The Celestial City

In this world, Jesus tells us plainly, we will have tribulation. Tribulation is a period of great trouble or suffering. He goes on to say, “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) Whenever people say that God simply wants us “to be happy” or that faith brings us “health and wealth,” they really need to study the Scriptures. The people of God will experience trials, problems, and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-3: 1 Pet. 1:6-7). Before His crucifixion, Jesus knew that afterwards, He would not only be resurrected but He would return to the Father. He gives this promise to His disciples,

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. ~ John 14:1-3

What will this place be like? The book of Revelation gives us some glimpses of this glorious place, the Celestial City. 

First, it will be a place of pulchritude; that is, a place of incredible beauty. Its beauty is compared to that of a beautiful virgin bride.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. ~ Revelation 21:2

The beauty of Heaven is not haphazardly slapped together thoughtlessly. It is designed and prepared by God Himself, with such deliberate thought as a bride prepares and adorns herself for her wedding day

The Celestial City is a place of peace. This world is in constant turmoil and pain. Never, since the fall, has our world ever been free of violence, war, and abuse. Every generation must experience sickness, loss, grief, and death. We don’t get used to these, because we’re not supposed to. But the redeemed are given this promise:

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 21:3-4

Life will be to the fullest. Persons will not simply exist but truly live. God will no longer be approached in faith but the redeemed will dwell in His presence. Furthermore, persons will not be sitting on clouds playing harps. It will be a place of genuine love, joy, laughter, and belonging. There will no longer be sadness, rejection, depression, anxiety, or loneliness.

Our world is polluted and intoxicated by sin. Everything humanity touches is somehow defiled by selfishness, greed, lies, abuse, and perversion. The Celestial City will be a place of perfection

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” … And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. ~ Revelation 21:8, 23-27

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). All that corrupts and defiles is prohibited from the Celestial City. Those who are not redeemed and regenerated by the atoning work of Christ will not find entrance. The destructive power of sin will not exist in the heavenly city. There will be no crime or violence, no greed or corruption, no immorality or perversion, and no lies or deception. The City will be completely safe for it’s redeemed citizens.

Finally, the Celestial City is a place of proposal. To many, it sounds mean that so many won’t gain entrance, but people are extended an invitation through Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins. Through faith in Him and repentance of sin anyone can find mercy, new life, and citizenship to the Celestial City, but the majority of people stubbornly refuse. It’s not for no reason we are told,

Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy…. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ~ Revelation 22:11, 17

The invitation is extended to any and all who are willing to come through Christ. But those who love evil will cling to their evil. Those who love their perversion will hold fast to their perversions. Mockers will continue to mock and scoffers will continue to scoff. Although the invitation is extended to all, it is rejected by many. Have you responded to God’s invitation, and will you be among the citizens of the   Celestial City?

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus says, and “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 14:6; 6:37). Is the pig slop of temporal pleasures really worth giving up the eternal delicacies provided by the King of Glory?

Washed, Sanctified, Justified—and the Inner Struggle

Some people, after reading some of my posts, think I’m too negative and expect Christians to be perfect. However, to come to this conclusion is to miss the point of what I’m trying to communicate. Yes, I try to signal warnings often, but the intention is like that of a lighthouse trying to keep sailors from becoming shipwrecked. So much of what passes as “Christianity” today is far from what was intended by Jesus and the apostles, but there is real struggling within true believers.

We have such corny terms like “conservative Christian,” “liberal Christian,” and the list seems never ending. I’ve even heard of persons claiming to be “Christian socialists” (which is practically the equivalent of claiming to be a “Christian atheist”). Jesus never intended to come simply as an interior decorator or a landscaper. Rather, He came to demolish the old, set a new foundation, and build something totally new. He certainly did not come to promote political affiliations, but declares Himself to be Lord and King over all lords and kings.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Jesus gives His people an entirely new identity. God’s people are told,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:1-6

Elsewhere, we are told,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ~ 1 Peter 1:9-10

For many of us, if we are honest, were quite the rascals and scoundrels. We were selfish, hedonistic, blasphemous, and depraved in our thoughts and behaviors. The apostle Paul, writing to one of the churches, says,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Did you catch that? “And such were some of you”—past tense. We are no longer who or what we were. In Christ we have a new identity, we are adopted into a new family (see Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5),  and we are given a new purpose which transcends living for ourselves and destructive passions. Let us not miss the importance of the words washedsanctified, and justified. Each of these have great significance for the follower of Christ. Washed means exactly what it says. We were washed and made clean.

