Friday, February 1, 2019

Guest Post: Do You Have a Religious Preference?

Tom: If you’ve just joined us, I’m in the studio with Dave Hunt, and we’re discussing his book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. And that’s a good title, because this book indeed has some terrific questions that everyone should take seriously. First and foremost is, “Where do you plan on spending eternity?” The common response is, “Well, I haven’t given it much thought.” And for those who have thought about it, it’s rare for them to go beyond wishful thinking. Certainly very few have strong reasons for their belief about this subject.
Dave, although we know that’s the way it is in the world today, most people do a lot of serious planning for their . . . let’s say 75-85 years on this earth, yet they seem oblivious to how they will spend their lives beyond what amounts to an incredibly short period of time – that is, when we compare it to eternity.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Unfortunately, that’s the case. We’re caught up in this world, and the plans for this world, and . . . I mean, just the commercials on television get you hooked, chasing materialism and the good life. Maybe we don’t have time for it, but one of my favorite authors, William Law, many years ago (I don’t agree with everything William Law had to say, but he had some insightful concepts and amazing ways of saying things), and I don’t think we’ve ever mentioned it on this program . . . William Law would say, well, a person that spends [as you just said] his life planning the home he’s going to retire to, you know, this . . . maybe the swimming pool, the tennis court, the sauna, and so forth, the beautiful home he’s going to build, and where he’s going to retire—and he manages to retire with quite a lot of money and lives comfortably. You would say, “He’s been a very wise man. He’s done well for himself.” William Law says, “What about the man who spends all of his life planning the home on Mars that he’s going to retire to—with the tennis court, and swimming pool, and sauna, and so forth.” You’d think the guy is crazy! William Law says they’re both crazy! The difference between their insanity is just this: one man is planning for a place where he can never be—on Mars; the other man is planning for a place where he cannot stay.
Tom: That’s an amazing statement, especially since William Law lived in the early 1700s, and it’s easy to forget people then were caught up in materialism just as they are today.
Dave: Well, of course, I’ve modernized it a bit, with the swimming pool and so forth.
Tom: (Laughing) Right! As you know, we have five children, one of whom is considering college. We have one in college, and the oldest in grad school, and we’re constantly encouraging them to plan for their future with regard to what they’ll do after graduation. So I can empathize with those who spend most of their time thinking about temporal things. It’s hard to consistently set one’s mind on eternity.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s a problem that we all have. Of course, when you’re young, you can’t believe that life would ever end. It’s unpleasant to think about death, so people tend to push that out of their minds. Solomon said, “It’s better to go to a funeral than to a feast, because a funeral is the end of all living. And maybe the living will lay it to heart.”
Moses said, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
So, a wise person realizes how short this life will be. But the scriptures say, you know, they named their houses, their fields, their businesses, after themselves, as though they will continue on forever. But we won’t. You don’t like to think about it, and so you go to a funeral—what do they do? They cover the casket with flowers. If it’s not a Christian funeral, they make such silly speeches: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”  And, “They live on in our memory,” and so forth. What we . . . we’re in a conspiracy of trying to cover up death, the reality of death. But we’d better face it, because it is inevitable – except for a Christian, if the Rapture occurs. We don’t look forward to death; we look forward to being taken to heaven. But if the Rapture does not occur, we all pass through death’s door. I mean, it’s a fact! Then we’d better prepare for it. We’d better be, in fact, absolutely certain.
A lot of people have the weakest ideas for their religious beliefs: “Oh, I like the pastor,” you know. “The choir is so wonderful. The people are so friendly.” Ideas, reasons, for their so-called religious faith that wouldn’t be sufficient. You wouldn’t rely on them for buying a refrigerator or a used car! You want to have something more solid than that. And I guess they just kind of slough it off, or they say, “Well, I haven’t lived too bad a life,” you know. “I guess it’s going to all be okay.”
Tom: Dave, in your book, you use three terms as you discuss where one considers he’ll spend eternity, and the three terms are tolerancepreference, and conviction. And then you quote, I think, a very insightful Time magazine article, which stated in part – I’ll give you part of it: “When it is believed that religion is a breezy consumer preference, religious tolerance flourishes. After all, we don’t persecute people for their taste in cars. Why for their taste in gods? Oddly, though, there is one form of religious intolerance that does survive—the disdain bordering on contempt for those for whom religion is not a preference but a conviction.”
