Month: June 2016

“Lord of Lords,” “King of kings” and “…”

I was driving home from work a few weeks ago and, while listening to the radio, a young man had called in. He was going to law school and relaying, in subdued frustration, how the climate he found himself in daily in that academic and worldly environment, had filled him with a tension—a tension for believers like him and us– to stand firm in his faith and godly convictions while being attacked from society on several sides; many times mocked, trivialized or even ignored.

Yet I think there is also an even stronger or more pervasive tension that arises from within believers in their calling to live (think, speak and act) in love, kindness, truth and grace towards others despite these types of situations and attitudes. Others will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ one day, and what a fearful day of reckoning that will be. The world tends to imagine for itself a Jesus who does not exist. This is part of what the Bible means by the term “false Christs.” Everyone in this world, but not of it, wishes to remember only selective attributes of our Savior, but not the whole. In this way, they only wish to get as close to Him as they are comfortable with and so deceive themselves. They have heard of the kind, gentle, meek and peaceable Son of G-d. They forget or don’t wish to know that He is a just G-d dealing with a sinful and rebellious people, and that the attributes expressed in His rebukes (towards Peter, towards the Pharisees) and admonitions (to the woman caught in the act of adultery, the man in John 5:14 who was blind because of sin) and that came with a message that would not bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34) are every bit as much parts of His righteous character.

As Christians who love and worship our Messiah and await His coming—not with trembling or indifference—but with expectation and the full assurance of hope, we are very familiar with these titles of Jesus Christ: “Prince of peace,” “Lord of lords,” and “King of kings.” While these well-known designations are quite apt for our Savior, the thought came to me (and I am quite sure it was Him who put it there!), “Why isn’t He ever referred to as “Judge of judges”? Is He a judge? What does the Word of G-d say?

Acts 17:31 says, “Because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” 2 Timothy 4:1 reads, “I charge you in the presence of G-d and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…” And John 5:22-23 speaks more pointedly, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.” We read in the Old Testament that Israel has a period where there were no kings, but instead G-d appointed judges (Judges 4:4, 17:6, 21:25). Even as the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of all the earthly lords (masters, owners, sirs) and King over all earthly kings (royalty, authority, governors, emperors), He is Judge of all judges!!! Hallelujah for the Christian who the Judge has already set free, and what doom for those who dismiss or disbelieve the pardon.

Now what does this mean for the unbeliever/Gentile/unsaved/non-Christian? Since the wages of sin is death, which is eternal separation from G-d (Since He Himself is Life), those who have rejected the free gift of Christ’s voluntary and substitutionary death (in their place) on the cross and by His blood will undergo, first, judgment from the very One who enabled their salvation. This is known as the “Judgment Seat of Christ” or the “Bema Seat Judgment.” Here, the only just and evidentiary sentence is eternal death and the lake of fire (Hebrews 10:27-31).

For the Christian, we have what is known as the “Great White Throne Judgment.” This, among other places, is briefly described in Revelation 20:11-15 which refers to the Book of Life; this same wonderful Book is earlier mentioned in Exodus 32:33 where G-d says to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot out of My Book.” This is a horrible expectation since all who have ever lived have also sinned. This same thought came to the disciples in Mark 10:26 when they asked, “Who then can be saved?” (Written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.) Jesus responded, “With man it is impossible, but not with G-d. For all things are possible with G-d.” What does this mean? What is it only G-d can do? Isaiah 53 says of G-d’s plan to rescue mankind from the grips of sin by the Judge Himself fulfilling the sentence that is due the accused and the guilty (verses 1-6, 10):

“Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken. Smitten by G-d, and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR transgressions; He was crushed for OUR iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought US peace, and with His stripes WE are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him.”

This Judge decided that His love expressed through mercy (which we do not at all deserve!) was better than simply judgment. Why, since we are all guilty? Because judgment is based solely on facts, evidence and testimony; and He is a just Judge. But because He created us for fellowship and worship, there is an overt implication of relationship in His purposes. He handed down the due verdict of “guilty,” but He paid the price in our place! Who but Him would do that? No one! Will you take advantage of this gift? He laid down His life for all of us. We need to lay down our lives for Him and His purposes in exchange. Praise be to His name! He alone is glorious and worthy of all our love and devotion.

A Word to Really Ponder

Since the brutal attack in Orlando that took place recently we are rightly hearing much about it on the radio, the internet and television (even though my wife and I have, in the last few days, gotten rid of our cable to save money and in obedience to the Lord to use our time more efficiently, and we are still working on the latter). Because we no longer have TV service, we are not as exposed to it as others are and we once were. I began to be somewhat convicted because I was not as moved with compassion as many others are. This did not sit well with me in my spirit. So I began to ask the Lord God about the state of my heart in regard to this. Am I becoming desensitized? Since I am to be like You, Lord, in caring for and reaching the lost, why is my compassion not running high right now? If I am not properly moved by this, what does that say about me as I am hoping to soon become pastor of a small church? Is this a shepherd’s heart, even though they are not part of my flock?

