Will Jesus Say “I Don’t Know You”?

Once as Jesus traveled towards Jerusalem, someone asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” He answered:

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'” (Luke 13.23-27)

Customarily, Jesus did not answer the question as it was asked. He didn’t give a number or estimated percentage of the population that would be saved. Instead, He focused in on the questioner and got real personal, as if to say, “Don’t worry about everyone else; YOU strive to enter the narrow door.”

He also said MANY would seek to enter and would not be able. It’s not that God actively keeps people out of the kingdom of Christ, but people want to enter the kingdom on their own terms, and it’s impossible to enter except by the terms God lays down for us. We must give up self in order to enter, and most don’t want to give themselves up.

But one day the door will be shut and there will be no more access to the kingdom, to salvation, to God. Those on the outside will be like the five foolish virgins who were late in arriving to the wedding. Although they planned to be there, they didn’t make the necessary preparations, and it cost them entrance to the feast.

But the saddest picture is of these OUTSIDE folks knocking, pleading, “Let us in! Please open up!” But Jesus will say (for He is Lord) “I do not know where you come from.” In Matthew 7.23, He says, “I never knew you”! Can you imagine hearing Jesus say that to you? You might be like those in this text who argue with Him: “We ate with You! We drank with You! We were right here when you taught us. We sat at Your feet! What do You mean You don’t know us or where we come from?!” Many from my own generation will yell at the closed gates, “I went to church! I was baptized! I prayed! I told other people about You! What do you mean You don’t know me?”

You do not want to be outside, friend. You don’t want Jesus to say, “I do not know where you are from.” How will you avoid this? He’s looking for those who STRIVE to enter the narrow door. The Greek word is agonizomai, by which we get our word “agonize.” Struggle with passion to enter the narrow door. It’s narrow because it’s very specific–you can only enter through Christ, and you must love Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. He accepts no half-hearted commitments, no empty confessions, no relaxed religion. He accepts only full submission.

When you stand before the Father on Judgment Day, you will want Jesus at your side, and you’ll want Him to confess your name before the Judgment Throne–“This is one of Mine, Father.”

The Fatal Flaw in Many Talk Show Hosts’ Reasoning

Over the years I have listened to talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levine. Lately, however, I’m increasingly less interested in their perspectives on the world. I have noticed a fatal flaw in their reasoning about human beings, which under-girds their thinking on a host of political and moral issues.

While they all speak of it, Glenn Beck is perhaps the most outspoken about the reality of evil in our world. The question is, HOW do they speak of it? How do they view evil, and how does it affect the rest of their worldview?

Speaking of the Western world’s conflict with ISIS, Glenn Beck states, “This is a war against evil.” No doubt.

In his book Deliver Us from Evil, Sean Hannity reacted against the 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center: “Evil exists. It is real, and it means to harm us.” No question.

But how do they understand evil? If people are out to kill us, they are evil. So what should we do about it? Usually, the remedy is to kill the offenders first. But when we kill them we are not evil because we are defending ourselves against evil. In other words, we are the good guys and they are the bad guys.

I also hear these same men claim (fairly often) that they believe “we” are basically good. Really?

There’s a glaring problem in their reasoning, but it’s not easy for us to see. In fact, I’ve heard many church-going folk follow similar lines of logic. How can we be basically good while they are basically evil? How did Western civilization become basically good? How did Islamic nations end up basically evil?

Those who believe they are basically good find it easy to choose a side and then paint all in opposition as the bad guys. The United States has polarized itself using this way of thinking. Democrats think Republicans are basically evil. Republicans think Democrats are basically evil. Libertarians think Dems and Reps are Satan’s spawn. Everyone has decided that his way of thinking is correct and that his heart is good. Those who think differently must be fighting for the other side.

As Christians, we should accept what God tells us about ourselves:

“…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8.21)

 

“God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7.29)

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13.23)

“…there is no one who does not sin…” (1 Kings 8.46)

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3.23)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2.1-3)

Let us not draw lines where God hasn’t, and He draws those lines between the saved and unsaved, between believers and unbelievers. Those who commit acts of evil act according to their flesh–and ALL men walk in their flesh unless and until God saves them!