Now, I bring that up because there are certain things that mitigate against people considering these things as though, yes, there is a truth out there; there is a reality, and it’s not something I can make up.
Dave: Well, you make a good point, Tom, because this is another one of the ways that mankind blinds themselves to this reality—the idea that, “Well, it would be narrow-minded and dogmatic to be definite about this. I shouldn’t really say that other people might be wrong and that what I believe is right,” or even the thought that there is only one way, which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Peter boldly said to the rabbis, “Neither is there salvation in any other. There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must [not “might” or “may”]—must be saved.”
Now, if that’s true, we ought to at least check it out. We ought to check out what Jesus said. Jesus claimed to be God. He came from the Father. And He said to the Jews, “You are from beneath; I am from above. Where I’m going, you cannot come if you do not believe in me. In fact, if you do not believe that I am God. . . . ” Now, that’s a pretty heavy thing for Him to say! He’s either an egomaniac, or He’s a liar, or He’s telling the truth, and this – what Jesus said – is too powerful, it is too definite, I mean, it is too important for anyone just to slough off and pass by, shrug your shoulders about it.
So, as we’ve probably said it before, but I often tell people, “You can’t live long enough to study all the religions. Now go to the Bible first, because it claims all the others are wrong.” And I can prove the Bible is God’s Word, that it’s true, and we’d better face up to what it says because when you die, it’s too late!
I think we quote, in this chapter, I believe, Omar Khayyam. He’s walking through the—you know, as he dies—it’s a door into darkness. And then, is it Thomas Hobbes, who spent his life trying to improve this world? But when he came to die, he said, “I’m about to take a leap into the dark.” You wouldn’t take a leap into the dark on this earth. To take a leap into the dark into eternity doesn’t make sense!
Tom: But, Dave, that’s the mentality of the day, and it’s not just with this aspect of tolerance and intolerance, but Allan Bloom, as you know, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, he makes the point that we’ve become so open-minded that our minds have been closed to the idea that something may be true and something else may be false.
Dave: Mm-hmm. That’s in his book, The Closing of the American Mind. How about that? The “closing of the American mind through openness”! He says the one virtue in America is openness. Openness to everything. You wouldn’t dare to say somebody was wrong. This is what we call being “politically correct.” You wouldn’t want to offend anyone. That very term, “politically correct” says some devastating things about politics, and unfortunately, that has come into the area of religion.
Now, if you come to me as a medical doctor, and I . . . you know, you’ve got a pain in your stomach, or somewhere down there, and I examine you, and I know that you have a ruptured appendix, and if you’re not on the operating table within a few minutes, you’re dead! But I wouldn’t want to offend you; I wouldn’t want to upset you by telling you the truth, so I say, “Tom, it’s okay. You’re going to be all right. If you feel some pain, take some aspirin.” That’s not love! I’m destroying you in the name of tolerance because I wouldn’t want to be so intolerant . . .
You say, “Well, Doc, what’s the diagnosis, the prognosis?” And I say, “Well, I wouldn’t be narrow-minded and dogmatic as to presume to come up with a definite diagnosis. What would you like, you know? Everybody’s entitled to the operation of their choice!” You hear people say, “Well, everybody’s entitled to the religion of their choice.” Of course, they are! But we would like to give them some facts and some evidence so they can make an intelligent choice, because the choice has to do with eternity! The issue is the eternal destiny of souls.
Tom: Dave, again, like this idea of intolerance, which is really—it’s false! It’s just absolutely false! The phrase that you hear is, “All roads lead to the same place.” Whatever religious path that you’re going to take, it all ends up in the same place.
Well, that’s blatantly false!
Dave: Well, it’s being dogmatic, because it’s denying that there is more than one destination.
Tom: So it’s intolerant, really.
Dave: It really is intolerant. These people who are so tolerant that they believe in everything, they are very intolerant toward evangelical Christians, who dare to say that Jesus is right. And they will not embrace that at all! So I t’s like in the public schools, it’s so broadminded anything can come in. You could bring in witchcraft, you could bring in a North American Indian witchdoctor, and homosexuality, and evolution—anything! But dare to bring in Christianity? Dare to say, “We’d better check the Bible out, because evolution, maybe, isn’t true. We’re not forcing that on you, but it just could be that God created this universe, and nothing else makes sense, and we’d better find out what God has to say about us.”
