Posts tagged ‘Judgment’

Infants Who Die

On November 2nd, 2001 our daughter Sarah Elizabeth was born. Tragically, she passed from this life eight hours later, after midnight on November 3rd. These two days have been rough for me ever since that time. John Piper once compared grief over the death of a child to an amputation. Unlike a gunshot wound, once the healing is done, the arm is still missing. Then follows the feelings of loss over what might have been and dealing with the gone-ness that will never be resolved this side of eternity.

On question that comes up occasionally is that of what happens to infants when they die. I am completely sure that God saves them and takes them to heaven, but what do I base that on from Scripture? Glad you asked.

It is not that infants are not fallen along with Adam like the rest of mankind. They are. Romans chapter 5 makes that abundantly clear. It is, however, a matter of accountability before God. I would begin with what jesus said to the Pharisees in John 9:41.

” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

The culpability is based on their ability to see what jesus taught, but rejecting it. Because they had been exposed to the truth and rejected it, the were still in their sins. Infants cannot perceive the message and have no sin in this regard.

But what about those who have never had the Gospel preached to them? Paul addresses that question in Romans 1:19-20 and it directly pertains to what we are speaking about here.

Romans 1:19-20
” because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

What is of necessity implied here, is not only that those who have not formally heard about God have no excuse because of how God has revealed Himself in the natural world, but that those who are incapable of reasoning and observing creation DO have an excuse! This would mean not only small children, but also those with mental capacities so severely diminished that they are unable to perceive God in creation.

So based on those Scriptures, along with others, I would tell parents who have lost a child that they will see that child again, and that their loss is not an eternal one. Of course that assumes that the parents are believers, too so that they can be in heaven as well.

God is able to cover those who have an excuse due to early age or mental capacity due to His mercy, and the shed blood of Jesus for sin. In the end, what was written in Psalm 119:68 will still be true of God.

Psalms 119:68a
” You are good, and do good;”

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Fired by God – Lessons from Nadab & Abihu

While reading the other day, I was meditating on the account of Nadab and Abihu. My thoughts were along the lines of, “what were they thinking?”, and pondering about why their punishment for offering strange fire on the altar of incense was punished so quickly and severely. So I looked in my search function to find out more about these two sons of Aaron and came across a surprising passage that made me even more mystified by their actions.
The Nation of Israel was at Sinai, when these two were given an awesome privilege recorded in Exodus 24.

“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” – Exodus 24:9-10

Both Nadab and Abihu had been given the awesome privilege of seeing a vision of Jehovah God on the mountain. In verse 11 it even says they ate with Him! This encounter should have instilled in them a reverence and awe for the power and reality of their God that would change their lives forever. And perhaps, for awhile at least, it did just that.

There is a popular adage that says, “familiarity breeds contempt.” But is that possible in our relationship with God? Is it possible that continued miraculous encounters with God could make someone take God LESS seriously? If pride enters in, it certainly can do just that. Nadab and Abihu began to assume that this event on the mountain made them special, or even worse, made them better than others who were not there. After all, we must be somebody special if God shows up and has a meal with us, right?

Well that is exactly what happened to them. Nadab and Abihu forgot about the nature of the God they were serving. Instead of this vision driving them toward a thirst for an ever more intimate relationship with God, it puffed them up with pride about the special revelation they had been given. After all, God was their buddy and pal who liked to have lunch with them. They must be something pretty special.

But our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 13) who will share His glory with no man(Isaiah 42:8) and will not be mocked ( Galatians 6:7). Fast forward a little while to the sacrifices being offered in the tabernacle. Moses and Aaron had offered a sacrifice, just as God had instructed them, and fire came down from God and consumed it.

“And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people.
And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” – Leviticus 9:23-24

Right after this spiritually charged and miraculous manifestation of the power of God, Nadab and Abihu take it upon themselves to cut corners with God and offer something unholy and profane in place of that which was sanctified for worship of God. And just like in the previous chapter God answered with fire.

​”And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.
And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” – Leviticus 10:1-3

What made this judgment come so swiftly? Perhaps it was because, as ones who had been with Moses and Aaron on the mountain, they should have realized the awesome majesty and power of their God and given Him the respect and fear that was due Him. In context, verses 8 – 9 could indicate that they were drunk. What it boiled down to was a lack of the fear of The Lord.

