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5 Christian reminders for the 4th of July

The 4th of July contains great reminders. As Christians we enjoy many wonderful freedoms, but only because Jesus was willing to give up His freedom for us.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, because of the Christian reminders that come with it.

1. The 4th of of July can remind us that our nation was founded by men who recognized God was their Creator.

The 4th of July celebrates the adopting of the Declaration of Independence by Congress on July 4, 1776. The document begins with Thomas Jefferson’s famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

There’s quite a bit to notice from this one sentence:

  1. The words, “all men are CREATED equal” reveal Thomas Jefferson did not believe in evolution.
  2. Thomas Jefferson believed men have a “Creator.”
  3. With the words, “endowed by their Creator” Thomas Jefferson gave credit to God for the “Rights” we have. He called them “unalienable” because he knew they were given by God and couldn’t be taken away.

Thomas Jefferson saw the authority for our freedom and liberty coming from God Himself.

2. The 4th of July can remind us of our true freedom.

I’m thankful for independence from Great Britain. But I’m more thankful for the greater independence Jesus has given us from the Law:

  • Romans 10:4—Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
  • Galatians 3:24-25—Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Our independence from the Law motivated Martin Luther to take a stand for the Gospel. The freedom we have as Americans is great, but the infinitely greater freedom we have is from having to be saved by works.

3. The 4th of July can remind us of our dual-citizenship.

Continue reading 5 Christian reminders for the 4th of July

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3 blessings when choosing God over family

choosing God over family

There aren’t many situations for Christians more difficult than those involving choosing God over family. Consider the following:

  • A loved one claims to be a believer but wants to marry an unbeliever. So you’re unable to support the relationship.
  • Family members invite your child to stay with them, but you know they’ll be a negative influence on them. So you have to decline.
  • A relative is living in habitual sin and you have to confront the person.

There are examples in the Old Testament of individuals having to choose God over family members:

  • Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives. Exodus 32:27 says, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”
  • King Asa was one of the greatest reformers in the Old Testament. When he purged the idolatry from the land, he had to punish even his own grandmother. 1 Kings 15:13 records, “[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah”

Jesus is the premier teacher and example on this subject…

Continue reading 3 blessings when choosing God over family

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3 reasons Christianity is the opposite of other religions

3 reasons Christianity is the opposite of other religions

Christianity is the opposite of other religions, and the main difference is contained in a few profound words Abraham spoke to his son, Isaac. Genesis 22:7 and 8:

Isaac said, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

1. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God provided the Sacrifice

For a moment, consider the absurdity of Abraham’s words: “God will provide His own lamb for sacrifice. He will provide what’s necessary to worship Him.”

This doesn’t make sense. Religion is about what man does. At the heart of every religion is an individual providing a sacrifice. That’s what makes it worship. A sacrifice that doesn’t involve any sacrifice isn’t really be a sacrifice. Yet God can be worshiped even though He provided the sacrifice.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Abraham prophetically said God would provide the Lamb for Himself. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

2. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the work

In other works-based religions, even those that claim to be Christian, people do the work. But in Christianity God has done the work. This doesn’t just make Christianity different than other religions. This is why Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The Tower of Babel was the first organized rebellion against God. It also serves as a good picture of all false, works-based religions. The people said, “Come, let us build a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:3).

  • Other religions are about man reaching up to God. The people say, “Let us…”
  • Christianity is about God reaching down to man. God says, “I will…”

God did this so dramatically He actually became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explained it like this in Philippians 2:6-8:

Though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

3. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the propitiating

Propitiation is a gift, offering, or sacrifice meant to turn away the wrath of an offended individual. The closest English words are appeasing, expiating, placating, pacifying, or satisfying. In other religions, the responsibility for propitiating is on man. Although, whenever propitiation is discussed in Scripture, it always discusses what God did for man:

  • Romans 3:25 [Jesus] whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.
  • Hebrews 2:17 In all things He had to be made like His brethren…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • 1 John 2:2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
  • 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other religions man puts forth the effort, brings the sacrifice, provides the offering, etc. But in Christianity, like Abraham prophesied, “God provides for Himself the Lamb.” The Lord did what was necessary to turn away His own wrath, by pouring it out on His Son, Jesus Christ.

