Left Behind Movies Should Be Left Behind

There is yet another Left Behind movie coming out soon. Reportedly starring Nicolas Cage, for some reason.

Yes, they did just put out a Left Behind movie not long ago. I thought Kirk Cameron beat this whole thing into the ground already?

No, I will not go to see it.

No, the theology will not be correct.

No, I don’t need to see it to know that its theology is not correct.

No, I don’t think Hollywood making “Christian” movies is a good thing.

Yes, I do believe in a rapture, a Tribulation, a Millennial Kingdom, and then a new heaven and new earth, and I believe it happens in that order, too.

No, I am not interested in hearing your alternative theory.

One of the themes in these movies is that when the rapture happens “millions” of people will disappear. That the rapture will remove so many people, that the world will be in chaos over it.

This is one area where the theology is wrong, I think.

There has always been a remnant (“remnant” means “not many” for those of you who read the NIV). When the Lord returns, will He find faith on the earth?

Noah is the first biblical example of the rapture (apart from Enoch, anyway). Noah and his family got in the ark and rose above God’s outpouring of wrath on the earth. Not many escaped the wrath.

Lot left before his town got blasted with God’s wrath, he couldn’t even get his whole family to leave with him. Not many escaped the wrath.

Trust me when I say, when the rapture happens, hardly anyone will notice. I’m quite sure most churches will still be full, and a few may wonder why the pastor is gone. But then football.

Don’t get your theology from Hollywood. Read the Bible. To understand End Times, know the books of Daniel, the portions of Jesus’ teachings about The End, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation. Having a good grasp of OT prophets is helpful too, especially Isaiah.

If you don’t use all of that, you won’t make much sense out of eschatology. Also grasp that there is a difference between Israel and the Church, which you can get by reading the rest of the Bible.

Get your eschatology from the whole counsel of God. Do not support Hollywood’s sensationalism of theological concepts.

No, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. (And by “it,” I mean the movie, not the theology.)

What is the Best Form of Evangelism?

Here’s a theory rolling around my brain lately.

When it comes to a person’s favorite form of evangelism (the one they are most comfortable doing themselves), I wonder if it is also the one that was instrumental in their salvation.

I know many people who despise street preachers, yet there are some very effective street preachers, many of whom were saved by a street preacher.

Many despise giving out tracts, “at least have the courtesy to go out of your way to talk to me.” Yet many hand out tracts, and many do so because a tract was instrumental in their salvation.

Many despise church camps, but those who tout their benefits were often people saved at a church camp.

Now, in all this, one must make the assumption that you know when  you were saved. For some this is easier than others.

My salvation was gradual, as far as I can tell. There was no crisis moment. I sort of remember asking my dad a question and praying something while laying on the bottom bunk in my bedroom.

But I have no idea what I said, if it is even a real memory (yes, I’m getting old), and I have no idea on the timing.

When it comes to “how I got saved,” I’d have to chalk it up to a constant inundation of talk about faith and the Bible, as well as being surrounded by examples of faith that were both good and bad.

Perhaps that is why my preferred method of evangelism is pastoral work–constantly handing out biblical information and doing my best to live it.

I think the Church needs to be gentle in judging all forms of evangelism. Most people who despise certain methods of evangelism come from people who have no method of evangelism.

Typically, judgmentalism comes out of insecurity and a feeling of inferiority or guilt. The best form of evangelism is the form you do!

Lighten up on others, take care of you.

God Hiring Idle People Standing Around

Matthew 20 tells a parable of a vineyard owner who hires some guys at various points of the day and then at the end of the day gives everyone the same wage.

It’s a parable that is used to show the goofiness of grace and the inevitable response of the older brother who finds fault with grace being given to those “not worth it.”

Grace is not fair, it’s one of the problems people have with it.

It doesn’t seem right that both the guy who spent his whole life following Christ gets the same reward as the one who converts on his deathbed after a lifetime of debauchery.

But salvation is not fair to anyone, quite frankly. No one deserves it. There is a certain amount of injustice to grace–which is why God had to find a just way to justify the unjust, and this way cost nothing more than the death of the Son of God.