And since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~ Hebrews 10:21-22

They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ~ Revelation 7:14

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

If we were washed, then it means we were dirty, and if we were dirty then we were defiled and unacceptable before God. Regardless if you were immoral, greedy, a thief, a liar, mean-spirited or a gossip, each of us were dirty, defiled, and were on death row (see Rom. 3:10-23).

Sanctified is a religious term, and its significance must not be ignored. It means to be made holy, set apart for God’s purposes. We are given an excellent example of what this looks like practically:

For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. ~ Revelation 18:3-5

In the Old Testament God condemned the people who made no distinction between the holy and profane:

Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. ~ Ezekiel  22:26

The apostle Paul, in separate letters illustrates what sanctification looks like when put into practice.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 9

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~ Titus 2:11-14

Justified, a vital concept woven throughout the New Testament, is a judicial term, meaning to be absolved of guilt, to be declared righteous. Mind you, this is not that our guilt is ignored. Far from! Rather, the person who looks to Christ in faith understands that He bore the penalty—death—for our sins and guilt.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. ~ Romans 5:1, 9

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. ~ Hebrews 9:11-14

We must not dismiss the significance of these words and their meanings. To do so comes with severe ramifications. Understand, we had once been on death row, but Christ bore our penalty and set us free from sin’s prison and condemnation. If a person on death row, today, was to receive pardon, common sense tells us the expectation is for the person to abstain from the criminal and lawless activities that led him there. Likewise, Christ did not die in our stead just to give us liberty to indulge in the sins which held us imprisoned, waiting for eternal condemnation.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ~ Romans 5:20; 6:1-2

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 6:11

Although we are to consider ourselves, to treat ourselves, dead to sin, each of us knows that sin does not go down humbly, willingly, or politely. While there is victory we have over sin, through Christ, many of us know that it waits to sucker punch us any chance it gets. In other words, although we are washed, sanctified, and justified, we are not perfect. Here we experience a paradox.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ~ Hebrews 10:14

In Christ, we are sanctified and made perfect; yet the Scriptures, and life, shows us we not perfect and are in the process of being sanctified. Many of us know the bitter sting of failure, the stumbling and falling on our faces and dirtying our garments. This inner battle is real, and even though for reasons we don’t understand, God permits it to prune us, purge us, to humble us, and to grow us. Of his own experience, the apostle Paul writes, 

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. ~ Romans 7:15-19

Elsewhere he writes of the inner battle each of us is aware of.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. ~ Galatians 5:16-17

There are battles won but others lost. There are times a genuine believer is permitted to fall and hit the ground hard. But we must not blame God (e.g., “God made me this way” or “He put me in this situation”). We are told plainly,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~ James 1:13-15

But hope is not lost for the true sons and daughters of God, born again by His Spirit and redeemed by the blood of His Son. God allows us to stumble and fall, but He will help us back up. He might allow us to be broken, but He will repair us in due time. He will discipline us to correct us so that we will not be condemned with the world.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ~ 1 John 1:8-2:1

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~ Hebrews 12:4-11

To those who say my writings are “too negative,” I’m trying to warn those who are growing lax in, simply playing with, or outright defying the ways of God. To those who accuse me of thinking I’m better than others, I’m not better than anyone. I am a man who, too, struggles against the sinful nature. But regardless of what you think of me, examine what I say with the Scriptures. Is what I write true or not? But for those who are struggling, I encourage you to look, and cry out, to the Savior. His grace, forgiveness, and cleansing go deep. If you’ve fallen, His grace can lift you back up. If you’re dirty, His blood will cleanse you. If you’ve totally blown it, He can restore. If you are genuinely His, regardless of your past and present struggles, you are washed, sanctified, and justified. But yes, the inner struggle continues and is real. But remember who you belong to and your true identity in Him.

The Foolishness of God

Dear friends, I hope this finds you well. 

