An Interesting and Thought-Provoking Article on Hell

I recently read a very interesting and thought-provoking article on hell. You can read the article at https://medium.com/batman-theology/we-all-believe-god-sends-people-to-hell-86f21f479e57  While the subject of hell is never a pleasant one to address, it is a doctrine that must be taught. Many people have such skewed ideas of what hell is, who will go there or why it exists, that Christian leaders must help them come to understand the Bible’s teaching on this subject. I am afraid that many churches have abandoned this subject and that is a shame. It is my opinion that they are embarrassed by hell and so they just ignore it altogether.

In my current role role as a hospice chaplain, almost all my patients ask me about hell. They are coming to a realization that there life is almost over and the concept of where they will spend the afterlife is forefront in their mind. I spend much of my time correcting wrong beliefs and showing from Scripture what hell is and why God uses it. Take a look at this article and let it sink in. We need more Christian writers and thinkers who are not afraid to address the unpopular subjects of Scripture.

Thoughts on Repentance

As work continues on The 180º Project, research into the topic of repentance continues to yield many treasures. There has been a lot of things written on this topic over the centuries and we hope to coalesce this into a work that will benefit many leaders. One such treasure that we have found comes from Scott Hafemann, from his theological primer. If you find any such gems that you feel might help us in our research on biblical repentance, send them our way at taethne@outlook.com. Enjoy his:

Jesus’ gospel of forgiveness is not unrelated to the Bible’s demand for holiness. Obedience is not a “second step” added to our faith, so that “accepting Jesus as Savior” must be supplemented by “accepting Jesus as Lord.” We are not saved by grace and then sanctified (made holy) by our own works. Being a Christian is not a matter of adding our will to God’s, our efforts to His. Rather…”putting away sin,” which is faith in action, is the means to persevering, which we do by depending on Jesus from beginning to end. In other words, repenting from the disobedience of disbelief, and the life of persevering faith that this brings about, which entails obeying God, are all one expression of “looking to Jesus.” One cannot exist without the other… There is only one thing, not two, that we must do to be saved: trust God with the needs of our lives. This one thing in God’s provision (now supremely manifested in Christ) will show itself, from beginning to end, in our many acts of repentance and obedience.

 

Scott Hafemann

The God of Promise and the Life of Faith. Crossway Books, 2001, p. 191-192.

Why the Majority of my Friends are Unbelievers

Recently, a group of Christian leaders and I were discussing our lives outside of our official capacities. I startled some of them when I stated that most of my friends were unbelievers. “Why?” was the question asked of me. I answered that I had many reasons. One, because there is a tendency among Christians to only hang out with others who believe like them. Instead of engaging the culture around them, they isolate themselves in pockets of piety. Another reason is that it gives me an opportunity to build relationships with people and actually witness to them by my life, as I live out my beliefs. It is kind of difficult to keep either the Great Commission or the Great Commandment when you only surround yourself with fellow Pharisees. The biggest reason though is quite simple. Since I believe that there is only one way to heaven, I also believe that my unbelieving friends will not go with me there. This is the only time I have to spend with them and I want to make the most of it. Yes, I would like to see them become believers – I pray for God’s Spirit to enlighten them daily to the truth. I am cognizant that my words and actions speak volumes about God and I am conscious of redeeming the time and conversations I have with them. I love them and if this is the only time I have with them, if they never become believers and I lose my relationship with them forever – at last I will have had a good one. I will make up time missed with my brothers and sisters in Christ in the forever of heaven, but in the here and now I will continue to spend time with my unsaved friends, in whatever time God will grace me to have with them and continue to pray that they come to be forever friends before it is too late.

Watching the Flock

While attending a church service this week, the speaker made a very good point. His sermon was on being a good shepherd to the flock God has entrusted to us as pastors, just as He is a Good Shepherd to His flock. During the speaker’s message, he made this observation; while we are watching our flock, so are spiritual predators. We must be constantly vigilant in overseeing the safety of those God has entrusted to us. The shepherd has the responsibility for more than just feeding the sheep, he must also protect them. As King David fought off lions and bears that attacked his father’s sheep when he was just a shepherd boy, we, too must fight off those who would devour our Father’s  sheep.

It is our job to warn the sheep of danger. It is our job to point out theological errors they may encounter, dangerous cults, erroneous worldviews, and false teachers. We must point out these things because if we do not, our sheep will wander off and become mired in a quagmire of false doctrines that will render them useless to the Kingdom of God. Yes, we must feed our sheep solid food, great teaching from God’s Word. Yes, we must lead them to Christ, the Living Water so they can drink deep of His presence. We must also protect and defend them from dangers or we are not doing all our job requires of us. The staff has two ends – a crook to lift sheep to safety and a club to defend them with and drive off predators. Who is looking over your flock?

Moving Evangelicals Beyond Idolatry

Here at Ta Ethne, we do not usually link to other articles or blogs, but today we make an exception. This is an excellent article by R.C. Sproul from Tabletalk magazine, reprinted online for the first time. It is just as relevant now as when it was first published. Please, take a moment to click on the link and read this article.

 

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/moving-evangelicals-beyond-idolatry

Allowing Grief to take Place

I ran across a quote the other day that speaks volumes: “For those who love life, immortality is no consolation in death” – Simone de Beauvoir. We understand, as Christians, that death has lost its ultimate power over us. We know, from Scripture, that our immortal soul, once redeemed by Jesus, will spend eternity with Him. We are even told that it will be reunited with a new body in heaven. Yet, we still grieve over the death of a loved one. This is appropriate on two levels.

