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From the Student Question Board: Is Sinning the Whole Reason People Don’t Go to Heaven?

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more and more abundant.” Romans 5:2 NLT

Image result for locked outWhile sin separates us from God [Isaiah 59:2], it is not the whole reason that people don’t go to heaven. On the contrary, all of us are sinners, and even Christians who have been forgiven for their sins still fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. Meaning even Christians aren’t perfect and don’t live out God’s will exactly the way they ought. We’re still sinners, but unlike the unsaved, we’re sinners who have been redeemed from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ [Ephesians 1:7].

Our sin is finite, but God’s grace is infinite. By God’s grace, our faith in Christ Jesus washes away all of our condemnation and replaces it with the righteousness of Christ in us [Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30]. That’s all God sees of us when we accept His grace by faith.

Every one has the opportunity to be saved–redeemed from sin–by God’s grace [Ephesians 2:5 & 8-9]. So the reason that people don’t go to heaven? It certainly starts with sin. Sin that is allowed to fully grow up in a life, leads to death [James 1:15]. But when we accept God’s forgiveness, our sins are removed as far away as the east from the west–it never catches up to us again [Psalm 103:12]!

The sad truth is that the real reason people don’t go to heaven is because they never put their faith in God. They never believe He exists. They never recognize their own sinfulness. And they never accept His grace–His free gift of love that desires to give us unearned reward instead of our just deserts. We can’t out sin God’s grace, but we can refuse it.

The reasons are many–temptations, peer pressures, greed, pride, selfishness, deception and a whole host of other reasons blind people to the truth of God. Not the least of which is never seeing a Christian live a Godly life [Matthew 5:14-16; Romans 10:14].

If you’ve been changed by God’s grace, have you shared the sweet joy of your salvation with those you love? Do your family and friends know about God’s free gift of grace? And by the witness of your life, would they want the same thing you have?

KCS

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From the Student Question Board: Why Did God Make Us If He Knew We Would Make Bad Choices and Be in Distress All Our Lives?

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

Image result for rejectionInevitably, this question is posed to question either God’s goodness or His justice or both. It is a favorite of the atheist, because it is easy to ask and difficult to discern or accept the answer. Therefore–leap in logic–God can’t possibly exist. Or if He does, He is subject to human judgment rather than the other way around. As if the inability to comprehend the incomprehensibility of God somehow negates His person.

The truth of the matter is that this question reflects our character, not God’s. And that from our limited understanding and even more limited desire to be ruled by another, we indict our Maker, assassinating His character before a lost and dying world.

God made Adam and Eve in His own image [Genesis 1:26-27], and, upon completion, all of His Creation was very good–including the man and the woman. But being made in God’s image, they had the freewill to choose whether or not to obey their Creator. Because choosing to love is the only way to truly love another. Are you with me so far?

Love must be a choice, or it’s no love at all.

Choice must be freely made and must allow all possible outcomes–both good and bad–or it’s no choice at all.

God is infinitely good. That’s who He is. But we are finite. Our goodness is limited. We are created. We have needs and desires that we ourselves cannot meet. And it is our choice how we will satisfy our wills.

Enter sin.

Before the fall, our hearts were created to rightly revere God, to joyfully dwell with Him and to obediently steward the creation. Sin broke everything God had made, not the least of which was our loving choice to live according to His created will for us.

And why don’t we ask similar questions about any man-made scenarios? Why do car companies make perfectly good vehicles if they know that people are going to have accidents and kill themselves? Why do governments make and enforce laws if they know that people will break them anyway and go to jail? Why do family’s fall in love with pets if they know that the animal is going to get old and die before they do?

God made us a good earth. Sin smashed it up–not God. God gave us good commands to give us long life on the earth and to redeem our eternal life. Sin keeps us from even wanting to acknowledge this fact let alone obey. God gave us the freewill to choose, because He first chose to love us. Sin keeps us questioning God’s character instead of our own.

Why? Because Satan promised us we could be our own god [Genesis 3:5]–which means we love ourselves and we judge ourselves. And God’s thoughts on the matter are not welcome.

But don’t harden your heart. God is good. He gives life, He gives it to the full and He gives it for eternity [John 3:16 & 10:10].

