Living urgently

Have you ever experienced an urgency in your life? Yes – probably so! I experience an urgency on a regular basis as I’m one of those people who utterly despise being late to places. I’m always 5 – 10 minutes ahead, or I’m making myself miserable! So whether there’s urgency in getting the kids to school, or getting the sermon finished, there’s always a deadline that can’t be negotiated!

Last night I had the blessing of hearing my father preach down in Summerdale again. I love dad’s sermons, but I always have particularly enjoyed his topics of end-time and prophecy – Revelation, Thessalonians, Daniel, Matthew (and he touched on all of these passages last night).

Dad preaching last night in Summerdale

Every time I hear a good sermon on the end time, it is like something quickens within my spirit and begins to tell me, “He is coming back SOON! There’s no time to waste!” And my heart begins beating faster, and with a little more excitement, and I realize just how close to the end of this age I believe we are. We are one good situation away from the world barreling straight into the last set of prophecies, and every time I read the news, I ask myself, “Will this be the way in which we are propelled toward the end?”

I remember growing up, being so mindful of the return of the Lord, that I was actually believing even as a young person that I would never live to the age I am now. I believed the Lord would come back before now (see the 1 Thess verse later on in this post for a description of that day).

This morning, I read Philippians, the second chapter. A packed chapter – full of doctrine, and encouragement, and advice. There’s quite a few recognizable verses in Phil 2. Among them is verse 12 – “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And when I read that this morning, it sparked in me a reminder of how I felt as I was listening to the sermon on the end-times last night.

So often, there is no fear and trembling in our walk. As serious as we are about life, jobs, education, and relationships, it is tragic that we can be the most casual about the one thing with the greatest joy or greatest devastation in our life – our relationship with our Creator. In many instances, people just have a casual relationship with a “guy upstairs,” and there’s no urgency for their walk with Christ and no brokenness for those around them who are lost without Him.

Between last night and this morning, I had already lost that urgency. And it is very possible that I may lose it again before the day is up. Though, I pray that to not be the case.

But to live a life without some knowledge or regards to what God says will still yet happen is to read a book without worrying about the end – is to go to school without worrying about graduation – is about getting a degree with no regards to eventual employment, is to do anything without cognizance of the intended end result. Except, it is on a much greater, and potentially terrifying scale.

I closed my eyes and imagined what it will be like up there. Most of you reading this can probably quote some of or part of the song, “I can only imagine.” And it is a song that gives comfort and happiness. It talks about a place with no pain or suffering.

Revelation 21:4 says,

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.”

And yet, many of us are relying on false promises to attain that glorious end one day.

But do we know the “He” of Revelation 21:4? We can’t know Him based on our own system of knowing someone. We can’t know Him based on our own qualifications for knowing Him. We have to know Him based on what He says about knowing Him. And that involves trusting Him, believing Him, accepting His death for our sins, and living a life of surrender and submission for Him, as His grace helps us to grow in Him.

Some of us try to be a good person, and we end up being a good person. But when you compare our goodness, as good as it can be, to the “Goodness” of God, we fall miserably short, and thus, we can’t experience eternal joy nor a relationship with Christ simply by being a good person. 

Some of us believe that there are many roads to attain that eternal joy, and by having some sort of a spiritual journey or adventure, we will find ourselves “taken care of one day.” However, that is completely contradictory to Scripture. In order to spend time in God’s presence for eternity, we must recall the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:6 –

 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It is comforting to think about the place that heaven is, but only if I’m sure I’m going to actually be there one day. Of much less comfort should be the condition and worry of one who doesn’t know how they are going to get there, and considers how close to heaven’s opening we may be.

I know many good people, whom I love and respect. Yesterday, we showed a video in church. And one of the statements went like this – “I know of know greater love one could show to his fellow man than to share the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

Don’t try to “good” yourself into heaven. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. I couldn’t do it anymore than you can.

Time is urgent. It is short. I don’t know when I’ll go to heaven – whether my death will send me, or whether I will experience 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

If you believe in God, then that verse probably has one of two effects on you. It either fills you with hope, or fills you with an uncertain dread. One of the greatest experiences the human can have is, I believe, to be experiencing the fulfillment of being caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And one of the most terrifying, desperate experiences we could ever imagine is to watch as others experience that, but we don’t.

I actually believe I’ll experience 1 Thessalonians in my lifetime. I still do not believe I’ll live to be an old man. But regardless, may we live with such urgency that we’ll have no regrets when the end comes, no matter which form it takes – whether we are taken through death, or through this experience – verse 18 of 1 Thessalonians says, 

“Therefore encourage one another with these words.”Image

If you are not encouraged by those words – if you are confused, afraid, or even oblivious, I’d love to talk to you and share with you. I’ll listen. I’ll do my best to answer any questions. But, especially if you are a friend or family member of mine, the greatest love I can ever show you, despite my imperfections, is to show you how to begin your life as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It would be my greatest honor to do so. And we can grow together.

