What about Those Who Haven’t Heard?

July 14, 2017 at 9:36 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: If there’s an isolated community/tribe that has little to no contact with the outside world, and have never heard of the Lord, how are they judged on Judgment Day?

Answer: Let’s start by thinking about the reason for God’s judgment in general. For what is He judging anyone and everyone? As noted in the Children’s Bible Catechism, specifically questions 6,7, and 8, and the Bible verses that answer them, people are judged for sinning against God.

So how can people be guilty of sinning against a God about Whom they’ve never heard, and by breaking laws they did not know existed? The answer is found in Romans Chapter 1, starting in Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

Everyone in the world knows that there is a God. They may not know His name, but His external creation and their own inner consciences reveal that He exists and that some things are “right” and some things are “wrong.” Sinful people have access to this truth, but “hold it unrighteousness,” which means they try to suppress it or hold it down by pretending it isn’t really there.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Romans 1:19

This attempt to suppress whatever revelation of truth that a person has received is, in itself, also a sin, which means that no one has a valid “excuse” for rejecting God and His revelation of Himself and His “wrath” against sin:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 1:20

Those of us who live in America often think of rejecting Christ as the sin which would condemn us on Judgment Day, and it would definitely be one of the sins (probably the worst) for which we would be judged. But rejecting Christ is not the only sin which will merit judgment on Judgment Day. Those who die apart from Christ will also be judged for lying and stealing and immoral thoughts and immoral actions and covetousness and idolatry and many, many more sins. Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone does these things, but Romans 1 tells us that the people who do them KNOW that they are wrong even if they don’t have immediate access to a Bible or the name of Jesus.

One reason why it is so important to try to get missionaries and the Gospel to remote people groups – from the Inuit people in the Arctic, to villages in Togo, West Africa, and everywhere else – is so that they can hear the Truth that Christ is their only hope for forgiveness. A heart that has been “darkened” (Romans 1:21) needs special “illumination” from the Word of God.

The Great Peradventure

February 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

Exodus 32:26

“The gate of the camp” was just as significant as the location where Moses had chosen to smash the tablets. It was the official dividing line between God’s “chosen people” and just “people.” These were people who had forfeited their claim to God’s special protection and in fact had “exposed themselves” (both literally and figuratively) to God’s judgment and wrath.

Do you remember hearing or reading about the legendary incident from the Alamo when Colonel Buck Travis is said to have drawn a line in the sand to see who wanted to stay and who wanted to leave? Moses did something similar here – and the Levites made a wise choice in front of everyone. Imagine Aaron’s shame as he walked from the people over to Moses.

And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

Exodus 32:27

Moses used classic prophetic-command speech: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel…” = “This is God’s idea, not just mine. Get your swords, go in and out, make inquiries about who wants to stick with the idolatry and who wants to repent. Kill the ones who won’t confess and repent.” This was an observance of the legal death penalty. It didn’t matter who – their neighbors, their friends, their own family members. It sounds barbaric to us, doesn’t it? I hope you don’t want to throw out your Bible and become a Liberal at this point, although, sadly, many have. You’ll have to reject the truth to do it – and you’ll also have to blame God for protecting your soul about 3000 years before you were even born. Remember, these were enemy combatants in a war – the war for truth – and those that chose to take the side of idolatry by refusing to repent are the ones who were willing to send everyone to hell for the sake of a pathetic bull-god orgy – even after waking up with their hangovers. I’m glad we don’t have to kill the apostates and the pagans today as New Testament Christians, but it would be good for us to remember that the stakes are just as high, in a sense.

And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Exodus 32:28

3000 executed criminals sounds like huge number, but that is just a fraction of the number that had been partying, because some of the guilty ones apparently repented and were spared.

