Category Archives: Apologetics

Wealth

Modern Worship: What Idols Do You Serve?

wealth 1405722803 600x399 Modern Worship: What Idols Do You Serve?Question: “What are some modern forms of idolatry?”

Answer:All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms.

First, we worship at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build our egos through the acquisition of more “stuff.” Our homes are filled with all manner of possessions. We build bigger and bigger houses with more closets and storage space in order to house all the things we buy, much of which we haven’t even paid for yet. Most of our stuff has “planned obsolescence” built into it, making it useless in no time, and so we consign it to the garage or other storage space. Then we rush out to buy the newest item, garment or gadget and the whole process starts over. This insatiable desire for more, better, and newer stuff is nothing more than covetousness. The tenth commandment tells us not to fall victim to coveting: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). God doesn’t just want to rain on our buying sprees. He knows we will never be happy indulging our materialistic desires because it is Satan’s trap to keep our focus on ourselves and not on Him.

Second, we worship at the altar of our own pride and ego. This often takes the form of obsession with careers and jobs. Millions of men—and increasingly more women—spend 60-80 hours a week working. Even on the weekends and during vacations, our laptops are humming and our minds are whirling with thoughts of how to make our businesses more successful, how to get that promotion, how to get the next raise, how to close the next deal. In the meantime, our children are starving for attention and love. We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing it for them, to give them a better life. But the truth is we are doing it for ourselves, to increase our self-esteem by appearing more successful in the eyes of the world. This is folly. All our labors and accomplishments will be of no use to us after we die, nor will the admiration of the world, because these things have no eternal value. As King Solomon put it, “For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23).

Third, we idolize mankind—and by extension ourselves—through naturalism and the power of science. This gives us the illusion that we are lords of our world and builds our self-esteem to godlike proportions. We reject God’s Word and His description of how He created the heavens and the earth, and we accept the nonsense of evolution and naturalism. We embrace the goddess of environmentalism and fool ourselves into thinking we can preserve the earth indefinitely when God has declared the earth has a limited lifespan and will last only until the end of the age. At that time, He will destroy all that He has made and create a new heaven and new earth. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:10-13). As this passage so clearly states, our focus should not be on worshipping the environment, but on living holy lives as we wait eagerly for the return of our Lord and Savior, who alone deserves worship.

Finally, and perhaps most destructively, we worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. Those in affluent countries have unlimited access to alcohol, drugs (prescription drug use is at an all-time high, even among children), and food. Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and childhood diabetes brought on by overeating is epidemic. The self-control we so desperately need is spurned in our insatiable desire to eat, drink, and medicate more and more. We resist any effort to get us to curb our appetites, and we are determined to make ourselves the god of our lives. This has its origin in the Garden of Eden where Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree with the words “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This has been man’s desire ever since—to be god and, as we have seen, the worship of self is the basis of all modern idolatry.

All idolatry of self has at its core the three lusts found in1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” If we are to escape modern idolatry, we have to admit that it is rampant and reject it in all its forms. It is not of God, but of Satan, and in it we will never find fulfillment. This is the great lie and the same one Satan has been telling since he first lied to Adam and Eve. Sadly, we are still falling for it. Even more sadly, many churches are propagating it in the preaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel built on the idol of self-esteem. But we will never find happiness focusing on ourselves. Our hearts and minds must be centered on God and on others. This is why when asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). When we love the Lord and others with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry.

Recommended Resources:No Gods But God: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idolatry by Dennis Newkirk

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How to respond to unanswered prayer?

Question: “How should a Christian respond to unanswered prayer?”

Answer: How many Christians have prayed for someone, only to see their prayers go unanswered? How many have prayed and perhaps have “given up” because either they have become discouraged through a weakness of faith or have come to the conclusion that whatever they have been praying for isn’t God’s will? Nevertheless, how we deal with unanswered prayer is not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of others as well. When we pray, we are engaging in the most precious and God-given act of communication with the One to whom we are accountable in all our affairs. We have been truly bought at a steep price—the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—and therefore we belong to God.

