Suicide


I want the truth where do we go if we commit suicide? PLEASE I WANT THE TRUTH?

 

Great question Joann. Most people know someone who has either attempted or committed suicide. My brother committed suicide 22 years ago and I still experience deep pain in my soul over his loss. Let me share two important Scriptures that can help us with the answer to your question. 1 John 3:15 states: “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” Revelation 21:8 says something similar, even including liars as sharing in the second death of the lake of fire. These are very sobering Scriptures. Suicide is murder of oneself, so it falls into this category. The Roman Catholic Church believes that all suicide victims immediately go to hell because it is a mortal sin that was not repented of before death (they believe that only venial sins can be forgiven in purgatory). I do not believe in purgatory or second chances (Lk 13:25; 16:19-31; Heb 9:27; 2 Cor 6:2; Mt 25:1-13; Job 16:22; Mt 12:32; Lk 12:10; Mk 3:29; Mt 26:24), so what we decide in this life determines our eternal future.

The second passage is Romans 8:38: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a promise to all believers similar to John 10:27-30 and Hebrews 13:5. The true believer already has eternal life (1 John 5:13) and therefore is guaranteed heaven. In Romans 8:38 he says that nothing and no one, not even oneself (nor any other created thing) can separate the true believer from God’s love.

So how do we put these two Scriptures together that seem to be in tension? If one is in Christ, he or she has eternal life (Ephesians 1:3-14). If one is not in Christ, he or she will be held accountable for all his or her sins committed in this life. We don’t go to heaven based on our works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we do go to hell based on our works (Revelation 20:13). Suicide is a grievous sin against God, oneself and one’s family. Suicide, which is murder, can only be forgiven by the blood of Jesus. The real question is, “Can a true believer commit suicide?” Many people call themselves Christians when they are not. The Bible is clear: to become a Christian we must repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus, outwardly expressing that faith in baptism (Acts 2:37-38). There must be a time when we cross from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14). We must be born again (John 3:3). True faith includes surrender to Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Real faith will inevitably produce the fruit of a changed life (James 2:26; Matthew 7:15-20). But how much fruit is necessary? Fruit doesn’t save us; it is only an indicator that we are saved. Jesus gave a parable about the four soils of the heart, teaching that the true believer will produce “some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). We bear fruit to various degrees depending on the power of God and our willingness to follow His leading. Free will can get in the way!

So how does all this pertain to suicide? People commit suicide for various reasons. Most of the time the person is suffering with severe depression. Depression is the kind of thing that can completely debilitate a person and cloud their reasoning. We want to pray for, show kindness to and help in whatever capacity we can all who suffer depression. Blame is not helpful. I believe it is possible for even a believer to commit suicide when suffering deep bouts of depression. If the person was a true believer he or she will go to heaven even if he or she committed suicide. The most important thing is to make sure we are a true believer (2 Peter 1:10). My brother was a true believer. He loved Jesus. I led him to Christ myself and saw the fruit of salvation in his life. He also suffered from depression. He was scarred at an early age and never got over it. He didn’t get help. I recommend all people who suffer from depression to consider three things: 1) Get involved in a good, Bible teaching church and a small group where fellowship and prayer is prevalent. 2) Get help professionally if they are even considering suicide. 3) Be open to medicine that can help with depression. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, many people are considerably helped by antidepressants. I wish my brother would have taken antidepressants. I hope this helps.

 

God bless,

 

Pastor Larry

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Transgenderism


Concerned Christian: My profession is promoting transgenderism and I don’t know how to respond as a Christian. What should I think about this issue?

Great question. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

The LGBTQ community believes that “sex and gender exist on a spectrum.”[1] They believe that “different gender identities and differences of gender expression are not pathologies.”[2] They believe that they are being discriminated against and deserve equal rights. The transgender issue is also known as gender dysphoria. “Transgender refers to people who believe their gender identity does not correspond to their biological sex.”[3] How should Christians understand this issue? Does the Bible have anything to say about gender dysphoria? How should Christians respond to those who identify as transgender? What are we to think about the Caitlyn Jenner’s of the world?