First, if the one we have lost was not a believer in Jesus Christ, we grieve because they are truly gone. There is no meeting them again in the afterlife. Their death, for all intents and purposes, is final for us. That relationship we had with them has been sundered forever. Truly, it is appropriate to grieve for them.

Second, even if the person was a believer, even with the hope we have of being reunited with them in heaven, it is appropriate to grieve the loss. For now, the fellowship has been broken, Things are not the same. While we do not grieve as those who have no hope this does not mean we cannot or should not grieve. Death is an intruder, an interloper. It is not without reason the New Testament calls it “the last enemy.”

We grieve over loss because we have been cut off, at least temporarily, from the ones we love. For instance, we may be glad that a child is doing well at college across the country. We expectantly look forward to Christmas break when we will see them again but it doesn’t mute the emptiness of their bedroom we pass everyday. Death magnifies those feelings because we cannot call them on the phone and hear their voice like we can one separated only by distance.

One of the tragedies of our society, as well as today’s church, is not allowing people to adequately grieve. Because we are embarrassed for them or because we have not processed our own grief, we do not allow them to fully grieve and begin the road to healing. When Lazarus died, it wasn’t just Mary and Martha that mourned. Jesus did too. He knew He could resurrect Lazarus. He knew He was going to resurrect Lazarus and yet He still grieved. Knowing that it was okay for our Lord to grieve should be good enough for allowing His children to grieve also. It is a natural response to loss that must be allowed and there is no right way or wrong way to grieve, nor is there a time frame after which it is not allowable. The only restriction placed on grieving in the Bible is that we are not to grieve without hope, as a pagan might.

Modern psychology doesn’t help either. Since Freud’s time it has looked upon grief as a disease, as though it were a sickness like mumps or chicken pox, easily cured with the right combination of drugs or therapies. Only when we accept that for now, until a new heaven and earth are made by God, that suffering and loss are a normal part of our existence and grief is a normal reaction to loss, will we be able to help individuals cope with grief. We will sit with them, cry with them, wonder why with them and listen to their pain without offering stupid, meaningless platitudes. In short, we will experience their life with them and, in doing so, enrich both ours and theirs.

I leave you with this quote:  “We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believer to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the root of our souls it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness.” R.C. Sproul, The Dark Night of the Soul, Tabletalk, March 2008

Wednesday Book Reviews – 5-star Day

These Are The GenerationsThese Are The Generations by Eric Foley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply amazing. The story is both warming and frightening, inspiring and challenging. To understand what the central characters are going through is impossible in the West unless one has traveled to countries that repress Christianity. I have and can vouch that stories like these are not uncommon. What is uncommon, is the magnitude of faith demonstrated. Pastor Foley is to be commended for relating this account as well as for his work on behalf of persecuted and forgotten Christians across the globe.

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Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter J. Chantry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was startling to think that this was first written in 1970. It is so relevant and fresh that it could have been penned today. Although written as a book, it could have very well been a series of sermons. It is one of the best expositions of Mark chapter 10 that I have read. If you like David Platt’s Radical, you might be surprised to read this book and see the same things being said thirty years earlier. I heartily recommend this as a good read

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The Irresistibleness of Grace

Many objections have been voiced to me over my belief of irresistible grace. As I listen to the objections, I now realize that there is a complete misunderstanding on the part of my readers who object. Their arguments seem to go along the lines of “so, you believe God will drag some people kicking and screaming into heaven?” What they fail to see is the foolishness of their understanding of grace.
Grace is given to those who do not deserve it, in fact it is given to those who deserve the opposite. The Bible describes mankind as spiritually dead, blind to His glory and light. When God brings salvation to a human soul they are enlightened and see God in His glory for the first time. Their natural response is to gravitate to His glorious light. They are drawn as irresistibly to it as a moth is drawn to a light or a dog to bacon.
It isn’t that they are trying to resist and failing against their will – it is that they are so attracted to the holy pureness and love of God that they run to Him in response to His bringing of new life.
Perhaps it is because of a faulty understanding of salvation that people get confused. Humans do not decide to become “saved”. They are dead, spiritually. Dead people cannot respond to anything. I worked for some years at a funeral home. I took care of many dead people. None of them responded to any stimulus. They showed no initiative. In fact, they just laid there, staring unblinkingly at nothing. That is how the Bible describes people spiritually. Unresponsive, uncaring, unfeeling people who cannot come to God for salvation. So God comes to them and gives them a new heart. He “quickens” or makes the soul come alive. As this new life is imparted, the soul sees its Creator and responds in faith to the One who has just resurrected it. We respond just as Lazarus did. Laying in the tomb, cold, unfeeling, dead, Lazarus heard His Lord call him to life and the response was instantaneous. This is irresistible grace. This is why Scripture says we are saved by grace, through faith — not by faith through grace. Grace come first.

Modern Slavery

Human trafficking is one of our generations greatest evils. There are a lot of good organizations out there (such as the A21 campaign) who are bringing attention to this problem and working on solutions. The church is beginning to add her voice to the effort to stop modern slavery as well. While doing research on this issue (which will be the subject of a future blog) Ta Ethne came across the following article which helps define the problem we are facing.
http://www.decodedscience.com/human-trafficking-worldwide-social-problem/21364
Take some time to read this and also check out such the A21 campaign — http://www.thea21campaign.org/

Good theology leads to social justice as beliefs are put into action. We must help where we can. Pray about how you and your church can make a difference.