Monday Reverb – 22August2022

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

This week’s theme is God’s abilities

In the call to worship Psalm, the psalmist makes his appeal to God’s ability to save him from the wicked.  

  • Psalm 71:1-6   In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame.  Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;   Incline Your ear to me, and save me.   Be my [a]strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress.      Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.  For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.   By You I have been [b]upheld from birth;  You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.  My praise shall be continually of You.   

The prophet Jeremiah is being told not to fear as God assures him of his ability to rescue him.    

  • Jeremiah 1:4-10     Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified[a] you; [b]ordained you a prophet to the nations.”   Then said I: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”  But the Lord said to me:  “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you,  And whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LordThen the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.  10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,  to root out and to pull down,  to destroy and to throw down,  to build and to plant.”   

The author of Hebrews tells us that God has the ability to sustain us.

  • Hebrews 12:18-29     18 For you have not come [a]to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and [b]darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned [c]or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)   
  • 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the [d]general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.    
  • 25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I [e]shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 
  • 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we [f]may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

And in Luke, we see God’s ability through Christ to heal and restore a broken woman.

  • Luke 13:10-17     10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way [a]raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.   
  • 14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”   
  • 15 The Lord then answered him and said, [b]“Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.    

 


SERMON REVERB

 

Straightened Up in Christ

 

Luke 13:10-17

Let’s consider, for a moment, the kind of life this woman must have led before encountering Jesus.  It’s safe to say that she probably needed a lot of assistance.  She couldn’t do what other Palestinian women were doing.  We can only imagine her limitations.  Because of being bent over she could only look down.  Her view likely comprised only the lower portion of her body, her feet, and the feet of others … and whatever was on the street — dirt, rock, sand, and animal filth.  She hadn’t been able to look someone in the eyes for eighteen long years.   In this story, Luke is attributing her infirmity to Satan.  It was a common belief amongst the ancient Jewish people that a person’s infirmity was brought on by sin.  If they weren’t saying it directly to her, you can be sure that they were murmuring about her character behind her bent and stooped back.

Wearing her shame like a wet cloak, she more than likely positioned herself away from the others in the synagogue.  Perhaps far into the back in a lonely corner so she could at least hear what this captivating rabbi everyone was talking about, had to say.  Little did she know that she would become the main attraction and that her world was about to be turned upside down.  Or rather, her world was going to be straightened up.

Make no mistake, the way that Jesus goes about this healing shows that he intended a confrontation.  He knew all about how many interpreted observing the Sabbath, and in particular, healing on the Sabbath.  He surely could have waited for the next day until he was out of sight of the religious leaders.  But he doesn’t because he has a bigger purpose in mind.

There are numerous accounts in the Gospels where people sought out Jesus to either be healed themselves or ask for healing for someone else.  Some even initiated the encounter by touching Jesus directly.  But not this time.  This time, Jesus initiates the encounter.  He sees her, he calls her forward, he proclaims her healing, and then he touches her.

Jesus knows that what he is doing is considered taboo on the Sabbath to some in the crowd.  But he also knows what the Sabbath was intended for.  It was intended to help people focus on God.  In addition, it was intended to provide rest for the people of God.  It was a time for people to be refreshed and restored and renewed – a healing time from their labors.  Jesus argues that contrary to this act violating the Sabbath, healing fits the very spirit of the day.  What better way is there to celebrate the Sabbath rest?

Theologian Charles Spurgeon commented on this story, saying, “…our Savior, by giving rest to that poor burdened woman, was in truth, making Sabbath in her body and in her soul.”  What better place and time for a healing to occur than on the Sabbath?  And that is the point that Jesus makes to the synagogue ruler.

Love not only often moves us beyond the law, it also points to who God isThe law of love nullifies and replaces any other law that conflicts with it, including when an interpretation of the Sabbath contradicts the law of love.