Not long ago I posted an article entitled, “Unbelief Will Always Make A Reason.” I don’t mind an honest discussion and dialogue, but I don’t enjoy debating for the sake of debate (Note: if you post a comment simply to be nasty, belligerent, and combative, I will ignore it). Unfortunately, I took the bait and replied to an individual’s posted comment(s) in which blasted me as completely ignorant, a liar who deliberately seeks to spread lies, and in a later comment accused me of being a “bigot.” The last one I actually found kind of funny, because aside from the fact the label is thrown around so often in our society the accusation is filled with irony. According to a dictionary, a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.” This person somehow came across my blog, which is not all that well known, attacked my Christian beliefs both vehemently and specifically, and spoke very condescendingly and antagonistically. Do you see the irony? One who displayed the very essence of bigotry, in the guise of “science” (which not everything she said was accurate, although she adamantly thinks she is completely accurate), was accusing me of being a bigot. But again, labeling is all too common in today’s society.

Anyway, I do not share this as a means of putting this individual down. I have come across other individuals through the years who sought debate, caring nothing about what I had to say, even in regard to answering questions. Admittedly, some questions I cannot answer, but this goes both ways. When all is said and done, while I am to give reason as to why I believe, it is not my job to convince others. That is a work only the Holy Spirit can do. When a person adamantly declares there is no evidence of the existence of God or of Jesus Christ whatsoever, no argument on earth is going to change his or her mind. 

This individual is correct about me not being a debater or scientist. Although I did very well in undergraduate and postgraduate studies, there will always be people far smarter than me. This is alright, as I am reminded of the brilliance of the foolishness of God.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18, 25

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. ~ Matthew 11:25-26

It is credited to Jerome for writing, “The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom.” 

The Gospel has such depths that leaves scholars scratching their heads, yet such simplicity that even children can comprehend. I do not exaggerate when I say one of the godliest persons I’ve ever known, who had an incredibly deep prayer life and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was a man who had Down’s syndrome. People can boast in their prestige, intelligence, and might; however, these are the very things that often hinder and blind persons to the knowledge of God.

In retrospect, I am ignorant about a lot of things. If knowing God depended on me being greatly intelligent, wise, shrewd, comely, and influential, I would never come to have known Him. Still, were it not for the great mercy and grace of God who had pity, not only on my blindness and stupidity, but also on my very deadness, I wouldn’t have come to know Him at all.

Let the godless say what they will and revel in their own contradictions and perils, but their words do not nullify the Creator in the least, nor the evidence as displayed throughout creation or the historicity of the Cross. Let the “wise of this world” boast in their wisdom, but it remains that only those who are willing to bow their hearts and knees will begin to see and understand the knowledge of God, and only through the Cross of Jesus Christ is there redemption. Men can continue to believe in the mythological man-made “Utopian” dream, but he will always prove himself to be the sinner he is, with a “Midas” touch to tarnish everything he touches. Still, for those who are willing to receive it, the foolishness of God remains wiser than the wisdom of men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Friend of Sinners or Doctor Among the Sick?

My friends, I hope you have been having a blessed week.

It is often said of Jesus that He was a “friend of sinners,” but what is meant by this? Does this mean Jesus had a table in a corner at a local saloon, toking on cigarettes and while guzzling down brews with the boys, and flirting with the “ladies” of the night? Did He have a big tattoo of the temple on His back or a Star of David on His arm? Is this what comes to your mind when you hear that Jesus was a “friend of sinners”? Such thinking is preposterous!

The title wasn’t necessarily a compliment. In fact, from some it was said with disgust. “He’s hanging out with them? How revolting.” Mind you, Jesus did not take this as an insult. The writer of Hebrews says of those who are sanctified by Christ, “he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (2:11).

But how did Jesus see such situations? Did He see Himself as just one of the boys, one of the homies of the gang? To those who saw themselves as morally superior to others and who were critical of the company Jesus kept, He said,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick … For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. ~ Matthew 9:12-13

When one goes to a doctor’s appointment, the doctor is not there to join in on the sicknesses, nor does he treat diseases as no big deal. He recognizes that those in his care are not healthy. Likewise with the Great Physician. Although He was to be seen with the sinners, He was not there joining in on their sins, nor did He treat their sins as of no consequence. Jesus recognized those around Him were extremely sick with sin. The prescription He gives is repentance—to turn from sin and to turn to Him.

My friends, each of us is infected with this virus called sin, and its symptoms are manifested in many ways: selfishness, pride, immorality, covetousness, lying, mean and belittling words, threats, violence, idolatry, laziness, partiality, etc. This disease is lethal. In fact, the Bible tells us that we were born into this world spiritually dead. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world. ~ Ephesians 2:1-2

But our situation is not totally hopeless. In Jesus Christ we can have life.

