Saturday, August 3, 2013

New post: Who'se side are YOU on?

In my last post, I left with the question: Whose side are you on?
During the Civil War, a minister once remarked to President Abraham Lincoln that he hoped "the Lord was on our side." Lincoln replied that "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."
During this lifetime on earth, we are engaged in a war as well. We are not only combatants, but the prize as well. This battle is not fought with guns, planes, and bombs. This battle is fought with prayer and earnest reliance upon the mercy of God as expressed in the death of his son, Jesus, as payment for our sins. The enemy of our souls, Satan, is very crafty and cunning. He knows just how to use our own natural desires and inclinations against us. He knows how to implant a thought into our minds, and then pressure us into acting upon that impulse until we give in and sin. Then he immediately brings a sense of guilt, condemnation and shame. "See what you just did? How could God ever love someone who just did THAT??!!"
And with most people, he doesn't have to tempt very hard to get them to sin. Because sin is our natural inclination anyway. Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? "
Let's begin at the beginning and see how we got into this mess, and how we can get out of it.
Almost everyone can quote Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." But the beginning I am referring to takes place before this. Before God created the heavens and the earth, he created the angels.
In the book of Job, chapter 38:4-7 we read: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.  Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" 
In the Old Testament, the phrase "sons of God" is always used in reference to angels as being a direct creation of God. Only two people, in their natural birth state, are ever called a son of God. One is Adam, in Luke 3:38 "Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." And the other is Jesus Christ himself, in numerous passages in the New Testament. After a person is born again and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, they become a son of God by virtue of the Holy Spirit directly regenerating their souls and spirit, but in their natural birth state they are never referred to as a son of God, but are called sons of Adam. They are not directly created by God, but created by their human parents. So we see here that angels were present at the creation of earth, meaning they themselves had to be created before the earth was created. How long before is something we are not told. And one of those created angels was Lucifer, whose name means morning star.
Isaiah 14:12  How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! We are told the reason for his fall in verses 13 and 14 of Isaiah 14: "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."
Lucifer was created as the highest of the angels. He was top dog of the angelic realm, the head of the angels union if you will. And his pride got the better of him. He became dissatisfied with his position. He wanted more. He wanted equality with God. He persuaded one third of the angels to join him in rebellion, and got kicked out of his position. He was sentenced to eternal separation from God, along with those angels who joined him in rebellion.I recommend you read Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28:1-19, keeping in mind that God is addressing both the human king AND the supernatural demonic power BEHIND the king, who is Satan. How Satan could have committed such a treasonous act against his creator is one of the mysteries of the ages! But, nonetheless, commit it he did.
Bear with me here for a moment. Much of what follows concerning the creation of the earth and the reason for it is personal opinion and conjecture.
Journalism students are taught that there are 5 questions that should be asked regarding a news story: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Let's look at creation and ask these 5 questions.
WHO? God. He is the creator of heaven and earth.
WHAT? Creation. God created and sustains all that was, is, and ever shall be.
WHEN? Approximately 6,000 years ago. There are some fine Christian who believe in an older earth, and a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. I disagree, but I am not going to discuss the issue at this time.
HOW? By his power he spoke all things into existence at creation.
WHY? You will notice I left this question until last. Why did God create the heavens and the earth? I'll tell you....... I don't know. The Bible really doesn't say. The best we can do is speculate. However, knowing something of God's character, I think I can make a good guess. Basically, we are an object lesson to the angels. Now, before you grab your pitchforks and light the bonfire to burn a heretic, let me explain.
Before Satan's rebellion, sin had never existed. Everything was peaceful, righteous perfection. Then Satan committed his crime, and was judged and condemned to eternal separation from God. Never having seen sin, and not having an understanding of what it could ultimately lead to, the unfallen angels may have said "That's a rather harsh thing to do, isn't it, Lord? Sure, Lucifer may have overstepped his bounds, but come on! Banishing him and his companions forever? Don't you think maybe you're overreacting just a bit?" So God, desiring to show his angels just what sin is and where it would lead, suspended Satan's sentence for a time and decided to create a world filled with creatures (us) whom he knew would rebel and follow Satan. He desired to show his angels what grace and mercy were also, since never having seen either the angels would not have a concept of those philosophies either.
