Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tongues--What Are They?

What do you think of when you read this:

Acts 2:1-4
"And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unot them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

Many people say that this was a special "spirit language" that God used to shock the Jews in Jerusalem to get their attention. They were indeed shocked (v. 7), but by what? Verses 5-11 explain:

"And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under Heaven. Now when this was noised abroad [how that the disciples spake with other tongues], the multitude came together [to see what the fuss was all about], and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, 'Behold, are not these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and in Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.'"

Unlike the common practice today, those around them could easily verify that the words that the disciples uttered belonged to other distinct, identifiable, in-common-use-at-that-time languages. This was not meaningless babbling with mysterious interpretations; this was the use of languages in which the disciples had not been educated, a miracle that none could deny.

And the response of these devout Jews was correct: they did not assume that because it was mysterious that it was from God; they asked what it meant (v. 12). They knew that if it was being used to try to turn them away from worhsipping the One True God, that they would have to stone those who were the instruments of this performance (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). They also knew that if God had indeed raised these men up to preach to them, that they would answer for rejecting their word (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

Note also, that while they were "speaking in other tongues" the disciples were recounting what the Jews already knew to be "the wonderful works of God": they were not bringing some new revelation. Though the Gospel was as yet unknown to these Jews, yet, when it was time to share it with them, Peter used the common tongue to speak to them all--which they understood from from their Jewish upbringing--which was the only way that they all could understand him at the same time, because they did not know all of each others' languages, which is why they were so surprised to here them coming from the mouths of a company of Galileans. (Galilee was reckoned as the slums.)

Paul, commenting on the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:18-25, said:

"I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words by my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding, be men.
"In the Law it is written, 'With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me, saith the Lord.' Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them which believe, but to them which believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
"If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convi[cted] of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth."

Matthew Henry notes:
"Tongues were rather a sign to unbelievers than to believers. They were a spiritual gift intended for the conviction and conversion of infidels that they might be brought into the Christian church; but converts were built up in Christianity by profitable instructions in their own language. That gifts may be rightly used, it is proper to know the needs which they are intended to serve. To go about the conversion of infidels as the apostles did had been a vain undertaking without the gift of tongues and the discovery of this gift; but in an assembly of Christians already converted to the Christian faith, to make use and ostentation of this gift would be perfectly impertinent because it would be of no advantage to the assembly; not for the conviction of the truth because they had already embraced it; not for their edification because they did not understand and could not get benefit without understanding what they heard.

"The Christian religion is a sober and reasonable thing in itself and should not, by the ministers of it, be made to look wild or senseless. Those disgrace their religion and vilify their own character who do anything that has this aspect. But on the other hand, if instead of speaking whith tongues, those who minister plainly interpret Scripture or preach in language intelligible and proper, the great truths and rules of the Gospel, a heathen or unlearned person coming in will probably be convinced and become a convert to Christianity. Scripture truth plainly and duly taught, has a marvelous aptness to awaken the conscience and touch the heart. And is not this much more for the honor of our religion, than that infidels should conclude the ministers of it a set of madmen, and their religion exercises only fits of frenzy? This last would at once cast contempt on them and their religion too. Religiosu exercises in Christian assemblies should be such as are fit to edify the faithful, and convince, affect, and convert unbelievers. The ministry was not instituted to make ostentation of gifts and parts, but to save souls."

The example which we have is Acts 2, where the disciples spoke in many languages, known to be so, to gain the attention of the unbelieving Jews, and then spoke unto them the Gospel in words which they all understood. They all understood the priests in the Temple, so that is the language in which Peter ministered unto them the Gospel.

I remember a lady telling me about the time in which she was lost in China and had to rely on her knowledge of the native language to get help. She being a white woman, everyone who heard her speak in their language was shocked. If she had been a missionary, what a great testimony to be used to bring about the conversion of the Chinese!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Answering Tough Questions

I discovered this set of questions not by my purpose, while doing a search for a totally different issue. But it intrigued me--especially when someone pointed out that I had not looked closely enough to know what I had seen. I was unpleasantly surprised, but it was my own fault. In my haste, I forgot to "try the spirits, whether they are of God" before recommending them to other people. Oops.

Here are my answers to the "Questions Without Answers." The original website's content is in bold, and my answers are in plain lettering.

Questions Without Answers

Many people have a very limited view of God's plan of salvation and when approached with questions, are unable to give an answer, or, unable to give a correct answer. This can be, first and foremost, attributed to lack of true Bible study. It can be caused by the bias of denominational beliefs, creeds, other individual interpretations, or from relying on other people to answer for them.
But, what does the Bible have to say about the individual Christian being able to give an answer when questioned? 2 Timothy 2:15 says to:
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
They are told to "Study", or "be diligent", as some Bibles have it translated. Why? To be "approved unto God" and so as "not to be ashamed" when questions are asked. How and what are they told to study? By "rightly dividing the word of truth", which is the Bible.
Next, look at what the Apostle Peter says concerning questions and answers in 1 Peter 3:15.
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"
Within this short verse of Scripture, there are several thoughts that need to be mentioned. These are:
Be READY to give an Answer -- be prepared.
Be ready ALWAYS -- do not put off a Question.
Be ready always to give an answer -- evasion excites suspicion.
Give an answer to EVERY ONE that asks you.
A REASON is asked for -- not an assertion.
The answer should be a reason of THE HOPE [not the fear] that is in you.
The Question is to be answered [not in a passion, but] with MEEKNESS toward man, and FILIAL FEAR toward God.

Up to this point, I could agree with everything they said. After this, the deluge...

Below, is a list of 213 questions that will help to clarify God's plan of salvation as set forth in the Holy Bible, so that when questions are asked, correct answers can be given. To those holding a limited view of God's plan of salvation, they are truly Questions Without Answers, but, to those who rely on God's Word, the answers become apparent as His truth is revealed to them.

It is indeed a nice exercise in discernemnt, as many unbelievers have asked me many of these questions. But only the Bible will clarify God's plan for salvation. Questions by those who differ from the teachings of Scripture...not so much.

The questions were written by A. C. Thomas and appeared in a book by E. H. Lake, entitled "The Key to Truth".

The real "Key to the Truth" is Jesus Himself.

Now the Questions:

