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The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works…The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people. (Psalm 145:17, Isaiah 3:13)

bbRelax

The title of the blog is a hoax, but let me ask you — what if it were true? Would you have an opinion regarding this judge? What if somebody brutally attacked and killed your loved one, and wound up before this same judge, and what if in his ruling he said,

Because the defendant has done a lot of good things in his life, and he said he was really sorry for killing an innocent person, and because I am a loving and forgiving person myself, I find him not guilty.”

We would never condone this behavior from our judiciary, so why do so many of us believe that our Heavenly Judge rules in this manner? Why are there so many people who believe a ‘loving and forgiving’ God would never send anyone to hell. Why do we believe that if we do enough good, we can tip the scales of justice in our favor when we would never stand for it in our society?

Right-ness

If God is perfectly righteous (and He is), He must find every offender guilty. If God makes any exceptions, His perfection goes right out the window. Either our LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works, or He is not. In God’s courtroom, sin is always ruled sin and the verdict is “Guilty!” a million times out of a million times.

But Wait!

The same God who stands to judge the people is the same God who stands to plead our case. How can our Judge and our Defender be one and the same? It’s at times like these, when our very lives hang in the balance, we should not ask too many questions or perhaps more accurately, not allow our lack of perception stand in the way of redemption. If there is an opportunity to appear guiltless before the Creator of the universe and sidestep the penalty of sin, than we should lunge towards it and grasp at it with both hands! This is not the time to hold onto the false notion that our good deeds will get us out of this jam or hope the judge is inconsistent.

Jesus stands before the Father and pleads the case for His brothers and sisters, essentially saying, “Your Honor, I have taken their guilt upon My shoulders, I bore it to the cross, and I paid the penalty.” If justice has been served; if there was a guilty plea and the punishment was paid, and if the defendant believes in his Advocate, then the Judge must dismiss the case.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

It’s Not Debatable

“[T]he natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

UNLESS you’re talking to an unsaved soul about salvation (i.e., sin, its consequences, and deliverance brought about by faith in Christ), in most cases it is a frustrating waste of time discussing other unrelated Biblical doctrine. How so? Because the Bible explicitly says that it’s only natural for people ‘void of the Holy Spirit’ to perceive these things as foolishness.

HSHOWEVER, as it pertains to salvation, the Holy Spirit will come along side a person to give them understanding as per their sinful condition and NEED for a Savior.

I SUSPECT that there is somebody, somewhere who came to Christ Jesus after being won over in a debate about Creation or Jonah or Noah, but they’re a unique exception to the rule and I could probably argue that someone else planted and nurtured ‘salvation’ seeds before you came on the scene.

FOR THIS REASON, focus on the Gospel and the message of Salvation through Christ alone. And if your listener wants to debate these other issues, tell them the truth – hand them your Bible and let them read aloud 1 Corinthians 2:14. Then explain to them that no mathematician ever started with trigonometry or calculus, but with basic arithmetic.

The ROMANS ROAD is an excellent Biblical method to explain salvation to a person. As your listener reads each short Bible passage, the Holy Spirit is there to bear light and give understanding. Oh that’s not to say that they might reject or deny the truth, but they will (at least briefly) understand these words as the truth before dismissing them. From this point forward, this seed you plant will either blossom in redemptive glory or grow to haunt them the rest of their lives.

HERE is the Romans Road. Simply highlight the passages in your Bible and get in the habit of having easy access to it all of the time. There’s really not much to memorize – God has done all the work for you! Number the passages and move from one to the next, letting them read the verses. Go through the text asking pointed questions. For example when they read Romans 3:23

For all have sinned , and come short of the glory of God,”

Ask them, “What does the word all mean,” or “What does it mean to fall short?” Don’t forget to mention the Law and how God uses it to show us our sin and need for salvation. With the Holy Spirit present, there’s a great possibility (especially if you got them reading from the Bible), that the conversation will miraculously flow in the direction the Lord desires.

