Friday, August 28, 2015

What about dust and ashes?

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7)

Do you realize that in the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, the first time God did not speak something into existence but personally and intimately used His own 'hands' was when He created Adam? He spoke the world, the sun, moon, stars, animals, lands, oceans, birds, into existence but made Adam from dust and His own breath. Interesting.

It's also interesting that we are made of the dust from the ground. Dust appears frequently in the Bible. It didn't take long from the gentle creation scene in Genesis 2, to go to a dusty curse in Genesis 3.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:19).

Ever since sin came into the world through Adam we all return to dust.

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

Ever since God cursed the ground (dust) Adam was made from, dust represents death. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23). Therefore it is fitting that we repent in dust and ashes.

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6)

What is the meaning of sackcloth and ashes?
Very simply, sackcloth and ashes were used as an outward sign of one’s inward condition. Such a symbol made one’s change of heart visible and demonstrated the sincerity of one’s grief and/or repentance. It was not the act of putting on sackcloth and ashes itself that moved God to intervene, but the humility that such an action demonstrated (see 1 Samuel 16:7). God’s forgiveness in response to genuine repentance is celebrated by David’s words: “You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).
Abraham spoke of dust in a positive way. Knowing one is made of dust and is destined for death (before eternal life in glory) is a simple declaration of an understanding of who we are before a Holy God. We are sinners, part of His creation.

Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, (Genesis 18:27)

But because of the relationship He has entered into with his saints, we can approach Him humbly but boldly like Abraham did.

Though Adam fell short of living a sinless life, Jesus accomplished living that sinless life that's required for dwelling with God. Jesus shed His own blood in a supreme sacrifice to God and died in humiliation on the cross. Buried, Jesus rose to life when God resurrected Him in joy, pleased with Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus is now ascended to the Father, but He is coming again in wrath and glory to judge the living and the dead. This is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ for sinners.

We may die before He raptures the remaining saints alive to glory, though we may indeed return to dust in that death, He will resurrect us in joy. He will bring His Bride home to celebrate life in heaven with the Father of Lights. There will be no more sin, thus ending the need to repent in dust and ashes. No more sackcloth. There will be no more cursed dust of the ground.
Lars Justinen "Robe of Righteousness"

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, (Psalm 30:11)

Hallelujah, praise the Father!

Scripture photo: A more sincere worship

"O Spirit, help me to delight more in what I receive from Christ." (Valley of Vision).

O Spirit, Help me to worship You, labor for You and delight in You more purely and sincerely.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Jesus gave us His peace

A friend of mine made a plea on Facebook. She said she is sensitive to negativity, and she can hardly stand the awful news that has surfaced this summer. I know what she means. I quit reading the news a while ago and stuck to the headlines only, mostly on Drudge. A quick scan with eyes half closed through spread fingers like at a horror movie is still too much to bear.

She wrote:
stories of thieves, predators and murders. There is so much hate in the hearts of so many. I fear that many people can no longer see the beauty, love and compassion that is around us.
The sad fact is that she is right. Hate is building as apostasy grows. Hate is an outflow of the sinfulness of the earth that is rising to heaven. Worse, people refuse to see the beauty and compassion that is around us, the highest order of which is expressed in Jesus, then the hateful heart darkens even more.

There is not only the rising hate int he hearts of the lost, but rising hate in the heart of those who claim they are of Christ. (Matthew 24:12). This, too, is predicted.

In the Didache, an ancient writing, not inspired but important to church history, we read of the personal and national warning not to quench our lamps: (the emphasis is mine).
Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. (Didache , Didache)
That's the reality. The early church was well aware of how hard it was to live among hate. For most of the world except America, the life of the Christian has been one of targeted hate. Now it's our turn. We're dealing with it from even among the alleged brethren.

