I have been a follower of Jesus for years and have spent a lot of time reading God’s Word, so I was astounded to find that so few Christians know the basic beliefs of Christianity. Take for example this simple question, “Do Christians go directly to heaven and unbelievers go directly to hell the instant they die?”

The Church and Immortality of the Soul

Many Christians are taught the doctrine of immortality of the soul, but the Bible doesn’t teach that. In fact, in Genesis, it proclaims that the first humans were created mortal, with only the POTENTIALITY for immortality if one reads it in context. They were told specifically to “replenish” the earth but then after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were sent in exile from Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) to PREVENT them from eating also of the tree of life and BECOMING immortal. Thus, the story, if taken literal, indicates human life, like all other life is mortal.

The same word used to describe the life-force, or soul, is used for both human and other animal life in many places. “…and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul.” (Genesis chapter 1: 30) By using Scripture we can explore the concept of the soul, or life-force ( nephesh) ) And note that it does not indicate that the soul is naturally immortal in these passages.

Job describes death as lying down and sleeping, not being awaken.

“But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come” (Job 14: 10-14)

Job is not arguing against the concept of the resurrection. Rather, he pleads with God to hide him in Sheol (The grave) until his wrath is past, and then remember him, causing him to live again! (v.13-14) One cannot ask for a more clear statement of the hope of resurrection. Later, Job asserts that he has a Redeemer who lives, and that he (Job) will see God in a resurrected body, long after his present body has been consumed.

Daniel describes the resurrection as waking from sleep in the dust.

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)

Is it not clear what Daniel is predicting in chapter 12? He speaks of those who are sleeping in the dust, awakening to everlasting life. Others who awake will not see life, but suffer shame and everlasting contempt. Jesus used the same language to describe the resurrection. He said “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)

Many will argue that Job and Daniel were Old Testament views and that everything changed after Jesus died came. But in John 11 Jesus comes face to face with the reality of death when his friend Lazarus dies. It is in this context that we read the shortest verse in the New Testament – “Jesus wept.” Death is real, and it is a real tragedy. Yet Jesus describes Lazarus’ death with that same metaphor that appears throughout the text of Scripture. He said that Lazarus had fallen asleep. His disciples did not get it. They thought that he was describing the beginning of Lazarus’ recovery.  They assumed that if he were literally sleeping, then the worst of his illness was over, and he would soon be getting better. So Jesus had to spell it out for them and explain that his friend was already dead.

Paul teaches that most will sleep, but some will be changed without it:

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 )

Paul affirms what readers have seen elsewhere in the Bible. Death is a sleep from which believers will be awaken. This awakening will take place “at the last trumpet.” (The resurrection)

When Peter delivered his sermon at Pentecost he said, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” (Act 2:29) He later said, “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Acts 2: 34-35)

If David, who was a man after God’s own heart, did not ascend to heaven, where is he? Peter said he is still in his sepulcher! Along with Clement of Rome (who died about100 AD), Ignatius (died about 107), the Didache (about 120), Barnabus (died about 140), The Shepherd of Hermas (about 154), Polycarp (died about 155), Justin Martyr (about165), Tatian (about 172), Iranaeus (about 202), and a host of others. They are all still dead in their graves!

So where did this notion of natural immortality come from?

Almost every ancient culture has some form of notion of either an immortal transcendent being or that the dead live on in some kind of other world or afterlife so it is almost impossible to note exactly when the very first instance of that belief appeared in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians had this notion evident in their elaborate preparations for the afterlife for their dead.

But the Early Church Fathers never questioned the Biblical teaching of the mortality of man, the sleep of the dead, and the resurrection to eternal life or to judgment. They never speak of the natural immortality of the soul, nor of eternal, unending punishment of hell. They present death as the cessation of life, and immortality of the righteous achieved only at the resurrection – therefore, immortality for man is conditional.

The Bible consistently uses a metaphor for death that is viewed as neither socially or theologically appropriate among most Christians. It calls death a sleep. But if a believer slips and refers to the dead as sleeping, judging from the reaction among traditionalists, you would think that they had shot God!

