Saturday, September 27, 2014

What If Today Was Your Last Day On Earth?

Monday was a sad day around my workplace.  A man I've known for 23 years lost his mother. She lived a good, long life.  Nevertheless it was and is sad.  I will have fond memories of her.  Add to that a couple workplace killings in Alabama and Oklahoma.  Then the realization of a friend of my wife being declared terminally ill with just 2 months to live.  The old saying is two things are certain, 'death and taxes.'  Well, the one thing more certain than taxes is that after death we will all stand before our Maker and give an account of our life.  It will all boil down to one question.....but I'll save that for last.

Friends, Jesus was not simply a good man who wants us to be nice and treat people kindly.

He proclaimed that He was God, very God, that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), that He is the exact image of His nature (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15), that no one gets to the Father but through Him (John 14:6), that all of us
like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), that He Himself bore iniquities and will justify many (Isaiah 53:11), that none of us is righteous (Romans 3:10), that all our works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), that unless we believe that He is God we will die in our sins (John 8:24), that the wages of sin is death, physical and spiritual, but that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23).

There is no second chance, for it is appointed for a man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27) where Christ will appear a 2nd time without reference to sin for those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:28), those whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Not so for the one who rejected His word.  They can expect..... a fearful expectation of judgment for those that go on sinning willfully after receiving the truth (Hebrews 10:26-27), of which you are if you have read this blog or known me for any length of time at all.

The death rate remains 1 out of every 1. The reality of sin is that 1 out of every 1 is held captive by the power of sin. The offer of forgiveness of sin and freedom from its power is found in Christ alone (Acts 4:12). Sin requires a wage (Romans 6:23) and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Yet if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Then how do we know we have passed from death to life? By keeping His word and walking as He walked (1 John 2:5-6).

There is a 2nd death (Revelation 20:6,14) where this happens; "the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) All that can be avoided. Only then will any living person be fit for heaven and not only gain it at physical death but live life abundantly until that final breath is drawn. (John 10:10)

Did you catch that list?  Unbelieving is right there with murderers.  Immorality and liars are side by side with abominable.  Belief is trusting something can bear your weight, hold up a load. Saying that plane will get you across the Atlantic is quite different than stepping onto it and buckling a seat-belt for takeoff. Saying you believe in Jesus is quite different than actually letting Him take your load of sin and bear that awful weight.  Saying you believe in Jesus is much different than placing every ounce of energy into understanding Him and following His commands.  Saying Jesus is too narrow and you'll make it another way is looking God in the face and saying "you're a liar!"

So the question begs, the same question Jesus posed to His followers 2000 years ago.

"Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)  

...and will you reply as Peter? "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16)

Because the death rate is one out of every one.

He must increase ~

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Disease Called Silence

There exists a world where disease is spreading rampantly. Daily, it claims its victims and ravages them from the inside out. Neighbors and friends fall prey to the devastating effects of this war while the vast majority does nothing to stop it. It’s slowly taking over loved ones and won’t stop until it overtakes the children. There is a form of resistance but, when compared to the general population, they are in the minority. Will the battle ever end or will the denizens of this world ultimately be destroyed? Sadly, this world being described isn’t hypothetical or imaginary. Nor is it a distant land yet to be discovered. No, it’s the very world we live in and, as it stands, we are slowly destroying ourselves. Thankfully, there’s  hope in the form of a cure. All we have to do is stand up.

You may be scratching your heads right about now, wondering what I’m talking about. Please read on and allow me to clarify. The world I’m referring to is called the church. It’s filled with people who call themselves Christians. The purpose of this post isn’t to differentiate between false converts and genuine Christians. Instead, I’d like us to focus on what I feel to be an even more pressing issue. After all, it’s to be expected that local church attendance will spike around Christmas and Easter. It’s even expected that some of the people in the pews may not really know the Lord regardless how long they’ve been going to church. What isn’t expected is that those who truly know Christ would sit down and forget to stand up. We’re called to teach all nations of Christ (Matthew 28:19). In a world that hates us (John 15:18) and is at war with God (Romans 8:7), we’re called to be the resistance (1 Corinthians 1:23). As for the final outcome, we know that not all will believe and that there will be an ultimate eternal darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth for all who don’t know Christ.