For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

Exodus 32:29

This gives more insight into how the fathers and male leaders were given an opportunity to repent and survive the Levite purge.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

Exodus 32:30

You can see the heaviness that was on Moses the next day, but he knew the job was not finished. He still refused to sugarcoat their sin, because he knew there are consequences to even forgiven sin. In Exodus 32:30 the Holy Spirit has recorded the words of Moses – not as a prophetic revelation – but as a heavy sighing fumbling for the right word to describe what he knows he is going to have to attempt: atonement. “Peradventure.” What a terrifically descriptive word for the man who had been in the presence of this holy God – who knew His hatred for sin – but who also knew His mercy in response to confession and prayer. “I shall make;” “at one ment.” “Maybe I can somehow bring us back into loving fellowship with our God Who we’ve offended so greatly.” I hope you can hear that word “atonement” echoing all the way through the Old Testament into the New Testament and on into your life. I myself remember the estrangement from God – the horror of knowing He was completely beyond my sinful reach – when Jesus – the Rescuer – the Atoner – the AtoneMENT – brought me to Him!

Catechism Question 21

April 20, 2015 at 9:52 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, Salvation | 3 Comments
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Question 21: When did God forgive you for your sins and give you eternal life?
Answer: When I believed on Jesus and called on Him to save me.
Prove it.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

Eternal salvation is completely, fully, and totally the work of the Lord. Even our decision to trust Christ and receive Him as Savior does not add any merit to the finished work of Jesus. However, since this salvation is by grace through faith, God graciously allows the application of this miraculous gift to occur when a person, having recognized his or her sinful condition and believed the Gospel, personally calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, in repentance and faith.

Other verses to consider:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20:31

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:13

Catechism Question 20

April 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 1 Comment
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Question 14: What has God done for you so you can have eternal life?
Answer: He sent his Son.
Prove it.
John 3:16

Question 15: What did Jesus do while He was here on earth?
Answer: He lived a perfect, sinless life.
Prove it.
John 8:29

Question 16: How was Jesus treated here on earth?
Answer: He was hated, rejected, and falsely accused.
Prove it.
Isaiah 53:3

Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Prove it.
John 19:18

Question 18: What happened to Jesus after He died?
Answer: He was buried and then rose again on the third day.
Prove it.
Acts 10:40

Question 19: Where is Jesus now?
Answer: He is in Heaven with God the Father.
Prove it.
Hebrews 10:12

Question 20: Why did Jesus do these things?
Answer: So God can forgive me for my sins.
Prove it.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

The motivation for Christ’s willingness to pay the price of forgiveness for the sins of His people has been touched on previously in John 3:16, which was the proof of the answer to Question 14. A child is more likely to identify with the simple, albeit amazing, truth that God loved us enough to send His Son to die in our place, and that the Son loved us enough to do so.

However, depending upon the age and comprehension of your child, you may also want to discuss the facets of the doctrine of justification which deal with the sinless sacrifice of the second person of the Deity Himself as the only means by which God could satisfy His justice, while still showing off His miraculous love, amazing grace, unending mercy, and glorious holiness.

In another, more limited, sense, God accomplished the salvation of His people in the Cross of Christ in order to fulfill His prophecies and to show His faithfulness and sovereignty and power by keeping His Word.

Other Verses to consider:

To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 10:43

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Charles L. Quarles Pleads that We S.W.I.M. with Urgency

August 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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The gospel of Jesus Christ is the one and only way of salvation. There is no hope for redemption apart from it. That conviction should drive us across the street, across the nation, and across the ocean, whether we run or swim or walk or crawl on bleeding hands and knees to deliver our message.

Charles L. Quarles

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

I Timothy 2:5

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1:8

Why Some People Just Don’t Get all that Jesus/Church/Religion/Christianity/Gospel Stuff

August 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Salvation, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 6 Comments
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albino alligator

Here in the South (U.S.A.), it can sometimes seem more likely to encounter an albino alligator than somebody who freely admits that he or she is not a Christian (although here in Louisiana many of my Roman Catholic friends say, “No, I’m a Catholic,” when someone asks them if they are Christians). Here are the most common responses I get when I ask people, “Are you a Christian?”

-“Yes, I’ve been a Christian my whole life.” (This is actually an impossibility. No one is born as a Christian, which is why the Bible says you have to be “born again.” By the way, no one will become a Christian after they die, either.)