A long standing tradition within Christianity asserts that death is a move to a new higher level of consciousness where the righteous are rewarded for their good deeds on earth or punished for their rejection of God and Jesus. Consequently, anyone who dares to imply that the intermediate state of the dead is one of unconscious sleep runs the risk of being branded a heretic or cult member.

Nevertheless, it would do us all well to return to biblical terminology instead of traditions that keep us from using the Bible as our guide. The biblical authors knew what they were talking about. The Holy Spirit inspired them to write words which expressed the way things really are. It is not their fault that the popular church has chosen to see and say things differently.

I have heard so many Christians refer to the passing of their loved ones as watching over them from heaven. But thinking logically, how could one enjoy their eternity in heaven if they had to witness the murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed against their loved ones on earth? And what sense does it make for God to condemn an unbeliever to the flames of hell only to pull them out at the resurrection to judge them and then throw them back into the flames? Is that the actions of a loving God?

John Wyclif, while Professor of Theology at Oxford University, translated the Bible into English. He taught soul-sleep, and that the Rich Man and Lazarus was a parable and couldn’t be used as a basis of theology. Wycliffe also declared that the fate of the wicked was everlasting punishment, not continuing punishment.

Martin Luther also emphatically rejected belief in the immortality of the soul, and held that death is a sound, sweet sleep. Had it not been for John Calvin, it is possible that Conditional Immortality (soul sleep) would have become the predominant view in the Protestant churches. Whereas Luther rejected the Roman Catholic teaching of the immortality of the soul, John Calvin re-introduced it.

Now we can understand what Jesus was doing in John 11 when Lazarus died. He was explaining to his disciples that death is not the end, because he (the Resurrection and the Life) will not allow it to be. But make no mistake about it – if there were no Jesus, death would be the end. We can call death sleep only because there is a Jesus who intends to raise the dead. So calling death sleep is a statement of faith in Christ.

Refusing to call death sleep is also a statement of faith. It reflects a faith in death itself.  It joins Plato and other pagan philosophers in affirming that God created the human soul indestructible, and therefore it must remain alive after the death of the body. So the real person never sleeps but remains conscious during the intermediate state of death, and indeed for all eternity.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we read, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

That time HAS come. So it is even more important to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

To teach and perpetuate fables that are not biblically sound is worldly and carnal.

More to come….

The early Church in the Book of Acts were making people angry by preaching the truth. Some of them were martyred, willing to die for the cause of Christ. After hearing the gospel message many who had been involved with the occult brought their “curious arts” and burned them in a bonfire. (Acts 19:19) The worth of the books and items were 50,000 pieces of silver. (hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s value) The local idol makers were so enraged at Paul, that the other believers had to keep him from the angry mob waiting to tear him to pieces. (Acts 19:30)

This is what happens when people begin to live according to the truth of the Bible. Because it reduces the profits of beer companies and taverns, drug dealers, godless Hollywood film makers, strip clubs, pornography and prostitution. It causes women to keep their babies instead of murdering them and therefore decreases the profits of the abortion clinics and its providers. Praise God, when Jesus returns he will put all these evil people out of business for good!

Please notice that the early believers didn’t just preach a salvation message. They also spent much time speaking against sin and warning of being deceived by it. (James 4:17, Romans 6:23, 1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 3:4, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

But most preachers today only preach a “feel good” salvation message. They don’t preach against sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkards, or swindlers. They don’t expose the corruption and lies of the world and rarely preach about spiritual zeal and fervor. Most of what is taught in churches today is an “I’m okay, you’re okay, because we’re covered in the blood of Jesus gospel”.

I remember soon after I was saved, going to renew my driver’s license. It took me several minutes to convince the woman at the DMV that the photo on my old license was really me. You see, my countenance had completely changed so much that my “old self” didn’t even resemble who I had become! I was literally a new person!

And yet many Christians today are taught that they are “just sinners saved by grace”. But is that what the early Church taught?

