Division Has Its Place

John 9:16 and John 10:19 were brought up by Davy the other day in the comments about Jesus being an agitator. Jesus Christ came to bring division and He succeeded tremendously!

When Christ gave up the ghost on the cross, the veil in the temple was “rent” from top to bottom. The word “rent” means the act of cutting or dividing. It is the verb form of the noun “division” in these John passages.

In John the word can also be translated “rent” as in referring to the actual cut, the division, a noun, rather than the act of dividing. I doubt my explanation has cleared up my point.

God’s first several acts in creation were to divide. The Word of God is quick and powerful and divides asunder soul and spirit. Division is often seen as a horrible thing, “Can’t we all get along?”

Languages had their origin because men had united and come together to accomplish great and wonderful humanistic dreams. God’s answer? Separate ’em!

Division is one of God’s most important acts. There are divisions because there is Truth and there is Deceit. Order implies division. God is a God of order, therefore, God is a God of division, He wants to show who is approved.

You’re right Davy, there is a sermon in here!

The House of Mourning

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

I am doing a funeral today for a great man who has a great wife with grown kids who like each other. It is a pleasure to do funerals for people you can say plenty of good things about.

Funerals are rarely seen as regular activities to attend, especially the younger you are. But I believe they should be attended more often than you go to theaters, ballgames, bars or concerts.

Generally, we are all dumber for having attended those events, whereas funerals make you wise. The next time you have opportunity to attend a funeral, please make time to do so and lay it to your heart that this is your end too.

Then live a life that makes it easy for a pastor to compare to the Gospel.

Thanks Herbie.

Jesus the Agitator

Jesus Christ is often seen as a teacher, a religious guru and sometimes as just a really nice guy. He certainly was these things, but He was probably most well-known for being an agitator.

Jesus was a prophet and prophets tend to agitate as a main function. Jesus did quite well at it, even to the point of being killed by those He agitated.

Ultimately, Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword, to cause division even among family. This is agitation.

Agitators seek to stir up the people against the status quo. It seems fun, until you realize how lonely it is. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Most agitators are doing it for themselves, for the glory that comes from leading a revolution. Jesus did it as a representative of truth in a world of lies and deceit. Jesus did not go out of His way to agitate; it was a natural result of being The Truth.

Truth agitates. The more deception has taken over, the more agitating truth becomes. Most people avoid God’s Word because they want to avoid being agitated so they can continue to slumber through life.

Jesus Christ is an agitator; as the believer becomes like Him, that believer becomes an agitator. We don’t agitate for the sake of agitating nor for our own glory and attention-grabbing. We shine the Light of Truth and agitation happens.

6 Ways Marriage Teaches Gospel Truths

Ephesians 5 says that marriage is a picture of the Gospel.

Husband loves his wife as Christ loves the Church, He gave Himself for it
Wife is to reverence her husband as the Church reverences Christ.

Marriage can teach us about some argued over points of the Gospel.

1) Getting saved is not based on words you said. Taking vows during a wedding means nothing. If a couple is fighting and the hubby says, “Hey, woman! Get off my back, I told you I loved you at the wedding.” I doubt this will cut it. Saying vows does not mean a couple will love each other–loving each other means you will love each other.

2) Salvation begins at a point, but is only truly seen and known in its continuation. Anyone can get married and claim to love each other. Where true love is marriage lasts and flourishes. Weddings are a beginning; marriage is an ongoing, living reality.

3) Trials test the legitimacy of our faith. Marriage will throw all sorts of stuff at you to test your vow of love. Easy to say vows; trials test whether that love is real. If a couple quits and divorces, they show they did not have love.

4) Faith means obedience. The reverence a wife has for her husband is demonstrated by how well she listens to him and respects what he says. A wife who never listens to her husband shows she has no love for him.

5) Salvation experiences should not be emphasized over daily faithfulness. Relying on a one-time experience of a wedding to substitute for true marital love is a disaster. In the scheme of things, how nice your wedding was means nothing.

6) Salvation results in a new life. Marriage crosses two single people over to a new life–the two become one. They leave father and mother and cleave to each other. If single life prevails, you aint married!

Disney movies are about a man getting his woman and they end at the wedding. Most people’s conception of the Gospel ends at salvation. The wedding is just the beginning and so to is salvation!