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. ~ John 8:23-25

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6

Some are turned off by Jesus’ exclusive claim. But if you were dying and a doctor said a certain pill or shot is your only chance of living, would you refuse it with such disgust? If, indeed, Jesus is the only way to Heaven (who else is like Him?), then why be offended for speaking truth? My friends, He offers Himself to you. If you do not know Him as your Savior and Lord, why do you continue to reject the One who loves you most?

If you are saved, it is entirely of grace. Regardless how we might like to compare ourselves to other schmucks, we are merely redeemed schmucks. Each of us were once dead in sin, followers of Satan, and children of wrath. This is why grace is so amazing.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. ~ Ephesians 2:1-2

Jesus did not come to simply love us as we are. His grace was never intended to bring forgiveness just so we can continue in our pride, vanity, immorality, drunkenness, laziness, bitterness, etc. When a person is truly touched by the love and grace of Christ, his or her life begins a process of change. 

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ~ 1 John 2:5-6

Wonderful Love

The wonderful love of Jesus is quite welcoming of misfits, ragamuffins, and scalawags. He is not indifferent to our pasts, failures, hurts, or shame. While He will not condone sin, He is not harsh with one’s shortcomings. His love is all inclusive. His mission? To seek and find those who are lost (see Luke 19:10).

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~ Matthew 11:28-29

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ~ John 6:37

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

While His love is transcending, it is not intrusive. Jesus welcomes any and all who will come to Him in genuine faith, but He will not force His love on those who do not want it. His love is able to cover the most vile and evil of sins, but He will not force a person to loosen their grip on their beloved sin in order to take His saving hand. His wonderful love grants each of us the choice to respond it or reject it.

Jesus is gentle with persons. For example: Peter (who had denied Him); the centurion who had sent one of his servants (a foreigner); the Samaritan woman (a multi-divorced “half-breed” who was an outcast even of her own people); Zacchaeus (a tax collector, considered a traitor to the Jewish people; and the woman found in the act of adultery. Each of these received warm and honest acceptance from Jesus.

Still, Jesus did not pander to people or cater to their expectations. He let persons reject Him and His love. For example: the Pharisees and Sadducees (the religious leaders of the day); the rich young ruler (who wanted salvation on his terms); Herod (a leader addicted to his own lusts and who wanted Jesus only for entertainment); and Judas (who, apparently, was disappointed with the kingdom Jesus had in mind).

Nevertheless, Jesus extends His love to each of us. The question is, is His love worth surrendering ourselves and our sins? For many, this is too much, too demanding. Still, others feign to receive His love while holding firmly to their sin. However, in doing so, they have not really received anything at all. It is a shame that sin is so deceptive in that it can bring pleasure, all the while leaving so much destruction in its wake. Sometimes we are unaware of the destruction that it brings to others later.

But then there are those who do recognize the hideousness of their sins. How on earth can God love them? Oh, but He does, my friend! There is not a sin God is unwilling to forgive, if we will but look to His Son Jesus Christ in genuine faith.

I hope that you have come to know this wonderful love of Jesus!

Why the Message is Often Ineffective

It would seem as though the Gospel message is losing its potency here in the West, but let us not be deceived. The Gospel is just as powerful as it has always been, but it is people’s tampering with it that weakens its effectiveness. People are told that God “loves us as we are” (implying there is no urgency to respond or change). And behaviors and attitudes the Bible declares as sinful are often passed by as not really being all that bad, let alone sinful and evil. Mind you, I am not talking only of the supposed “big” sins of the world, but the cradled sins in the church too (e.g., pride, presumption, idolatries, apathy, desire for control or prestige, etc.).

Oswald Chambers notes, “There must be a sense of need created before your message is of any use.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very useful and relevant, but how can it be received as such when many would-be messengers state otherwise? Or put it this way: why do I need a Savior if I can simply come as I am, I’m loved as I am, and my disposition(s) are not bad?

Indeed, we are loved. And we are to come as we are (we can come no other way). However, we are to come with repentance and an expectation to be changed by God’s transforming grace. Our pride, gossip, lying, hypocrisies, idolatries, immoral thoughts and acts, drunkenness, blasphemies, etc. are all bad—really bad.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

For the wages of sin is death. ~ Romans 6:23a

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. ~ Revelation 21:8

Jesus states, 

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. ~ Luke 13:2-3

Elsewhere He says,

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. ~ John 3:18-19

We tend to think we are “good” because we have not done this or that, yet we think nothing of the way we have spurned God’s holiness and rejected His ruling over our lives. We pride ourselves in not killing anyone, but oblivious the hundreds we have wounded by our razor-sharp tongues. We do not see ourselves as idolaters, all the while refusing to bow to the authority of the King of kings and to His eternal Word.

