Our society is facing many concerns right now. To me, the cause and the cure begin and end with the family. A generation has witnessed the destruction of families and now a new generation is needed to reconstruct the family.
Parents today must recognize the amount of impact they have on teaching morals and values to the next generation and don’t give in to the influence of the media, music and video games. Children who daily witness positive male and female role models at home are given a far greater chance to overcome life’s challenges and enjoy the freedom of living as God’s faithful servants. Hope is kept alive through our children.
The Ten Commandments tell us to, “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” God’s promise of rewarding family commitment is the hope I cling to when all else seems hopeless. Our hope and trust rests with God, yet He has chosen to intercede by placing the burden of raising the next generation on parents.
When God blessed my wife and I with our first child, the burden of parenthood caused great fear within me since I really didn’t have a clue on how to be a good father. I sense that many young fathers feel the same way. Since young men have fragile egos, we sometimes have difficulty admitting to a lack of knowledge in anything. The problem intensifies when panic accompanies our dry reservoir of fatherly wisdom. Instead of thirsting for counsel, we tend to keep family concerns at an arm’s length and draw closer to familiar passions for comfort and assurance. Unfortunately, the current climate of our culture aggressively promotes a man’s passion for work, recreation and freedom while families remain in the backset or left forgotten in the closet of our mind.
I am thankful to see a resurgence of committed fathers. Men are beginning to realize the consequences of neglecting their families and are taking action to correct those errors. A “successful” man is in the process of being re-defined which includes being a good father. He is wisely investing his personal resources into the quantity of time he spends with his children instead of the quality. Momentum is building to overturn the trend of having less fathers and more daddies.
If our society is to begin healing, I believe the remedy will be found in fatherhood. Together, fathers can accept the responsibility and forge a new direction for the next generation. Young fathers initially have all the same concerns of providing for their family. Then life hits and the commitment wavers.
There are the frustrations and challenges associated with chosen careers. The constant temptation of materialism, lust and glory is ongoing. It is an ongoing challenge to find the time necessary to strengthen or even maintain our spiritual life, commit ourselves to the church, and spend time with our young children. When we are about to drop in exhaustion, the little time and energy leftover must then be used to love, nurture, serve and support our wives. Life becomes a battlefield. It is the trench warfare of raising a family, a war against temptations and the ultimate victory which only can be found in Christ. For it is God’s Word that ultimately equips , teaches and inspires us to be the men whom God wants us to be.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
A young nation has experienced major battles in the past and by God’s divine intervention has been able to overcome and be victorious. With the crumbling of the family and its repercussions, our nation may be in the midst of the most threatening battle to date. A whole generation became victim to an extraordinary cultural coup and is now reeling in its consequences. A new voice forged, celebrated and worshipped an idol representing anti-establishment, alternative lifestyles and all other things contrary to God. In what was trumpeted and widely proclaimed as a victory, became a stunning defeat. Like a sweeping tidal wave, the counter-cultural movement toppled a solid foundation built by God-fearing people and flooded the plains with the promotion and eventual public acceptance of new ideas and beliefs. The one true God was effectively replaced by the worship of self.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
Today’s popular culture has been carefully molded and shaped by a revolutionary force. Its philosophy has permeated itself into our government, the judicial system, the media, public education, Hollywood and other places of great influence. Time has elapsed. The cracks of a man-made foundation are becoming more exposed and pronounced. The Great Society has turned out to be not so great. Orchestrated sound-bites of shallow solutions are becoming more muddled each day while social engineers behind the scenes frantically patch the cracks with more of the same ingredients. The debate in public policy intensified between those concerned about individual choice rather than community autonomy; more government mandates versus personal responsibility; activist judging against those who just want to be left alone. The level of confidence, trust and respect normally granted to government leaders is dangerously deteriorating to new levels. People are asking, “How much longer can we be misled?” “We need a strong leader!” And in their angst of expecting way too much from our head of state in a system of checks and balances, the balance of power can swiftly change to a single voice inviting catastrophe and loss of personal freedom.
“But mark this: There will be terrible time in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, …” (2 Timothy 3:1-2)
I am not prophesying the end is near nor ruin your day with more bad news. My hope is to point out that our nation is following a path that has been the downfall of other great nations throughout history, plus provide a solution. History shows that a nation can destroy itself in immorality and societies seem to never learn this cycle. Yet, this never-ending conflict of good and evil is nothing new to individuals. The consequences of bad decisions wreck personal lives and in the same way dismantle great nations.