I know I‘m repeating myself, but the program I was on some months ago, Spiritual Seeker, in Southern California, and the talk show host says, “Here we are. We have two hours every Sunday night to talk about God, religion, and spirituality.”
Well, my question was, “We’re going to talk about God? Maybe we ought to find out what He has had to say about us.” That’s what we’d better face.
Now if God didn’t say anything, if the Bible is not God’s Word, if all religious scriptures or writings are on an equal par of “maybe there’s a little bit of truth, maybe not,” then forget it! And let’s stop talking about it! And let’s stop studying them, because we’re wasting our time. But if God really did speak to us, and the Bible is His Word (and, again, we can prove that!) we’d better face up to this and find out what He has to say, because one day, we face Him.
Tom: Dave, in this chapter, you make a very strong point that all religions are in opposition to biblical Christianity.
Dave: That’s true.
Tom: Why would you say that?
Dave: Well, all religions are basically the same, in one way. In other ways, they’re very different. They have different concepts of God. For example, Buddhism is basically atheism. Hinduism, you’ve got 330 million gods, it has been estimated.
Tom: So there is diversity among them.
Dave: There is a diversity, but when it comes right down to it, they’re all trying to work their way to heaven—whatever their concept of heaven is, whether it’s the Happy Hunting Ground for the Indian, or Paradise for the Muslim or . . .
Tom: Samadhi, or Moksha . . .
Dave:  . . . Moksha . . . but whatever it is . . .
Tom:  . . . for the Hindu.
Dave: . . . they’re going to do it through some ritual; they’re going to do it through some sacraments, or through good works . . .
Tom: Some sacrifices—animal sacrifices, human sacrifices, in some cases.
Dave: Right. They all think, and they all have the idea, of appeasing God. It’s as though God could be appeased! I mean, no! It’s a matter of justice. The penalty has to be paid, and we can’t pay it. We would be separated from God forever. But anyway, all religions are in opposition to Christianity on that point.
Tom: Here’s one verse: Romans:4:5, and, as you know, there’re dozens of other verses, but it says, “But to him who worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Now what other religion in the world makes that statement?
Dave: None! They can’t possibly make that statement.
Tom:  And they’re – they do work. That’s the point you’re making. They are in opposition, they are contrary to biblical Christianity.
Dave: By “they do work,” you mean they work. They’re working at getting to heaven.
Tom: Right.
Dave: It’s like the Tower of Babel. They . . . “We’re going to build a tower, and it will be high enough that climbing up its steps, we can reach heaven.” This is the religions of the world: man’s efforts to come to God. God came down to this earth to meet man and to take his place in judgment, to pay the penalty that His own judgment required! There is not a religion in the world that offers that. There is no one who claimed to do that. Buddha didn’t claim it. Confucius didn’t claim it. Muhammad. You know, you name them! Krishna – anybody. None of them! They all offered a philosophy of life by which you could improve yourself and lift yourself by your bootstraps up into heaven, and somehow, reform yourself and please God enough. Or make some sacrifices of animals, or whatever.
Now, the Bible does have animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. These were prescribed by God very carefully, and as you study the Old Testament, the way in which they were to be offered, by whom they were to be offered, the purpose for which they were to be offered . . .
Tom:  What was the purpose then?
Dave: It was all laid out very carefully – all of these sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God, who would be God himself, who would come as a Man – He wouldn’t cease to be God, and He never will cease to be Man – He’s the one and only God/Man, and He would be the One who would take upon Himself the sins of the world. As John the Baptist declared when he saw Him: “Behold the Lamb of God, who bears away the sin of the world.”
But the sacrificial systems, or the works religions, or the rituals or sacraments of these religions of the world, they do not look forward to God coming as a Man.
Tom: They’re supposed to be efficacious in themselves. They’re for us to do to manipulate the god out there, or to appease the gods, so the god – whoever we’re sacrificing to – will do our bidding, in effect.
Dave: Mm-hmm. We’d better find out what God has said.
Tom: Dave, some people may say, “Oh, okay, that’s what you guys believe, and this is what the other religions believe.” Our point here is we want to make that distinction. People do not have to just take what we say as a belief that they have to adhere to. The point is . . .
Dave: We’re not asking that, Tom.
Tom: No, but we’re making a distinction, and there are distinctions, and the current mentality, religious or otherwise, political or otherwise, is that it’s all the same, and it’s not the case. That’s the point we’re trying to underscore.