  1. As we are required to love our enemies, may we not safely infer that God loves His enemies? (Matt. 5:44) Yes.
  2. If God loves His enemies, will He punish them more than will be for their good? Punishment is not for the good of the offender. Correction is (Heb. 12:5-11).
  3. Would endless punishment be for the good of any being? Hell is given forever that man might repent now. If man knows that he will suffer only for a season and looks forward to more opportunity after to sin more still, then he will never repent.
  4. As God loves His friends, if He loves His enemies also, are not all mankind the objects of His love? Yes.
  5. If God loves those only who love Him, what better is He than the sinner? (Luke 6:32-33) But love can be rejected (Matthew 23:37).
  6. As "love thinketh no evil," can God design the ultimate evil of a single soul? (1 Cor. 13:5) He didn’t; we chose it (Matthew 25:40-46). We who side with God’s enemy (the devil) will share in his punishment.
  7. As "love worketh no ill," can God inflict, or cause, or allow to be inflicted, an endless ill? (Rom. 13:10) God can remove His blessing from us, which will cause us ill, because we need Him to bless us if we are to prosper. He does not force us to accept His blessings--He pleads with us to accept them, because He know the dreadful fate that awaits those who do not.
  8. As we are forbidden to be overcome by evil, can we safely suppose that God will be overcome by evil? (Rom. 12:21) No.
  9. Would not the infliction of endless punishment prove that God HAD been overcome by evil? No, see the answer to question #7.
  10. If man does wrong in returning evil for evil, would not God do wrong if He was to do the same? Yes.
  11. Would not endless punishment be the return of evil for evil? No, see the answer to question #7.
  12. As we are commanded "to overcome evil with good," may we not safely infer that God will do the same? (Rom. 12:21) Which is why He sent His Son into the world to die for our sin. Overcoming evil means having victory over it. Sin will eventually be put out of Heaven (Revelation 22:15) and every knee shall bow, whether friendly or not (Romans 14:11).
  13. Would the infliction of endless punishment be overcoming evil with good? Yes, because a Holy God does not allow evil to stand in His presence. In opposition to Heaven, Hell is eternity without God, and without His blessings, according to our desire. In the end, God gives us what we want: Holiness or Hell.
  14. If God hates the sinner, does the sinner do wrong in hating Him? God doesn’t hate the sinner. The sinner who will end up being damned hates God because he himself does not want to be righteous (John 3:18-21).
  15. Is God a changeable being? (James 1:17) No.
  16. If God loves His enemies now, will he not always love them? Yes.
  17. Is it just for God to be "kind to the evil and unthankful," in their present life? (Luke 6:35) Yes. It is His kindness to us that calls us to repent of our wickedness to each other, and, once we realize that we cannot remove that sin from ourselves, to fall down before Him and ask for His mercy.
  18. Would it be unjust for God to be kind to all men in a future state? Salvation is a choice of the sinner. God would gladly save all, but not all gladly choose to be saved (Matthew 23:37).
  19. If all men justly deserve endless punishment, will not those who are saved, be saved unjustly? No, because Jesus already paid the price for everyone’s sin. The only way someone ends up in Hell is by rejecting the offer of forgiveness by refusing to acknowledge their sinful state and/or refusing to turn their hearts away from it to God.
  20. If God "will by no means clear the guilty," by what means can just punishment be evaded? (Ex. 34:7) By someone else paying the price. As long as the fine is paid, who cares where the money comes from, so long as it is not stolen? Jesus willfully gave Himself up to be punished for our sins—freely offering to pay the fine. The only way we lose is by denying Him the right to pay it for each of us individually.
  21. As no man can measure endless punishment to his neighbor, will endless punishment be measured to him? (Luke 4:38) How can he not? A wrong cannot be undone. It is a permanent record of history, which we cannot change. A deed is done forever.
  22. Would it be merciful in God to inflict endless punishment? -- that is, merciful to the sufferer? Many a judge has offered mercy, only to have it rejected.
  23. Can that be just which is not merciful? Yes, because justice gives out what we deserve, and mercy withholds it from us.
  24. Do not cruelty and injustice go hand in hand? Not necessarily. Harshness may be just, may even be merciful (Hebrews 12:5-11; e.g., Matthew 23).
  25. Can that be merciful which is not just? See the answer to question #23.
  26. Does divine justice demand the infliction of pain from which mercy recoils? Yes, and that is why Jesus came to deliver us from that punishment.
  27. Does divine mercy require any thing that justice refuses to grant? Justice is not under mercy. Justice does not answer to mercy. Justice decrees what should be our punishment, God in Christ made provided so that we don't have to suffer it.
  28. If the demands of divine justice are opposed to the requirements of mercy, is not God divided against Himself? No, because justice and mercy are not one and the same. Besides, Jesus already fulfilled God’s justice for us, if we but accept His finished work which He offers to us freely to save us from our sins.
  29. If the requirements of mercy are opposed to the demands of the justice of God, can His kingdom stand? -- (Mark 3:24) See the answer to the previous question.
  30. If the justice and mercy of God are any way opposed, do they "keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace?' God’s love compels Him to make rules for us. God’s justice compels Him to punish infractions against them. God’s mercy compelled Him to bear that punishment Himself, that we might not suffer it, that we might continue in His presence and with His blessings. We who reject that offer will be dealt with according to our wishes.
  31. If justice and mercy are opposed to their requirements can Deity be a just God and a Savior? -- (Isaiah 14:21) Question makes an assumption already proven to be false.
  32. If "a God all mercy is a God unjust," would not a God all justice be a God unmerciful? No, because the penalty justly has been provided for in Christ (Romans 3:21-28). If we refuse it, we have none but ourselves to blame.
  33. Is there any such thing in God as unjust mercy, or unmerciful justice? No.
  34. Is there any such thing in God as just cruelty, or merciful injustice? No.
  35. If you had sufficient power would you not deliver all men from sin? I would desire that all should come to love me based on the fact that I use all my powers for their own good.
  36. Are you more merciful than the God Who made you? Not possible: which one of us would willingly bear the punishment ourselves that our subjects have incurred for themselves by offending us? What more mercy can there be than that which was shown in Christ?
  37. 'Can a woman forget her sucking child?' Yes (Isaiah 49:15); it is contrary to the love that God has built into our conscience, but it is done everyday.
  38. Is the Creator of human sympathy less benevolent than the creature? Hardly.
  39. If God WOULD save all men, but CANNOT, is He infinite in power? Answered with question #40.
  40. If God CAN save all men, but WILL NOT, is He infinite in goodness? We accept or reject God at our will. God does not force us not to choose Him, and He does not force us to choose Him. In this, He does not act with all His ability, but He does this out of love for us. His desire is for us to want Him, but love, by definition, cannot be forced. A robot that says, “I want to be with You and live in righteousness and holiness for all eternity,” does not love. It just obeys what has been programmed into it. As God’s love is an act of His will, so when He created us in His own image, He gave us the right to choose against Him, knowing that that right would manifest itself in disobedience, but also providing a way out for those who repented. And He calls all men to repent (Acts 17:30b).
  41. Does God DESIRE the salvation of all men? (1 Tim. 2:3-4) Yes.
  42. As God is righteous, must not the desire for universal salvation be a RIGHTEOUS desire? Yes.
  43. Is it true, that "the desire of the righteous shall be granted?" -- (Prov. 10:24) Context: earthly end results. Again, it is not an issue of power, but of design. God could have created robots, but He chose to give us the right to choose or to reject Him and His blessings. By the reasoning of the question, then there should be no such thing as sin, either, because God hates sin.
  44. Did God design universal salvation when He created man? He provided the Way for all to be saved, though knowing that, because of the right which He gave to all men, not all men would accept that Way.
  45. Will God carry His original design into execution? He has; didn’t Jesus die for our sins?
  46. Can finite man frustrate the purposes of the Almighty? No.
  47. Is every individual under obligation to be thankful for his existence? Yes.
  48. Will this obligation eternally continue? Yes.
  49. Can any one be thankful for that which, on the whole, is not a blessing? The question assumes that God chose this end for us, which is false. We choose whether or not to receive God's blessing, and the consequences are eternal.
  50. If any one be rendered endlessly miserable, will he be still under obligation to thank God for existence? Yes, because he was given the opportunity not to suffer and chose against it.
  51. Would endless misery benefit the Almighty, as the INFLICTOR? Again, we inflicted this upon ourselves by rejecting Him. His blessings are there for the taking. We choose sin over God, and the consequences are horrible.
  52. Would endless misery benefit the saints, as SPECTATORS? Who says we will be watching?
  53. Would endless misery benefit the sinner, as the SUFFERER? No, but that’s the choice he made when he rejected Jesus.
  54. If endless punishment be the "wages of sin," could the sinner ever receive payment in full? (Rom. 6:23) Sure—at the end of eternity!
  55. As man is a finite being, can he commit an infinite sin? See the answer to question #21.
  56. If man cannot commit an infinite sin, can he deserve endless punishment? Assumes an idea proven false already.
  57. If one sin be infinite, can a million be any more? The only sin that puts people in Hell is the rejection of Jesus as Savior. The other sins only count for degree of punishment (Luke 12:48).
  58. If ONE sin be NOT infinite, can a million of sins amount to an infinite sin? See the answer to question #57.
  59. If sin be infinite, can one sin be greater than the other? See the answer to question #57.
  60. If sin be infinite, can it be true that, "where sin abounded grace did MUCH MORE abound?" --(Rom. 5:20) Yes, Luke 7:36-50.
  61. If sin be infinite, can it ever be finished or brought to an end? Yes. One may cease from his wicked way and have his sins blotted out by merely asking for absolution through Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19-26).
  62. If ONE sin deserves an eternity of punishment, how much punishment will TEN sins deserve? See the answer to question #57.
  63. Do you ardently DESIRE the salvation of all men? Personal question. Does my desire compel all men to heed me? No. So it is an irrelevant question.
  64. Is it true that God "openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing?" -- (Ps. 145:16) Context: provisions for everyday physical life, which some people reject anyway; see also Matthew 6:33.
  65. Do you fervently PRAY for the salvation of all men? (1 Tim. 2:1) No, because I know that that will not happen. I don’t know who all will reject, thus, for those people whom I know, I do pray for their salvation. But to pray for the salvation of those who have already passed into a Christ-less eternity of their own choice is foolhardy, to say the least. In any case, the verse cited is being misappropriated for this subject. The real purpose of the prayer that is comanded in that verse is stated in the very next verse.
  66. Do you pray in FAITH, nothing doubting? (James 1:6) See the answer to question #65.
  67. Are you aware, "that whatsoever is not of faith is sin?" -- (Rom 14:23) Yes.
  68. Would God require us to pray for all men, and to pray in faith, unless He intends all men should be saved? See the answer to question #65.
  69. If you believe endless misery to be the truth of God, why should you desire and pray that it may prove false? I don’t. I pray that people will receive Jesus that they might not suffer it!
  70. Can the pleasure of the Almighty be contrary to his determinate will? See the answer to question #40.