First, it must be said that Christians should always respond to all human beings with compassion. It is easy to vilify someone who is not like us. The Bible helps us see that our real enemy is Satan and his demonic minions (Eph 6:10-12; 2 Cor 10:3-4). 1 John 5:19 makes it clear that all non-Christians are under the control of the evil one; they are not the enemy. This does not mean that we should be silent concerning sin, but it does mean we should care about all human beings, no matter what they are struggling with. Before we do anything, we must check our attitude and make sure it reflects Christ’s love.

But what is the loving thing to do concerning the transgender issue? If gender exists on a spectrum, then we should accept transgender individuals without attempting to change them. But if it is a psychological disorder, a pathology, then we don’t help them by ignoring the problem. All people are broken in different ways; we all inherit a sinful nature from Adam (Rom 5:12-21). Galatians 6:1 makes it clear that we should seek to restore gently a person who is trapped in sin. The real question is “What does the Bible say about the transgender issue?” If it is sin or an abnormality due to the Fall, then we should seek healing/forgiveness for the person trapped in this way of life. If there is something seriously wrong with a person who suffers from gender dysphoria then silence and pretending like there is nothing wrong is not the loving thing to do. If someone is hurting themselves, then ignoring their actions is hateful not loving. If you knew someone was cutting themselves, you would not be loving them by pretending that they don’t have a problem. It would also be unloving to beat them up. Compassionately offering help and prayer is the right thing to do.

Second, it must be said that the Bible does speak on this issue. Genesis chapters 1-2 give us God’s ideal plan before the Fall. Genesis 1:27 states: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Here we see that gender, male and female, was God’s idea in the beginning. Albert Mohler explains:

 

This means that an evangelical theology of the body begins with the normative understanding that every human being is born biologically assigned as male or female. That biological assignment is not a naturalistic accident, but a sign of God’s purpose for that individual human being to display his glory and aim for flourishing and obedience to that creative purpose.[4]

 

Any departure or digression from the simple plan of God in making humans male and female should be considered an aberration. All deviations from God’s original plan are harmful not helpful to human beings and society. Gender is not a socially constructed concept like the new sexual theorists argue; it is a trait we are born with by God’s design. Genesis 3 introduces the Fall; we are all broken because of this event and need help. It appears that transgenderism is a product of the Fall, an aberration from God’s original intention.

Transvestitism is also prohibited in the Bible in Deuteronomy 22:5. Some might say that this is a law under the Mosaic covenant and no longer applicable, but what was the principle behind the law? The principle seems to be that God wants us to identify with the gender we are assigned at birth.

The overarching principle of the Bible that we are to be good stewards of all that God puts us in charge of also pertains to taking care of our body (e.g. Luke 19:11-27; 1 Tim 4:8). John Hopkins University was the first American medical center to perform sex reassignment surgery in the 1960’s. They stopped performing the procedures in the 1970’s because they found that the surgeries had no psycho-social benefit. Amputating normal organs without any positive affect was deemed as unnecessary. People with sex-change operations were almost 20 times more likely to commit suicide than the overall population.[5] 70-80 percent of children who declare transgender feelings spontaneously lose those feelings later according to studies done at Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic.[6] By advocating transgenderism we are encouraging a life of needless pain. Transgenderism is bad for people.

We have seen what the Bible says, but natural law tells us the same thing. First, if the body and mind disagree and the body including the Y chromosome is functioning properly, then more than likely the mind is at fault, not the body. A young person’s identity—swarmed by hormones—is fragile and needs guidance, not more options. Transgender people “have the highest rates of suicide, substance abuse, and homelessness.”[7] Is this because of their treatment by society or because gender dysphoria is a pathology? Is the person fine but persecuted, or are they broken? Since there is a disconnect between mind and body and there is nothing wrong with the body, it would appear that the mind is broken and needs help.

Transgender seems to be anti-feminist. Can a man really know what it is like to be a woman? Is he simply confusing effeminate feelings with gender? For a man to say he knows what a woman feels like or for a woman to say she knows what a man feels like is patronizing nonsense. We should try to empathize with each other and care for each other, but a man will never know what it is like to be a woman, so he cannot possibly even know if he is female inside. When a person is so confused that he thinks he is a woman even though he has male parts, he needs serious psychological help; he doesn’t need to be told that he is right. If we really care for these people we will seek to help them, not encourage their deception. Transgenderism opens up Pandora’s box. Rachel Dolezal, former president of NAACP, claimed to be black even though she was white; was she being dishonest, or do my personal feelings make things true?

