December, 2012

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New Year, Same Story

Monday, December 31st, 2012

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From my father I inherited a fascination with cemeteries and obituaries – a morbid, but interesting hobby that leads one to the biographies and of “the dead, small and great” (Rev. 20:12.) Accordingly, I was delighted when some friends took my family on a tour of historic Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia on the final day of 2012. We visited the graves of presidents (for the U.S., James Monroe and John Tyler; and for the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis), soldiers (George Pickett, J.E.B. Stuart, along with twenty other Confederate generals plus thousands of other servicemen from every major conflict of American history), governors (six from Virginia), Senators and Congressmen (too numerous to name), a U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Lewis Powell, Jr.), novelists (like Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell) and scholars (historian Douglas Southall Freeman being one of my favorites.) The recurring thought that struck me throughout the day was that despite all of their varied accomplishments, these men and women all experienced the same inevitable reality: they all died. The first genealogy in the Bible is notable for this repeated refrain “and he died” about all the names recorded in the list – with one notable exception – Enoch, a man noted for his fellowship with the Living God (Gen. 5:21-24.) His experience of supernatural translation from earth to heaven prefigures a greater resurrection to come, which gives hope to all those who know and trust in the Creator God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Life Lessons Learned At Gravesides

On the threshold of a new year it is helpful to remember what Christ said when He came to a cemetery. His magnificent promise was articulated to a beloved friend, who was grieving over her recently deceased brother; He told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26.) This is the best news for 2013 – or any other year!

The Son of God came to make graveyards obsolete. He has transformed their status from long-term storage of mortal remains to temporary holding places of bodies that will one day be reconstituted. For those who received Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, they experienced spiritual regeneration – a complete transformation of the inner man, also known as being “born again” (see Jn. 3 & Titus 3.) Therefore, their bodies will be raised and transformed into glorious bodies like the resurrected and glorified Christ (1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:20-58; 1 Jn. 3:1-3.) But for those who did not believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation, they will be raised for judgment – a horrifying scenario which could have been avoided  (Jn. 5:22-29.) The Lord does not delight in people perishing spiritually; rather “He desires all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9.)

Jesus I Am Resting In The Joy Of Who Thou Art

Complete and sole trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died as a sacrifice for sin, rose again in vindication, and ascended to glory in triumph is what distinguishes a saved person who possesses eternal life with the Lord in heaven from a lost person who is eternally separated from their Maker and banished in the outer darkness of the Lake of Fire (Mk. 9:42-48; Rev. 20:11-15.) One must confess that he is a bankrupt sinner with no ability to earn deliverance or merit a rescue. They must turn to God for the gift of salvation offered through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, forsaking their old life as one that is justly condemned (Jn. 5:24; Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Thes. 1:9-10.) They are receiving Christ as if they died on the cross with Him, were subsequently interred with Him, and then rose in power with Him (see Rom. 6-8.)

When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder

When the dead small and great stand before the Lord, who is the righteous judge of the universe, the only credential that will matter is that their name is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life. One’s name is only found there because they rely on Christ their spotless, sacrificial Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29.) Human works, reputation, and worldly attainment will avail for nothing in that day. Only life as found in the Lord Jesus will matter. So I close by asking the question that He posed to Martha on the way to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead: “Do you believe this?” If you do, cry out to Christ for salvation. If you already have, then praise God that He who is the resurrection and the life holds your life in His hands. He will keep you safe for eternity.

 

Three Reasons That We Need Christmas

Monday, December 24th, 2012

For a 20 minute audio Christmas message, click here:  KRK.12.23.12.Gilbertsville.3ReasonsWeNeedChristmas (Gospel)

The Danger In Bad Forecasting

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:3-7 [Emphasis mine.]

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The media has said much of late regarding the Mayan calendar and its prediction of the end of the world. This gives another opportunity for the world to jest and assure themselves that planet earth is safe. Science fiction and action films gives further confidence that if a large asteroid heads for the earth, NASA can send Bruce Willis – or whoever is the Hollywood flavor of the week – to blow it up and save civilization. Superman, Spiderman, the Avengers, and the X-men can all be martialed by the entertainment history to fight dangers both real and imagined. Not to be outdone, Great Britain is immune from catastrophe just as long as the martini-swilling, Aston-Martin-driving James Bond is in the employ of MI-6, or at least so we like to pretend. The problem with mythical and fictitious doom scenarios is that they help people to become calloused to the truth that the world will one day end in righteous judgment through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Learning From History

People in the New Testament era were also skeptical about the end of the world. Peter cautioned his readers that this mistaken belief in the permanence of the current state of the universe is a recurring problem with fallen human nature. This error stemmed from their shortsighted view of the world. Planet earth has already experience a global destruction called the flood. Beyond a natural phenomenon, however, this global deluge was brought about through God’s Word (see Gen. 6 & Heb. 11:7.) It was a just punishment against mankind’s sin – especially its violence and rebellion against the Creator.