A scripture that would appear to agree on this point is from the Apostle Paul: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Because of Paul’s present tense use of the phrase, “worst of sinners” he makes it sound as if it were applicable to him at the time he wrote it. But if we look at this anomaly more closely, I’m sure you’ll see that the unusual use of verbs is Paul’s writing style and is/was a common Hebrew way of writing.

In the Preface to Youngs Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, the translator tells us of two principles to understand about Hebrew writers. (even though they may be writing in the Greek language)

  1. That the Hebrews were in the habit of using the past tense to express the certainty of an action taking place, even though the action might not really be performed for some time.
  2. That the Hebrews, in referring to events which might be either past or future were accustomed to act on the principle of transferring themselves mentally to the period and place of the events themselves, and were not content with coldly viewing them as those of a bygone or still coming time; hence the very frequent use of the present tense.

Apparently, that is what Paul did. He placed himself in the past as though it were the present. Similar to what Daniel did as he confessed his sins and the sins of his country to God in Daniel chapter nine.

Are Christians Called Sinners In Scripture? 

The first scripture that comes to mind is Romans 5:6, 8:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (All emphasis added is mine and is not in Scripture)

First please note that Christ died for the ungodly (vs. 6) and then Christ died for sinners. (vs. 8) Paul equates the ungodly with sinners. Christians are never characterized as ungodly. Next note that the past tense is used  while we were still sinners. That clearly implies a change of status. While we were still sinners is a prior status of being sinners, different from what the recipients of the letter were as Paul wrote to them. Who were the recipients of the letter? Paul described them: To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. (Romans 1:7) Paul did not address his letter to sinners saved by grace, but to those called to be saints!

There are 28 uses of the word sinners and 13 of the word sinner in the New Testament Scripture. None refer to people who have come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

Jesus also made a distinction between sinners and the righteous:

Jesus revealed that the purpose of his coming was to save sinners:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17 — See also Luke 15:7,10 and Matthew 9:12-13)

Many are taught that we all sin hundreds of times every day, and all we have to do is confess our sins and God is faithful and just to forgive us. But if we read 1 John we discover what the Apostle said about the relationship to God and the people who continue in sin:

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6) “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” (1 John 5:18)

According to the Apostle John, if someone is sinning hundreds of times each day he is not living in Christ Jesus and does not have a true saving faith. Twice John says Christians do NOT continue to sin.

The writer to the Hebrews addressed the issue of deliberately continuing in sin. His warning is frightening:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26)

It would appear that those who have received the knowledge of the truth but thereafter deliberately continue in sin are in a terrible position. They are called enemies of God.

But in our 21st century, it is politically correct to have a tolerant attitude toward almost everything. That seems to include sin. There is not an abhorrence of sin, of seeing it through Gods eyes, nor a recognition that continuing in sin will prevent a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. Not concerned about being politically correct, Paul wrote:

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Paul warns that a person who continues to habitually sin (a sinner) but who calls himself a Christian brother, is dangerous to the health of the body and should be shunned. From Johns’ writings we know that such a person is not a true believer even though he may profess to be a Christian.

None of us who are Christians with a saving faith should ever call ourselves a sinner. It is not appropriate to try to claim common ground with unbelievers by saying that you also are a sinner. Scripture says otherwise. Christians are not sinners. If you are a sinner, one who habitually sins, you are not a true believer. In that case you can properly call yourself a sinner. Please note the distinction: Christians do occasionally sin. A sinner habitually sins. The Christian (should) immediately repent and seek Gods forgiveness. The sinner does not.

A Christian can properly say, I was a sinner, but I have been saved by grace.

Sinners hate to have their sin exposed. It was true in the days of the early Church and is still true today. When you tell someone who likes to party and get drunk that what they are doing is a sin, they will become angry and belligerent. If you try to explain why abortion is a sin to someone who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, they may become combative toward you. And if you point out the sin of homosexuality, people will accuse you of hate speech and may even physically attack you. (Which has happened often lately) So much for tolerance.