  71. Would the infliction of endless misery afford pleasure to the Deity? No, that’s why He sent Jesus to pay for our sins (John 3:16-21).
  72. Can God be glorified by that which gives Him no pleasure? Yes, Romans 3:5-8.
  73. As Jesus "tasted death for every man," can it be true that "the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands," if a part are never saved? (Heb. 2:9) See the answers to question #40 and to question #71.
  74. If God "declares the end from the beginning," can the final destiny of mankind be contrary to His will? No; the real question is, what is His will? Read John 6:39 for the answer.
  75. Can endless misery be brought about contrary to the GOOD PLEASURE of the Almighty? Only because He has allowed it by giving us the ability to choose Him or sin. Again, by the reasoning of the question, there should be no such thing as sin.
  76. Can God WILL anything contrary to His knowledge? Who said that He did? And are will and knowledge the same thing? Knowledge can be used to determine will, but knowledge stands no matter what. Facts are facts. God made it so.
  77. Did God know when He created man, that a part of His creatures would be endlessly miserable? Yes, and He also knew that they would be so needlessly, because He knew that they would reject the divine way out that He brought to them by His only begotten Son.
  78. If God, when He created, did not know the result of creation, is He infinite in knowledge? Mute question, by reason of the previous answer.
  79. Power is the ability to do: is knowledge simply the ability to know? No. Knowledge is the cognizance of facts, past, present, or future.
  80. If God knew when He created man, that some would be eternally wretched, did He not will this to be their doom? He gave them a choice—Him or Hell—and they chose Hell, though He gave them every reason to choose Heaven.
  81. If God willed the endless misery of a part of His creatures, why is it said that "he will have all men to be saved?" -- (1 Tim. 2:4) See the answer to question #80.
  82. If the Scriptures should testify, that God "will have all men to be damned," could we safely infer that a part might be saved? Sure: if He must provide a way for men to be able to choose to leave safety into damnation, although they could choose to stay safe, then such a conclusion would be very valid.
  83. If the Scriptures testify, that God "will have all men to be saved," can we safely infer that a part may be damned? Yes, because His will is not the issue when it comes to salvation. God has done all that He is obligated to do. We accept it or we reject it.
  84. If God made an endless hell before He created man, did He know there would be any use for it? Hmm, why was Hell created? (Matthew 25:41)
  85. If God knew there would be use for an endless hell, must He not have created some men for endless misery? Yes, with the opportunity to escape it through Jesus His Son, which they will have rejected.
  86. If God made an endless hell, was it included in the works which He pronounced "very good?" -- (Gen. 1:31) Answered with question #87.
  87. If there be an endless hell, and it was not made before the creation of men, when was it made? The Lake of Fire was created as the place for the punishment of “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). It was probably created after Satan fell. (Simple logic.)
  88. If there be a personal devil, who made him? God did. He created all things (Colossians 1:16).
  89. Can there be any such thing as sin in heaven? Yes, the devil sinned while he was in Heaven, and that is why he was cast out (Ezekiel 28:14-15).
  90. If there was sin in heaven, many [sic] not sin be committed there again? That is why the Devil and all who side with him will be cast out of Heaven into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10, 14-15; Matthew 25:41).
  91. If an angel of light became a devil, was not Paul in error, when he said Satan is transformed into an angel of light? -- (2 Cor 11:14) No, because in saying so, he taught that Satan is the ultimate counterfeiter (cf. John 8:44b). He appears to be an angel of light to those who serve him, in that, because he says what they want to hear, they follow him, because following God means going against the desires of self (Matthew 16:24).
  92. As sin presupposes temptation of some sort, who tempted a holy angel to sin? Does it really? See James 1:14.
  93. If an angel could sin without a devil to tempt him, may we not sin without a devil to tempt us? Why else do you think God is just to mark us as His enemies, as He did the devil?
  94. If a holy angel was tempted to sin by surrounding evil, is heaven a holy place? He wasn’t, so the question is mute.
  95. If an angel was tempted by evil passions, could he have been holy? He was holy until he decided not to be.
  96. If an angel became a devil by sinning, was Adam's the original sin? Adam’s is the first sin of mankind. Satan’s sin was inconsequential for us, in that we do not come from him. We do come from that corrupted human family tree started by Adam. In any case, the Bible does not use the word original to describe Adam’s sin; theologians do, but they are men.
  97. If Adam became mortal (that is, subject to death,) by sinning, must he not have been created immortal? Might he have attained eternal life had he not sinned? Yes.
  98. If Adam had been created immortal, could he ever have died? Only if he sinned (Genesis 2:17).
  99. If Adam sinned without inheriting total depravity, why should inborn depravity be assigned as the cause of our sins? It is so assigned that by one man entered sin into the world, that by one Man sin might be destroyed (Romans 5:18).
  100. Would there be any more impropriety in imputing MY sins to Adam, than in imputing HIS sins to ME? The same sin of disobeying God’s express commands are daily manifest in each one of us. We sin just like Adam did—by refusing to obey God, by doing what we know is wrong and neglecting to do what we know is right (Romans 2:13-15).
  101. If men are totally depraved by nature, must not children be so likewise? Men invented the term total depravity; it is not in the Bible, nor is the general principle thereof taught therein. Even the most wicked are kind to someone (Romans 2:13-15).
  102. If children be totally depraved, is it true, that "of such is the kingdom of heaven?" -- (Mark 10:14) See the answer to question #101.
  103. Men are to be washed from their sins. If they are totally depraved, what is there to wash? See the answer to question #101.
  104. If evil men and seducers "wax worse and worse," (2 Tim. 3:13), can they be totally depraved at first? See the answer. to question #101.
  105. If human reason be "carnal and delusive," why did Jehovah say, "come now and let us REASON together?" -- (Isa. 1:18) If we reason together, that means that both sides are speaking in a language that both can understand, desiring to be reconciled. God condescended to speak in our terms the wonderful plan of His love. We should be thankful for that.
  106. If reason be delusive, why should some folks reason against the use of reason? I honestly have never met such people, but surely they be fools!
  107. Can an effect exist without a cause sufficiently powerful to produce it? No.
  108. If "we love God because he first loved us," is it true that we must first love HIM before He will love us? God is first, not man; so, No. Can children beget or bear their own parents?
  109. If "we love God because he first loved us," is it not plain that He loved US when we did not love HIM? Yes.
  110. If God loved US when we did not love HIM, is not our love to Him the EFFECT (and not the CAUSE) of His love to US? Yes.
  111. Was it consistent with divine justice, to love us, when we did not love Him? It is true that Justice proceeds from Love, but Love is not bound by Justice’s decrees of guilt or innocence. Because Love does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5) and is unconditional, Justice has no say in whether or not Love is extended.
  112. If God once loved us, will not that love eternally continue? Of course.
  113. If the love of God is the cause which produces love in man, can anger and wrath produce the same effect? Well, they produce fear. But as the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and wisdom enables us to walk into God’s blessings, fear can be an instrument of God’s Love; so, Yes.
  114. Is it the revealed will of God that all men should be saved? But not that all men will be saved. Those who hate the Light will not be saved (John 3:19-20).
  115. Can God will all men to be saved, knowing that a part will be forever lost? See the answer to question #40.
  116. If God has two wills, why is double-mindedness condemned in the Scriptures? He doesn’t.
  117. If God has two wills, why does the Bible say, "He is of one mind?" He doesn’t have two wills.
  118. If God has a secret will, how did you gain a knowledge of it? He doesn’t; Jesus revealed His will to us.
  119. Can that be a secret which has been revealed? It can’t.
  120. If God revealed His secret will to "the saints," why should they reveal it to "the wicked?" What secret?
  121. If God under any circumstances, wills the endless misery of a human soul, in what does He differ from Satan? He does not will that for us and He proved that when He paid for our sins so that we should not need to suffer endless misery.
  122. Can Jesus Christ be the Savior of any more than He actually saves? Can one have any more money in the bank than he actually spends?
  123. Can Jesus be "the Savior of the world," (1 John 4:14), if the world is not saved by him? See the answer to question #122 and read Matthew 7:20-23.
  124. Is Christ, in any sense, the Savior of unbelievers? “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
  125. If Christ be in no sense the Savior of unbelievers, why are unbelievers called upon to believe in Christ as their Savior? “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
  126. If unbelievers are not called upon to believe in Christ as their Savior, what are they to believe? Who said that they are not called (Acts 17:30; Romans 1:18-32; 10:18)?
  127. Must not the thing to be believed, be true before it is believed? No, because we do believe lies. Oh! You mean, what God asks us to believe? Yes. What is better for us to believe? Yes. What is wiser for us to believe? Yes.
  128. Must not the thing to be believed continue to be true, whether it be believed or disbelieved? Yes, if God actually decrees it.
  129. "What if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith, [or faithfulness] of God of none effect?" -- (Rom. 3:3) No.
  130. Is it true that "God hath concluded all in unbelief that he might have mercy on all?" -- (Rom 9:32) [sic: actually 11:32] Verse is talking about Israel, not all mankind. Read the context. And mercy can be trampled upon, just like any other of God’s blessings.
  131. Can God be "especially the Savior of them who believe," unless He be actually the Savior of all? -- (1 Tim. 4:10) See the answer to question #122.
  132. If belief and good works in this life, be essential to eternal salvation in the next, can infants be saved? The assumption is wrong (Romans 4:5). And infants do not refuse Jesus the opportunity to pay for their sins (definition of rejection), so the answer to the question is Yes.
  133. Can the good actions of finite man merit an infinite reward? No, James 2:10.
  134. Can the evil actions of finite man merit infinite punishment? No, see the answer to question #57.
  135. If men are saved by works, is salvation of grace? No, Romans 11:6.
  136. If one man is saved by grace, why should not all be saved in like manner? All who are saved are saved by God’s grace. Grace is extended to all men, but, like any other blessing, it can be rejected or trampled upon.
  137. Is God a partial being? No, Acts 10:34.
  138. Can the faith of the Partialists be based in the wisdom that is "full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality?" -- (James 3:17) What is a partialist? One who believes the Word of God that says that some people will perish and thus only a part of mankind will be saved (how about Jesus' own words in Matthew 25:41)? Or one who shows favoritism to those who please him and not love to all mankind, which is what that verse is condemning in context (see also 2:1-9)?
  139. Can sufficient provision be made for the salvation of all men, if some men are never saved? Can there be enough money to buy all the goods in the world, and yet they be not all sold?
  140. Must not sufficient provision be sufficient to subdue the will of the creature? Hmm, good question...Then why do we ever sin? God provides for us all sufficiently without need for us ever to sin to get what we need; and yet we steal still. So, No.
  141. Is there any other way to determine the sufficiency of the means employed, than by the accomplishment of the end designed? Need a man to spend all of his money before another will believe that he has it?