Dave: God says in Isaiah:1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Faith must be reasonable. It’s not a leap in the dark. We’ve said that many times, but it’s very hard to get the point across. People think, “Well, faith is just something you believe, and so long as you have a faith . . .” –people of faith, you know . . . . Even Pat Robertson refers to the members of the Christian Coalition as People of Faith, whether they’re Buddhists or Hindus, Muslims, whether they’re Mormons, or Roman Catholics, whatever. So long as they are people of faith, then we’ll all work together.
Well, maybe you can work together against abortion, or whatever it is. Don’t leave these people with the idea that so long as they just have some “faith” that’s okay. We’d better have the faith. And, in fact, the Bible tells us that “we must earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And the reason is the eternal—as I say it again and again – the reason is the eternal destiny of souls hangs upon what each person believes. Listen, the Bible says you must believe God. You must believe what He says. You must come to Him His way. We don’t negotiate. We don’t discuss it—dialogue about it with God. We don’t say, “God, I think this is okay. Why can’t this go?”
Why would we even want to do that? We take God’s way—and why not take God’s way? Look, you don’t think this is God’s way; you think some other way is God’s way. Give me the evidence! You know, I sat with a couple of Mormons—maybe I mentioned it earlier—about three weeks ago on a train, an all-day train going from. . .
Tom: Yeah, you mentioned it last week.
Dave: Yeah, going from Czech Republic to Slovakia. And one of the questions I asked them, I said, “I can prove the Bible is God’s Word. Give me one proof that the Book of Mormon is God’s Word. I can prove that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be: God, come as a Man to die for our sins. Give me one proof that Joseph Smith is who he claimed to be: ‘the prophet of God.’ In fact, Mormonism contradicts the Bible. Give me one proof.”
Well, they said, “We prayed about it, and we got a feeling inside.”
I said, “Buddhists have that feeling. Hindus and Muslims have that feeling. Give me something better than a feeling.” Now we have objective, factual, historical, prophetic evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. And that’s why we say to people, “Search the Scriptures daily.” If you have a quarrel with what we’re saying, your quarrel is not with us – it’s with God’s Word. We believe the Bible is God’s Word, and we can prove it, okay? And it has the proof. Please! Don’t be so proud that you say, “Well, this is going against what I’ve been taught, or my religion, or my church.” Please! We beg of you, consider very carefully what God has said. Search the Scriptures daily. That’s all we’re asking.
Tom: And, Dave, to bring this around to where we started, the question here is, “Where will I spend eternity?” God’s Word has the answers. And it doesn’t take a Council, or a Magisterium, or any organization to lay it out for you. It’s right there, very simply, in God’s Word.
Dave: Tom, when it comes to answering that question—when it comes to that decision—I’m not going to trust anybody, no matter what fancy robes they wear, no matter how long they’ve been around, their church may be the largest or oldest, no matter how convincing they are, I want to know what God has to say. That’s the only thing that’s going to matter one day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Guest Post: Peace on Earth

At the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the angels announced good tidings of great all people...on earth peace, good will toward men" (Lk 2:10-14). Yet God's gracious and merciful offer of peace was refused! God's Son was crucified, rose from the dead and went back to heaven, having been rejected by His own people and most of mankind. He will return to earth soon to execute judgment upon a world of increasing evil and continuous wars that grow ever more numerous and destructive. In the meanwhile, God's offer of pardon and peace goes largely unheeded, while global leaders seek to establish peace through their own devices.
Mankind continues to this day to spurn Jesus and the peace He came to bring. Jews have a special rationale for rejecting Christ: "He didn't bring the peace which the prophets said the Messiah would establish, and he was crucified. A dead man can't be the Messiah!" This reaction rejects the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. It also reveals a basic misunderstanding of the peace God offers. The same ignorance afflicts the world at large.
Most people think of peace as the cessation of wars between nations. The peace that God offers, however, though essential for peace among nations, is far more basic and awesome. Romans:5:1declares, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The implication is both instructive and frightening: that man is God's adversary and in a state of war against his Creator.
Many other scriptures confirm the ominous fact that man has made himself God's enemy and desperately needs the specific peace which would end that conflict: "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom:8:7); "enemies in your mind by wicked works" (Col:1:21); "A friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas 4:4), etc. Who would dare to rebel against God? Yet this is the condition of mankind, which must repent of its insurrection and accept peace on God's terms or suffer the awful consequences.
