Telling God you don’t believe in hell, is like telling a judge you don’t believe in jail. I can’t remember where I heard or read that at, but it’s one of the best analogies I’ve ever heard for faith. God and a judge, hell and prison, they are almost the same thing, one is just on a more eternal level. You get convicted of a crime and no matter how much you tell yourself, or the judge, that you don’t believe in jail, you’re still going to go. It’s the same thing with God. I hear people say they don’t believe in God all the time, but no matter how much you don’t believe, one day EVERYONE will stand before Him. 2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” One day we will stand before God, in all His glory, and have to answer for everything we have ever done on this earth. For some of us out there, this is a little scary. The good news is that we don’t have to let our past define our future. We don’t have to keep living a certain way just because that’s the way we always have. Once you truly give your life to God, you are born again. You are a new creation in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 is one of my favorite verses in the bible, it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Every bad thing, no matter how terrible, is washed away in the eyes of God. I know the guilt of certain things may still weigh on your heart, but take comfort knowing that once you start walking the straight and narrow path to salvation, whatever roads you previously walked down no longer matter. I know some people out there are the type that need hard evidence, they need proof of His existence. I don’t have any hidden answers. For me, my faith came from a feeling like God Himself were talking to me. I felt Him move in my heart. It was a feeling too big to ignore. I felt God calling me and instead of brushing that feeling off like I had done so many times before, I answered. I know some people will read that and say, “What? He “moved” you?” Think about the love you have for your mother, you can’t “prove” that you love your mother, can you? You may say that you can see your mother, but in 2000 plus years will anybody “believe” she existed? Verse 7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” That one short verse says a lot. Faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith that there is a heaven and also a hell. We must walk in faith. Whether you believe it or not, the truth is that Jesus Christ died for you. He died for your sins. He died in the most brutal way so that you may have ever lasting life. 2 Corinthians 15 NKJV, “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” Before I was truly saved, I lived entirely for myself. I smoked, I drank, I cussed, I chased women, I did drugs, I did just about everything the bible says not to do. But once I truly gave my life to God, I was washed clean. I was born again. I am a new creation in Christ. I truly am a changed man. I hear people say that the Christian “lifestyle” is boring. The truth is that being a Christian isn’t boring, you just see the world through new eyes. You no longer have the desire to live for yourself. I’m not saying I look down on anyone that isn’t saved, no true Christian should. It’s our duty, our purpose as Christians to spread the word of God. 2 Corinthians 20 NKJV, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” It’s not too late to give your life to God. Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done. He would gladly welcome you with open arms, all you have to do is ask.
I love the song, “This Little Light of Mine”. I honestly believe that singing that song every Sunday on Parris Island is what helped me get through boot camp. Since I’ve gotten truly saved, that song has new meaning to me. As Christians, we are God’s light on this dark world. It’s up to us to shine bright in a sea of despair, to be a beacon for all that are lost. 2 Corinthians 4:6 in the NKJV says, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God put that light in our hearts so we could share the love and grace of Jesus Christ to others. Every Christian has a purpose of sharing the good news, in whatever way possible. Some may sing it, some write it, preach it, sign it, draw it, some may just have to live a Christian lifestyle to be an inspiration to others of the change that God can do in your life. It’s not always going to be easy to live this way. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is against us, and for the most part, it is. Paul says in verses 8 and 9, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-” To me these last two verses are very inspirational. They say that although the world is trying its best to condemn us, it never will. Not matter what this world tries to throw at us, God will always prevail. 2 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Each day we stay true to God, we grow stronger. Each day we turn to God instead of drugs or alcohol, we grow stronger. Each day we look at God’s word instead of pornography, we grow stronger. Each day we walk the straight and narrow, our light gets brighter.
I heard someone over the weekend say something along the lines of, “There’s too much lovie-dovie preaching going on nowadays. They need to get back to the hell, fire, and brimstone, damnation, condemnation style of preaching.” I thought about this statement for a little while and then it seemed to slip my mind, until I started doing my bible study today. I’ve been reading through 2 Corinthians and today in chapter 3 I came across a verse that suddenly reminded me of that statement. 2 Corinthians 3:9 NKJV, “For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.” Now, to me this isn’t saying that the preaching style of follow Jesus Christ or you burn in Hell is wrong, to me it’s saying that we can reach far more people with compassion, love, and kindness. It bothers me that so many Christians try to use the “rules” and tell people what they can’t do instead of telling them about the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save ALL sinners, not just the ones whose sins are socially acceptable. I see a lot of the stuff that my friends and family put on Facebook, and I’m not going to lie, my first response in my head is usually like Bobby Boucher’s mom in the Waterboy, It’s the devil!!! But in my heart I know that that kind of reaction is going to push a lot of people away. So far I haven’t found a single time in the New Testament where Jesus Christ has condemned anyone for their sin. Isn’t He supposed to be our all time role model? I know a lot of people will view this approach as “too easy” on sinners, I’m sure there were a lot of people that thought the same thing about Jesus 2000 plus years ago. Personally, I’m beyond grateful that Jesus was “too easy” on sinners, otherwise there’s no way I would ever make it to heaven. Truth be told, I don’t think many would have except for the love, compassion, and unending grace that is Jesus Christ.
