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Why is Life so Challenging?

Seems like the popular message presented in church today is how challenging, how tough life can be. Well first of all, life has always been challenging. There have been many times in history when life was far more challenging or difficult than it is today.

But what is it that makes life challenging? Why is life tough? Is it simply a matter of ‘that’s the way it is’ or is there a real cause?

According to the Word of God there is a very real, definite, singular cause – sin. When God created the world, including man, all was perfect. Life was not challenging. Life was not tough. Then man disobeyed and sin was not only introduced into but took over the world, took over life.

Sin is what makes life challenging. Sin is what makes life tough. Sin brings our temptations. Sin brings addictions. Sin brings hatred and violence. Sin brings racism and all kinds of prejudice and bigotry. Sin brings greed and lust. It is sin that makes life challenging.

First, there is corporate sin. Sin is universal and it impacts the whole world and every aspect of life, even religion. Everyone is affected by the sins of the world. Even when you do not commit a certain type of sin, you are affected by it. Maybe you don’t do drugs but you may be touched by someone who is addicted or even someone who has died from drugs. You may not have murdered or assaulted someone but the existence of this changes how you live your life. You may avoid ‘dangerous’ places because of this violence in society. You lock your doors and buy security cameras. Our laws and rules are a reaction to many types of sin. Often these laws place restrictions even on those who do not commit the sins.

Then there is our personal sin. Sin brings bad decisions and all of the consequences that go with them. We end up either living with these consequences or trying to run and hide from them. Our personal sins not only harm us but also people close to us, people we care about. Our sin can become addictive. It becomes our master and we its slave. Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Along with the consequences there is the guilt. We can try and ignore guilt, but it is difficult and sadly, ignoring it hardens our heart.

So, life isn’t challenging or tough ‘just because’ or because it is unfair. We are not simply victims of life. Life is challenging, life is tough, because of sin. Sin in the world and sin in our lives. Why are so many preachers, so many church leaders, even Christians so afraid to say this? We talk about the toughness of life, how challenging it is and talk about how Jesus is the answer. This is true, He is. But we often do not tell the whole story. Jesus died to provide us a way out of our sin. He died to defeat sin, to conquer it – corporately and personally. We need to admit to sin and its hold on us. We need to surrender sin in our lives, both the corporate around us and our personal sin to Him.

In Luke 9:23 He says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” What are we denying and why do we take up a cross? Crosses are made for dying. We are denying our sinful nature. This is how we follow Jesus. Why in our churches when we talk about how tough life is are we so afraid to speak this truth?

Life is indeed challenging and tough. This is caused by sin. Jesus is indeed the answer. He does so by dealing with sin.

Why the Focus on Weaknesses and Difficuties?

We have become obsessed in the church today with our weakness and our struggles in life. Yes, we are weak and powerless without Christ. But we are more than conquerors in Christ.

In our attempt to ‘be real’ as the church we overemphasize our weaknesses, our hurts, our flaws, how life is so overwhelmingly hard. But have we not been made new in Jesus? Have we not been given victory?

Why do we preach as if life controls us. Did not the apostle Paul speak of his victories in the midst of one of the most difficult lives a Christian has faced? Paul claimed that our power comes through our weaknesses and that our power comes through our trials and hardships. Notice he doesn’t say these occur in spite of our weaknesses or our trials, but literally through them.

We need to stop solely seeing ourselves as powerless floats being tossed wherever the ocean of life wants to take us. Paul told us to put on armor and pick up a sword. These are words for warriors, not prisoners and weaklings.

We live in times that need a church triumphant, not wimpy Christians who are constantly whining. We must confess our fallen condition, our weakness, our failures our utter worthlessness without Christ. But we must also confess our power and victory in Christ.

The Resurrection Can Cause Trouble

The Resurrection of Jesus caused many problems for many people.

     Guards and their superiors
     People who cried for His crucifixion
     Citizens of Jerusalem suffering under the oppression of Rome

His resurrection still causes problems for people today.
His resurrection 100% establishes His identity and His message. Because He is who He is and His message is true, everyone must make a decision of what they will do about this truth.

