The Truth About Being Just Fine Without God

In a recent sermon, the pastor of my church commented on some highway billboards in Colorado that atheist groups were using to try to dissuade people from going to church and not too long ago, there were similar billboards right here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where I live. They featured a happy looking family with a caption that read, “We’re just fine without God.”  The message they wanted to convey was clear: “We say there is no God. See how happy we are!” 

It might come as a surprise to many atheists, but the Bible actually teaches us that people do in fact have a tendency to believe they have no need for God when life is good and everything is going their way. They truly believe they’re just fine without God. In the Old Testament beginning in book of Judges and continuing through the books of Kings 1 and 2, the people of Israel went through that cycle of sin, repentance, judgement, and restoration time and again. When life was good, they were just like atheists today: They thought they were just fine without God, and they turned away from Him.

The prophets Amos and Hosea preached during a time of almost unparalleled prosperity in both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, yet it was during that time when the people of both kingdoms turned from God. They were just fine without God, so they thought. But both kingdoms eventually fell, first Israel in the north, and later on, Judah.

Jesus told the story of the rich fool whose fields yielded such a bumper crop that he went out and had new storehouses built to house the abundance of grain. He then planned to kick back and live a life of ease. He trusted in his riches. He had no need for God. He was just fine without God right up to the moment God told him he was about to die.

It’s interesting how the atheist organizations that sponsored the billboards only showed pictures of cheerful and happy people. What you never see is a picture of a drug addict laying in an alley saying “I’m just fine without God.” You don’t see a picture of a frightened and distraught young teenage girl who found out she’s pregnant by a boyfriend who broke off the relationship the instant she told him about the baby with a caption that exclaims “I’m just fine without God.”  You’ll never see a depiction of a family mourning the loss of a little child with a tagline underneath that says, “We’re just fine without God.” You won’t see an  image of a wounded soldier in a foxhole who’s under fire on some battlefield telling the whole world, “I’m just fine without God.”  You’d never see anything like on any billboard because it would be absurd. That’s how it is with advertising. You usually only see the side the advertisers want you to see.

In their war against God and followers of Christ, the atheist community wants the world to believe that there is no almighty God who bestows blessings, no almighty God who exalts, no almighty God who watches over us and guides us. They’d have us believe that the universe and everything in it came into existence by some random cosmic event without the involvement of a creator. They’d have us believe that man is the measure of all things and people create their own fate apart from an omniscient and omnipresent God. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must stand by truth. And the truth is, no one is “just fine without God.”  Paul took it a a step further in the third chapter of Romans where he wrote:

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said our Father in Heaven makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and he causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. So it’s easy to see how atheists can fool themselves into believing they’re just fine without God. Even as believers, we have to guard against becoming complacent, because some of us have a tendency to say, “God, I’ve got this.” when we think everything is going our way. We must never forget that the reason Jesus Christ came into the world as God in the flesh is because we are not good. No one is fine without God. Everyone is lost without God. Everyone is condemned to eternity in hell without God. Everyone is hopeless without God. That is a truth we cannot shy away from and one we must hammer home at every given opportunity.

2000 years ago Jesus was born into a world that was anything but fine. It’s anything but fine today. Lord Jesus, we need You because we are not “just fine without God”.  We’re not even good and can never be good enough. But the good news is, we don’t have to rely on our goodness.  We only need to rely on You!

 

Merry Christmas, and glory and honor to Jesus Christ!

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Comfort in Discipline

There was a gentleman in my church who used to be fond of saying, “Your sins will find you out.”  He has since gone to be with the Lord and he had an amazing testimony of how God changed his life. That phrase he loved to use is a quote from Numbers chapter 32 verse 23. And as I’ve discovered, and I believe this is true for even the most faithful Christians, my friend was absolutely right.

When God convicts us of sin through the Holy Spirit and brings it to light, I don’t think anyone enjoys the discipline that always follows. In fact, the Bible says there is no pleasure in it at all. In the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews for instance, the scripture says:  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

As I thought about that one day and reflected on the times when I’ve been on the receiving end of God’s discipline, it brought peace though I must admit I don’t fully understand why or how. I just know it brought comfort and as strange as it may sound, I was suddenly very grateful for those times when God got my attention and brought me to repentance.

