Category Archives: Sin

From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

John 3:16–21, ESV

These verses in John 3 are rarely read together in today’s churches. The focus of the gospel has shifted to almost exclusively the love of God. Thus, Jesus, who says, “For God so loved the world,” is translated into “since God loves the world, that must include everyone in the world.” Our God is not only the author of salvation, but he is also the judge of sinners. Jesus made clear that he was not sent into the world to judge (condemnation), but that there is condemnation already present among those who do not believe. The unbeliever has reaped condemnation because “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness.” How do we know this to be true? “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light…”

Jesus was not wasting his words. When he spoke, he spoke truth. These verses are the gospel message. They cannot be separated from one another. None of these words are difficult to comprehend. Whenever and wherever the gospel is preached, both salvation for belief and condemnation for unbelief must be a part of the conversation. One without the other denies the gospel as proclaimed by Jesus.

The Jesus loves me gospel has become such a focus in many churches that the gospel has become something like fire insurance. If you don’t believe, you are going to hell, but if you do believe, you will go to heaven. Furthermore, belief does not have to be anything more than an altar call a person is tricked into going down for. Music, worship space, preaching are all laid out for an emotional response. They demand a response of feeling guilty. However, those who feel guilty do so regarding a few specific sins they have committed. Unfortunately, the individual does not recognize that everything he does is in some way steeped in his or her sin nature.

So, such individuals may pick up the language of modern Christianity or even start attending church occasionally. But there has not been a fundamental change in their life. They think everything is good between them and God. Yet, when Junior has a soccer game that conflicts with the gathering of Christ’s body for worship, they choose the soccer game. After all, God would certainly want us to support our child in his activities. That is what good parenting is all about. Few think that Junior should not be playing a sport instead of the communion of the saints with voices raised in worship.

Nevertheless, our culture demands to be our first love. The temptation to love the world is strong. I know it well. What helps me are two things: the love of God who called me to serve him and the fear of God’s wrath. This may sound odd to many but think back to when you were a child. I hated doing yard work, but my dad would assign some chores for me to accomplish before he came home. I would put off going outside to work as long as I could. Yet, there always came a time when I decided my father’s praise was much better than his wrath and disappointment.


Blessed is the man 
      who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
      nor stands in the way of sinners, 
      nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 
      but his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
      and on his law he meditates day and night. 

      He is like a tree 
      planted by streams of water 
      that yields its fruit in its season, 
      and its leaf does not wither. 
      In all that he does, he prospers. 
      The wicked are not so, 
      but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 

      Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
      nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 
      for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, 
      but the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psalm 1, ESV)

With this background, we may now turn to the Creed. It has presented the birth, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascent to sit at the right hand of the Father. “From there, he will come to judge the living and the dead.” The idea of judging the living and the dead could mean that Jesus will judge those who are alive when he returns, and the dead are those who have died before his return. I don’t really think this is an adequate interpretation. The living are those who have been born again and the dead are those who are wicked.

How will Jesus judge?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31–46, ESV

Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd separating sheep from goats. The difference between them is demonstrated by their works. James wrote that “faith without works is dead.” Jesus had John write 7 letters to the 7 primary churches in Asia. Below is the one he wrote to the Ephesians.

 ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Revelation 2:2–7, ESV

The other six also refer to works, either by praising or condemning. Paul presents the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians as a picture of true Christianity. These characteristics are the natural outworking of the Holy Spirit sanctifying us. For those who remain true to Christ, especially in times of trial, there is a promised crown as reward.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, ESV)

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, ESV)

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV)

With this knowledge, we are responsible for judging all things in our culture. We are not called to condemn people but to judge the righteousness of works. The past few weeks, we have had a clear indication of the hearts of humanity apart from God. Allow me to explain.

Kyle Rittenhouse was placed on trial for killing two and wounding one during a Black Lives Matter riot. In the end, the jury declared that Kyle was not guilty. Yet, so many media commentators are rehashing their initial judgments of the incident ignoring the facts that the jury found as false since that time. There is a narrative being pushed on the American people, a narrative that has divided is preaching racism, that has crushed good people saying that all white people are racists, that has ruined the reputations of people who have done nothing wrong but offer a cool drink to those who are thirsty.

We are being told what is up is down, right is left, men are unnecessary, men can become pregnant, all white people are racist, conservative blacks are white supremacists, and more. So many lies that if repeated often enough by the majority of the media, many will eventually come to believe. We as a people have lost our first love: a love of liberty, a love of federalism, a love of objective morality, a love of order, and more. Yet our first and greatest love that is all but forgotten is our love of neighbor, our love of righteousness, and our love of God.

