Tag Archives: hell

Does God Ever Give Up On Us?

“If Jesus comes back while you’re having sex in the back seat of your car with your girlfriend or boyfriend, he’ll leave you here!” the youth speaker promised.

A cold chill filled the room. Some of the youth sitting around me were squirming. Others sniffled as if they were holding back the tears.

I was mad.

The speaker at my church youth camp was really going to town. I was a senior in high school, and fairly knowledgeable of the Bible, so his words didn’t shake me up. The implication he made was that if you’re doing “the nasty” at the moment Jesus comes back, you’ll be left behind. But I asked myself, Is he saying that if I have sex with my girlfriend minutes before or minutes after Jesus comes back, I’ll be okay?

Immediately following that evening’s meeting, it became obvious who in my youth group was doing “the nasty” with their boyfriends or girlfriends, because they were distraught. The offending girls were crying uncontrollably and the boys were totally disengaged.

But his words beg the question: can we lose our salvation? Can we do something so heinous that God finally says, “I’m done with you”?

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Ezekiel 10:1-11:25
Hebrews 6:1-20
Psalm 105:16-36
Proverbs 27:1-2

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ezekiel 10:1-11:25. In my experience, many people in society equate ecstatic visions with low intelligence. But in this case, Ezekiel, a man who was highly educated, received perhaps the most vivid visions in Scripture. Daniel, who was also highly educated, received similarly spectacular visions.

Chapters 10-11 continue Ezekiel’s vision about the defilement of Jerusalem and the temple. The cherubim are angels (the word is plural for cherub). At the end of chapter 10, the glory of the Lord slowly departs from the temple. This provides us with a vivid picture of the spiritual life. Rarely do we suddenly lose our desire for God. But over time, it slowly fades away until we no longer care.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

When I was a teenager, I committed myself to studying what the Bible says about eternal security, that is, the belief that Christians can lose their salvation. In fact, I kept a long list of Scripture references in my Bible proving that if we stumbled trying to walk the straight and narrow, we’d be toast (literally!). The book that bolstered my argument, more than any other, was the epistle of Hebrews. Today’s reading served as the core of my beliefs:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6:4–6 (please pardon the long quote!)

The above passage has prevented countless teenagers and adults from really messing up their lives because they’re afraid of losing their salvation. It has also shipwrecked the faith of many.

Growing up, one of my best friends did “the nasty” with a girl and got her pregnant, which resulted in a quick marriage, a quick divorce, and a broken life. At 20 years of age, he also knew the above passage and determined that he couldn’t return to the faith because if he tried, he would be crucifying Jesus all over again. “My goose is cooked!” he told me.

But consider this: If we can’t do anything to earn our salvation (see Romans 4), can we then do something to lose it? If so, then our salvation is based on our efforts and not the finished work of Christ on the cross.

While I don’t intend to demean the word of God in regard to this passage, it’s also helpful to take into consideration the whole corpus of Scripture. I could quote numerous Scriptures that convey a different message, but I’ll just quote one. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” If Christ lives in you, he will continue the good work he started.

The underlying question in all of this still remains: is there an unforgivable sin?

My short answer: If you’re concerned that you’ve committed the unforgivable sin against God, you’re probably okay. Obviously you haven’t strayed so far that the Holy Spirit can’t reach you. Furthermore, God never intended for us to live in the fear of being damned to hell for doing something. That doesn’t sound like the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10.

But what about people who aren’t concerned? It seems to me that forfeiting our salvation is possible, but not probable. Perhaps it happens in the case of apostasy, where a person completely rejects the faith, but only on rare occasion.

So where do we go with Hebrews 6:4-6? Looking closely at the verse, nowhere does it say that people who turn their back on Jesus will be left behind. The seed of the gospel still remains, but it lies dormant in the soil of their hearts. It’s certainly not the abundant life, but it also speaks to the love of Jesus that never lets us go.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17–19

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If it were true that you could lose your salvation, how would it affect your faith?
  3. If it were true that you couldn’t lose your salvation, how would it affect your faith?
  4. Do you live in the fear of God or the love of God? Why?

 

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado

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Fighting Your Demons

Have you ever noticed the prevalence of horror movies involving demons? Yet, western society refuses to acknowledge in their existence. This has never made sense to me.

