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Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ask Pastor Chris - Do You Have to Believe Jesus is God's Son?

Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but not believe Jesus is the Son of God?

In this series, I try to answer your questions. So post a question in the comments section so I can try to answer it in a future blog. 


According to orthodox Christian teaching, Jesus is the Son of God. The word orthodox just means the right view. So, according to the right Christian view,

Jesus is the Son of God. This is what the Bible teaches and what all true 

Christian Churches have followed for 2,000 years. But what happens if a person believes that God exists but they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God? Can they still go to heaven?


I’m going to make a disclaimer here, right up front:

Thankfully, I’m not the one who decides who does and does not go to heaven.

That is God’s decision and He is far wiser than me. He knows every person’s situation and what’s truly in their heart. I do not. So, I want you to know, I’m only approaching this question from a hypothetical point of view because it is an important lesson in the nature of true saving faith.


First of all, let’s understand what it takes to “go to Heaven” (which means to have eternal life). John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You have to “believe in Jesus” in order to go to heaven.  But what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?


We find the answer in the example of a man in the Old Testament named Abram (who’s name was later changed to Abraham). You can read about Abram/Abraham in Genesis chapters 11-25. Abraham is also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament because he is the poster child for what the Bible means whenever it says, “Believe in” or “have faith in God.”


For example, Romans 4:3 says, “For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

So let’s look at how Abraham “believed God”.


Genesis 12:1-3 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”


Now even though Abraham was already 75 years old and his wife was really old too, Abram believed in God’s promise and did what God asked him to do. And this is the definition of saving faith or belief. It is believing God’s promise and doing His will.


So now, let’s look back at the famous John 3:16.“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So we see that word again–believe. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.


Based on the definition of faith we know from Abraham’s example, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means we trust what he says enough to follow Him. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

No one can come to the Father [that’s in heaven] except through me.”


So, I hope you’re seeing that the kind of belief or faith that saves a person for eternal life is not merely an intellectual thing where you express your approval or agreement with an idea about God or Jesus. The kind of faith that saves you must be the kind of faith that moves you to action.


It’s kind of like a person who is trapped on the 7th floor of a burning building and the firefighters are on the ground outside shouting, “You have to jump!  We have a safety net that will catch you! Jump!” Well, you can believe what they say is true, you can believe the safety net exists, you can even believe it will save you, but unless you jump, you’re going to be burned to death.


Jesus’ brother, James, put it this way in James 2:17 - “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James then goes on to use Abraham from the Old Testament as an illustration to prove his point. James 2:22 - “[Abraham’s] faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.”


So back to the original question: Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you see the problem with the way this question is stated? It assumes that people go to heaven merely because they agree with a certain set of ideas about God. In other words, if they agree that God exists and that Jesus is His son, then they will go to heaven. But we’ve just seen from Abraham’s example that faith is not just agreeing something is true.  It’s about acting upon your belief.


So then, we should understand a person can believe God exists and that Jesus is His Son and still not go to heaven if their faith does not compel them to action because they trust Jesus. James said as much in James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”


What happens to a person who believes God exists but doesn’t believe Jesus is His Son? Well, I need to know more about the situation.  Is this person’s faith only an intellectual agreement or is their belief in God something that truly moves them to act differently because they believe in God? And how does their belief in the existence of God compel them to act?


There have been many in history who believed in gods and their beliefs compelled them to take horrific actions. The ancient Egyptians believed in gods who justified drowning Hebrew babies in the Nile River. I don’t think that is saving faith that will get you to heaven.


The thing about Jesus is His words and His actions show the clearest representation of God we have ever seen. Jesus revealed who God really is.

I suppose a person could, hypothetically, believe in Jesus’ Father, God, 

and trust God enough to obey Him without ever agreeing “intellectually” 

that Jesus is the Son of God.


That was sort of the case for Abraham in the Old Testament. The Good News about God’s Son had not yet been revealed on earth in Abraham’s day.  Therefore, Abraham did not yet know about Jesus or that Jesus was the Son of God. Abraham’s faith (which the New Testament says made him righteous) was purely in God (the Father) and based on what He did know at the time. Abraham knew and trusted God and and Abraham's faith compelled him to obey. Part of the reason  Abraham’s faith was so amazing is that he acted upon it without having all the details.


Now that we have the Good News about Jesus in the New Testament, we have a much better understanding of God and His plan than Abraham ever did. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tell us that God said Jesus was His beloved Son (see Matthew 3:17, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35). In the Gospel of John , Jesus calls God His Father, and God affirms it (see John 12:28).


People may struggle to accept that Jesus is God’s Son. Perhaps they struggle to understand how God could have a Son or the whole complex trinitarian,

three-in-one nature of God. Regardless, you don’t have to understand something to have faith in it.  (I’m using a computer right now and I don’t really understand how it works, but I trust it to get the job done and even trust my computer enough to keep some of my most important files safe and secure.)