Let us be clear about the gospel in our churches. Let us be honest about the gospel in our preaching and evangelism. And let us not fear rejection no matter how harsh. It is God our Father and Christ our Lord who work all things. It is not our job to change hearts or lives. It is our job to shine the light everywhere. It will reveal what needs to be revealed. The Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of those who are called.

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, Hate, Love, Racism, Sin, Truth

He ascended into Heaven…

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Acts 1:9, ESV

The complete line in the creed is “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

One of the great days on the Church calendar is Ascension Day. It has fallen into the dark recesses of theological thinking in modern American Evangelicalism. Yes, we sing with all our might, “Our God reigns!” Yet we fail to live as if this is true. The reality of it is that most Christians believe the IRS reigns over the Church. The fear of losing our tax-exempt status has relegated preaching to general platitudes. We are to be bold. We are to be fearless. We are to say that we don’t care about getting tax exemptions for our donations. We give to God because it is the right thing to do. (I could go on about giving practices, but I will refrain myself.) Test yourself. Test your faith. Do we seek the kingdom of God first?

The ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand (the authority) of God was the coronation of the King of the Universe. Our God does reign! If we believe it, we will expect our pastors to preach the word of God. We need to know what God thinks of our government and those who run it. We need to know what God says about abortion, the family, homosexuality, welfare, and more. And we need to stop being apologetic about it all. We are the subjects of the King of kings. What have we to fear? Nothing!

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:32–35, ESV

In the 1970s, comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it,” to get a laugh. In a sense, Eve was the first to use such an excuse for her disobedience in the Garden. Nevertheless, there have always been stories of supernatural evils performed by the devil and his demons. My issue with all of these stories, from the Salem witch trials to Satan’s bible, is that we give the devil too much credit. But he was utterly defeated by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

Jude 6, ESV

Talk of the devil and his power has led to all sorts of evil. But let’s tell the truth. The devil is in chains. He was put there by the King. When we are tempted to do wrong, it is our own sinful nature leading us astray. We are responsible for what we think, say, and do. And the reign of Christ ends with the judgment of the unjust. Judgment befalls us all.

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:12–15, ESV

The ascension of Christ marks the beginning of the reign he earned by conquering sin and death. For me, the Day of Ascension should be celebrated right up there with Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. It used to be that Christians gathered for worship on Ascension Day. I cannot say that this is not done anymore, but I can say that when I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, the attendance at such a service dwindled just like Sunday night worship. When I was called by a Presbyterian church as her pastor, there was no thought whatsoever about either of these services. Today, my heart breaks that most Christians act like God is only worth an hour of our time each week.

Christ is our King. The King has separated one whole day each week when we are to put aside all our worldly activities and bow in the courts of Christ Jesus. Only then will we have grown spiritually enough that we can stand against the evil in our world. When we are transformed into dedicated followers, disciples, if you will, of Jesus, we can turn the tide and impact the false religion of humanism. Such a stand is what seeking the kingdom of God entails.

I have one final comment. One of the reasons the Church has become relevantly impotent is due to the heresy called Dispensationalism. I was raised with a Scofield Bible in my hand. I attended a Dispensational college. One of the problems with Dispensational theology is that it is solely focused on the future Kingdom of Christ, and it doesn’t credit the current Kingdom. I once heard the famous J. Vernon McGee ask his radio listeners, “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?” The answer to this rhetorical question is supposed to be no. But there are some problems with the premise behind the question.

The implication is that the world is the sinking ship. Therefore, the Church and her members have no obligation to work to improve society. You see, the Dispensationalist is taught that we are going to “jump ship” before it sinks entirely by means of a rapture. Thus, who really cares if the government mandates we either get vaccinated or lose our job? Certainly not Christians. The outlook of a Dispensationalist is pessimistic at best. It doesn’t feel that way because we’re going to a “better place.” But what is the mission of the Church? It is not to make believers because only the Holy Spirit can do that. It is to make disciples by teaching them to obey all Christ commands. In other words, to become servants of the King in his Kingdom.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

Matthew 25:31–45, ESV

It appears that we are to “polish brass” because the ship is the Lord’s, and he is not about to let it sink. The “end of the world” is the end of the world of humanism and the sin that follows. I don’t know of a Scripture anywhere that says the created earth is going to be destroyed. God said it was good after he created it. The sin of man did not eradicate the goodness of God’s creation, nor could it. The sin of man is the breaking of the image of God in man. You see, Jesus came to redeem, not to completely destroy.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Romans 8:20–21, ESV

I have continued on long enough to hopefully help my brothers and sisters more fully appreciate the doctrine of the ascension of Christ to his Throne. The end of the world is not near. Every day that Christians grow deeper in the Word, they move farther away from their sin and become obedient servants of Christ. And, Jesus is coming again. Seems to me that our most important function right now is to polish that brass for his arrival.