The transgender issue has taken the front page of our society. People who are sincere are upset with those who they feel are robbing the transgender community of its right to exist without being harassed by bigots and racists. Some people out of zeal for truth have spewed hatred on those they don’t understand; this is tragic. As Christians we are to love everyone, especially those who are hurting because of this broken world. The best help for the transgender community is to love them, befriend them, and share the truth in love with them. We do not help them by ignoring their brokenness and pretending there is nothing wrong. We also don’t help them by emitting anger and hatred on them. The real enemy is Satan; let’s attempt a rescue mission even if we get hurt and misunderstood in the process. Check your heart and reach out to those who will listen with the love and truth of the gospel.

God bless,

Pastor Larry

[1] “No Labels on the Table” Massage and Body Work, March/April 2017, 68.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Gospel Coalition.

[4] R. Albert Mohler Jr., We Cannot Be Silent (Nashville, Nelson Books: 2015), 107-108.

[5] “9 Things You Should Know About Transgenderism.” Current Events June 17, 2014. Based on a 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “No Labels” 68.

Is Purgatory True?


Is Purgatory True?

 

A tradition pronounced dogma in 1438 A.D. by the Roman Catholic Church is the belief in Purgatory.[1] The General Council of Florence pronounced: “And, if they are truly penitent and die in God’s love before having satisfied by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are cleansed after death by purgatorial penalties.”[2] The Council of Trent called Purgatory “a debt of temporal punishment”[3] and the Catechism of the Catholic Church called it “a purifying fire” for “final purification.”[4] The problem with this doctrine is threefold: First, it is not found anywhere in Scripture. The Bible teaches that there are no second chances once you die; you either go to heaven or hell.[5] Second, it detracts from the finished work of Christ on the cross. Just prior to dying on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.”[6] Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.” Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.” When we place our faith in Christ we are “perfected forever” and have no need to pay further penalties for our sin because Christ’s death was sufficient to cover all of our sin. 1 John 1:7 says the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, not our own punishment. In the doctrine of Purgatory once again we see semi-Pelagianism where Jesus does some of the work and we do the rest for our purification. If the doctrine of Purgatory was not bad enough, the Catholic Church also sanctions indulgences where it is possible to give money to the Church to relieve the suffering of those in Purgatory; what this amounts to is that it is possible to buy salvation from God’s punishment of sin – a far cry from simply trusting in Jesus who paid the penalty for us with His blood. Luther questioned the practice of indulgences asking why the Pope doesn’t let everyone out of Purgatory if he has the power to.[7] Third the doctrine of Purgatory has been sadly abused by Popes and clergy throughout its history. Jacques Le Goff describes this abuse:

 

What an enhancement of the power of the living there was in this hold over the dead! Meanwhile, here below, the extension of communal ties into the other world enhanced the solidarity of families, religious organizations, and confraternities. And for the Church, what a marvelous instrument of power! The souls in Purgatory were considered to be members of the Church militant. Hence, the Church argued, it ought to have (partial) jurisdiction over them, even though God was nominally the sovereign judge in the other world. Purgatory brought to the Church not only new spiritual power but also, to put it bluntly, considerable profit, as we shall see. Much of this profit went to the mendicant orders, ardent propagandists of the new doctrine. And finally, the “infernal” system of indulgences found powerful support in the idea of Purgatory.[8]

 

This false doctrine robs people of assurance and sours the good news. According to the doctrine of Purgatory and Indulgences the good news is that if you place your faith in Jesus you will still have to suffer countless days in torment, unless you have a rich uncle that is kind enough to pay your way out of God’s punishment; this does not sound like good news to me.

