Christianity 201

February 23, 2018

Billy Graham: Death is not The Grim Reaper

NCV John 3.2 One night Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we know you are a teacher sent from God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot be in God’s kingdom.”

I thought it would be fitting today in light of the passing on Wednesday morning of Rev. Billy Graham to present part of an excerpt from his final book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity and Our Life Beyond the Now. Click the title below to read the full excerpt at BillyGraham.org.

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the encounter Nicodemus has with Jesus, read John 3.1-21

Where I Am

by Billy Graham

…This term born again has fascinated people for centuries. It simply means “born from above”—born into the family of God. We are all God’s creation, but we are not all God’s children. Those who are born only once (physical birth) will experience physical and spiritual death, what the Bible calls the second death. But those who are born twice (physically and spiritually) will die only a physical death because they will be resurrected to life eternal. This is why Jesus came.

Nicodemus could only see human life; Jesus was speaking of spiritual life. What Nicodemus needed was a new heart. Surely he would have read the Scripture, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). No matter how hard Nicodemus worked to live right, he fell short of being born again.

This was a lot for Nicodemus to take in. Imagine what must have been going through his mind when he heard Jesus say,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

The Bible does not record what happened after their meeting; and if the Book of John ended there, we might not know what became of Nicodemus. But John 7 tells of a debate that later arose among the Jewish leaders about Jesus, for He had told them also that He was going away, and “where I am you cannot come” (John 7:33-34). Jesus knew the chief priests were planning to seize Him, but He spoke of returning to His heavenly home. Then the Pharisees asked one another if any of them believed Jesus, and Scripture says that Nicodemus spoke up for Him (John 7:47-51). Jesus’ words had illuminated Nicodemus’ darkened heart.

We don’t see Nicodemus again until he appears after Christ’s death on the cross, bringing a mixture of spices to use in preparing Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39). Most of Christ’s followers had fled, but here we see Nicodemus caring for Him. It seems that even in death’s shadow, Nicodemus had eternity on his mind.

But as we’ve seen, many people never think of eternity. As a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel, I am always grieved to have to interrupt a marvelous picture, such as eternal life in Heaven, to talk about another eternal place that Jesus calls Hell. It has no similarities to what is typically called home, nor is Hell a resting place, a holding place, or a graveyard. Hell is a burning inferno.

More than the description, I want to point out the greatest darkness of Hell—it is a place where Jesus is not. Jesus said, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going” (John 8:21, NLT). This is the great anguishing nightmare—to be eternally separated from the Son of God. It is unimaginable. For this reason alone, to be in Hell is the most terrible of all judgments.

There are some people who actually believe that if they end up in Hell, they’ll get used to it. After all, they say, the devil has provided a great deal of pleasure for them while on earth, so how bad can it be?

Let me tell you; the devil is not in charge of Hell, nor is it his headquarters. Satan is the “prince of this world” (John 16:11, KJV) and has taken up residence in many hearts. But He knows what the end is for him. He made his choice long ago and wants to take a world of people with him to Hell, where he will serve out his eternal sentence.

The Bible says that the everlasting fire was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Jesus said, “I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18). The devil does not own Hell. It is not his home—it is his judgment.

A mother and son once lived in a miserable attic. Years before, she had married against her parents’ wishes and had gone with her husband to live in a strange land. But her husband soon died, and she managed with great difficulty to secure the bare necessities. The boy’s happiest times were when his mother told of her father’s house in the old country, a place with grassy lawns, enormous trees, wide porches, and delicious meals. The child longed to live there.

One day the postman knocked at the door with a letter. The woman recognized her father’s handwriting and with trembling fingers opened the envelope that held a check and a slip of paper with two words: “Come home.”

A similar experience will come to all who know Christ. Someday you will receive this brief message: “The Father says come home.”

Those who know Christ are not afraid to die. Death is not the grim reaper. Death to the Christian is “going home.” No one who has died in the Lord would ever want to come back to this life. To depart and be with Christ, Paul said, “is far better” (Philippians 1:23). The Bible says that we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, seeking a homeland, a place prepared for us by God (Hebrews 11:16) where the Lord will receive us into “an everlasting home” (Luke 16:9). I have never known a man or woman to receive Christ and ever regret it.