But this is how it has always been. And we are warned that as our days in this world are numbered, it will only get worse.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 )

Until Christ returns, we are responsible to stand against the evils of our day. (Psalm 94:16) The truth will make some people angry. But the truth will cause others to come to God in repentance. The truth is emotional. The truth demands an answer. The truth cannot be ignored forever. The truth is the truth!

Why am I so adamant about standing against sin? Because Jesus was beaten, humiliated and crucified because of sin! God hates sin. And so I too must hate sin. (Psalms 5:4, Psalms 45:6, Hebrews 1:8)

I know that there are many who wish that I would just tone down my rhetoric. That I would talk more about the good things. I don’t like to talk about bad things, but people need to know the truth. So I must speak the truth!

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

So I will not go quietly into the night, I will continue to fight the good fight until my life is done or until Jesus returns.

‘The Week’ website recently published an article by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry entitled, “How Christianity Invented Children”. http://www.theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children

Gobry claims that one of the notorious practices in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children and points to paganism as the original perpetrator of the sexual exploitation of children. He goes on to say that “Christianity’s invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God.”

But if that is true, then it seems that we have reverted back to the culture of ancient Rome.

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are now sexually abused before age of 18. Child sexual abuse is a prevalent issue in the United States even within the confines of our schools and churches—The very places where our children should be the safest!

Nonetheless, there’s one form that is especially revolting and shocking—The act of sexually molesting a child by a family member. And it often occurs to children in a blended family. Statistics show that a child is 33% more likely to be sexually abused in homes where their biological parent is living with, or married to someone other than the child’s biological parent.

When a child is molested by a family member, denial is a natural response since no one likes to think about a family member abusing their own children this way, but worse yet, is when the child victim is accused of making it up and is pressured into recanting the abuse.

It’s important to remember that although the abuse was done by a close family member, it does not erase criminal liability. In fact, this type of molestation should carry the greatest punishment among all forms of child abuse. If this happens to your child, do not hesitate to call the police, because when a molester is tolerated, it’s guaranteed that he or she will do it again. And you could be charged with child neglect and/or child endangerment.

It is also important to remember the damage this causes to a child’s life and soul. Many victims become depressed, have feelings of guilt, shame and distrust, and may cause them to fall into all kinds of risky behavior. Especially as long as lenient judges continue to pass down soft sentences on perpetrators of these types child sex offenders.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Although it is important to address the issue of forgiveness when the abuser is caught and confesses and then asks for forgiveness, this can be difficult for not only the victim but also for other family members.

Certainly we should forgive; However, it is important to remember that molesting and sexually abusing children is a type of sin that, even after repentance and forgiveness, there has to be accountability and justice to ensure the safety of all children that the abuser could come into contact with.

If someone shoots one of your children you must forgive them—but it doesn’t mean that you invite them back into your home so they can shoot the other ones.

How can you protect your children?

Watch your kids – Keep a watchful eye on your children. Kids get distracted and often don’t think about something that’s happened to them while at play. Know what to look for.

  • Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, or fearfulness
  • Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances
  • Acting out inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Changes in toilet-training habits
  • A fear of certain places, people, or activities
  • Bruises, rashes, or poorly explained injuries
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid, or rawness in the private areas

Talk to your kids- Parents are one of the single most effective tools in the fight against child sexual abuse. Set time aside to sit down and have a discussion. This may be an uncomfortable subject, but remember, you aren’t talking about sex, you’re talking about personal safety. You can use other safety issues as a ‘lead in’ to this topic.

Listen to your kids- Even very young children need to be able to tell you their feelings, thoughts and fears. Make sure that you take the time to listen to your children and assure them that you’re there to protect them.

Teach your kids- Teach them about “good touch, bad touch” and make sure your children know to tell you if something does happen, or even if someone just makes them feel uncomfortable. Teach them to trust their own feelings and instincts. Tell them it’s okay to say “no” and to be rude to anyone in order to protect themselves. Teach them that keeping secrets is not only wrong, but dangerous. If you don’t teach these things to your children, then you are leaving them open for the predator to continue molesting your child unrestrained.