Only when earth is no longer at war with heaven can there be peace among the inhabitants of this planet. And to attempt to establish peace among nations without first of all accepting the peace with God that He offers is to remain in a state of war against God himself. Such is the terrible warning of Scripture!
Encouraged by the end of the Cold War, world leaders are attempting to establish a new world order of lasting peace. All recognize that the key to global tranquility is a peaceful partnership in the Middle East between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Unprecedented efforts are being expended to bring this about. God, however, is left out of the process.
One would expect secular leaders to ignore God. Yet President Bush, Vice-President Quayle and Secretary of State Baker, all of whom profess to be born-again Christians, also ignore God in their attempts to establish peace.
But wait! Haven't we heard these men invoke God's blessing? Yes, but they ask God to bless humanistic efforts to bring about a "peace" that He cannot bless, for it contradicts His Word. The very peace they seek is a form of rebellion against God! Nor can such an accusation be dismissed as the wild ravings of a fanatical fundamentalist. Let us look dispassionately at the facts.
There are many irrefutable evidences that the Bible is true, but none more convincing than prophecy fulfilled. In this the Bible is unique. Neither the Koran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, nor the scriptures of Buddhism, Shintoism or any of the world's other religions contain prophecies that have been fulfilled down through the centuries and are still being fulfilled in today's modern world. Yet such prophecies constitute about 25 percent of the Bible, with the major subject of biblical prophecy being Israel.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were promised by God that their descendants would possess forever a land bordered on the south by "the river of Egypt" in the Sinai, by the Euphrates on the north, the Mediterranean on the west and reaching into Jordan on the east (Gn 12:1-7; 13:15; 15:7; 18-21; 17:7-8; 26:3-5; 28:13-14; 35:9-12; 50:24; Ex 6:2-8; 33:1-3,16; Lv 20:22-26; Dt 32:49; 34:4; Neh:9:8Ps:89:28-36Jer:30:3,10,11; 31:7-12,35-36; 33:20-21; Ez 37:21-28; Am 9:13-15, etc.). That area has thus been known as "the promised land." We dare not forget that it belongs to Israel by God's decree. Yet this is exactly what is denied by the Arabs and ignored by Bush, Gorbachev, the Pope and other leaders in the present Middle East peace negotiations.
God warned His chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), that for disobeying Him they would be scattered throughout the world, where they would be hated and killed. History attests to the accuracy of that ancient prophecy. God also said He would bring His banished and persecuted people back to their own land in the "last days," just before the return of their Messiah. That incredible promise was fulfilled in 1948!
That the Jews could have been dispersed throughout the entire world for 2,500 years since the Babylonian captivity, 1,900 years since the Diaspora at a.d.70, yet remain an identifiable ethnic people, is undeniably miraculous. And that after all of these centuries they would return to their own land is even more astounding. No one living today can doubt the existence of God or that the Israelis are His chosen people. The evidence provided by Israel's presence in her own land after 2,500 years is irrefutable!
Yet God foretold something even more astonishing: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling...[and] a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zec:12:2-3).
At the time of that prophecy 2,500 years ago, Jerusalem was in ruins and the land of Israel was abandoned swamp and desert. So it remained until recently. Yet God's seemingly preposterous promise was fulfilled. Today the attention of the entire world is focused upon that tiny piece of once forsaken and worthless real estate, in fear of what may happen there—exactly as Zechariah prophesied!
Surrounded by enemies who have sworn its extermination and greatly outnumber it in men and equipment, Israel has survived war after war and has grown in size and strength. How has that been possible? And what makes this minuscule nation so important? The answer is found in Bible prophecy. These are God's special people; He has given them that land. And to them Christ will soon return to rule the world from the throne of His father David. So said the angel Gabriel when he told Mary that she would have a child (Lk 1:31-33). Here is the forgotten promise of "Christmas."
Satan desperately wants to destroy Israel. All who have attempted to do so, from Hitler to the Arabs, have been his pawns. If he could remove the Jews from the promised land, then God would be proven a liar. Bible prophecies concerning Israel back in her land and the Messiah reigning over her on David's throne in Jerusalem could not be fulfilled. Satan would have achieved a stalemate in his battle against God and would have escaped the final judgment pronounced upon him and those who have joined in his rebellion.