REMEMBER, stay on point. Salvation is the critical issue we want to discuss, everything else will likely just be a distraction. Get in the habit of reeling your audience in, preventing them from taking the discussion down a rabbit trail. In most cases, these are nothing more than premeditated diversions that the listener employees to control the conversation and avoid looking at their own sin. Be a polite listener yourself, but remind them these are weighty issues (recall the math illustration) and one does not commence to undertake them on a collegiate level.

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“My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.” Daniel 6:22-23

Everyday approximately 250-300 Christians (on average) are caaamurdered simply because they believe and follow Jesus Christ. I have often wondered why Jesus doesn’t *spare His faithful as He spared Daniel or as He protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Despite occasional bewilderment, to this truth I cling: Jesus saves — He always has and He always will. Daniel could have been eaten alive that day, but he would have still been saved. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have burned, but yet saved.

The reality is that Daniel did eventually die and Jesus spared him again (and permanently this time) from the lion; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all died, and again they were spared from the fiery furnace, but this time for eternity. You see, the lion’s den and the fiery furnace, although quite real to Daniel and the boys, is a picture of hell for us; a visual depiction of God’s promise to protect His children. However, for those unrepentant souls who falsely believe they can destroy a Christian, there is no such sparing. For them the lion waits and the furnace burns.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36

Rejoice Not

Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth , and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth; Proverbs 24:17

As you pray for the persecuted church, pray also for those who persecute. Remember, the Apostle Paul was once a vile persecutor of the brethren, but he turned away from evil, turned to Jesus, and his life was spared. Everyday there are stories of evil men rejecting the gods and tenets of their false religions and being saved when they turn to Jesus Christ. I’m not certain how our prayers fit into the equation, but nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is coming along side these men and convicting them by their own wicked deeds, and they are repenting!

Remember to also pray for how the Lord wants to use you in your religious freedoms, I should add, ‘while you still have them.’ Christian persecution has arrived on the shores of America and has taken root. I say that, to say this: it will never be more easy to share your Christian faith as it is right now, as tomorrow brings more detractors and new deterrents. Do not fear the mouth of the lion or the heat of the furnace, for from these things we have been spared.

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish , neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. John 10:28-30

*Note: Jesus does still occasionally  ‘spare’ his children from earthly atrocities. I remember hearing first hand from a Christian pastor (in India) who himself was tied to a tree to be burned. They piled wood about his feet and doused it with kerosene. When the match was struck and tossed upon the wood, it did not ignite. Match after match, nothing happened. In frustration, they left him tied to the tree with the promise to return in the morning to finish the job. In the middle of the night one of these men, convicted by his evil deeds, returned and cut him loose.

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven (Colossians 1:3-5a)


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“Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” Numbers 14:9

breadRemember Joshua?

To him, the giants of life were more than obstacles to overcome, they were nourishment for spiritual growth. That narrow path we walk is not a place free of trials and hardship, but rather a place of refinement where adversities are but fuel for our sanctification.

Truly our giants are bread for us!

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger ; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst . John 6:35

Of course it was Jesus who said that He is the bread of life — we are sustained eternally when we feed on Him and His word. It could also be rightly said that when our lives are submitted to Christ, we are positioned to be nourished by everything that comes down the pike, be it good or evil. The adage is true: in Jesus everything is either a bless’n or a lesson.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Genesis 50:20

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“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)

There’s been many a sermon regarding the notion that ‘fear and faith‘ cannot coexist. We have been taught if one is present, the other must be absent. It is a premise I understand, but do not wholeheartedly agree. There is a smidgen of truth in the expression, but I sense it’s been improperly condensed. Frankly, it is an umbrella with too broad a canvas. I chose the Matthew 26 passage to illustrate the point.

Was Jesus afraid?

I am not willing to stretch Scripture in order to justify a doctrinal position; the record only tells us Jesus was ‘sorrowful and very heavy’ (KJV). Other Bible translations describe His situation as grieved and distressed (NAS), anguish and deep distress (NLT), and sorrowful and troubled (NIV). Strong’s Lexicon defines the word ‘heavy’ (as used in the King James Version) this way: to be troubled, great distress or anguish, depressed, and adds, “This is the strongest of the three Greek words in the NT for depression.” For this reason, it is not a stretch to say Jesus was very sad and in deep anguish over the events before Him.