– “Yes, I was baptized when I was ____ years old.” (This is actually irrelevant. Getting baptized does not make anyone a Christian.)

-“Yes, I go to such-and-such church.” (Again, this is irrelevant. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than – as the common cliche’ goes – going into a garage makes you a car.)

-Yes, I pray every day. (Still irrelevant. Many people become Christians during a prayer, but praying itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I read my Bible every day. (Okay, I admit it. Almost no one ever says this to me any more, but if they did, they would be wrong. Reading the Bible in and of itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I ‘just know’ I’m a Christian. (While I don’t see how anyone could be a Christian and not know it, this response only begs the question. “Just knowing” something doesn’t make the something true. A true Christian would be able to state why, how, when, where, and upon what authority he or she became a Christian.)

Every once in a while, I run into somebody who pretends to be an atheist, but that is much more common on the internet than in real life. By far the most common type of non-Christian that I know is the person who “just doesn’t get it.” And even this category breaks down into sub-types.

There’s the “I don’t get it because it makes me uncomfortable” type. These folks were taught that it’s bad manners to talk about religion or politics because the topics are too volatile, or because it’s their own personal business, or because it makes them feel guilty or “judged.”

Then there’s the “someone religious hurt my feelings one time” group. They were mistreated at church, or somebody told them they were going to hell without first explaining why, or somebody told them something untrue about Christianity or the Bible.

Then there’s the “it’s all a hoax” crew. Their main experience of so-called Christianity has been the lying and greedy prosperity preachers on TV. They think anybody religious is secretly trying to swindle them out of their money. Somebody coerced them into coming to church on Easter Sunday one time, and, at the end of the service, the ushers passed an offering plate around, and they were highly offended that anybody would talk about Jesus and then give them the opportunity to contribute money to His Church.

There are some other categories, too, and some of these bleed into each other, and somebody is going to read this and say, “Ha! I don’t want to hear about Jesus for a whole different reason that you haven’t even thought of, you stereotyping bigot!” I know, I know, everybody has their own story and their own bruised little inner child that’s crying out for understanding, but I can make the whole thing really simple. Because, underneath it all, at the real crux of the matter, there is only one big foundational reason whey people aren’t Christians. They are rejecting the Truth.

We think sympathetically of blind people, and we should. They can’t help it. I doubt we would feel sorry, though, for people who are blind simply because they refuse to take off their blindfolds. Spiritual blindness is a whole different thing. People who “just don’t get it” when it comes to Christ and His Gospel are not people with blinded eyes. They are people with blinded minds.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

II Corinthians 4:3-4

If a person with a blindfold on his eyes says to me, “Sorry, but I just don’t get this whole ‘vision thing,'” I’ll just reach up and snatch off his blindfold. No sympathy. When a person says the same thing about Jesus’s Gospel, though, I can’t snatch it away. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can do it. The “method” that He has chosen for this procedure, though, is the proclamation of the Word of God: The Truth about our sin, God’s Son, and and His salvation.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

The spiritually blind person is 100% at fault for his own blindness, but God still has to do something miraculous and supernatural to give him sight. That’s why real Christians keep preaching to non-Christians who don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and don’t even want to hear about it. Not because we like to annoy people. Not because we get a sick thrill out of telling people they are damned and under the wrath of God (although they are), and not because we think we’re better than them. It’s because Jesus is amazing and wonderful and absolutely deserves to have His story told. It’s because He commanded us to do it. And it’s because we love the people who “just don’t get it” enough to tell them the only Truth that can save them, even when they don’t want to hear it.

