament. David is clearly lamenting the situation he is observing and within his cry is an element of complaint. His complaint is grounded on the fact that the godly people are “no more” and the faithful – as in faithful to God – have vanished. Now, of course, he’s using exaggeration here, not all the godly have disappeared, but it feels that way when it is evident that they are diminishing. So he is crying out to God for help (lit. Save, deliver).
In the vacuum left behind, the climate is one of deception and lying – even between neighbors. “Their flattering lips speak with deception.” The NIV here obscures the Hebrew, which reads, “their flattering lips speak with a heart and a heart.” In other words, they speak with a double heart and a double mind. A double heart is a conflicted heart where what is spoken is not what one necessarily really thinks or means – they hide the real truth. Flattering lips refer to smooth talk – the kind of talk that intends to deceive, to manipulate, and to stroke the ego. Empty talk, smooth talk and double talk are all in view here. They are the inappropriate and illegitimate use of the gift of language. The wicked disobey God with their tongues – they pervert and twist the truth. David cries out to the Lord for deliverance and laments this deplorable climate.
Second: Call for judgment (vs. 3-4). Because he is incensed by those would manipulate language and thus obscure truth, the psalmist calls for a punishment worthy of the crime. He mourns that the nation had become a society of braggarts and calls on God to cut off these flattering lips and boastful tongues. The psalmist’s never shy away from calling on God to bring about swift punishment on their enemies – and at times it seems pretty graphic (crude?) to our modern sensibilities. But in David’s mind, drastic action was needed – however, whether he is speaking literally here or using hyperbole is unclear.
What is clear is the arrogance of these boastful tongues. “The real evil of these people is now exposed. Their boast ‘We will triumph (prevail) with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?’ is a claim to autonomy. This is in stark contrast to God's word to Moses, ‘Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord’?” This claim is the height of human boastfulness – I’m the master of my destiny and through my speech / my words, I will exercise power to control and prevail – who is our master?” (rhetorical) “The ungodly man is convinced that he may make any claim, tell any lie, voice any deception and not stand under judgment for his actions.” But we are responsible for our words, our lips are not our own, because we ourselves are not our own. In David’s mind, the blatant arrogance of these claims calls for the severest of judgment from God.
Third: The Lord’s promising response (vs. 5-6). The psalmists call for judgment elicits a response from the Lord. Because of the devastation of the weak and the groaning of the needy, the Lord will rise up. It appears that the weak and the needy are, in fact, the godly and faithful people of verse one who have been exploited by the deceivers.
The injustice rallies the Lord to action and he makes this promise, “I will now protect them from those who malign them.” There are two possible readings for this line. The Hebrew word translated in the NIV as “malign” literally means “to breathe out,” or blow.” In the negative sense it can refer to sneering or maligning (KJV: puff). Other translations prefer a more positive sense – that breathing out refers to “panting” – and by extension, “longing.” Thus, the ESV renders the line: “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” Whichever maybe the best translation, the main point remains – the Lord promises to rise up against those who oppress the righteous, and to bring them to a place of safety / protection (m/o: salvation).
Verse 6 provides a stark contrast between the words (promises) of the Lord and the words of the godless. The words of the godless have been described as lies, as deception, as boastful, and as having the power to exercise control – to prevail over the weak and needy. On the other hand, the words of the Lord are “flawless.” The idea behind the Hebrew word here is “pure,” or “free from impurity.” David uses the metaphor of the refining process for silver – God’s word is so pure it is like silver that has gone through the refining process seven times. Typically, the refining would only require a few times, seven times is overkill. But seven is the Hebrew number of perfection, and so refers to something completely/perfectly purified. “Here God's words are ‘pure’—trustworthy, true, and lasting; they are eternal. When we learn, study, and obey them we are building solidly and the results will endure the testing fire.” Scripture teaches: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away."