It could be that a person doesn’t yet have enough information to know that Jesus is God’s Son. Maybe they haven’t yet worked it all out or understood how that works or even that God actually called Jesus His son. Maybe they are still like Abraham in the Old Testament, walking by faith with the limited understanding they have right now.  Hopefully, one day, they will come to know the whole story of how John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world 

that he gave his one and only Sonthat whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


God is gracious and patient.  God also wants to be known by His people. That’s why God’s Son said in Matthew 7:7 - “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” So someone who truly believes in God doesn’t have to go on long without discovering Jesus is God’s Son. The resources are there and God wants His people to know about Him and His Son. But if they refuse to accept it because they can’t understand it, then isn’t that the definition of disbelief? Isn’t that the exact opposite of walking by faith?


And if someone refuses to accept that Jesus is God's Son because they don’t like it or they don’t want to accept it, then isn’t that open rejection of God?God doesn’t justify those who reject Him.


Thankfully, God is willing to save those who come to their senses, repent of their sin, and put their faith in the God who sent His Son to save us. 1 John 4:10, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”


My invitation to everyone is this: Turn away from your own selfish ambitions and turn to God. God sent Jesus to save you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Well, that’s my thoughts.  What are yours? Leave a comment and let me know. If you have a question, post that in a comment too and I’ll try to answer it in a future article.


Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Pastor Chris Mullis

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Are There Any BIG, BAD, SINS That Keep You Out Of Heaven?

 Are there any particular sins that are so bad they will without a doubt keep you out of heaven?

This blog is part of a series where I try to answer your questions about the Christian faith. I’m Pastor Chris Mullis.  I’ve been a pastor for 2 decades--thinking about the mysteries of God, the Bible, and the Christian faith.

So in this series, I’ll do my best to answer your questions and share something that will help you grow and be fruitful.

Post your questions in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in an upcoming blog.

You can also click this link to my YouTube channel if you want to watch a video about this.

In this blog, I want to answer the question:  Are there any particular sins that are so bad they will definitely keep you out of heaven?  So let’s get into it.

I get asked questions like this a lot. And recently, I was asked:  “Do you think practicing homosexuals are going to Heaven?”  It’s a sincere question from a person I know to be very caring.  But the real question is much broader. Why limited the sin to gays and lesbians?

What about people who sin in other ways? What about: Murders? People who commit suicide? Blasphemers? Is there any sin that is so bad it will exclude you from Heaven forever? 

The truth is, all sins exclude you from the Kingdom of Heaven. Even seemingly small sins.  Have you ever lied?  Have you ever said to your wife or girlfriend, “No, honey!  Those pants do not make your butt look big.” when they actually do?  Have you ever taken a pen or paperclip that didn’t really belong to you? That’s stealing. And even tiny infractions like these are sins big enough compared to God’s gloriously perfect standard to disqualify you from the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Word of God tells us in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  And James 2:10 says, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” And Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So what we find in the Bible is that absolutely no one is able to go to heaven unless God somehow graciously overlooks their sin through Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, 9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Any sin can keep you out of Heaven. But God can cleanse you of any sin and make you holy.  We are made right with God when we repent of our sin and seek to live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 6:15 says, “Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”  

We shouldn’t keep living in sin after we repent and start  following Jesus. God’s Holy Spirit empowers us to live a new and holy life. We need to respond to the Spirit’s power and choose to live in ways that honor God. We need to repent of our sin and live right the best we can according to the Holy Spirit’s enabling power. 

But wait! Doesn’t the Bible say there’s an unforgivable sin?

There is no unforgivable sin except this: Rejecting Jesus Christ.  That is the only sin that cannot be forgiven. And even if you rejected Christ last year, but this year realize it was a mistake, you can put your faith in Jesus today and be saved.

And so, no mater what you’ve done, even if no one else can forgive, God can and He will if you trust Jesus and follow Him as Lord.

But wait a minute! What about people who persist in sinning even after Jesus saves them?  What about the gay person who contiues to practice homosexuality? What about the alcoholic that keeps drinking? What about the adulterer who keeps cheating? What about....

Ok.  Here’s my advice. It is very dangerous to continue to sin after you repent and follow Jesus as Lord doing stuff you know you shouldn’t. It abuses the mercy and grace of God. It damages the reputation of God and His people and can even keep others from following Jesus. Willful sin destroys our world, hurts people, damages your community, and sometimes abuses the people you care about most. Furthermore,  continuing to sin when you know better keeps you enslaved when God wants you to be free. 