So, how do we stay sane, joyful, untouched by pollution of the world that has risen to our very noses? By staying in the word, by praising Jesus, by this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

You know when you're tired, you have coffee? (Or a sports drink?) When you're extra tired you have espresso (or Turbo Sports Drink). The tired Christian should drink the Drink the Living Water for energy. In these times,  friends, let's just cut to the highest, noblest, most joyful item to ponder: Our Savior. Think of Him, meditate on the word.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Pulpit commentary says of John 14:27,
Then follow the last words as of one who is about to go away, and says 'Good night,' or gives his blessing" (Luther). Peace I leave with (or, to) you. Peace answers to the shalom of ordinary converse and greeting, and signifies prosperity, health of soul, serenity, farewell. This is the sacred bestowment and Divine legacy of the Lord. "Peace" is always the result of equilibrated forces, the poise of antagonistic elements, held in check by one another. Of these the most placid lake, hidden in the hills and reflecting the sunshine and shadows, is a remarkable illustration. So the peace Christ leaves is power to hold the wildest fear in pause, to still a clamor or hush a cry

EPrata photo

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Then and now, compare Baptist publication list from 1870 and 2015

Baptist published book list from 1870

LifeWay is the Southern Baptist Convention's Bookstore arm. To compare Baptist publications from 1870 to Baptist publications in 2015, here is a list of LifeWay's 2015 best sellers. What a difference 145 years makes. Would a Baptist returning today from an extended Rip Van Winkle sleep even recognize his own denomination?

I listed the modern books in the order in which they appeared in the LifeWay list but also included a credible review of the book from a discerning person or organization next to it. Most of these books are complete nonsense. The one or two that aren't are marginal (well, Chan's is marginal, Platt's is good).

LifeWay's Best Selling NonFiction as of July 2015:

#1 Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (review of the book)

#2 Counter Culture by David Platt (review of the book)

#3 Jesus Calling Large Deluxe by Sarah Young (review of the devotional)

#4 The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst (review of TerKeurst and her overall ministry; review of the book)

#5 Before Amen by Max Lucado (review of Lucado's overall fruit)

#6 The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (review of the book)

#7 The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman (review of the book)

#8 Waiting on God by Charles Stanley (general review of Stanley himself)

#9 Portraits of Devotion by Beth Moore (review of Moore herself, her statements, and her other teachings)

#10 Agents of the Apocalypse by David Jeremiah (review of D. Jeremiah and his use of the novel Agents of the Apocalypse)

#11 The Mystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn (review of the book)

#12 You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan (I could not find a review of this book from an organization or person I am familiar with, but Challies gave Chan generally favorable reviews on Chan's other books, such as Multiply, Crazy Love, Forgotten God)

Godlessness in the Last Days

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

I think the 2015 publication list demonstrates a wide-spread love of self, and LifeWay's love of money.

Ever since the world was created, we have been going downhill. Even after the Flood when humanity was re-set in Genesis 9, by Genesis 11 there was the the first polygamist, first dictator, and the first ode to false religion. The LORD confused the languages at Babel and dispersed them. It has been downhill ever since.

However, in a Google Hangout yesterday with Dr John MacArthur, Dr Stephen Nichols and Nathan Bingham hosted by Ligonier, titled "Convictions and Cultural Change: A Google Hangout with John MacArthur" MacArthur said in his nearly 50 years of ministry that despite it all being downhill since the beginning, in his years he has not seen an acceleration of cultural decline this rapid. The general consensus among the three men was that we are near to mirroring the fist century church in terms of idolatry, lack of discernment, disarray, and paganism.

And yet the Lord always keeps a remnant. His people are true, righteous, and working for His name. As for the non-Christians doing these things like writing books filled with doctrines of demons and with all the blasphemies occurring in His name, how He must be storing up his anger.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS... (Romans 2:5-6).

And that is our comfort. When I read of a new heretical book coming out, my heart drops and I mourn the gullible and the lost who will be sucked into its world. But I temper that with the knowledge that Jesus is King. He will render to each person according to his deeds, and even reading that, never mind living it, makes my stomach cringe. He is in charge, He is All-Knowing, He is taking care.