God can bring hope to our nation just as He freely gives hope to us as individuals. When our choices create an empty void prompting us to re-consider our values, our life and our purpose, a window of opportunity is presented to reveal God’s love and his purpose for us. Forgiveness and restoration becomes available. Repentance is a painful realization brought on by the crumbling of stubborn pride. Only through a broken and contrite spirit can God reveal himself. By surrendering to his will and his sovereignty, we receive our deepest longing for love, hope and peace.
God may choose to bless our nation with a quick and sweeping wave of repentance, but the signs are pointing a different direction. The Christian church is too distracted and too busy. Either they are too absorbed in their own lives, or choosing political reform over changing hearts, or not allowing themselves to spiritually mature in God’s Word. My prayer is that God will do something and stop the trend, but it can’t be in the form of material prosperity.
My prayer is that God will allow a time of great adversity to come upon our land. I know this is a risky prayer and my family could be greatly affected. Social chaos and anarchy could easily reign in our streets threatening the great experiment we have called democracy. However, it is in adversity that we grow as people. It is through times of great struggle that can lead multitudes of men and women to their knees in prayer. A sense of community is established in times of need and I believe that people today will respond positively to a crisis. More importantly, difficult circumstances cause people to reach out to God for healing. When the multitudes lift up their hands to God, a new foundation can be built.
Scientific facts rest on evidence. Our human senses grasp the evidence and we come to believe that fact. Faith goes a step further. It is being sure of what we hope for and certain in what we do not see.
I think it is safe to say that there is always a “leap” to believe in anything. A risk is involved. If you take a huge risk or make a large commitment and it ends up being a big mistake, you can look and feel like a total fool. For many, the risk can be too great to place themselves in a position to look like a fool. Let’s face it there are consequences of being wrong. On the other hand, there is another element of being wrong. When presented with God’s Word and the truth regarding salvation only through Jesus Christ, there is a tremendous eternal risk of rejecting God’s invitation. It’s like someone standing outside your house yelling “Fire!” You can believe him by weighing the evidences around you (i.e. smell smoke, see flames) or choose to ignore the person’s message. You can believe and take the risk of running outside even if it means being the target of a practical joke, or choose not to believe and risk being burned up. If you choose to suspend judgment, you risk the same thing. When it comes to eternity, there really can be no “risk free” position.
I would say that the most reasonable thing to do is believe. The evidence for Christianity is strong enough and worth consideration. The alternatives are comparably weak. Plus, the risk of not believing is far greater than the risk of believing. If Christianity is false, you’ve lost nothing. If it’s true, you’ve lost all eternity.
Christianity is relationship-oriented. Jesus wants to introduce himself to you in the Gospels and desires for you to know him. He already knows and loves you and He desires for you to love him. When one becomes a Christian and begins to cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ, the certainty of faith increases as well. Christ becomes a living reality. A person knows Him not only on the basis of the evidence, but on the basis of an experiential relationship. Christ is living in them. So, the question is ultimately not how can you risk believing in Christ, but how you can risk otherwise.
Is Christianity for the weak-minded? Perhaps. If being weak-minded means accepting a message with child-like faith; if it means recognizing that I need to be fully dependent on God through Jesus Christ to be in heaven; if it means accepting all of God’s promises to be true; if it means there is more to life than what the earth provides and there is far greater purpose and peace associated with God than with myself ….. then I guess I’m weak-minded.
For more information on this – check out the website, www.gregboyd.org.
I don’t know about you, but patience is a spiritual fruit that I do not recognize on my tree very often. When impatience comes upon me like a deep freeze in the early spring, the tender fruit blossoms of patience quickly die away. I have to consistently remember to go to God’s Word to keep those tender branches basking in the sunlight so I may bear the fruit the Lord desires and provides in me.
The Apostle Paul strikes me as a person who knew how to wait. But I bet it didn’t come easily. He was a man with a mission, a go-getter with passion and zeal to win the lost. Yet, where do we see him? Imprisoned. Stranded on an island. Flogged, stoned and shipwrecked more than once. Dreams thwarted. When you examine his life, it seems Paul was forced more often into inactivity when he desired action. But experience taught him to trust in the Lord’s providence and to lean on His promises. It was not in due time, but in divine time, that Paul arrived where he needed to be. He knew how to wait patiently and with endurance.