We should not be surprised at the levels of violence, sexual perversion, hate, contempt, in-fighting, power-grabbing, back-stabbing, and abuse in the world. We should be surprised when light shines brightly, when hope is born, when grace is offered–for that is the rarity.

Thank God for His mercy and His Spirit, who enables us to actually commit goodness and kindness. Without God’s grace this world would devolve into cataclysmic chaos, a deluge of darkness.

But with His grace there is hope, not for all men, but for those who submit to His Son and for those whom He changes from the inside out.

As long as we buy the lie that we are basically good they are basically evil, we will continue to walk in our own evil and call it good. We should own our own evil, taking it before God in confession and repentance, and perhaps then we can look at them with more grace and understanding. God’s grace tears down walls because it forces us to identify with other sinners.

So listen closely to your talk show hosts of choice. Listen to your congressmen and women. Listen to your President and Governor. See if they have this fatal misunderstanding of human nature. I hope it provokes you to become more critical in your weighing of their arguments.

Are You Jesus’ Disciple?

Many label themselves “Christians” who are not true disciples.

Let’s listen to the Master Himself as He defines what it means to follow Him.

In Matthew 4.18-22, Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Just a little while farther Jesus likewise called James and John, who “immediately…left the boat and their father and followed Him.”

In Luke 9.57-62, Jesus encountered three men who said they would follow Him, but in each case Jesus explained why their idea of following Him was not consistent with His. Notice the three cases:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Jesus actually discouraged this guy, challenging his idea of discipleship. He expressed a desire to follow, but Jesus basically said, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” Perhaps the man thought he’d follow Jesus to a rabbinical school for spiritual learning. But to follow Jesus means not having an earthly home, financial and physical security, or a guarantee of the next meal.

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Whether this man’s father was already dead or not may alter our perception of Jesus’s answer, but we can understand this in either case: following Jesus is more important than physical familial attachments. The work in Christ’s Kingdom takes priority over everything else. Jesus challenged this man’s procrastination.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Again, we see Jesus’ challenging this man’s allegiance. He was divided in his mind, in part wanting to follow Jesus and in part wanting to hang on to earthly ties. If you commit to Christ, don’t look back! Our focus is ever and always forward. Keep plowing straight ahead, forgetting the past and keeping your eyes on the goal. Jesus had His face set towards Jerusalem where He would die for His Kingdom. He also expects His followers to leave everything behind for the sake of the Kingdom.

Am I misinterpreting these verses? They seem fairly plain. Jesus challenged each of these men, and He demanded full participation, full allegiance, full dedication. Have His demands changed? Do you think He’s satisfied with lukewarm Christians today who live half in the world and half in the kingdom? Or, in many cases, almost entirely in the world with only a foot in the door of the kingdom?

Are you Jesus’ disciple?

Thank God for Suffering

We speak of the “comforts” of life, but what is comfortable? Perhaps we can know joy only after misery. Perhaps we can know peace only after the storm. Perhaps we can know comfort only on the other side of suffering.

Walking into a delicious fall breeze tingles your senses and fills you with a sense of energy and calmness. It’s fresh and invigorating precisely because it’s new and different. You have known sweltering hot summer days and chilly winter days, so the perfect autumn morning strikes you as just right.

Spiritually mature Christians know the comforts of the Lord because they have joined Him in His sufferings. They know what is pleasant because they know what is uncomfortable. They know what is peaceful because they know what is terrifying. Paul began his second letter to Corinth in this way:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. (2 Cor. 1.3-7)

He is the “God of all comfort”! Is that not wonderful? And His comforts work in us to such extent that we can now aid the afflicted around us. As the Lord has granted us mercies, so we extend mercy to the fallen and the outcast, the orphan and the widow.

But what shall we do with our own heavy burdens? From time to time the weight of this life can feel almost unbearable. Will it crush us? Will it destroy us? Will our faith be broken? Paul continues:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. (2 Cor. 1.8-11)

Paul–the great apostle, no less–had felt burdened so excessively that it was beyond his strength to bear! Yet he glimpsed God’s purpose underlying the burden: SO THAT he would not trust in himself but in God who raises the dead!

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13.15)

So, dear Christian, where is your hope today? Where is your peace? You will surely not find it on Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. Talk radio does not deliver joy. Facebook comments usually do not leave peaceful feelings. Our hope is found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Therefore we must join in giving thanks to Him in all things.