  142. Does not the law of God require all men to love him supremely, and their neighbors as themselves? Yes.
  143. Is it true, that "not one jot or tittle of this law shall pass till all be fulfilled?" -- (Matt. 5:18) Yes.
  144. Does not justice require of us the fulfilment [sic] of the law of God? Yes.
  145. Will not justice be eternally violated, if the law of God be not universally fulfilled? That is why Hell is eternal!! [This is based on the idea that we can actually fulfill God’s justice. We can’t. Christ did and then suffered for us not doing so. That is why we can be saved.]
  146. Can they fulfil [sic] the law of love who are rendered eternally miserable? “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one:...” (Romans 3:10)
  147. Can justice require the obedience of the sinner, and at the same time require his eternal disobedience? No; those who disobey God continue in their disobedience throughout eternity (Revelation 22:11).
  148. If whoso "offereth praise glorifieth God," (Ps. 1:23), can He be glorified by those who have no cause to praise Him? Paul explains it better than I can in Romans 3:4-8.
  149. If any one be rendered eternally miserable, can he have any cause to praise His Maker? He had his chance to praise Him, and he refused to do so; thus he continues in that state which he desired (Revelation 22:11).
  150. Will God ever place some of his creatures in such a situation they cannot praise him? No, they will choose to refuse to praise Him for eternity. That is their own fault.
  151. Do you believe that endless punishment would manifest the glory of God? Does the Bible teach it?
  152. Can you rejoice in the hope of the glory of God? Yes.
  153. Would not the salvation of half of mankind glorify God more than the salvation of one-fourth? Please Him, yes; glorify Him, no: what more can God do to be glorified than to personally pay for the sins which His own creatures committed against Him?
  154. Would not the salvation of nine-tenths of mankind glorify God more than the salvation of one-half? See the answer to question #153.
  155. Can we give "glory to God in the highest," without believing in the salvation of all men? Yes.
  156. If "all have sinned, and (thus) come short of the glory of God," (Rom. 3:23), would eternal sinning mend the matter? No, that is why we are called upon to repent.
  157. Shall "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father?" -- (Philippians 2:11) Yes: victorious through Him or defeated by Him, all ill bow the knee.
  158. Is endless misery "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people?" No.
  159. Could man be endlessly miserable without being endlessly a sinner? No.
  160. If sin exist eternally, can it be true that Christ was to finish the transgression, and to make and end of sin? -- (Dan. 9:34) Yes, in that the power of sin has been taken away. Sin need no longer reign over us, because Christ is come and paid for our sins and sent His Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome sin in our daily walk (cf. John 8:34-36).
  161. As Jesus gave himself a ransom for all men, can he ever "see the travail of his soul and be satisfied," if endless misery be true? The verse being quoted (and misapplied) is Isaiah 53:11. The fine which we owe has been sufficiently provided for—and that is what satisfies the Righteous Judge; if we reject the benevolence of Jesus, there is no other remedy for us.
  162. Do you hope that endless misery is true? My emotions do not determine reality.
  163. Is "faith the substance (or foundation) of things hoped for?" -- (Heb. 11:1) Faith believes the promises of God, which are true: whether eternal life for the believer or eternal damnation for the unbeliever.
  164. If endless misery be not a thing hoped for, can it be a part of the Christian faith? See the answer to question #163.
  165. Is it certain that one soul will be eternally lost? It is certain that many souls will be eternally damned (e.g., Matthew 7:20-23; 25:41-46; etc.).
  166. Is it certain that one soul will be saved? It is certain that many souls shall receive eternal life (e.g., Matthew 25:46).
  167. Is it certain that all will not be damned? It is certain that not all will be damned.
  168. Is it certain that all will not be saved? It is certain that not all will be saved.
  169. Can that be certain which is not decreed? God must reveal the truth to us for us to be certain of it.
  170. If it be certain that one soul will be saved, must there not be a decree concerning the salvation of a definite number? And God knows what that exact number will be, but it is not our business. We are commanded to preach the Gospel in order that people might believe it and be saved, not to be "bean counters" of hte members of His Kingdom (cf. John 21:21-23).
  171. If the number of the saved be definitely fixed, must not the number of the damned be equally definite? Yes.
  172. If there be no certainty in relation to the final destiny of man, is not salvation a work of chance? We are not certain because God has not told us, because it is information we do not need to know to do what He has called us to do—preach the Gospel.
  173. What better is chance than Atheism? Nothing, really, which is why one should believe the sure words of the Holy Scriptures.
  174. If God knew, when he created, what the end of each soul would be, is not that end as certain as if it was decreed? So, God’s knowledge of our wicked hearts is the same as asking for us to sin against Him? Not!!
  175. Is not the merciful man always merciful to his beast? “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast...” (Proverbs 12:10)
  176. Will not the merciful God be always as merciful to His creatures, as the merciful man is to his beast? How can a King be more merciful to His subjects than by Himself paying the infinite fine they incurred by hating Him and His rule over them?
  177. Is it true that the "tender mercies of the Lord are over all his works?" -- (Ps. 145:9) Yes.
  178. Is it true that the Almighty is without variableness, or the shadow of turning? Yes.
  179. Would there be any tender mercy in the infliction of endless misery? No, but the question assumes there was not a Way provided to avoid such misery.
  180. Are the tender mercies of the Lord like unto the tender mercies of the wicked which are cruel? No.
  181. If God is not the Father of sinners, why should sinners pray, saying, "Our Father, forgive us our trespasses?" All those who are born again by faith in Christ, though they have God as their Father, do still sin, and thus are still sinners.
  182. "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?" -- (Mal. 2:10) And we all act like the prodigal son: we demand our inheritance before its time (here rather than in Heaven), and walk away from the blessings He would gladly bestow upon us (cf. Isaiah 53:6 and Matthew 6:19-21 and 16:24-27).
  183. If God be the Father of all men, will He do less for His children than earthly parents would do for theirs? Ask Jesus (Matthew 7:11).
  184. Is it true that God punishes us "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness?" -- (Heb. 12:11) No; that verse speaks of chastening, not punishment. Two totally different things.
  185. Would endless punishment be for our profit? No, but it is punishment: it is the consequences of our rejection of God’s love, much like an untimely death is the consequence of many a young man’s disobedience to the good instructions of his earthly parents (Ephesians 6:1-3).
  186. Would endless punishment "yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them who are exercised thereby?" No, but that is not the purpose of it, although it is the purpose of chastening. Chastening drives people who heed it away from punishment. But it is not punishment. Punishment is far worse than chastening, and punishment is final.
  187. Is there an afterward to eternity? -- (Heb. 7:14) No.
  188. Can any doctrine be too good to be true? 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
  189. Will God contend forever and be always wroth? -- (Isa. 62:16) No.
  190. Will the Lord cast off forever? -- (Lam. 3:31-33) Context: God has promised to restore the nation of Israel, but not those who reject His love.
  191. Can he be a Christian who worships the Lord through fear of the devil? What kind of question is that? The devil causes people to worship God because they fear the devil? It is the devil who rages when we worship God! How can fear of the devil produce worship of God? If one would appease the devil, then he must worship the devil, not God. (I know what they are trying to say, but it does not make sense.) If one would escape the slavery to sin by hating the consequences thereof, then he must go through Jesus, or he has no hope at all.
  192. Can he be a Christian who affirms that if he believed in the salvation of all men, he would not worship God? So someone acknowledges the sinfulness of his own heart (Jeremiah 17:9); that’s a bad thing (1 John 1:9)?
  193. Can he be a Christian who inquires, "if all men are to be saved, what use is there in being virtuous?" If all are to be saved, then why do you care?
  194. Some persons say, that if they did not believe in endless punishment, they would take their fill of sin. How much sin would it take to fill a Christian? If all are to be saved anyway, then why do you care?
  195. If "the goodness of God leadeth to repentance," why should His eternal wrath be preached to sinners? Ask Jesus: He started it; see also Jude 23a.
  196. If "the goodness of God leadeth to repentance," why should it not be supposed that repentance leadeth to the goodness of God? Because God is good to all men whether good or evil (Matthew 5:43-48); that is to say, His goodness is there whether we repent or not: we who do repent have received the benefits of His goodness; those who do not repent have rejected them.
  197. If "the goodness of God leadeth to repentance," are not the impenitent the objects of His goodness? We are all objects of His goodness, whether we repent or not. That is what condemns us so much for refusing to repent.
  198. Is not the goodness of God co-extensive and co-eternal with His wisdom and power? Yes.
  199. As the wisdom of God can never change to folly, nor His power to weakness, will His goodness ever change to hatred? No.
  200. Can Deity be universally and eternally good, if endless misery be true for a single soul? Yes, because that soul rejected the blessing that was offered to him.
  201. If all men deserve endless punishment, would it not be right for God to inflict it? Yes.
  202. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Yes.
  203. If it would be right for God to punish all men eternally, would it not be wrong for Him hot [sic] to do it? He being the King of the Universe also has the power to inflict it upon Himself that we who would otherwise be lost for all eternity might not have to bear it.
  204. As the infliction of endless misery would be returning evil for evil, would it be right for Deity to inflict it? Would it be? The question assumes that the item stated in the clause before the question is indeed an established fact, which it is not. God allows us to have what we want: Him or Hell.
  205. If the return of evil for evil be right in Deity, would it not be equally right in man? See the answer to question #204.
  206. As "fear hath torment," and true religion is happiness, can fear produce true religion? Where does the Bible say that true religion is happiness? Nowhere (James 1:27). See also the answer to question #113.
  207. As "perfect love casteth out fear," will not fear cast out perfect love? Jesus, who is Perfect Love personified, commanded us to fear God (Luke 12:4-5), so you must be misunderstanding that verse. Love of God and fear of God both cause us not to sin against Him, so...No.
  208. Can fear imbue [sic] the soul with perfect love? See the answer to question #113.
  209. Must not they who "believe and tremble," be possessed of the faith of devils? See the answer to question #113.
  210. Does the belief of endless misery cause the believer to "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory?" -- (1 Pet. 1:8) See the answer to question #113.
  211. Can a belief of any thing short of universal salvation, fill the soul with "joy and peace?" Yes: that a Holy God will one day banish the one thing that causes all of our problems—sin.
  212. Will not the devil and all his works be destroyed? -- (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8) Yes, banished forever into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10, 14-15).
  213. Will not death, the last enemy, be swallowed up in victory and destroyed? -- (Isa. 25:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:26-54) Yes, Revelation 20:14.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Holier than thou