Jesus even goes so far as to point out their hypocrisy since they violate the Sabbath by untying their animals so that they can drink.  Jesus makes the point that this woman was bound up worse than their animals.  While they had compassion for their own animals, they did not show compassion to this woman who is a daughter of Abraham.  They did not ascribe to her the value that she had before God.

There is no more common religious mistake than to identify righteousness with certain so-called religious acts.  Whether it be church-going, bible-reading, financial giving, and a disciplined prayer life, none of these things make you right in the sight of God.   The fundamental question is: where is your heart towards God and your fellow brother or sister?

Jesus pointedly gets to the very heart of the issue with the synagogue ruler and those that agreed with him.  That they are far more bent than this woman ever was.  She received her healing, but they still desperately needed to be straightened up.

Augustine coined the term, “Cor Curvum in see,” meaning, “curved in on ourselves.”  While it started with Augustine, others like Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer would also pick up on this theme.  The idea is that humanity is bent inward, seeking its own good apart from God.

C.S. Lewis, in his space trilogy, refers to earth as “The Silent Planet.”  The inhabitants of other planets call earthlings “the bent ones.”  When we spend our lives with this inward bent, we start to believe that truth begins and ends with us.  We become little gods.

When we are curved in on ourselves, the world also reflects back to us what we see in ourselves.  For those who are angry, the world is an angry place.  For those who cannot trust, the world is an untrustworthy place.  For those with despair, they see a world without hope. But for those whom God has straightened up, we see a world of faith, hope, and love.

Chances are that your local bookstore has quite a variety of self-help books.  And I’m sure you can find any number of books to help you improve every area of your life.  Everything from finances, diet, exercise, etc…  Even in your local church there is probably someone that can help you improve in all these areas. Especially if you plan on gaining weight, what church doesn’t consist of a few elderly ladies who can bake you into a few extra pounds this week.

While all these things mentioned can help you in your areas of interest, there is one thing that none of them can do, and that is solve you.  That work is reserved solely for Christ and his wonder-working power.  There is no self-help to getting straightened up.

Sometimes we want so badly to see the change in our lives.  If we aren’t careful, we can adopt the belief that says, when I have conquered my sin, or my bad habits are behind me, when all is right in my life, THEN I will be right, and all will be well.”   

That kind of thinking is falling away from grace.  And that’s just not how it works in the kingdom of God.  His grace is for us nowNot for some future date when we arrive at a healthy place in our lives.  His grace is sufficient for us because his power is made perfect in our weakness.  So, while we stumble, while we fail, and while we fall, he is able to help us stand.

Just as a person can curve in on themselves, a congregation can be just as vulnerable.  We are embracing the idea of our churches being Team Based — Pastor Led.  Gone are the days in which we look upon the pastor to come up with all the ideas and solutions.  The body of Christ is comprised of members.  Not members and specialists.  This is about the priesthood of all believers standing tall together.  This is what it means for a church to be relevant.  Standing in our communities and serving consistently with the love of God through Christ.

We also participate in this story that we read about today.  Humanity was the crippled womanWe stood at the back in our shame and broken conditionChrist called us forward and took the initiative to straighten us upHe took away our condition that kept us bound to sin and deathThe works of the enemy in our lives has been done away with.

In calling us forward, Jesus makes it personal.  Knowing Jesus, he would have gotten down low enough for the woman to make eye contact with him.  In the same way, in his Incarnation, he meets us in our humanityHe takes a lowly form of an infant and starts from there.  He makes face-to-face contact with humanity and embraces us and takes us into his trinitarian family.

