Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Do Infants Go to Heaven When They Die?

“I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to paradise.”  -Charles Spurgeon

Yesterday was an emotional and difficult day.  We buried a precious six-month-old girl named Rebekah Miller.  Just a over a month ago I had her on the platform with me at church during a baby dedication, and yesterday I preached her funeral from that same platform.  I often have received this question from families, and the short answer is, I believe infants who die are with the Lord.  Let me give you several Biblical reasons why I believe infants go to be with the LORD in heaven when they die:

1.     Because God is sovereign and wise and good and trustworthy. (Psalms 25:8; 107:1; 135:3) We can always have an assurance when any of our loved ones die, because God is good and he always does what is right.
2.    Because in Deuteronomy 1:39, God judges the rebellious adults of Israel differently than their little children.  In this example we see that God does not hold the sins of the parents against their children.  He allows the children to go to the Promised Land, but their parents would never see it!
3.    Because there is a direct correlation between having knowledge of creation & God and accountability during judgment. Romans 1:19-21 is not about children, but it clearly shows God’s principles on justice.  Infants lack the physical and cognitive ability to know God’s glory and see his work in creation.  Therefore, since this knowledge is not available to infants, Paul implies, they really would be with “excuse” at the judgment.  No adults fall into this category of being with “excuse”, with the exception of severely mentally  challenged individuals.  I believe that since they are with excuse, that God will apply to infants the blood and righteousness of Christ in a way that we do not comprehend. 
4.    Because King David had  a clear confidence he would see his dead infant son again (2 Samuel 12:15-18).   King David wept and pleaded in prayer for his son.  But when his baby died, David confessed his confidence in  seeing the boy again and comforted his wife.
5.    Because Scripture makes a distinction between original sin and actual sins.  The Bible clearly teaches that we are all born with a sin nature as a result of being descended from Adam (Romans 5:12).  This is what is called the doctrine of original sin.  However there is a distinction between original sin and actual (or volitional) sins.  While all are guilty of original sin, moral responsibility and understanding is necessary for our being accountable for actual sins (James 4:17; Isaiah 7:16).
6.    Jesus affirmed that the kingdom of God belonged to little children (Luke 18:15-17).  In this passage in Luke we are called to a childlike faith for salvation, which seems to imply children are in heaven.  Jesus loves little children!

It is important to remember that anyone who is saved is saved because of the grace of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ.  Infants need salvation just like all of mankind who have lived, with the exception of Jesus Christ.  Abraham said, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  (Genesis 18:25).  The answer is a wholehearted “YES!  God will always  do what is right!”  I look forward to seeing Rebekah Miller in heaven again, and I look forward to greeting those who were lost in infancy or miscarriages.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Only Declared Right Which Matters in the End!

Tonight, a storm rages outside my house, and a storm rages in our nation. Today the Supreme Court declared nationwide same-sex marriage as a right. I have been watching this evolve over the past five years or so and I am not surprised by the decision. I am heartbroken as a US citizen, that we have elected leaders who are arrogant enough to think they know better how to define marriage than the One who designed marriage. I would like to address those who claim Christ as Lord at this time. Let me say the following things:

1. God Doesn’t Deal in Plan B- In the same way that the trinity did not meet in an emergency session when Adam and Eve fell in the garden He did not do so today. God remains on the throne, and He along keeps His right to declare what is and is not marriage- despite what any mere man or woman may say. Remember that God had the right to create us male and female with a need for one another to procreate and bring God Glory.

2. Stay Calm and Carry On!- My prayer is that we would have enough confidence in the gospel and God’s plan that we are not left in despair or panic. We have lost a battle today, but we do not lose the war in the end. Our mission the Great Commission remains the same! So brother and sisters in Christ carry on in building Godly marriages, homes, and churches...our work continues!

3. Be Tender Towards our LGBT Neighbors- Jesus was tender to those who were cast down by the Pharisees. The reality is that those who don’t know Christ will not have the same ethics that Christians do. We must understand that goats act like goats (Matthew 25:1-6). We should not spew hate nor demonize those who don’t know Christ. Jesus modeled for us how to respond to those who have sexual relations outside his plan of marriage, the women at the well (John 4) and the women caught in adultery (John 8) he dealt tenderly with them and truthfully. So we should follow His example, we should understand others desire to be accepted, as we all desire this at some level. Remember beloved, what business do we have judging those outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12)? The reality is that because of the Cross, Christ has declared us a right to be accepted by the Father, justified and reconciled forever through the blood of Jesus.

4. Be Tough Towards Anyone Claiming Christ and Seeking to “redefine” the Biblical Sexual Ethic Given to Us by Jesus and the Apostles- The most dangerous group in my mind who is in need of the harshest rebuke is those who are running to change what the Bible says. The Bible instructs us to judge those inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12). People can read and understand the plainest meaning of Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. To try and change this to appease the culture redefines the Gospel, because Ephesians 5 explains that the marriage between a man and a women is a corporal image of Christ and the Church. Keep in mind that running after the culture’s shifting sands communicates we don’t stand for the timeless truth revealed in God’s Word, but for whichever way the wind blows. To give a blurred or distorted gospel presentation is no gospel at all, and to quickly agree with the culture in an area clearly defined outside God’s revealed will is a flight response to a cultural fight. We are called to be peacemakers and to speak the truth in love, not be all love with no truth. God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and neither does his revealed truth. We have the declared right to rebuke in a Godly manner aimed towards restoration those who claim Christ and seek to shift revealed truth.