Enjoy the comforts God affords, but also give thanks for the sufferings He grants (Phil. 1.29), because through afflictions we find His rest sweeter and through sufferings we find our hope brighter (Rom. 5.1-5).

Dear Atheist

Dear Atheist,

What are your thoughts are concerning the recent shooting in Texas? I would be grossly unfair to associate you, personally, with the thoughts and actions of that shooter–just as it would be unfair of you to associate the foolish and hateful actions of a self-proclaimed “Christian” with me. But I would love to know if you think the actions of the shooter were wrong. Or right.

And if you believe his actions were wrong, I’d love to know why.

Atheism leaves out any notion of a divine being who created mankind. Most atheists I know believe we exist as a result of billions of years of natural selection. In essence, we came from nothing…and to nothing we will return.

So why exactly would you decry the actions of the atheist shooter? It seems to me he acted consistently with his belief that there is no God. If there is no God, there is no judgment, no moral consequence to his actions. If there is no God, there is no objective standard of right and wrong. Who is to say what he should and shouldn’t do? If he had gotten away with it, would it not be a case of the strong surviving?

In an article on atheism and ethics, a champion of atheism writes,

“The behavior of Atheists is subject to the same rules of sociology, psychology, and neurophysiology that govern the behavior of all members of our species, religionists included.”

No doubt that is true. I’m not arguing that Atheists have no moral code. I’m asking where does your moral code come from? I agree with the writer above that all men possess some moral ethic, some rule inside us which tells us one thing is right while another is wrong. Why is that? Sometimes our internal moral code flies in the face of strict rationality. We see a mother give herself to save her infant child, and we feel deeply the great rightness of that action. On the other hand, we see pictures of partial-birth abortions and strongly react against the wrongness of it.

However, if we were purely rational about these situations (taking the view that there is no God), the woman would have been just as right to have traded her infant’s life for her own. We could shrug our shoulders at the momentary pain and death of the aborted child because the mother was avoiding long-term stress and worry.

A little later in the article, the author writes, “Nature also has provided us with nervous systems which are, to a considerable degree, imprintable.” Nature did that? Apparently nature has missed quite a few individuals.

The writer labels his moral code “enlightened self-interest.” What he means is that nature imprints upon our species the collective wisdom of millions of years of trial and error, and we are able to make choices based upon what will give us the greatest short- and long-term happiness. It’s a purely selfish model. We love others because that love will reflect back to us, making us feel good. We don’t harm others, only because it might come back on us and make us unhappy. We live by a series of consequences and rewards.

Atheists generally insist that the problem of pain and suffering is a huge problem for the Christian. “How can you believe in a God when there is so much evil in the world?” But the Christian understands there is EVIL in the world! It’s not just people choosing poorly and experiencing undesirable consequences; it’s people actively hating one another and exacting vengeance upon each other. The atheist has no argument against the existence of actual evil and good. In his mind, we only label things “good” which we have decided bring us the most happiness in this world. There is no external, objective “good” in this world, so why should we subject anyone to punishments for their actions? After all, are they not just doing what they think is “good” for them?

The atheist believes the real problem in this world is religion. We perpetuate the violence and evil. But what if we claim that Nature has given us this understanding? What if nature itself has taught us, imprinted upon us, a knowledge of a supernatural being? Every man and woman, contemplating the awesome world, feels deep in his or her DNA the rightness of a Master Designer.

Dear Atheist, it seems you can’t really decide what is evil and what is good, because you have no objective standard. You cannot say that religion is wrong, nor can you say it is right. If it gives me the most happiness in this life to believe in a future with a compassionate a loving God, that this life is not the extent of my existence, why would you take that belief from me? You will take my happiness along with it.

Dan Barker, author of Godless who preached for a time in charismatic Christian churches before transitioning to atheism, wrote the following in an article called “Dear Believer“:

If Christianity were simply untrue I would not be too concerned. Santa is untrue, but it is a harmless myth which people outgrow. But Christianity, besides being false, is also abhorrent. It amazes me that you claim to love the god of the bible, a hateful, arrogant, sexist, cruel being who can’t tolerate criticism. I would not want to live in the same neighborhood with such a creature!