Jesus reminds this woman, and all within earshot, that she is not the person everyone else tried to label her as.  She is a daughter of Abraham.  She has a place of honor amongst God’s people.  So too, because of all that God has accomplished through Christ, the Holy Spirit is there to remind us of who we truly areBecause of Christ, we no longer must wear the old, heavy, worn-out cloak of shame that would cause us to stoop inward.   We now stand and stand tall in Christ.  And as we do, our gaze is no longer directed toward all the lower things of this life, but we gaze straight forward with our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

 


IRRELIGIOUS HARDTALK

 

Here are some GCI articles on the topic of THE GOSPEL:

 

(5437) Breathe On Me – HILLSONG [Shout to the Lord 2000] – YouTube

 


THE GOSPEL REALLY IS GOOD NEWS

When people gather in churches after a disaster, they come to hear words of comfort, encouragement and hope.  Yet, try as they might to bring hope to a grieving people, some Christian leaders unwittingly proclaim a message that amounts to despair, hopelessness and fear for people whose loved ones died without having first professed faith in Jesus Christ.

      • Why?  Why do you think their messages cause hopelessness? 
      • See Isaiah 49:8 and 2 Corinthians 6:2 … Check biblehub.com

Many Christians are convinced that everyone who did not profess Christ before death, even those who never so much as heard of Christ, are now in hell, being tortured by God — the God the same Christians ironically proclaim as com­passionate, merciful, loving and full of grace.  “God loves you,” some of us Christians seem to be saying, but then comes the fine print: “If you don’t say the sinner’s prayer before you die, then my merciful Savior will torture you forever.”

      • Why do you think many/most Christians would be convinced some loved ones might be in hell? 
      • See Isaiah 49:8 and 2 Corinthians 6:2  

Good news

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news.  It remains forever, good news, the best news imaginable, for absolutely everybody and everything.  It is not merely good news for the few who came to know Christ before they died; it is good news for the whole of creationeven for all who died before they ever heard of Christ.

      • Why is the Gospel good news … contrary to what some/many Christians might think?
      • Answer … what the Scriptures really say about “day of salvation”
      • Check biblehub.com re: Isaiah 49:8 and 2 Corinthians 6:2 . 
      • Note the next paragraph in Mr. Feazell’s article … 

Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice not merely for the sins of Christians but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  The Creator is also the Redeemer of his creation (Colossians 1:15-20). Whether people know that truth before they die is not the thing that determines whether it is true.  It depends entirely on Jesus Christ, not on human action or human response of any kind.

      • 1 John 2:2  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
          • 1 Timothy 4:10    For to this end [a]we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.  
      • Colossians 1:15-20   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by (in) Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or [a]principalities or [b]powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.     19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.   

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16, New Revised Standard Version in this article).  It is God who loved the world and God who gave his Son, and he gave him to save what he loved — the world.  Whoever believes in the Son whom God sent will enter into eternal life (better translated “the life of the age to come”).

The verse does not say that belief has to come prior to death.  In fact, it says that believers will not perish, and since even believers die, it is obvious that perish and die are not the same thing.  Belief keeps people from perishing, but it does not keep them from dying.  The kind of perishing that Jesus is talking about here, translated from the Greek word apoletai, is a spiritual death, not a physical one.  It has to do with utter destruction, with being abolished, put an end to, or ruined.  Those who believe in Jesus will not come to such a final end, but will, instead, enter into the life (zoe) of the age to come (aeonion).  

Some enter into the life of the age to come, or kingdom life, while they still live and walk on the earth, but in the grand scheme of things, this happens to only a small percentage of those who make up the “world” (or “kosmos”) that God loves so much that he sent his Son to save it.  What about the rest?  This verse does not say that God cannot or won’t bring to faith any of those who die physically before believing.

The idea that death is a barrier to God’s ability to save, or to his ability to bring a person to faith in Christ, is a human interpretation; the Bible states no such thing.  We are told that everyone dies, and then they are judged (Hebrews 9:27).  But let us remember that their Judge, thank God, is none other than Jesus, the slaughtered Lamb of God who died for their sins — and that changes everything.

Creator and Redeemer

Where do people get this notion that God is only able to save live people and not dead ones?   He conquered death, didn’t he?   He rose from the dead, didn’t he?   God doesn’t hate the world; he loves it.  He didn’t create humanity for hell.  Christ came to save the world, not to condemn it (John 3:17).