I’ve often wondered what I will look like in heaven. It’s something that I have thought about since I was a little kid. I was always told there will be no sickness, no pain, no suffering, but never what I would look like. As I finished reading chapter 15 in 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about our body and how we will be changed. I’m not the first to ask about this, verse 35 says, “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” So obviously people were curious about it back then also. Paul’s answer in verse 38 and 39 is this, “But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh in not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.” Um, what? That’s a little confusing if you ask me, but after thinking about it for a while it kind of makes sense. It says all flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, to me that’s saying we all have the same kind of flesh regardless of color or ethnicity. Nobody has alligator skin that I know of, although that would be awesome. Verse 44 says, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” So clearly there is a difference between our earthly bodies, and our heavenly ones. It goes on to say in verse 49 and 50, “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.” To me, this is saying that while we have an image of the man of dust here on earth (we look like we do now) when we die we will take on a spiritual body in the image of the heavenly Man (Christ). It also says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, this body will not be the one we have in heaven. Now I know a lot of people reading this are probably saying, “What? He didn’t tell us what we will look like in heaven?!?” I can’t give you details because I don’t know them. All I know is that we will be “changed”. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” What’s important isn’t what we will look like on the other side, what’s important is that we make it to the other side. We don’t know when that trumpet will sound, but for many I fear, it will be too late. Being a Christian in todays world can be rough sometimes. God’s work isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NKJV, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
I woke up this morning feeling awesome. I got a good nights sleep, had some coffee, and then checked my Facebook. One post after another was just bad news. Someone was killed, someone was robbed, teens have even started playing a “game” called knockout where they pick someone unsuspecting, could be a man walking by himself or a mother with kids, and they try to knock them out with one punch. The last one really turned my stomach. This kind of stuff really bothers me, and the fact that this stuff doesn’t bother other people, bothers me even more. Seeing and reading all of this I can’t help but to think about what Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 NKJV, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” I feel like that is what’s happening to our world. Everywhere we look we see the lack of love for our fellow man. You can’t watch the news for more than 5 minutes without hearing something awful. I feel like we, as a nation, are growing cold. We see so much negativity that we are actually getting used to it. The good news in all of this is what Jesus said next in verse 13, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” We must endure. Maybe it’s the super nerd in me but a scene from The Dark Knight just popped in my head. Bruce Wayne is talking to Alfred and he asks, “What would you have me do?” Alfred replies, “Endure.” We must endure. Through all the bad in this world we must press on. We have to keep fighting the good fight. When I start feeling down, I think about the last sentence in the book of Matthew. Jesus says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus will never leave our side. He is ALWAYS with us. This world we live in can be a dark place, that’s why it’s up to us Christians to shine God’s light on it. 2 Samuel 22:29 NKJV, “For You are my lamp, O Lord; The Lord shall enlighten my darkness.”
No, not the awful T.V. show. I’m talking about temptation that we all face in our daily lives. Temptation is everywhere, on T.V., on the internet, and on the radio. Some of us may be facing temptation in our own homes. For some of us temptation has such a grasp that we feel like we have no other choice but to give in. Like we can’t function without submitting to that temptation so we can just get on with our daily routine. Reading through 1 Corinthians, Paul brings up temptation in chapter 10 verse 13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” For some of us the temptation feels like being trapped on an island, no way out. But if we put our faith in the Lord, He will provide a way. God will never put us in a “no win” situation, there is always hope. I heard my pastor say something this past Sunday that made a lot of sense. He said, “What you constantly think about, you will eventually do.” If we are doing nothing but sitting around thinking about how much we want to give in to that temptation, more than likely we eventually will. Whenever the urge to do something that I know I shouldn’t be doing pops in my head, I immediately try to find something that will take my mind away from that temptation. It can be hard sometimes, especially when we tell ourselves that it’s not hurting anyone. Maybe you’re being tempted to do something that you’re not really sure would be a sin or not. In those “grey area” temptations I look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, just ask yourself if you’re not sure, “Would doing this glorify God?” If not, chances are, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Now I know a lot of people are reading this and saying, “How can everything I do glorify God?” Giving thanks is one way. Before you dive in to that mocha frappe, give thanks to God that He allowed that wonderful treat to be part of your life. Before you fire up the Xbox, give thanks that you live in a part of the world that has electricity. I’ve even started using my temptation as a way of glorifying God. Whenever I’m tempted, I thank God for giving me the strength to endure. If it wasn’t for God, I never would have been set free from the temptations that were ruling my life. The temptation to drink, to smoke, to look at pornography. These temptations had complete control of my life, and I’m not going to lie, I still struggle with them. But God has broken my chains of bondage. He set me free from a life of temptation and addiction. When I felt trapped on that island, He provided a life raft to salvation. He can do the same thing for you. To anyone out there reading this that feels lost to a world of temptation and addiction, God can save you, God WILL save you. All you have to do is ask. Romans 10:13 NKJV, “For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Paul is the man! In the books of Timothy, Paul is writing letters from prison to a young pastor. The letters are basically advice on how Timothy should lead the church. They have guidelines for how to treat church members, qualifications for church officials, and some really awesome advice for a young man just starting out in his ministry. Both books are really amazing, but the latter parts of 2 Timothy are the ones that stick out in my mind the most. You can feel the urgency in Paul’s letters, like he knows his end is near and he is desperately trying to reach Timothy. In chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, Paul warns Timothy of the times to come. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” After reading this and looking around at the world we live in today, it’s not hard to feel like we are living in those last days that Paul mentioned. I just started working as a youth leader, and I can’t help but to feel like Paul is talking to me in these books. All the advice he is giving can and must still be applied today. I’m pretty sure 2 Timothy was the last book that Paul wrote before he was beheaded, and in the last chapter you can really feel his urgency. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 NKJV, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” I’m just getting started in my ministry, but I hope to stay as true and as on fire for God as Paul did. I hope to one day be able to say the exact same words that Paul did in verse 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”