Fourth: Confidence of protection (vs. 7-8). In verse 7 we see the assurance of David rising in light of God’s promises. Because God’s word is so flawless, he has faith that the Lord will watch over his people, and that he will guard them from “such people forever” (lit. this generation). So this is an eternal promise of protection. This confidence and comfort “lies in God’s protection from an evil generation – therefore our hope lies in the Lord and in his sovereignty.” The words of the godless are empty; the words of the Lord are pure silver.
Verse 8 brings a surprising finish, and this verse really jumped off the page for me – it’s probably the main reason I speaking on this psalm today. Listen again: “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honoured among (the sons of) men.” Is this not a defining statement of our culture today? Is this not a truism that is constantly in our face? We are regularly confronted by the many “pride” parades of our day, where people “strut about” gleefully celebrating what scripture says is sin. But now it is in vogue to honour and legitimize these lifestyles - having the full support of the media which is infatuated with their cause. There are many other things as well that scripture takes a dim view on, but which our culture “freely struts about.” When choice is honoured more than human life, when love of money is honoured more than human need, when sexual licence is valued more than chastity, and when human pride is honoured more than humility. When these things are honoured in a culture, sin is on parade!
It is interesting that this psalm ends where it began – by presenting a world where God’s enemies are dominant and the righteous are few – the moral minority. In a sense David revisits his original complaint, only now with a different perspective. David believed that God would safeguard him as well as other believers from the wicked who were strutting about as the majority. And yet while God has promised his safety and protection, he has not removed all sin and distress. The climate of living as a minority continues to exist. We are called to trust in his promises; to have confidence in his protection, even when evil seems to totally dominate. This is the kind of world that I believe we are living in today – where Judeo-Christian worldviews and values are eroding away, and we are dismissed as irrelevant and just barely tolerated.
So how should the godly live in a godless society? Since truth will always be in a minority, we must fix our eyes on God, who alone is truth. We may find ourselves in situations where we may have to stand alone for righteousness. As Charles Colson asks, “Who Speaks for God?” Would we be the one willing to stand for truth? God promises protection in this psalm.
The believer must also (quote) “study the Scripture, knowing that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. In the midst of increasing apostasy, all Christians must be rooted and grounded in the Scriptures. Only God's Word can make us strong in the faith and enable us to live holy lives in the midst of a godless culture.”
This psalm is also about words – the deceitful, destructive words of the godless, as compared with the pure unfailing word of God. We use words to destroy, to deceive and to manipulate, and to sell. “Our world is like David's. We live in an age of unprecedented manipulation through mass communications. The female body is used to sell every imaginable product. We are assured that we will be sexy, sociable, and successful by purchasing things to enhance our odor or our ardor.” Lawyers and politicians use and twist words to say things that they were not intended to mean. There is incredible power in our words – they can be used to edify or to tear down. How are you using you using your words – are they a source of blessing, or are you like the godless in the psalm – deceiving, boasting, and destroying others? It might be worth our while to take an inventory of how we make use of our lips and tongues.
When believers find themselves in the minority, they should pray to the Lord trusting in his promises and protection. In a world where the ungodly are the majority, talk is cheap and words are used to manipulate and deceive. We also find ourselves outside of the cultural values of the day. Church, this is the world we are living in – but instead of wringing our hands in dismay, we are to pray and trust in God’s words – they are as pure silver – and his promises never fail. He is still seated on the throne.
Sept 10, 2017
Carriers of Stones
Pastor Dennis Elhard
“Lillian Dickson, missionary in Formosa, served a particular village needing a church building. She asked every Christian in the village to make a commitment to carry a certain number of stones each day from the river. As each person sacrificed time and effort to select appropriate stones and carry them to the building site, the church was built.” Church building, whether it means building up the body or an actual structure, requires the participation of everyone involved. It requires time, energy, money – and in the case of a building, sweat.
Today we stand on the threshold of another major decision with possible far-reaching implications. In my mind, there have been far too many of these decisions in the last six or so years, but they have often been the result from a good thing – growth. So I want to spend a few moments this morning trying to get biblical perspective of all this – and to be honest this is as much for my benefit as yours.