We have only one of three options.

  • Reject the resurrection and His message
  • Believe it occurred but ignore what it means to us – essentially do nothing or very little about it
  • Accept, believe it and act on it

There are natural results to every decision.
Choosing one of the first two options places us outside of the salvation of God.
Choosing the third provides us salvation.
However, choosing the third means dying to ourselves and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.
This goes 100% against our nature.

Good People Don’t Go To Heaven

Good people don’t go to heaven. Saved people go to heaven.

There are no good people. Romans 3:11-12 says, ““There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.” Someone may respond by saying, well, it’s a relative term. People who are good , relative to others go to heaven. There’s a certain level of goodness that gets you into heaven.

Nope. Any “goodness” we have is a derived goodness. It is derived from God, through His Son, Jesus. He makes us ‘good’. It is true that some people are more moral than others, more kind than others, more caring then others, and so on and so on. However, even this goodness is derived form God, a gift from God. This relative level of morality, kindness and compassion is given by God, even to unbelievers. However, when someone agrees to act by faith and accept Jesus to be their Savior and Lord, His goodness begins to develop and work in us.

We think by being good by our definition of good, God is compelled, even required to let us into heaven. “If that person didn’t make it into heaven no one will.” Heaven is God’s reward for those who submit to Him. Heaven is holy an NO unclean thing can enter there. So how do we get in? Through Jesus. He forgives us and He takes the full wrath of God and the full punishment of sin on Himself.

There is another extreme people often take when considering this. ‘All I have to do is believe in Jesus.’ What exactly do we mean when we say that? Believe He exists? Believe He did live on earth some 2000 years ago? Believe He did die on a cross, for the sins of the world?

The belief must be something beyond all of those things. It must be a surrender to Him as our only hope and as our Lord – which means absolute authority – so we must surrender to His authority in our lives. Are we really doing that? Is He really the authority in our lives?

“I thought we weren’t saved by our works.” We’re not, but we are saved unto good works. Can one honestly say they have surrendered to Jesus as Lord and continue in a willful life of sin and disobedience to Him? That’s not believing in Jesus. That is simply an acknowledgement of his existence. Its not even an acknowledgement of who He really is.

Keep Your Beliefs to Yourself

In Finland, officially a Christian nation, a member of parliament, Päivi Räsänen, is being charged and prosecuted for objecting to homosexuality on social media and radio. The prosecutor goes to lengths to make a clear distinction between Ms. Räsänen’s freedom to believe what she wants but not to express it however she wants.

In framing the case the state prosecutor said, “Understanding deeds as sin is derogatory”. Really? This view makes offending someone a greater evil than disobeying God. The prosecutor went on to say that sexual identity is the ‘core of humanity’. No, being the image of God and a reflection of his glory is not the core of who we are, but rather our sexual identity is.

Oddly enough the prosecutor stumbles onto, quite accidentally I’m sure, to some truth when they say, “When one judges deeds, the whole person is judged. Actions cannot be separated from identity because actions are part of identity.” This is indeed true and ironically contradicts the prosecutor’s own case. Our actions are a part of our identity. They display what is going on in our heart, our soul. A sinful heart will produce wicked fruit.

The incredible irony is that in order to prosecute this case the state has judged Ms. Räsänen’s actions when she expressed her beliefs as wrong, thereby contradicting its position that to judge someone’s actions is wrong.

This censorship of the expression of one’s beliefs is a challenge for Christians. The Bible clearly teaches us to speak the truth, to proclaim what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. God has made the distinction between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness clear, evident and frankly, easy to understand. He then commands us to share this news. Some will say, but we are to speak in love. Well of course we are. In love for the captive, the sinner, we are motivated to warn them of their rebellion and impending doom. In love for Christ and His body, we are to guard and protect the holiness of His church.

It is not love to ignore the condition and destiny of the disobedient captive. If I see someone standing in the middle of the road and a dump truck is speeding toward them I have to really hate that person or be sinfully indifferent if I do not warn them, either because I am afraid of offending them or just don’t care.