Current attempts by world leaders to establish peace in the Middle East are yet another fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Just as Zechariah foretold, Jerusalem has indeed become "a burdensome stone for all people." And the solemn warning remains that "all that burden themselves with [Jerusalem] will be cut in pieces"! President Bush, and all who burden themselves with Jerusalem, beware!
God has given to Israel the land she now possesses, and much more surrounding it. Woe to anyone who seeks to take land from Israel or who promises Israel "peace" in exchange for any part of the "promised land"! Yes, Israel will make that exchange, "peace" will seem to be established, but it will be a major step on the road to Antichrist's rule and the ultimate holocaust. So says the Bible.
What should Christians such as Bush and Baker do? In light of the proven accuracy of Bible prophecy, they need to heed God's promises to Israel and make certain that they don't oppose them. They must cease from pressuring Israel not to occupy parts of the promised land which it has taken in self-defense to preserve its very existence. Instead, they ought to seek to persuade the Arabs to allow Israel to possess the entire land God promised to her (Gn 15:18-21) and to live there in peace under Israeli rule.
Such a suggestion would inflame the Arabs and be rejected as madness by world leaders. Yet the Bible leaves no alternative. Were President Bush simply to follow what the Bible so clearly says, it would be the end of his popularity here and abroad. But it would gain for him God's approval for eternity, which is far more important than transitory political polls!
If George Bush is truly a Christian, then he surely knows that there can be no genuine peace among nations until mankind has ended its state of rebellion and accepted peace with God on His terms. If he believes this, then he must declare it to the world. Who knows what the result might be, for nothing like it has ever been attempted by a world leader. Has God called him for this purpose?
Here is the neglected message of the world's "Christmas." Here is the cause we must all espouse. Instead of joining with the ungodly in unbiblical efforts to save the world ecologically or politically, we must declare the good news: Christ has "made peace [with God] through the blood of his cross" (Col:1:20). His enemies can now be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom:5:10). And we must warn of the awful consequences for all who reject this gracious offer of peace with God.
Muslims deny that Christ died for our sins, was raised and is coming again. So do most Israelis. The same is true of Hindus, Buddhists—and even many who call themselves Christians. We have pointed out that 950 million Roman Catholics embrace a false gospel which denies that Christ paid the full debt for sin and claims that He must be offered again and again in the Mass, that we must suffer for our own sins in purgatory and that salvation is in the Church through the seven sacraments administered by its priesthood, etc. It is a solemn fact that today's world is filled with "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil:3:18), many of whom claim to be Christians! Let us be certain that we believe and obey God's Word!
There is a further personal application of the gospel. Many Christians are beset by fears, anxieties, and inner turmoil. They have accepted peace with God for eternity, but do not rest in the enjoyment of that peace here and now. They have selfish desires that rob them of God's peace. Unwilling, as a practical experience of daily life, to be "crucified with Christ" (Gal:2:20), they are ruled by the tyrant Self instead of by the Holy Spirit.
What joy when it is no more self but Christ who rules our lives! Only then can we know the happy fulfillment of the promise: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil:4:7). Such is the eternal peace Christ came to bring—and it is meant to begin here and now.  TBC

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Guest Post: The Love of God- Pt2

We understand through the Word of God and through the evidence that daily surrounds us that God’s love for each one is the same and that His love for all of mankind is personal. God’s love is not some lofty principle, some immutable cosmic power that envelops the masses of humanity in its inexorable process. God loves each person as an individual and calls all who will respond to His love. He longs to bestow not just blessings but Himself upon all who genuinely seek Him. And He weeps with deep sorrow over those who reject Him and His love. At the same time, He is allowing Satan to gather disciples and to set up his false kingdom, while giving to men the freedom to choose whom they will serve.
It would be wrong, however, for us to imagine that because God weeps and longs for our love, that in any way He has need of us. Here again we have a difference between the God of the Bible and the false gods of the world’s religions. Islam’s Allah is a single entity, who was therefore alone and could not know love or fellowship or communion until he had created other beings. Hinduism’s Brahman, who is the “All,” cannot love or fellowship because it is impersonal and all encompassing. Thus there can be no I-thou relationship. In contrast, the God of Israel consistently reveals Himself throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, as one God comprising a unity of three persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always fellowshipped, loved, and communed with one another in perfect completeness, and thus had no need to bring any creatures into that existence.