Let your child know they can trust you- It is difficult for a child to come forward with accusations of sexual abuse. So the worst thing you can do to a child who has been sexually abused is to question them or doubt that what they experienced really happened. They need to know that you believe them and that you will protect them from further abuse. They came to you because they trusted you. If that trust is broken because you refused to believe them, chances are slim that they will report future abuses that may go on for years.

While physical abuse might be the most visible, child sexual abuse leaves deep, lasting invisible scars that can carry over into adulthood. There are signs you can look out for that a child is being sexually abused:

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Trouble walking or sitting.
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age.

Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives, but by learning some of these common warning signs of sexual child abuse, you can catch the problem as early as possible and get both the child and the abuser the help that they need.

Of course, just because you see a warning sign doesn’t automatically mean a child is being abused. It’s important to dig deeper, looking for a pattern of abusive behavior. But if you do notice a pattern, report it.

For more information visit: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect.htm

It would appear to be indisputable that same-sex marriage and the open celebration of homosexuality is quickly becoming a part of the global cultural agenda—and responding to the rise of the homosexual agenda is a teaching that is permeating even the Christian world, claiming that since Jesus never mentions homosexuality nor does He specifically condemn it, homosexuality must be legitimate in Jesus’ eyes.

This is not a judgment against those who maintain a homosexual lifestyle. I have always maintained that we are not to judge those outside the Church, but we are told to judge those inside the Church—those who claim to be followers of Christ but live a life not consistent with God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

This is a very important issue for the Church. For if there is no accountability to God, then the secular worldview would have us to believe that homosexual marriage is a completely legitimate issue. Pedophilia and bestiality would not be out of the question either, should the prevailing secular worldview deem these lifestyles to be acceptable and the “new norm.” The biblical worldview, however, is grounded in the unchanging tenets of the Word of God. This is where the loudest cultural clash occurs and the two worlds collide.

So, did Jesus condemn, speak of, or even mention homosexuality? As it turns out, yes, he did. As a matter of fact, he spoke very clearly and directly about the issue. Let me begin with Matthew 19:4. Here Jesus is answering a question from the Pharisees regarding divorce. However, his answer is very telling concerning the entire issue of sexuality, marriage and the proper form of marriage. Here are the words of Jesus:

“And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4)

Here Jesus upholds male and female procreation as a part of male and female marriages, and the sanctity of male and female sexual relationships within male and female marriages. His answer tells us that since creation anything outside God’s standard for sexuality and marriage is a perversion. This truth cannot be legitimately explained away. And yet many pastors and religious leaders are teaching just the opposite! In the words of Billy Sunday, “What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today!”

We read in Galatians 5:19-21, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) We would expect, therefore, that while the Son of God was on earth, he taught much regarding sin. Indeed he did, and we would profit from a humble reflection on some of the sayings of Jesus about sin.

Some of the Lord’s remarks about sin have been misapplied. For example, when a woman was taken in the act of adultery, she was brought to Jesus for judgment. He dispersed the multitude by stating, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) The verse is loved by many who hope that its recitation at just the right moment, will free them from judging or being judged.

Note the following: First, Christians should judge one another (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; John 7:24). Second, the Lord did not condone this woman’s sin. He commanded her to “go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.” (John 8:11) Third, Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the accusers who were more interested in ensnaring the Lord than preserving holiness in their community. (cf. Mark 7:1-13) And where was the MAN who also was caught in the act of adultery? (cf. Leviticus 20:10) Fourth, Jesus respected the Mosaic law that prohibited adultery and the punishment that the law prescribed. He also regarded the laws of accusation and testimony, which may not have been satisfied in this case. And lastly, the response to this situation by Jesus was not designed to insulate wicked and unrepentant individuals from rebuke or discipline in the Christian Age.

Other sayings of Jesus teach us regarding the nature of sin itself. Sin is a master to whom we become enslaved to. (John 8:34) Sin is blinding. (John 9:39-41) Only the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

By joining with the secular worldview on sin we have become spiritually blind. Only complete submission and sincere obedience to Jesus Christ and God’s Word will remedy our spiritual blindness.