So why does Roman Catholicism teach the doctrine of purgatory? The Catechism of the Catholic Church sites three verses that supposedly teach the doctrine of purgatory, but it leans heavily on late church councils to back up its belief. Let’s look at the three passages. First, 1 Corinthians 3:15 is mentioned: “If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.” In the context, this passage is referring to the works of a believer being tested for rewards (11-15). If the works end up being good, the person will receive a reward, but if they don’t pass the test he or she will not get a reward (14-15). The work is what is being tested by fire, not the person. If the person is what is referred to as going through the fire, then this means everyone, including supposed saints, go through the fire, because verse 13 says, “each one’s work…will be revealed by fire.” Catholicism rejects the idea that saints will go to purgatory, so they have a serious problem in using this verse. The solution is simple when we look at the context. The passage doesn’t say the person goes through fire. It says the work is tested by fire. Fire is obviously being used as an analogy. We don’t have to think that our works will literally be put in fire, because works don’t literally “burn up” (15). In view of the context, this verse says nothing about purgatory and only refers to rewards – notice punishment is never mentioned.

The second verse referred to in the Catechism is 1 Peter 1:7: “So that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Once again the context makes all the difference in the world. Cults are notorious for taking verses out of context to make them say something they don’t actually say. The Roman Catholic Church should know better. The verse just before this passage tells when the trial comes: “Though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials.” The trials take place in this life, not some imaginary purgatorial afterlife. Also in verse 7 the refined by fire only refers to gold that perishes, not us personally after we die. One must seriously read a lot into this verse to make it say something about purgatory. Unfortunately, this is what the Catholic Church must resort to, because the Bible doesn’t teach the doctrine of purgatory. If this doctrine is true, then it would make sense that God would be much clearer by actually teaching it in His word.

The last verse isn’t actually a verse in the Bible. 2 Maccabees 12:46 is in an apocryphal book that only the Catholics hold to as Scripture. The Roman Catholic position concerning the Apocrypha was not officially sanctioned until the Council of Trent in 1545-1563. The Roman Catholic Church simply does not have a case for adding books to the already closed canon of the Old Testament. The books in question can be helpful, but also have serious deficiencies which rule out any possibility of their being considered Scripture. 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit and Judith all have serious historical mistakes recorded as truth; if they are Scripture then we would have to surmise that God made a mistake. In 1 Maccabees 8:1-16 it records that Antiochus the Great gave up Media and India to the Romans, when in fact he kept Media and never even controlled India.[9] 1 Maccabees 9:27 states that the time of the prophets had ceased and never claims to be prophetic. In 2 Maccabees 2:23 and 15:37-38 the writer admits he is not writing Scripture stating, “all this, which has been set forth by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes, we shall attempt to condense into a single book…. This, then, is how matters turned out with Nicanor, and from that time the city has been in the possession of the Hebrews. So I will here end my story. If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.”[10] When all of the facts are considered it becomes obvious that the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in the late 16th century endorsed the Apocrypha as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation because they needed the Apocrypha to back up their belief in Purgatory, among other doctrines not taught in the Old or New Testament. Adding books to the Bible in the 1560’s, arguably as a reaction to the Protestants, when Jews, Jesus, early Christianity and Protestants would disagree, must be rejected by followers of Christ.

But what does 2 Maccabees 12:46 say? Actually the Catechism made a mistake and probably is referring to verse 45 since there is no verse 46; it says, “But since he was looking to the reward of splendor laid up for those who repose in godliness it was a holy and godly purpose. Thus he made atonement for the fallen, so as to set them free from their transgression.” In the context the passage is referring to the living making atonement for the dead. In verses 42-43 Judas prays for the dead to be forgiven and takes up an offering of 2000 silver drachmas to present as a sin offering for their forgiveness. This passage is an example of the living paying money to pay for the sins of the dead. But the passage goes beyond what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. In verse 40 we see what sin the dead soldiers committed that Judas is seeking to atone for. They wore “sacred tokens of the Jamnian idols…. So the reason these men died in battle became clear to everyone.” The sin of the soldiers being atoned for was idolatry, which the Roman Catholic Church considers a mortal sin. According to the Catholic Church purgatory is only for baptized believers who have committed venial sins; mortal sins send people to hell not purgatory. So we see that even this passage doesn’t teach the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory.