We are the ones who have need, and our problem comes in giving priority to lesser or even false needs. If we love God because we need His protection and care, then we have missed the joy of loving Him for Himself. Indeed, our great need is for God alone. All else is added blessing. Even Christian leaders have been deceived by accepting the “hierarchy of needs” invented by Abraham Maslow, a godless humanist and one of the fathers of the New Age movement. He declared that man’s lesser needs for food, clothing, shelter, etc., had to be met first, and only then could there be any appreciation of the higher ethical and spiritual values. This claim contradicts Scripture (“Seek ye first the kingdom of God. . . .”) and interferes with the love relationship we ought to have with Christ. Yet Maslow’s teaching has infected the church along with much more of psychology’s poison.
Think about what you want from the person you love. Not things, not gifts, but closer communion, more love, more intimate fellowship. Thus it is that we are moved to give ourselves in our desire to please the One whom we now love with a passion. We are told that God will give us crowns and rewards in heaven. It isn’t possible for us to understand what that means because we have such a dim perception of what heaven will be like. Whatever the rewards may be, however, we know that each is an expression of His approval, a declaration that we have in some small way, as He has given grace, pleased Him. Knowing that fact alone is all the reward we could ever desire and will give us joy for eternity. Its anticipation should give us great joy here and now!
It isn’t unusual for Christians to feel discouraged and even depressed. At such times it seems impossible to believe (knowing there is no reason in us for Him to love us) that He could ever be pleased with us. Surely eternity will bring sorrow rather than reward for our miserable failure. We long to hear His “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew:25:23), but we fear that it could never be so. Such humility of soul, because it reflects the simple truth of our situation except for His grace, is becoming of a Christian—but at such times we do well to remember the amazing and comforting statement of Scripture: 
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Corinthians:4:5)
Would not such praise give us cause to be pleased with ourselves and thus to imagine that there was something of value in us after all? If so, that attitude would dim the glory of God and rob us of the real joy of heaven. What is that joy? It is not to become something in and of ourselves so that we deserve praise. It is to ever be in a state of wonder and amazement and gratitude that He would take us and make of us a joy to His heart.
We will never be worthy of heaven or of His love. A sense of self-worth would ruin everything by turning some of the attention and glory to ourselves. We will always be sinners saved by grace and bought with His blood, and He will ever be our glorious Savior. Because He has filled us with His love, our passion for eternity will ever be to see Him exalted and praised and to love Him with all the capacity He supplies. His eternal joy will be to bless us with Himself.
Such will be the wonder of heaven. That He should be pleased with us will bring joy beyond the possibility of present comprehension. The fact that every man will receive praise of God does not mean that each will be praised in the same way or to the same degree. Every cup will overflow with joy, but some cups will no doubt be deeper than others. There will be no need for us to recognize such differences, however, even if they were apparent, for such comparisons would be meaningless in heaven’s bliss. All that He is, the full infinitude of His person, will be equally available to all.
David, who knew the Lord very well, tells us the secret of that intimate relationship that he enjoyed: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm:27:4). There can be no doubt that knowing God and experiencing the wonder of His love was the continual and intense longing of David’s heart, as so many of his psalms attest: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee . . .” is the way Psalm 63 begins, and this same passion is expressed in so many others.
In spite of the rejection he experienced by family and friends during so much of his life, David’s heart was filled with the joy of the Lord—a joy that strengthened him for the many trials he endured. He also had a deep understanding of heaven and knew that the joy he experienced in part during this brief life of faith would be realized in its fullness there. It is the anticipation of the heavenly joy and, yes, the intense pleasure of God’s presence that raises our hopes from this earth to heaven. In another psalm, David had written: “Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm:16:11).
The apostle Paul indicated that in the last days men would be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy:3:4). What an indictment! How it challenges us to reexamine our priorities. How ashamed we will be one day that the pitiful pleasures of this world could ever have blinded us to the infinite and eternal pleasures God has “prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians:2:9). What a bad bargain to exchange the heavenly for the earthly!
The hope of Christ’s return has a purifying effect upon those who are looking for it. There is a purity of heart that is required if we are to see God (Matthew:5:8). Jesus seemed to drive that point home when He warned, “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming . . .’” (Matthew:24:48). It is significant that our Lord associates wickedness with rejoicing in the thought that His return will be delayed—while righteousness is produced by loving His appearing.