If you love the sovereignty of God this will comfort you.

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 34:3)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

John Oliver takes on prosperity televangelists: Why does it take a non-believer to say what Christians all know?

HBO's John Oliver
Yesterday I wrote about a so-called conservative so-called pastor collecting a very large salary. No, it's not Joel Osteen. No, it's not Joyce Meyer, though those two are so-called and are definitely collecting a large salary. Who I wrote about was Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham, whose nearly a million dollar salary from combined corporations Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse was raising eyebrows even among secular CEOs.

Today then, it seems fitting to follow that up with a post about excessive money-grubbing from excessively greedy pastors. But it's really a post about how a pagan is showing us up.

John Oliver is a comedian.You will know him from Jon Stewart's Comedy Central show "The Daily Show" in past years. He's British, he's pagan, and he's finally had enough of the in-your-face money grubbing televangelists begging for money from gullible people.

A few days ago, Oliver performed a sketch on his show "Last Week Tonight" regarding how some televangelists are blatant about seeking money for money's sake from people who watch their show- AND call their organization a church. The following article is from Addicting Info. The sketch is still having its effect.

John Oliver May Have Just Forced The IRS To Consider Taxing Greedy Televangelists
It could be the end of the line for televangelists who fleece their own flocks to make themselves wealthy, and it’s all thanks to John Oliver.
Last Sunday, Oliver spent 20 minutes eviscerating prosperity gospel televangelists who advocate a sort of trickle-down policy when it comes to donations. According to preachers like Creflo Dollar, the more money people donate so that he can be wealthy and own mansions and private jets, the more likely it is that God will favor them and make them prosper in return.
“They preach something called the prosperity gospel which argues that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you,” Oliver explained the scam. 
“That idea sometimes takes the form of seed faith – the notion that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest. The argument is ‘sow your money into the ground, you will reap returns multiple times over,’ except as an investment you’d be better off burying your money in the actual ground because at least that way there’s a chance your dog may dig it up and give it back to you one day.”
The scam has resulted in a transfer of millions upon millions of dollars from church-goers who are already struggling while their pastor gets to live a wealthy lifestyle completely funded by the congregation. For years, televangelists have gotten away with this by taking advantage of the tax system by declaring their operations as religious organizations. Current tax law allows churches to be tax-exempt and the IRS largely fails to investigate to make sure that churches are churches and not scams by so-called “pastors” designed to make themselves rich. But all of that could now change. According to a new report by CBS, the IRS is under a lot of pressure to tax televangelists in light of John Oliver’s exposure of the corrupt practice of prosperity gospel.

Someone was brave enough to call it what it is...what we all understand and know that it is: a scam.

Now, this behavior is certainly nothing new. Simon the Magician tried to buy the Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (Acts 8:17-21)

His heart was not right before God. Why?

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

The motivation of a false Christian is money. It is one way to tell if someone is false. Not the fact they have money, it's their love of it that is the telling indicator. Many verse speak to this.

[ Qualifications for Overseers ] The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money... (1 Timothy 3:1-3)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. (Titus 1:7)

Paul prophesied that in the time of the end (the time between Jesus' ascension and His return) some within the church will be false and godless and because of this, times will be difficult he said to avoid these people. Some few of the behaviors these godless ones will exhibit are listed, and 'loving money' is one of the traits.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (2 Timothy 3:2)

So if all this is laid out in the Bible for us to see clearly, and if it is even prophesied to Christians as a certainty, why is so much of the general Christian population either so undiscerning as not to notice or so cowardly so as not to stand up?

Why does it take a pagan to point this out?

Not that many Christians haven't been doing their part to sound the alarm. Many have. Even many leaders with a platform almost as influential as Oliver's have done tremendous works in the name of Jesus to combat the dangerous doctrines and those who bring them.