One last verse some use to prove purgatory, though the official Roman Catholic Catechism doesn’t refer to it, is Matthew 5:25: “Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.” There is a good reason that even the Catechism doesn’t use this verse to prove purgatory. It clearly is referring to this life, not after we have died. The context is if you remember someone has something against you, you are supposed to go and deal with it right away; otherwise, you could end up in jail. Notice it is “your adversary” that throws you into jail, not God.

Purgatory is a false doctrine that has been used to rob millions of people from the assurance they can have in Jesus. It is a dangerous doctrine, and therefore warrants a believer to leave any church that teaches it. We can agree to disagree agreeably on many doctrinal issues, but when the gospel is being tampered with, we must take a stand. Many understand purgatory as a place where you are punished for your sins, which indicates that the death of Jesus Christ was not enough. The truth is, if we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ, surrendering to Him as Lord, we are saved from all of our sin. His death is sufficient. To take away from the glory of the cross by claiming our own works partially pay for our salvation is blasphemy. Jesus deserves all the glory!

 

[1] During the early Middle Ages the idea of purgatorial punishment developed for “slight sins;” with this a separation of venial and mortal sins was embraced. By the twelfth century the place called Purgatory was introduced and then systematized by the scholastic theologians. Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), passim.

[2] Ibid., 1020.

[3] Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 2:117.

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 269.

[5] Luke 13:22-30 (note in v.25 that even when they wanted to come in they were not allowed); 16:19-31 (note v.26 no one can cross the chasm and there are only two places, not three); 23:39-43 (note the thief on the cross immediately entered paradise even after a lifetime of wickedness and without baptism); Hebrews 9:27. Also the early church fathers denied any second chance, e.g. Second Clement 8:3.

[6] John 19:30.

[7] 95 Theses.

[8] Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, 12.

[9] Robert Reymond, The Reformation conflict with Rome, 26-27. Reymond also records, “Tobit 1:4-5 teaches that the division of the kingdom (under Jeroboam I in 931 B.C.) occurred when Tobit was a ‘young man.’ But Tobit is also said to be a young Israelite captive living in Nineveh under Shalmaneser in the late eighth century B.C. This would make him as a ‘young man’ almost two hundred years old at the time of the Assyrian Captivity and he lived into the reign of Esarhaddon (680-668 B.C.). But according to Tobit 14:11 he died when he was one hundred and fifty-eight years old (according to the Latin text, he died at one hundred and two).” Ibid.

[10] New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Can Mormons Be Christians?


Charles asks,

 

“Given the fact that what makes one a Christian is earnestly trying to follow Christ as our lord…all of us are on a lifelong journey to understand truth…and we are all likely wrong about things as we progress…how can we say that a Mormon, though mistaken, yet earnest is lost?”

 

This is a great question that needs to be understood. First, I would say you are incorrect in the “fact” you start out with. Earnestly trying to follow Christ does not make one a Christian. Repenting of our sin and placing our faith in Christ and in Him alone is what makes us a Christian. “Earnestly trying” sounds a lot like works and Ephesians 2:8-9 is very clear that salvation is not by works. Real faith includes a decision to follow Jesus, surrendering to Him as Lord, but that is not the same as “earnestly trying.” A true believer earnestly tries to follow Jesus, but it is God’s grace through our faith in Christ that saves us.

Second, your question makes it sound like we gradually become more and more Christian; this is one of the serious mistakes of the Emergent Church. The Bible is very clear that there is a point in time in which we are saved. John 3:3 says we are born again. In verse 18 John says, “Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” We are either born again or we are not. We are either under condemnation or we are not. I love Romans 8:1 for the believer, “Therefore no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.” Throughout the book of Acts we see people getting saved and being added to the church. 2:41 says 3000 were added that day. 4:4 says another 2000 were added. 5:14 it says “Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers.” I could go on and on. When we are born again and adopted into the family of God through faith we are Christians. Before that moment we are not. We are either “in” or “out.” There is no gradually becoming more and more Christian any more than a woman becomes more and more pregnant (she either is or she isn’t). Once we are saved, we do grow in our relationship, but there is a decisive moment for everyone who becomes a believer, even if they cannot pin point the exact time that did take place (e.g. kids growing up in a Christian home). The New Testament normal time was at baptism (Acts 2:37-38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