Surely He is showing us the importance of holding the hope of His imminent return, the reward for which, Paul tells us, will be “a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy:4:8). Again the implication is that not to love His appearing leaves an opening for evil to invade our lives. It shows a lack of love for our Lord and a love of our own selfish ambitions that would be interfered with by His return. We must ask the Lord to examine our hearts on this point.
Are there things we want to accomplish, places we want to go, even victories we want to “win for God” that are more important to us than being caught up by our Lord into His eternal presence? It is the attitude of our heart that counts. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ,” declared Paul, “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians:15:19). The joyful Christian has put his hope in heaven. He is not living for this world and makes sacrifices in this life to please his Lord and to be assured of hearing His “well done” in heaven. The Bible is full of examples of those who, in order to please God, turned their backs on earthly rewards and honors. They will rejoice through eternity for that decision.
Such is the message of Hebrews 11, where we are given a list of some of the heroes and heroines of the faith and are told of their exploits. The outstanding characteristic of everyone on that roll of honor was the fact that their ultimate hope was in heaven. Confronted by a choice between this world and the one to come, they chose the latter.
God is no man’s debtor. The idea that many people have of suffering for Christ and missing out on so much in order to please God is a caricature concocted by Satan. It is certain that no one, when it comes time to die, regrets having missed out on worldly pleasures or treasure or honors as a result of serving God. And how can even those who have lost position and possessions, have been tortured, imprisoned, or killed because of their faith, hold any regret that an eternal reward awaits them? Paul reminds us: 
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (Romans:8:182 Corinthians:4:17)
We know that as His bride we ought to long to be with Christ, and we are sorry that we don’t love His appearing as we should. How can we awaken our love for Him? First of all, we need to remember that love is not merely a sentiment that sweeps over us and is beyond our control. Marriages are breaking up among Christians who claim to no longer love the other and often have “fallen in love” with someone else. This is not love at all but Hollywood-inspired counterfeit.
Love involves unshakable commitment of oneself to another—thus it involves not just emotions but an act of the will. Christ is our example, and husbands are to love their wives as He loved the church. A Christ-like marriage may well involve one’s suffering hatred and abuse and misunderstanding—and giving love in return. That is what Christ did, and that is the kind of love husbands are to have for their wives.
Not only does love require a faithful commitment, but it is a commitment in response to God’s command: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke:10:27). Love does indeed involve deep emotion, but it is first of all obedience to God’s command. We can love our husband or wife or parent or mother-in-law and even our enemy, no matter how much evil we think they have done to us. It simply takes the willingness to let God pour out His love through us.
Christ has committed Himself to us for eternity, and He expects us to make the same commitment to Him. That commitment involves loving others if we truly love Him—for a lack of love for our brother is, according to Scripture, proof that we really do not love God (1 John:4:20-21). How much more is the insistence that we cannot love wife or husband or parent a betrayal of the fact that our love for God, no matter how loudly we profess it, is not genuine at all.
There’s another motive for loving Christ’s appearing. It isn’t only that we long to see Him for ourselves, but we also want to see Him glorified on this earth where He has been rejected for so long. What a tragedy that “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John:1:10). The hearts of those who love Christ are grieved that this world, blinded by pride, goes about its business building its plastic utopia in complete disregard for the One who longs to rescue it from an eternity of horror that it is bringing upon itself.
If we love our Lord, then we will want to see Him revealed to the world and made known for who He is. We want to see Him honored and praised where He was rejected. We long to see Him rule, whose right it is to rule, and we want to be at His side, singing His praises, pointing men to Him who is the Lover of our souls.
Our relationship with Christ and with God through Him will forever be one of perfect love. When we see Him, faith and hope will have given place to sight. But love, the greatest gift of all, will endure forever.
He desires to have us in His presence even more than we could ever desire to be there. He loves us with a love that will never let us go. And because He has captured our affection, we will be eternally bound by love to Him—a love that not only flows to us from God but which redeemed hearts will return to Him with a purity and joy that will be His eternal gift.
The signs that His return are near are in the world today as never before. The sleeping church may soon be shaken with that cry of which Christ spoke in a parable that is difficult to understand but which could well be fulfilled in our day:
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him!” (Matthew:25:5-6)
By Dave Hunt