This is the dawn of a new day for the church in the United States.  We have to figure out how to be the church in this culture and time which will have it's challenges, victories, and defeats.  May God give us the grace to be faithful to Him!  God's right over us all is the only declared right in the end.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Whom should I forgive?

“3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” –Luke 17:3-4

The issue of forgiveness is always between two parties, so naturally we must ask the question of whom should we forgive.   Do we need to forgive someone if they don’t ask for forgiveness?  Or is it even really possible to forgive someone who is not asking for forgiveness?  Some passages in the Bible clearly imply that we can only forgive those who ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4), while others seem to imply that we should forgive everyone who sins against us, regardless of whether they ask for it or not (Mark 11:25).

I believe the best way to understand biblical teaching on forgiveness is to make a distinction between the exchange of forgiveness and the positioning of the heart to be willing to forgive.   Even though we may not be able to fully reconcile with everyone who sins against us, our attitude toward them should never be one of anger, bitterness, resentment, or any kind of ill will.  We should also treat them very kindly and graciously (Romans 12:17-21).  We are commanded to love everyone (Luke 6:27-35), so we must desire their best, which means we will do everything we can to help them to repent and we will also always be ready to reconcile, as Psalm 86:5 says about God.  Other verses that echo the principle of having a heart that is committed to forgiveness can be found in Mark 11:25, Luke 23:34, Luke 11:4, and Matthew 6:12-15.  We can conclude from these verse and others concerning love and graciousness that any time someone wrongs us, we should pray to God in this way:

“Father, You know what has happened between                                            and me.  Help me to not be angry or bitter at him/her, nor to seek revenge in any way, but help me to love him/her and desire only his/her good.  Please work in his/her heart and bring repentance so that we can have a reconciled relationship.  Use me in any way you can to find help him.”

Keep in mind that for a believer, help may involve a confrontation according to Matthew 18, and for an unbeliever it would involve witnessing to him/her if possible.

In the same manner that God does not make His promise of pardon to people unless they repent (Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38), we cannot actually say, “I forgive you” to people unless they admit their sin and repent.  Therefore the exchange of forgiveness is conditional in that we can only be fully reconciled to those who repent.  Those who refuse to repent of their sin are not forgiven by God in a saving nor parental manner; therefore, the consequence of repentance is a broken relationship with the offended person continuing. 

Luke 17:3 makes clear that our part of responsibility to those who sin against us is to humbly and lovingly confront them, and if we have truly dealt with our own heart first, which is have a willingness to forgive the other person.  Then, if they recognize their wrong and repent form it, we can be reconciled to them.  Matthew 18:15-17 makes it clear that we cannot be fully reconciled to those who have not repented, because if we did we could not continue the process described in those verses. 

My council to all is to seek to forgive both positionally in the heart and seek out for the exchange of forgiveness to happen.  God’s heart is always bent towards forgiveness and reconciliation, so should we!  Never withhold forgiveness!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How Do I Forgive Others?

“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” -Colossians 3:12-13 (HCSB)

If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are to give forgiveness to others just as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). When we grant forgiveness to someone, we are promising that we will “Not remember” their sins anymore as modeled in Jeremiah 31:34. That means we will never use their sin against them, so practically we are promising the following to someone we forgive:

· “I will not remind you of the sin I am forgiving,”

· “I will not mention what I am forgiving to anyone else.”

· “I will not allow my mind to dwell on the sin I forgive.”

It is important to note, followers of Jesus Christ are commanded to forgive, so we are sinning if we refuse to make the forgiveness promises. Therefore forgiveness is a matter of obedience rather than feelings. Remember beloved it is sin for us to break our promises of forgiveness after we make them, and we can keep these promises regardless of how we feel. Resolve yourself today to a lifetime pilgrimage of forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What is Forgiveness?

“…this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing t and never again remember their sin.”  - Jeremiah 31:34

The primary Greek verb translated “forgive” (aphiemi) means “to send away” or “to release.”  It refers to the actual removal of a debt and the form or process of canceling the debt and consequences (Matthew 18:15-35; Luke 17:3).  The other verb is (charizomai).  This term focuses more on the quality of the removal (Eph. 4:32).  So tighter, in reference to sin, forgiveness means, “to pardon” implying the heart motivation as well as the method. Forgiveness has also rightly been descried as a promise of pardon, because when God forgives, He promises that He will never hold our sins against us as seen in Jeremiah 31:34.  We also need to understand that God’s forgiveness to us is a model for us to forgive one another.  We need to understand that we need God’s forgiveness both before salvation and after salvation.  Forgiveness prior to can be understood as judicial forgiveness, because God acts as a judge, declaring us righteous forever and delivering us form eternal condemnation (Romans 4:3-8; Colossians 2:13-14).  Forgiveness after salvation can be called parental forgiveness, because God is now our loving Father who wants to free us from hindrances to our relationship that unconfessed sin brings (Matthew 6:12; Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 John 1:9). 

t 31:34 Nm 14:19; Ps 103:3; Jr 36:3