Perhaps you have never bent your will to God’s will and been born again. You can do that now, for He desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Right now you can make your decision for Christ and start on the road that leads to a heavenly home.

Jesus said in essence, “You can be where I am, or you can be where I am not.” I pray you settle life’s most important question: Where will you spend eternity?

My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going (John 8:14).

July 30, 2014

Repentance is not an Option

I know that many of you often use the internet to search out Biblical themes. Sometimes the answers you get are perplexing. You don’t know the source of the articles and unless you have extensive background in the faith, it’s easy to get sidetracked if your discernment filters aren’t turned up high!

One thing I sometimes do is to use the Yahoo or Google image searches. For example, yesterday’s piece was about repentance and I needed an image to go alongside the article. I found many that were interesting and that in turn led me to another article on the same topic that I want to share today. Alfred Shannon, Jr. is a member of the Church of Christ. He writes, “I preach, and teach the Gospel of Christ, and I adhere to the principle of speaking where the bible speaks, and remaining silent where the bible is silent.” That’s good advice!

His very popular website is called Biblical Proof. To read today’s article at source — always encouraged — click the title below:

Repentance is not an Option—It’s a Commandment of God!

repentance 2How often do preachers teach the gospel of Christ when someone desires to be baptized. This is a glorious occasion no doubt, but in our zeal to baptize, have we forgotten a missing step? Seriously, when was the last time you heard a preacher call for repentance before one is to be baptized into Christ? It’s something many preachers are taking for granted before one is to be baptized into Christ.

I actually heard a preacher say, “I never instruct any potential convert to repent. They can repent after they have been baptized.” Shocking doctrine coming from a gospel preacher. Shocking because without repentance, we have no remission of sins. Sins can’t be washed away if they haven’t first been repented of. Repentance: it’s not optional, but a requirement before our sins can be removed.

Though its elementary in the first principles of the oracles of God, let us reexamine this too often missing step of salvation.

What is Repentance?

Repentance fully defined is a change of will or mind. This change is preceded by godly sorrow, and followed by a transformation of life. Repentance has been called our proverbial U-Turn from sin to righteousness. We see this definition of the word taught in many instances in the Bible.

Repentance Illustrated

Jesus defined repentance for us as He said,

“A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went” (Matt. 21:28, 29).

The young man at first refused to go work in the vineyard in compliance with the command of his father, but later he repented and went. What did he do? He changed his mind about his will toward his father’s command. As a result of his change of mind, his action also changed, but the change of action was not the repentance, but it was the product of the changed will.

Why Refuse Repentance?

The Bible plainly teaches, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:15); and “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Why do so many refuse to be baptized for the remission of sins? I believe that the answer lies in their refusal to repent. A refusal to repent of their past and present practice of sin is a rejection of God’s simple counsel. The problem is not that the gospel is difficult to understand, but that they do not desire to repent (i.e. change) and live the life God has commanded.

A local musician was baptized long ago by my dad when I was only 13 years old. He was asked if he believed Jesus was the Christ, and upon his confession he was baptized. Six months later he was seen in a tavern drinking whiskey, and playing his music to a crowd filled with drunks and half naked women. When confronted the next Sunday about his actions he said with boldness, “I was never asked or commanded to repent of my sins. I was only asked if I believed Jesus was the Christ, and I said yes, and I was baptized. If I had been told I had to forsake my sins I would have never been baptized!”

Sadly, this is not uncommon, but more common than not. We have forgotten to teach repentance, and command such before we baptize anyone into Christ. The scriptures instruct us that remission of sins requires two things, and not just one, and that being repentance and baptism. Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19

Conclusion:

Brethren, we need to preach, and teach repentance before one is baptized. To do less is not teaching the full gospel of Christ. Repentance is not something that can be assumed. If we don’t teach it, and command it, how can those hearing the gospel ever turn from their sins? Is it any wonder why so many are baptized, and continue in their sinful lifestyles.