One Christian teacher (and probably many others as well) said that God is perfect in hate as well as perfect in love, which accounts for why there is a hell as well as a heaven.  He went on to explain how dualism (the idea that good and evil are equal and opposite forces in the universe) is a false doctrine.  But doesn’t he realize he posited a dualistic God with his explanation of God holding in tension perfect hate and perfect love?

God is absolutely just, and all sinners are judged and condemned, but the gospel, the good news, lets us in on the mystery that, in Christ, God took that very sin and its judgment on himself for our sakes!  Hell is real and horrible.  But it is precisely that hell, the hideous hell reserved for the ungodly, that Jesus bore in humanity’s stead

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21    For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin (?) for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • Matthew 27:46    And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 
      • Psalm 22:1-2   My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?   O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hearAnd in the night season, and am not silent.  
      • Psalm 22:19-24  But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me;  O My Strength, hasten to help Me!  20 Deliver Me from the sword, My[g] precious life from the power of the dog.  21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen!  You have answered Me22 I will declare Your name to My brethren;  In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.  23 You who fear the Lord, praise Him!  All you  [h]descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,  And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!  24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflictedNor has He hidden His face from Him;  But when He cried to Him, He heard.  
  • Galatians 3:13    Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)

All humans are under condemnation because of sin, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23). That’s why it is called grace. In Romans 5:15, Paul puts it like this:

The free gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died through the one man’s trespass [this “many” refers to everybody; there is no one who doesn’t bear Adam’s guilt], much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many [the same “many” — absolutely everybody]. (Romans 5:15)

Paul is saying that as bad as our condemnation for sin is — and it is bad (it deserves hell) — it can’t even hold a candle to the grace and the free gift in Christ.  God’s word of reconciliation in Christ is incredibly louder than his word of condemnation in Adam — the one completely eclipses the other (“much more surely”).  That is why Paul can tell us in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that “in Christ God was reconciling the world [that’s everybody, the “many” of Romans 5:15] to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…

So, then, what about the family and friends of those who die without having professed faith in Christ?  Does the gospel offer them any hope and encouragement about the fate of their dead loved ones?   

Indeed, the Gospel of John records Jesus declaring, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).  That’s good news, the gospel truth.  Jesus didn’t lay out a timetable, but he said that he would draw everybody to himself, not just a few who find out who he is before they die, but absolutely everybody.

Then it is no wonder that Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Colossae that in Jesus Christ, God was pleasedpleased, mind you, toreconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).  That’s good news.  It is, like Jesus said, good news for the whole world, not just for the limited few.

Paul wanted his readers to know that this Jesus, this Son of God raised from the dead, is not just some exciting leader of a new and improved religious concept.  Paul is telling them that Jesus is none other than the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:16-17), and more than that, he is God’s way of fixing everything that has gone wrong with the world from the beginning of history (verse 20)!   In Christ, Paul was saying, God has moved once and for all to make good on all his promises that he made to Israel — promises that he would one day act in pure grace to forgive all sins everywhere and make everything new (see

  • Acts 13:32-33   And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:  ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’
  • Acts 3:20-21    and that He may send [a]Jesus Christ, who was [b]preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things (apokatastasis) , which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since [c]the world began.   
  • Isaiah 43:19    Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.  
  • Revelation 21:5    Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [a]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
  • Romans 8:19-21    For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of [a]corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  

Only for Christians

But salvation is only for Christians,” some people howl.  Yes, of course it is.  But who are “the Christians”?   Are they only the people who repeat the sinner’s prayer?  Are they only those who are baptized by immersion?  Only those who belong to the “true” church?  Only those who are absolved by a duly ordained priest?  Only those who have ceased sinning?  Only those who come to know Jesus before they die?

Or does Jesus himself, the one into whose nail-pierced hands God has given all judgment, decide who is and is not ultimately to be included among those upon whom he will have mercy?   And while he is at it, does he, the one who conquered death and gives eternal life to whomever he wants, decide when he might bring a person to faith … or do we, the all-wise defenders of the true religion, make that determination for him?