Now when He had ended all His sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant.

And when they came unto Jesus, they besought Him instantly, saying that he was worthy for whom He should do this: "For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue."

Then Jesus went with them. And when He was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying unto Him, "Lord, trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

"For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, 'Go,' and he goeth; and to another, 'Come,' and he cometh; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he doeth it."

When Jesus heard these things, He marvelled at him, and turned Him about, and said unto the people that followed Him, "I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."

And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

Luke 7:1-10
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I always wondered how a man set under authority could have so much authority over his servants--until this morning when I realized that the centurion had compared himself to Jesus.

The centurion's servants feared him because of the authority under which he made his commands. So the disease plaguing his servant should obey Jesus because of the Authority under which He gave His commands. This was the centurion's acknowledgement that Jesus was a faithful Servant of God, a belief that He was indeed God's beloved Son, in whom He was well-pleased. The centurion needed not to be told, as Peter needed later (Matthew 17:1-5) to hear and obey Him, not even having seen all the miracles to which Peter was an eyewitness. That is why Jesus commended his faith.

But herein is also an important lesson for us: As the servant is not greater than his Master (Matthew 10:24; Luke 6:40; John 13:16 and 15:20), so we are not above the commandments of our Lord and Savior, but under His Authority. If we follow His commandments in the administration of our duties, then we also have great authority.

But remember: our authority is limited to His will. If at anytime we give an order contrary to the Word--the Commandments--of God, we can surely expect to be swiftly corrected. A Roman centurion in rebellion against his authority would have been sentenced to death--unless he quickly repented when discovered. Thereafter he would have no real position of authority, but his lord would make an example of him that all others might fear. No command, therefore, would be given that flatly contradicted the authority of the Roman emperor.

So it must be with us. We should never contradict the Word of God in any of our dealings with our fellow man. We are set under authority--the Authority of Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all. We must take care that all that we do under His Name, we also do in obedience to His Word. We cannot make up our own rules for anything, but, at any time, if we know not what to do, we should consult Him (James 1:5), that all might be done according to His will and under His authority. That is how we move mountains. (cf. Acts 19:13-17)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Modesty: Always Opposing Lust

It is a big problem in the church today: Lust. It comes to all people, of all backgrounds, of all churches. People respond differently. They either ignore it, hoping it will go away on its own; they pray about it, asking God to lead the affected parties away from that sin; or they welcome it, indulging in the pleasures it brings.

And, let's face it: lusting is enjoyable. A man or woman gets to dream about fulfilling the desires of their wicked hearts: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It does bring pleasure--for the moment. Then the consequences catch up with you, and you want to hide.

The good news is, that Jesus is waiting to forgive us when we turn away from our sins and cry to Him for help; He will forgive us and remember our sins no more. That's why He died (Heb. 10:11-18).

But how do we avoid this sin? What can we do against our own and others' wickedness of heart?

Well, the Apostle Paul said, "Make not provision for the flesh fulfill the lusts thereof." Joshua Harris puts it this way: "Don't pack a lunch for lust." If you know that someone is more likely to lust after you when you do something--don't do it! There is more to it than just wearing the proper clothing. In order for a woman to effectively discourage (notice, I did not say, "prevent") a man from lusting after her, she must have three things: 1) proper clothing; 2)proper demeanor; and 3) proper responses to inappropriate behavior.



PROPER CLOTHING

Chapter One: Getting the Right Foundation

We must understand what true modesty of clothing is. The modern conservative standard is greatly flawed. It is neither consistent, nor logical, nor even Scriptural. For one garment, something is immodest, but for another occasion exposing the same area is okay. Like swimming or the prom or the wedding: the amount of flesh shown on these occasions is usually more than is expected on Sunday at church. But then, even some of our Sunday gatherings leave much to be desired.

When Jesus was here on earth, He said that we should strive to be as holy as our Heavenly Father. That command was not given so that we could lord our holiness over other sinners, but so that we could be blessed. Sin, we are told, is not reaching that standard of holiness--the glory of God ["Holy-Holy-Holy, is the Lord of Hosts," Isaiah 6:3](Rom. 3:23). Thus we lose out on many blessings we could have, because we disobey our Lord.

Let us remember that sin is our ultimate problem. We are condemned because we manifest Adam's rebellious nature: God gives us a command, and we refuse to keep it, for some stupid reason. Thus God is just to simply let us all burn. But He loves us, and died for us to bring us back into a right fellowship with Him. That fellowship calls for an abandonment of the thing that caused the rift in the first place--sin.

Lust is sin (Rom. 7:7). There is no way around that. If we indulge in sin, how can we say to the world, "We have what you need: Jesus, who saves from sin!!"? What is the point of us magnifying Jesus for taking away our sins if we are going right back to them?

But what is right to wear? How much should she cover? The Bible gives us clues; even though it does not have a passage entitled "How much a Woman should cover to discourage the wandering eyes of Men," it does tell us how much she should cover.

Let me pause by saying that you're not going to agree with everything I put in here. I know that the standard I see in the Bible is not what women wear today. I still believe that it is the right standard, but you go with what the Lord tells you. If you can't see what I see, I can't make you. The Lord will tell you what to do.

Our first clue is found in Genesis, the foundation Book of every thing in the Word of God. It gives us the real reason the we wear clothes--not because we have evolved higher than the animals and so became more sophisticated(we didn't: God created us with that status [Gen. 1:26]), but because we sinned!! Sin is still present with us today, is it not? So then, clothes are not out of date, neither are the standards that God established when He made the first real clothes (more on them in a minute). Therefore, it is improper to say that something which was not right in the past is now all right because "times have changed." The reason we wear clothes has not changed, and neither have the conditions under which they were made.

No, we are not still in the garden, but we are still sinful. Our sins are the same as Adam's sin--rebellious acts of the creature against the wishes of the Creator. God made the man and woman naked at first, and this was "very good" (Gen. 2:25 and 1:31)--at the time. Then, when Adam listened to the rebellious counsel given him by his wife, it was not so good anymore. "[Then] the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;..." (Gen. 3:6-7). See, it wasn't a problem before sin. Nakedness was no issue at that time. But sin makes a naked person vulnerable to lust-inspired behavior. At least with clothes we have some sort of hindrance to our wicked desires, some kind of delay to allow us time to rethink a poor decision. But without clothing, there would be no such protection.

