Saturday, July 31, 2010
To form an argument for answering NO to this question, let’s look at the two dominate soteriologicial views, those of Calvinism and Arminianism. John Calvin and his followers say that God, before the universe was even created, decided which person would go to heaven and which person would not. There is nothing any person can do to change this decision; if you are one of the “elect”, you are going to be saved and you have no choice in the matter. If you are not one of the “elect”, then you will not accept the gospel message as truth and you’ll reject Christ.
Jacob Arminius and his followers say that every person who hears the gospel of Christ has the free will to accept or deny what they hear; any person can be saved if only they choose to believe. The “elect” then are those whom God knew, from the beginning, would accept His Son and be saved.
Although these two views are polar opposites, they do have one thing in common—in order for a person to be saved, they must HEAR the gospel of Christ and ACCEPT it. In one view that acceptance is forced upon the person and in the other view that acceptance is a free choice; but in both views that acceptance was made by a person who knew what they were doing.
Infants and small children are not capable of making that choice; they cannot ACCEPT the gospel because they do not know what it is or what it means. If Jesus’ gospel is not accepted, then admittance into heaven is not granted. Therefore, any person, no matter their age, who dies without accepting Christ, will never enter heaven
To form an argument for answering YES to this question, let’s look at what happened to King David and his response. David arranged for a man to be killed in order to take that man’s wife for himself; David’s union with that woman, Bathsheba, produced a son. God punished David by causing the child to become ill and then die when it was only seven days old.
While the child was ill, David prayed and fasted, but once the child died, David worshipped God. David’s servants were confused by these actions and questioned him about it. David replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:22-23
So, it seems from David’s words and actions that he was assured that his child would go to heaven, and by extension, if David’s child went to heaven then that must mean that all babies who die go to heaven.
Or does it? Even though the answers that the Bible provides for our questions are to be believed 100%, it does not answer every question we can ask. But, it seems to me that the answer for how a person gets into heaven today is clearly recorded in Act 4:12, where speaking of Jesus it says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
In the big picture, the opposition to these movements is not strong enough. The ungodly movements are winning and the majority of professing Christians are sitting around and proving Edmund Burke, the great 18th-century Scottish philosopher and British parliamentarian, very prophetic when he said, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing”. These above listed movements know how to “play the game.” Kraft quotes Gerlach and Hine as saying about a movement, “the only type of crackdown that can stop it decisively is a complete and crushing force”. That’s exactly what the opponents of Christianity are trying to do – crush Christianity! Yet we Christians use kid gloves to fight back, and we’re losing.
What will it take for Christians to finally stand up and defend what they believe in? First and foremost, it’ll take prayer and the strength of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, it’ll take leaders to step up and take control of a movement or to start a movement of his own to fight back against those who hate Christianity. Something like what Jay Sekulow did with his founding of ACLJ.
Sekulow saw a need and stepped up to fill that need. He is a leader and leaders are what it takes to change things.
Strong leaders keep the movement going in the right direction. The leader ensures that everyone in the movement is aware of the vision, and he repeats the vision often enough that the vision gets down into the hearts of the participants, he creates a team effort in realizing the vision.
Christians are at war, human secularism is the enemy and it is winning. We need to armed and ready to do battle at a moments notice to defend the Christian way of life, yet most Christians are happy to let the enemy move forward at will. We need a Christian movement to counter each of the secular movements in our society - who will stand up and take charge?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
It is human nature to want to believe others, especially if they say something over and over. If people hear something enough, they start to believe it, this is called propaganda and it happens all over the world. People who feel strongly about something will go face-to-face with as many people as they can to persuade them to think the way they do. People start comparing America to other countries and wanting to do what they do, they want the chance to make choices, good or bad, without the government and laws telling them that they can’t do something. Government leaders hear the people’s voices and, in order to get reelected, they try to please the loudest of the voices.
The third key factor is personal commitment. This is an area where a lot of Christians fall to the waste side. They have no personal stock in Christianity; they go to church every Sunday and call it good. But the people on the other side of the fence don’t see it that way. Take Madeline Murray O'Hare for example, in the early 1960s she made it her life’s goal to have prayer removed from our public schools. She was relentless and never gave up until the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1963, ruled that it was unconstitutional for our children to say prayers in school. That, in my opinion, was the beginning of the end for this country; it has been mostly downhill from then.