Every Christian became a Christian at some point, that is, was brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.  But the common assumption seems to suggest, however, that it is impossible for God to bring a person to faith after that person has died.  But hold on, Jesus is the one who raises the dead, and he is the one who is the atoning sacrifice, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

Great chasm

“But the parable of Lazarus,” someone will argue.   “Abraham says that there is a chasm fixed between his side and the rich man’s side” (see Luke 16:19-31).

Jesus did not give this parable as a textbook on the afterlife.  After all, how many Christians would want to describe heaven as “Abraham’s bosom” with Jesus nowhere in sight?  The parable was a message to the members of the first-century Jewish privileged class who rejected their Messiah, not a portrait of the resurrection life.  Before we take that further than Christ intended, remember what Paul wrote in Romans 11:32.

In the parable, the rich man was un­repentant.  He still saw himself as Lazarus’ superior.  He still saw Lazarus as existing only to serve his personal needs.  Maybe it is not un­reasonable to think that the rich man’s persistent unbelief is what kept the gulf fixed, not some arbitrary cosmic necessity.  Remember, Jesus himself bridges the otherwise impassable chasm from our sinful condition to reconciliation with God.  Jesus underscores this point, the point of the parable — that salvation comes only through faith in him — when he says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

God is in the business of saving people, not torturing themJesus is Redeemer, and whether we believe it or not, he is awfully good at what he does.  He is the Savior of the world (John 3:17), not the Savior of a fraction of the world. “God so loved the world” (verse 16) — not merely 20 percent.

God has ways, and his ways are higher than our ways.  Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43).  Surely we believe he loves his own enemies.  (Or do we believe that Jesus hates his enemies while he calls on us to love ours, as if we are supposed to be more righteous than he is, and that his hatred accounts for why there is a hell?)  Jesus asks us to love our enemies precisely because he loves them.  “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” Jesus prayed of those who murdered him (Luke 23:34).

Those who continue to refuse Jesus’ grace even after they understand it receive the fruit of their own stupidity.  There is no place left for people who refuse to enter the Lamb’s banquet, except outer darkness (another of the metaphors Jesus used to describe the state of alienation from God; see Matthew 22:13; 25:30).

Mercy to all

 

(5432) Hallelujah to The Lamb – YouTube

Paul makes the amazing assertion in Romans 11:32 that God “has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.”  The Greek words here mean all, not some, but all.  Everyone is disobedient, and in Christ the same everyone is shown mercy — whether they like it or not; whether they take it or not; whether they know it before they die or not.

What can you say to such a marvelous thing, but what Paul says in the next verses:

O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?  Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen. (verses 33-36)

It seems that his ways are so unfathomable that many of us Christians simply cannot believe that the gospel can be that good.  Some of us think we know the mind of God so well that we just know that everybody goes straight to hell if they aren’t Christians yet when they die.  But Paul’s point is that the extent of God’s mercy is beyond our understandinga mystery revealed only in Christ: God has done something in Jesus Christ that nobody would ever have guessed in a million years.

In his letter to the Christians at Ephesus, Paul says that this is what God had in mind all along (Ephesians 1:9-10).  It was the whole point of God’s calling of Abraham, of his choosing of Israel and David, and of the covenants (Ephesians 3:5-6).  God is saving even the aliens and strangers (Ephesians 2:12).  He is saving the ungodly (Romans 5:6).  He really does draw all people to himself (John 12:32).  The Son of God has been at work underneath all of history from the very beginning, bringing about the redemption, the reconciliation of all things to God (Colossians 1:15-20).  God’s grace has a logic all its own, a logic that often seems illogical to religious-minded people.

