Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Hard Sayings of Jesus

"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it” (Jho. 6:60)? Within the Bible, Jesus, the son of God, is portrayed as the Master Teacher. His powerful demonstration of logic (Mark 2:17), God-given authority (Mat. 28:18), unending compassion (2 Cor. 13:11; 1 Jho. 4:8), and ability to preach the gospel in a simple and forthright manner caused many people to be “astonished” (Mat. 7:28-29) at His teachings! It is no wonder then that John declared, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (Jho. 7:46). With the deepest of respect towards He who died for us (Rom. 5:8-9), may we dig deep into the Sacred Writing, that we might delight ourselves as students of the hard sayings of Jesus!

First, may I point out that the hard sayings of Jesus, in no way casts any type of negative reflection upon Deity. Rather, to the contrary, a loving earthly father, as well as, a loving God, chastises His children (Heb. 12:6-8), and warns those outside the kingdom (Jho. 3:1-8). May we never underscore the love Jesus Christ displayed to the entire world, in hanging on a tree (Gal. 3:13). Nevertheless, as faithful members of His church, we must learn not only to appreciate the hard sayings of Jesus, but to allow these principles of truth to guide us along the “strait and narrow path” (Mat. 7:13-14), that leads to eternal life.
Let us turn our attention to many of the hard sayings that came from the lips of our Lord while He graced this earth with His steps. In Matthew 7:21-24 the Bible reads, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Friends, is this not a hard saying for many people to receive? Within the foregoing passage of Scripture, Jesus declares the absolute necessity of obedience to the Father’s will! As we turn over to Matthew 10:34-38, Jesus continues with His hard sayings! “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followed after me, is not worthy of me.” Wow, this is definitely a hard saying! I suppose there is no greater recognized relationship on earth than the parent/child relationship. Therefore, if our love for Christ and His kingdom must surpass our love for our earthly parents, He will be the utmost priority in life. Last but not least, how could anyone overlook the hard sayings that our Lord gave concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage? “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).
Friends, Jesus speaks highly of the institution of marriage. In Matthew 19:3, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” After a  brief controversy, He concluded His divine thoughts on this subject when He gave one of the hardest sayings the world has ever heard. “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth which is put away doth commit adultery” (Mat. 19:9). Notice, “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. .. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (vv. 11-12).  He who would give His life a ransom for the many (Mat. 20:28), never turned away from hard sayings, even when it would cost Him disciples (Jho. 6:66). Its not about how many disciples but about truth (Jho. 8:32).

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Population of Hell

Numerous are those who have pondered the question throughout history, “How far from Paradise to Hell?” Ancient volumes such as Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost demonstrate how attractive this topic has been over the years. Due to today’s technology we know that it is exactly 342.41 miles according to MapQuest and I-75 is the road to Hell. Hell claims a population of 266 souls and a zip code of 48169. I speak of Hell, Michigan, of course, and not the place populated by the Devil and his angels (Mat. 25:41). Nevertheless, what of the population of the biblical hell?
The Bible tells us exactly who will be in hell. This is not an exhaustive list, but it's a good start: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15). “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mat. 7:21-23). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness... Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:18, 29-32). “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment...” (Mat. 25:41, 46).
So, inspiration, offers this insight into the character of our Lord: He "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. Jho. 8:32; 17:17); He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. Acts 2:38); and finally, "the goodness of God" is designed to lead me "to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). His Son suffered in my stead so that I would not add to the population of Hell (Rom. 3:24-25; 5:6-10; 6:3-7). His gospel was completely revealed to men so that I would not spend eternity with the devil and his angels (Rom. 1:16-17; Jude 3). As the sweet singer of Israel, let us cry out, "I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God" (Psa. 40:17).

 - Rick Popejoy