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It Was the Worst of Times

I just finished a post on Pontius Pilate. While writing, I could not get the images of the terror in Afghanistan right now.

It is not unusual for people to think they are living in the worst of times. In 18th Century France, people were done with royalty and wanted to rule themselves. Their desire for a better government resulted in no government. Whatever order they wanted to eradicate, they won chaos. Charles Dickens likened it to worse times:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Charles Dickens, introduction to his novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

During my short lifetime, there have been many times said to be the worst. The execution of President John F. Kenedy, the Vietnam “war,” the gas shortage of the 1970s, the Iraqui war, the war in Afghanistan, just to name a few. Many of the military actions following the War to End All Wars, then its brother, World War II, have been highly controversial. The public was divided between those who supported the decisions of the politicians and those who believed they were unnecessary at best and criminal at worst.

I am not interested in either explaining history or rewriting it. However, the most recent “war” is the 20 years American troops have been in Afghanistan is a tragic repeat of history. Our government officials did not know how to end the Vietnam war, but they felt the opposition to it by Americans. So, it was determined to sacrifice territory to the North Koreans. This was not done by negotiating some form of transition. It was accomplished by pulling out suddenly. The images on the news broadcasts were tragic. People died trying to get on helicopters. More people suffered by being left behind. And the South Koreans in Saigon were targets of the enemy.

Recently, the foolishness, or maybe arrogance of our current President repeated the Vietnam horror of Richard Nixon. Granted, he did not make this decision on his own. He had plenty of advisors. But, for whatever reason, he did not choose to listen to those who remembered Saigon, and despite telling the American public that pulling our military out of Afghanistan would be transitional, planned, and take some time. The result is there was no transition, there was no plan, and it happened over hours, not days or months.

We pulled out so fast, there was no longer the minimal support provided to the Afghanistan military, and it crumbled along with the dreams and hopes of freedom promised by the United States. We pulled out so fast that we left all kinds of military property, and gave it to America’s worst enemy since the 9-11 attack on American soil. We pulled out so fast that the Afghani people became terrified of what was to come and they would do anything to find a way out. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why the Taliban wants to keep the people who do not want to stay.

Once again, the images on the media covering the situation honestly are just as tragic as Saigon. We pulled out not considering those Americans left behind. We pulled out not thinking about those Afghanis who would suffer more than you or I have ever suffered. Why hand over people, weapons, and technology to the Taliban? Why lie about it to the American people? Why, after this catastrophe, would anyone try to paint this as a victory for the United States. Those men and women of the U.S. military who died in Afghanistan essentially died for nothing. All we fought for ended in nothing. Just like Vietnam.

There have been politicians I didn’t like. But none has made me embarrassed to be an American until now. This is not the worst time in human history. But it is a very dark time. Once again, I am reminded to turn to my true leader, my King, who is the light of the world.

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Everything is Racist?

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Romans 1:28–32 (ESV)

I can’t help but think that all of America has gone mad. Every day, someone somewhere claims that something in normal life is racist. For example, go here. Some of these sources claim to some sort of expertise whether as journalists, politicians, university professors, or theologians. Some of Paul’s inspired words for these people include envy, foolish, heartless, and ruthless. Their baseless claims are slanderous and come from their hatred of God.

One might wonder why the most patriotic citizens in our country came from other countries to seek freedom. Yes, the freedom they celebrate is the same freedom others so easily denigrate. The sad part of our freedom of speech is that so many use it to freely express their inventions of evil, or maybe it’s just their ignorance. So many victims born in the United States!

The liberty so many generations fought and died for is the freedom to work hard in order to provide for family and self. It is the freedom to help others in need and to be self-governing good people. It is the freedom to fail, get up again, and amend our ways. It is the freedom to forgive.