In our day, in the churches of America, don’t we sometimes do the same thing? How often are things from the world offered up to God in worship? We bring in the world’s philosophy, marketing, music, and lifestyles and offer them up to God and expect Him to be pleased with our worship. How often have we shown up for worship when just an hour before we were watching a show or listening to music that God absolutely hates? Where is the reverential awe and fear of The Lord? We have gotten so familiar with the Jesus who is our co-pilot and best buddy that we forget who we are serving (or who is the one being served) and offer up the unholy because hey, we are under grace and it doesn’t matter what we do any more. God’s got us covered!
The lesson of Nadab and Abihu is clear. God even told us what it was a few verses later in Leviticus 10:10.
“And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;”

And lest you think this principle doesn’t apply to us today because of grace, listen to the Spirit speaking in the Letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:28-29
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”

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Hijacking the Rainbow

So one thing that annoys me is when words are redefined or symbols are changed from what they were first intended to be. This is especially true when some person or movement takes something that God has set aside as a reminder of His goodness and covenant promises and flips it on its head into something opposite of what God intended. Me example would be taking the word “Christian” and the symbol of the cross and letting it be used by Westboro Baptist Church.

But there is another example that is permitting our society. Please don’t misunderstand me here. If a person or group of people want to have a symbol, they are free to do so in our nation where free speech is protected. But when someone takes something God-ordained and uses it to symbolize that which God calls and abomination, then it is a direct affront to, and a mocking of, God Himself. Read this short passage and try to guess what I am referring to here.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9-17 NKJV)

The scene is this. The judgment of God has fallen on sinful mankind and everyone has suffered judgment via flood. As a symbol of the covenant Jehovah makes with Noah, God designates the rainbow (the first one ever seen) as symbolic of His promise to never again use a worldwide flood to judge sinful mankind. In doing so, it would also be a reminder of the reasons that flood judgment came in the first place.

What society is doing now, by making that same rainbow a symbol of the homosexual movement, is to say the following things.
1. Mankind is showing a lack of the fear of The Lord.
2. Mankind is saying that they do not believe that God will judge sin. In fact, they are daring Him to do so.
3. Mankind is saying that we, as fallen, sinful people, have the authority to determine what is good and evil. We have erred in the same way as Adam and Eve when they decided they could define good and evil for themselves.

So does that mean we hate people because of who they sleep with? Of course not! It means that I love them enough to warn them of the dangers of mocking God and presumptuously assuming for themselves the authority to decide good and evil. It means I love them enough to tell them that God only wants what is best for them, and that His warnings are not arbitrary, but designed for their protection.

But the time has come for us to say “no” to the hijacking of the symbol of God’s covenant. The time has come to tell the world that the rainbow is symbolic of the judgment of God that sin will inevitable bring. But such judgment is not something that any of us must endure, for Jesus Christ has taken upon himself that penalty in our place. Come to Christ in full surrender, submit to His lordship, and escape the wrath to come!

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The Lazarus Prophecy

It is a wonderful thing that happens when reading a familiar passage of Scripture. It happens when you stumble onto something that was there every other time you read it, but you just didn’t notice it or think it was significant. The passage I am talking about is in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 16. The parable begins this way:

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:19-21 NKJV)

Now before anyone gets upset, yes, it is a parable for many reasons. But we must remember that a parable is a story designed to convey a spiritual message. Nowhere does that require it to be fictional. Otherwise, they would be called “fables” instead. But back to my point.

As far as I can recall, Jesus never gives a person’s name when He talks about them in a parable. The characters are usually just given descriptions like “a certain man”, or “a Samaritan”, etc. but in this parable, Jesus names one of the beggar as Lazarus. Is that significant? I don’t believe the Holy Spirit puts anything meaningless into the Bible, so yes, the name Lazarus is significant.

Later in the passage, the rich man is begging Abraham to let him go and warn his brothers so they would not end up in Hades.

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ (Luke 16:27, 28)

The rich man isn’t asking for an angel or even Abraham himself to go back, but specifically asks for Lazarus. The answer given by Abraham is not only poignant but is prophetic.

Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:29-31)

Now for many years, I assumed that what Jesus was saying was that His own resurrection would fail to convince those who were determined not to believe. But I think there is more to this. I now also think He was prophesying about the reaction of the Jewish leaders to an event that would occur later in His ministry. Take a look over in the Gospel of John, chapter 11.

Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. (John 11:43-46)

John here is relating the resurrection of another man named Lazarus from the dead. Yes, just as the rich man pleaded, a Lazarus rose from the dead as a miraculous sign of the Messiah. While some did believe, what was the reaction of the Jewish leaders?

Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. (John 11:53)

These men were experts in the writings of Moses and the prophets, but would not believe in Jesus, even though Lazarus had come back from the dead! And in the context of Luke 16, Jesus gave the parable of the rich man and Lazarus right in the presence of the Pharisees. Little did they realize that soon they would prove that the parable they were hearing was the truth! As with everything Jesus taught, it was fulfilled in every detail. For end the final analysis, it is not miracles or signs and wonders that cause faith. If someone is open to the Gospel, they will respond. But if someone has already determined to refuse to believe no physical miracle will change their mind, even if someone were to “rise from the dead.”