These are a few thoughts about marriage and the Gospel. Any you’d like to add?

Cute Jonah Video and Correct Jonah Message

Not long ago there was a video going around the internet showing cute little girl with a bow in her hair retelling the story of Jonah. I watched it and became annoyed.

First, because there is a very fine line between cute and annoying and I think she crossed it.

Second, she completely botches the story of Jonah and has a cute little, humanistic spin on it that completely undermines and misses the point of the book.

This past Sunday I arrived at the Book of Jonah, working my way through the Old Testament. I am not as cute, but I am more correct.

Unfortunately, cute sells, so many folks will be led astray by cute kid and my biblically correct and yet odd-looking and sounding message will, no doubt, flounder in the backwaters of internet oblivion. Such is life.

Fear of Man and Faith

Basing the actions of your life on how it plays before others will not allow you to exercise faith in God.

–If you can’t speak because you’re scared of what the response will be
–If you can’t help someone unless there’s an audience
–If you can’t help someone because there is an audience
–If you can’t rejoice with those who rejoice or weep with those who weep because it might ruin your credibility
–If you can’t open your mouth against sin to sinners
–If you can’t give to the poor because you can’t go without the new gadget that “everyone else has”

Then you’ve experienced the triumph of fearing man over fearing God. Fearing man keeps you from faith, this is not a theory, this is the point of Jesus Christ in John 5 where He said:

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”

It is impossible to believe if your motivator in life is what others think of you. It may reveal itself in what appear to be inconsequential ways, yet its results are eternally devastating.

Rise above the need to receive honor from men and rest in Christ.

The Fear of Man and Sin

It is my contention that most “good” people have not sinned because they were too chicken. Sin takes a certain amount of aloofness to really thrive.

Unfortunately, the church has jumped on our inate fear of man. The Church tries to convince people not to sin because “people are watching. You represent the Gospel, imagine how much damage your sin can do to Christ.”

Now, this is certainly true! Even Paul tells guys not to give offense in anything so the ministry is not blamed. But the Bible clearly teaches that victory over sin does not come through guilt-ridden peer pressure!

Victory over sin comes through faith, by being crucified and resurrected with Christ and made a new creation, yielding ourselves to the mortifying work of the Spirit and being led by His Spirit.

Pride is nothing more than living for applause. Christianity can dump tremendous amounts of peer pressure on folks, which again is not all bad, but can be if we convince men that salvation happens by “being like us.”

The fear of man is not to be our main motivator for refraining from sin. I think it can healthily fit in, but if maintaining a reputation is our sole motivation for refraining from sin, we are missing a remarkable amount of joy and freedom.

We are also missing true victory over sin, because instead of following the Author and Finisher of our faith in His perfection, we begin to follow other sinners and will merely strive to be a sinner on par with them. This is the root of Pharisaic hypocrisy and is to be avoided like rotten cole slaw.

The Fear of Man

Noticed some stuff from Matthew, see if you can link the following passages into a theological teaching!

Matthew 14:1-5–Herod wants to kill John but can’t cuz he fears the multitude
Matthew 14:9–Herod has to kill John because people heard him say he would
Matthew 16:23–Jesus rebukes Peter because he savours the things of man not the things of God.
Matthew 21:46–chief priests and Pharisees won’t arrest Jesus because they feared the crowd
Matthew 27:24–Pilate gives in to the multitudes demands

Then wrap it up with Matthew 22:16, where even the enemies of Jesus admit that Jesus “neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.”

Seems to me there’s a point here!

Much Required

“For unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required

These should be haunting words for American Christians. We have been given much more than much.

*Approximately 87 English translations of the Bible
*Innumerable commentaries and literature
*Access to the internet with unlimited access to Bible study tools within a few clicks.
*Freedom to congregate with other believers
*Ease of transportation and communication unlike any other time
*Readily available food, clothing, shelter, and comforts

Persecuted countries around the world have maybe one Bible per church, no Christian literature of any sort, few fellow believers of a common mind with little ability to communicate with new ones, and little freedom to gather..