The big push by homosexuals to get their lifestyles accepted is another example of this. They are very much “in you face” with this issue. This movement has even made up words, and altered the meaning of others, to get their perversion accepted. The word ‘homophobe’ was made up and has been effectively used to attack anyone who feels differently than they do. This group kidnapped the word ‘gay’ and made it to mean a lifestyle that in reality is not very gay at all. Many other unchristian groups have attempted to force their issues on others through being personally committed and acting on it every day – NOW, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, NAACP, and unions – to name a few.
The fourth key facto is having an ideology that drives people and society in the way that the movement wants them to go. Two big movements come to mind for this section – the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Both of these groups work very hard to bring about change in the direction they want.
The American Civil Liberties Union is a group of lawyers who hate everything and anything that is decent and holy. They make it their life’s goal to represent people who have become “offended” by something or someone else. The nature of these offenses is always Christian in origin and is things that have been with this country since it’s founding. The ACLU is relentless and methodical in its approach. The sad thing is that most of the judges in our courts are liberals and agree with the ACLU, they rule in their favor by reinterpreting and reading into the law intent that was never there. The ACLU has been responsible for the disappearance of many of our religious freedoms yet many, many Christians just sit by and allow this to happen.
A second group pushing their ideology on this country is Planned Parenthood. This group claims to be a friend of the family, yet it is responsible for more family deaths than any other organization in America’s history. Over 30 million babies have been killed because Planned Parenthood promotes, finances, and frights for abortion. This group will not even listen to others who suggest alternatives to abortion, it’s kill, kill, kill and nothing else with them. Recently, a criminal investigation was opened concerning Planned Parenthood because it was discovered that a Planned Parenthood counselor told a minor girl to not report the adult who impregnated her, but to come in for an abortion without telling her parent. This is the mentality of this outfit.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Dr. Charles Kraft, in his book, “Christianity in Culture”, outlined a movement theorized by Gerlach and Hine, who put forth these five key “operational significant” factors. I will look at each key factor and attempt to give an example for each one. The five factors are:
1. A segmented, usually polcephalous, cellular organization composed of units reticulated by various personal, structural, and ideological ties.
2. Face-to-face recruitment by committed individuals using their own pre-existing, significant social relationships.
3. Personal commitment generated by an act or an experience which separates a convert in some significant way from the established order (or his previous place in it), identifies him with a new set of values, and commits him to changed patterns of behavior.
4. An ideology which codifies values and goals, provides a conceptual framework by which all experiences or events relate to these goals may be interpreted, motivates and provides rationale for envisioned changes, defines the opposition, and forms the basis for conceptual unification of a segmented network of groups.
5. Real or perceived opposition from the society at large or from that segment of the established order within which the movement has risen.
The secularization of America has been a process that has taken about a hundred years for us to be where we are today. It started slowly in the early 20th century but has gained great speed since the 1960s. Not one sole group of people has been responsible, but many individual groups and organizations; there have been leaders in these groups that can be pointed to, and some groups, as a whole, can be picked out as those who have made the greatest contributions.
The first key factor is having a segmented, usually polcephalous, cellular organization, can be applied in a loose sense, and as a factor that has covered many years, coming into focus perhaps in the 1920s and continuing today. Examples of this factor include organized crime. Organized crime in the form of the Mafia has lead the way to such secular activities as prostitution and drug use. Pornography is rampant on the internet, it is a multi-billion dollar industry controlled by organizations that recruit and pay participants, produce movies, operate internet sites, and all other facets of the business.
The big kicker for pornography was Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine. When the American society accepted Hefner’s bunnies, the dam burst and the way was cleared for others with magazines even more perverse, such as Bob Guccione’s Penthouse magazine and Larry Flint’s Hustler magazine. Pornography is such an addicting force in a lot of men that the only way to stop it is through a life changing commitment to Jesus Christ, and even then, porn’s hold doesn’t release itself very easily. According to the National Campaign to Stop Pornography in 2003, Christianity Today magazine took a survey of its readers which concluded that “A significant number of respondents—33 percent of clergy and 36 percent of layman—say they have (visited pornographic web sites). Of those who have visited sexually explicit Web sites… 18 percent of clergy said they visit sexually explicit Web sites between a couple of times a month and more than once a week”.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
This problem of people causing division in the church wasn’t only happening in Rome, Paul also wrote to the church in Galatia; to Titus; and to Timothy, so that he could speak to the Ephesians as well. It seemed that almost from the very start of the church age, people would try to lead others away from the truth. Jesus knew it would happen, so He warned Christians in Luke 21:8, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”
Today, there are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations; why is that? It is because of people expressing ideas different than those of what the apostles laid out in the New Testament as Christianity grew and time passed. People split from each other because of major differences as well as small differences. It took only 2000 years for 38,000 different Christian groups to form--that’s an average of 19 newly formed and organized groups per year! And every one of them believes that they are the right one! Logic tells us that although everyone can be wrong, not everyone can be right.
