Friday, January 29, 2016

Demanding Nothing in Return

The heart of a Christian is freed from having to qualify its love. It does not demand something in return. The Christian's heart is, therefore, a daring heart. Unqualified compassion involves great risk. Good deeds may go unappreciated. Kindness may be mistaken for weakness. Love may not be repaid. Gifts may go to the undeserving, perhaps even to a con-artist. 

By doing good for others, we are taking our lights out from under the bushel basket and putting them on a candlestick to give light to those around us. Listen to Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." There are great risks in this life, and even greater risks in the hereafter, if our heart is calloused against the needs of those around us. 

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus describes the judgment scene in which He separates the sheep from the goats. In verse 34, He welcomes the sheep, and in verses 35-36, He tells them it is because of all the good they have accomplished in their lives. Contrast this to what He says to the goats on His left in verses 41-43: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting 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 take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." In verse 46, He says, "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." 

The obvious thing for us to do, therefore, is to give without asking anything in return. The risk is well worth it because in the end the righteous will go into eternal life. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Who Really Goes to Hell?

Nobody likes to talk about death, taxes and that place called hell. Fear of death, hatred of taxes and just plain having no desire to talk about the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15) will top any list of undesirable topics. A lot of people have an opinion about death, everyone has a view on taxes but very few know much about what the Bible says about hell. The knowledge of hell comes only from the Bible. That is because its Creator is the same one that created the “heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Jesus believed in Hell. He taught a lot of lessons on Hell. “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29). “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

In the Saturday, January 8, 2011 edition of The Gainesville Sun (p5D), a question was posed about who really goes to hell. A grandfather discusses his grandson’s fear of hell by telling him that “very few people are going to hell.” He goes on to say, “Most people who do bad things are actually going to heaven because they don’t realize they’re making mistakes.” The grandfather concludes for his grandson that God is so loving that He could not possibly punish people in hell or that would make Him “an infinitely horrendous ogre.” His question was answered by a rabbi named Marc Gellman that applauded the answers given to the young boy. Gellman concluded that “hell is the place where truly evil people receive the punishment they deserve. Hell is for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and every unrepentant murderer, torturer or purveyor of cruelty.”

You have to be a really, really bad person to go to hell? You can be a bad person and go to Heaven but hell is for the worse kinds of evil people? Is that what the Bible teaches? Jesus told those in judgment to “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) and the only thing they did was to do nothing for others (see Matthew 25:41-46). Paul described the following who would be condemned to hell: “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). 

When the Lord returns He will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Jesus declared that even “religious people” will be cast into hell (Matthew 7:21-23). The rich man was in a place of “torments” (Luke 16:23). The parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) concludes with “all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42). There is a lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8) and it will be filled with all those who reject God’s will.

The horrendous manner of Christ's death bears testimony to the magnitude of what is at stake. Jesus died to give man a choice: Heaven or hell. The grandfather and the rabbi neglected to consult with the one who knows about hell. It is real, it is reserved, it will happen. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Hell is real!

Written by Kent Heaton

Monday, January 11, 2016

Prayer -- The Example of Jesus

In John chapter 17 we can read a short prayer offered by Jesus to God the Father. I say "short," because it only takes a few minutes to read it. This is the best example of prayer we can find in the Bible. In it we can see all the elements we should include in our prayers to God. 

In verses 1-5, Jesus prays for Himself. 

In verses 6-19, He prays for those closest to Him, the apostles. 

In verses 20-26, he prays for others; specifically, His future followers, the church. 

Could there be a better model prayer? It was brief, personal, and specific. We should pray for ourselves, those especially dear to us, and for God's people. 

Jesus was concerned about you and me and He included us in His prayer. Notice what He said in verses 20 and 21, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." 

Let us learn how to pray from Jesus. Let us be brief, personal, and specific, and let us pray often, as He did. Our lives will be much better when we pray and allow God to be part of our everyday life. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

God's Rules for Life

God has laid down the rules for a happy and fulfilling life, and we need to obey Him if we want to live a truly happy life. In 1 Peter 3:10-11 we are told, "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it." Peter tells us in the very next verse the reasons for doing these things. He says, "For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil" (1 Peter 3:12). 

God also tells us how to have a successful marriage and a happy family. Ephesians 5:22 says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her..." Again, Ephesians 5:33 says, "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." 

In Ephesians 6:1-3 God says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." Furthermore, Ephesians 6:4 says, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." 

God tells us how to be successful workers. Colossians 3:22-23 says, "Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." 

As we look at these things, let us consider the ultimate reward. Let us serve God in the way He ordained because not only will things be better for us here on earth, but in the end we will be given eternal life. That is the reward for following God's rules for life. There is no better time than now, the beginning of a new year, to ensure that we follow the teaching of God's Word!