Our privilege of prayer is from God, and it is as much ours now as when it was given to Israel (Deuteronomy 4:7). Yet, when we pray or speak to the One in Heaven, there are times when He seems not to answer. There can be many reasons for this, and the Scriptures suggest why and how our prayers are being dealt with by the One who is so tender and loving, who Himself loves our communing with God the Father, for He, Himself, is our representative (Hebrews 4:15).

A primary reason why prayer is unanswered is sin. God cannot be mocked or deceived, and He who sits enthroned above knows us intimately, down to our every thought (Psalm 139:1-4). If we are not walking in the Way or we harbor enmity in our hearts toward our brother or we ask for things with the wrong motives (such as from selfish desires), then we can expect God not to answer our prayer because He does not hear (2 Chronicles 7:14;Deuteronomy 28:23;Psalm 66:18;James 4:3). Sin is the “stopper” to all the potential blessings that we would receive from the infinite “bottle” of God’s mercy! Indeed, there are times when our prayers are heinous in the Lord’s sight, most notably when we clearly do not belong to the Lord either because of unbelief (Proverbs 15:8) or because we are practicing hypocrisy (Mark 12:40).

Another reason why prayer seems to go unanswered is that the Lord is drawing out of our faith a deeper reliance and trust in Him, which should bring out of us a deeper sense of gratitude, love and humility. In turn, this causes us to benefit spiritually, for He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6;Proverbs 3:34). Oh, how one feels for that poor Canaanite woman, who cried out incessantly to our Lord for mercy when He was visiting the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28)! She was hardly the person a Jewish rabbi would pay attention to. She was not a Jew and she was a woman, two reasons that Jews ignored her. The Lord doesn’t seem to answer her petitions, but He knew all about her situation. He may not have answered her stated needs immediately, but still He heard and granted her request.

God may often seem silent to us, but He never sends us away empty-handed. Even if prayer has not been answered, we must rely upon God to do so in His own time. Even the exercise of prayer is a blessing to us; it is because of our faith that we are stirred to persist in prayer. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), and if our prayer life is wanting, does that not reflect our spiritual standing also? God hears our impoverished cries for mercy, and His silence inflames us with a sense of persistence in prayer. He loves us to reason with Him. Let us hunger for the things that are after God’s heart and let us walk in His ways and not our own. If we are faithful to pray without ceasing, then we are living in the will of God, and that can never be wrong (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

Recommended Resources:Prayer, The Great Adventure by David Jeremiah.

Salvation

Salvation lost: Can a Christian lose his salvation?

salvation 1403502077 400x400 Salvation lost: Can a Christian lose his salvation?Question: “Can a Christian lose salvation?”

Answer:Before this question is answered, the term “Christian” must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer, or walked down an aisle, or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what “makes” a Christian. A Christian is a person who has, by faith, received and fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior (John 3:16;Acts 16:31;Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? Perhaps the best way to answer this crucially important question is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation, and to study what losing salvation would therefore entail. Here are a few examples:

A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This verse speaks of a person becoming an entirely new creature as a result of being “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be canceled and reversed.

A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The word “redeemed” refers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase that He paid for with the precious blood of Christ.

A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To “justify” means to “declare righteous.” All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and “un-declare” what He had previously declared.

A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is a promise of eternity (forever) in heaven with God. God promises, “Believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be taken away. If a Christian is promised to live forever, how then can God break this promise by taking away eternal life?

A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). As we learned inRomans 5:1, justification is declared at the moment of faith. According toRomans 8:30, glorification is guaranteed for all those whom God justifies. Glorification refers to a Christian receiving a perfect resurrection body in heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, thenRomans 8:30is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.