Consider also the ingratitude and sense of entitlement of our society, and the way these reflect in people’s perception of God.

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…. 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. ~ Romans 1:21, 24-25

The message of the Gospel, indeed, is powerful, but God’s love can only be appreciated when it is not taken for granted. Grace is amazing only when we realize our depravity and helplessness. Jesus will only be adored when we realize our sinful passions keep us enslaved but He has come to set us free. The Gospel is not simply spiritual vitamins. Rather, it is radical heart surgery.

Preach the Word and Contend for the Faith!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly amazing—and undeserving! To think, our sin (which is both an affront to the holiness of God and injurious to others) separated us from God and created for us a horrible hell-bound destiny; yet, the Son of God willingly bore our sins to deliver us from our depravity and bondage to sin and darkness; to reconcile us to God; to prepare us a home filled with genuine love, peace, joy, and purity—a place where there will be no death, sorrow, sin, or perversion of any kind (see Rev. 21:1-4, 27). And why was He willing to do this for us? “For God so loved the world…” (see John 3:16).

We will never fathom the horror the Son of God experienced in order to secure our redemption and pardon. The Holy One took upon Himself the sins of the world, facing the wrath of God against mankind’s murders, lies, thefts, rapes, perversions, pride, gossip, hypocrisies, etc. As if the scourging, beatings, and mockery was not enough, He was pierced by thorns, spikes, and a spear; furthermore, the Father turned His face from the Son He so dearly loves. The Son died in loneliness and with a broken heart which cannot be described.

This is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins (which have separated us from God), He bids all to repent (to turn from sin) and to die in Him, and to be risen with Him in new (transformed) life.

Somehow the church, in undisciplined zeal, began to compromise the Message to get people to come to church so they might be saved. Gradually the compromises have become more about building bigger congregations rather than God’s kingdom. Many churchgoers are more concerned about offending the congregations or the lost than they are of offending God. Furthermore, as the compromises have increased, so have the justifications of permitting all sorts of sins, perversions, and idolatries to find harbor in many churches—the very things Jesus was crucified for!

We are told to “preach the word” without compromise or apology—even if that means others turn and walk away. We are to plant the seeds, but it is God alone who will cause those seeds to burst forth with life.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching. ~ 2 Timothy 2:1-3 (ESV)

Elsewhere we are told to contend (fight fiercely) for the faith (the Gospel). That is, protect it from those who would ravage, twist, and pervert it.

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 3-4

Indeed, we are to preach and exhort in a spirit of love and compassion. However, how contemptible and deplorable to water down the Gospel message, lest we offend those who mock, trivialize, and trample the exceeding grace that Jesus Christ offers! What a mockery of the offense and scorn He endured on our behalf!

Oh people of God, let our hearts be revived for His sake, and let us preach and contend for the true faith entrusted to us. For those who respond in repentance and faith, praise God! For those who reject it, let them walk away and entrust them to God. As the Bible declares:

Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. ~ Revelation 22:11-12

Regardless of people’s response, let us be faithful to Christ and the Gospel message He has entrusted to us. To dilute the message to soften the sting ultimately does more harm than good—and we must give account.

It’s a Beautiful Morning

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to live in deliberate or habitual sin. We are asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1 -2, ESV). Furthermore, elsewhere the purposes of both grace and salvation are explained:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Even so, the Bible teaches us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins, (Ecc. 7:10) and “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).  And life teaches us experientially that we can sometimes blow it profoundly! How many of us have asked, “Will God forgive me of this? Again???” In fact, some give up altogether that God still loves them and can forgive them.

My friend, perhaps you have asked such questions. Maybe you are wrestling with such doubts now. Believe me, I have been there numerous times. But God’s grace truly is amazing, and the death Jesus died in our stead transcends our understanding. I hope you will be encouraged by the following passages:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Perhaps you have blown it big time and guilt haunts you. My friend, look to the cross and the glorious and merciful Savior who had been slain upon it and is now alive forevermore! Find refuge in His mercy and peace in His great love for you. His mercies are new every morning, and there is never a time when we are not in need of them.