As to whether and to what degree a person’s willful sin may keep them out of the Kingdom of Heaven: Only God can be the final judge. God knows and understands things in a sinner's heart we can’t imagine. So who am I to say what will be the final destination of a person’s soul? I don’t know and neither does anyone else. I do know that the power of some sins can be notoriously difficult to break. Alcoholics and addicts sometimes struggle their whole lives with very limited success staying sober, but that doesn’t disqualify them from heaven. God knows their struggles in ways I will never understand. And God is a righteous Judge Who always knows when to dispense justice and when to show mercy.

I do know this.  There’s no better place for a sinner to be than in a church where people come to encounter Jesus, the Savior who came to save sinners. So I’ll leave you with this  inspirational post I found on Facebook last week:

 You got hammered at the bar on Saturday but came to church on Sunday…. You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be.

You’re a drug addict but came to church on Sunday…. You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be. 

You’re divorced and the last church you attended condemned you for it…. You can sit me, you’re right where you need to be.

You’ve had an abortion and it’s slowly eating away at your heart but you came to church on Sunday…. You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be. 

You’ve been unfaithful to your spouse but came to church on Sunday…. You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be.

 So you gay and your struggling and wonder if God still loves you… He does.  And so do I. Come to church and sit with me.

People don’t come to church for you to judge them because you feel you’re better than them. People come to church because in their deepest, darkest, most painful moments, they heard a man named Jesus could save their soul and they’d like to know him.

 The man who snorted cocaine off his kitchen table  isn’t a bigger sinner than you who told your boss a lie on Monday so you could leave work early.

 The woman that had an abortion 10 years ago isn’t a bigger sinner than you when you flipped a man off in traffic last week. 

The drunk who slept in bar isn’t a bigger sinner than you who occasionally has too much to drink at home in private.

The woman who got caught cheating on her husband isn’t a bigger sinner than you who had sex with your now husband before you were married.

The lesbian who’s been rejected by her family for her choices isn’t a bigger sinner than you who indulged in a bit of gossip at church yesterday.  

There isn’t a person in this world too bad, too broken, too mean, or too damaged for Jesus to save. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

That’s what I believe.  How about you?

Post your thoughts in the comments. And ask any other questions you have about the Christian faith. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Love Never Gives Up

Introduction
If you followed football yesterday, you may know that Ole Miss beat TN.  Alabama beat Mississippi State.  Georgia beat Kentucky. Auburn beat Arkansas. LSU beat Florida. GT beat Duke.

You know, in a football game, there often comes a certain moment in a game where the tide turns for your team and the game is no longer winnable.  You can sometimes gauge when this critical moment comes, because you may see fans start leaving the stadium.  They know their team is beat at this point.  So they start leaving to get ahead of the traffic.

If you’re a true fan, you may hold on to hope.  You may think, “That’s Ok.  We can still get this back.”  And you’re rooting for your team and you’re hoping that they will retake the lead and win the game.  Then, the opposing team get’s another score.  And you’re frustrated.  But it’s still not over. You still believe—because you’re a true believer.  You believe your team can still pull out a win.  But the time is ticking off the clock and soon your down to the final minutes.  And you’re hoping beyond hope that your team can still do it.  Maybe you’re thinking, “If they get the ball back, and this happens and this happens… They could still do it. It’s possible!” You start running through different scenarios in your mind.  “It may take a miracle, but it’s still possible!”  But then the clock is down to the last minute, then the last seconds, and all your timeouts are gone…

I remember watching a few football games with my dad and older brother as a young kid, I would always be the last one to give up hope.  Dad and Nelson were older and knew the game better.  They could read the writing on the wall when the game was lost.  But I was young and na├»ve and I loved our team and was full of hope.  I would hold on till the last seconds.  But then our team would lose.  It was inevitable. 

Well, that’s football.  But love, according the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, love is another story. Love never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

The City of Corinth
This passage is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians lived in Corinth, an important port city in Greece.  Corinth was especially important because it was located on the isthmus of Corinth—a narrow strip of land separating the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.  Ships could be carried over land about four miles on a special paved road made just for moving ships.  It saved a tremendous amount of time and money and was much safer than sailing 185 miles around the treacherous Peloponnesian peninsula.  Corinth’s strategic location made it a very wealthy city, and with it’s wealth also came debauchery.

Ancient Corinth was the home of the temple of the goddess, Aphrodite—the Greek goddess of love.  It was said that the temple employed 1,000 professional prostitutes to “help” the people “worship” Aphrodite.  (I guess that's one way to get people to church!)  

By the time Paul wrote his letter, Corinth had been taken over by the Romans, who converted the Temple of Aphrodite to the Temple of Venus (the Romans name for the goddess of love).  Both Aphrodite and Venus “are known for their jealousy, their beauty and for their affairs with both gods and mortals.”[i]

Study notes in the The MacArther Study Bible say, “Even by pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To ‘corinthianize’ came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery.”