Some people say time changes all things. I say that it is not time that changes things, it is sin that takes all that is good and transforms it into everything that is bad. Freedom to be righteous has become freedom to be self-righteous. Freedom to make one’s way through life has become a desire for a free ride. True caring for the poor or the oppressed has become public theft through illegitimate taxation that people who choose not to be responsible are essentially paid to remain irresponsible.

Ultimately, the greatest deception of sin, in my opinion, is to make us believe that hatred of our condition is actually a love of ourselves. Equal opportunity has become equal outcome whether the outcome is earned or not. When the outcome is desired but not earned, it is tragically wasted. Working for something validates the value of the thing worked for. To receive something for nothing makes the something worth nothing. Liberty that does not cost a weighty price is not liberty. It is merely licentiousness.

God says through Paul that because people refuse to worship God, he gives them up to their own depraved thinking. Apart from submission to the Creator, there is no meaning and no value in anything. So, in the mind of those who deny God the status and glory that is his by right, everything is racist because “of no value, that which is worthless” is the real definition of the word racism. And Americans now reap what Americans have sown.

All value is derivative from the only One who is ultimately valuable, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has endowed his creation with value. This is especially true in regards to human beings, for we are created in God’s image. We were made to reflect the glory of God as mirrors of that glory. The image I see in a mirror is not me, but it is a representation of me. Therefore, we are not Gods but we were made to be representations of him. This explains why animals do not create things of beauty. We can see their beauty as creatures of God’s handiwork, but only human beings write poetry or great symphonies. Only those who bear the image of the creative God are creators of art, architecture, technology, and more. God gives us the raw material and using the knowledge, holiness, and righteousness within us we use this material to create wonderful things.

God’s goodness and grace are displayed in that even humans who refuse in sin to worship God use what God made them to be and create, rule creation, and work for one another. It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous and waters their crops the same. At the same time, the wickedness of the unrighteous is also displayed when they oppress and murder, hate and destroy, cheat and steal. How do we know this? By the reality that God’s love, righteousness, and justice have never completely disappeared from his creation.

Moreover, God entered his creation in Jesus Christ and showed us once again how valuable his creation and his people are. Our value is the very life of Jesus, who was crucified to pay for our sin. His work was finished on the cross which was proven effective by his resurrection from the dead. The good news did not stop there, for, on his coronation day, he ascended to heaven to take his throne and fulfill his rule over the earth. (May the Lord forgive us for no longer celebrating Ascension Day.)

This is why Paul could boldly claim that haters of God deserved to die. He did not say it was our job to kill them, only that they deserved death. Denial of God is the denial of everything that is. Applying this to our country means that making claims of racism where no racism exists is proof of the rejection of God and his creation. Is there such a thing as racism? Has the government of the United States of America done injustice and evil? Yes, but the standard is the one set by the Creator and Law Giver to whom everyone and every institution owes obedience and worship.

Our judgment is not what condemns people, for only Jesus Christ has been given that function. Yet, we are to judge others’ actions so that we can strive to counter their wickedness with righteousness and justice. Please notice that I did not say “social justice.” Social justice is the creation of sinful man. It may be dressed up as God’s justice, but there is no substitute for the real thing. Social justice condemns. God’s justice displays his glory. God’s justice corrects evil, cares for victims of evil, and restores wholeness.

God’s justice has dealt with the injustice of racism. The United States paid a huge price for the lives destroyed by the legalized slave trade. But God’s justice prevailed and slavery was ended. Many black Americans paid a huge price for the Jim Crow laws. But God’s justice prevailed and discrimination was made illegal. In neither of these events did justice happen overnight. Today, there are still some vestiges of discrimination. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ rules from heaven and is recreating the earth according to the New Covenant. Now, as I see it, you can either scream about perceived racism and injustice, you can demand to get something for nothing, or you can actually receive something without cost, the grace of God in salvation from sin, and you can join the reclamation work of the Lord.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:8–10 (ESV)

“…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 (ESV)

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Cancel Culture

I just finished reading Gary DeMar’s latest article on American Vision. You can read it hear. It got me thinking, and I have come up with a few questions, some of which come from the article itself.

Why is it that it is acceptable for other religions to publicly display their beliefs but not Christianity? Why are atheists so insecure in their thinking that they feel the need to shut Christians up? Why are those who demand the Constitutional freedom of speech the same ones who would deny it for those who disagree with them? Why is it that a race of people who cannot get over the oppression of their descendants have no guilt or remorse for oppressing others in their quest for superiority? Why is it that companies and corporations believe that promoting deviant lifestyles will serve to increase their business?