Why stubbornly cling to death and demand that God do life our way [Romans 6:23]? Why think we have any authority to stand in judgment on His goodness or justice simply because we refuse His loving standard in our lives?

God made us because He loved us [Romans 5:8]. Won’t you choose to love Him in return?

KCS

From The Student Question Board: Why Did God Make Us if He Knew We Would Make Bad Choices and Be in Distress All Our Lives?

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10-11

Image result for jewel eyeSince God is, always will be and always has been omniscient, He knew perfectly well that Adam and Eve would choose to disobey in the garden. He knew that their choice would usher sin into His perfectly created world [Romans 5:12]. And He knew that in the broken sinful world, we would have trouble [John 16:33].

So why did God bother creating us at all?

Because He also knew that He would love us without fail [John 3:16]. Because He also knew that He would send His Son Jesus to redeem His fallen Creation [Genesis 3:15]. And because He also knew that love comes only by choice.

And He desires our love just as He desires to lavish His love on us.

God considers us the apple of His eye [Psalm 17:8; Zechariah 2:8]. This term of endearment more literally equates us to the pupil of the eye. The pupil allows light to enter so that the eye can perceive. When God calls us the light and salt of the world, it is a double entendre–that is, it has two meanings! We are light and salt to the lost around us, but we are also a light of joy and the salt of good pleasure to our Creator God.

He delights in us [Psalm 147:11 & 149:4]!

Remember His love when you are worried or wearied by the troubles of life [John 16:33]. Remember that everything comes to pass in its season [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]. And remember that the season of human life is just a disappearing mist or a fading flower in the expanse of eternity [Psalm 103:15; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24].

These troubles have not come to stay, but if we stay the course we will find abundant life in this life and eternal peace and rest in the New Creation [John 10:10; Revelation 21:1-4].

Do you know who God created you to be? Are you living as the apple of His eye? Do you delight in your Creator as He delights in you?

KCS

From the Student Question Board: Are Ghosts Real?

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39

Image result for walking in mistAfter Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples–alive! And not just alive, but in bodily form–flesh, blood, hair, fingernails, you name it. But the disciples couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wrap their understanding around Jesus’ appearance. He didn’t come through the door, He simply stood before them. A dead man. Standing before them. Not even a little bit dead. With all the same human body features that they themselves had. It blew their minds.

The English translation here is problematic in our culture, because the Greek word pneuma or spirit is rendered as ghost. To be clear, there is a spiritual world all around us–angels and demons at war for our souls. Sometimes we can see this spiritual dimension. But ghosts, the supposed spirits of deceased humans, are not a part of it. It’s kind of like the popular myth that when people die they become angels. Like humankind, Angels are uniquely created beings [Hebrews 2:7]. So when we die, though we go to heaven, we do not morph from human to angel. The saints will still be the saints and the angels will still be the angels in heaven [Revelation 7:9-11]. Similarly, when people die, our spirits do not join the spiritual warfare of the angels and the demons, nor we do not haunt those still living.

Rather, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross–who acknowledged Him as Lord–that he would be in heaven with Jesus that same day they died [Luke 23:43], so we believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And for those who are not believers, their souls sleep with their bodies in the ground until the judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].

Christians are often spiritually sensitive, even from a young age, sensing the spiritual battles around us. But we do not need to be afraid. God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light [Job 12:22]. He is our lamp that turns our darkness into light [2 Samuel 22:29]. Where He is, darkness cannot be because darkness cannot stand in the presence of light [John 1:5]. That is, darkness cannot overcome or overtake the light.

When spiritual fears and worldly superstitions threaten to overwhelm our senses, we need only to call on the name of Jesus. If we remain in Him, He is with us. His authority will drive out every demonic spirit that tries to come against us [Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 1:21-34 & 5:1-17] and, at the same time, He will fill us with a peace that beyond anything we could understand [Philippians 4:7].

Is the Lord your lamp? Does the truth of His word light your way [Psalm 119:105]?

KCS

From the Student Question Board: What is Labor Day?

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

Image result for labor day

Ironically, Labor Day is the day we celebrate having jobs by staying home from them. Seriously though, we can be very thankful that as Americans we have good work through which we can enjoy financial stability and meet our own basic needs.