Many more illustrations of what occurs at salvation could be shared. Even these few make it abundantly clear that a Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation cannot be reversed. A Christian cannot be un-newly created. Redemption cannot be undone. Eternal life cannot be lost and still be considered eternal. If a Christian can lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and change His mind—two things that Scripture tells us God never does.

The most frequent objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation are 1) What about those who are Christians and continually live an immoral lifestyle? 2) What about those who are Christians but later reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these two objections is the phrase “who are Christians.” The Bible declares that a true Christian will not live a continually immoral lifestyle (1 John 3:6). The Bible declares that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he never truly was a Christian (1 John 2:19). Therefore, neither objection is valid. Christians do not continually live immoral lifestyles, nor do they reject the faith and deny Christ. Such actions are proof that they were never redeemed.

No, a Christian cannot lose salvation. Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28-29). God is both willing and able to guarantee and maintain the salvation He has given us.Jude 24-25, “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Recommended Resources:Eternal Security by Charles Stanley.

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How God shows ‘Heaven is for real’

Editors note: This is part 2 in a two part series on Heaven Is For Real. If you have not read part 1, How Do You Know Heaven Is For Real, feel free to do so by clicking here.

Jesus was talking to his disciples over dinner. These people have spent the past three years with Jesus. They’ve seen him do some amazing things, like raise people from the dead, heal paralyzed people, see people healed of leporasy, and see five loaves of bread and a couple fish multiply itself to feed thousands of people. Nonetheless, when Jesus spoke, these people listened.

So Jesus starts to tell them one of the most radical thoughts that he has had yet. Jesus explains that he is going to die, then he is going to rise up from the dead three days later. Shock fills the room… So Jesus says,

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

The surprising thing is that the disciples should have been so in tune with Jesus, that they should have understood what he was saying. They should have understood he was referring to heaven, but they didn’t. Oh well, even the closest of brothers sometimes cannot articulate each other’s thoughts.

So Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show Him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and He is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does His work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.”

You see, Jesus proved that heaven is for real because of the works that He did. Jesus proved that he is the God man because of the signs, wonders, and miracles that he performed. But Jesus knew people would still want to know heaven is for real once Jesus left the earth. Therefore, he gives one of the most encouraging statements to his followers on how to help others see that heaven is for real:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

Miracles and healings are not for our own comfort. They serve a purpose, they point to Jesus, the truth of his message, and the validity of eternal life in heaven after death on earth. Jesus flat out says he will do anything we ask of him to bring people to a knowledge and restored relationship with God in heaven.

Not only is heaven for real, Jesus is for real. He is serious about showing the truth of His message. He is concerned about showing his love for everyone. And Jesus can still show this by performing signs and wonders and healings and miracles when his followers on earth ask him to bring glory to the Father.

We need to know Jesus gave his power to his followers. You need to know that Jesus will heal someone when it brings glory to God and people who do not believe to a saving trust in Christ.

So tell us – What miracles have you seen Jesus perform that prove Heaven is for Real?

Centaurus A, Ngc 5128, Galaxy

What is the cosmological argument?

Answer:The cosmological argument attempts to prove God’s existence by observing the world around us (the cosmos). It begins with what is most obvious in reality: things exist.

It is then argued that the cause of those things’ existence had to be a “God-type” thing. These types of arguments go all the way back to Plato and have been used by notable philosophers and theologians ever since.

Science finally caught up with theologians in the 20th century, when it was confirmed that the universe must have had a beginning. So, today, the cosmological arguments are even powerful for non-philosophers.

There are two basic forms of these arguments, and the easiest way to think of them might be the “vertical” and the “horizontal.” These names indicate the direction from which the causes come.

In the vertical form, it is argued that every created thing is being caused right now (imagine a timeline with an arrow pointing up from the universe to God). The horizontal version shows that creation had to have a cause in the beginning (imagine that same timeline only with an arrow pointing backward to a beginning point in time).