Ask yourself when the last time was you were presented with an opportunity to preach Christ crucified. Did you take advantage of the opportunity or did you remain quiet? Did you stand up for Christ or did you sit down? What about the time before that? In fact, when was the last time you stood up at all? There are a number of reasons why we may remain quiet when opportunity presents itself. Some may get nervous. Others may have a fear of public speaking. While both of these are valid concerns, where do they stack up in the grand scheme of things?

Life isn’t lived inside a bubble in complete isolation from the outside world. For every action taken, not only does one need to accept the consequence on his life, but he also needs to accept responsibility for the impact it has on the lives of those around him. What will it take for you to see the importance of this subject matter? How many people will miss hearing the gospel unnecessarily? How many will die of the disease called silence? How widespread will the pandemic have to be before you become aware? If you are already aware, who will have to die before you care?

Sadly, evangelism has steadily been reduced to the other guy's job. It's taken a back seat to the
struggles of daily life and the already tight time constraints. As the bride of Christ, my fear is that we've simply lost our evangelistic fervor. How can this be when Scripture tells us the very souls of men are at stake? I love the way Charles Spurgeon had a zeal for evangelism. He understood God's sovereignty yet he also understood God's natural method for bringing new saints to Himself. Spurgeon said, "We believe in predestination; we believe in election and non-election: but, notwithstanding that, we believe that we must preach to men, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved,' but believe not on him and ye be damned."

There will come a day when the unsaved will hear of their inability to save themselves. Would you rather they hear it from you first or from God Himself on the day of judgment? Evangelism is a joyful privilege that encompasses our entire lives. It's an opportunity to preach Christ crucified and extend the offer of eternal life to all who will believe. Is there no sweeter encouragement?

~ Travis W. Rogers

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Man vs. God

I’d like to share a story with you. Though it’ll probably enrage many, I ask that you reserve judgment until the end. It’s a story of a school bus filled with kids on their way home from a tiring day at school. All was normal in the world. The driver was making her way down the winding country roads. The elementary aged
children were playing with their friends while trying to avoid the attention of the driver. Parents were waiting at home to greet their children. Sadly, the bus wasn’t the only vehicle on the road. What nobody knew, nobody could have predicted, was that the town drunk had gotten started early that day. It was barely into the afternoon and he was already completely intoxicated, focusing intently on the road ahead of him. In an instant, life got turned upside down. The screeching of tires pierced the ears of anybody within range. Though the car was smaller, the impact couldn’t have been more precise. The car was already a mangled mess as the bus began to roll a seemingly infinite number of times down the adjacent hillside. For the solitary witness, it was a nightmare that had become reality. He got out of his car and ran full speed down the hillside, desperately praying he wouldn’t break an ankle before reaching the bus. As he approached the wreckage, it was lying on its roof and flames were beginning to roll with billowing smoke coming from the windows. The only thing he could think to do was rip open the back door and climb in. Some of the children were beyond hope but, much to his surprise, he found most of them to be alive and pleading for help. Before he could think, he had two children, one in each arm, and was jumping out the back door. Upon bringing them a safe distance, he returned to save more. The smoke was getting thicker and it would be only minutes before the flames overtook the children. He had to act fast. After he had saved another four children, he looked at the bus one more time. He knew he could easily save the remaining ten if he acted quickly. However, instead of racing for the coughing and crying children on the bus, he put his arms around the six he had saved and began to walk back up the hillside where he loaded them in his truck and brought them home. Not once did he look back. Not once did he ponder whether he should save the rest. Not once did he regret his decision. He could’ve saved them all but that simply wasn’t his intention. He saved as many as he wanted and that was just going to have to be good enough.