But too many others don't wish to "name names", "make waves", or "play hardball." Church discipline has gone by the wayside, or else turned into something the Pharisees would have approved of. (John 9:22)

So how is the Christian to do his or her part to combat creeping prosperity Gospel into their own church? Yes, you. It is up to each individual Christian to do their part with the amount of discernment they have cultivated in and by the Spirit. Though discernment is a spiritual gift given to some, all Christians can and should cultivate a red flag alert by studying the Bible and prayer and constant confession and obedience to Jesus and His commands. Here is John MacArthur in a 2-minute clip explaining "Every Believer's Responsibility." (Though the clip looks dead, it isn't)

It isn't easy. As MacArthur ended the clip, he said to go to the pastor or leader lovingly, privately, but to do it. Sometimes, often times, as a matter of fact in my experience, the reactions are not of love returned. You might get a "reputation". You might be asked to leave the church a la Pharisee-style. you might be gossiped about. You might be ignored. You might be patronized like a little girl with a pat on the head and an admonition not to take it all so seriously. In rare, beautiful cases, you might be listened to and the pastor or leader might actually go back and check through his Bible and see that you're right. The latter case is rare.

So why go through all that if there is a good chance your message won't be listened to? For 4 reasons. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

First, your message might be listened to. You never know. The goal of correcting someone's doctrine is restoration, love, and  drawing them back into the fold. The Spirit might graciously draw that person back through your conversation, especially if you stick to the Word.

Secondly, though we do it out of love and concern for the person teaching or preaching the error, ultimately we have an audience of One. Jesus is the Head of the church and has charged us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8)  and to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We take witnessing seriously. We take discipling seriously. We don't walk away when a disciple of Jesus Christ begins to wander, or who brings in false doctrine that makes others stumble.

Third, pointing these things out helps to uncover who is true and who is false. A true disciple of Jesus Christ will hear you out and maybe they will become angry. But afterward they will calm down and the message will begin to work in them and they will come back to you in humility to apologize, and to learn more. A false witness of Jesus Christ will perhaps ignore, become dismissive, be angry...but if there is no effect then or later it is a sign that the Spirit perhaps is not in them and it is their flesh doing the driving.

Last, we check against scripture then point out the error so a pagan doesn't have to.


Further Reading

Who Needs Church Discipline When You Can Have Church Growth Instead? -- or  -- Church growth without church purity

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Why Franklin Graham’s salary raises eyebrows among Christian nonprofits"

The Kansas City Star reported this week that...
Franklin Graham earns $622,000 as the head of Samaritan’s Purse and $258,000 as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a recent newspaper story revealed. ... Franklin Graham’s annual compensation of $880,000, revealed in a Charlotte Observer story, has some worrying that too many top Christian nonprofit leaders as well as pastors are seeing themselves as CEOs instead of as God’s servants. Graham, son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, is head of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency based in Boone, N.C.
CEOs at the top 50 U.S. charities, including Samaritan’s Purse, earn in the $350,000 to $450,000 range, which makes Graham’s $622,000 salary from his aid organization alone about 40 percent to 50 percent higher than average, according to a Forbes story. He receives the rest of his $258,000 compensation as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
By contrast, pastor salaries at the nation’s biggest Christian churches are much lower for all but a select number. Only 3 percent of churches with more than 1,600 people in attendance pay senior pastors more than $300,000, said Warren Bird, research director at Leadership Network. At the other extreme, a recent study by the National Association of Church Business Administration found that the average American pastor with a congregation of 300 people earns a salary of less than $28,000 a year.
In a 2011 comparison of megachurch pastors’ salaries, two senior pastors made $1 million and $1.1 million. Others were a fourth to less than half of that. Compensation in the mid- to high six figures “is on the generous side for anyone who is asking for other people’s money,” the professor emeritus [Grant Wacker] at Duke Divinity school said a bit wryly. “It’s eyebrow-raising.”