And without the right clothing, that protection still does not exist. Men want sex easily. That is our sinful tendency, ladies. We don't want to pay the price that God requires us to pay before we can receive our "suitable helpers." We know that "it is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18), but we also know that God took a part from Adam to create the woman he needed; and like the rebels we are, we don't want that to happen to us: we don't want to give up anything.

We know that it is wrong, and we do it anyway, because we think we can get away with it. A young lady expressed despair, saying that she wanted to save sex for her husband but feared that she would never get a date if she did. And she's probably right. In the business world, it is called collusion: everybody on one side of the market secretly agrees to demand the same extravagant standard, forcing everyone on the other side to either pay more than they should or do without. It is wrong there (in fact, in most cases it is illegal), and it is wrong here. It is just as wrong for a man to do that to a woman (or for a woman to require that of a man) as it would be if the automobile manufacturing companies of the world chose to sell us terribly malfunctioning automobiles and no one could buy anything else to move around in the world. Good competition keeps them from doing that for now, and the laws on the books are designed to prevent it from happening in the future (only time will tell). In the same way, God's rules protect us from each other--if we abide by them.

It is wrong to ask a woman to give up her future, her body, her health, when the man has not pledged to her his own future, body, and health. Marriage fulfills those obligations. It is the formal promise before God and man to give all of oneself to the other and to graciously receive all from the other (I Cor. 7:1-5). It is protection to both the man and the woman.

Therefore, it is important to know God's rules so we can follow them and benefit from them. But what did God say about the standard for clothing?

Chapter Two: Getting the Right Answers

"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. ... Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins and clothed them." (Gen. 3:7, 21)

After Adam and Eve had sinned, they sought to eliminate the vulnerability they felt because of their nakedness in a sinful world. But the coverings they chose were not sufficient in God's eyes. That's why He made a substitute. The wording of the text is very important, because it gives us the clues as to what God believes is our nakedness--and therefore what we should cover.

An apron only covers the front. By definition, it cannot cover the back, or the sides. A coat, on the other hand, can cover it all. In fact, the word translated "coats" in the KJV is actually translated "tunics" in every other translation. If we believe that the modern tunic is what the writer of Genesis had in mind, we are badly mistaken. The current model is nothing like the original. Neither was the tunics of the Romans or the Greeks.

I looked in the Encyclopaedia Americana and the Macropaedia Britannica, and they both concur that the tunic before then was much more covering. As best as I can tell, it was reached to the knees or below and had "half-sleeves" (to the elbow).

But why? Why would God require that Eve cover so much? Most of our present day standards would allow a woman to show at least three inches above her knee--standing up (we know it goes higher relative to the size of the woman and the make of the skirt when she sits). If the above conclusion is correct (and I think that it is), then even her knee could be considered part of her "sacred beauty," the attractive part of her body that only her husband should enjoy. Hmm.... Her shoulders (at least), too. Hmm... That sounds just a little too strict for today's world, don't you think?

Oh well, that's why you never establish a teaching on one passage of Scripture. The Bible consistently requires that any testimony have a corroborating witness, "that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established" (Matthew 18:16; Deuteronomy 19:15; II Corinthians 13:1; I Timothy 5:19). And I believe I have one. Bear with me.

Song of Solomon 7 is a great love chapter--for those who are already married. For us who are not, it speaks of the joy we can look forward to when we have united in Holy Matrimony with the spouse of God's choice. Solomon is adoring his wife--his blessing from the Lord--from head to toe (although not in that order). Interestingly, he had written in the Proverbs, "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich..." (10:22) and here he showers upon his wife praises of wealth; that is, he compares her "more comely parts" to more expensive possessions. Reading from the KJV:

1. How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.

2. Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lillies.

3. Thy two breasts are like two young roes which are twins.

4. Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath--rabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.

5. Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.

6. How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!

7. This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.

8. I said, " I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof": now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;

9. And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lip of those that are asleep to speak.

What admiration he had for his wife!!

As you might have guessed, those things that are italicized, I am alleging to be his wife's (and thus all women's) sacred beauty. Those things that are underlined are the symbols of wealth. Verse 8 is the exception to this rule, but I will explain shortly.

Verse one has a very simple explanation. There is no question that carefully, specially crafted jewels are symbols of wealth. The only question is, to which part of her body do they correspond? Some one will say, "Oh that's easy: the joints of her thighs are her hips; she shouldn't show off her rearend." And that person would be half-right. But only half.

Any anatomist can tell you that a thigh has two joints. Two. The other half would be the knees. Yep, the knees. Then you would have to include the rest of the thigh, as the ornament into which the jewels are set is just as valuable as the jewels themselves for as long as the jewels are set in it. In this case, as far as Solomon s concerned, "Till death do us part" (cf. also Isaiah 47: 2-3).

Verse two is probably also somewhat surprising. We usually don't call it nakedness, but we do know that a woman is immodest if she shows this area. Only a wealthy man could keep his wine flowing through his goblet. And only the reasonably wealthy grew wheat in those days (the poor ate barley)--and most definitely only the wealthy would dress a heap up with lillies.

Skipping the element in verse three until later, I will explain why nothing was noted in verses 4-6. Even though ivory is a valuable commodity, a tower cannot be hidden, and indeed is designed to be seen ; a fish pool can be admired by any passerby; the tower of Lebanon was definitely common in use; Mount Carmel was cited for its majesty, not any sort of exclusivity; and purple, although a prized dye, was admired by all passersby. Yes, the last two speak of her queenly majesty, but there is nothing in them that could not also be enjoy properly by a peasant as well as the king.

In contrast, though one may admire the queen's stature, he dare not attempt to climb her unless he be the king!! The date palm, to which this passage is referring, was also a symbol of great wealth in the ancient times. The boughs were where the fruit was held, and this fruit was highly priced, er, prized. These would correspond to her upper arms, because the boughs of a tree and the arms of a person are both termed appendages, because of their similarity in placement on the two structures. Only her upper arms would be included, because 1) that's where the fruit would be (bicep and shoulder area) and 2) if a man tried to go out any further on the limb than the node that begins the leaf--he would quickly discover its weakness!! This fact leaves no desire to reach out any further; concurrently, there just is no special attraction to a woman's forearms, but there is beyond the elbow--just like there is for men.

Her breasts, of course, are obviously her nakedness. Everyone in the world knows that. The prize status of grapes in the Middle East (and elsewhere) for their wine making uses is well-known. The only problem we have is defining exactly what is meant by breasts.

In America, it is illegal to show her nipple in public, but not the flesh around it. I ask, " What's the difference? And where are we going to draw the line?" How much of her breast is too much? Any of it. We need to stop making it up as we change venues: God has already defined the breast--physiologically--and we need to abide by that definition when we try to understand modesty.

Isn't a little cleavage all right, even necessary these days? (Some women cannot get certain kinds of jobs if their breasts weren't large enough to suit the lusts of the men who were hiring or who would be frequently passing by. And women who participate in professional sports that are suffering for money try to draw men's attention to that sport by dressing up with cleavage showing. And much of women's formal attire scoops low in front to show cleavage.)

In a word, No. God has told men how to treat women who are not their wives. "Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. [Should] thy foutains be dispersed abroad, and the rivers of waters in the streets[? Nay, l]et them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. [Thereby] Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and the pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love. " (Proverbs 5:15-19) God has told us men what to do; now ladies, don't be like Eve and offer us a chance to disobey. She did not escape punishment for what she did and neither will you. God does not approve when His men are taken down, and He will recompense.

But also men, know that though God may punish her for her part, He will also punish you for yours. Sin hurts people, God made man the caretaker of the woman (just as Adam was the caretaker of all the animals he named, so also he was the caretaker of his wife, whom he also named). Being the caretaker is similar to a parent-child relationship: when you know that something is about to go wrong, it is your job to stop it, not just hers! Don't wait for her to learn that she is tempting you wrongly on the date: stop her before you both leave and ask her to change. Don't show favor when she is wearing immodest clothing in the office: have less to say about her clothes at that time. Don't "hang out" where you know immodestly dressed girls are going to be; then women who watch you will know you don't approve of that stuff. Some sightings cannot be avoided, I know; but if you walk towards temptation, you are not following the Lord: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."(Matt. 6:13). You must choose a different path.

Chapter Three: Getting the Right Help

To whom do we turn when faced with temptation? The only answer can be Jesus Himself, Who "was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin"(Hebrews 4:15). The temptation can be to compete with each other for the attention on men or to lust after an immodest woman's breasts. It can be easily resisted or struggled with for a long while. Either way, Jesus is the one who can help us to defeat all temptations that come our way. If we don't turn to Him, we have no one but ourselves to blame when we fall. When we do turn to Him, it is also time to listen to Him, unless we just don't mind falling. Asking Him for help and then rejecting His commandments is unproductive in the attempt to hinder sin. It is in itself a sin, and we all need to repent of it.