Why is it that those who most hate being judged by their skin color hate others for theirs? Why is it that legal immigrants, many of whom came to America with much difficulty, love America and the Constitution more than many citizens by birth? Why do so many historians hate history so much that they are willing to make it up as they go along? Why is it that those who have not read an author’s work are often the ones who object so strenuously to its content? Why is it that the most ignorant among us can’t help but demonstrate that fact publicly? Why is it that institutions of higher education turn out so many poorly educated people?

Why is it that the people who object to the pledge of allegiance because we are not a nation under God are the ones who have no problem spending money with In God We Trust printed on it? Why is it that you can often tell the nature of one’s spirituality by counting how many times they take the Lord’s name in vain? Why is it that someone so quickly uses the words God and Jesus Christ as expletives, but no one uses the name Buddha or Krishna this way? Why is it that an organization that hates the gospel of Jesus Christ and deceitfully manipulates its members can call itself a church?

Without having any good answers to these questions, this middle-class white male is not giving up or giving in. After all, watching those who differ ideologically with me go ballistic when I defend my faith that, though there may not be a white culture, there is undoubtedly a Christian culture that for over two millennia has provided developments in science, medicine, technology, books, music, and so much more. Their screaming and antics are more fun to watch than anything on T.V. these days.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1–4, ESV

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1–5, ESV

Then I fell to my knees, and looked up toward my Lord, and said, Thank you for answering all my questions. Maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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PEASAGLE #2

The horror you inspire has deceived you, and the pride of your heart, you who live in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the hill. Though you make your nest as high as the eagle’s, I will bring you down from there, declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 49:16, ESV

“Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come; the rod has blossomed; pride has budded.

There is an old proverb, “Pride goeth before a fall.” It comes from the Bible. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, ESV) Proverbs is a book of wisdom, and it has a lot to say about pride. “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” (Proverbs 8:13, ESV) “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (Proverbs 11:12, ESV) “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” (Proverbs 21:24, ESV) “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23, ESV)

Pride is sometimes challenging to define. When I have written or preached about pride, I often get a response, “Isn’t it ok to be proud of your work or of something you have done well?” The first definition of pride in a dictionary is, “Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one’s own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others.” (Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s first edition of An American Dictionary of the English language., 2006.) This is the definition of pride that I believe explains the sin of pride.

This is not to deny that the word pride has other meanings. Among the many definitions offered by Webster is this one, “Generous elation of heart; a noble self-esteem springing from a consciousness of worth.” (Webster, 2006) Most of the definitions, though, include the negative aspect. In Webster’s first definition, notice the words inordinate, unreasonable, lofty airs, and contempt. Not very flattering.

Theologically, the argument can be made that the sin of pride is essentially a failure to recognize one’s place in creation and status before God. As created beings, there can be no pride in who we are because everything we are is God’s gift in making us in his image. The only thing we have ever brought to our being is sin. Our joy, exaltation, and appreciation of the creation are merely recognizing who God is and results in worshipping him. However, all of that joy and worship are marred by sinful pride.

Every other sin boils down to pride. Sin declares that I am greater than God. I get to choose my destiny. Yet, the problem is there are more people than just me. These people are all influenced by pride, too. So, everyone is at odds with everyone else because our pride demands that we are each god. As Israel learned a few millennia ago, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, ESV) Pharaoh was a proud ruler over Egypt. The Pharaohs were gods to the people. Therefore, the one God had to crush the little god and his followers revealing that there is no other. Each of the plagues Moses brought to Pharaoh was an attack on a specific Egyptian god.

Sadly, we humans never seem to learn. This all-powerful God who defeated Egypt and drowned the Egyptian army was their God. He had called them. He had made them a nation. So why did they whine about being in the desert, about being thirsty and hungry? The Israelites even began to say that they should go back to Egypt. (Keith Green writes a great song about this.) If you think about it, the only answer is their pride made them think they could control God. I’m hungry, so feed me!

Israel continued throughout its history to express their pride. God always responded with the principle he expressed in his Law.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Exodus 20:2–7, ESV

Pride, it turns out, is the fundamental problem in all disputes. In our world, pride runs rampant. I used to like to play and watch sports. Not so much anymore. It used to be that some of the greatest players scored a touchdown without some kind of display, saying, “In your face, man, I’m better than you.” End zone dances, flips, stunts took the joy out of watching for me. When the NFL wanted to curtail such demonstrations, the fans complained about it along with the athletes. Now athletic pride shows itself in athletes thinking that their opinions outside of sports should be more highly valued than those within the field they are talking about. Colin Kaepernick knelt during the traditional Star Spangled Banner. LeBron James brought Black Lives Matter to the NBA.