I am using as a text today a portion from a small book that goes by the name of the OT prophet who wrote it – Haggai. And to help us understand his words, I need to give you some of the context. Haggai was a prophet of God who lived during the time when the Jewish exiles in Babylon had been allowed to return to their homeland in Israel. Israel had been kept in captivity for seventy years, and their release is an amazing story of the miracle working hand of God who controls all history. After the exiles returned to Israel (50,000), they had initially set out to repair the temple which the Babylonians had destroyed. They first rebuilt the altar so they could resume the daily sacrifices and then successfully laid the foundation. However, opposition from their neighbors rose up and they convinced the King of the day to order the Jews to stop their work. Approximately 16 years has passed since the foundation was successfully completed and nothing further has happened. The prophet Haggai receives the Word of the Lord to motivate the Israelites to resume the work to complete the temple. We want to consider two important aspects of Haggai’s message that are pertinent to our situation today:
First: God will build it (1: 1-15). We need to have the faith and the confidence that God will build what he wills. Ultimately, this decision is God’s decision, he is the builder, and we are the carriers of the stones.
A. The rebuke of misplaced priorities (1-11: Read). The message of the Lord is addressed to Zerubbabel, the governor, and to Joshua, the high priest. “These (This) people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built’.” They obviously had not inquired of the Lord about that! So why did they assume that? Maybe because of the lack of resources they were experiencing or from fear – but the text seems to suggest it was more the result of misplaced priorities. Apparently they had managed to find the resources to build their own houses. If it is not the time to build the Lord’s house, which lies in ruins, is it then a time to be living in your own fine paneled houses? The Hebrew word for “paneled” can refer to a covering of some sort – a roof or wall covering – seems to suggest something decorative and/or comfortable. The claim of the people was really only an excuse – their priorities were all wrong – instead of tending to God’s business, they attended to their own. Instead of building His house, they built their own.
The problem of misplaced priorities had produced some very specific consequences. The Lord says through Haggai, “Give careful thought to your ways.” (“Consider your ways” - ESV) This must’ve been a favorite expression of Haggai’s because he repeats it 5 times in this short book. They were to carefully consider their predicament. The harvests had been poor, there was barely enough to eat and drink (drunk?), clothes were in short supply, and the economy in general was in the tank. In spite of that, God calls then to start gathering the resources necessary to begin the build – so that He could “take pleasure in it and be honored.”
The connection is then made specific between the poor economy and the lack of motivation to build the temple. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little...Why? - because of my house which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” God had “called for a drought” in order to wake the people out of their complacency. (Quote) “Haggai describes a people who have lost their vision and have come to comfortable terms with leaving God’s work undone.” They are in a place of scarcity because of misplaced priorities.
B. The response (12-15: Read). The response of the leaders and people seems immediate. How did they respond? “They obeyed the voice of the Lord their God,” “they feared the Lord” and they got to work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all responded to the Lord this way? Because of their response, the Lord says “I am with you” and he stirred up the spirits of the leaders and of all the people. When the people changed their priorities, God promised his presence, his provision, and his protection – “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
God will build it. There are a number of principles in this section that point to getting our priorities straight and putting God first in our lives, but I want to put the focus on God’s role in building his kingdom and his church. The promise to the obedient Israelites was that God would be with them. The job gets done when we surrender ourselves to him. Yeah we do most of the sweat equity, but the success of the build is ultimately in his hands. He will build whatever he wills to build. You and I need to grasp this truth in this season of this church.
Second: God will bless it (vs. 2: 1-9: Read). What God builds, he blesses. When we obey and work for him, he will bless his people and his church. I think that we can say with confidence that we have experienced that in this congregation!
Sometimes, however, there will be the need for encouragement. About a month after the work resumed on the temple, a spirit of discouragement had already fallen on some of the people. To the “old-timers,” the ones who had seen the original temple built by Solomon, it was evident this rebuild was going to be far inferior – it seemed like “nothing” in comparison. They mourned for the grandeur of the first temple – it had truly been a wonder in the ancient world, and had taken almost 200,000 workmen approximately 7 years to build. Ezra reports a similar response of the elders to the laying of the second foundation (Ezra 3: 11-13).