One thing it would be wise to do is exclude from our heads our motivation for doing something wrong. If it is wrong, we should stop doing it. It is not a question of what we intend to bring about or whether we intend to cause someone else to fall, but a question of obedience to our Lord. Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,'Thou shalt not commit adultery': But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28) The words with her are very important: if she willfully engages in activity that she knows encourages him to lust after her, she is also at fault and due punishment (cf. Deuteronomy 22:22-29). And the Bible also says that sin which we committed unknowingly is still sin to be repented of, once we have been informed that we were wrong (Numbers 15:27-28).

And there is not a good reason to continue to do what you know to harmful to someone else. The Bible repeatedly commands us to love our neighbors as if they were ourselves (see esp. Romans 13:8-10). We know that that means to stop doing what is hurtful. Paul said it like this, "Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock, or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."(Romans 14:13) We are to care for one another so that none of us is carried away into sinful living.

PROPER DEMEANOR

Is immodest clothing the only way a woman can tempt a man to lust her? No. It is probably the most flagrant, and the most effective; but it is hardly the only way. Some women are temptresses just by the way they walk--deliberately drawing attention to the prized portions of their bodies by not-so-subtle movements cloaked by otherwise modest clothing. Some are tempting by the way they speak (such as tone of voice), or the subject matter they cover when they speak. Still others can communicate a desire for men's lustful attention by hairstyles, footwear, and other attention-drawing accoutrements on an otherwise modest exterior.

These habits represent a fundamental problem in the way the women are raised. They are led to believe that a good relationship starts with superficial qualities, such as beauty (which, in itself, is almost completely undefinable); that a good relationship can include sex, but exclude marriage (actually, it is "double or nothing", not one or the other); and that a relationship based on lust is based on love.

Chapter One: In the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is subjective. There are many ways for a woman to be attractive to a man. Many men will tend to like the same things, but not all of them will, and even those who tend to agree at mot points will diosagree at some point. And I'm not just talking about football teams, either. I'm talking about women.

I have heard guys give rave reviews about women who were so widely different, that it was confusing. I had to resolve to content myself with whatever the Lord sends my way, because it is so hard to nail down a preference based on looks. All kinds of things are pleasing to the eyes. It is vain for a woman to change her body to suit the desires of "most men," because the one that God has chosen for her will accept her the way God made her. And there is no guarantee whatsoever that the man/men she is trying to impress will even take notice of the change. But it is almost guaranteed that if he/they do, the woman will suffer for it.

I do not know of a woman who changed her body to what she thought a man wanted and was actually pleased with the way he treated her. Not one. A man loves you, or he doesn't. And he will make up any excuse to justify why he feels that way about you. Or he will test you to see how many hoops you will jump through to be the "perfect woman" for him. Allow me to share with you some words of wisdom from my favorite singer/songwriter, Steven Curtis Chapman:

"So many different voices call/ And I try hard to please them all/ I run in circles till I fall/ So I'm falling on my knees/And praying...(Chorus)Please, Please, Please only You/ Only You/Please, Please, Please, take my heart/And make it true/Let everything I say/And everything I do/Please, Please only You/ Please only You!"

The only One women (and the rest of us) should be concerned about pleasing is Jesus. Many different people will try to tell us what is the best way to get where we want to be in life. But Jesus said that for all of our needs, we ought to "seek.. first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

"But the context is food and clothing." Yes, but it applies to all of our needs (v. 32b). Some people need to get married (Matthew 19:11-12; I Corinthians 7:9, 36). If that is your case, you can expect that the same Lord who daily provides for all your needs (Philippians 4:19), will also pay as much attention to detail in getting you the right spouse.

But what is the glue that holds a good marriage together? Isn't attraction part of it? To a limited extent, maybe it is. Some guys pride themselves in thinking that they have the most beautiful woman in the world--and to their own eyes, they might be right! But what happens when the beauty fades as Adam's sin continues to corrupt God's creation, and the body begins to break down, and the woman he got along with so well is now falsely accusing him in front of the children--and she thinks she's right? The only thing that will hold that marriage together is true love, agape love, unconditional love, a love that will not let go. That is what a woman should see in a man before she agrees to marry him. And that wedding should happen before they "come together" in bed.

Chapter Two: A Right Time, and a Wrong Time

Many men will demand sexual intercourse on the first date. A woman who does not think that "dinner and a movie" are enough to purchase her body for one night, is not likely to be asked out again. Women are desparate. One wrote to an advice columnist (who gave her the wrong answer, by the way), "Should I just give in?" The columnist replied, "... If your reasons [for wanting to preserve herself for her husband] have merit, you should [stick to your guns]" . IF?

What she should have told that young lady is that that man did not love her at all and just wanted to use her body without paying the price that God demands that a man pay: the rest of his life, a.k.a., "Till death do us part"! Men are trying to be cheap because they do not value the women they use, and therefore do not love them. Any one whom you can hurt with impunity is not loved by you. And that is exactly what these men do. They get in between her legs, exposing her to untold numbers of diseases and the possibility of a child (which should ordinarily be a joyful experience; see Psalm 127:3-5), and then "dump" her when she becomes a hindrance to their other pursuits, such as a career, another woman, or a hobby.

"But he said he loved her!!" He lied. He probably doesn't even know what love is. Love is not sex, and sex is not love. Sex does not necessarily follow love, either. I love my sister, but God will be very angry with me if I have sex with her!! Sex only follows as a direct consequence of love when it is done in a legal marriage. Anything else is iniquity (called either fornication or adultery), and true love "does not rejoice in iniquity" (I Corinthians 13:6, NKJV)!

The Bible says, "Marriage is honourable in all, and [that] bed undefiled: but whoremongerers and adulterers God will judge." (Hebrews 13:4) It can be no clearer than that. Now tell me, knowing that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God [when He is executing His wrath]" (Hebrews 10:31), how can you say that you love someone and set them up for that?

Chapter Three: Mutual Exclusion

Lust and love are opposites. They are enemies. Lust seeks to use the person lusted after for the pleasure of the one who is lusting with no regard to what might happen to the first person. Love, in contrast, actively seeks to be a blessing to the one who is loved. can you really be a blessing to someone by drawing them under God's judgment? No. Whether you preach a false gospel, or seduce for sexual sins, you are bringing that other person under the judgment of God. That is not love, no matter what noble qualities you might ascribe to your "relationship." You are actually that person's enemy.

The Bible says, "...the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Proverbs 27:6). Deceit. That's what Satan does, isn't it? Convince people that something is true when it is not. "Ye shall be as gods..." "I love you." That last one sounds pretty hollow years later when she is raising the kids on her own or checking into the clinic for her regular veneral disease check-up or going to her counseling sessions to recover from the broken heart you gave her. How can we men be so callous? Lust. Lust is what produces lies that ruin peoples lives.

But ladies that also means that common attraction advice, how to "get him to look at you" is very dangerous. There is nothing good about a man lusting after a woman. Nothing. "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death." (James 1:14-15) That word finished speaks of the finality of the thing in question. Thus when sin is allowed to become a permanent part of your life (i.e., no repentance; see I John 1:9), it leads to death and all of its harbingers (pain and suffering and illnesses; i.e., rape, brokenheartedness, venereal diseases). Those places that people say to emphasize are priceless tresures which you should not share with any man who does not purchase them. Rental is not allowed!!

Remember what happened to Israel after Hezekiah displayed all of the treasures of the land to the Babylonians? The Babylonians came back and took what they were shown with a vengeance. The lust of the eyes and the pride of life caused the deaths of many an Israelite in that conquest, and it is the same for women today. Yes, the men are wrong for raping and deceiving and infecting the women they do. But it is indeed a foreseeable consequence of the deeds promoted. If you think that all men will accept "no" for an answer when they see something they prize, think again. Just like the Babylonians--who were wrong and were eventually judged by God for what they did to Israel--they will in the meantime come strong to cause you much pain and suffering and significantly increase your risk of illness. Don't cater to the flesh! "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Romans 13:14)!!!

Now one of the things that most people seem to be concerned with is getting a huge number of men from which a woman is supposed to be able to choose the "right" guy. God has already chosen the right guy for you. If you just OBEY HIS WORD, He will guide your steps and lead you to the right man, just like He did for Eve. How soon we forget what a faithful God we have!!

PROPER RESPONSES

There are two ways a woman can let a man know that her body is for her husband alone, and nobody else: Words and actions.

Chapter One: Words

They don't have to be harsh. They just have to be firm. They don't have to be offensive; but they do need to be effective. I'm talking about the words a woman uses to indicate her desire to be sought only for marriage and not temporary sexual relationships.

Men who do not want to hear these words are left with three choices: pursue somebody else, change the method of pursuit of this woman, or change the goal of the pursuit of this woman. They could all be evil-minded choices, depending on the man.

Some men are more interested in getting sex than in getting that woman. They will move on. In such a case, a woman should be encouraged that the Lord is looking out for her by exposing "pretenders" (fake wooers) and moving them away from her life so she can see the real man that God wants to bless her to have.