When doing ministry, I like to dream aggressively. I like to think big and expect big things to happen. I like to make contingency plans for great blessings. Not that I’m confident in my own ability, but that I believe that God is able to grant immeasurably more than I ask. And when those prayers and dream don’t come true, well… my patience is tested.
And it’s during those time when the Lord calls upon me to wait. Be patient. And when the Lord allows shipwrecks to happen in my life – when failures cause my dreams to crash into the jagged rocks of great disappointment – is when I can clearly see God’s hand. My grand to-do list was probably not on God’s agenda. My purpose was not corresponding with God’s will. And regrettably, perhaps my motivation was intent on lifting me up rather than giving God full glory and credit. It is only then can I truly discover what it means to wait – and to do so with endurance and patience.
During these times of waiting, we can do so expectantly. While waiting, we can see the work being produced. They are like little streams of water beginning to rush down a mountainside. In divine time, these little streams will join together to former bigger streams of water; eventually becoming a river. When the river becomes big enough is when I can place my boat of dreams and allow God to carry it to its destination.
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” (John 7:37b-38)
Living water is provided to those who thirst. I thank God for providing circumstances in my life that allow me to learn how to wait with patient endurance. For in this period of waiting is when I can truly build up a thirst for living water.
Christianity believes and teaches that the Bible alone is the revealed Word of God. Even though it was written by men, Christianity makes the claim that the ultimate author was God. This claim was not invented by Christian believers, but the Bible itself makes this claim as to being true.
The Bible could define Christianity or a believer in Christ as one who is perfect in Christ. The standard for going to heaven is perfection as the Bible states, “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly father is perfect.” It is Christ’s substitute on the cross for us that Christians can consider themselves already perfect. Faith alone receives this gift from God. Mormonism, on the other hand, would change one key word. Instead of “be” perfect, Mormons will say that a Christian must “become” perfect. One thing about Mormonism is that they have lowered the standards for obedience. You don’t necessarily have to be perfect as the Bible commands.
I share this post in reference to a Bible verse given in a recent comment by a Mormon on this blog site. In it he uses Hebrews 8:9. If I may also include verse 8, here is the following verse.
Hebrews 5:8-9: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.. “ (NIV)
I agree this is a great verse for it gives us insight on the miracle of the incarnation — God’s Son taking on human form and suffers. Jesus has to be perfect in order to carry out God’s plan to deal with our sins. Jesus became the author of our salvation (Heb. 2:10) by his perfection. His suffering was the cost and his obedience to go the cross as our perfect substitute was carried out during his time in the garden and the wilderness. And “for all who obey him” matches the thought of Christ’s obedience when we see 1 John 3:22-23 explain, “We obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” Faith is obedience to God.
There are other verses Mormons will use to justify their own theology that salvation is faith AND works. I would like to take a look at them.
“to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Eph. 4:12) This verse talks about how God equips believers with spiritual gifts for the sole purpose of building up a body of believers. God calls on us to exercise our faith by doing so. These works gives evidence of a living and active faith, but does not justify us nor is a requirement for salvation. Christians, those with saving faith, are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone.
Luke 13:32 reads, “He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'” (NIV) This is Jesus talking and he was referring that his life had a predetermined plan that would be carried out and no harm would come to him until his purpose was accomplished (see Luke 4:43 and 9:22). That third day was ofcourse, Christ’s resurrection which is paramount to the Christian faith.
“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God. (Hebrews 6:1) This verse was a response to those Christians who were not taking steps of maturity in the faith. In fact, they had becoming spiritually sluggish and lazy which is a great danger for one can lose their faith. The only way to mature in the faith is by being in God’s Word. Repentance is turning away from sin. And it is coupled with faith in God. “Acts that lead to death” reminds them of their former unbelief in that they were dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1) and deserving of the wages of sin (Rom 6:23) which was death. Faith alone saves but faith is never alone.
And Phil 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul is talking about how our Christian lives is all about growing in Christ. Our living for him ought to be a constant striving for perfection or holiness, with the goal and prize of eternal life always kept before our eyes of faith. Here is possibly where Christians and Mormons differ. We are sinners on earth corrupted by sin. On earth, we will never be perfect in our bodies. However, spiritually speaking, which is of the most importance, we have been made perfect because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Consider Heb. 10:10 “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Also Heb 10:14 “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
So those who have placed their trust in Christ, and his completed work on the cross, are striving to be holy in our condition of sinful flesh, to have a faith that is living and active by remaining in God’s Word, since our status as believers has been secured by Christ. Since perfection is required for eternal salvation, Christ has made us perfect through His obedience and we are to remain diligent to keep that faith.