Sometimes we need encouragement, and the Lord supplies it with the three time repetition of “be strong” (Joshua) and work – and then for the second time reminds them, “For I am with you.” God’s presence was his covenant with Israel, and so they should not fear (enemies, circumstances) – I will give you my presence, my provision and my protection.
God knew well that this new temple would lack the grandeur and beauty of the first, but that’s really not what is important him – the temple he desires is one fashioned from the hearts of his people gathered in his presence. Even so, he made this promise – he would shake the heavens, the earth, and the nations, and when the “desired of all nations” comes, I will fill this house with my glory. Many believe that the desired One is messianic – a reference to the coming of Christ to this temple at his first coming and again at his second. The promise is this: While this temple may seem unimpressive now, all the silver and gold belong to God, and the glory of this house will one day far outweigh the glory of Solomon’s temple. And when Jesus comes again, the Prince of Peace, there will peace in Jerusalem forevermore.
In spite of what the new temple looked like in comparison to the old, God promised to bless and filled it with his glory. When God builds it and his people remain faithful, he will bless it. I will fill this house with my glory, all of the wealth is mine, and this house will be greater that the glory of the former house – now that’s blessing!!
Now what we need to ask ourselves today is this – is the greater glory of God referring to bigger and better buildings, or is it referring to the presence of God manifested in the people of God gathered together in worship – which is the temple of the New Testament.
Some of you may be thinking that I have preached this message in order to encourage you to vote in favor of the Hoffman proposal. That was not really my intent or purpose, and even some of the content of this message was not even that pertinent to the decision at hand - but I included it because it was valuable anyway. You see, the two principle truths of this message: God will build it; God will bless it – I believe to be true whether we end up staying in this building or moving to the School. Even if we stay in this building, if we remain faithful to our God and to our calling, he will continue to build and his kingdom and bless his church. These, I believe – are truisms regardless of our physical facility. Buildings are primarily tools – tools to help us accomplish our mission. So if you believe that our mission will be better served by acquiring this school, it should be pretty obvious where your vote should go. However, if you do not feel that way, you are not limiting God with your vote. We do not limit God or his purposes by the size of our buildings – he will continue to build and bless – and he will make a way for that to happen. I’m not trying to influence your vote one way or another; I only don’t want you to cast your vote for the wrong reasons.
As we saw from our text today, what God really wants from us is right priorities and to put his interests above our own. This is worship and faith from the heart; it’s what he most desires from us. When God sees the church, he sees people, and whenever they are faithful and surrendered to him with soft hearts, he will build and bless his church – our work is just to carry the stones.
September 24, 2017
2 Cor 4:4
A Reasonable Faith – Part 1
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Our scripture passage for this morning is 2 Corinthians 4:4. This should be quite familiar to any of you who were here throughout the summer. In fact, whenever I read it it’s always Jesse’s voice that I hear now. Go ahead and read it out loud with me:
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Lies are dangerous things. The purpose of a lie is to convince somebody to believe something that isn’t true. Anything that isn’t true is dangerous. I remember being in Minneapolis one time when my GPS told me a lie. I knew it didn’t seem right, and had I followed the GPS in that case, I would have ended up somewhere that I didn’t want to go.
If a lie is told skillfully enough, it can even result in a physical reaction based on something that isn’t real. Let me give you a real-life example:
One night several years ago, I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink. While I’m in the kitchen, the smell of fresh bread and buns remind me that Lori had done some baking earlier that day. So, I’m minding my own business with a glass of cold milk in my hand, when suddenly, a thought pops into my mind. You know what would make that glass of milk better? A fresh bun. Go ahead. You know you want to. You deserve it. And SHE’S sleeping. She’ll never know! She probably didn’t even count them.”