The horizontal is a little easier to understand because it does not require much philosophizing. The basic argument is that all things that have beginnings had to have causes. The universe had a beginning; therefore, the universe had a cause. That cause, being outside the whole universe, is God. Someone might say that some things are caused by other things, but this does not solve the problem. This is because those other things had to have causes, too, and this cannot go on forever.

ngc 5128 1400889207 400x400 What is the cosmological argument?Let’s take a simple example: trees. All trees began to exist at some point (for they have not always existed). Each tree had its beginning in a seed (the “cause” of the tree). But every seed had its beginning (“cause”) in another tree. There cannot be an infinite series of tree-seed-tree-seed, because no series is infinite—it cannot go on forever.

All series are finite (limited) by definition. There is no such thing as an infinite number, because even the number series is limited (although you can always add one more, you are always at a finite number). If there is an end, it is not infinite. All series have two endings, actually—at the end and at the beginning (try to imagine a one-ended stick!). But if there were no first cause, the chain of causes never would have started. Therefore, there is, at the beginning at least, a first cause—one that had no beginning. This first cause is God.

The vertical form is a bit more difficult to understand, but it is more powerful because not only does it show that God had to cause the “chain of causes” in the beginning, He must still be causing things to exist right now.

Again, we begin by noting that things exist. Next, while we often tend to think of existence as a property that things sort of “own”—that once something is created, existence is just part of what it is—this is not the case. Consider the triangle. We can define the nature of a triangle as “the plane figure formed by connecting three points not in a straight line by straight line segments.” Notice what is not part of this definition: existence.

This definition of a triangle would hold true even if no triangles existed at all. Therefore, a triangle’s nature—what it is—does not guarantee that one exists (like unicorns—we know what they are, but that does not make them exist). Because it is not part of a triangle’s nature to exist, triangles must be made to exist by something else that already exists (someone must draw one on a piece of paper). The triangle is caused by something else—which also must have a cause. This cannot go on forever (no infinite series). Therefore, something that does not need to be given existence must exist to give everything else existence.

Now, apply this example to everything in the universe. Does any of it exist on its own? No. So, not only did the universe have to have a first cause to get started; it needs something to give it existence right now. The only thing that would not have to be given existence is a thing that exists as its very nature. It is existence. This something would always exist, have no cause, have no beginning, have no limit, be outside of time, and be infinite. That something is God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).

Recommended Resources:I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek

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Do we really know that ‘Heaven is for Real?’

The release of the movie Heaven is for Real  has gained much traction from both Christian and non-Christian audiences. While Noah did not gain popular attention from the mainstream Christian crowd, Heaven is for Real proved to be something the main Christian populace could endorse. The movie wasn’t endorsed for any over-the-top acting, theatrics, or visual effects, but it was endorsed because the message is one the Christian audience agrees with: Heaven is for real.

I recently went to see Heaven is for Real  with a group of students. Following the movie, we had quite the discussion.  I asked them, “What do you know about heaven? What do you expect to see?”

They responded:

“Animals. All kinds of loving animals.”

“Snowflakes, pretty as the ones we see on earth, but not cold.”

“Family members, friends, and people of faith from the ages past.”

While the range of answers were fun to imagine, we needed to answer another question: Is heaven as great as it seemed from Colton’s vision? This was one of the tensions presented throughout the movie.ec7bthumbRNS HEAVEN BOOKS012413a 240x240 How do you know Heaven is for Real?

We looked to the Scriptures to discover what they said about heaven.

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“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.'”

(Revelation 21:1-4)

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The apostle John wrote about his revelation of Jesus Christ and the eternal realm – heaven. He says something that is hard for any of us to comprehend. Not only will there be no death, but there will be no sickness, no pain, no suffering. Anyone can get excited about the absence of death, but what about no runny noses, no back aches, and no head aches? Furthermore, what about the absence of emotional pain, regret, shame? No worries in heaven at all – everything sounds perfect. This is difficult to imagine. In the story of Colton and his vision, people did not even require glasses to see, their vision was perfect. “In heaven, everyone is young,” said Colton, explaining the idea of glorified bodies.