Mainstream evangelicals generally expect money they give to be used frugally, Wacker said. Big salaries come with questions.
Go to the link to read the full story.

First, let's look at what the Bible says about rich people:

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

Why is it so hard for a rich person to enter heaven? What is the meaning of this verse? The short answer is that fleshly man tends to make Mammon his god. Here is Gill with a more lengthy answer.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And again I say unto you,.... After the apostles had discovered their astonishment at the above expression, about the difficulty of a rich man entering into the kingdom of heaven; when they expected that, in a short time, all the rich and great men of the nation would espouse the interest of the Messiah, and acknowledge him as a temporal king, and add to the grandeur of his state and kingdom; and after he had in a mild and gentle manner, calling them "children", explained himself of such, that trusted in uncertain riches, served mammon, made these their gods, and placed their hope and happiness in them; in order to strengthen and confirm what he had before asserted, and to assure, in the strongest manner, the very great difficulty, and seeming impossibility, of rich men becoming followers of Christ here, or companions with him hereafter, he expresses himself in this proverbial way:

it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God: thus, when the Jews would express anything that was rare and unusual, difficult and impossible, they used a like saying with this.

So, is it bad to be rich?

No, several standout people in the Bible were exceedingly wealthy, all at the grace and providential plan of God. God told Abram in Genesis 17:6 that He planned to make Abraham exceedingly fruitful and nations and kings would come from him. Solomon was the richest king that ever lived (2 Chronicles 1:11-12). Job was wealthy, twice. Joseph of Arimathea was rich. We can assume Lydia was rich, she was a seller of purple, a luxury item only the very wealthy traded in, and she had a large house and servants. So no, being rich isn't the issue. The LOVE of wealth is. (1 Tim 6:10).

So what kind of salary should pastors receive?

Well Graham's salary compared to other pastors is a bit of apples to oranges. He doesn't serve one flock within 4 walls of a particular church. He is more of a CEO of two corporations, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Samaritan's Purse. The BGEA puts on revival crusades (or Festivals, as Franklin prefers to call them) for the alleged purpose of gaining converts. Samaritan's Purse is a missionary/aid organization. For example, when the terrible 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal and Mt Everest bounced and caused a landslide that killed many mountaineers, 9000 civilians, as well as terrible damage to Kathmandu, Samaritan's Purse was on scene almost immediately.

However, in comparing even secular CEO salaries of Christian Graham's, nearly a million dollars is exorbitant.  As a matter of fact, he was called out for his excessive BGEA salary in 2010, so he stopped drawing one. That lasted a year. In 2011 he began drawing a salary again.

Christians are to be wise stewards of the money and resources God gives us. So when you take it all in, it doesn't look good. If Graham's BGEA salary was an issue and he made a public display of renouncing it, why did he quietly begin drawing it again less than a year later? Why are both salaries combined so much higher than similar secular counterparts?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

There is one more thing to keep in mind regarding pastor salaries. As I said above, being wealthy is not in itself an indictment. It's a person's motivation for getting all this money. Do they shepherd their God-given finances wisely? Or do they simply accumulate for the sake of personal gain?
Finally, false teachers have a simple motivation: money. They “suppose that godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5, used sarcastically of their false piety) will bring them such gain. Unlike Paul, they cannot say, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes” (Acts 20:33). Put simply, they are not “free from the love of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). ~MacArthur "The Pathology of False Teachers".
Franklin Graham is a false teacher. He is not Christian. Read this and see of you still think he is after you're done. In His crusades, most recently last year's Pittsburgh Three Rivers Festival, Graham proposed a "new evangelization" that included Catholics, located his venue deliberately next to a Catholic church so that seekers could be counseled there, and invited the city's Catholic Bishop to perform the opening prayer on the stage. If a person has the Holy Spirit in them, they understand that Catholics need evangelizing because they are lost, not partnering with them as if they were Christians.