So, after putting up a resistance for about 2 seconds, I reached into the bag and swiped a fresh bun. Leaving the kitchen light off so as to not expose my secret, because secrets LOVE darkness, I carefully shuffled my way over to the knife drawer and ever so gently slid it open. Feeling my way across the different handles, I finally found the bread knife and removed it from the drawer.
Holding the bun in my left hand, and the blade in my right, I anxiously performed surgery on the bun, in the blackness of the midnight kitchen.
Suddenly, I felt the edge of the blade pass through the other side of the bun, and into my bare palm. Certain that I had nearly amputated my own hand, I knew that I was in trouble. I tried to make my way to the bathroom so that I could contain the bleeding in the sink, but I didn’t make it. Although I was already in near total darkness, I could feel my sense of vision quickly disappearing, while the night-time noises of the house faded away into the distance. I was about to pass out.
After what seemed like an eternity of sitting on the floor, I could slowly feel my senses coming back. After gaining some strength back, I knew that I needed to turn the light on and assess the stump at the end of my arm, and the mess I had made. Struggling to my feet, still trying to elevate my hand, I felt for the light switch with my elbow. At last, the presence of the light brought truth to the dire situation. And the truth was…, I didn’t even break the skin.
Folks, I was convinced that I was bleeding to death, when I hadn’t even suffered a scratch. Such is the power of a lie when there is nothing but darkness to conceal it.
So today, I want to discuss some lies of the devil that masquerade themselves as intellectualism, when what these lies are really doing is preventing people from coming to Christ. I want to show you why Christianity is a reasonable faith.
Now, some of the lies I am going to point out may sound familiar if you were here last week to watch the video that Pastor Dennis presented. But it felt right to me that this would be a follow up to what we saw last week. And I’m grateful to Thomas Simcox from the Friends of Israel whose excellent work contributed to the development of this message.
So, let’s get into it, shall we?
Lie #1: There is no God.
It’s hard to show people that they need a Saviour if they don’t believe in God in the first place. As we saw in the video last week, if all we are is stardust, and we are on our way back to becoming dust, then who cares? But Scripture says, “The fool has said in his heart , ‘There is no God.’” (Ps 14:1).
How big of a fool do you have to be to NOT believe that there is a God? Well, look at this picture of the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. Those two constellations, so brilliant, and so similar, work together to provide navigation to us here on earth. Look at how perfect they look from our vantage point. Do you really think that is an accident? A freak of nature? That’s as absurd as saying that this Thomas Kinkade painting just happened to be an accident. I don’t think so.
Have you ever noticed how the Big Dipper is so easy to spot in the night sky? Look at how the stars from the Big Dipper line up to point to the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. That star is Polaris, the North Star. For thousands of years, people have used that star for navigation. Just how precise is it?
Now, when we look up at the night sky, both the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper appear 2-dimensional. They have no depth that we can see. But the reality is, they are 3 dimensional in nature.
Each of the stars in both constellations vary in brightness and distance from the earth. What this means is that Planet Earth is the only place in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE in which the Big Dipper and Little Dipper are visible in their constellations, and only place in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE that can use them for navigation.
And if that were the ONLY argument for the existence of God, it should be enough. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
Lie #2: The Bible is merely myths written by men
It’s hard to convince people that they need to live by the authority of scripture if they don’t believe that the Bible is anything but a collection of fairy tales. What the Bible teaches about morality and accountability to a Holy God is completely meaningless if there was no divine inspiration behind it.
How do we know that the Bible is reliable? Well, let’s look at the New Testament for a moment. How do we know that over the course of 2,000 years, and multiple translations, that it still says what it said back then?
Consider the writings of Plato. Plato wrote between 427 and 347 BC. But the oldest manuscripts available are from 900 AD. That’s a gap of over 1200 years between the original writings and the oldest manuscript available today. And how many of these manuscripts exists today? 7.
What about Homer’s Iliad? This was written in 900 BC, with the oldest manuscript being from 400 BC. That’s a gap of only 500 years, and there are a whopping 643 manuscripts in existence today.