When the Lord was criticized for eating with sinners, he revealed the purpose of his coming by responding, “They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

But if there is no unrighteousness and no need for repentance, then there was no reason for Jesus to come and his death and resurrection was meaningless.

One of the most memorable sayings of Jesus on sin is found in Matthew 26:28. It reminds us of the purpose for which Jesus was born, suffered, died and was risen from the dead. Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.”

This ought to enlighten us regarding what Jesus taught about sin. Sin is so horrible that only the spotless blood of Jesus can atone for it. His love for the sinner is so deep, he was willing to pour it out for them. Thanks be to our Lord for teaching us the truth about sin and providing the ransom.

 

 

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Man’s Broken Justice System

When criminals are brought before judges for sentencing, judges should weigh factors including the severity of the crime, public safety, losses to the victim and a defendant’s efforts to change—But all too often judges hand down light sentences to repeat offenders who often go on to commit even more violent crimes.

Judges need to realize the risk that they pose to the public when they give offenders light sentences and be more concerned that the guy they release back on the street will be the next one they read about in the newspaper.

One of the reasons judges give offenders light sentences is because many states are under court orders to reduce its overcrowded prison population, which has led more criminals to be sentenced to probation or be held in local jails—which has also resulted in county jails being filled with a more serious class of criminals.

Consider the case of Jaquinn Ramone Bell.

Bell had already amassed more than a half-dozen warrants for probation violations by the time he pleaded guilty to DUI and hit-and-run charges in August 2014. And yet a judge sentenced him yet again to probation and 10 days in jail.

Two months later, Bell was back behind the wheel, accused of killing three 13-year-old girls in a hit-and-run accident in Santa Ana on Halloween night.

The victims’ family members were outraged.

Marcus Wheeler-Cop Killer

On Wednesday, May 20th Kerrie Orozco, 29, was shot and killed while trying to apprehend 26-year-old Marcus D. Wheeler, who was being served a warrant by the police department’s Fugitive Task Force at 1 p.m. Wheeler was also killed at the scene.

Officer Orozco leaves behind a husband, an 8-year-old stepdaughter and a 6 year old stepson. She was also the mother of a newborn baby who arrived premature on February 17th and was released from the hospital one day after Orozco was shot and killed.

In 2013, Wheeler was charged as an accessory in a June 2007 slaying. Wheeler was also accused of shooting at an inhabited home in March 2013, attempting to cause serious bodily injury to Ashley Bordeaux. Charges in both cases were dismissed.

Then in 2008, Wheeler was sentenced to five years in federal prison for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Wheeler got out on supervised release, but that was revoked in 2013. He returned to prison and was released in February 2014.

As disturbing as these cases are, it has become even more common for judges to hand down probation to those convicted of sexual child abuse.

In February 2015, Casey Cline was convicted of sexual assault of a child in Sarpy County, Ne. (A third degree Felony)  Even though a great many pages of documents were submitted to Sarpy County Judge Zastera proving that Cline had been physically and emotionally abusive for more than 10 years before he was arrested, the judge allowed Cline to plead guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor sexual assault and only sentenced him to two years probation and register as a sex offender.

Ten days after Cline was released on probation he was arrested again in Plattsmouth, Ne. on charges of child abuse—after throwing his daughter across a room and into a wall. The children were removed from the home and placed in foster care.

At Cline’s hearing on the child abuse charges Judge John Steinheider of Plattsmouth released Cline on a signature bond and also allowed him to have contact with his children! At his sentencing June 11th, Cline’s pre-sentencing report (PSR) stated that Cline was also charged with child abuse in two different states. In spite of the fact that the PSR revealed that Cline has a 15 year history of abuse, his public defender still recommended that Cline be given probation again and have contact with his children claiming that the children were in no danger!

Fortunately, this time the judge did not agree with the public defender and sentenced Cline to 180 days in the Cass County jail.