This was great discussion and contemplation with my students, but we still had a problem. It’s the same problem that you have as well.

How do you know heaven is for real?

The correct response to this question is not “because the Bible says so.” The accurate response should be, “well I don’t know heaven is for real, but I believe it is because of this, let me tell you a story…”

“God created mankind, and our human race fell away from God through disobedience. At that point, God said He would personally come down and rescue us from sin and death. How God could fully put himself into a person and still fully rule the universe is a mystery, but hey, He is God and He can do that kinda cool stuff. So, eventually, at a certain point in history, Jesus came into the world as the God Man, born of a virgin, to sacrifice himself for our sins. There had to be a sacrifice to cover our sins because God had set a law which stated the penalty for sin is death.”

“Now the Bible has records of Jesus’ life. Jesus did all sorts of awesome things, he raised people from the dead, he returned sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and health to the sick. One of the most amazing things about Jesus is that he predicted his own death and resurrection. To my knowledge, no one else has successfully done both, that is, predict their death and their coming back to life from the dead.”

“You see, I don’t know heaven is for real, but I trust what Jesus said about heaven. I trust Jesus is qualified to speak on heaven because of the works that he did. In addition, I trust him because he astonished the world by being able to predict his own death and resurrection from the dead. Therefore, I trust the things Jesus said about heaven are true. I have a hope in heaven founded on the only one in history qualified to speak about such things.”

Well that’s all good, but Jesus isn’t here now. You may be wondering, “Even if Jesus didn’t die again and vanished into heaven only to return later to set up his rule over the earth, how would God show me today that heaven is for real?

What is the greatest commandment?

Question: “What is the greatest commandment?”

Answer:Jesus was asked this very question by a Pharisee who was considered to be “an expert in the law” (Matthew 22:34–36). Jesus answered by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).

Jesus gives us two commandments that summarize all the laws and commands in Scripture. The Ten Commandments inExodus 20deal with our relationship with God and then our relationship with other people. One naturally flows out of the other. Without a right relationship with God, our relationships with others will not be right, either. The cause of the world’s problems is that man needs to be reconciled to God. We will never love our neighbor as ourselves if we do not first love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. All of man’s best efforts toward world peace will fail as long as men are living in rebellion against God.what is the greates commandment What is the greatest commandment?

When asked by another Pharisee how one could “inherit eternal life,” Jesus answered that it is by keeping these two commandments (Luke 10:25–37). Only two commandments to obey, yet how often do we, like this Pharisee, try to “justify” ourselves because saying we obey these commandments is much easier than really living according to them.

When carefully considered, Jesus’ answer was really a perfect response not only to the Pharisee of His day, but also to all modern-day “Pharisees” who try measure a person’s righteousness by how well he conforms outwardly to a series of laws or commandments. Both the Pharisees of Christ’s day and today’s many versions create a whole system of rules and regulations for people to live by and yet are guilty of breaking the most important commandments of all because they “cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but not the inside” (Matthew 23:25–26).

When we prayerfully consider Jesus’ words and the fact that all the laws and commands in Scripture can really be summarized by these two commandments, we understand just how impossible it is for us to keep God’s commandments and how often we fail to do so and can therefore never be righteous before God on our own accord. That only leaves us with one hope, and that is that God “justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). God’s law and our failure to keep it “brings about wrath” (Romans 4:15), but “God demonstrates His own love toward us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

While we will never keep God’s commandments or be righteous before Him by our own efforts, Christ did. It is His sacrificial death on the cross that causes our sins to be imputed to Him and His righteousness imputed to us (Romans 4—5). That is why “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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9–10). After all, the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” for “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16–17).