The Bible advocates for us as people being gainfully employed, whether for self or for bosses, for money or just to survive. Proverbs in particular has much to say on the subject of hard work versus laziness. For example, “Lazy hands make poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth,” Proverbs 10:4. “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare,” Proverbs 20:13. This doesn’t mean we should never sleep, rather that we shouldn’t oversleep–as many enjoy and insist on through our teen years.

The Bible also has much to say on overworking purely in pursuit of wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” 1 Timothy 6:9-10a. Workaholics miss out on the joys of life and often find that, while they’ve amassed much financially, ultimately their life is empty. Likewise, lazy people–who put stock in gambling or lottery tickets hoping to strike it rich quick–often lose more money than they ever win. And even those who have won very large jackpots are known to blow their sudden wealth faster than it appeared, often ending with greater debts than before having won. They too feel empty despite the temporary financial gain.

The straight and narrow life is all about balance. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Timothy 6:6. The wealthiest people are those who enjoy the work of their hands and do so as unto the Lord. They are satisfied with the love of family and content to live within their means, no matter how simple. These people feel richer than the wealthiest people on the planet, because they are rich with God’s love and the love of fellow man. They have stored their treasures up where it counts–in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

If you’re too young to work, be thankful for child labor laws on this Labor Day and be thankful for loving parents that provide for your needs in this blessed nation in which we live. If you’ve already had your first job, consider Godly financial principles and work hard for your boss as God would have you to do. Discipline yourself even now in your teen years to rise early, serve diligently and work with an attitude of gratitude for all that God has provided for you through your faithfulness. Be content. And be blessed.

KCS

How To Study Puzzling Bible Passages

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8

Image result for putting pieces togetherI’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].

Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .

A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:

1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];

2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;

3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.

In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.

4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.

No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.

What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?

KCS

From the Student Question Board: How Long Does it Take to Become a Mature Christian?

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” Revelation 2:18-19

person wood steel soil glow craft material hot iron carving forge form blacksmith metalworking blacksmithing man made object metalsmithIn Greek mythology, Zeus’ son Apollo was called the son of god, and he was the patron god of Thyatira when Alexander the Great founded it as an army garrison. Under Roman rule, Thyatira’s business structure was built around guilds. Much like labor unions today a worker had to be faithful to the guild and the guild would in turn be faithful to protect their job.

But the guilds often celebrated their festivities in the temple to Apollo, sponsoring acts that Christians could not take part in. And if you didn’t participate, your job was as good as gone; you had no way to make a living.

It is to this culture that Jesus proclaims Himself the Son of God–the True Son of the One True God, not like the culturally glorified fictitious Apollo and his father Zeus. Jesus identifies Himself with the bronze smiths and guild laborers in the portrayal of His fiery eyes and burnished feet. Then, He commends the Thyatirans for their works, love, faith, service and perseverance. He commends them for increasing in these things despite the cultural pressures of their city; not easy to do.

So how long does it take to become a mature Christian? The longer the Ephesians served God, the more ritualistic it became. They totally forgot about their love for Him. The longer the Church at Smyrna served God, the more they were slandered and suffered for Him. The longer the Pergamenians served God, the more they compromised. And the longer the Thyatirans served God, the more liars sprang up in their midst, encouraging them to return to their old life.

But this was not true of everyone in these churches. Because becoming a mature Christian is an individual process. No one is perfect, nor will anyone arrive at perfection–completeness–in this life. Everyone is maturing in their Christian walk. [Either that or they are shrinking, but that is a subject for another post.] And everyone matures at a different rate and will finish life at a different level of spiritual maturity than others.

However, we can do certain things to ensure that we are in fact maturing in Christ and that our experiential knowledge of Him develops sooner rather than later: prayer, Bible study, praise and worship, and fellowship with other believers. But even in these things, we must be careful not to fall into the religious pitfalls that the seven churches of Revelation experienced–losing sight of love for Jesus, compromising with culture or flat out turning back to our old way of life while still professing to be a Christian.

In effect, it takes a whole lifetime to become the most mature Christian that you’ll ever be, but it takes only a moment to devote yourself to maturing in Christ and the daily commitment to see it through. Are you on the path to Christian maturity?

KCS