Cline is still awaiting sentencing on probation violations in Sarpy County—for being in possession of weapons, drug paraphernalia and pornographic material, and use of alcohol and K-2 Synthetic Marijuana while on probation.

Many communities wonder why individuals with such long histories of law breaking have not received longer and stiffer sentences. One of the reasons given is that sentencing offenders to probation or holding them in local jails is less expensive than sending them to the over-crowded state prisons. But this shift called “realignment” isn’t really saving much money—And public safety is put at risk as a result.

Biblical Criminal Justice

Imprisonment is littered throughout Scripture. As a young man, Joseph was thrown into prison in Egypt. (Gen. 39:20) Samson, after having his eyes put out, was made to work in a grinding mill prison house of the Philistines, (Jdg. 16:21) and Jeremiah spent many of his days in the “court of the prison”. (Jer. 32:2)

Also, throughout the New Testament, men such as Paul, James, John the Baptist, and Peter were incarcerated.

Prisons, however, are not God’s way of dealing with crime. The above examples all occurred in nations not governed by God.

When Israel was led out of Egypt, God gave the nation a civil code of laws that would cause the Gentiles to view Israel as a “great nation” that was both “wise and understanding”. (Deut. 4:6)  God included no provision for prisons. Instead, there were swift and sure punishments for each broken law.

In contrast to America’s current prison system, a broken law generally resulted in a predetermined punishment—with no gray areas. Once a man was sentenced, the punishment was quickly and publicly carried out—often with citizens helping to execute sentences.

In the 21st century, however, what and how long a sentence should be are often determined by how good the defendant’s lawyer is. (And the defendant’s ability to pay the higher cost) For the same offense, one man may receive years in prison, while another only a few months—or even none at all!

United States prisons cannot produce real rehabilitation or change in inmates because modern prison systems are not based upon God’s Law, but rather the ideas of man. Because of this, prisons cannot get to the core problem of crime—human nature!

Establishing a New System

The Bible reveals that all of mankind’s systems of government will one day be wiped away. This will happen at the return of Jesus the Messiah, which is detailed throughout God’s Word.  “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Dan. 2:44)

Unlike our current government system, the kingdom of God will not be “left to another people”— it will not be based upon the ideas of man. This government—the kingdom of God—will be built upon God’s Law, which will be administered perfectly. This newly established kingdom will solve mankind’s most persistent problems, which stem from its flawed systems and governments.

That is our great hope—when the Earth will one day be free from man’s broken system of justice and be replaced with a system ruled by God’s Law.

In the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. The younger son tells his father to give him his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance.

Typically, a son would receive his inheritance at the time of his father’s death. The fact that the younger brother demanded his early division of the family estate showed a rebellious and proud disregard for his father’s authority, not to mention a selfish and immature attitude.

Once the son receives his inheritance, he promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his inheritance on wild living. But after the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son suddenly finds himself in dire circumstances. Times get so hard that he even takes a job feeding pigs. He is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs. Pigs are unclean animals; so when this son took a job feeding pigs, (Even wanting to eat the garbage he was feeding them) it reveals that he had fallen as low as he could possibly go.

The young man finally comes to his senses, remembering his father and all that he had there. In humility, he recognizes his foolishness and decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy, hoping to only become his father’s servant.

Unknown to this son, his father had been patiently praying, watching and waiting for his son’s return home. The father is so overjoyed by the return of his lost son that he receives him back with open arms of compassion. Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a grand celebration feast in honor of this son.

Meanwhile, the older son is not one bit happy when he comes in from a hard day of working in the fields to discover a party going on to celebrate his younger brother’s return. The father tries to dissuade the older brother from his jealous anger explaining, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

To most of us, it’s easy to view ourselves as the prodigal son. We all know enough about loss, about decisions made that led to a trail of ruin and heartache. We know what it’s like to wake up one day and realize that we have wandered far from God, how we’ve wasted our lives and what it’s like to feel lost and unable to be found. Yearning for God’s love, we replayed our life over and over in our heads thinking: “Where did I go wrong?” And like the younger son, we hope beyond hope for another chance to get it right—Another chance to start again.