Please join me as we delve into a subject many people believe in—but refuse to acknowledge.

TODAY’S READING

2 Kings 15:1-16:20.
Acts 19:13-41
Psalm 147:1-20
Proverbs 18:4-5

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Kings 15:1-16:20. Today we read about Israel’s kings in rapid-fire succession…

King Azariah is also listed under a variety of names: Uzziah (verses 13 and 30), Uzziahu (verses 32 and 34), and Uzza (2 Kings 21:18). He brought spiritual revival and economic prosperity to Judah like few kings before him.

In Isaiah 6:1, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” King Uzziah’s death was a significant moment for Israel because he represented stability in every sphere of life. The people knew his son Jotham was no Uzziah. Yet, in the midst of an uncertain future, God wanted them to know he was still on the throne. You can learn more about Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26.

Israel, on the other hand, became the picture of instability. While King Jeroboam II of Israel had brought economic stability to the country, the violent overthrow of kings after him brought rapid instability.

King Ahaz of Judah (Uzziah’s grandson), did not follow in the way of his successors, introducing more evil into Judah than probably any other king. The New Bible Commentary explains how Ahaz’s refusal to cooperate with King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel nearly brought an early end to the royal line of King David:

Further light is thrown on these events by Isaiah 7:1–6. The picture which emerges is that Rezin and Pekah wanted to create an anti-Assyrian coalition including Judah. Unable to persuade Ahaz to join them, they proposed to remove him from the throne and replace him with their own nominee (Ben-Tabeel; Isaiah 7:6). Their success would have brought the Davidic dynasty to an end.

As a result, Ahaz asked Assyria for help, emptying the temple treasuries (which meant nothing to him). This, in turn, would have a detrimental effect on Judah’s spiritual climate.

Acts 19:13-41. In the midst of the mass hysteria for converting many followers of Diana, notice that Paul did nothing to disparage his opposition. In Acts 19:37, the city clerk of Ephesus reminds the rioters: “You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.”

Because Paul acted respectfully toward people of other faiths, his accusers were quickly silenced. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Two ironies strike me in this passage:

1. The seven sons of Sceva may not have been followers of Jesus, yet they started a domino effect that resulted in a spiritual breakthrough and mass conversions. This affected the artisans who benefitted from the people who purchased Artemis-related memorabilia.  The worship of Artemis (Diana) was the largest religion in the Roman Empire.

2. Despite the people’s fervent belief in Artemis’s importance what did they yell? “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Obviously, Artemis was no match for Jesus. Artemis was so “great” that her followers felt the need to defend her.

Psalm 147:1-20. You know what brings pleasure to God? Verses 10-11 tell us:

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

God delights when we take him seriously and place our trust in the fact that his love never fails.

Proverbs 18:4-5. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4). Our words reveal our hearts. If you want to know what resides in the heart of another person, listen. If you want to know what’s resident deep inside, listen to yourself.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Probably one of the most politically incorrect beliefs in the Christian church is our belief in Satan, demons, and hell. I’m astounded by the blindness in our world when atrocities are committed on a regular basis. Where on earth did they begin? They didn’t. They began not here but in hell.

Reading through the Gospels, it quickly becomes apparent that Jesus directed a great deal of his ministry against demons. We also witness their presence—and influence—in the book of Acts. While reading the story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19, a few thoughts came to mind:

1. Power resides in the name of Jesus. According to our reading, Paul used the name of Jesus to cast out demons from people. The sons of Sceva tried imitating Paul, much to their chagrin. Which brings us to the next insight…

2. Jumping into a ministry like this while unprepared can be dangerous. Dealing with demons isn’t something you don’t want to do if you don’t know what you’re doing. The sons of Sceva walked away from their experience with demons a bit scarred (and scared).

3. A relationship with Jesus not only ensures that you don’t need to walk in fear, but that you can delve into this with confidence and authority. The men were sons of a Jewish chief priest—but that wasn’t enough. They needed to know Jesus—and be submitted to his authority. Paul, on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the demons control over Sceva’s sons.

4. Success over evil spirits can result in spiritual breakthroughs that affect others. As a result of the spiritual breakthrough, people began burning their books. This may not be politically correct to say, but destroying evil influences can break their grip on a person. We then read, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you experienced power in the name of Jesus?
  3. What demonic influences do you need to destroy?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Seeing Is Believing. Maybe Not.