Other men will try a different route: more money, more clothes, more dates, better appearance (for himself)--or force. Some men will not take rejection. Pride makes them think that they are too good for a woman to say "No". Some even go so far as to think, "I'll force her, and she'll like it then"--and have raped enough women to know that a woman will say that she enjoyed it to protect her life; and have in the past actually used such statements to deceive themselves. But, ye wicked men, God is not fooled, and He is not impressed. Every clever trick in the book, God has seen them all--and the ones your father the devil did not tell you about!! Ladies, God is watching over you, and He will avenge you. So go to the police, take the stand, be there for his parole hearings: these are the things that God has given you so that you may see that He is a God of justice who does not allow sin to go unpunished. And if your country's justice system fails you, remember that God is still in control: somebody will pay by the route that God has already prescribed--you do not have to arrange one yourself--either in the Lake of Fire to come, or in this life only, because he repents (then Jesus will have paid for it, God Himself taking the punishment for the wrong done to you).

Still others will change their goals. Possible goals include the right goal--which is marrying the woman (but he still may not be God's choice for you)--or wrong goal--embarrassing the woman (yes, the one that did that to you, that was his goal from the start). Even if a man declares his interest to be changed, a woman still needs to rely on the Holy Spirit to discern what she should do. Sometimes the guy is only saying this stuff to get you off guard. "The heart of man is deceitful above ALL THINGS and DESPARATELY WICKED: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Certainly not a woman, because she can only look at the outward appearances, "but the Lord looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7); He alone can tell you if it would be wise to allow this man to continue to be in your life. Otherwise, because he has already shown himself to be evil-minded, you would probably be better off leaving him alone. Second chances are for God to give out.

Chapter Two: Actions

"When it's all said and done/It's got to be all or none/Words are no good/Unless they're backed with actions"--Steven Curtis Chapman

Once you have said "no" end the relationship right there. There is no need to continue to associate yourself with a man who has clearly demonstrated that he does not have your best interests at heart. If anything, you might be setting yourself up for a fall: by not forcing him out of your life, you might make him think that he is still wanted and you are just being coy. The results of this sort of behavior have often been disasterous, including rape and murder in addition to broken hearts. Don't answer his telephone calls, or if, you must answer them, make them as short as possible; don't agree to go out with him any more; don't answer the door if it is he--and don't open it if you must answer! Many a woman has been raped by opening the door to someone she knew and with whom she had had a recent disagreement. Just like you shouldn't feed a bear, you should never open the door to a man whose sexual advances you have rebuffed.

And then don't hang around lustful men. Just like swimming in shark-infested waters, you are in literally grave danger if you do so. It is foolish to believe that by going around lustful men you will find a man who actually cares about you. The results are never good. I know of no successful, godly, happy marriage that occurred when the couple met in a bar, especially if one of them was saved. God does not provide you with satan's prizes for your mate. God will specially groom somebody for you. You do not have to settle for this worlds dregs when you are seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness:

"Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find.; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you....If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your own children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" (Matthew 7:7, 11) Ask the Lord for the right man, and He will indeed send him (even if that means no man at all)!

EPILOGUE

For more about finding God's will for you in relationships, I recommend Elisabeth Elliot's books Passion and Purity and Quest for Love; and Joshua Harris's books I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, and Sex Is Not the Problem: Lust Is.

For a woman's perspective on modesty, go to: http://www.briomag.com/briomagazine/healthandbeauty/a0004123.html

or http://www.purefashion.com

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Judging

A lot of people think that Jesus' commandment against improper judgment (in Matthew 7:1) is actually forbidding us to question other people's salvation no matter what they do. That is not true.

In the first place, people who say that are taking His words out of context. The context is hypocrisy, not judgment. How can we condemn a person as evil if we do the same thing? It doesn't matter if no one sees it--God sees it; and that should make us tremble in humility. But we can and should discern who is on our side, and who is against us.

Jesus said, "Beware false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Matthew 7:15) If someone says to you, "Beware of the Dog"; what are you going to do? If you believe that they have good reason to say this, then you would be very watchful to be sure that the dog does not catch you unaware. We know Jesus had a good reason to say this (or do we?), and therefore we must also be very careful, watching with the best of our ability to make sure that these "wolves" do not catch us unaware.

How will we know what is a wolf and what is a real sheep? Jesus said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes [from] thorns, or figs [from] thistles?"--No--"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit [that is to say, every evil tree] is hewn down and cast into the fire [Rev. 20:15]" (vv. 16-19). Now what does He mean by evil fruit?

Well, what did Jesus say was the reason that anyone who will go to Hell will be there? "This is the condemnation: that Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that [will be judged by God as] evil hateth the Light, neither cometh to the Light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (John 3:19-20) So then people who would rather pretend that they are righteous or justified in their iniquity, instead of turning away from their sins to the One Who can save them from their sins--those people are deliberately going to Hell, and we should not follow them nor align ourselves with them.

As Paul commanded us, "Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers:for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial [another name for satan]? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the Temple of God with idols ? For ye are the Temple of God; as God hath said, 'I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.' 'Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,' saith the Lord, 'and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters,'saith the Lord Almighty." (II Corinthians 6:14-18; Revelation 18:4)

Any attempt to include unbelievers as part of our Christian ministering crew requires us to de-emphasize the Gospel in order to close ranks. That not only is dangerous for the sheep, but it also prevents the births of new sheep. Wolves will often catch the pregnant sheep for two reasons: they can't run as quickly to get away, and they make a bigger meal. To bear fruit in Christ takes time, and if satan can stop people from becoming new converts, then he has won their souls for all eternity. It is very important to be able to tell who is really on your side and who is just out to get you, so that we can defend the pregnant sheep and nurture the other sheep until they are ready to bring forth fruit. I believe that's called "spiritual warfare"!!

A lot of people also define judging as condemning a person. The reasoning is that if the person is guilty, then we want them to be punished. But that is not the position I hold. If God were to punish everyone who deserved it, who would get to Heaven? Nobody; and since I'm going, I certainly am not going to stand in somebody else's way. They may exclude themselves, and I may recognize that they have, but I will certainly not encourage them to do so. That's satan's job, not mine.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Faith Plus Works--OR--Faith Without Works?

This is a rather ongoing debate amongst different institutions that call themselves Christian--and, yes, I am implying that not all of them are. If you look at the works that spring from some of their beliefs, I'm sure you would agree.

Some say that we can't get to Heaven without our own good works. They say that God would be allowing untold wickedness to enter His Kingdom unpunished, if that were the case.

My question to them is, "Was it really unpunished?" Did not Jesus suffer the punishment for all of our sins--past, present, and future? God Himself has paid for the wickedness of those He calls His own; that is the Good News that we preach to mankind!! If you have to preserve yourself, how can you be sure you will get to Heaven?

"Ah," some say, "but you can't be sure: to be sure that you will get to Heaven means that you most definitely will not." Nothing could be further from the truth. The Apostle John said, "These thing have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life..."(I John 5:13) St. John is promising us that if we believe on Jesus as our Savior, we can be sure that we will get to Heaven. Jesus said the same thing: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Now what is so significant about believing that Jesus will save you? "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" So then, one must believe on Christ in order to ask Him for salvation from sin and it's awful consequences. [Because many believe that He will save them, but they don't ask because they don't want to escape. They are under the delusion that it would not be right for them to escape while others perish (the others chose to perish; it's not like God didn't offer them salvation, too) or that it will be "no fun" to be in Heaven amongst all those "goody-two-shoes," having to follow God's rules. I don't understand how burning in Hell can be more fun than praising the Lord, and I don't see how sin can ultimately bring more pleasure than righteousness. I have sinned many a time. I like doing right a whole lot better!!!]

But then, is it not a work to call upon the Name of the Lord? I don't see how: you are asking somebody else to clean up your mess; that's working?

Some will say, as the others have predicted, "Well, let's live it up! Let us sin that grace may abound!!" Have these people truly repented? Do they understand that Jesus came to "destroy the works of the Devil" (I John 3:8b) and that those who still want to perpetrate the works of the devil are still the enemies of God and children of the devil (I John 3:8a and John 8:44)? You get saved because your own sin has hurt you and you don't want to continue unto the fullness of your reward. If you enjoy sin, why get saved?

So then if you are truly saved, there are sins in your life that you will abandon as time goes on. These are the fruits of the Spirit, which show that you have the spirit of Christ indwelling you and therefore that you are indeed Christ's and no longer under condemnation (Rom. 8:1-13).

If you don't give up those sins, prepare to live a very miserable life. I have heard several testimonies that the most miserable person in the world--is the Christian who won't repent. The Holy Spirit backs up the conscience of a person who has received Christ. If that person continues in iniquity, he will soon find it hard to even be awake. He will sustain rebukes at every turn, he will have his prayers thrown back to him, he will not be allowed to rest, until he repents.

People who have not grown up in church all their lives seem to realize this, and that's why Christianity is such a sharp break for them. They know that they will not be allowed to sin "freely", and unless they really want to escape their sins, they will not come to Christ at all (cf. John 3:18-20).