This is one of Jesus’ longest parables. And because Jesus doesn’t explain the parables’ meaning, the parable lends itself to many interpretations. Many sermons have been preached on how the older brother represents legalistic Christians who have lost the love of God and the joy of serving Him.

But I must confess that I sometimes relate more to the older brother in the story. I have watched other Christians squander what God has blessed them with as they flippantly live and speak as if they belong to the world.

Most of my Christian life I have only wanted to use my talents to serve God. Not to gain favor with God or become popular within Christian circles, but because I truly love Him so much that I want to do all I can to serve only Him. But more times than not, I have not been allowed the opportunity to do that. So when I see half-hearted Christians being blessed so much, like the older brother, I sometimes feel cheated too. But I’m still learning and growing, so try not to be too hard on me.

Most Christians would not admit to relating to the older brother. But I think if the truth were told, our churches are full of older brothers. That’s why we need to get to a new level of repentance, a new level of renewal. We need to repent of trying to get control of God. We need to re-examine the reasons for our wanting to do good. Otherwise there will be no renewal.

The older brother reacted the way many of us react when we feel cheated by God. (Myself included) When the reality is that if we have truly repented and been saved by God through Jesus, how can we even think we have been cheated? We have everything we could ever hope for–eternal life with our heavenly Father.

The father in the parable represents our Heavenly Father. God waits patiently, with loving compassion to restore us when we return to him with humble hearts. He offers us everything in his kingdom, restoring a full relationship with joyful celebration. He doesn’t even dwell on our past waywardness.

The older brother in the parable should have welcomed his younger brother back with open arms just like his father did—even though it cost him half of his inheritance. That’s the kind of love God desires us to have for others.

It is not up to us to decide who receives God’s blessings because he blesses those he chooses to. (Romans 9:18) So I will put away my jealousy and take my seat at my father’s table—Next to my younger brother!

At one point or another in our lives we all experience discouragement and doubt. Sometimes it seems that even God has left us to fend for ourselves. This is especially true when tragedy comes into our lives and leaves us broken in despair.

Brokenness is being felt and lived out in people’s lives all over the world—In fact, we are all broken. That’s why God sent his son to live in a frail body like our own and die a cruel death—so that he could relate to our own pain and discouragement. But God went a step further and resurrected his son to show us that this life on earth is not the end!

I recently began working on a devotional for all who are discouraged with this life to give them hope to carry on until the Lord calls us home.

I hope to have the devotional finished by this summer. Below are excerpts from the devotional. I would appreciate your prayers in this work.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

There are very few people who will associate with those who are broken and  despondent, but God chooses to abide with them until he has healed them. He himself lays on the ointment of grace, and wraps us in the soft gauze of love, and thus binds up the bleeding wounds of those convinced that they are broken beyond repair. This is the compassion of God. The Lord is always healing and binding. This is nothing new to him; for he has done it since the ancient times. And it is not a thing of the past of which he grew tired of. Just as he did in the days of Elijah; just as he did for Job; and just as he did through the apostles, he will do for us as well.  So come, you who are broken! Come to the Great Physician who never fails to heal! Open your wounds to him so he can tenderly bind them up!

“The base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen…” (1 Corinthians 1:28)

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Romans 11:15

So many of us feel as if we don’t belong; that we don’t fit in anywhere. If something is broken, we generally discard it. However, God uses broken things to accomplish his purposes. Sometimes the trials and tragedies that we’ve endured have left us feeling discouraged and less than whole. Years ago I worked in the flooring industry. When carpet layers had leftover carpet from a job, they would bring it back to the store and it would be sold as a remnant at a reduced price because it could not be used on the job. A remnant is something that was once part of a whole but was cut off as unusable. But the apostle says that that is exactly who God is looking for! The ones that others view as unusable—the ones who feel that they are too despised; too broken to be used of God. But the truth is, we should rejoice in our brokenness, because that is when God will use us.