Even the idea of Critical Race Theory rests upon some kind of prideful belief that one race should be treated better. Ok. Aside from the fact that race itself is a human construct dividing people, is it really reasonable to claim that all white people are inherently evil racists? Even the President, with hubris, declared that white supremacy is the greatest threat to America today. I say the greatest threat to America is pride. Too bad I don’t have an athletic platform to exploit.

Please excuse my sarcasm. Some things need the light of the Gospel to highlight them. Paul had a great solution to pride, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, ESV) That is the test for pride. The word more significant means “to be of surpassing or exceptional value—‘to be exceptionally valuable, to surpass in value, to be better.’” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains, 1996, 1, 620.)

Just think. If we all saw everyone else to be of surpassing or exceptional value, there would be no disputes, no theft, no covetousness, no crime. We would never worry that we are getting ripped off. There would be no pornography, very different television, and music and books without adult content labels. That day will come. In the meantime, we can turn to Jesus Christ.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:4–8, ESV

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PEASAGL

There is a long tradition in the Church that speaks of Seven Deadly Sins. When I learned them, my instructor suggested the acronym PEASASGL: Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust. Though there is no one place in Scripture that puts these seven sins together, Paul comes close in Romans 1.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:21–32, ESV

Paul did not worry about what people thought. I was concerned first and foremost with what God thought, and he was not afraid to express it. It is not hard to spot all seven of these sins in our world today. They have been with us from the beginning. However, that does not excuse their presence. “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” We should not be surprised by the evil men do and the evil they devise.

My question is, when did the Church decide to stop calling these things sin and join in approving those who practice them? When did the Church stop preaching about PEASAGL? I have no answer. The apostles did not hesitate to identify false teachers and heretics in the Church. When was the last time you heard the voice of the Church in harmony declare something as heresy?

I grant you that we should be cautious about using the term heresy. Many things have been called heresy that are not, and many things that are heresy that are not called heresy. The reformers called the teachings of the Roman Church heresy and the Church called the reformers heretics. We should be even more careful about using the word heretic. Were both wrong? That’s a whole other discussion. My point is that there are some things the Church Universal agrees as essential to faith (the Apostles’ Creed), and they used to agree on PEASAGL.

I say used to because sin is something we order for dessert, not something we do contrary to God’s holy will. I believe that some of the problem is due to the fact that though we are declared righteous in Christ, we all still commit sin. Yet, I believe that there has been another change in the world. We have cast off reason for emotion. What feels right is right. Such a thought is itself the sin of pride. It is the original sin.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18, ESV

The day we became more concerned about other’s feelings than truth is the day that sin won. Yes, people’s feelings do matter. God’s Truth matters more, and this is why Paul wrote what he did in Romans 1. Today, the Church chooses which parts of Scripture to observe and which parts to cast off. That whole part about God giving those who deny him over to unnatural passions sticks out to me. Notice that denial has to do with truth, and passions have to do with feelings. Paul defines unnatural passions as homosexuality. Isn’t it interesting how the glorification of homosexuality today is through Pride parades and Pride gatherings? Pride is often called the chief sin because all other sin begins with and flows out of pride.

So, not only are these people proud to be sinners, they flaunt their sin publicly. But it goes a step further. Those who disagree with them and celebrate their sin are labeled as phobic of one sort or another. There is no discussion about the matter. Name-calling, another emotional response, is how it is defended. All the while, God is calling out, “Come, let us reason together.”

Then, the Church, the body of Christ in the world, decides that homosexuality is ok because those parts of God’s word are judged to be archaic and culturally irrelevant. Of course, humans judge it to be so because culture determines who God is, what God says, and what God means. Indeed, an all-loving god would not deny us our passions! Nowhere does God tell us to be disciplined, obey Christ’s commands, and be holy even as he is holy. The Church has become sinful. It is a holy thing to do to welcome those who practice such deviant things into our midst. It is there they can learn what God’s love really is. As Isaiah reports God’s message, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

If we don’t preach about sin, we have nothing to offer the world. We preach sin because sinners can be cleansed and made whole through the blood of Jesus Christ. But, that’s ok. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The reality is that we all don’t want our feelings hurt. So much so that we are willing to allow God’s beautiful creatures to spend eternity in a hell where their feelings will never stop hurting.

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