A popular idea running through many churches now-a-days is the idea that “there is grace for you.” While this is indeed a true and powerful statement, many Christians and even church leaders have ended up watering down the Gospel with these words. We see women dressed inappropriately as they walk into church or even for a social gathering of believers, and no one opens their mouth against it, even if there are brothers in Christ present who may stumble as a result. I’m the guy who would say to someone in private, “Don’t you think someone should say something to her, so she knows what she’s doing?” The person I’m talking with would likely say something like, “Well, you don’t want to condemn people or sound critical. There is grace for her, Joel.” Blah, blah, blah, I say! I hope you’re beginning to see where I’m going with this. If you need more clarity, then read what Proverbs 27:5-6 says: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” And yet I rarely, if ever, see any kind of rebuke at all! And if it means protecting many people from stumbling in their ways, then why would we not want to attack sin and indecency in our lives? Otherwise we are letting the devil win in our lives!

Now don’t think this applies only to dressing immodestly; that was merely one example of ways I’ve seen the ‘Grace Card’ used to excuse people’s sins. For instance, we may see someone smoking or cursing or doing any number of things we see as wrong, and we don’t even begin to confront the issue. Instead we become passive and complacent and excuse ourselves by saying, “There is grace for them! Praise Jesus!” But let me challenge your thinking for a moment. What is the grace of God without the wrath of God? I tell you, if God’s wrath was not real, powerful and imminent, then there would be no need for grace and therefore no need for Jesus’ death on the cross. We spit off these ridiculous half-truths about how grace is sufficient and that we should just turn a blind eye at certain things, but this is not the case! We are called to be “bold as a lion” (See Proverbs 28:1) and to show open rebuke. Sin, especially in the church, should be addressed without fear or restraint.

I know in the past the “fire and brimstone” speeches have scared Christians away from talking about God’s wrathful side, but if we ignore God’s wrathful side, we ignore a part of who God is and therefore believe in a false version of God. Indeed, God MUST be wrathful, for He hates sin; and if He hates sin, He will one day do away with it. And if we are all sinful, then He must do away with us, for He is Holy. God cannot just forgive sin; if He did, without the sacrifice of Jesus, then He would be denying His character. If this were true and He allowed people to dwell with Him in eternity, He would have fellowship with darkness and would lose His holiness. In order for God to be Light and Love and remain fully Holy and perfect, He had to send His son as a propitiation for our sins. This was the only way; it is the truth that leads to life. But grace means nothing without maintaining the perspective of the reality of God’s wrathfulness that is to come. So let us stop teaching people only about the grace of God that ignores His wrathful side and remember that the wrath of God is part of the reason we come to have the fear of the Lord!

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Lately, I have been witnessing a lot of favoritism in various places, whether work, church, etc. The one that bothers me the most, however, is at church, for the Bible is clear on this topic: ‘My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory…But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors’ (James 2:1, 9). What even baffles me is that this continues and hardly anyone speaks out against it! One elder recently said of Pastor Adrian Rogers who formerly preached at Bellevue Baptist Church, ‘He was a charismatic man, a good speaker,’ or something along those lines. Immediately after this he admitted something along the lines of this: ‘Unfortunately, those kinds of things are important to us at times.’ At first, this seemed to be a humble statement by the elder I was speaking with, but after speaking with him longer, I saw that he sincerely valued charisma in a pastor, and not the charisma that comes from a kind, compassionate, loving man but one that comes from a smooth talker, someone with a silver-tipped tongue if you will. He valued the gift of a man’s speaking more than he believed in the power of God speaking through that man.

So why am I mentioning this? Well, I have recently seen how this elder began to favor one of my friends who is also charismatic. Instantly, though I wish this were not the case, I felt devalued and insignificant. Due to the fact that I’m a quieter individual and not a great speaker, I was pushed to the side as unimportant. Now this is only a small example, but I have seen through the lives of others how destructive favoritism is. In fact, I have seen many people leave churches because they felt they would never be of any use to the church, or worse to the Kingdom of God. But according to the Bible this should not be the way we live. In fact, how can we not preach the true Gospel message that we are all valuable in God’s eyes? Look closely at these words in 1 Timothy 2:3-4: ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (emphasis added). Jesus came to die for all, and we discredit God’s grace and His love for us by choosing favorites. ‘…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). We are all sinners, and not one of us is greater than the next.

Consider this today: how has favoritism (either aimed at you or withheld from you) affected you today? And what message are we sending the world by favoring some and discrediting others? In order that we do not teach lies about the Gospel, we must stop showing favoritism and begin to recognize and appreciate everyone, for God sent His son to die even for the most lowly, repulsive sinner on earth.