Here’s a little something else to think about in relationship to the parable of Matthew 20: observe Proverbs 26:10

Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.”

I suppose a guy could get technical and say the laborers that were hired weren’t “passing by,” they were standing idle in the market place. OK fine, whatever.

The point is that hiring any random stranger hurts everyone! Yet this is the exact metaphor for entering the Kingdom!

Or is it? Does God hire random people passing by, or does God seek people to be saved?

Interesting. Or is it?

Here’s another thing to throw into the mix–getting to go to heaven is equated with receiving a wage for work done. I thought it was by grace through faith, not by works? How can Jesus use such a poor illustration when we so vociferously maintain that we can’t do anything for salvation lest we negate grace?

How should a Christian’s Life Be Different?

Christians, we are told, are supposed to live a new life in Christ.

Most have no idea what that means, which, of course, doesn’t stop them from saying it, but they can’t ever explain it.

In the end, what is the difference between the life of a non-Christian and one who is living the life of Christ in them?

All people, whether Christ is in them or not, will have to do many similar things. Christ-in-you doesn’t mean you don’t have to eat, sleep, work, get sick, etc. But there should be a difference. Here’s my attempt at succinctly summing up how living the new life in Christ looks different from those still living the Old Life.

1. Love.
We have to start here. Without love, doing good profits you nothing. Again, this is a swell thing to say, but what does it mean? I will define what it means by showing what it doesn’t mean:

a. Self-promotion–everyone is vying for your attention wanting to sell you something or get you to join their cause. Many of these sales and causes are fine, but their primary motive is self. Much of their outreach is nothing more than networking. Love seeks not its own

b. Money–many do good deeds, but many do it to make money. “Charitable” organizations are becoming well-known for using most of their funds to pay staff and doing very little good otherwise.

c. Guilt. There are many people who will volunteer and donate to stuff, but guilt seems to be why. They are working off sin, or trying to be impressive, or to feel better about themselves. “I just feel so good after volunteering.” Fine, but are you loving others, or just going for the moral high?

Doing things out of love means you are not interested primarily in what you will gain from it. When love is done right, I believe you will gain from it, but gain is not your primary driving force.

2. Holiness
Holiness doesn’t mean living in a cloistered environment staying unspotted from “the world.” Holiness does mean “separation,” but we must understand the separation rightly. Paul says we were not called to avoid sinners, if we were we’d have to leave the world. There is much of the world’s stuff we need to get rid of. Entertainment, I am coming to see, is one of the major areas we need to show holiness. Be not unequally yoked in any relationship. Put off sin. This is not done by living in a hole, but by living in the world, and yet being sanctified to God, set apart, a vessel used for honor. It’s a big issue!

3. Self-control
Self-denial is one of the main attributes of one who is no longer living his life but the life of Christ. It’s not about you. That being the case, your fleshly appetites don’t run the show. You can resist temptation. You can demonstrate bodily subjection. Your life is not up and down, but relatively constant emotionally. You aren’t constantly digging holes for yourself to fall into. Your money is handled well. Your burdens are being well carried by yourself, but you are also not afraid to ask for help when you realize life is too big.

4. Edifying Words
A man who can control his tongue has a perfect religion, says James. Amen to that! The Bible is filled with verses about the words coming out of your mouth. Your words are grace, they are a gift, they edify, and help. Filthy communication is gone. Coarse jesting is out. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If Christ is in your heart, Christlike words will come out of your mouth, speaking the truth in love.

5. Money
No man can serve God and mammon. If your priorities in life clearly show your main concern is making money, the life of Christ is not in you. Christ was not one wit concerned about money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Money is a thing; loving money (also known as covetousness, which is idolatry) makes the thing into a sin. Don’t fool yourself on this one. It is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. Don’t play games here. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

6. Suffering
Christ was a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. Anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We lay down our bodies as living sacrifices. We rejoice in tribulation and in suffering, knowing it is trying our faith and developing Christlike character. We, by the Spirit, become “long-suffering!” The world lives to avoid suffering; the one with Christ life seeks suffering, rejoices in suffering, and isn’t really all that troubled by it personally.

