Evil Is Evident; Hell Is Authentic; Prepare or Perish.

This title is not stated as a threat or with any glee.  It is written with trembling knees, a heart full of prayer and sincere desire that anyone reading it may find Life and NOT perish.  The title is simply the statement of three facts which I will address in three blogs.  Though Jesus spoke much more about the Kingdom of Heaven, we would be remiss if we skipped these subjects that He and the Bible address.

Fairy Tales
2021-03-27 WickedSome would like us to believe in fairy tales; happily ever after endings without consequences for wrong behavior.  Or at least, let’s provide some context which makes wrong choices understandable and tolerable since the villain had it so rough.  So Wicked becomes a Disney retelling of Sleeping Beauty that makes Maleficent an unfortunate victim of her circumstances.  Romulans actually are nice guys, just with slightly different means of expressing the same values as Federation members.  Natasha Romanoff (or Black Widow) had a rough childhood; fortunately, she falls in love with a good guy and joins the Avengers.  Severus Snape, the epitome of evil with black cape, boots and a penchant for scaring Potter’s goodniks, turns out to be working for Dumbledore all along.  Another black-robed villain, Darth Vader is given reasons for his turn to the dark side.  And the Terminator turns out to be a misunderstood robot who just needed reprogramming.  Don’t we all?

So in this alternate universe Hitler would be mistreated by his dad and abused by a Jewish teacher.  Stalin was a nice kid who just got involved with the wrong crowd, and Pol Pot was very poor and had to steal food to survive as a child.

Unfortunately, alternate “universes” do not exist (with no apologies to Stephen Hawking).  By definition, universe means ”the totality of known or supposed objects throughout space; the cosmos.”  There cannot be another “universe” that contains that totality; that is an absurdity for which there is not a grain of evidence except in the minds of Star Trek viewers like Hawking.

Not Innocent, Only Incompetent
2021-03-27 Not Innocent Just IncompetentWe are the product of choices we make throughout life, beginning with infancy when we want the blocks the other baby has.  Shortly after most children master “Mama,” most also learn “Mine!”  Children are not innocent; they are simply incompetent.  Given the power, the mass of them would eliminate any opposition with a flick of Potter’s wand and simply kill anyone that prevents them from getting their way.

You and I were like that!  We had to be taught that there were better things than getting our own way all the time.  Most of those lessons were learnt through experience, the best teacher, but hardly the kindest.

In The Great Divorce, C.S.Lewis illustrates these choices among those who refuse Heaven because of what they want.  From the dishonest intellectual to a greedy materialist; from a religious hypocrite to a self-deprecating egomaniac; from a mother who preferred to drag her child into hell rather than forfeit control to a tragedian who loved his own misery rather than accept joy that was offered.  “Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton)

There are those who will choose their own way rather than God’s way even at the pain of death.  And from their choices will come every kind of evil from murdering unborn children to killing the elderly who no longer “contribute to society” to justifying what once were considered perverse lifestyles.  Like Lewis’ Ghosts they will couch their evil in beautiful sounding words like Social Security, Affordable Care, For The People, Toleration or Government Protection, but what they really want is selfish aggrandizement, physical comfort, control of others and power for themselves.

Can’t We All Just Be Nice?
2021-03-27 House on FireEvil is real and it does not go away just because we try to be “nice” to each other.  Real love is much harsher than the pablum pop psychology puts out today.  If a neighbor’s house is on fire, would we be “nice” and say, “Let’s not upset him; wait till it’s convenient to tell him?”  NO, the “loving thing” to do would be to bang on his door, disturb his “peace,” and warn him to get to safety!  So it is that if we fail to warn people of the reality of evil and its consequences, we are simply “nice neighbors” who do not care if our acquaintances die.

Trying to be nice to some people is like appeasement of Hitler just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  There was a madness sweeping Europe and the Führer was simply its pawn.  This does not excuse him of the war’s atrocities, but remember he was as deceived as those he was deceiving (See 2 Timothy 3:12-13), an evil-doer going from bad to worse.

Paul had this to say to his protégé pastoring in Ephesus:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

And again some time later:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Children of the Day
2021-03-27 Children Of The DayWe are called to be light in a darkening world, salt to a rotting, tasteless culture (Matthew 5:13-16).  The times will become darker yet, as political leaders lie more, as religious conviction becomes labeled “Hate Speech,” as bureaucratic alignments for economic and national interests bring together enemies of Israel, as whole societies call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:8-30)

However, though evil is real and becomes more evident, we are called “to walk in the Light, even as He is in the light.” (1 John 1:5-9)  We must stand distinctly apart from liars and deceivers who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  And we pray for the deceived that they may see the Truth (Ephesians 4:18-19)

The Children of the Day recorded this song back in 1979 based on 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9.
When your heart is dark and empty and new shadows start to fall;
When cluttered fears and sin are the writing on your wall;
Your confusion and your doubts are always lurking left and right,
Don’t try to drive the darkness out; you just turn on the light.