Third, we need to understand that certain doctrines are more important as far as their impact on our life than other doctrines. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 make it clear that people are only saved through Jesus. 1 John 4:1-3 and 2 Corinthians 11:4, 14-15 lets us know that we have to have the right Jesus. Just because someone uses the name of Jesus, that doesn’t mean they have the right Jesus. You could call your dog “Jesus,” but he can’t save you. Specifically, we need to believe that Jesus is God. It is one thing if someone doesn’t fully understand all the doctrinal implications of the person of Jesus at salvation, and quite another for someone to actually reject a cardinal truth about Jesus and still think he or she is saved. The Mormons do not believe Jesus is God. They believe He is a god, but not the one true God. Mormons believe in polytheism, the belief that there are many gods. Polytheism is categorically rejected throughout the Bible including the First Commandment (see also Deuteronomy 6:4). A perusal of Isaiah makes it very clear that there is only one God (see 43:10-11; 44:6; 45:5, 14, 18, 21; 46:9). Salvation is also a critical doctrine according to the Bible. Galatians 1:8-9 state that if anyone teaches or holds to any other gospel than the one Paul preached he or she is accursed, damned to hell. This is a very serious indictment. Verse 8 specifically says, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!” Mormons believe the angel Moroni told Joseph “another gospel.” This is the same problem with Islam that claims the angel Gabriel told Muhammad another gospel. Any gospel other than salvation by grace alone through faith alone is a false gospel that won’t save a person. I know this sounds harsh, but God has given us His plan and told us that all other plans won’t work. Notice there are passages of Scripture that specifically state you must believe this or else you are not a Christian. Bottom line is that we have to have the right Jesus and the right gospel. We can agree to disagree agreeably on a lot of doctrines, but not these doctrines. Mormons believe we are saved by Jesus “after we do all we can do.” I just quoted Joseph Smith. “After we do all we can do” is a salvation by works. Nobody actually fulfills this phrase either. No one does “all they can do.” All of us could have done more. This is a hopeless gospel.

Those who want to embrace the Mormons or at least the sincere ones into the fold of the family of God have a good heart. They want them to be saved, which is exactly what God wants (2 Peter 3:9). I wished all Christians had that kind of heart. But wanting to see the Mormons saved by bypassing God’s clear instructions actually thwarts their chance of salvation. If we think they are already good to go, we will not make every attempt to share the gospel with them. Liberal Christianity has made this mistake by embracing universalism. I had the privilege of seeing a good friend of mine named Jeff come out of Mormonism and embrace the true Jesus, rather than the Mormon Jesus who is simply one of many gods and is the brother of Satan (that is what they actually believe). He asked me to come and help him when the bishops of the Mormon Church were going to try to convert him back into the fold. We talked with the bishops for a couple hours and it became very clear to both Jeff and me that they didn’t have a clue to the real gospel. Jeff told me afterwards that he was afraid at first, but his confidence in the true gospel skyrocketed after the confrontation. We dare not water down the gospel to make it more palatable to modern society. The gospel itself is powerful enough to break through all barriers (Romans 1:16).

 

I hope this helps,

 

Larry

Our Constitution and the Indiana Law


Where is our country heading?