Despite Corinth’s centuries of sin and debauchery and corruption of the virtue of love, God did not give up on them.  God sent Paul to Corinth in AD 49 or 50.  According to Acts 18:11, Paul spent 18 months discipling a group of new Christians who then formed the Corinthian church.  God is always working to save people and bring them back from the brink of destruction.  And it doesn’t matter how far gone they seem to be, God still cares.  We see this clearly in the Corinthian church.  From a city as wicked as Corinth, God established a group of Christians to be a beacon of God’s light.

But they still had a lot to learn.  The Corinthian church had some severely warped ideas of love—no wonder; they were a product of a city that worshipped the so-called “goddess of love” that taught love was only a carnal, consuming thing.  Paul wrote about the One True God’s love that is demonstrated in Jesus self-sacrificing love on the cross.  And Paul wrote “Love is patient and kind.”  It had to teach the Corinthians that real love is not jealous like the so-called love of Apphrodite or Venus.  And love “is not boastful or proud or rude.” So they shouldn’t fight amongst themselves about who was the most important or who was more spiritual or who was in charge.  And today we’re learning that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…” just as God never gave up on the Corinthians, despite their centuries of wickedness and sexual immorality and moral corruption.  God's love neve gives up and it changes people's live and even changes the whole world.

John 3:16
John 3:16 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the whole Bible, and for good reason.  John 3:16 could be a summary of the entire story of the Bible.  “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The whole story of the Bible—from beginning to end—is the story of God’s love that “never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful” that people will turn from their evil ways and return to a love relationship with God.  Throughout the centuries, while God is reaching out to people to beckon them to come back to Him, God is also setting up His plan to save the whole world.  The ultimate message of God’s love is given through Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, God came in the flesh to show the world His love.  He came teaching people the truth about how to live.  His presence brought healing and life—everywhere he went, the lame were made whole, the blind could see, and the deaf could hear.  Leprosy and deformity and demonic possession were banished.  And so, hoping beyond hope, God reached out to fallen humanity.  There is a way to heal your spirit!  There is a way to be made whole again!  There is a way to be saved!

And there was a tremendous sense of hope.  The Disciples followed Jesus.  And crowds of people heard his teachings and saw his miracles and they believed.  Could this be the Messiah who was sent to save us, even when it seems all hope is lost?

But They Crucified Him
Jesus came in love, but we crucified him.  Can you imagine the disappointment of Jesus’ disciples and followers?  Jesus was love.  He was hope.  They put all their faith in Him.  And then He was brutally murdered on a Roman cross.

Roman crucifixion was the most painful, humiliating, degrading way to kill someone.  It was intentionally designed to make a bold statement to anyone who dared challenge Roman rule.  Crucifixion’s message was: “We own you.  We can do whatever we want to you—any of you.  It doesn’t matter if you are a peasant, a religious leader, a king, or even supposedly a messiah or god, we can strip you naked and beat you to a pulp and nail you to a cross and hang you up to die and agonizing death that will take days while everyone watches in horror—including your mother.”

If ever there was a moment in history when the game was lost, it was on the Friday they nailed Jesus to the cross.  And I don’t care who you were or how much faith you had, everyone who saw Jesus die new the game was over.  Love had lost.

Some cried bitter tears.  Some got angry and cursed Jesus and spat on him.
Some just left, because they knew the game was over. Some ran away in horror and hid in shame.
Some just stared in disbelief.
How could this happen?  How can evil triumph over good?  What do we do now?

There’s a certain point in a football game that’s the point of now return—when the game is lost and there’s no hope to win.  But football’s just a game.  What do you do when it’s real life?

What do you do when the marriage really is over and ends in divorce?
What do you do when your son’s addiction finally takes him?
What do you do when cancer wins?
What do you do when the game clock of real life finally says zero and it really is over?
What do you do when Jesus is really dead?

A Childlike Faith
Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb.  A stone was rolled over the door. 
Soldiers guarded the entrance.  No one was going to get in. 
But Jesus was going to come out!  On the Third Day, Jesus rose from the grave!

With God’s love, true love, divine love, there is always hope.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…”  Love never fails.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Children often have more faith than adults.
Adults know better.  We know how the game of life works.  We know when the game is over—even if the clock hasn’t finished running out.  We think we know when all hope is lost and how it will all end.
But children believe in magic.  They believe in hope.  They still believe in miracles.
And God can work through miracles.  He saved the world through a miracle.
Jesus was dead, but then He was alive!
Jesus can save you with a miracle.  

So, we need to be mature and use our intelligence, but we also need to keep our childlike faith.
“Humanly speaking, it may be impossible.  But with God, everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Invitation
I want to tell you something though. 
Sometimes you've got to lose before you can win.
Sometimes you've got to die before you can rise to new life.
There may be something you've got to let go of before God can give you something new.
Do you trust Him?
Open your heart. 
Let go. 
Let God do a new thing in you.



[i] http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-aphrodite-and-venus/