Much is required of us. “Much required” could also be translated “greatly demanded,” according to easily accessible Bible resources. Not “politely asked for,” but demanded, and not just demanded, but beyond capacity to count how greatly demanded.

We sleep with what we’ve been given. If only we knew what we had and if only the Judgment seat of Christ and the length and scope of eternity meant something to us. If only Christ were truly precious to us.

Is God’s Love Conditional?

Frequently I am told that God’s love is unconditional. I’m not entirely sure what is meant by this, but I’m quite sure it can’t mean what it says.

I think people are saying that once you are in God’s love there is no condition upon staying in it. I think that is what is meant, and I might agree, as long as you’re absolutely sure you are in it before you rely on the statement.

God’s love sure seems conditional to me, but then again, I read the Bible. If you just want to feel pleased with yourself apart from God’s Word, then go right on thinking God’s love is unconditional, as long as you’re OK finding out the conditions when it’s too late.

God’s love is conditional, we must explain this truth clearly, otherwise many think they are on their way to heaven who should have no expectation of that outcome. Observe the following:

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14:23

“every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” 1 John 4:20,21

“Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 21

Why Will Israel do Sacrifices During the Kingdom?

Many dispensationalists wonder why Israel is asked to do sacrifices, have priests and all that during the Kingdom period (as described in Ezekiel 40-48). Why do sacrifices after Christ died?

Here’s my theory: even after salvation God desires people to do His Will!

Israel did not keep the Law as they were supposed to. They kept a few elements, mostly elements you only had to do once–circumcision–but they never got close to keeping the Law as God desired.

When the Kingdom is brought in, the Spirit will indwell them, allowing them not only to know God’s will but carry it out as never before. Imagine the joy Israel will receive from finally being able to keep the Covenant they had stumbled over so often.

We have an odd notion that salvation is just about salvation. That heaven is just the absence of hell plus ice cream. But one of the wonders and beauties of heaven is that we will do God’s will perfectly.

Israel, as part of their specific covenant with God, was told to do sacrifices, thus they will. The Church is asked to remember the Lord’s death. For both companies of believers, doing God’s will is the greatest deliverance, the greatest aspect of true salvation.

Salvation is not a past event we look back on fondly, no, salvation allows us to press on til we fully prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. We can only do God’s will after salvation, and more fully after full salvation from this body and this world.

Sanctification and Sunshine

About a week ago I did a few posts on sanctification and trees. Came across another gem relating sanctification to sunlight.

“But the path of the righteous
is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter
until full day.”

As the righteous man goes through life, his life progressively shines brighter and brighter, as the day grows to the full heat of afternoon. To stay in perpetual dawn is not natural, doesn’t happen in nature nor in spiritual growth.

Being a baby your whole life is weird. If a grown man came into your house crying and wearing a diaper you’d be scared out of your mind. So to should we be repulsed by those who have “been in the faith” for years and years and yet have made no progress.

The apostle Paul says we should keep pressing forward. He was not content with his growth and wanted to know Christ more, to have fellowship even with His sufferings, that he would know resurrection power.

Most of us are content to have gotten out of hell, so we stop, tip-toe through some tulips and chill. Might show a fault with the initial understanding of saving faith; might just show you’re lazy. Either way: GROW.

The Church Gets the Money, Don’t Forget It!

Catholicism took people’s money by convincing them their monetary gifts got their relatives out of purgatory. Luther nailed his 95 Thesis, which is all about Catholic’s stealing money, and the Protestant Reformation took off.

Catholics were great at making people feel guilty for not doing enough sacred stuff. Protestants blurred the line between sacred and secular, making secular work a sacred duty.

Protestants then developed a Gospel that made making money a godly thing to do. Money makes us happy. God wants us to be happy. Therefore, God wants us to make money.

The end result is the same–the Church has tons of money. Catholics took it from the poor; Protestants, being more ambitious, made poor people rich and then took their money.

Yes, there is cynicism in the last three blog posts on this subject. I know churches and schools need money. I know there are plenty of businessmen who have done great things with their money.

I’m just stunned how we ignore the Bible’s teaching on this subject so fabulously. If you read the Bible you clearly see that making money is something that will happen and you should do it for necessary uses, but it is never to dominate our lives the way it has.