 1Peter 1:12  To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angel desire to look into. ASV
In the verses preceding this, Peter talks of faith and salvation. Since salvation is by grace through faith, grace is also implicit in his discussion. Verse 12 above says that angels desire to look into these things. They do not have firsthand experience with grace, never having sinned and therefore having no need of it. They do not have the experiential knowledge that comes from having been given mercy and grace at the expense of someone else (Christ Jesus.) They may know what grace is, but they don't know what it IS! They have a head knowledge of it, but not a heart knowledge of it.
The angels also now know the incredible depths of depravity to which sin is capable of driving a person. They have seen 6,000 years of mans inhumanity to man. They have seen the wars, gulags, torture chambers, death camps, and killing fields man inflicts upon his fellow human beings. They have seen the sexual exploitation, perversion, immorality, abortion, disease, heartache and death caused by man's misuse of something God created to give a man and his wife pleasure and comfort. They have seen the lying, cheating, stealing, violence and murder man is capable of. They have seen little children kidnapped, murdered, dismembered, and thrown away in trash bags. They have seen teenagers shot dead just so the killer could have the victim's sneakers. They have seen mothers and fathers walk out of the house and abandon their spouse and children because they found somebody else to give them a new sexual thrill. They have seen it ALL!
They must be wondering why God doesn't just speak a word and annihilate every single one of us. (I have often wondered the same thing.) The answer is...... He loves us. Even with our natural inclination towards sin and rebellion, he still loves us.I don't know why, when I look at the way the world is, But he loves us. Probably the most well known verse in all the Bible is John 3:16 "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
People use that verse to give themselves comfort, and it is indeed a comforting thought that God loves us that much. But most people never reflect on the clause "should not perish". While the verse does contain words of hope for everlasting life, it also makes that life conditional upon "believing in him". Believing in whom? Believing in God's son. It does not say believe ABOUT him, it says believe IN him. Back in my younger days, I used to enjoy going to Tuttle Creek  reservoir just north of Manhattan, Kansas with some friends of mine, one of whom was a Seventh Day Adventist minister. He was also a former Marine Corps Force Recon member. We would go rappelling off the bridge leading to the control tower. The first time we went, after we had the ropes tied in place, he made the observation that that rope was like Christ. You could believe all about it, but it didn't prove anything until you put all your weight on it. Then you were believing IN it.
Christ is the same way. There are many billions of people worldwide who believe ABOUT Him, but precious few who believe IN Him. And John 3:16 does not say believe about Him, it says believe IN Him.
If you do not believe IN Him, you will perish.
God truly does love us, but His holiness means He cannot abide sin in His presence. If we die with sin in our heart, we will most assuredly perish. Sin is a barrier that keeps us from being able to live in God's presence. If we cannot live in His presence, we shall spend eternity separated from him in Hell. Hell is not a place that man was ever intended to go. It was created as a place of punishment and banishment for Satan and his followers. Those followers were originally the angels who joined him in his rebellion, but now that number also includes all who choose to live in sin rather than come to Christ for forgiveness, cleansing, and regeneration, which is what the Bible refers to as being born again.
Sin is such a monumental problem that only God himself can rescue anyone from its domain. There is absolutely nothing you can do to work your way out of it and earn God's forgiveness. Going to church every day won't do it, giving all your money to the poor won't do it, volunteering at the local homeless shelter won't do it, absolutely nothing you can do will earn God's forgiveness from sin. Nothing.
And since you can't do anything, God has done it all for you. I heard someone once say that every religion in the world, except Christianity, is spelled the same way: DO. Christianity, however, is spelled DONE. Religion will have you running your tail off trying to earn God's favor by what you DO. Christianity says you can have God's favor simply by putting your faith and trust in what HE, through Christ, has already DONE.