I also find Christianity to be morally repugnant. The concepts of original sin, depravity, substitutionary forgiveness, intolerance, eternal punishment, and humble worship are all beneath the dignity of intelligent human beings and conflict with the values of kindness and reason. They are barbaric ideas for primative cultures cowering in fear and ignorance.

Finally, Christianity is harmful. More people have been killed in the name of a god than for any other reason. The Church has a shameful, bloody history of Crusades, Inquisitions, witch-burnings, heresy trials, American colonial intolerance, disrespect of indigenous traditions (such as American Indians), support of slavery, and oppression of women. Modern “fruits” of religion include the Jonestown massacre, the callous fraud of “faith healers,” the sex scandals of televangelists, and fighting in Northern Ireland. Religion also poses a danger to mental health, damaging self-respect, personal responsibility, and clarity of thought.

If Christianity is truly harmful to society, then shouldn’t freethinkers praise what the shooter did last Sunday? Are not his actions justified? After all, he wiped out 26 believers of nonsense who won’t be able to pass that worldview down to the next generation.

So, dear Atheist, where do you stand?

Does the Bible Really Say That?

Does the Bible REALLY…

  1. outlaw the eating of blood? (Leviticus 17.10-12)
  2. condemn homosexuality? (Leviticus 18.22)
  3. teach that it’s a sin to have a shirt with two different kinds of thread in it? (Leviticus 19.19)
  4. condemn the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk? (Exodus 23.19)
  5. give the death penalty to people who work on Saturdays? (Exodus 31.14)
  6. give the death penalty to one who blasphemes the name of the Lord? (Numbers 24.16)
  7. condemn tattoos? (Leviticus 19.28)

If you look up those verses, you will find they do, indeed, teach all those things listed above. Many folks like to find these laws which seem weird, alien, and random to basically sweep away all the Bible teaches. “See?” they say, “the Bible is backwards and outdated. Why would we listen to that book any more?”

A base principle of Bible study is this: If God the Creator has spoken, then what He has to say trumps any feeling or thinking that I may have. In other words, it’s pretty silly of me to claim that a law is outdated just because I don’t agree with it or it doesn’t fit with my understanding of morality. Much of Bible study challenges my sense of right and wrong.

But another principle when studying any book is this: understand the context. Did God actually say those things? Yes. But to whom did He say them and when? Did God intend those laws for all mankind and for all time?

You will notice all the laws mentioned above are embedded in what is called the Law of Moses, the laws which Moses delivered to Israel at Mount Sinai. God covenanted with the Israelites, and the covenant comprised these laws plus hundreds of others. So the law given to Israel was for Israel and not for any other nation. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ fulfilled that law and abolished it, so God’s people today need no longer submit to all of those rules and regulations (Galatians 3.19-26; Hebrews 10.1-18).

However, some of God’s rules and regulations under the old covenant may actually apply to all mankind for all time. Here is where a full context of the Bible comes in handy. Especially in the context of moral law, we should pay close attention.

For instance, take list item number one (above): The Bible outlaws the eating of blood. We find this them running throughout Scripture:

  • God outlawed the eating of blood before the Law of Moses (Genesis 9.4)
  • God outlawed the eating of blood during the Law of Moses (Leviticus 17.10)
  • God outlawed the eating of blood after the Law of Moses (Acts 15.28-29)

So we find a consistent theme throughout the Bible on this moral principle: do not eat an animal with its blood. This moral principle transcends any specific law code, nation, or time period.

Likewise, take list item number two (above): The Bible condemns homosexuality. Notice how this theme runs through Scripture:

  • God judged Sodom in part for their homosexuality before the Law of Moses (Genesis 19.4-8)
  • God outlawed homosexuality as an abomination during the Law of Moses (Leviticus 20.13)
  • God condemned homosexuality as unnatural and indecent after the Law of Moses (Romans 1.26-27)

This consistent theme remains for homosexuality: it’s wickedness and sin before the Lord–always has been and always will be.

God set some laws in place for a specific period of time, intended them for a specific nation, and did not mean to apply them to everyone or for all time. But other laws, in the moral sphere, apply to all men no matter when or where they happen to live.

The bottom line is that God has all authority to tell His creation what is right and wrong. We often don’t like certain things God says…but obedience is not simply submitting to things we like! God’s character–who He is–determines morality. Those who reject what God says on the matter reject God Himself and show they do not know Him.