Here is the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh on the July 2014 Three Rivers BGEA Festival--
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association doesn't steer converts into or out of any particular Christian tradition, but reconnects them with one to which they have a tie. Those who identify themselves as Catholic will be referred to a Catholic parish for follow-up.
Sadly, when one puts together the fruit one sees from Graham, fruit that is actually thorns in the form of making no distinction between Christian and Catholic, brambles that include exorbitant salaries, and weeds that for a show make a renunciation of a salary only to take it up again a year sees that falsity is the watchword. One can only hope that some one's prayers for Franklin Graham will be part of God's process of converting Franklin's hard heart of stone into one of soft love for the true Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

EPrata photo

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When you're saved...and your friend is not

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. ~Walter Winchell

I'm not a social person. I am a loner who likes her own company. However the Lord blessed me with two very good friends in my life. One was while I was in grade school through High School. The other came into my life when I was 40 years old.

If you ever had a friend who loved you for who you were, accepted you quirks and all, and with whom you never had a fight or even a cross word, you were blessed. I know I was.

Imagine a person so caring, so selfless, so consistently nice, that there were even whispers from others that 'she must be an angel' and mean it literally.

Imagine a person whose house was always open, no matter the time of day or night, and who would make you tea if you were sick and bring issues if you were crying. Who always listened without interruption. Who had been married for over two decades to the same man, an astounding statistic among unsaved people. Who was a great mom and a great wife. Who would cook for you even if it was from her last can of beans in the cupboard, and serve it with a smile. Who was talented and artistic and always up for a road trip, whether it was mini or maxi.

Who was the one person in town everyone loved.

And all this without being a Christian. But then again, neither was I.

She made me a better person. She introduced me to concepts of unconditional love, consistent acceptance of people without criticism, staying married, putting the children first. Of having uncomplicated fun, and enjoying the small moments. Of even spiritual things, like there being a force in the universe managing events and people.

For 6 years it was a great relationship. When everything else in my life went crazy, this friend was there.

And then I got saved. You know what happens then. I moved 1200 miles away, You know what happens then. A double strike against a friendship continuing.

When two are together and one is in Christ and the other is in sin, it is called being unequally yoked. This refers back to two oxen who are yoked together for the purpose of plowing a straight row for planting. If you yoke together a large ox and a small ox, or an old ox and a young ox, or a strong ox and a weak ox, they will pull in different directions, make crooked rows, or plow in a circle. It does not work.

A mom doing dishes. EPrata photo.
It is the same with two people getting married if one is saved and the other isn't. The Bible prohibits such unions. And as for friends, it is similar but not exactly the same. One friend is a new creation, yearning for the things of heaven. The other is an old sinner, yearning for the things of the world. The twain exist together, but their very purposes for life differ as much as the east is from the west.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Christians are not to be bound together with non-Christians in any spiritual relationship or enterprise that would be detrimental to the Christian's testimony within the body of Christ. ... [however] ... this command does not mean believers should end all associations with unbelievers; that would defy the purpose for which God saved believers and left them on earth." ~John MacArthur on 2 Cor 6:14
Still, the inevitable pull of Jesus away from unsaved friends is going to happen. But meanwhile, it was my chance to illustrate to her by word and deed what it means to be a Christian. How Jesus who gave me a new heart and a purpose for living (glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever), and how He brings meaning to life and that eternal.

Even though friends may be far apart in geographic distance, the wonders of the internet allow people to keep up. I prayed for her, I witnessed on my FB page, and I carefully watched what she put up on her page. Nine years went by. As sanctification increased, there was less to talk about. As the world infiltrated her more and more, she became more deeply entrenched within it. As the Spirit infiltrated me more and more, I became more deeply yearning for heaven and the things of heaven. I read her typical liberal stuff, but there was nothing overtly declarative for satan. It seemed that a seared conscience or a reprobate mind was not happening yet. (1 Timothy 4:2, Romans 1:28). A holding pattern continuing this long perhaps meant that the Lord in His grace would save her still. Hope remained.