“It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

Suddenly I feel a cold, dry breeze brush across my face. I shiver and look around in shock.

How did I get here? What happened?

Towering above me a line of ancient white arches stretch from one end of a noisy courtyard to the other. Below the pillars, walking on rough, uneven paving stones, unshaven men, shy rugged women, and children bouncing against the cold, bump and bustle about some business I can’t quite fathom.

Where am I?

A small wiry man next to me asks another, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

The other turns and an ironic smile flashes from under his beard. “I did tell you, but you do not believe,” he says. “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Just as suddenly I am back on my couch, Bible on my lap open to the daily reading for May 19. I am once again alone, warm and comfortable. But I am wondering.

What if I had been there? Would I better believe in Jesus if I could have actually seen him?

Would you?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44

John 10:22-42

Psalm 116:1-19

Proverbs 15:20-21

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Samuel 24-25:44: What other sacred book, or history of a nation or king, stoops so low as to record a story about a king chosen by God being embarrassed and nearly killed while in a cave for a bowel movement? The Hebrew we translate “to relieve himself” is literally “to cover his feet,” a euphemism which describes how, when Saul squatted down, his robe covered his feet. For me the raw and gritty nature of this narrative, and in the entire Bible, speaks to its veracity. If this sacred book can be that honest about who we are as people, then I believe we can trust it to be honest about who God is too.

Mark Twain, in his autobiographical book, Roughing It, writes that he doubted the veracity of The Book of Mormon for the exact opposite reason. He found it too flowery, embroidered, and trying too hard to sound ancient. It lacked the smack of reality.

Psalm 116:1-19: The psalmist prays that God would hear his cry for mercy in the midst of trouble and sorrow. His cry is not for help received in a far away heaven, but in the “land of the living.” Some have argued the use of this phrase shows ancient Hebrews had no concept of heaven or hell. If so, why have a phrase that differentiates between the “land of the living”? Rather this phrase shows the Hebrews did have some concept of the afterlife and yet saw life here and there as crucial to God. Hebrews did not hold the view that this life is evil (though they understood life as sometimes very hard), and heaven as the only good life. They saw the two places as connected.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

John’s Gospel narrative is beautifully written, evocative. I can almost see, feel, actually hear Jesus’ strong, clear voice. But not quite.

Obviously John was there. If only I too could have been!

I would not doubt, falter, fall into dishonest, fearful thoughts and actions so often, if only I had been able to touch him.

But that’s just one more white lie among the myriad of others I daily tell myself. And it’s almost as if I’m blaming God for my inability to follow Jesus the way I desire.

God, You had me born in the wrong time.

Yet scores of people touched him, saw what he could do in the Father’s name, and failed to believe.

Belief, however, is possible. John ends this account with, “And in that place many believed in Jesus.” What made the difference?

Belief doesn’t have to be big. I think my desire to possess more than I have been given (such as being born in Jesus’ time) defeats belief. Jesus called us not to have mountains of faith but said a small amount could move mountains. I forget that grace-filled truth.

Also, belief is a gift we must receive. God bestows belief on us, but I often leave the gift unopened. I’m similar to the father of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning who disowned his daughter for marrying fellow poet Robert Browning. After her marriage, she wrote many letters to her parents that they never opened.

John tells of those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles and rather than open them in wonder, they walk away.

Others who opened the gift believed and Jesus calls them his sheep.

Notice belief is an action not just an acceptance of ideas. Today we are often taught that believing in Jesus has only to do with an assent to intellectual truths. Though I intellectually assent to the idea that Jesus actually lived, died, rose again, and in so doing forgives my sins, full belief is more than that. It is acting on what I have assented to.

In my younger and crazier days, standing atop a cliff, I intellectually assented to the idea that a rappelling rope could hold me. But that was not enough. Belief did not become real until I stepped off the rock.

So, I am brought to this reality. Jesus is here with us in a different way than with his disciples. But here he is.  Do you see him? I can act on that truth. In the end then believing is sometimes seeing.

  1. What theme or idea that connects these four readings?
  2. Do you struggle with belief?
  3. When has your belief been most strong?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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