If you are not a Christian, and you have faith in Jesus Christ, repentance for you will result in your being immersed for the remission of your sins. Christians who subsequently sin must likewise repent, and pray to God for His forgiveness. (Acts 2:37-38,41; 8:22; Rev. 2:10).

If you didn’t repent before you were baptized, who can proclaim scripturally that your baptism is right before God? There’s only two who actually know if you repented or not. God knows, and so do you. After-all, repentance is not an option, but a commandment of God.

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Lk 13:3

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30

February 4, 2014

The Christian Life is More Than Simple Salvation

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getoutofhellfreecard

As I considered the transactional element to salvation yesterday, I went searching for a graphic that would be helpful (even though yesterday’s article already had one) and noticed a humorous “Get Out of Hell” card parodying Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail” card. As I read the article that went with it, I was reminded of a recent theology lecture which pointed out that while having a doctrine of salvation — what is called soteriology — is important, there is far more to be gained by realizing that eternal life is not something that begins when this life ends, but something that we enter into right now. Jesus promises us an abundant life, not an abundant death (though, in freeing us from eternal punishment and the wrath of God, we get that, too.)

The article is from a blog called Between the Times. The author is Ken Keathley a Professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Click here to read at source.

The Sinner’s Prayer–A “Get Out of Hell Free Card”?

A great deal of ink has been spilled and Internet bandwidth expended over the controversy of whether or not it is appropriate to use “the sinner’s prayer” in evangelism (i.e., is it proper to tell someone to ask Jesus into his heart when leading him to Christ).  At the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans this last June, messengers overwhelmingly approved a resolution supporting its use.  I have to confess that I think the whole dispute is misguided.  In my opinion, what is driving the concern of many is the paltry results of much of our evangelistic efforts.  Whether it’s one-on-one soulwinning (through Evangelism Explosion, Continuing Witness Training, or FAITH) or mass evangelistic meetings (such as crusades, youth camps, or VBS) the outcome is too often the same.  Scores make “professions of faith” who afterward demonstrate little or no interest in Christ, the church, or the walk of faith.

The problem, however, is not with the use of any particular prayer.  Rather, I would contend, that the difficulty lies in the way we present salvation.  Most evangelistic methods present salvation as a commodity that Jesus purchased and now offers.  Christ is presented as having bought salvation by His death on the Cross, and if you ask Him then He will give it to you.  Salvation, redemption, and forgiveness are understood entirely as a purchase, a business deal, or a transaction.  Salvation is reduced to the offer of a “Get Out of Hell Free” card.

But one can do business with someone he really doesn’t care for.  In fact, one can receive a gift from someone he positively dislikes (just think of how much foreign aid has gone to countries that don’t like the USA).  Here’s the important point: salvation is not something Jesus gives; salvation is something He is.  One does not receive salvation from Jesus.  You and I receive Him–the Lord Jesus Christ–for Who He is, and in receiving Him we receive salvation, redemption, and eternal life.  We are not simply being offered a really great bargain; we are called to enter into a covenant relationship with Christ.

We affirm the penal substitution of Christ upon the Cross, and gladly use the language of “purchase,” “redemption,” and even “transaction.”  But to see salvation only in those terms runs the danger of viewing salvation merely as a commercial contract.  A saving relationship with Jesus Christ is more than just a contractual agreement–it’s a covenantal relationship.  Scripture describes a saving relationship with Christ in terms of marriage (Eph 5:23-27). Marriage is indeed a contract (as least, as far as the state is concerned), but it’s not merely that.  Who wants a relationship with his or her spouse that is entirely or only legal in nature? Marriage is a rich and effective metaphor for describing our salvation because it teaches us, that above all else, salvation is a proper relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and us.

I suspect that we tend to emphasize only the transactional aspects of redemption because such an objective understanding seemingly provides certainty.  Relationships, in contrast, are subjective by their very nature, and therefore more complicated, maybe even messy.  Yet you and I are called to be in vital union with Christ, and it is in this relationship we are saved.  “He who has the Son, has life.” – 1 John 5:12

So yes, when we are leading people to Christ we should encourage them to pray the sinner’s prayer.  Let’s just make sure we are leading them to Christ, and not just selling them on a really great deal.