It’s evil, yet it looks so good. Each man is accountable for how they live, how they spend their time. Live life in light of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Live for things that won’t be burned up–eternal things, which are things that are not seen or bought.

Wanamaker, Moody, Rockefeller and Jesus

American Christianity is largely based on the Protestant work ethic. We truly, honestly believe God wants us to work, work, work, as long as the work in mind is not, like, you know “good works” that lead to legalism.

God wants us working 40+ hours a week making money, that’s how He blesses us with money to support missions and poor kids and stuff. We’ve bought this teaching right along with our $50 study Bibles.

After the Civil War and into the early part of the 20th Century, American Christianity was largely influenced by business. Christian insitutions cannot exist apart from rich businessmen.

Christianity, in order to pay rent, developed a theology to support businessmen, helped them feel good about neglecting their wives, kids and neighbors while they were off working all the time. “Just write a check for Jesus.”

Mr. John Wanamaker was a succesful businessman in the late 19th century and became instrumental in establishing the YMCA. He also helped out a Mr. Dwight L. Moody.

Wanamaker wanted Moody to come speak at a conference for him and deliver a message “tailored more than any that preceded it to the needs of business and professional people who wanted to be freed from the guilt of doing what they were doing.”

In other words, give them a Gospel that allows them to mind the things of the world and yet feel they are doing God a favor. Moody obliged.

Moody is not an exception, he’s merely an example I’m aware of. American Chrisitanity is a Christianity of the businessman. It’s not a Christianity of the poor certainly.

“The power to make money is a gift from God,” this was said by John, as in John D. Rockefeller. It’s not a message consistent with Jesus Christ no matter how badly you want to believe it.

Sacred and Secular

The Protestant Reformation blurred the lines between the sacred and the secular. Protestants saw all life as sacred, which meant that material things took on spiritual significance. Building barns was now part of doing God’s work, rather than merely menial labor with no redeeming qualities.

This switch was a good thing in many ways. The Catholic Church of the Dark Ages made people aware of the fact that they would burn in hell apart from involvement in the Church. Therefore, most of what man did was worthless to God, what God really wanted was for you to drop some coins in the coffer.

Distinctions between the sacred and the secular predominated. Protestants did us all a favor in showing us that we are to do all things heartily as unto the Lord.

With all the good that came of this switch, bad came too. People did begin to think that digging a ditch was equivalent to reading the Bible. Making money became synonymous with spirituality.

Protestants are known for their work ethic–work hard, save money, and live comfortably.

Walk through a few hundred years of human history and you have American Christianity, which is only respected when it looks suburban, wears modest yet fashionable clothing, and drives nice cars, puts on good shows at church and has top quality music.

We’ve bought the lie and turned it into spirituality. We’ve become entangled with the affairs of the world and called it “being relevant.” We’re looking and working for the things that are seen (which are all temporal) and are forsaking the eternal things that are not seen.

When people are dying they wish they didn’t work so much and they wish they had deeper relationships with others, yet most felt good their whole lives because they were living out the “Protestant work ethic.” Isn’t that what Jesus wanted us to do?

Nope. Paul didn’t either. Nor did James. Nor Peter. It all gets burned up, how then shall we live?

Building What Will be Torn Down

“Build it and they will come” is a famous line from the dreadful movie Field of Dreams. Frequently this verse is applied to churches and their need to build buildings.

Starting a building fund is supposed to be a great way for a church to come together and having a place to meet all your own is supposed to really make a church take off.

There is some truth to this and it did seem to work for Israel when they built their temple. However, there is absolutely no biblical mandate for building anything, whether it’s a meeting place, or career, or anything else.

Building stuff is fine as long as it is determined that it is consistent with what God wants you to do. Building things when God is not the builder is a disaster.

Edom gets destroyed by God and some may think after their judgment that they can rebuild. God warns them that if “they shall build, I will throw down.”

You can go ahead and waste your time building but God will just knock it over.

Spending our time doing our plans may keep us busy and may fool us into thinking we’re doing “God’s Work,” but “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” You’re wasting your time.

Sanctification and Trees

Pollen season is winding down here in da nort’woods. It’s been a brutal spring for my allergies. Breathing is a wonderful thing.