And then the inevitable happened. As these Planned Parenthood videos keep coming out, demonstrating America's culture of death and our deeply entrenched sin, she made a comment on her FB page exalting PP and minimizing sin and God. This time, I could not refrain and I gave the Gospel (again) in a short sentence.

As it is with the Word of God, it pierces. It settles like a burr on the conscience, to niggle and worm its way into the very soul. This is because--

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I knew the Spirit would work its way into the heart once again. As we all know, there comes a time when the person either submits to the pricks of the goad, crumbles, and repents; or closes the heart and it becomes hardened.

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:18; cf. Mark 8:17).

What will happen? Would this be the moment we'd see grace upon grace, and a converted heart? O, Lord, I yearn for all to be saved, as You do, but I yearn most for the people I love. My friend was wonderful how I wish I could share that Jesus is the best friend of all. How great if we could enjoy Him together.

Unfortunately it was not to be. This appeared soon after. My heart broke in two. It was titled "Declaration of Sinlessness."

And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ (Luke 16:26)

A public and formal confession repudiating our sin, God, Jesus, and the atonement is a pretty devastating event in a person's eternal life. A public confession of Jesus and His atonement and belief in His resurrection is an important public utterance, and so is the importance of rejecting Him just as forcefully.

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32)

Gill's Exposition explains the unpardonable sin spoken of in Matthew 12:32.
It shall not be forgiven him: not because the Holy Ghost is greater than Christ; or for want of efficacy in the blood of Christ; or because God cannot pardon it; but because such persons wilfully, maliciously, and obstinately oppose the Spirit of God, without whom there can be no application of pardon made; and remain in hardness of heart, are given up to a reprobate mind, and die in impenitence and unbelief, and so there is no forgiveness for them.
Is this the unpardonable sin for her? Probably. Conclusively? I leave it in Jesus' hands. He knows what is in a man, I do not. I only know what I see, and the fruit is thorns and brambles. The road seems to have finally diverged for good.

"For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. "For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45)

Therefore, publicly repudiating God and declaring one's self sinless is a serious offense. If it's not a sin leading to death at this moment, it's a sin that will in all likelihood lead to a hardened heart and a seared mind. The prognosis is bad, if not terminal.

Of course God CAN change the heart of anyone. Whether a name is in the Lamb's Book of Life or not I don't know. I still pray so. But it is with my own heavy heart that I see the voice declaring evil, the heart hardening, the conscience searing, the chasm arriving.

The Christian life is hard. It involves constant battle of one's flesh nature, to subdue the old man in us and glorify God by submitting to His Spirit. It involves rejection, hardship, trouble. All these things we know. But to watch loved ones, or any ones travel that broad road leading to death with the eternal chasm at the end of it is agony. Hearing or seeing their blasphemous words of evil against a Holy God is wrenching. One friend is traveling the road that ends where there is no weeping (Isaiah 65:19) while the other travels the road where it only ends in eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28)
There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. ~Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
I'm no different than anyone else. I was a horrible sinner, now saved by grace, hoping and praying for the gift of redemption to be given to those I love, and those I don't love, and those I don't even know. When a soul goes striding past grace and insists on their own broad path to destruction, it's hard to watch, let alone endure. Everyone has loved ones who are on the broad path, with a mother or a father or a friend praying for them with breath held and hands clasped.

Everyone has loved ones who died in their sin, unconverted and now in torment, with their friends on this side of the veil clinging to the knowledge of the Justice of Holy God and there but for the grace of God go I.

I'm no different. But ... Lord, come quickly.

Further Reading

Is it good to have close friendships with unbelievers?

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Pilgrim's Progress online

How do I minister to an unsaved friend whose loved one died without a relationship with Christ?