Why can’t people accept the Bible for what it says? The Bible clearly says that homosexuality is an abomination, so why ordain homosexuals? The Bible clearly says that women can’t teach or take authority over men in the church, so why ordain women? The Bible clearly says that Jesus will return with a shout and with trumpets blowing as His takes His people to Himself, so why believe in a “secret” rapture?
We are told why in Jeremiah 8:8-9, “How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have?”
False denominations will one day be found out, and many will, although too late, see the light. We all need to get back to the Word and follow it. We need to do what it says and stop putting our evil desires into it.
In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul was confirming that he was a man of integrity, a man of his word, one who would not lead them in a false direction but keep them on the straight path to God. He was contrasting himself to something the people of that day would readily recognize – the professional hawker, the Stoic, cynic, or some other philosophical minded individual out to make a fast buck through his oratory skills.
Street venders were as popular then as they are now in some parts of the world. People had items to sell and street corners and sidewalks were the ideal places to hawk their wares. It’s good marketing strategy to provide a service that is in demand and to go to where the people are requiring that service. The market place, the forum, or especially during the Isthmian games would have been great places to make money through the hawking of their wares.
Paul acknowledged that perhaps he was lacking in the oratory skills department, but that was okay because he wanted nothing to come between the Corinthians and Jesus. He wanted them to believe in Jesus as Savior not because he convinced them with his exalted capacity for delivering God’s word, but for the Word itself. Paul even went so far as to not accept any money from them at all, distancing himself from those who could weave words of enticement for profit.
Perhaps the people of Corinth were deceived because of their natural inclination to believe gifted orators, or perhaps it was because of their relative youth as children of God. We might never know in this lifetime why they chose to follow false apostles, just as we may never know why some American Christians decide to follow self-promoting, greedy, golden-voiced preachers today. Peddling God’s word will always be a lucrative business.
Justin includes in this a letter a long apologetic of Christianity, touching on a varied selection of beliefs and reasons for what the Christians were doing. One area explained was the Christian’s search for a kingdom. Justin explained how this search did not involve an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one, so no threat should be felt from this. The emperor should even welcome Christians because they are a people of peace and honor, not a violent and lawbreaking people. Concerning lawbreaking, Justin uses the incident when Jesus responded to the Pharisees question about paying taxes, “Is it right to pay taxes?” Jesus looked at the picture of Caesar on the coin and said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is Gods.” Justin used this to illustrate that Christian are commanded to obey civil laws and not to be disobedient.
Justin then liberally quotes from the scriptures; particularly what Jesus said concerning such things as lust and adultery, forgiveness of others, swearing, and the godly way in which to treat others. He attempts to establish the validity of Jesus as the Christ by introducing the prophets of the Old Testament. He uses the prophetic writings of the Jews as proof of the deity of Jesus, using prophets that Pius may have heard of, like Moses and Isaiah. He joins history to the prophecies to prove them true; for example, he quotes the prophecy of Jesus’ birthplace by Micah, he then points out the registers of taxes in Judea as a means of verifying this prophecy. Justin mentions the destruction of Jerusalem and how it was predicted long before it happened; this prediction was by the same prophets who predicted the coming of Jesus. The fulfillment of the destruction of the Jerusalem prophecy should be a sign that the Jesus prophecies are also true.
Justin warns Pius of the consequences of not doing the right thing, which is being brought under the awesome judgment of an almighty God. He also mentions a letter written by Pius’ father, the Emperor Adrian, which basically said to punish men for breaking the law, but not for just being Christians. Unfortunately, the persecution of early Christians continued for another 150 years until Constantine legalized Christianity in 313.