Because Jesus answered this very question and His answer is recorded in Scripture, we don’t have to wonder or search for the answer ourselves. The only question left for us to answer is do we live according to these commandments? Do we truly love God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds, and do we really love our neighbor as ourselves? If we are truthful with ourselves, we know that we do not, but the good news is that the law and commandments were given as “a tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Only as we realize our sinfulness and hopelessness will we turn to Christ alone as the only hope of salvation.

As Christians, we strive to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and as our hearts and minds are transformed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit we are able to begin to love others as ourselves. Yet we still fail to do so, which again drives us back to the cross of Christ and the hope of salvation that stems from the imputed righteousness of Christ and not from any merit of our own.

Recommended Resources:Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Blue, Sky, Bruise

Do we really have eternal life?

Question: “How can it be said that we have everlasting life when we still die?”

Answer: The Word of God assures us that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will have everlasting life (John 3:16;6:47;1 John 5:13). The Greek word translated “everlasting” means “perpetual, eternal, forever.”

Perhaps the word perpetual best explains the biblical concept of everlasting life; it is life that, once begun, continues perpetually into eternity. This speaks to the idea that man’s life is not merely physical. Rather, the true life of human beings is spiritual, and while the physical life ends, the spiritual continues throughout eternity. It is perpetual.

When God created Adam and Eve, He put them in the Garden with thetree of life, intending that they would live joyously forever, both physically and spiritually, but they sinned and brought physical and spiritual death to themselves and to all subsequent generations (Romans 5:12–14).

God then sent Adam and Eve from the Garden and stationed cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life, and He did so because in His mercy He did not want man to live forever under the weight of sin. But sin must be punished and the only acceptable punishment to a holy God is everlasting punishment (Mark 9:43–44). However, our merciful God sent His Son as a perfect sacrifice to suffer, once for all time, the punishment due mankind for sin, thereby providing a perfect way to the tree of life for anyone and everyone who believes in Him (1 John 5:12;Revelation 22:14).sky 1399664238 400x400 Do we really have eternal life?

We receive everlasting life by dying to our own efforts and receiving Christ Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, and, when we do, we are instantly reborn and made alive in Christ.

We may not feel any immediate change, but there has in fact been a rebirth in the heart (John 3:6–7), and we are now free of the fear of death; we have the promise of God that we will never die spiritually, but instead will live forever with our Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10).

Later, when we die physically, our soul will immediately be with the Lord, and still later, when He returns, the Lord will resurrect our bodies to meet Him in the air. As for those Christians who are alive at His return, their bodies will be changed “in the twinkle of an eye,” and they will not experience even physical death (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).

Jesus Christ instructed the Apostle John to write the last book of the Bible, and therein we again read about the tree of life: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God’” (Revelation 2:7b). The tree of life in Revelation is symbolic of Jesus Christ.

It is in Christ that all Christians trust, and it is in God’s power that we rest, assured of our everlasting life (1 Peter 1:3–5).

The one true God who created all things, including life and death and rebirth, will keep His Word. Our God is all-powerful and full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and He wants us to know that our eternal state is assured: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).

Recommended Resources:Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

Pray, Prayer, Tombstone

If God knows everything, why should we pray?

Question: “Why pray? What is the point of prayer when God knows the future and is already in control of everything. If we cannot change God’s mind, why should we pray?”

Answer:For the Christian, praying is like breathing. It is easier to do it than to not do it. We pray for a variety of reasons. For one thing, prayer is a form of serving God (Luke 2:36-38) and obeying Him. We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35;Acts 1:14;2:42;3:1;4:23-31;6:4;13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also. If He needed to pray to remain in the Father’s will, how much more do we need to pray?
prayer 1399084940 If God knows everything, why should we pray?
Another reason to pray is that God intends prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations. We pray in preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13); to overcome demonic barriers (Matthew 17:14-21); to gather workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2); to gain strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41); and to obtain the means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19).

We come to God with our specific requests, and we have God’s promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we do not receive specifically what we asked for (Matthew 6:6;Romans 8:26-27). He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15). Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7;Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God’s will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.

