Question: Why does a loving God allow suffering?

Why does a loving God allow suffering? I looked at one aspect of the question on an earlier post, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” which looked at one element of the question, namely, people don’t understand the character of God’s holiness and the offense of sin against holiness, which results in personal and corporate suffering. This article will focus on another aspect, Continue reading

Question: Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus?

There is one Person in the world around which everything revolves.  His birthday is the dividing point for most of the world calendars (although the Gregorian calendar is off by about four years from human error).  History is recorded as B.C. and A.D.  The letters B.C. stand for “Before Christ” and A.D. stands for Anno Domini, which is the Latin for “The Year of our Lord.”           

There have been thousands of lives seeking to curse the name of Jesus and thousands who have been converted trying to prove the existence of or the resurrection of Jesus.  Who is Jesus?  He is either a liar, lunatic, or He is Lord.  There are no other perspectives.

Is He a Liar?  Maybe what He said was not true.  Maybe when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (John 14:6) He was not really sincere or truthful.  How can someone say there is no other way to God except through Him?  You would have to either have a very high view of yourself, or you could be lying. Maybe the stories He told were not true, or some of them were a stretch of the truth. 

When the Chief Priests and Scribes deceitfully sent spies to find a means by which to accuse Him, they said, ““Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth:” (Luke 20:21) Their hypocrisy was obvious to anyone who was objectively watching and listening.

Jesus made an issue of His truthfulness.  He contrasted His own character especially related to the enemy,

  • 40 “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.
  • 41 “You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father– God.”
  • 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.
  • 43 “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.
  • 44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
  • 45 “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
  • 46 “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? (John 8:40-46)

The issue was plainly made by Jesus in his conversation with Pilate,

  • 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
  • 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18:37-38)

You have to make the decision. Either Jesus was telling the truth, or He was the best liar in history and has deceived more than any other person on record. There is another possibility.

Was Jesus a Lunatic? The term lunatic refers to someone who is “mentally ill,” deranged, foolish, unpredictable, or even dangerous.  It is often used in jest as in a friendly jab, but very insulting in any other context.  The word comes from the Latin, which means “of the moon,” that is, one whose mind is up on the moon. Was Jesus a Lunatic?

Who, in their right mind, would say, “”I and My Father are one.”(John 10:30) He is declaring He is equal with God!  There are many in institutions and insane asylums that have made claims like that.  Someone might wonder about Jesus’ comment, “I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8:18) Do you trust someone who says He bears witness of Himself and the Father does also?

A lunatic often makes bizarre comments.  Some of Jesus’ comments were seemingly outlandish. For example, He said, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21) What kind of lunacy is that? Or how about when Jesus said,

  • 19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
  • 20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” (John 2:19-20)

Only a lunatic would say something like that, wouldn’t he?

            Yet we would have to be honest enough to look at the things Jesus had done. What kind of works characterized His life.  Jesus said, “”If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.” (John 15:24) Jesus did miraculous works that no one else did, and all could have seen His works, but many rejected them.  What is one work that He did that produced harm?  Was Jesus a Lunatic?

            Was Jesus a Liar or a Lunatic? If Jesus was not a Liar, on the order of being the greatest deceiver of all time, or He was a not Lunatic and fooled millions of people who perished through martyrdom at the hands of a fool, then what was He?  There is only one other option. He had to be whom He said He was, the Lord of all.

            It is interesting that the word “Lord” occurs 7773 times in Scripture. There is something about that name beyond any other name.  Was Jesus Lord? When Thomas saw the resurrection of Jesus and touched the nail prints, he said, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Jesus accepted the title Lord and admonished those who did not obey Him, “But why do you call Me`Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) Peter called Jesus Lord and asked if he should build a tabernacle to Him. (Matt. 17:4)  When John and Peter were out fishing after the crucifixion and they saw the Lord, John said, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7) The Apostle Paul declared that Jesus was Lord, “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9) And one day all will declare Him Lord,

  • 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
  • 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:10-11)

Scripture is clear on this subject.  It gives unmistakable evidence that declares Jesus is Lord. That leaves you a choice.  If Jesus was a Liar or Lunatic, you could easily pass Him by and continue searching for a better option.  However, because Scripture is clear, you have to make a choice.  Will you trust in Jesus as your Savior because of what He did on the cross for you?  C.S. Lewis makes an excellent comment regarding the choices about Jesus,

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)

            Whatever, you do, do not fall into the trap of calling Him Lord and then not follow through with Him in life.  Do not get involved in church, or serve Him in great works and not humbly submit your life to Him.  Do not fool yourself that your good works are anything He will accept. Jesus was very clear,

  • 21 “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
  • 22 “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
  • 23 “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:21-23)

           Finally, John was very clear regarding your choice, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:12)

 

 

 

Question: Is believing in what Jesus did for us enough for salvation?

Question: Is believing in what Jesus did for us enough for salvation?

 

This is really a two part question: 1) Is believing in what Jesus did for us and who He is enough for salvation? And 2) What does true conversion look like?   

Salvation is the most basic question and statement of belief for the Christian.  It is essential to clarify and understand what is true regarding salvation.  If your understanding of salvation is wrong, then nothing else matters.  If you believe, for example, that you must know that Jesus was the Son of God and keep certain rules, then you miss the essential truth for salvation.  Let’s begin by noting three things: 1) the bottom line for salvation; 2) the gift of salvation; and 3) how the gift must be received.

First, Paul explains the gospel in his first letter to the Corinthians.  He writes,

            Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you
             received and in which you stand,
             2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you– unless you
            believed in vain.
             3 for I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins
              according to the Scriptures,
 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Paul is declaring the gospel, which is knowing that Jesus Christ 1) died for your sins; 2) He was buried (that is He showed that the work was done); and 3) He rose again (His work was shown to us that it was accepted by the Father).  That is the gospel, or good news that we must trust.