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We Smell Like Something

Scientists, through diligent research, have concluded that our olfactory senses (smell) are the ones most closely linked to our memories. There are many things, such as a the smell of certain foods cooking, that bring back many fond memories from long ago during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, there are also specific odors that are linked to horrible memories and can send people into panic attacks or make them physically ill. Such is the power of olfactory memory.

In the same way, our spiritual lives have memories. Certain songs bring back memories of worship services with my father leading singing, or of times of worship at Sierra Bible Camp. Various Bible verses bring to mind situations in life where they became especially poignant. And spiritual memories can encourage or discourage us in our walk with God. Likewise, the Gospel message has a lasting effect on those who have heard it. You see, no matter what happened at the time, there was either a positive or a negative response to that message. Paul is speaking of such things in his second letter to the church at Corinth.

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 KJV))

In later years, we can look back with gratitude on a lesson we heard that “sealed the deal” for us and elicited a response to the Gospel. Many, with deep regret, will look back at the judgment, and perhaps for all eternity, on squandered chances to respond with obedience and faith. Whenever the Gospel message is preached, due to the power of the “living and active” Word of God (Hebrew 2:14), we are enabled to respond, and do so. To ignore the message or brush it off, is to reject the message. We are confronted with decisions of eternal consequence, so our response needs to be carefully weighed, in light of its eternal consequences.

The Gospel message is seen as offensive by those who reject it. That is true because it causes such discomfort when our pride is wounded by our sin being exposed. The Gospel says that we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1) and we don’t like that. It offends us to find out we have been duped by the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and that as a consequence we are doomed to eternal destruction. In that way, it is an aroma of “death unto death” (v. 16).

But we have another option. We can repent and believe the Gospel. If we can set aside our pride and admit to our spiritual bankruptcy before God, we can be saved. For the Gospel does not end with a message of death and destruction. It continues with a message of hope and new life in Christ Jesus!  We learn about His offer of life, and if we respond in obedience we are graced with eternal life. Thus, in the case of those who are saved, it is a message of “life unto life” (v. 16). What we have to decide is which type of message it will be for each of us!

But there is another warning here for those who proclaim the message. It is not to be corrupted, watered down, or peddled. I really like the way the Amplified Bible translates verse 17:

17 For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God.

The Apostles did not use the message for personal gain. I often wonder whether Jesus or the Apostles, had they been with us today, would have made money by selling their teaching series on CD or DVD to their partners. No, they had a threefold commission to preach the Gospel.

They were:

1.        Sincere and had pure motives. There was no thought of personal gain or of being popular and accepted by the culture.

2.        Commissioned and sent by God. Their only thought was to be faithful to the God who commissioned them. They were not consumed with thoughts of making the message more palatable for their listeners or of marketing their ministries.

3.        They spoke the message in Christ, in the sight of God. Their sole mission was to be pleasing to God. They also kept themselves cognizant of the fact that God was watching over all that they did and would hold them accountable for completing the work he had sent them to do.

So yes, we all smell like something. Our message will have, not only different, but completely opposite effects on those who hear us. So rather that water down the message, realize that it only matters what God thinks of us, and that our reward is not determined by our popularity with men, but our faithfulness to God.

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The Parable of the Operating Room

The Parable Of The Operating Room
I don’t know anybody that relishes the idea of surgery, especially major surgery. But when it is a matter of life and death, most will submit to it willingly because it still beats dying. Well I want to talk about another operating room. In fact, I call it “The Parable of the Operating Room”.

There was once a young man who, as far as he could tell, was leading a fairly normal and healthy life. Nothing seemed amiss, he wasn’t suffering from any maladies that he knew of, and he had every expectation for a long life. But at the insistence of a friend, he decided to have a physical examination anyway. If for no other reason than to be able to tell everyone around him that he was in perfect health.
At the doctor’s office, many tests were run, and everything was checked to make sure nothing was overlooked. The young man was not nervous at all while waiting for the test results, because he felt fine. To his surprise, the doctor entered the room with a very concerned look on his face. He was looking over the test results and slowly shaking his head.