Where do you stand in regards to this story? Do you praise the man as a hero or do you condemn him as a monster who left children to die unnecessarily? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, this isn’t a true story. Instead of being found in the latest headlines, it resides nowhere other than my brain and this blog. Truth be told, that’s not even an honest declaration. In reality, though I embellished a bit, it’s the foundation of an old theological argument against the doctrine of election. I know, shocking! Perhaps you’ve even heard the argument from someone else. Many who despise the doctrine of election love to use a similar story, placing God as the main character who is saving children from a burning fire. The claim is that, if God could save everybody yet chose to let them perish while only saving some from the flames, it would make Him a monster. The next claim tends to be that a monstrous God should never be worshiped. In and of itself, I could agree with the last claim. However, is there really any validity in correlating God to the hero/monster in the above story? Is there any relation at all or is this a case of apples to oranges?

Unfortunately, too many would say the above story is accurate. I believe this is the direct result of knowing neither the righteousness of God nor the wretchedness of man. So long as man exalts himself to a loftier position than he ought, he will always demote God to a position other than that which He deserves while denigrating the Most High. Scripture speaks loudly of both God’s character and man’s status.

Deuteronomy 32:4 - “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Isaiah 6:3 - And one called out to another and said,Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Ezra 9:15 - O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.”

Numbers 11:15 - So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

Romans 7:24 - Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

James 2:10 - For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
No, the story told above shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you hear somebody telling it, stop them any way you can and preach the gospel for they either do not know Christ as they should or they don’t know man as he is. A better analogy would be one of the same bus on the same road. Yet, instead of being filled with children on their way home from school, it’s filled with heinous convicted murderers being carted off to death row in a maximum security prison. Instead of being a drunk driver, it’s an interception with a prison break in mind. The mastermind behind the ordeal leaps into action. Everybody is confused. They never saw it coming. In fact, for the most part, the mastermind is so quick, they still don’t realize what’s happening. Yet, here we are again at a crossroads. The mastermind can break all sixteen prisoners out but he chooses to only grab six. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind who he selected but selected they were. The remaining ten sit in silence as they too don’t even realize what’s happening. They don’t even realize six of their fellow prisoners are no longer with them. The six who were broken out are stashed away at a safe house, given new identities, and are now walking amongst the world, minding their P’s and Q’s in an effort to avoid going back at all costs while forever indebted to the mastermind.

Surely, we aren’t thanking the mastermind for breaking out those who were convicted of murder. Nobody in their right mind would think this was a righteous move. In fact, most would be thankful he only snagged six instead of pulling out more. If the mastermind were ever to be discovered and captured, most reasonable people would demand he be put up on trial and convicted of his crimes. Are we now putting God on trial? Are we demeaning His character even in this story? While not all the details match up perfectly with God’s redemptive story, the concept is still there. Simply put, prior to regeneration, we more closely resemble the convicted murderers than we do the sweet and innocent children. As it stands, God took guilty men and set them free. He chose to save some while leaving others to perish. If one wants to tout fairness, instead of
crying over God not saving anybody, he should be seething over the fact that God, in His own infinite wisdom, chose to save ANYBODY! After all, we were guilty! We were wretched! We were vile! We hated God, cursing His name and trampling His goodness under our feet. We were bound for death row but He chose to take us off our collision course, give us new life, and abide with us forever. What a gracious God we serve!

It continues to amaze me that He would ever choose to save those who never would’ve chosen Him if the roles were reversed. For those who still despise the doctrine of election, it’s okay. So long as you trust that Christ is God, born in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), died a horrific death (Matthew 27:26), rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4), and ascended to be seated at the Father’s right hand (Mark 16:19) for all of eternity in order that you might be saved so long as you trust in Him (Ephesians 2:8), it really doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in the doctrine of election. You’re a part of it regardless and for that you can be thankful. God is good and, though we can now call ourselves saints (Ephesians 2:19), it’s only because of what He first did for us.

~ Travis W. Rogers