Author Archive: Revraney

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?

Misinformation

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.

Free Stuff

How is it anyone thinks its a good idea to take more from people’s paychecks in order to turn around and give them stuff, like free college education, etc, using the money you took from the paycheck? The people who think such a thing is a good idea must believe people are too stupid to manage their own money.

Some would argue a similar, more altruistic approach is to take from the wealthy and give it to the poor – the Robin Hood system. Politicians refer to this as the “Tax the Rich” solution. They need to pay their fair share (I’ve never met or heard anyone who could objectively define how much is the “fair share”).

Many would say, if you are Christian you would certainly be in favor of such a system. But is that what the Bible teaches?

If the Bible doesn’t teach this, then why would Christians be in favor of it? As Christians, our worldview is shaped by the Bible.

So what does the Bible say about this topic? Lets start with the greatest example of philanthropy, which occurs in Acts 2 and reinforced in Acts 4. At the end of Acts 2 we see a great moving of the Holy Spirit in the newly born church. The believers were in awe and were witnessing signs and wonders and people being added daily to the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit was working in their lives and they were filled with a spirit of fellowship and generosity. They sold their possessions and belongings and distributed the proceeds to anyone who had need.

They gave willingly. It was not taken from them. There was no rule or law or tax that forced them or even compelled them to give. They were exercising generosity. The result – everyone’s needs were met and people were drawn to Christ. Giving in generosity is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Where is the generosity in having money taken and then given to others? Where is the operation of the Holy Spirit in this?

The Bible often about generosity and helping those in need. It is an act of love and trust, not an act of of congress. In the New Testament church it was the people who helped those in need, not the government.

The Bible also teaches us that all who are able should work for what they have and take personal responsibility to manage it well as a wise steward. The apostle Paul even said, “If anyone is unwilling to work, he should not eat.” Proverbs 10:4 says, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” As a man is repeatedly given free stuff he is robbed of something extremely valuable – his dignity.

I believe this direction from John Wesley sums it up well; in his sermon titled “The Use of Money”, Wesley said, “Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can“. We work hard and diligent and we love our neighbor by helping those in need and those unable to work hard. When we allow the government to take over this role, we allow them to rob us of our walk in the Spirit.

Is Hate Really Learned?

To say that we are taught to hate and that it is more natural for us to love than hate is not only inaccurate, but it makes the cross of no effect. Without the cross, without the work of our Savior to not only forgive but to make holy, we cannot love as God commands us. This does not minimize the importance of teaching love to everyone in all stages of life. God uses these lessons as He draws us to Himself.

Is hate really a learned response or attitude or is a part of our nature? The humanistic worldview would tell us it is a learned response. But that is because humanism rejects God.

As Christians we base our worldview on the Bible. When we find ourselves in disagreement with the Bible, it means one of the two must be wrong – us or the Bible. The Bible is not wrong, so that leaves just us (I’ll write another article examining that concept deeper in the future).

The Bible teaches us that we are born in sin (be careful not to take this as conceiving a child is a sinful act). In Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. In Romans 5:12 Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The Bible teaches us that every human being is inherently sinful and separated from God. This is often discussed in the terms of original sin, total depravity or inherent depravity. Sin is not just defined as our actions, or even just our thoughts. It is our nature. Paul devotes much of the book of Romans to instructing on this topic, especially the first three chapters.

We like to think of children as being ‘innocent’ when they are born and in many ways they are, based on what we think of as innocent. But, again, our worldview does not limit itself to our opinion, but must be formed by the Word of God.

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Augustine, one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in history says in his book, ‘Confessions‘ “no one is free from sin in your sight, not even an infant whose span of earthly life is but a single day”. Paul says in Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one”. That statement does not leave room for exceptions, including children.

Common sense and experience tell us that we cannot attribute what we see as hate or greed or envy, etc in adults to children. But the nature of a child, just like that of an adult is corrupt by the nature of sin.

Hate, like greed, envy, covetousness and other attitudes are manifestations of sin. They are demonstrated in varying levels and different ways in different people. Similarly, God’s prevenient grace provides us an ability to love, care and be kind in some levels and ways. But even these positive attitudes are corrupted by our sin nature. As we go through life the things we experience and the things we learn, especially the things we choose to accept, form how these attitudes manifest themselves in our lives. Our nature develops as we grow and is shaped by our experiences and lessons.

As Paul tells us in Galatians 5, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These things are fruits of the Holy Spirit – in the life of the follower of Christ. It is important for us to understand the truth of being born again, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John, chapter 3. We are born again with a new nature. We “put on the new and put off the old”. Then as we walk in the Spirit we gain new experiences and and lessons that shape our new nature. We are then recognized by our love for one another – “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

To say that we are taught to hate and that it is more natural for us to love than hate is not only inaccurate, but it makes the cross of no effect. Without the cross, without the work of our Savior to not only forgive but to make holy, we cannot love as God commands us. This does not minimize the importance of teaching love to all people at all stages of life. God uses these lessons as He draws us to Himself.

Jesus Would…

Why do we presume to know what Jesus would do about a complex social issue? As Christians we are responsible to live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus, following His lead. But complex social issues go beyond our own individual lives. They involve the lives of sometimes millions of people.

I had a discussion with someone the other day about the issue of immigration. Regardless of what side you come down on this issue you must admit it is complex. There are many moving parts and variables to consider. Its extremely difficult to know the right answers to for this issue. If it wasn’t difficult and complex it would have been solved already.

The most interesting takeaway from the discussion was when the individual said, “Jesus would…”. We do this often and frankly it is not only presumptive, but fairly arrogant on our part. Jesus is God. He knows much more than we do. He knows all the facts and all the factors involved; we don’t.

There was a book written at the end of the 19th century titled “In His Steps”. The book tells the story of a life changing event that hits a town. The town begins to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” before they made decisions or took actions about important matters. That question became popular again not too long ago when people began wearing ‘WWJD’ articles like bracelets, necklaces, etc.

The practice of asking what Jesus would do for the decisions in our life is actually a great idea. As Christians we are followers of Jesus. It is for us to live our lives the way Jesus lived His. So it is critical that we examine how He lived. How did respond in different situations? How did he treat people? What did the many lessons He taught mean?

But to try and apply this to complex social issues is to misuse this important self-discipline. As Christians we are responsible to live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus, following His lead. But complex social issues go beyond our own individual lives. They involve the lives of sometimes millions of people.

Paul took great care in addressing a social issue that was only slightly complex when he addressed the practice of eating food offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). He warned against thinking we know more than we do. In this passage Paul tells us that some can with a good conscience eat the food that had been offered to idols, while others do not have this same liberty in their lives due to their experiences and current knowledge. Paul could have instructed by saying, “Jesus would eat the food offered to idols”. But he didn’t. He taught us to be patient and considerate of one another and if need be sacrifice our own liberty for the good of a brother. In this fairly simple issue Paul showed us there are different ways to address the issue.

Complex social issues like immigration have many fingers. Why do people want to come to the US from their home country? The quick answer given in almost every case ‘is to have a better life’. Is it possible Jesus would address the issue by improving their home country so they could have that better life there?

We absolutely should concern ourselves with the welfare of people all over the world and do what we believe God is instructing us to do in addressing the needs. That may differ for different people. When it comes to individual actions, ‘one size does not fit all’. But we mustn’t presume to know what Jesus would do to fix the issue. He is all knowledge, He is all power. We can be a part of His solution, but we cannot know His solution in such complex matters.