Finally, the doctor looked up and broke the news to the young man. He said, “Young man, I hate to break this to you, but I am looking at these tests, and there are ten clear symptoms here that you are not only very ill, but are terminally ill.”
Starting to panic, the young man what these symptoms could possibly be. As the doctor ran down the list, the young man could only agree and wonder why he had never thought of the symptoms as a warning. The doctor said that everyone with these symptoms thinks they are normal untitled hey see the way the test results should have come out. Then it becomes painfully obvious that the condition is lethal.
“But, rest assured, young man,” the doctor said. “There is a cure that has been found and I can take care of this problem. All you need to do is submit to this operation and you will have a new life ahead of you. The procedure is very costly and you could never afford it, but I am willing to do it for free. Shall we proceed?”
Of course, now that the young man is aware of his true condition, he is more than willing to have the surgery. So the doctor has him admitted, has the young man wheeled into the operating room, and performs life saving surgery. All is well and the young man is eternally grateful for what the doctor has done. This is especially true since the doctor performed the surgery without charge.

So what is the meaning of my little parable? Glad you asked!
The young man is every one of us when we were without God. We were condemned by our sins, but had no idea that we were in any danger. All the while, we were in a spiritually terminal condition, doomed by the silent killer called sin. But at some point, often at the urging of a loved one, we are exposed to the Word of God. We looked into the Word and there, perhaps for the first time saw our true condition.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12, 13 NASB)

When the Holy Spirit, through the Word, convicted us of our sinful condition before God, we responded by gladly asking God to do whatever was required to cure our condition.
Please notice that the young man did not submit to this life altering surgery because the doctor had convinced him that, while he was okay, this procedure would make him even better and make his life easier. It was not until the young man was told of his true condition and its consequences that he gladly submitted the the master surgeon’s hands.
Jesus Christ is the doctor, and the tools of His surgery are grace, faith, and His own blood. Baptism is, if you will, the operating room. Now operating rooms never operated on anyone. Surgeons do that. And surgeons don’t use an operating room as the cure for anything. The scalpel and other tools do that, in conjunction with a supply of blood. But the operating room is where the surgery is supposed to take place! No surgeon, if given the choice, wants to operate on the hospital lawn. The proper place for surgery is in the operating room that was designed for that purpose. And when we try to omit the baptismal surgical suite, we are attempting an unnecessary shortcut that will endanger those we are trying to help.

Thus endeth the parable; thus endeth the lesson.

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The Realization of Condemnation

Have you ever been listening to someone, or just reflecting on a situation and come to the sudden realization that you were wrong? You know, that sinking feeling that you have totally blown it and are helpless to make things right? It is a terrible feeling when it comes from within us, and is even more frightening when it comes from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. That kind of terrifying reality check is what happened to those gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2.

Peter is bringing his sermon to its end and says this:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:36, 37 NKJV)

What hit the audience that day was nothing short of cataclysmic. It would be bad enough to find out that the promised Messiah that you have been waiting centuries for had been killed. But Peter brings home the point that THEY had been the ones to have it done by the Romans! Could there be any sin in the universe greater than the murder of the Sin of God?

The word Luke uses here for being cut to the heart is only used once in the New Testament. It connotes being stabbed in the heart suddenly. This was not a slowly building realization of discomfort. This was a divine piercing through of the heart. And it must have been accompanied by the sudden dread of judgment for what they had done, for in verses 34 – 35 Peter had said,

“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

This was not a picture of someone using you as an ottoman. The picture that would have come to their minds was that of a heel on the neck. These men had been convicted by the true gravity of their sin, and their utter helplessness before a righteous and holy God. It must have been something akin to what Saul of Tarsus felt on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-9. He was breathing threatenings and murder against the believers, and was knocked off of his high horse in a blinding light. Have you ever wondered how doomed he felt when the voice said he was “Jesus whom you are persecuting”? He went from self righteous anger to “getting up trembling and astonished.”

This is what it means to be poor in Spirit. Before we can come to Christ we must come to the realization that we are hopelessly lost and condemned before God and fully deserving of His wrath. As long as we think we can do anything to rescue ourselves, we are not ready to be saved. Only when we come to that place in our hearts can we truly throw ourselves on His mercy and accept the forgiveness that is being offered, just like they did in Acts 2:38. Peter didn’t leave them hanging there. He told them what they must do in order to accept the free gift of the Grace of God.

There is no hint in apostolic preaching of “try this because Jesus will make your life better” or of “just be a good person.” The method of conviction of the sin of rejecting the Messiah must come first because that is part of the mission of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:8-9,

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; (John 16:8, 9 NKJV)

Salvation that begins at the place of utter inability to save ourselves will also result in disciples who are walking with God for the long haul. They are not coming to Jesus because He is really cool and makes them feel good. They are there because only Jesus can rescue them from the judgment to come. Don’t be afraid to talk about how our sins were part of what sent Jesus to the cross with a lost one. We must not neglect the preaching of judgment in our messages, lest we fail to show sinners the reality of their predicament and they someday find themselves standing before the Messiah they have rejected and are eternally lost.

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