Only path to salvation

Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation, and he draws everybody to himself — in his way, in his time.  There isn’t anywhere in the universe except in Christ, since as Paul said, nothing exists that isn’t created by him and upheld by him (Colossians 1:15-17).   Those who finally reject him do so in spite of his love; it’s not that he refuses them (he doesn’t—he loves them, died for them and forgave them), but that they refuse him. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, in the end, “THY will be done.”  All that are in Hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened. (The Great Divorce, chapter 9)

Heroes in hell?

As I listened to Christians preach about the meaning of September 11, 2001, I thought of the firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives trying to rescue victims of the attack on the World Trade Center.  How can Christians call these people heroes and applaud their self-sacrifice on one hand, but on the other hand declare that unless they confessed Christ before they expired, they are being tortured in hell?  Their good works cannot save them, but Christ can.

The gospel declares that there is hope for those who died in the World Trade Center without yet having professed ChristThey will encounter the risen Lord on the other side of death, and he is the Judge — the one with nail marks in his hands — eternally ready to embrace and receive all his creatures who will come to himHe forgave them before they were born (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 5:6, 10).  That part is done, just as it was done for us who believe now.

All that remains for them now is to throw down their crowns before him and receive his gift.  Maybe some won’t.  Maybe some are so committed to loving themselves and hating others that they will see their risen Lord as their archenemy.  That would be a shame — no, more than that; it’s a disaster of cosmic proportions, because he’s not their archenemy . . . because he loves them anyway . . . because he would gather them into his arms like a hen gathers her chicks, if they would only let him (cf. Luke 13:34).

It is safe to say, if you believe passages like Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10, that by far most of the people who died in that attack will jump into Jesus’ forgiving and merciful arms like a puppy runs to its mother at mealtime.

Jesus saves

“Jesus saves,” Christians put on their posters and bumper stickers.  It’s true.  He does.  He is the author and finisher of salvation, the beginning and goal of all creation — including all dead people.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, Jesus said.  Rather, he sent his Son into the world to save it (John 3:16-17).

Regardless of what some people say, God is out to save everybody (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), not just a fewAnd guess what?  He never gives up.  He never stops loving.  He never stops being who he is, was, and will always be for humanity — their Creator and their RedeemerNobody falls through the cracks.

Nobody was created for the purpose of sending to hell.  If anybody winds up in hell — the tiny, meaningless, dark, nowhere corner of the eternal kingdom — then what causes them to stay there will be nothing but their own stubborn refusal to receive the grace God has for them.  It will not be because God hates them, because he doesn’t.  It will not be because God is vindictive, because he isn’t.  It will be because … 1) they hate the kingdom of God and refuse his grace, and 2) God won’t let them spoil the fun for everybody else.

Positive message

The gospel is a message of hope for absolutely everybodyChristian preachers don’t have to resort to threats of hell to coerce people to turn to Christ.  They can proclaim the truth, the good news:

God loves you.  He isn’t mad at you.  Jesus died for you because you’re a sinner, and God loves you so much he has saved you from everything that is destroying you.  So why should you keep on living as though this dangerous, cruel, unpredictable and unforgiving world is all you’ve got?  Why don’t you come and start experiencing God’s love and enjoying the blessings of his kingdom?  You already belong to him.  He’s already paid for your sins.  What are you waiting for?  He’ll turn your sorrow into joy.  He’ll give you peace of heart like you’ve never known.  He’ll bring meaning and purpose to your life.  He’ll help you improve your relationships.  He’ll give you rest.  Trust him.  He’s waiting for you.

This message is so good that it bubbles out of us. Paul wrote in Romans 5:10-11: “If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Talk about hope!  Talk about grace!  Through Christ’s death, God reconciles his enemies, and through Christ’s life, he saves them.  No wonder we can boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ — we are already experiencing in him what we are telling others about.  They don’t have to keep on living like they have no place at God’s table; he’s already reconciled them, they can come on home.  Christ saves sinners.  It really is good news.  It’s the best news anybody can hear.

Author: J. Michael Feazell  

 

(5432) Don Moen & Ron Kenoly.- our heart our desire is to see the nations worship YOU – YouTube

 

 

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