Trees have been on my mind lately since they are the main annoyers of my nose. Odd things when you look at them, pieces of wood sticking up out of the ground.

Genesis 1:12 says “and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind.” Trees send out seeds that make more trees that make more fruit with more seeds to make more trees, etc.

Maple trees bring forth maple trees; red pine bring forth red pine and there is no alteration to this process. Trees make fruit consistent with itself. God saw this and declared it good.

Jesus borrows these words in the Sermon on the Mount declaring, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” God is not mocked, you reap what you sow. If a tree does not bring forth fruit it’s pointless and will be cut down.

This being the case, all spiritually born people will bear spiritual fruit. It’s required by the laws of God seen in creation that illustrate spiritual truth.

Sanctification is seen every year in the woods. Trees bring forth fruit and create more life. Life comes when the seed dies, and this ground of death is where the tree flourishes and grows the rest of its life.

Jesus took our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin should live unto righteousness. Calvary is the ultimate ground of death by which we flourish and bring forth fruit.

There’s depth to trees.

The Sanctification Spectrum and Miley Cyrus

There are many theories of sanctification, some of which are biblical, some of which sound biblical, and all together they cover the full spectrum.

On one extreme is the belief that sanctification is optional. Some think sanctification is a second work of the Spirit requiring an almost second conversion, a hoped for stage but not required. You may reside here if you think Miley Cyrus really is a Christian.

In the middle, some teach that sanctification comes as a package deal with salvation and builds over the life of the believer. You may reside here if you think Miley Cyrus has reason to keep her mouth shut on claiming faith.

The other end of the spectrum is the belief that sanctification is nearly immediate with salvation and sin ceases to be an issue and is, in fact, what true conversion is all about. You may reside here if you think Miley Cyrus is getting a wing of hell named for her.

I rest firmly in the middle. I believe that sanctification is a package deal with salvation, a saved man will be progressively sanctified. If there is no progressive sanctification there was no salvation.

I believe that sanctification will happen, but it also happens over the years through trial, chastening, gut-wrenching idiocy and continued repentance.

Sanctification has to happen to the believer because God promises it will happen. God does not save people and yet not save them from sin and self. Salvation is a true reality, not a mindgame where we pretend sin isn’t an issue.

Our old man has been crucified with its affections and lusts. This means something very practical. God doesn’t put His name on a people and let them continue in sin; His name is worth too much.

Life is Cruel

It’s nice to imagine that people care about you when you’re alive and it’s nice to assume people will care about you when you’re dead. But the problem with life is that it keeps on going and people are too busy to care about you and time makes us forget those we don’t see.

My dad died almost six years ago and I was thinking about him during our hot spell. My dad hated heat and humidity. He was miserable, but he’d never wear shorts or go swimming. Well, there are reports he did, but I only saw it a handful of times.

While sitting in my cool basement I was reading through Ecclesiastes just after thinking about my dad’s dread of wet heat:

“but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”

This is one of the many humid hot times my dad never got to hate.

Thinking about death is something we generally avoid, too depressing and far-out to matter. But to consider that some day, the thing we’re been whining about, will still be going on without us, sure seems to put a perspective on things.

Life makes the now important; death makes eternity important. We die daily.

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”

Falling to Temptation

Sin is humiliating. Especially the sins that happen when you think you’re doing pretty well spiritually. They pop up and you trip over them and fall into the very thing you were endeavoring to avoid.

Generally speaking, sin trips us when we are in it on our own, we are not watchful, and perhaps we are even a tad arrogant. We’ve beat sin so much we’re safe now.

Then we trip, fall flat on our face and feel stupid.

“If thou faint in the day of adversity,
thy strength is small.”

Temptation is too much for us in our own strength. Falling into sin is not God’s fault; it is entirely our fault. Sin is a turning from God. We may not view our snippy attitude as denying God, but it is, in fact, a temporary bought of atheism.

It is only when we see our strength is small, and at the same time see that His strength and provision are eternal, that we will stand in the day of temptation.

How often do we fall to temptation? The answer to this question reveals much about our focus in life.

You Need God’s Word to be Saved

Those who do not seek God’s Word will never be saved.

Agree or disagree?

Allow the following passages to aid your thinking:

“For by grace you are saved through faith.”

Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”

“Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.”