For situations in which we do not know God’s will specifically, prayer is a means of discerning His will. If the Syrian woman with the demon-influenced daughter had not prayed to Christ, her daughter would not have been made whole (Mark 7:26-30). If the blind man outside Jericho had not called out to Christ, he would have remained blind (Luke 18:35-43). God has said that we often go without because we do not ask (James 4:2). In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. In the same way, we will never see the results of answered prayer unless we pray.

A lack of prayer demonstrates a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God’s Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word and bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others’ lives. Because it is our means of “plugging into” God’s power, it is our means of defeating Satan and his army that we are powerless to overcome by ourselves. Therefore, may God find us often before His throne, for we have a high priest in heaven who can identify with all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15-16). We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). May God glorify His name in our lives as we believe in Him enough to come to Him often in prayer.

Recommended Resources:Prayer, The Great Adventure by David Jeremiah.

 

Sky, Hell, Road Sign

Did Jesus go to hell between His death and resurrection?

Question: “Did Jesus go to hell between His death and resurrection?”

Answer:There is a great deal of confusion in regards to this question. This concept comes primarily from the Apostles’ Creed, which states, “He descended into hell.”

There are also a few Scriptures which, depending on how they are translated, describe Jesus going to “hell.” In studying this issue, it is important to first understand what the Bible teaches about the realm of the dead.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead i ssheol. It simply means the “place of the dead” or the “place of departed souls/spirits.” The New Testament Greek equivalent of sheol is hades which also refers to “the place of the dead.”

Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicate that sheol/hades is a temporary place, where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection and judgment

.Revelation 20:11-15 gives a clear distinction between the two. Hell (the lake of fire) is the permanent and final place of judgment for the lost. Hades is a temporary place. So, no, Jesus did not go to hell because hell is a future realm, only put into effect after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

Sheol/hades is a realm with two divisions (Matthew 11:23,16:18;Luke 10:15,16:23;Acts 2:27-31), the abodes of the saved and the lost. The abode of the saved was called “paradise” and “Abraham’s bosom.” The abodes of the saved and the lost are separated by a “great chasm” (Luke 16:26).

When Jesus ascended to heaven, He took the occupants of paradise (believers) with Him (Ephesians 4:8-10). The lost side of sheol/hades has remained unchanged. All unbelieving dead go there awaiting their final judgment in the future. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes, according toEphesians 4:8-10and1 Peter 3:18-20.

Some of the confusion has arisen from such passages asPsalm 16:10-11as translated in the King James Version, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption….Thou wilt show me the path of life.” “Hell” is not a correct translation of this verse. A correct reading would be “the grave” or “sheol.” Jesus said to the thief beside Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus’ body was in the tomb; His soul/spirit went to the “paradise” side of sheol/hades. He then removed all the righteous dead from paradise and took them with Him to heaven. Unfortunately, in many translations of the Bible, translators are not consistent, or correct, in how they translate the Hebrew and Greek words for “sheol,” “hades,” and “hell.”

Some have the viewpoint that Jesus went to “hell” or the suffering side of sheol/hades in order to further be punished for our sins.

This idea is completely unbiblical. It was the death of Jesus on the cross and His suffering in our place that sufficiently provided for our redemption. It was His shed blood that effected our own cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7-9).

As He hung there on the cross, He took the sin burden of the whole human race upon Himself. He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This imputation of sin helps us understand Christ’s struggle in the garden of Gethsemane with the cup of sin which would be poured out upon Him on the cross.

When Jesus cried upon the cross, “Oh, Father, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), it was then that He was separated from the Father because of the sin poured out upon Him. As He gave up His spirit, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

His suffering in our place was completed. His soul/spirit went to the paradise side of hades. Jesus did not go to hell. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension. Did Jesus go to hell? No. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes.

Recommended Resources:Jesus: The Greatest Life of All by Charles Swindoll.