How is that possible? How can the pain of discipline and peace and comfort go hand in hand?
There are many passages of scripture that address that question, but I chose two that seem to offer the most simple answers. One is from the Psalms, the other from Proverbs.
Palm 119:50
My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life.
Proverbs 3:11
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

 When we’re being disciplined by almighty God, believe me, it is painful spiritually and sometimes it’s painful physically. But as the Psalmist wrote, we are comforted by God’s promises even when we’re suffering, including the suffering that results from the pain of God’s discipline. But as painful it is, the alternative is worse and this is exactly why God corrects those He loves. He disciplines us for the exact same reasons we discipline our own children. We do it because we love them, and it’s never pleasurable to have to administer punishment when our children do something wrong.

God wants none of us to suffer loss as a result of sin. He does not want any of His children to suffer the loss of fellowship as a result of sin. He will do whatever He has to do to get our attention to bring us to repentance and to bring us back into fellowship. Couple that with the knowledge that God provided the payment for sin in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and it reveals the enormous depth of God’s love for His children. That’s why we’re able to look back on the times when God disciplined us, and be comforted. The comfort comes not from the pain, but from the love of God.

Impossible By Our Strength Alone

There was a time in my life when I used to be pretty loose with foul language and four letter words. At home I was able to keep a lid on it (most of the time), but at work, I was a completely different person. I’m not proud of it now and I wasn’t really proud of it then. But as crude and vulgar as I was, I truly did not want to be known as the guy with the foul and filthy mouth. But that sort of became my reputation. The problem was, I couldn’t stop. I resolved many times to control the language that came out of my mouth and to get rid of that awful habit. I said to myself more times than I can count, “This is the day it stops! This is the day I get it under control. This is the day the cussing, the crude remarks,  and the vulgar jokes and comments stop coming out of my mouth!”  And I failed every time. More often than not, I couldn’t even make it to the end of the day. Scratch that. I usually didn’t make it to lunch time.

I didn’t understand it then, but I was trying to impose my own will. I was trying by my own strength and through my own power to overcome that awful habit. As I’ve come to learn since then, none of us have that kind of strength.  It wasn’t until I dedicated my life to Christ and came under conviction by the Holy Spirit that I was finally able to clean up the filth that came out of my mouth. It was that, plus the desire to live a God honoring life.

That’s not to say I haven’t slipped a time or two. None of us are immune to the stress and pressures of daily life. The Apostle Paul, who was as blessed and full of the Holy Spirit as any Christian can be, had his share of struggles. He wrote about it in his letter to the Romans where he said, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  We don’t know what Paul struggled with. However, that passage is a reminder of how difficult it can be at times to live the life God desires for His children, even when Christ lives in us. So yes, we will all slip occasionally. But when you walk with Christ and have the Holy Spirit living inside you, you’re given the knowledge and wisdom to identify any behaviors, attitudes, or habits that are undesirable to God. We were given a defense mechanism called a conscience that the Holy Spirit uses to bring us under conviction. And God gives us the power to break free from behavior and habits that displease Him. He gives the strength to resist temptation. I know all of this because I lived it. I tried to clean up my act by doing things my way and my way failed. I did not have the power or the strength to change my ways, not on my own.

Therefore, anyone who says they can change anything about themselves any time they so desire is fooling no one but themselves. We cannot rid ourselves of the sin in our lives by our own strength. We cannot change by imposing our own will. Jesus said to Peter, Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Jesus strengthened Simon Peter through prayer and the good news is, our Lord Jesus is praying for us. The Word tells us in 1 John chapter 2, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.”

When Jesus is praying for you my friends, that becomes the source of your strength. And for a child of God, it’s all the strength any of us will ever need!!

The Truth About Islam

I replied to a blog recently in which the author, a professing Christian, defended the current national policies that are allowing this flood of Syrian refugees into our country. He built his position on the premise that Christianity knows no borders, and that we must allow these refugees to flood our country if we’re to be obedient to the Great Commission. He went into to write in his blog that Christians must be willing accept the risk that Islamic terrorists could potentially slip in among the refugees, and he repeated that sentiment in several of his replies to other bloggers who took him to task. He used the examples of the Apostles who risked their lives daily to preach the gospel in areas of the world where it was unpopular. If the author of that blog wants to put his life and the lives of his family at risk, that’s his choice. But he has no right to tell me that I must risk my life and the lives of my family and that was clearly what he was implying. If he truly feels that way, he should go be a Christian missionary in a Muslim country and I will support him any way I can. That’s how I feel about that.