The First Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Our country was founded on Biblical principles, including the principle that forcing one’s religion on someone else is wrong (John 18:36). But it was also founded on the principle that Christians should be able to live out their beliefs that are specifically revealed in Scripture. Today this second half of the first part of the First Amendment is deteriorating.
First, as Christians we are already forced to pay for other people to be able to murder their babies. When taxes are used for abortions, the taxpayer is playing a part in the murder of innocent children. The Bible describes the murder of children as one of the most, if not the most, heinous of sins (Matthew 2:16-18; Exodus 1:15-22). It doesn’t matter if our courts don’t see abortion as a crime. Many Christians correctly see abortion as the crime of murder. Tax funded abortions go against the rights of those who still hold to the moral laws found in the Bible. Abortions should be illegal because they go against a clear moral law that everyone should be aware of in their conscience – it’s wrong to kill innocent babies. At the very least, those who believe abortion is immoral should not be forced to participate in them by paying for them with their tax dollars.
Second, it now looks like Christians will be forced to sanction same sex marriage. Indiana is trying to ensure that Christians will not have to go against their conscience and be forced to participate in same sex marriages. Most people believe it is not right to go against your conscience (Romans 14:22-23). But if a pastor or photographer feels that being involved in a same sex marriage condones what he or she believes is a sin, they might be forced to go against their conscience if they are not allowed to refuse to participate in the wedding by officiating or taking the pictures. For the last two centuries our society has seen homosexuality as a sin because the Bible is very clear in both the Old Testament and New Testament concerning this issue (Genesis 19; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The Bible is very clear that we are to treat everyone with respect and kindness because they are created in the image of God, but this does not mean that we have to participate in their chosen lifestyles. Some have suggested that the Indiana law is no different than the laws that made black people sit at the back of the bus or stay out of certain restaurants. The Indiana law is not like that at all. The difference is that the Bible does condemn homosexuality; it does not promote prejudice concerning skin color. Christians should never look down on LGBT people or deny them services unless the Christian is required to participate in their activities that go against his or her conscience (e.g. participate in a gay wedding). We all need to respect each other. I believe the law in Indiana is only seeking to preserve the right of the Christian who simply asks for all parties to respect each other, including areas concerning the conscience. A rejection of this kind of law would be another step away from the true meaning of our constitution and the First Amendment.
All people should both respect and love each other, accepting the fact that they might disagree on moral issues. We can coexist and live with each other, while not forcing each other to believe like the other believes. Some believe that homosexuality is an acceptable alternative lifestyle; some of those believe that they should be able to force their belief on those who disagree. Because historically homosexuality has been considered a sin in this country, and historically this country was founded on preserving Christian principles, it seems to me that it would be wrong to allow the LGBT agenda to force its beliefs on those who still believe in the conservative interpretation of the Bible concerning the moral issues surrounding the LGBT agenda.
Finally, I would ask all parties to dialogue with each other concerning these issues in a way that shows respect for each other. Emotional hate language does not promote respect or understanding. We can agree to disagree agreeably, being led by sound reasoning rather than emotional vitriol.

Can an Unbeliever Take Part in the Lord’s Supper?


Can Unbelievers take part in the Lord’s Supper?

How can an unbeliever discern the body of the Lord Jesus in order to do the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner? 1 Cor. 11:29. Our Life Group struggled to understand this based on the idea that unbelievers would be welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

This is a good question because the church throughout history has predominately sided with the idea that unbelievers shouldn’t take part in the Lord’s Supper. In church history the Lord’s Supper began to be viewed as almost magical; because of this, a person who was not a believer was considered to be using the “magic” illegitimately. Most Protestant churches today do not see any magic in the Lord’s Supper, but the idea of unbelievers taking part in a meal designed for the believer still seemed to be wrong. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 at first seems to bolster this position. I believe the context of the passage reveals otherwise. 1 Corinthians 11:17-32 speaks of four things the Corinthians were doing wrong – they were divided at the Lord’s Supper (17-22); they were partaking in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy way (27); they were not examining themselves (28); and they were not recognizing the body (29). The context of the entire passage reveals that all four of these things are speaking of the same offense. Verses 27-22 speaks of how the rich were not being considerate of the poor in such an unworthy manner during the Lord’s Supper that Paul says they weren’t really partaking in the Lord’s Supper (20). Paul concludes this entire section by exhorting the Corinthians to be considerate of each other “so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.” All four offenses above refer to this one offense; this is what it means “to discern the body.” Paul is clearly referring to the body of Christ when he speaks of discerning the body, as he just stated previously in 10:17 where he spoke of how the Lord’s Supper was supposed to bring unity to the body: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The actual offense being addressed by Paul in chapter 11 is the division the Christians were instigating because of their selfishness.