War of the Last Remnant

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In Matthew 5:39, Jesus teaches us: ‘I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ How many of us can so willingly deny our urges to retaliate and submit to this command from Jesus? But Jesus is challenging us to become doormats. What? Did I mean to say that just now? Absolutely. After all, our Lord and Savior essentially became the most well known doormat for our sakes. When he was mocked, accused falsely, beaten, even killed, he didn’t speak one word against the people doing those evil things to him. In fact, ‘He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7).

So wait, am I trying to say we shouldn’t oppose those who try to persecute us? Why should we? If we are being persecuted for the sake of Jesus Christ, then that is a joy and a blessing. ‘Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus even teaches us that we should be glad and rejoice when we are persecuted, and he tells us that our reward in heaven is great when this happens (See Matthew 5:11-12).

But you say to yourself, ‘Jesus was both God and human; I am only a man, so surely this kind of restraint isn’t expected of me.’ But if you think this, you are wrong! Jesus does expect this of you, if indeed you are of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, a disciple of Jesus. And read these words also found in Matthew 5: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (verse 44). And Jesus was the perfect example of this, for when he was crucified, he called out to God and said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). Jesus had every right as the perfect Son of God to condemn every last one of those people. But he knew his calling was from God and always remembered to pray, ‘not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39). Jesus obeyed God perfectly and died for us without speaking a word against anyone. And in the end he prayed that God would forgive them. In his last moments, Jesus forgave those men; he turned the other cheek.

Still you might think, ‘Jesus was God! How do you not understand that? I’m just a man.’ Well then let me give you another example–the disciple Stephen. Read Acts chapters 6 + 7 to learn about Stephen. When he had testified about the Lord Jesus, he was stoned to death (See Acts 7:54-58). And Stephen in his last moments mirrored the words of Jesus on the cross by saying, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (Acts 7:60). There is your fully human example to show us that this type of life isn’t just some unattainable fantasy. If you are being persecuted for being a disciple, then remember to endure no matter what type of verbal, physical or emotional pain is inflicted upon you. This is the will of God.

Have you ever wondered how a man can be so prideful? What is it that causes man to be filled with pride as if he is anything special? After all, the Bible says, ‘O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow’ (Psalm 144:3-4). Our lives are so fragile and brief. When standing before the Lord our God, we are nothing. And yet pride not only exists, but it dominates many people’s lives.

The importance of humility is scattered about the Bible, but we must always look to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as our example. And Jesus is the most humble one of all. After all, he forsook his throne in heaven, his place of glory and power, to become flesh and die for the sins of mankind. This was by far the most humble thing ever done in human history.

The Bible constantly teaches the message of humility. ‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom’ (Proverbs 11:2). ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6). Be warned of the dangers of pride! ‘In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God’ (Psalm 10:4).

And yet we continue to boast in ourselves. If you are ever filled with pride or arrogance, repent at once and ask God to humble you. Humility is an important trait of our Savior, and it should certainly be a major trait of his disciples. ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 10:17). Never boast in anything, but only in God. Are you willing to suffer for Christ by always remaining humble? The world will certainly be against such humility, but this will please your Father in Heaven.

Read these words carefully: ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5). When Jesus was crucified, he was pierced with nails in his hands and feet to hold him to the cross. When you read through the gospels, there is nothing that suggests that Jesus lived an easy life once he began his ministry. Though many believed him, often times their belief was rooted in miracles–they were the seed that fell upon the rocks. Not many followed Jesus and stayed with him until the end. He was mocked, plotted against, betrayed, beaten and ultimately killed. But all the while, even in his agony and sadness, he prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done’ (Luke 22:42). Jesus made every decision of his life in accordance with God’s will. Even at a young age he said, ‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (Luke 2:49). He was always one with the Father.

So if we are to be true disciples, should our lives really look and feel ‘easy?’ A comfortable, easy, happy and relaxed life is the furthest thing from the life of a true disciple. A true disciple’s life will be marked with suffering. Jesus even said, ‘Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours’ (John 15:20). If we are not being persecuted, that is living a life of suffering for our faith, then we are not true disciples. True disciples live a life following a LIVING being, that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not dead; no! he is risen! And so we must live following the example he set for us by following the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit as we become one with God.

The popular Christian phrase is this: ‘Be the hands and feet of God.’ If you want to be the hands and feet of God, then you must be the hands and feet of Jesus, which were pierced for our transgressions. The hands and feet of Jesus–the saints–WILL suffer and be persecuted and, if God calls us to it, will even be led  to the point of death!

How are we living today? Are we living as true disciples who receive our calling from the risen, living Christ and thus suffer because of it? Or are we living comfortable, easy lives and turning from Jesus? This is an important question to ask yourself. Are you willing to risk everything even to the point of death for the Lord Jesus Christ?