I understand that we will face persecution for our Christian beliefs and we’re already seeing that happen right here in America. I’m not taking the position that we should hide and cower and not share our faith. Yes, like the Apostles and other leaders of the early church, there will be times when we face risk, and there might be times when sharing our faith could potentially endanger our very lives. But there is a difference between being prudent and acting foolishly. At all times we should call on God through prayer and ask for Godly discernment. We’re never called to be fools.  Throwing open our borders is foolishness. The Apostles never threw caution to the wind and never acted like fools. There were times when they were prudent, like when Paul was lowered in a basket through a hole in the wall to escape from those who were trying to kill him.

At some point in the flurry of replies and rebuttals, the comment was made that God is no respecter of nations. In my rebuttal, I told him flat out that he is wrong, that it is God who establishes borders and raises up nations. God told Moses exactly where to draw the boundary lines for the nation of Israel. In the interest of maintaining national identity, Ezra and Nehemiah commanded all Jews who had married foreigners to send their wives away, and then they commanded the Jewish people to separate themselves from foreign people. So maintaining a national identity does not go against Biblical principles, contrary to what this blogger suggested in his post.

In my rebuttal, I also pointed out the need to provide for our national security. I made a reference to the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile as an example. By allowing this flood of refugees into our country, I said it would erode our ability to defend our country because we don’t know how many of these Syrian refugees are potential terrorists. It’s perfectly okay to share our faith with a sword in one hand, while working on the wall with the other.

His reply echoed the opinions of many well meaning but misguided Christians: “Your argument is built upon the assumption that most or all Muslims are militant extremists.” In my reply back to him, I stated that if only 10% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are radical, that still comes to 160 million radical Muslims who are willing to kill anyone who refuses to accept Islam. 160 million: That’s more than the total number of soldiers who fought on both sides of both world wars.

But as I thought more about what he said, that “my argument is built upon the assumption that most or all Muslims are militant extremists”, I came to realize the futility of his position. And I also came to understand a very fundamental truth. It does not matter whether the vast majority of Muslims are militant extremists, or whether the radicals make up a very small percentage of Islam. It does not matter because the truth is, Islam stands condemned already. I say again: Islam stands condemned already. I don’t condemn Islam because Islam is already doomed. The same can be said of Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology  native American spiritualism, or of any of the eastern new age religions. And yes, it even includes Judaism. Any religious system that does not profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the World and the only way to Heaven, and any individual who does not accept and embrace Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior stands condemned.

Okay, you might say to yourselves, “I worship in a religious system that DOES profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So I’m good” Here’s another truth: Allegiance to a religious system will not save anyone. Let me repeat that: Allegiance to a religious system will not save anyone. You can be a good Southern Baptist, a good Catholic, a good Methodist, a good Presbyterian, or whatever. You can faithfully attend a non-denominational church but if you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your savior….personally, then you stand just as condemned. Don’t misunderstand; it’s good to be part of a Bible believing church. In fact it’s essential that we gather corporately and worship as part of a Bible believing church. But having your name on the membership roll of a church does not mean your name is automatically included in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I went off on a bit of a tangent there but it was essential to emphasize that point.

The final event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church. That might be coming in just a few short years, or a few short months, or sooner. After the rapture comes the seven year tribulation followed by the thousand year reign of our Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. It does not matter then, whether the majority of Muslims today are radical extremists, or whether it’s only a very small percentage. By the time Christ sets up His millennial kingdom, Islam will be extinct. Buddhism will be extinct. Hinduism will be extinct. Any system of religion that denies Jesus Christ will be extinct. Any Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, or follower of any faith who trusted in their religious system but did not call on the name of Jesus will be condemned. John 3:18 says,  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

So you see, it’s almost irrelevant to argue about whether or not Islam is a religion of peace. It’s almost pointless to argue that only a small percentage of Muslims are radicals. Because the truth is, ANYONE  who does not call on the name of Jesus stands condemned. That’s true of the most peaceful Muslim or Buddhist you may know. It’s true of the most faithful Catholic or Protestant you may know. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ stands condemned already. But herein lies the message of Hope. Anyone who does call on the name of Jesus will be saved. And that will include anyone who once practiced Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, native American spiritualism, or whatever “ism” or “ology” there might be out there.  “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” In case anyone missed it, that name is Jesus Christ.