But was His anxiety fear based?

We all want to say emphatically, “No,” there’s no way that Jesus was fearful or changeafraid. I submit to you that we want to say no because Bible teachers and expositors have drilled into our heads that ‘fear and faith’ do not jibe. Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying Jesus was afraid, but I am suggesting it is feasible. I am also suggesting that it is possible to be fearful and faithful in the same space of time. I submit that notion because it appears Jesus did just that. Without any doubt Scripture records Jesus had great trepidation and by faith, He brought it all before the Lord and therein lies the Bible lesson.

Having said that, clearly there are Christians who have become so caught-up in fear and worry, that they become faith-less. Their fear has bound them to the point that they have forgotten and/or neglected the basic components of faith. They’ve turned away from reading the Bible, prayer, church, and communion with Jesus. For these folks, faith is not occupying the same space as fear; it cannot because these individuals, for whatever the reason, won’t allow it to. It is here that some make the mistake of using this group for the basis of the broad doctrine that fear and faith cannot coexist.

Here’s the problem. When we do that, we’re dismissing a whole body of believers who, by Christ’s example, know what to do with their stress and anxiety. This group is not derailed by hardships, but see them as the conveyance which brings them to the foot of the cross. They recognize that emotions, high or low, are little more than crossroads on the narrow-path God has constructed for His children to walk. So while some do go to the left, opting for the faith-less, off-road route, there is a significant group that keeps to the right and stays the course they’re on. These have either never strayed from the path or gained some valuable insight for having done so in the past. The reality is that currently, their anxious burdens now propel them forward and they are more blessed for the experience.

So yes, it’s true for some that ‘fear and faith’ are not existing side-by-side, but theirs is not the model. Jesus is the model, as are the many saints, who by example demonstrate for the church what to do with the extreme highs and extreme lows of life. Let us stop pronouncing a doctrine that is at best only half-true; it only serves to undermine the faith of those Christians who know what to do when trials come. Pigeon-holing these believers into a one-size-fits-all tenet only causes confusion and frustration. Folks who are walking properly in their faith should not be simultaneously instructed they are not because the instructor believes it is not possible to do so. It’s errant to teach that you must first stop being fearful in order that faith might reign.

The more appropriate perspective is to see fear as emotional fuel. That is to say, potential energy, that when properly directed moves us forward in faith. If we wallow in the fear, then yes, we are rejecting Jesus and our God-given faith — to wallow is to worry. To that issue Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). But fear (or any other stress-based emotion) if used correctly, is Spiritual food for us.

A Final Thought

Would a Christian ever say that ‘gratitude and faith’ cannot exist in the same place because some of us occasionally reject the opportunity to give thanks to God? That would be nonsense. In that light let us stop declaring that emotional lows and faith cannot either exist, especially when Jesus demonstrated very effectively that they can.

For we have not (a) high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

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Why We Keep it Simple

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive , because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

This verse explains (among other things) why, when we share the Gospel, the message we present must be kept simple. Going too far beyond, “You’re a sinner and Jesus died for your sins,” and the Bible verses needed to support the doctrine, typically only serves to muddy the waters. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that if you stray too far and too often from the Good News message, your non-believing audience will deem your words as folly.

That’s not merely an opinion — it’s the Bible.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

It’s not that the unsaved soul is simple-minded, but rather, they are natural-minded. Frankly, we’re spinning our wheels when we begin to expound upon deeper theologies and heavier doctrines before the listener has understood and received the fundamentals of the faith. It’s akin to teaching algebra (or geometry, physics, or calculus), before the student comprehends basic math; these weighty subjects are foolishness to the student who cannot yet add or subtract whole numbers.

I like how Pastor Lloyd Pulley puts it. “A hundred gallons of water,” he explains wateris very heavy — almost a thousand pounds! Imagine trying to carry that weight on your head. You can’t. It’s just too heavy. But when you’re fully submersed in water, that same amount of water is nothing to bear. It’s the same way with the things of God — unless we are fully immersed, the notion of bearing such weight is foolish. Like fish out of water, we cannot yet bear the weight of heftier matters. Full immersion; us in God and God in us is the answer.