God provided the only sacrifice that could ever satisfy Him

To go a step further, not only did God provide the sacrifice, He actually became the sacrifice. To tie it back to the typology between Isaac and Jesus, like Isaac was willing to become the sacrifice, Jesus was willing to become the sacrifice. This is why Jesus is called the Lamb OF God. He is the Lamb God provided.

If we made propitiation for our sins:

  • It would be about us showing our love for God.
  • It would allow us to be prideful and take credit for our salvation.

But the way God did it reveals His love for us and leaves Him with all the credit and glory. This is why Christianity is the opposite of other religions. This is why only in biblical Christianity does God receive all the glory and praise. It is not about what what we have done for God. It is about God, and what He has done for us.

Discuss: 

  • Do you often think about what you need to do for God, or do you think about what God has done for you?
  • When you think about what God has done for you, in what ways should that affect your life?

I discussed all of this in greater detail in this sermon: Genesis 22:5-8: A Father’s Love.

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Book Review of Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott

I was given the opportunity to review Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott. Matthew is the founder of Love the Saints Ministries, a website committed to “Encouraging Believers Every Step of the Way.”

Christmas is the most well-known, and popular holiday in the world. While cultures are separated by vast differences, no matter where you go, you’ll find people who celebrate this holiday. In Reflecting Christmas, Matthew looks to the Christ behind all the traditions and practices.

The Content of Reflecting Christmas

Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliot
Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott

Matthew looks at the different symbols related to Christmas. He sees Christ in each of them and also discusses the way some of them illustrate our relationships to God. For example:

  • In the evergreen Christmas tree he sees a picture of Jesus’ lordship.
  • The bells of Christmas signify joy, like those rung at toasts or weddings. They remind us that the holiday is a celebration.
  • He sees in the wreath a picture of the crown of thorns on Christ’s head.
  • The Poinsettia looks back to the Star of Bethlehem.
  • The lights of Christmas remind us that Jesus is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). Matthew moves beyond that to remind followers of Christ that we too are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16).
  • The colors of Christmas are primarily green and red. Green, reminds us of freshness and new life. This reminds us of the spiritually new life we have in Christ.

Although I am only discussing these symbols, obviously if you’d like to know about them in more detail, you need to purchase the book.

Matthew’s style in Reflecting Christmas

Continue reading Book Review of Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott

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The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre-judgingIn Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Last post, 3 Truths About Judgingdiscussed what this verse is not saying: judging is wrong. So what is it saying? The primary rule for interpreting Scripture is to look at context. Let the Bible be the commentary on the Bible. Matthew 7:2 says:

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 

We will be judged with the same standard we use with others

If you judge someone for doing something, you better make sure you don’t do it. If you judge people for:

  • Lying, you better not lie
  • Losing their tempers, you better not lose your temper
  • Being late late, you better be on time
  • Watching or listening to things they shouldn’t, you better not watch or listen to anything compromising
  • Gossiping, you better not gossip
  • Not serving, you better be a servant

There’s nothing wrong with saying something is sin, but there is something wrong with saying something is sin while committing the same sin yourself. It’s similar to Romans 2:1: Continue reading The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

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3 Truths About Judging

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre-judgingLast post discussed what correcting people is: loving. This post will discuss what it is not. Unfortunately, if you correct some people you’ll often be criticized for judging.

In Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This verse might have the distinction of being the most misunderstood and misinterpreted in all of Scripture. There are people who have never opened a Bible, but if they’re confronted they’re going to respond with some version of Jesus’ words.

When Jessica Simpson received criticism from the Christian community she said, “It didn’t really surprise me because I grew up with a lot of that backlash. That’s why I didn’t end up going into the Christian music industry. I think that if they’re really good Christians the judgment wouldn’t be there.” That pretty much sums up the attitude of many people. This is the mentality in the world, and unfortunately it can even be a mentality that creeps into the church.

1. Judging is something everyone does

Some people love to throw out Matthew 7:1 as though you can never say anything is wrong. But there is a real inconsistency – and even hypocrisy – with these people. Those who condemn others for judging do plenty of judging themselves. If you asked some of these people, “Is it wrong to murder, abuse children, or steal from others?” unless there is something wrong with them, they’re going to say, “Yes.” In answering in the affirmative they are judging. Continue reading 3 Truths About Judging

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Does the Gospel make God an abomination?