I’ll stop there for brevity’s sake. Most of “life in Christ” is summed up by the fruit of the Spirit. By the Beatitudes.

Note that the list above said nothing about homosexuals, abortionists, murderers, pot smokers, and other pet sins Christians like to hammer. Stopping sin is part of all this, but honestly, there are people not doing “huge” sins who still aren’t living the life of Christ.

Living the life of Christ isn’t so much about what you’re not doing (although that certainly is part of it), but it’s mostly seen by what you are doing.

This is a huge subject. This is only a beginning point of an explanation. Yes, I left out plenty, but I do think these are central issues to living as a new creation in Christ Jesus.

The point is not to make this into a checklist and go do this. The point is to know Christ. Ask for the Spirit’s help. Don’t rely on your abilities to pull this off. Look to Christ, don’t fixate on you. If you don’t have the Spirit, none of this is possible.

You must be born again. The list above is what it looks like to be born again, to have new life in Christ Jesus. Get it and live it.

How to Have Confidence in the Day of Judgment

Eternal Security is one of those issues where people would rather believe happy thoughts than what the Bible says.

The Bible has many warning passages (even by Paul) about “if you continue” or “if you hold fast.”

Without getting into the issue itself, I think there is a HUGE problem the church has with eternal security and assurance.

The problem lies in this: Because a person feels secure they are going to heaven, does not mean they have eternal security!

In other words, just because you really, really think you are going to heaven, means absolutely nothing on Judgment Day.

This is example four based on the three examples of yesterday about people who have a problem and yet specifically deny the biblical solution.

A person came to me in the process of dying, very worried about eternal security. They thought they were going to heaven, but they weren’t sure.

This was also a person who was not, shall we say, the best example of Christ-likeness I’ve ever run across.

The Bible tells us quite clearly how we can have confidence on the day of judgment.

Having confidence today that you will have confidence in the day of judgment is not the issue.

Whether you feel secure is a rather minor point in the whole issue.

If you want confidence in the day of judgment, we are told this:

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

Confidence in the day of judgment comes from living like Christ now in this world. Grace is what teaches us to live this way in this present world.

The Bible’s test as to whether you are saved is not because you feel you are, not because you think you are, not even because you say you are.

The test the Bible gives to let us know we are saved, that we can have confidence in the day of judgment, is if we increasingly are becoming like Christ.

Are you increasingly living the new life Christ has put in you? Then you can have confidence.

“What? I don’t have to look like Christ! I’m saved by grace, I don’t have to do anything.” Say the same folks who seem so cocksure of their eternal security. Not because they actually are, deathbeds are revealing, but because they are trying to convince themselves it is so.

Obedience to Christ, living the life of Christ in you by the Spirit, is the only way to have confidence in the day of judgment.

The only way.

You may have a false confidence today, but today doesn’t count like That Day. Have confidence then by living like Christ now.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit: 3 Examples

I said this brilliant statement the other day here:

“The more miserable people get, the more they deny the very teaching that can answer their problems.”

This is a thought that has run through my mind for several years. I can give you a couple examples of people who make me think about this:

1) A person came to me wondering why they had no fruit in their life. They were sincerely bummed by this, and they were also sincerely bummed by the amount of sin raging in their life. This was also a person who didn’t think they had to do good works, they were saved by grace, “I don’t have to do anything.” I pointed them to Titus 3:14, “let our’s also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” You have to do good works if you want fruit. “I don’t have to do good works!” they insisted. OK, but you won’t have any fruit. “I don’t think so. I don’t have to do good works.” OK! But see, you’re the one coming to me because you have no fruit and I just showed you a Bible verse saying how you can get fruit, but you refuse to do it. If you don’t have to do good works, then don’t expect any fruit! “Well, I don’t think so, but I do wish I had fruit.”

2) A person came to me completely worried about everything, to the point of stress and anxiety leading to health problems, over-eating and all sorts of stuff. This was a person wrapped up in houses, jobs, money, possessions, expensive eating habits, and all manner of materialism. I showed them many verses in the Bible about material things, and how worry is eliminated once we put physical things in their right place. “Whatever, that’s not reasonable. I can’t just turn on all those things, I need that to live!” OK, but don’t expect your worry to go away. “I’m not giving up my stuff, and what about my kids?” The Bible says our relationship with Christ is most important, until that’s the case you will have worry. “I can’t do that. I do wish I could overcome my worry though.”