What is Meekness?

We all know that Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth. Meekness is a difficult word to grasp since it conveys weakness and letting people walk over you. Yet that’s only one aspect of the word.

Jesus certainly did at times let people walk over Him and was certainly weak, especially after being beaten and hung on the cross. But other times Jesus is railing on scribes, attacking stupid Pharisaic questions and pointing out hypocrisy. Not much weakness there.

So, what does the Bible mean by the word meek? Reading the other verses that talk about inheriting the earth will produce a fuller definition of meekness.

Psalm 25:12-14–those who fear the Lord will dwell safely and their kids will inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:9-11–This is the original source for the meek inheriting the earth but also says those who wait on the Lord inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:22–those who are blessed of God will inherit the earth.

Putting all this together, meekness is not necessarily defining our relations with other people, but rather our relationship with God. Meekness is wrapped up in fearing the Lord and waiting upon Him. Meekness is a blessing from God, not a psychological mindset we put ourselves in.

Meekness may look like weakness, it may not. It may let people walk over you, it may not.

What meekness will always do is glorify God by being humbly submissive to His will, knowing our role of dependence upon Him, and utter inability to live apart from His grace. That is meekness.

God First

Jacob gave the city of Bethel its name. Beth– is a Hebrew word that means house and El- is a Hebrew word for God. Bethel means “house of God.” This is what Jacob named Bethel after he saw the ladder to heaven there.

But Jacob grew up and in his growth came a higher view of God. When Jacob came back to Bethel he renamed it Elbethel, which means “the God of the house of God.”

This is what spiritual maturity looks like. We put God first, no longer does the place or the person or the thing take the first spot, God does.

–It’s no longer your church that you defend and love, it is now the God of your church you defend and love.

–It’s no longer your family you cherish but the God of your family.

–It’s no longer your ministry that consumes you but the God your ministry seeks to glorify.

–It’s no longer myself I live for and try to make better, it is now my God I live for.

In putting God before your church, family, ministry and yourself you can now bring ultimate glory to God. Love for these places is more pure in this light than it could be otherwise.

Spiritual maturity eliminates most fights because there is rejoicing in God rather than defending lesser things we used to think God needed. Jacob no longer needed the house of God; he now needed the God of the house of God.

Beautiful.

Full disclosure, I stole this idea from A. W Tozer.

Believing In and Believing

“The trouble with many of us Christians is that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but that we do not believe Him”. –Martyn Lloyd Jones

Devastatingly accurate statement by Lloyd Jones taken from his book on The Sermon on the Mount.

Everyone and their mother professes to believes in Jesus, much like most kids believe in Santa Claus. There’s some sort of person out there I believe is good to me, and a couple of times a year I act like it’s true.

That’s the extent of most professed faith. Does believing in Santa Claus make kids act good in June? Does believing he has a list he checks twice keep kids on the straight and narrow? Not any more than most professions of faith in Jesus do.

Believing in Jesus is not merely an acceptance of a person’s existence, it is an adherence to all that He said and did. It’s a life-giving, self-dying complete and utter trust in wanting more of Him and less of you.

Believing Jesus is taking Him at His word, receiving the promises He presented and living the new life His Spirit produces. Believing in Jesus keeps me safe from His meddling; believing Jesus means all me is loss and He completely wins.

It’s tough, which is why few enter.

Point/Counterpoint on Mercy

Based on how frequently people quote Scripture, there is primarily one passage in the Bible on who God shows mercy to:

“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
–Romans 9:15

That’s it. That’s the only verse in the whoooooole Bible on receiving God’s mercy. Want God’s mercy? Tough, you better hope you won God’s Lottery son, cuz there’s no other way to get it.

Yup, the only verse in the Bible about mercy shows that God, on a whim, dishes it out. I know, I know, you were hoping for mercy to actually be merciful, actually attainable to those who need it. Well, tough.

Counterpoint: Fortunately for all of us, the Bible contains more verses than most quote. Amidst the verses that people don’t quote are many gems. Absolute gems. Take the following:

“With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful, and with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright.”
–2 Samuel 22:26

Wow! You mean I might have a shot? Yup, you might. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Rather than worrying about how God saves and doesn’t save, take care of what He said to do.