There is a very high price to pay for sin. That price is the eternal separation from God in hell of the sinner. God doesn't want you to go there. God would much rather have you live with Him in Heaven for eternity. But before that can happen, the penalty for sin MUST be paid. God cannot just sweep it under the rug and forget about it.
I heard a story on the radio which I think explains the situation quite well. I do not recall exactly who told this story, but I think it was Dr. J. Vernon McGee.
Back in the late 1800's, there was a new teacher at a one room schoolhouse in a small mountain town. This teacher had been warned that the kids in that school were a tough bunch of kids. They had driven out more than one teacher. But this new teacher was pretty smart. On the very first day of school, as he faced his students for the first time, the new teacher announced "I'm not going to make any rules for this class." Of course, the kids thought this was great! No rules! Anything goes!
Once the hootin' and hollerin' had died down, the teacher explained "Now, I didn't say we weren't going to have any rules. I said I wasn't going to make them. YOU'RE going to make them! I will write them in the corner of the blackboard for everybody to see. That way everyone will know what the rules are. But rules are useless without a penalty for breaking them. I have a hickory switch (a thin stick) that can be used as punishment for more serious violations of the rules.So figure out the rules and penalties and I'll write them down."
The students came up with a list of sensible rules, and the teacher wrote them on the blackboard. Finally Big Jim, the biggest toughest kid in the school, said "One more, teacher. There shouldn't be any stealing, either! I'm tired of other kids stealing my things!" The teacher wrote 'No stealing' on the board. "Alright, Jim. What should the penalty be?" Jim said "Twenty licks with that hickory switch!"
"That's pretty rough, don't you think, Jim?" asked the teacher. "What do the rest of you think about that?"
The other students though that was a good punishment, and it would deter stealing. So the teacher wrote the penalty on the blackboard.
Everything went well until the middle of autumn. One day at lunchtime, Big Jim hollered out, "Teacher, someone stole my lunch! It was here, and now it's gone! There's a thief in this class!" The other students gasped, knowing what the penalty for stealing was.
The teachers voice was grave as he addressed the kids, who were sitting at their desks. "Children, someone has stolen Jim's lunch. I want the guilty person to stand up." Everyone was quiet. Nobody moved. "Please, don't make me add lying to the offense. I want the guilty person to stand up."
The class watched in stunned silence as little Tommy slowly stood to his feet. "Teacher, I... I took Jim's lunch. I know I shouldn't have. It's just that I haven't eaten anything since yesterday, and I was so very hungry. I'm sorry."
Tommy's family was the poorest in town. Nobody knew where his father had run off to. His mother did what she could to provide for him and his siblings, but there was never enough food or money.
The teachers voice cracked with sadness as he said "Tom, come up to my desk." Little Tommy slowly made his way to the front of the room. "Tom, you have broken one of the rules, and now the penalty must be paid. Take off your coat." Tommy took of his coat, which was really nothing more than a heavy flannel shirt. He had on a thin threadbare rag of a shirt underneath. The teacher picked up the hickory switch. "Tom, take your shirt off." Tommy's fingers trembled as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it off. His chest was so thin every rib could be counted as they slowly heaved up and down in the chilly autumn air. "Tom, bend over and place your hands on my desk." Tommy slowly did as he was told. The teacher moved around behind him and raised his strong arm which held the switch. Some of the girls could be heard crying softly at their desks.
"I hate to do this, Tom, but I have no choice. There is a penalty for breaking the rules, and the penalty must be paid." He brought the switch down swiftly, but before it could strike Tommy, another strong hand reached out and grabbed the teachers wrist. Startled, the teacher turned and looked into the tear filled eyes of Big Jim.
"Teacher, " he said softly. "Don't beat little Tommy."
The teacher said quietly "I have no choice. The rules are very clear: No stealing. Breaking the rules incurs a penalty which must be paid. The penalty must be satisfied."
Big Jim said "I know that, Teacher. But I've been looking at those rules for over two months now, and I've noticed something. The rules give the penalty for breaking them, but they don't say who the penalty has to be given to, do they?"
"Well, no. They don't specifically say that."