We’re the children of the light, and we’re the children of the day.
We need not always stumble in an ever darkening way.
Though the darkness will close in around with shadows everywhere,
Still Jesus Christ is in our life, the Light of the world is there.

Next week, , I will discuss what Jesus and the Apostles taught about hell.  It’s not pretty.

Grace OR Truth?

“For the law was given through Moses; grace AND truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

I said at the end of last Sunday’s blog (January 21, 2018) that we would look this week at how God’s love and holiness interact.  When Isaiah reported the angels around the throne of God, they were not crying, “Love, love, love,” but instead they covered their feet with one set of wings, their faces with another, and flying with the third set, they cried out “Holy, holy, holy.” (IsaiahIsaiah 6 Sepaphim.jpg 6:3).  I suspect these are the same four living creatures of Revelation 4:8.  From beginning to end, God is holy and it is a requirement of us to be holy in order to enter His presence. (Hebrews 12:14)

But like you, I am not holy . . . not even close!  How do people so warped and stained with sinful attitudes and actions come to a God who is so holy?  The key is in the holiness itself.  While the Bible clearly teaches God is holy, it just as clearly states, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)  And these two sides of one coin are revealed most clearly in Jesus, the Christ.

From the beginning, God’s love and holiness were in perfect harmony in the creation.  Adam and Eve did not need clothes in the Garden of Eden because the thought of offending another human being could not enter their pure minds.  They were loved by their Father and could enjoy each other without suspicion, malice or envy and delight in His love that provided everything they needed forever; even a Tree of Life in the middle of the Garden to give them eternal life.

Adam and Eve2But their choice to suspect God of holding out on them, of not giving them something that would make them wise, made them ashamed.  Suddenly they looked at each other with suspicion, with eyes that would see their flaws, that would look for each other to blame, that wanted to hide from each other as much as from their Maker.  The holiness they had enjoyed was gone . . . but so was the love.   From now on husbands and wives would constantly be looking to see if the others had met their needs before they would offer to meet their spouses’.  Work was now ceaseless toil to do the same thing day after day, year after year, until they would return to the dust from which they had come.

However, God began to restore them, even at their worst, with a promise: an “offspring” that would crush the tempter’s head and restore the holiness and love they had lost.  Throughout the ancient world history recorded in the Bible the themes of God’s holiness and love continually intertwine.  But because of man’s inclination to sin, the holiness had to come first.  So He selected people who would be holy against the background of nations and cultures that would deny Who had created them.  He showed them how they should worship Him as the Uncreated One, not recognizable in any shape of created things.

Throughout the history of Israel and their surrounding cultures, there was still constant evidence of God’s love at work as well as His holiness.  Abraham’s love of his son and of his God becomes evident in Genesis 22; but along with this is God’s proof of His love for Abraham and his son.  By the time Moses came on the scene, it was clear that God would show His “steadfast love to thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:6)

As I said, the key is in the holiness itself.  You see, “holiness” without love ceases to be holiness because it becomes harsh, unbending rule-keeping and legislative mandates.  In the converse of this, love without holiness becomes wishy-washy sentimentalism with no standards.  That is why “grace AND truth came by Jesus Christ.”

So now again we ask ourselves the question, how do people so warped and stained with sinful attitudes and actions come to a God who is so holy?  Because grace and truth met perfectly in Jesus; love and holiness in perfect balance.  So even when I am unbalanced (and there are probably more people than I wish who would vouch for that 😉), He remains in perfect love and holiness toward us, changing us day by day, little by little, one line upon another, here a little, there a little, until He can teach us His lessons and explain His message. (Isaiah 28:10)

The result of God’s grace and truth meeting in Jesus, His love and holiness blended together, is that as Christ-followers, we are to move toward that perfect balance.  Yes, we must hold certain standards, but we must do so with love for those who disagree with us.  We must leave room for the Holy Spirit to do the work that is uniquely His, to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. (John 16:7-11)  This in not our job.  Our responsibility is that of a newsboy: we did not cover the story, write the report, or publish the paper; all we do is deliver the Good News that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”