Finally let us consider the persecution of the believer seen in this story. Sure, you may say, well this happened in Finland, not here. Remember, Finland is officially a Christian nation. How far are we really, from seeing much the same right where we are? Maybe it doesn’t come in the form of a state prosecuting us. Maybe it comes as an employer firing us or a bank or a store not doing business with us. Are we really that far away? Are we prepared for it? Are we ready and willing?


Is it misinformation to say Jesus raised from the dead?

Much is being made of “misinformation” these days. The question that begs to be asked is, who gets to decide what is misinformation? Is it misinformation to say Jesus raised from the dead? An awful lot of people don’t believe Jesus raised from the dead. Does that make it misinformation? Is it misinformation to say Jesus is Lord (which means He is absolute authority, above any government or any rule or system, etc)? Is it misinformation to say that a human in the womb has been fearfully and wonderfully made by God? Is it misinformation to declare that marriage is to be between one man and one woman? Is it misinformation to state that there is only one God and it is He who is revealed in the Bible and by His Son, Jesus?

All of those statements above are thought to be false by a large part of the world. Does that mean they are misinformation? What is the criteria for something to be labeled misinformation? Is it because it disagrees with mainstream belief or perhaps mainstream agenda? Is it because it may stir up strong feelings or disagreement? Do we not think that the words of the Bible, the Words of Jesus will not cause strong feelings, disagreement and even division? Jesus Himself said that they indeed would do just that.

Who gets to decide what is misinformation? Is there or will there be a misinformation council or Czar? As we allow a select group of people to determine what is misinformation what will be the affect? As we continue to allow voices to be shut down because some group, even the majority perhaps, disagree are we prepared for it to be our voice next? Is this church prepared to be told what they are and are not allowed to say? Are we prepared to speak the truth even when it is unpopular? Would we be willing to speak boldly about Christ if it is banned or cancelled, if there is a real, measurable cost for doing so? Paul was, Peter was, Stephen was – will we?

The Church Better get Serious

Change is coming. It has been coming, gradually at times, more rapid at others. Often subtle, like a thief in the night, you wake in the morning and discover something has been taken from you; sometimes head on like a charge against the walls. Our enemy is becoming emboldened, often no longer even denying or hiding their evil desires; becoming increasingly violent. Change is coming.

We’ve grown complacent in our comfort. We, the church, build bigger and fancier facilities and put on lavish productions. We’ve done all this while the enemy, like the little foxes have been eating away at the walls and the hedge rows and destroying the vineyard. Have we noticed the yield of fruit getting smaller and smaller?

The church’s new cardinal virtues are compromise, unity and being nice. While these are all good, they are not the things the door hangs and swings on (the term cardinal comes from the Latin word for hinge). But what fellowship has light with darkness? What communion has truth with lies?

America has provided us with freedom and liberty, but we have wasted this liberty while we took it for granted. The next election will not change this course regardless of who wins. It may alter the timeline, but it is not a political answer that is needed. It is a change of values and priorities that is needed. Our political environment should reflect our values – and sadly, often they do, but not in a good way. We should take advantage of our political process to advance the gospel, but we will not do so until we, as the church take on a proper worldview, a worldview based on God and His Word.

As we remain on our present course change is coming. America will not remain the preeminent nation of the world. Some may view that as good. I do not. With our system of freedom and our influence, we have an opportunity to practice and advance the gospel as no other nation in the world does. But we are seeing the thief take this opportunity as we sit by and do very little to protect what should be our real values, found in a life following Jesus Christ.

It is only a matter of time until restrictions are placed on how we worship, how we witness, how we live as Christians. Many in the church will rationalize the changes and accept them – as long as they have their smart phones and TV. But even that will change. You may have your things, but you will use them in the way someone else says.

The Bible clearly warns us about this change. Paul says in his letter to Timothy that a time is coming when people won’t want to listen to sound teaching and doctrine but instead will fill their ears and their minds listening to people who feed their own desires and passions (from 2 Timothy 4:3). He also talks of a rebellion against God and John tells of a far reaching falling away.

Change is coming. The church should prepare for it.