God Versus a Mud Puddle

August 1, 2012 at 9:26 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 3 Comments
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In the great prayer of repentance found in Psalm 51, David is very concerned with God purging him from his sins and making him clean on the inside.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:2

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Psalm 51:6

David has much to say about washing in this Psalm. We think of washing as an external procedure, but David realizes that God sees what others can not see: the condition of the heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

However, it is also clear that David, once he has been cleansed inwardly, expects that there will naturally be some outward visible signs of this renewed and restored relationship with God.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

Psalm 51:11-15

Sometimes, when I am teaching in church, I apologize for being late, and I explain that the reason I am a little tardy is that, a few minutes ago, when I stepped out of my car, I fell into a mud puddle. As I tried to get up, I slipped again, and wound up rolling around for awhile before I regained my footing and escaped. As I say this, I stand there before the class, looking clean and neat (at least for me). As the students look at me suspiciously, I admit that there are two possibilities: either I have gone insane or I am lying. The point is that an encounter with a mud puddle is going to make a visible difference in my appearance.
But what are we to make of a person who claims to have had a life-changing encounter with the Thrice-Holy God of the Universe, yet remains basically unchanged in behavior and attitude? Who is more powerful: the Lord of Glory or a muddy puddle of water? We need to make sure that the witness of our lips matches the witness of our lives.

D.L. Moody S.W.I.M. Quote

June 4, 2012 at 9:47 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Salvation is worth working for. It is worth a man’s going round the world on
his hands and knees, climbing its mountains, crossing its valleys, swimming
its rivers, going through all manner of hardship in order to attain it. But we
do not get it in that way. It is to him who believes.

D.L. Moody

Light Measures Time

November 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Biblical Light, Salvation | 1 Comment
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We live in a day and age of clocks. From our wristwatches to our cell phones to our bedside wake-up alarms to our on-screen television programming guides to our vehicle radios to the flashing signs in front of banks and churches, everywhere we go, we are reminded of the time. However, even without mechanical timepieces, we would still have a pretty good idea that the day is over when the light fades. We count weeks and months and years by how many times the sun has risen and set. Therefore, when it comes to spiritual reality, God has made light to behave in such a way as to remind us that our time and opportunities in this world are coming to an end.

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.

John 12:35-36

In an attempt to defeat the darkness which ends each and every day of our lives we have come up with many ways to “light up the night.” However, batteries in a flashlight will run down eventually. The wax which feeds the wick of a candle will burn down in time. Even long-lasting light bulbs and tubes of fluorescent neon are not eternal. There is only one Light which shall shine forevermore.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 1:9

Jesus, the Light of this world, has already finished the work of redemption, and He has made it available to unbelievers for a limited time only. Will you receive the Light which shall give you comfort, peace, beauty, and joy in the world to come? Or will you cling to the temporary false light of the here-and-now, which will one day burn out, leaving you in an eternal darkness from which there shall be no escape?

Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.

Jeremiah 13:15-16

Faster than a Speeding Shadow

October 7, 2011 at 9:10 am | Posted in Salvation, Selected Psalms, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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My grandparents lived in a house that my grandfather built with his own hands. Behind the backyard he kept a garden where he grew peanuts, watermelons, sugar cane, mustard greens, and various vegetables. Beyond this garden was a shallow ditch, and beyond that, a set of railroad tracks. When the train came every day, it moved very fast. My younger brother and I used to talk about jumping onto one of the cars as the train went speeding past, but, thankfully, we never had the nerve to actually try it. The closest we came was when we would huddle down in the ditch right next to the tracks. It is a thrilling and frightening feeling to have the shadow of a roaring locomotive pass over you, but the shadow of a train passing over is far different from having the actual train itself “pass over” you.

David the Psalmist once wrote about the shadow of something even more awe-inspiring.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Note that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write about, not the valley of death, but the valley of the shadow of death.

Our sins, and the sins of the whole world, had been heaped onto the freight train of God’s wrath. (I John 2:2) That train was racing straight for us, and we deserved to be plowed into hell by the force of its judgment. Those of us, like David, who, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, have become the sheep of the Good Shepherd, may one day shiver in the shadow of death as it passes over us. (John 10:11) However, the locomotive of God’s righteous vengeance against sin was re-routed onto Christ the Lord Himself on the Cross of Calvary as He took the punishment we deserved. (I Peter 2:24) When you enter the valley at the end of life, will you be in the protective shadow of God’s covering (Psalm 91:1), or will you stand alone on the tracks, having made the fatal mistake of rejecting the Savior?

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