 "Tommy stole MY lunch, so he committed a crime against me. He ain't strong enough to take this beating. It'll kill him. Since he sinned against me, and the penalty has to be paid, why don't you just go ahead and put them twenty licks on me instead?"
Big Jim removed his shirt, put his hands on the teachers desk, and said "Alright, teacher. Give me his punishment."
One by one, the teacher gave Big Jim twenty lashes with the hickory switch. Little Tommy just stood there, wincing as every blow landed squarely on the back of Big Jim. The teacher counted every blow. "Eighteen.... nineteen...... twenty!" Big Jim slowly stood up, his back bleeding. He smiled as put his arm around little Tommy's shoulder.
"It's okay now, Tommy. You can go free. I took your place."

This is what Jesus did for us. He knew we could never take the punishment God demands for sin and survive. So he took the punishment for us. He died on that cross in Jerusalem 2000 years ago to pay the penalty for our sins. We broke the rules, he took the punishment. He took our stripes, he will give us forgiveness and righteousness in return. What a deal!
All we need to do is accept the free pardon that he offers us. We do this by accepting him as Lord and Savior, and putting our faith and trust in Him as Captain of our lives. We surrender our will to Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to regenerate our spirit. We are then born again, and become a child of God.
On March 2, 1983 I was involved in a traffic accident. It could easily have been fatal ad my car been knocked a little further and gone into a creek. I could have drowned. That incident forced me to take a good long look at the way I was living my life. I was sinning against God right and left and  didn't care. But that accident got me to wondering what would have happened to me had I not survived. I would have been in hell, and I knew that. But what I didn't know was how to fix that problem. I didn't know how to change my eternal destiny. I cried out to God to show me what to do.
On April 3, 1983 in my apartment at 1035 S.17th. St., B1 at 9:20 AM he answered my prayer. I was watching a TV evangelist, whose name most people would know if I gave it. He was telling the story of Mel Trotter. Mel was a drunk. His family was destitute as nearly every dollar Mel got went to buy booze. He came home one day in a drunken stupor to find his little boy very sick, nearly at the point of death. The doctor was summoned. Upon arrival, he gave Mel some money and told him to go quickly and buy a certain medicine for his son, or his son would die. Mel took the money, and stopped at the tavern to buy just one drink to calm his nerves. Three days later he arrived home just in time to clean up to go to his son's funeral.
After the service, when no one was looking, he slipped the shoes off the little boys feet, and went and sold them for enough to buy a bottle of booze.
He left his wife and went to Chicago, hoping things would be better there. But they were just as bad in Chicago. In January, 1897 he was walking shoeless through the snow towards Lake Michigan, into which he intended to throw himself and end it all. On the way, he passed the doorway of the Pacific Garden Mission. He heard singing inside, so he stopped to listen. A man in the doorway invited him in to sit down and warm up. He listed to a sermon by the director of the mission, and when the invitation was given to receive Christ, he was the first one down the aisle! He went on to become a preacher, evangelist, and director of a mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When the TV evangelist gave an invitation to receive Christ, I just bowed my head and asked "Lord, if you can do something with a man like that, do you suppose you could do something with a guy like me?"
At that instant, something inside me changed. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what had happened. I just knew that something was different. I felt peace. Total peace. I felt more joy and love at that moment than I had ever felt before. I started laughing. I didn't know what I was laughing about, but I just couldn't stop. I know now it was "the  joy of the Lord." Nehemiah 8:10
One of my all time favorite Christmas movies is "Scrooge, a Christmas Carol." The version I'm referring to is the black and white version produced in 1951 with Alistair Sim.
Here's a YouTube link. Begin watching at 11 minutes into the clip. It will automatically go to the next part. Watch till the end. That's how I felt at my conversion.