The result of this Pentecostal visitation was that the apostle began to speak in other tongues and the people who happened to pass by could hear them speaking in their own language. These hearers knew that the apostles were simple people and should not have know all those different languages, so they were amazed and wonderstruck! So powerful was the Holy Spirit that over 3000 people became believers that day.
The conversions of the people hearing this new message presented by Peter and the others are central to God’s plan because they demonstrate, without a doubt, that anyone call be saved. Even the greatest enemy of the church at that time, Saul, became its greatest convert. It was made known that even the uncircumcised Gentiles were as loved by God as much as were the Hebrews. These conversions illustrated that God is truly the God of all, not just some.
The conversions on that day also showed that this new way to God was not ritualistic like Judaism was, but that anyone, at any time, could come to God through Jesus and be blessed with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God was leading people to freedoms in Him that no one had known before, and it wasn’t just the Hebrews who were now free, but the Gentiles as well.
In order to include the Gentiles, the leaders of the early Christian church formed a council, prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and had a meeting; the significance of this councils decisions were that they did not place any undue burdens on the Gentiles who wished to accept Jesus as their Savior. They did not hinder the work of God with man-made rules and regulations; they promoted the freedoms that God desired for all His children.
The implications for us today is that missionaries need to accept people as they are just as God does. Missionaries shouldn’t place denominational burdens on converts whose culture may not be the same as ours, and they need to allow people to remain comfortable in their culture as they began to live godly lives and to follow Christ.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Perhaps the reason they all are standing and staring at the sky after Jesus rises into the clouds is because He has just hit them with a load of bricks! They were saying to themselves – “The kingdom is still not coming? I’m to witness to all the earth? How?”
The disciples had seen Jesus killed by crucifixion and then buried, which was a tremendous surprise for them because they had expected Him to set up His earthly kingdom, put down His enemies, and rule the world from His throne in Jerusalem; and now they were again surprised, but happily so, to see that He had risen from the dead and was walking and talking with them. They, rightly so, once again expected Him to immediately set up His kingdom on the earth and take control of the affairs of the world. But He only gave them a command to go into the whole world and then He ascended into heaven!
But, is His earthly kingdom really in the future? Is He not the King now? In John 18:33-37 says, “Pilate… asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ … Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king...’”
Jesus’ kingdom is now, we don’t need to wait for a “secret” rapture and a mystical millennium to realize that His kingship and to subject ourselves to His authority. His kingdom is now, be His subject now.
Jesus was the ultimate religious leader, He set the example in everything He did and we are to attempt to follow this example while fulfilling the office of religious leader. When a leader holds a specific office, he should research the requirements of that office thoroughly, and use the biblical model as his guide.
Jesus was also the ultimate prophet of God. He proclaimed the word of God like no other because He is the Word of God. I’m not sure that the office of prophet is an active one today, certainly there are no prophets in the Old Testament sense. Hiebert says a prophet “go[es] to the people directly and challenge[s] them to action,” well, that’s ANY leader, Christian or secular. I would call that person a motivator, not a prophet. To me, a prophet is one who gets direct revelation from God to pass along to the people. The only ones I know of who claim that power are wolves in sheep’s clothing like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and the pope.
Every believer is a priest in the Christian church (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus is our example in this because He is the “high Priest,” we are to conduct ourselves in the way He taught us. Another office Jesus held was that of teacher.
Teachers are those who help us to understand what it is we need to know. Jesus was a great teacher! He was able to get His message out to the people in a way that made them remember what He had said. He made the people think for themselves and to come up with the correct ideas and answers without being spoon fed everything. Teachers today need to learn from this. A good teacher is also a good example, and one who live with the knowledge that they are being watched by others.
Dr. Kraft also asserts that one of the reasons for this is that churches too closely resemble the school system, but without the testing. Most pastors don’t hold their “average Joe,” pew-sitting members to any accountability as they do the church leadership. I have often thought that pastors should give weekly assignments from the pulpit, them collect and score the assignments, and post the average score so that the church, as a whole, can see how well it is learning. Perhaps a sense of competition against the church average would motivate people to study the Bible.