The Perfect Predictions Of The Bible

In like manner, Peter assures us that the Word already promises judgment by fire against the earth. Modern people ought to pay heed to this warning for the Bible has a 100% success rate in predicting the future. The true and living God knows the end from the beginning, and He will bring His purposes to fruition on this planet. He made this universe, sustains it, and has every right to rectify it by putting away evil people and things – even into eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10-15.) The Lord Jesus will return, and wrath will overtake everyone who has not trusted in the crucified and risen Christ to remove his sin through His shed blood. If you have not yet been reconciled to your Maker, do it today. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:7.)

*Photo of the Mayan Calendar accessed via google images here. Accessed on 12/21/12.

 

Moral Monday Morning Quarterbacking & True Hope

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” John 6:28-29

It is the day after a national tragedy – the Newtown Connecticut School Massacre – and inevitably the press begins asking: “Why did this happen?” and “What can we do to prevent it from happening again?” In an industry that increasingly promotes a secular worldview, desiring to banish spiritual questions from the public square, it is sadly ironic that they dismiss the very source that can answer these questions. Only the Bible, the inerrant Word of God, offers meaningful explanations of these horrible events. This terrible crime occurred because of human evil – evil that the Judge of the Universe will one day perfectly and finally punish (Rev. 20:11-15.)

Works Versus Faith

As for the second question, the simple answer is “nothing” – there is nothing that fallen man can do to eradicate evil or thwart its occurrence. Having said that, it is interesting that whenever a calamity happens, people assume that they can do something to fix it – or avoid it altogether. Whether it is mass murder, global warming – even death itself – man believes that he has they wherewithal to solve the problem. An incident from the Lord Jesus’ earthly ministry demonstrates man’s impotence in the face of his most serious enemy, death itself.

After Christ miraculously fed 5,000 with the meager resources of five loaves and two fishes, the crowds pursued Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They professed interest in His Messianic credentials and program, but in actuality, they merely sought more free food (Jn. 6:26-27; the welfare state is an ancient dream of mankind.) Sadly, many only seek material help from the Lord, forgetting that humans’ larger need is spiritual: deliverance from sin with its attendant bondage, guilt, and penalty. When Christ pointed out their flawed motivation in seeking Him, they quickly formulated a theological question in a vain effort to maintain their religious reputations. “What must we do?” they asked. His answer took them aback, for it is not a matter of human works, but of belief. “Believe in Him whom He [i.e. God the Father] has sent,” replied Jesus.

What’s Wrong With The World? We Are.

What is wrong with the world is the same as what is wrong with people individually: sin – rebellion against the Creator; a failure to do His will; loving wickedness and hating righteousness. In the history of the universe the only credible solution ever presented for this problem and all of its ensuing misery is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for sin, was buried, and rose again in triumph on the third day according to the prophecies that were uttered in previous centuries (e.g. Ps. 16; Ps. 22; Is. 53, etc.) Only by turning from one’s own efforts – “doing” as humans so dearly love – and believing in Christ, the Son of God Who offered Himself as a propitiatory sacrifice to God, can one be rescued from evil and its quotidian effects. When one by faith receives Jesus as Lord and Savior, He transforms them through regeneration – a spiritual new birth that makes man a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Jn. 3:1-21.) A person of the Triune Godhead takes up residence within the believer, and empowers them to bring forth beautiful ethical fruit for God’s glory (Jn. 15:1-8; Gal. 5:22-26.)

The Necessity Of New Creation

Through the Father’s saving work in Christ many lives have been transformed. Wild men have been tamed (compare Mk. 5:2-5 with v.15), murderers transformed into peace-makers (Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:15-16), and immoral people converted to saintly servants (Lk. 8:2.) Today the Lord continues to save people from sin and the spiritual slavery and perversion to which it subjects them. The only solution for evil is by faith to present oneself to Christ for salvation; only then can we avoid being destroyed by ourselves.

Of course, the Bible states that not everyone will believe on the Lord Jesus. So what is to be done about evil in the world? One day Christ will return to earth to put a stop to it. He will set up a thousand year kingdom, demonstrating how God intends for the earth to be run. After this, He will banish the last human rebels – along with the Devil himself – to the Lake of Fire – a place where “the fire is not quenched and the worm dies not” (Mk. 9:42-48.) Those who refused to receive God’s light will be consigned to outer darkness (Mt. 25:30.) People wonder why He does not judge evil immediately in our world. The joyous answer is that He is longsuffering, giving people time to forsake their sin and flee to the Savior by faith (2 Pet. 3:9.) If the reader has not yet done so, I strongly urge you to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior before it is forever too late.

A Suffering Savior Comforts In Sorrow

For those mourning over this heinous act of malice and the human cost of this sin, we can only pray for them to discover the lovely work of  “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3.) Christ is a merciful and faithful High Priest, Who empathizes with people in their pain, for He has suffered unlike anyone else (Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16; 1 Pet. 3:18.) He knows how to heal the broken-hearted – though some wounds may only be healed in the coming glory of heaven (Rev. 21:3-5.) Because He has vanquished sin, death, and the grave by His resurrection, He offers hope beyond the unspeakable tragedies of this life.[1]

 

 

 



[1] The author recommends this blog post on Christ’s High Priestly work & the potential benefits for the suffering citizens of Newtown, CT: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-does-jesus-come-to-newtown