So how does this answer your question? The offenders were clearly Christians as verses 30-32 states. The sickness and even death is called discipline from the Lord “so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” This passage has nothing to do with unbelievers and whether they should partake in the Lord’s Supper or not. Since the Bible never addresses whether unbelievers should take part in the Lord’s Supper or not, I am not willing to add a command telling them they can’t. I do think that it can be beneficial to allow them to partake in the Supper for two reasons. First, because it is simply a memorial. There is no magic in the elements. The sin of partaking in an unworthy manner refers to believers causing disunity, not unbelievers sinning. We should tell people to examine themselves and see if there is any unrepentant sin in their life. By reminding the people to examine themselves, the unbeliever may examine his or her heart and realize his or her need for a savior. This brings me to my second reason; the Supper is meant to be evangelistic. Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The Supper is the Gospel in pictorial form. It should be normal to have unbelievers in the service, just as the Corinthians had (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), who might be open to the gospel. As they take part in the Supper, they may realize what Jesus did for them. To tell unbelievers not to take part in the Supper would unnecessarily offend them; I say unnecessarily because the Bible never says they can’t take part. The only people judged for improperly taking the Supper are believers causing division. Don’t get me wrong; the Supper is primarily for believers, but it is not so rigid that unbelievers and children can’t take part in it.

I do understand the position of those who say unbelievers can’t recognize the body and therefore partake in an unworthy manner, but I don’t believe they are interpreting the Scripture correctly. I could be wrong, and I don’t believe this is a fundamental doctrine of the faith, so we can agree to disagree agreeably as brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t tell unbelievers they can partake in the Supper. If they asked, I would tell them to go by their conscience (no unbeliever has ever asked me though). I don’t want to hinder unbelievers from coming to Christ, so I am not willing to make it a rule that they can’t participate.

God bless,
Larry

Lawlessness


Lawlessness

Lately I have been hearing of a movement within Christianity that says churches shouldn’t talk about sin because we are saved by grace. They seem very judgmental about their condemnation of being judgmental. They usually attack a stereotype of a church in the 1950’s as if it represents most evangelical churches today. They say churches speak too much on sin…I doubt it. I think there are very few churches like this “straw man,” and I think they use this technique to draw young people who like to look down on established religion and want to hold onto sin while maintaining a form of religion. Here are the reasons why I think this is a big deal:
First, any cursory reading of the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, reveals that God hates sin – all sin in any form. Usually these churches teach that there is really only one sin Jesus condemned – legalism. It is true that he condemned legalism, but he also spoke out against murder, hatred, adultery, lust, divorce, lying, pride, greed and worry – all in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul, the apostle of grace, has lists of sins that we are to avoid at all cost and goes so far as to say that anyone practicing as a lifestyle these sins will not inherit God’s kingdom (Colossians 3:5-10; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Second, those who only speak of grace to the neglect of speaking out against sin don’t really understand what salvation is. In his excellent book R.C. Sproul asks the question in the title, Saved From What? According to Matthew 1:21 we are saved from our sins. Sin is so bad it took the death of Jesus on a cross to bring about our forgiveness. Sin is bad for us and it is an affront to God’s glory. To avoid talking about sin preachers would have to avoid half of the New Testament, which is why all of these new preachers are topical preachers – they avoid the passages that contradict what they like to emphasize. Healthy, balanced churches preach expositionally through books of the Bible verse by verse. Sin is bad for us, which is why Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.” How can we restore a person if we don’t bring up their sin to them? Jesus said in Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Should we ignore these passages? No, because sin hurts our brothers and sisters. We should be gentle and not judgmental, but we need to talk about sin.
Third, these new preachers don’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit. John 16:8-11 reveals that the Spirit convicts the world about sin, righteousness and judgment. The Holy Spirit convicts us. I heard someone once say that this is only until they get saved; now there is no condemnation according to Romans 8:1. What that person doesn’t realize is that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Of course the Spirit still convicts us of sin. He loves us too much not to.
Finally, we were actually warned about these preachers a long time ago in Jude 1:4: “For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.” Lawlessness is just as evil as legalism. James clearly stated, “Faith without works is dead.” James isn’t contradicting Paul in Ephesians 2:8-10; he is actually in agreement with him. James is simply saying that real faith will produce good works. People who get saved get a heart transplant where they actually want to follow God’s ways (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:31-34). Good works don’t save us at all, but they are evidence of true faith that saves us. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not the root. Jesus said we will know them by their fruit, warning us of these preachers of lawlessness (Matthew 7:20).