As I get honest and vulnerable before my Father in Heaven and begin this dialogue with Him in my own life I want to graciously, yet boldly and truthfully, explore a side of all this that few will want to think about, much less verbalize. On the media side of this, someone on Christian radio said something about “innocent victims.” First of all, we are not innocent- none of us. We do not come out of the womb innocent (Psalm 51:5), nor are we innocent any time after that (Romans 3:10-12, 23). So in the Lord’s eyes it is not His wish that any should perish eternally, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). In this case in Florida, it truly is a very sad and sobering event that we should all let be a catalyst to examine our own hearts and souls before our merciful God so that we are not eternally lost in the tormenting flames of the reality called Hell.

I heard a man on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) a couple of days ago comment on the horrific incident in sorrowful words- which are certainly appropriate- but saying nothing about the sin involved in all of this; a Christian man. Most assuredly, it is a very difficult thing to mention at a time like this that affects so many people. And it is, I can tell you, certainly a temptation to only speak kind and comforting words in a time of tragedy and in such a feeling-friendly, anti-offense climate our nation has begotten today. So there has to be a sensitive balance (not compromise) between grace and compassion versus sin and accountability. Though the way in which they met their eternal end is extremely rattling, and most of us would prefer to die in our sleep with no pain or suffering, that doesn’t change the fact that their everlasting fate is now sealed.

Now, with no undue harm intended and no overly blunt or insensitive words chosen without care and necessity (whether they are perceived that way or not), we mustn’t overlook or ignore the elephant in the (news) room. That pachyderm is the locale at which this took place, the chosen lifestyles of the people who frequented that establishment (including the gunman, from what we have since found out), and that the covert or overt activities of those individuals there or elsewhere are sinful. To be sure, all mankind is sinful short of the transforming power and blood-bought grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ unto salvation and eternal life. But for most, if not all, that grace was not sought or accepted for whatever reason. And the sovereign, just and perfect Father’s position towards this particular sin is not cloudy, nor is it open to misinterpretation -though several denominations who once understood this are now deceived and splitting over this very ancient issue.

What about Abraham, Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah? Given how this awful happening is a recent, fresh occurrence, how would this same prevalent attitude play itself out today if a whole city of known (and perhaps even celebrated, prideful) sinners was to be destroyed? Would the lives of the sinners that God saw fit to eliminate be mourned much more so because of the sheer numbers involved? Would anyone in the world see God’s side of it all? Did God allow one to happen and not the other? Has He changed His mind or character or position concerning the sin of homosexuality? We know that Jesus and the Father are one (John 5:18, John 10:30). We know that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) so that His mind does not- nor does it need to- change (James 1:18). He has created us all (Genesis 1:27), every one of us. He has a unique plan and individual purpose for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11-13). He doesn’t play favorites and is impartial (Acts 10:34) and He is righteously intolerant of sin (all throughout the Word of God, the Holy Bible). Sin is the opposite of holiness and it is what separates us from our Almighty Creator (Isaiah 59:2).

Since we are conceived and born in sin, we are destined to be out of His presence forever and that is why we need, and God has provided for us in love, a Savior- Jesus Christ! HE and HE ALONE paid our sin wages of death (Romans 6:23) and it is by grace and through faith in, and obedience to, Him that we receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life at all. He is the only way God has provided for our redemption (John 14:6, Acts 4:11-12). Although all and any sin is on equal footing as far as our guilt versus God’s righteousness is concerned, consequences on earth are proportional to the degree of wickedness in the Lord’s eyes. For example, if one person steals a dollar and another person murders a baby, His justice is meted out differently in each case. In the same way, sexual sin- whether heterosexual or homosexual- is particularly heinous to Him. How do we know this? Take a look at admonitions and rebukes found and clearly stated in the Word of God in phrases such as “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), “Abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3), or even Revelation 21:8 which states emphatically that the “sexually immoral” are among “murderers…sorcerers…and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” And the capstone, perhaps, of all this is that our perfect heavenly Father explains that “every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” and “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord [His purposes] and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:18,13).

Yet the Lord God calls homosexuality, in particular, an “abomination” (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13), “detestable” (same verses, different translations) as well as “perversion,” “dishonoring passions” and “shameful acts” (Romans 1:26-27). And He uses straightforward descriptions such as “contrary to nature” and “gave up natural relations” to leave no doubt as to the severity of the sin, His righteous position on it, and it is an extremely weighty matter that should never be tolerated or accepted as moral in any way or at any time. Why? For one reason, the Creator’s wisdom and knowledge are perfect and anything that runs counter to that is effectually saying that His ways are not perfect and that we know more and better than He does, and so we do whatever we want. This is wrong and foolish and dangerous. We mention this and also call more attention to it because, in today’s world, many with this mindset and in this “community” of participants and activists PUSH for, force and legislate acceptance through the media (news), the educational system (see Mark 9:42!!!), the entertainment industry (music, movies and TV) and various, if not most, world governments; this deserves condemnation, not submission or accolades.

While true and committed Christians do not, in any way, find anything “positive” in this shocking event, we might actually be more saddened than most being fully aware of their now unchangeable and eternal state before the King. The grace offered them during their lifetimes was neglected, procrastinated or rejected outright. If nothing else, what has transpired should lead everyone- straight and gay- to search their own hearts, not by comparing our sinfulness in relevance to others but by using the only true and right measuring stick…Almighty God’s righteousness (found in His Word). Seek Him in fear and awe with all of your heart and He will be found by you. He has revealed Himself and His ways to us through the Bible. And He is willing to reconcile you to Himself!