3) A person came to me with verses about rejoicing. “I need to have more rejoicing, Paul is always telling us to rejoice, yet I don’t feel joy ever.” I used the same context of the passage they brought up to show them that rejoicing doesn’t come from a determination to be happy, but comes from a humble, servant mindset like Christ had. “What? I live for other people and that makes me rejoice?” That’s what Christ did, and even though He suffered on the cross for others, He did it for the joy set before Him. “I don’t have to suffer for other people. I don’t have to sacrifice to show love to others.” OK, but don’t expect any rejoicing then. “That’s nuts. I’d be a mess if I had to worry about doing things for others all the time. I sure wish I had more rejoicing in my life, though.”

One thing I’ve noticed about each of these people is that, without going into detail about them, they each theologically work themselves out of any verse that tells them to do stuff. None of them thinks the Sermon on the Mount is for them. None of them thinks good works is part of who they need to be as believers. They all have the notion that since they are saved by grace they can do whatever they want. “The Bible suggests things, but I don’t have to obey, they aren’t commandments.”

This is so asinine to me from a theological standpoint, and the results of that view of Scripture wreak havoc practically. These are not happy people. These are not people I would ever model my faith after. These are people who are guilt-ridden, unhappy, worriers and yet all try to buck themselves up with false platitudes about grace and love.

Rather than listen to Scripture, they prefer to use human platitudes. If they won’t let me use Scripture, I have nothing else.

It’s amazing how simple-obedience to Jesus Christ leads to so much of what we truly desire. It is just as amazing that those who deny their obligation to be obedient have such horrible lives, sometimes even admitted to by they themselves.

Oh people, learn humility, obedience, service, love, and grace. Live that and so much of life will make more sense and what you desire will truly be fulfilled.

Who Has the Power to Destroy Soul and Body in Hell?

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

I have always understood this verse to be talking about fear of God. Now I am wondering if that is true?

Was reading something online recently about this verse and they suggested the one to fear was Satan, not God in this passage.

“Fear” shows up other times in the same context.

Matthew 10:25-26–do not fear those who chalk up the works of the Master to Beelzebub. A word to encourage disciples of Christ when they fall into persecution and accusation. Don’t fear.

Matthew 10:28–is the verse above about not fearing those who can kill your body, but do fear the one who can destroy body and soul in hell.

Matthew 10:29-31–Your Father will take care of you, so fear not, you are more valuable than sparrows and God cares for them.

Starts with not fearing persecutors.
Follows to do fear one who can destroy body and soul in hell.
Ends with not fearing because your Father will take care of you.

Most translation leave the “him” of “Fear him” in verse 28 uncapitalized, thus playing into the idea that we’re not talking about God, since “Him” for “God” is always capitalized.

Some have suggested that it is weird to tell us to fear and then right after tell us not to. In verse 28 we’re not fearing the one who has power to destroy in hell, whereas verse 31 is not fearing anything because of the Father’s care. Seems weird to be told not to fear because of God so fear Him. Although, don’t know that that’s that weird really!

The parallel passage in Luke 5 says:

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Who has power to kill? There has been some debate on this point. Satan is a murderer from the beginning. God did not create with death as part of His system.

This is, in fact, where the debate lies. If you are a Calvinist you have no problem with saying God kills people. If you are not a Calvinist, you may wonder how if God kills people, why do we need Satan?

Hebrews 2:14 says that Jesus “through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The one with the power of death is the Devil, which is why many think Jesus is talking about fearing the Devil, not fearing God, and why most translation do not capitalize “him” in Matthew 10:28.

Therefore the flow of Matthew 10 would be this:

Don’t fear the followers of the Devil.
It is logical to fear the Devil himself.
But in the end, don’t fear, because God is bigger still.

I’ll probably have to think about this one a bit more, but perhaps this is yet another instance of where our underlying theological assumptions color our understanding of the Scripture and of God.

Be careful out there.