Another area written of by Dr. Kraft in this book is one concerning Christian missionaries imposing their cultural beliefs on other cultures, he says that non-Western cultures (any culture) should worship in a style that they are comfortable with. This problem of forcing changes in behavior outside of God’s biblical requirements has driven people away from the gospel instead of toward it. The Bible is the cross-cultural, timeless Word of God, and should be used to preach the gospel, not Americanism.
But what happens when a cultural norm is a biblical sin? For example, a college professor/ex-missionary tells of a tribe in the Philippines that believed that every woman’s first-born child was demon possessed, so it was always killed at birth. When the gospel was brought to this tribe and most of them became believers, this killing stopped because they realized that it is a sin to commit murder. Go changed that tribe culture, not the missionaries. Sin is not dictated by culture, but by God, and since He has one holy standard, sin is universal.
According to the Adherents.com, Christianity has over two billion adherents; it is almost unbelievable that so many people are actual followers of Christ, particularly when Jesus Himself said that His followers will be relatively small in number when compared with the world’s population: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV).
What does one need to believe in order to be a true follower of Christ? The list is not long, only four item, but without a committed belief in every one of these, one can never be a true Christian:
1. The Holy Bible is the Inspired Word of God, it is God’s primary means of revealing His plan for mankind (II Tim. 3:16-17).
2. There is one God, eternally existing in three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - who are identical in essence, equal in power and glory, and possess the same attributes and perfections (Matt. 28:19).
3. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and that He became a man while, at the same time, remaining to be God (John 1:1-5); He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Luke 1:34,35); He remained perfect and sinless throughout His human life (II Cor. 5:21); He redeemed sinful man by voluntarily giving Himself as a sinless substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, He then rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God where He intercedes on behalf of the saints (Luke 24:46-47).
4. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace given to all who believe in Jesus, as He is portrayed in the Bible; it is solely the work of God and His finished work on the cross, it cannot be gained by good works (
Lastly, sinners must be “born again,” which means to become a new creation in Christ. Jesus said it the best when He told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
Not every person who claims to be a Christian, really is. Are there really two billion Christians today? No, most of the people alive today will not make it to heaven. The road is narrow and the gate is small that leads to heaven and only a few will enter it. The core beliefs of Christianity are few, but they are critical.
To know who Jesus is and to understand what and why He did what He did, we have to go back to the beginning. God created all there is, including the earth and everything on it. God made mankind to be perfect in every way and to have fellowship with Him. God didn’t want little robots running around, so He gave people a free will in order to decide for themselves if they wanted to be God’s friend or not.
Adam and Eve were the first two people and the only ones to be directly created by God; before they had any children, they chose to disobey God and to use their free will to commit sin by doing the one thing God told them not to do—eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they disobeyed God, a sin nature was developed in them; a sin nature that was then passed down from parent to child in a continuous line until this day. Sin means “missing the mark”; it’s both the actual act of disobeying God (such as stealing, lying, murder, etc) and the result of that disobedience. See Romans 3:23.
Even though humans sinned and caused a separation between themselves and God, God still wanted the companionship He set out to get from the beginning. But being a Holy God, by His very nature, He is unable to even being the presence of sin. Think of the nastiest, most disgusting place you can think of, multiply that times a million and that’s not even close to what God thinks of sin.
But, because He loves us so much, He came up with a way for us to come to Him and reclaim that fellowship. He needed someone to pay the penalty for our sin. We couldn’t do it because we have committed sin and are an unclean payment. God says that the penalty of sin is death, so that only payment He will accept is blood, but not just any blood, He needs clean, holy blood, to wash away the sin of the world. See Romans 6:23.
This is where Jesus comes in. God is a Triune Being; He is one God in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son, Jesus, left His heavenly home, took on human flesh, and was born to Mary and Joseph. He grew up and became a normal man, with one exception--He never sinned! Although He was tempted to sin just as we, not once did He submit to any temptation, thereby becoming the perfect sacrifice for our sin. God accepted Jesus as a substitute for all of us. See 2 Corinthians 5:15 and John 14:6.
God will now let us into His heavenly home, to live with Him for all eternity, if simply believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, that He lived a totally sinless life, that He died and shed His holy blood in our place, and that 3 days later He arose from the dead and ascended back to heaven to become our mediator before God the Father. If we ask God to forgive our sins, they will be covered by Jesus’ blood and no longer seen by God! We are redeemed and seen as holy if only we truly believe. See Romans 10:9-11.