Does the Gospel make God an abomination

People mean well when they say all sins are the same, but the problem is they’re not. One way they’re different is certain sins are identified as an abomination. Two such examples are recorded in Proverbs 17:5:

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

Two groups are an abomination to the Lord:

  1. Those who justify the wicked.
  2. Those who condemn the just.

The tremendous irony is this is exactly what God does through the Gospel!

God justifies the wicked, which is an abomination

Romans 4:5 says God, “justifies the wicked.”

The word justify means, “to declare righteous. The Lord takes evil, wretched people and justifies them through faith in Jesus Christ. Continue reading Does the Gospel make God an abomination?

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What generation won’t pass away?

Marriage God's Way by Scott LaPierre - What generation will not pass away?Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.(Matthew 24:32-34; see also Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33).

I don’t think another word in Scripture has caused as much confusion as “generation” in the above verses. The most famous misunderstanding might be Edgar C. Whisenant’s book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. 4.5 million copies were sold and another 300,000 were mailed free of charge to church leaders across the nation. Although Whisenant had 88 reasons for his conclusion, the strongest came from the word generation. The logic is:

  • Israel is the fig tree.
  • The words, “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near” refer to Israel becoming a nation in 1948.
  • A generation is 40 years.
  • Jesus said the generation that sees Israel become a nation will not pass away.
  • Therefore, Jesus must return by 1988.

The problem is the Rapture didn’t occur in 1988 or on any of the other dates Whisenhant predicted (1989, 1993, 1994) before his death in 2001. Some pastors still quote this verse saying, “The generation that sees Israel become a nation will not pass away!” They conclude a generation isn’t 40 years. So the generation of people that saw Israel become a nation will not pass away before Jesus’ return. Continue reading What generation won’t pass away?

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Don’t disguise compromise as evangelism

Don't disguise compromise as evangelismSometimes when believers are engaging in ungodly activities or relationships they’ll disguise their compromise as evangelism:

  • “Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners!” Please see this post: Jesus was a physician, not a close friend.
  • “I am going to this place because I want to share the Gospel with people.” Is that true, or is it feeding the flesh?
  • “I’m close friends with these people because I want to see them become Christians.” Is that true, or is it because the Old Man loves the relationship?
  • “I engage in this activity, because I want to be able to witness to those doing it with me.” Is that true, or is it a way to give in to temptation?

We need to make sure we’re not “using our liberty to indulge the flesh” or “as a cloak for vice.” (Gal 5:13, 1 Pet 2:16).

What’s the danger of disguising compromise as evangelism?

Continue reading Don’t disguise compromise as evangelism

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Why did Jesus teach more about hell than heaven?

Why did Jesus teach more about hell than heaven?

Since my parents purchased a Prius, I paid special attention to Toyota’s recalls in 2009-2010. A number of people experienced unintentional acceleration, causing numerous reports of people losing control of their vehicles, and even a two-car collision on Aug 28, 2009 that killed four people in San Diego, CA. Customers were angry about the the defective production, but most people reasonably understand mistakes happen even at the highest levels of industry.

The actual outrage from people was caused by the subsequent revelation that Toyota was aware of the defect, but didn’t warn anyone. What if on February 24, 2010, when testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda would have defended himself by saying:

We thought it was unloving to tell people about the danger they were facing. We didn’t want to upset them.

While this seems ridiculous, surprisingly people apply this thinking to telling people about hell—it’s unloving, hateful, judgmental. The truth is, it’s loving, and this is why Jesus taught so much about hell. If people are heading off a cliff, the worst thing you can do is look the other way. Jesus did the opposite. He warned people!

Recent posts discussed the Blessings and Woes in Luke 6:20-26. Seems many preachers fall into one of two categories:

  • Those who only want to talk about God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and all the things God wants to do for them. Many of these individuals could be considered “health and wealth” or “prosperity preachers.” They only want to teach on the blessings.
  • Others who only want to talk about God’s justice, holiness, wrath, anger, judgment, and punishment. We call these “fire and brimstone” preachers. They only want to teach on the woes.

But Jesus taught on both. He discussed the Narrow Gate that leads to life, and the Wide Gate that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14). In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus He explained the comfort of Abraham’s Bosom and the torment of hell. He was a balanced teacher!

Or at least it seems that way at first… Continue reading Why did Jesus teach more about hell than heaven?