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus , and you will be saved — you and your household.” Acts 16:31
In an ongoing dialogue I have with those of the Mormon faith and how it is dramatically different that what is taught in the Christian faith, there is a sharp disagreement on what is required for salvation. Mormons will reference to the story of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew 25:31-46 as proof that a person will be judged by their works in order to enter into heaven. I would like to take a further look into that passage.
In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus is continuing to talk to his disciples about the end of the age. He tells them three stories or parables for the purpose of teaching central truths. The parables of the foolish virgins and unfaithful servants sets the stage for the story of the sheep and the goats. In the first two parables, we find out that 1) we need to be prepared and 2) we need to have a faithful use of our talents.
These parables tell us that not everybody is going to heaven. There will be a separation also known as the “great divorce”. Man will be separated from God forever. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus tell us that “for wide is the gate, and broad is the road that leads to destruction..” (7:13) This verse certainly suggests that there will be more who enter hell than those who go to heaven.
The Bible says that it is by faith that one enters heaven and in the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus tells us what saving faith looks like. A saving faith will feed the hungry, care for the sick and visit those in prison. These are things that are not impossible to do for most everyone has the capability to care for others in this way. Jesus is telling us that those who receive grace, become gracious. Those who have been given the gift of faith become faithful. As a healthy fruit tree can’t help but to grow fruit (John 15), a man or woman of saving faith can’t help but to carry out good works. They are distinguishing marks or evidences of a saving faith that carry these works out without any thought of receiving a reward in return.
To review, these parables tell us that an end time is coming when Jesus returns and that we need to be prepared, by not losing our faith, and at the same time, display examples of a sincere faith by fully exercising our talents and help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Without evidences of faithfulness, than true faith does not exist.
The question remains, can a person enter into heaven based on the amount of works they do? If this is true, then one has reconcile that position with several other passages that teach something quite different. There are numerous passages in the Bible that clear state that salvation is not by works in any way. By following the law and commandments, we cannot be justified before God. (See Romans 3:24, 11:6, 3:20, 3:27-28; 4:2, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 2:8-10 et al…) Grace, the free gift given to people who are undeserving or unworthy, really wouldn’t be grace if there was something we need to do to receive it.
So, when we combine these two teachings of the parable of the sheep and goats and by faith only are we saved, than we must come to the following conclusions: 1. By faith, we receive the full forgiveness of sins. Our works play no part in being justified before God and to receive full forgiveness. 2. Works accompany faith as evidence or signs of a saving faith. God performs the impossible (salvation) by granting us faith thereby allowing us to do the possible (works) that are well-pleasing to Him. By sharing this sharp contrast with Mormons, the discussion can continue as we take a look at key theological terms taught in Mormonism and what is taught in the Bible. As Mormons continue to claim that they are Christians, it is important to expose the truth that even thought Mormons appear Christian, they are far from the truth of the gospel message found in the New Testament.
We currently live in a culture where all truth is relative. Absolute truth is dismissed as being intolerant or antiquated. The result is a growing interest not only in other religions, but also invites boldness among those who either deny the existence of God or an impersonal higher being.
Polls have suggested that a large amount of people in American believe that all religions are basically the same. Even though it may be true that other religions have teachings that model good behavior or other spiritual kernels of truth, but their definitions of a god and the way to find a god only attempts to soothe human reasoning. The Christian faith is entirely based on the truth found only in Jesus Christ. The truth is founded on the authority of the Bible and its transforming power to bring people to faith and be declared righteous before God. Based on these fundamental points of the Christian faith, there becomes an obvious contradiction with other religions. Both cannot be right. Therefore, we must make the conclusion that other holy books or prophetic writings cannot be considered the Word of God.
How do we know which holy book is true? The inherent interest of religious thought points to the fact that people are hungry for the truth. Other religions point to what we can do to achieve inner peace, better our future life or how to please God. It is only the Christian faith that boldly proclaims in the Bible what has already been done for us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promised Son of God, we are declared right or perfect in the eyes of God. Our eternal future of peace and paradise is secured.
When you test and compare all claims of revelation, along with the historical fact that Christ was resurrected from the dead, the Bible stands alone as the definitive “Word of God.” All other works may have wonderful literary and philosophical insights, but do not communicate the true way to salvation which is found only in Christ Jesus.
For more on this point, please check out www.gregboyd.org.