If you have never made a confession of faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, then your eternal destiny is going to be separation from God in hell forever. All who refuse to repent and come to him for forgiveness will suffer that fate. There are only two places where people will go upon death. Heaven or hell. The 'default' location is hell. You do not have to choose to go there. All who die after they are old enough to understand right and wrong, and are able to make a decision about Christ, will go to hell if they do not come to him. One of Satan's chief strategies is to tell people "Oh, sure. You DO need to come to Christ for forgiveness and salvation. But you don't have to do it today! Life is short. Live a little. Sin a little. You can get saved when you're old. Live it up in the meantime." And then someday never comes, and another soul goes to hell for eternity as Satan laughs himself silly over having deluded another one.
Let me be blunt: You may not HAVE another day to live. None of us are guaranteed another day of life, another hour, another breath. You may put off coming to Christ until tomorrow and die in a car accident or of a heart attack tonight. And you will go to hell just as surely as if you had vehemently told God you hated him and wanted nothing to do with him ever.
The choice is yours. Heaven or hell. Christ or Satan. Not choosing to follow Christ IS to choose to follow Satan. There are no two ways around it.
I hope you will choose to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. You may wonder "Well, how do I do that?" I'm glad you asked!
Romans 10:8-11 says "But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." ESV

What you need to do is pray with your mouth (and I realize that some cannot speak, but if you will pray earnestly with your mind, God will accept that as well. He knows your condition.) for God to forgive you.
Ask Jesus to come into your heart, to wash away your sins, cleanse you, and give you a new spirit. It is that faith and trust that God is really looking for. Remember what verse 11 above says: Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. It could also be stated "No-one who believes in him shall be put to shame."
John 6:37 assures us that:  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. KJV
Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. What a promise! It means that you can come to God just as you are, all full of sin, unrighteousness, and iniquity. Just like Mel Trotter was. And he will not cast you out!! EVER!
Mike Warnke was telling the story of a man who once asked him during an evangelistic meeting "Hey, man, do I have to quit doing dope to come to Jesus?" All the Christians in the audience started giggling because they knew the answer, right? Of course you do! But when Mike said "No.", the Christians in the audience all sucked in their breath so hard that the vacuum sucked a passing paperboy right into the auditorium! The little guy never lost his cool, though he just turned to a guy and said "Paper, mister?"
The guy who asked the question said "I don't think you quite understand: Do I have to quit doing dope to come to Jesus?" Mike said "No!"
The man said "Okay, I think you still don't understand: Do I have to...." At this point Mike cut him off and said "Hey, man! I have a question for you: Do you get yourself all cleaned up before you take a bath?"
The obvious answer is "No." And you don't have to clean up the mess in your own life before you come to Jesus, either. That's HIS job, okay? All you have to do is be willing to let him do it.
If you want to receive Christ as Savior and Lord, to change your eternal destiny from hell to heaven, and to be the person God wants you to be, then just pray something like this, and mean it from your heart:
"Dear God, I am a sinner. I know it, you know it, everybody knows it. But I am sorry for my sins, and i repent of them and ask your forgiveness. Please forgive me for what I have done, and wash all my sins away in the blood of Christ shed on that cross 2,000 years ago. Lord Jesus, I believe that you died in my place, that you took the punishment for my sins. I believe that you rose from the grave, and live to give forgiveness and life to those who come to you. So I come to you now, asking you to please come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior forever. I believe, based on your word, that I am now forgiven, cleansed, saved and free. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen."

If you have prayed that prayer in simple heartfelt faith and repentance, then  I can guarantee you, based on his word, that he HAS forgiven you. He has not only washed your sins away, but he has forgotten that you ever committed them! Your eternal destiny has changed from hell to heaven, and he will never cast you away. EVER!! You will still have trials and struggles in this life, we all do. There will be times when you give into temptation and sin. We all do. As long as we live in this body of flesh, we will still struggle with our sinful nature. The difference is that now the Holy Spirit will be there to help us. When we do sin, Satan will come up behind us and whisper in our ear "See what you just did? How could God ever forgive THAT? You must not really be saved if you still do things like that!" Just tell him to go to hell where he belongs! Then confess what you did, ask God to forgive you, dust yourself off, and keep on walking with him! He'll keep walking with you. And someday, He'll walk with you right through the pearly gates, and say "My child, welcome home!"

More to come............

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