It’s Not My Fault

What about Jonah and the whale?

How many of us already know the importance of keeping the Gospel message simple, but get dragged into these weightier discussions by the listener, or a bystander? It seems to occur almost every time we begin to share! We’re going along nicely, “And John 3:16 says…” (or something to that effect) and someone interrupts, “But what about contradictions in the Bible, ” or, “What about Jonah and the whale,” or some other issue that takes both listener and teacher down a rabbit trail.

In the same way an elementary-school teacher would reel-in one of her students who wants to distract the rest of the class, it’s your job to bring the discussion back to basics. If you cannot get your listener back, it just might be a sign from the Lord that perhaps you should ‘dismiss the class’ and move on. Failure to do so will just lead to more rabbit trails, confusion, and probably frustration on your part. Often times this where we get into arguments. Reel it in or cut if off — we never want to argue.

Reeling It In

In this regard I believe honesty is the best policy. Explain to the person how you would love the opportunity to explore any and all Bible doctrine with them, but they need to understand and receive God’s grace and plan for salvation before these other matters will make any sense. Be firm and loving and stick to the Good News. The Holy Spirit needs to be in them in order to grasp these other things of God, and at this particular point in time, the Holy Spirit has only come alongside them so that they might understand the Gospel.

How to Share the Gospel Simply

Are you going to Heaven?”

There are many ways to deliver the Gospel message, but I believe there is no better (and simpler) way than using the Bible and the Roman’s Road method. Start with your Bible and a highlighter and mark the following passages:

I like to start a conversation off with, “Hey, can I ask you a question…are you going to Heaven?”

Many conversations stop right there, but most do not. The reality is that most people, if they’re not busy, like to talk. How they answer the initial question will guide how the rest of the conversation goes. If they say yes, ask them why. If they say no, ask them why. If they say they don’t believe in Heaven, ask them why not. Eventually (be a good listener — there’s no rush), use the Ten Commandments as a road sign to point them to the truth: they are a sinner. This is the precise intersection where we pick up the Roman’s Road!

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Go directly to the highlighted portion of your Bible and tell them to read it aloud, asking, “What does that mean?” trusting the Holy Spirit (which has come along side them) to give them understanding. I have never had anyone tell me anything other then, “It means all have sinned and fallen short of God,” or something similar. I might ask them to elaborate, “What does it mean to fall short of God,” and eventually they come around to the issue of separation. Occasionally someone will say, “I dunno,” but I just have them read it again until it clicks. And click it will.

At this point one of two things will happen: the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and you’ll be able to move onto the next Bible verse or the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and they will attempt to end the conversation. You can lovingly try to re-engage them. If they’re adamant about leaving, let them go, but know this: you have done well. You may not have gotten to the Good News portion of the Good News message, but you planted the most important seed: the seed of conviction. Your listener will never be the same again. Trust that the Lord will send another to ‘tend’ that seed; a waterer, a fertilizer-er, and eventually a harvester. You never know, He might send YOU back to do all those things!

The remaining portions of the Roman’s Road method is self explanatory. Read over each passage and as you highlight, formulate in your mind (and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit) how you would easily move from one to the next. I actually wrote in the margins of my Bible where the next step was so I could quickly find it. Remember, the convicted soul is likely feeling very uneasy and may attempt to hijack the conversation with obscure questions in an attempt to stump you and throw you off your game. See these distractions for what they are and don’t allow them. Be focused and stick to your simple Gospel presentation. The Holy Spirit is on your side, inside and out.

Finally, remember this is all a work of God. He has provided all the components towards salvation — the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the script. We’re just willing vessels having made ourselves available to Him and for Him. The results are entirely up to God. It’s His plan and He’s responsible for it. We don’t need to fret about our presentations and appearances, we just need to show up ready on game day.

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;reprove , rebuke , exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2

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