How do these writings compare to the New Testament? Well, the New Testament was written between 40 and 100 AD. The oldest manuscript is from 125 AD. That’s a gap of only 25 years, and we have more than 24,000 manuscripts available! I think it’s safe to say that the New Testament that we have today is a pretty accurate copy of the original New Testament documents.
But what about historical accuracy? Even if the copies are accurate, is what they tell us accurate as well? Well, the following non-Christian first-century historians have confirmed the life and execution of Jesus Christ:
- Cornelius Tacitus
- Lucian of Samosata
- Flavius Josephus
- Pliny the Younger
- Mara Bar-Serapion
- and references in the Talmud.
What about archaeological evidence? What do we see there?
Isaiah 20:1 makes a reference to the Assyrian king, Sargon. Critics once claimed that Sargon never existed. Well, while excavating Khorsabad, this relief of Sargon and another dignitary was found.
What about the Babylonian king Belshazzar? It was Belshazzar who was king when Daniel interpreted the mysterious writing on the wall for him in the book of Daniel. Once again, skeptics denied the very existence of Belshazzar. After all, if we can dismiss Belshazzar, then we can dismiss miraculous stories like the “Writing on the Wall.” Rather than Belshazzar, it was commonly thought that a man named Nabonidus was that last King of Babylon.
In fact, up until 1854, the Book of Daniel was the only place where the name of Belshazzar was even mentioned. In 1854, a clay cylinder was found at Ur. <© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons> This cylinder, called the Nabonidus Cylinder, contained Nabonidus’ prayer to the moon god for “Belshazzar, the eldest son – my offspring.” So, Belshazzar was a real person after all, in the line of the Kings of Babylon, JUST LIKE DANIEL SAID. Even more evidence of Belshazzar’s rule was found in 1882, in the form of the Nabonidus Chronicle Tablet. This tablet explains that Nabonidus was actually away from Babylon when the Persians took over (as Daniel predicted), and Belshazzar was ruling in his father’s absence at the time.
King Hezekiah and Sennacherib
I’ll give you one more example from the Old Testament. In 2 Kings 19, we read about the King Hezekiah and his confrontation with the Assyrian King, Sennacherib. Sennacherib has Jerusalem surrounded, but Hezekiah prays, and an angel strikes down the Assyrian army.
Well, the artifact that you see here is called the Sennacherib Prism. <wikimedia.org> Discovered among the ruins of Ancient Nineveh in 1830, the prism contains the boast of Sennacherib that he had King Hezekiah trapped in Jerusalem “like a bird in a cage.” Funny thing about kings and dictators… they don’t really like to mention their failures.
Examples from the New Testament
So, is there any archaeological evidence that supports the New Testament?
Well, this stone, found in Caesarea, is called the “Pilate Inscription”, ©2011 Zev Radovan, www.BibleLandPictures.com It refers to Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea. This is remarkable evidence for the existence of Pontius Pilate, the man who ordered the Crucifixion of Jesus.
The Gospel of John describes a man being healed by Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda. John describes the pool has having 5 porticos. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that this pool was discovered, so skeptics often pointed to this as evidence that John’s Gospel was not historically accurate.
I could point to many other references to historical people and places and events that have been confirmed through archaeological finds, such as coins or buildings. But I think in these few minutes that I have demonstrated that there is enough evidence to believe that the Bible is reliable. If we can believe what it says about these details, then we can believe its other claims as well. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Lie #3: I’ll get to heaven my way (I’m a good person)
Throughout the course of human history, people have been under the illusion that they are going to get to heaven on their own merit. If they do enough good deeds, they will score enough points to get to Heaven. If they live a good enough life, they will be reborn into another physical body, closer to perfection than they were before, until they reach Nirvana. If the amount of good that they do outweighs the bad that they do, then God will declare them good enough, and let them in.
This type of thinking reminds me of a joke I once heard about a man who died and approached the Pearly Gates. St. Peter told him that he had to test people with the point system. If the man got to 100 points he could enter. The man told Peter that he gave to the poor. Peter marked him down for 3 points. The man thought again, then said that he tithed. Peter added one point. The man, desperately searching his memory, finally said that he never cussed. Peter added 1/2 a point. By now the man got very frustrated and said that at this rate he could only get in by the grace of God. Peter replied, "Come on in!