Secondly, salvation is a gift from God according to Paul, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” (Eph. 2:8) The original language of Greek in this verse requires that the word “it” as in “it is the gift of God” must refer back to a neuter noun, because gift is neuter (like many languages, there is masculine, feminine and neuter nouns and pronouns).  Some people have tried to say that the “it” refers to “faith” and therefore they say God gives a gift of faith. In order for it to refer to faith, there would have been a feminine relative pronoun included, but there is not. The gift cannot refer to “faith” according to the original language, no matter how someone might attempt to construe the rationale.  The “it” can only refer to “salvation” as offered by God as a gift.

Thirdly, that gift must be received by faith.  John writes, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)  The person must “receive” Jesus, that is, what He did on the cross.  By receiving Jesus as your Savior, you are “believing” in His name.  John is using two expressions that imply the same thing.

Let’s expand this definition of faith. First, it is not enough to know that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross for salvation.  Knowledge alone is not sufficient for salvation.  Knowledge is awareness. Knowledge is a cognitive fact. Those who do not welcome the truth may know it, but not trust in it (2 Thes. 2:10). Secondly, it’s not enough to mentally agree with the facts.  The demons believe that God is one, that is, has one plan and has one provision, but they shudder (Jam. 2:19).  They “shudder,” literally “frizzle,” because they are fearful of their eternal destiny.  Thirdly, you must accept the gift of salvation by trusting in Jesus Christ. Trust is dependence upon the object.  It is accepting the gift or relying upon the gift.  It is more than cognitive awareness.  It is proving a chair will hold you up by actually sitting on the chair.  It is actually getting on the plane and buckling up, rather than just hoping from a distance that a plane might take you on a trip.

Now the question, “What does true conversion look like?”  When someone is converted, he is a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). He becomes a branch that must abide in the vine in order to bear fruit (John 15:5).  He must long for the milk of the word (2 Pet. 2:1-2) and eventually desire to grow in order to feed himself (Heb. 5:12-14), so that he can discern truth and error.  A truly converted one will pursue knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:9-14).  He will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), because he will confess his sins to God (1 John 1:9), and because he desires to walk in fellowship with God and others (1 John 1:6-7). 

However, a believer can act like an unbeliever. Paul writes, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the1 Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, (Eph. 4:17) If they didn’t have to be concerned about walking like Gentiles (unbelievers), Paul would not have warned them.  Paul also writes, “…be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18)  If believers were filled with the Spirit all the time, Paul would not have to command that to happen. Furthermore, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 3:1-3,

             And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in
             Christ.
             2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it,
             and even now you are still not able;
 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

First, Paul clearly is writing to “believers” (saints in 1 Cor. 1:2) and he calls them brethrenin the above passage.  Secondly, Paul says they are “carnal,” that is, they are living according to the flesh, rather than the Spirit.  The rest of the book of Corinthians reveals just how fleshly they are living.  Thirdly, he reveals their carnal status by identifying the sins they are committing, “envy, strife, and divisions.” And fourthly, he states they are behaving like mere men, instead of spiritual, godly men.

            When a Christian acts in a carnal way, watch out!  Paul admonishes the Galatians believers to not think they can become sanctified by the flesh (Gal. 3:3). When a Christian continues in sin, he will be disciplined by the Lord (Heb. 12:5-6).  He will lose out on intended blessings and rewards (Col. 2:18; 3:24, 26; 2 John 8; Heb. 6:12; 10:35). 

 

Question: Do we see Jesus when we die or at the Rapture?

Question: Do we see Jesus when we die or at the Rapture? 

This is a great question and the study of last things is always fascinating.  The answer to the above question is yes.  Yes, we will see Jesus at death and yes we will see Jesus at the Rapture. We should consider 1) the death of the believer; 2) the order of ascension; and 3) additional passages.  Let’s first look at the death of the believer.

At the death of the believer, the saint will be ushered into the presence of the Lord.  Paul writes, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)  The context of 2 Corinthians 5 is regarding death and the tearing down of our outward body and receiving a new resurrection body from the Lord.  The above passage states that we can have confidence that when we are absent from the present body, we will be “present” with the Lord.  The word “present” comes from a prepositional phrase that means “face to face” with the Lord.

Secondly, let’s note the order of ascension. At the Rapture, there seems to be a confusing statement that causes some to think that those who die before the Rapture won’t see Jesus until the Rapture.  Paul writes,

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus1.
 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (1 Thes. 4:14-17)

The first aspect is the order ascension.  The phrase “sleep in Jesus” is a reference to those believers who have died (1 Thes. 4:14).  Paul adds, “We who are alive and remain until the Lord’s coming (Rapture), will by no means precede those who are asleep.” (1 Thes. 4:15)  If those who are dead go first, have they really seen Jesus at death?  The answer is yes, because in order to harmonize 2 Corinthians 5:8, they have in spirit, but they may not have received their resurrection body until the Rapture.  The second aspect is that once we die, there is no time.  In time beyond, everything happens (no time given).  The third aspect is that those who are alive will be together with those who died “to meet the Lord in the air.” The fourth aspect is that “we shall always be with the Lord,” so that the time element will seem instantaneous and we enter right into the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).

            Thirdly, let’s note several additional passages.  David writes, “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” (Ps. 17:15)  David spoke of seeing Christ when he was walking in righteousness, but we should consider that in our perfect righteous state, we will see Jesus.  Jesus said that He would leave to prepare a place for His followers, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)  Jesus desires that we behold His glory, which will be completely fulfilled at death, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

            The application is that we want to please Him now! In the verse immediately following the first verse above, Paul writes, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. (2 Cor. 5:9)