God knows I’m nowhere close to perfect. Don’t base your Christianity on Christians. Base it on Christ. I’m not your standard – He is. Without Him, we are lost eternally.

So, call, email, or message me!

Advertisements

Questions for Mary

“25 Questions For Mary”

From Max Lucado’s Book, “God Came Near.”

1. What was it like watching him pray?

2. How did he respond when he saw other kids giggling during the service at the synagogue?

3. When he saw a rainbow, did he ever mention a flood?

4. Did you ever feel awkward teaching him how he created the world?

5. When he saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did he act differently?

6. Did you ever see him with a distant look on his face as if he were listening to someone you couldn’t hear?

7. How did he act at funerals?

8. Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof?

9. Did you ever try to count the stars with him….and succeed?

10. Did he ever come home with a black eye?

11. How did he act when he got his first haircut?

12. Did he have any friend by the name of Judas?

13. Did he do well in school?

14. Did you ever scold him?

15. Did he ever have to ask a question about Scripture?

16. What do you think he thought when he saw a prostitute offering to the highest bidder the body he made?

17. Did he ever get angry when someone was dishonest with him?

18. Did you ever catch him pensively looking at the flesh on his own arm while holding a clod of dirt?

19. Did he ever wake up afraid?

20. Who was his best friend?

21. When someone referred to Satan, how did he act?

22. Did you ever accidentally call him Father?

23. What did he and his cousin John talk about as kids?

24. Did his brothers and sisters understand what was happening?

25. Did you ever think, That’s God eating my soup?Image

What’s a Christian?

As I mentioned earlier, there are doctrines that are considered essential to the Christian faith. There are also cases where some beliefs, if embraced, are contrary to the Christian faith.

Back in one of my seminary courses – apologetics, I believe, I was exposed to a website I’ve used over the years. It is entitled “Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry” and is from a gentleman named Matthew Slick. I have some denominational-belief-related differences with him occasionally but I’ve always found him to be solid on his core stuff. Anyways, the following is from his website at http://www.carm.org and his from an article entitled “Yes, there are essential Christian Doctrines” which can be located in its entirety here.

*******************************

Primary Essentials

  1. The Deity of Christ
    1. John 8:24, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
      1. This is where Jesus clearly taught what you cannot deny and you must affirm.
    2. Jesus is God in flesh (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). See also John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8
  2. Salvation by Grace
    1. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace,” (Gal. 5:4).
    2. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).
      1. Both these verses show salvation is by grace through faith, not by works and that to add works is to not be saved.
  3. The Resurrection of Christ
    1. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (1 Cor. 15:14). “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” (1 Cor. 15:17).
      1. These verses clearly state that if you say that Jesus did not rise from the dead in the same body He died in as he prophesied in John 2:19-21, then your faith is useless.
  4. The Gospel
    1. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV).
    2. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 defines what the gospel is: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
  5. Monotheism
    1. There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)
    2. “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments,”  (Exodus 20:3-6).
      1. We can see that God will visit iniquity on the descendents of those who do not follow the true and living God.

Secondary Essentials

Secondary essentials are likewise necessary truths, but there is no self-declared penalty for their denial — yet they are still essential to the Christian faith.  Again, by way of example, Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him, (John 14:6).  I call this a secondary essential because there’s no penalty associated with its denial.  Nevertheless, it is a statement of absolute truth and is an essential Christian teaching that cannot be denied.

  1. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    1. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me,'” (John 14:6)
      1. Jesus declared that he was the only access to God the Father.  To deny this is to deny what Jesus said.
  2. Jesus’ virgin birth
    1. “’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us,’” (Matt. 1:23).
      1. Without the virgin birth, we cannot substantiate the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus being God in flesh.  This would put at risk what Jesus said above in John 8:24, where he said, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  3. Doctrine of the Trinity
    1. Matt. 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”  (See also, Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6.)
    2. This doctrine is not represented by a single verse per se, though it is hinted at.  The doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at systematically by looking at the totality of Scripture.  It is, nevertheless, the proper representation of scriptural revelation concerning the nature of God.

Our faith is only as good as who we put it in. There are false teachers who redefine God, redefine Christ, and redefine the gospel to their own destruction. Jesus warned us about false Christs and false teachers in Matt. 24:24.  Paul clearly said in Galatians 1:8 that anyone who preaches a false gospel is to be cursed.  Therefore, we can see from Scripture that there are doctrinal/propositional truths we cannot avoid and that these truths cannot be governed by experience and/or the ambivalence of emerging “conversation”. If that were the case, we would not need the propositional truths given to us by God in the Bible.

***********************

Of course, as a Southern Baptist, I would always encourage members of my own church and/or denomination to refer to the Baptist Faith and Message for a concise listing of core doctrines and beliefs. You can find that here.