In John 3:36, John the Baptist, when asked about Jesus, says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Later on, in John 14:6, Jesus Himself says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
You know, in this politically correct age of inclusivity, that sounds pretty exclusive. If Jesus and John the Baptist said those things today, I’m sure there would be lawsuits from the offended, and damages sought over the hurt feelings.
Is it reasonable to believe what Jesus and John the Baptist said? Because on the surface, it sounds unreasonable. It sounds unreasonable that God would not accept our points system, our good deeds, or our good intentions as the price of admission into Heaven. Doesn’t He know that we are good people? What kind of insecure, self-serving, vindictive God would send a kindly little Grandma to hell simply because she didn’t satisfy His ego by worshiping Him? Who would want to worship a God like that? Well, not me. And probably not you, either.
So, why would Jesus say that about Himself if it wasn’t to satisfy His own thirst for control?
Well, for starters, what do we know about God? God is light. He is perfect light. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”
What do we know about sin? Sin is darkness. John 3:19-20 says, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
We know that sin cannot exist in God’s presence any more than darkness can remain when the light is turned on. The two cannot mix.
And despite our own opinions about how much our good deeds outweigh our bad, the fact is that according to Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 1 John 1:8 reinforces that when it says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
God, in His wisdom, knew all this. In His justice, He required a blood sacrifice in order to pay the debt of sin, or else we would be condemned. In His mercy, He sent Jesus as the sacrifice for us. John 3:16 says For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
So, when Jesus says that He is the only way, He’s not being unreasonable. He’s being truthful. There is no other way.
So, let’s go back to our kindly Grandma, because the thought of God “sending” her to hell is still uncomfortable.
When she was 16, the youth group from her church attended a revival meeting. During the altar call, she felt the desire to respond to the Gospel message, but she pushed it aside because she was afraid of what her friends would think.
She got married at age 22, and during the ceremony, the minister’s message spoke of the love of God, but the stars in her eyes were for her new husband, and she didn’t really pay attention to the message.
Throughout their marriage they attended church at Christmas and Easter, but the focus of her thoughts was the meal that she was about to prepare. Did she have everything she needed? Did she remember to shut the stove off? And so the distractions of life and the busy-ness of the holiday prevented her from really absorbing the reason for the season.
As she aged, the number of funerals she attended began to increase in frequency, and with each one, she was brought face-to-face with her own mortality, and the message being preached about salvation and eternity. But she didn’t want to think about it, and besides, she was busy either comforting, or being comforted, or making sure there was enough coffee made for everybody who stayed for the lunch.
Finally, it was her turn to stand before the judgment seat, and when she arrived, she came bearing the guilt of her sin and the darkness that it held because she had never accepted the offer of salvation, despite it being offered to her many times. And so in her darkness she stood before the Light of the World, and found that all of her good deeds, without the Cross, still left her in darkness.
God didn’t send her to hell. With each rejection of Him, she made that choice herself. And not making a choice is, in fact, making a choice. God is a reasonable God, and He is a merciful God, not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance – 2 Peter 3:9. But He is also a just God, and He will not force Himself upon us.
If you’re here today, and you’ve chosen Christ as your Saviour, and you’ve rejected these lies of the devil, then I thank God for you, and I implore you to not sit on this Good News. Share it with those around you! Make your light shine!
And if you’re here today and you have not chosen Christ as your Saviour, please, don’t wait any longer? Christianity is a reasonable faith. God designed us to be logical. He gave us our ability to be critical thinkers. But He also provided ample evidence to help us through the thought process. Isaiah 1:18 says,
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”
Don’t wait any longer to make a decision. Like the kindly Grandma, you don’t know when you won’t get another chance. Speak with myself, or Pastor Dennis, or make your way over to the prayer room after the service. There are people who would love to pray with you today.
Amen. Let’s pray.