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Who Will Enter the Kingdom?

Posted in Articles, Devotional Corner with tags on February 7, 2015 by Stephen Hare

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”Luke 12:32

Before we begin to address this topic we can take such comfort and encouragement from Jesus’ words in Luke, that tell us not to fear, that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

There are many different “brands” of Christianity these days, or so it would seem.

There are multitudes of churches throughout our country and the world at large that could be referred to or thought of as different flavors or expressions of the Christian faith.

Now, while it is nice to think that we are able to simply pick the one that best suits our preference, our spiritual persuasion or doctrinal belief system, we must never allow ourselves to think of these religious forms or expressions as a type of spiritual temperature gauge to somehow measure our proximity or relationship to God.

Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt 25:34

It should be understood that all the questions and discussion related to sound biblical doctrine and belief are secondary when it comes to knowing whether we will or will not enter the kingdom of heaven, for Jesus himself said, “Not everyone who keeps saying to me,  “Lord, Lord” will get into the kingdom from heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven.”  Mt 7:21

You will meet people all the time who claim to “know God” or to be a Christian, many whose lives don’t display any different qualities or standards morally or spiritually that would distinguish one from another.

To accurately understand our relationship to God we must look to the word that comes from God Himself.

The teaching of Paul in the book of Corinthians is consistent with that of Jesus, and he makes it clearly understood that not all people will enter the kingdom. He says in 1 Cor 6:9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? “

“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you. But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the

name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. “

So then, while it is clear that not all will enter the kingdom, entrance is not denied based

exclusively on what we’ve done in the past since Paul says that many of those in the Corinthian

church were once defined by the disqualifying descriptors. But the amazing truth is that even

though a person might have been guilty of such crimes against God and themselves, God who is

rich in mercy forgives and cleanses us by the redemption that was purchased by the blood of

His own son, Jesus Christ, who died on our behalf.

“But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the

name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. “

We are only denied access to the kingdom if we have not been washed and cleansed by the blood of

Christ and if we have continued to practice unrighteousness as the expression of our daily living;

that it is still presently not about what we once were, but who we still are.

Again Paul teaches in Galatians 5:20-21 –

“Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are:

adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies,

angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies,  envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and things like

these; of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that they who do such things shall not

inherit the kingdom of God.

Here again, Paul is emphasizing defining behavioral practices that if indulged in a

habitual way will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God.

James makes it clear that our faith in God must be accompanied by works, or our faith is really dead.

The Holy Spirit affirms that we are the children of God, enabling us to live according to a different set of ideals, principles and affections that are all rooted in the instruction of the Word of God.

James said that faith without works is dead, so that the only way to identify a faith that is genuine, is to examine the life of the professing believer. There will necessarily be evidence in the conduct and way of living that supports the profession of belief in God.

If there is no substantive change in our behavior or fundamental shift of our paradigm the way we view our life and reality; then upon what basis can we lay claim to biblical salvation, that is defined by a new creation?

The term “new creation” itself suggests that the old has died, and something new has begun. That is the experience of every christian, however different it might look for the individual.

If we truly believe that God is who He says He is, then we know that we are accountable to him for what we do with our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.

The scriptures tell us that all mankind is accountable before God; “all men are without excuse” and “everyone will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for the things they have done in the flesh, whether good, or evil.”

The paradigm shift is that now we understand that we are accountable to God, whereas before we were completely blind to that reality.

For the one who knows to do right and does it not, it is sin. We may say that we have a relationship with God, but that relationship precludes the continued practice of sin.

If we understand that God is everywhere present, then that should affect the way that we relate to sin. To be comfortable sinning in God’s presence represents a denial that He is in fact present, and therefore reveals some level of non-reality exists.

“What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid, how shall those of us who have died with regard to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1

The grace of God doesn’t overlook sin, the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.

Titus 2:11

So then, whether we will or will not enter the kingdom will be determined by whether we have truly received the wonderful gift of His grace, and if we have it will be evidenced by the lives that we now live.

Every one of us has been alienated from the life of God because of who we are in our sin. That’s where we all begin, but that’s not where we need to stay. Being a Christian is more than mere words; it is who we have become.

We are no longer who or what we once were, and that necessitates actual change; not that we can produce on our own, but what God does in us and for us by the power of His Spirit who now resides in us.

It is the Father’s good pleasure to give to us the kingdom, but we must receive it, and the receiving of it requires that we begin to live lives that are worthy of it.

“Enter by the narrow is the gate, because the gate is wide and the road is spacious that leads to destruction, and many people are entering by it.  How narrow is the gate and how constricted is the road that leads to life, and there are few that find it!  Mt 7:13-14

There is no need for anyone to be deceived on this point since God has made it so clear. We can’t recreate ourselves, that is God’s work. But when we cry out to Him for mercy and He changes us by His power, it will become self-evident by our changed hearts and the trajectory of our lives.

So then, who will enter the kingdom of God?

If you are uncertain at this point, you should cry out to God for mercy until you see a changed life when you look in the mirror. If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you a court of law?

“Not everyone that keeps saying “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom from heaven, but only the one who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven.”  Mt 7:21

Amen.

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Is It Wrong to Judge?

Posted in Articles, Devotional Corner with tags , , on September 21, 2013 by Stephen Hare

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Judge not, that you be not judged”.

I wonder sometimes if this is one of the most well liked passages of scripture? It is certainly one that is quoted often by many. It is important though to take notice of the whole context of this statement for the sake of understanding and accurate interpretation of what is being said with regard to the broader content of scripture on the topic of judgement.

In Matthew 7:1-5  Jesus is not teaching that we are not to judge at all, but is laying out the rules for judging.  We must first judge ourselves (remove the speck from our own eye) before we attempt to judge the behavior of others (so we may see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye).

First, it is important to examine the definition of the word “‘judgment” and I would like to examine the word from a couple angles for clarity. A judge obviously must make judgments or he could not be a judge, right?

judg·ment

noun \ˈjəj-mənt\

: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought

: the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought : the act of judging something or someone

: the ability to make good decisions about what should be done

1

a: a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion

b: an opinion so pronounced

2

a: a formal decision given by a court

b (1): an obligation (as a debt) created by the decree of a court (2): a certificate evidencing such a decree

3

acapitalized: the final judging of humankind by God

b: a divine sentence or decision; specifically: a calamity held to be sent by God

4

a: the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing

b: an opinion or estimate so formed

5

a: the capacity for judging : discernment

b: the exercise of this capacity

A judge makes assessments based upon the evidence that is presented in a court of law, in other words, he assesses the situation and states his conclusion of the matter; his judgment. He either acquits the person if they are determined to be innocent or he passes sentence according to the measure of their guilt in the matter.

The two definitions that I want to develop are these;

  1. Making character assessments
  2. Imposing sentence 

Making Character Assessments:

Each one of us must make character assessments where others are concerned or we will obviously (by default) make some very bad choices about the types of people we choose to associate with or invite to hang out in our living room. ( The exercise of the capacity of discernment…)

The scriptures show us that Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and in the proper context it’s not at all inappropriate for us to engage with people who are morally corrupt in their understanding and lifestyle.

If we do not interact with them, how will they have an example of what is good, and right and acceptable? We are to be the light of the world.

The power of God’s grace and the gospel of the kingdom is to be shared and preached in any and every place and is sufficient to break the hardest heart and to free from the darkest bondage of sin.

However, even though I would (and did for years) preach the gospel in a prison where murderers, drug addicts and thieves are separated from society for their crimes, I would not invite them to “drop by my home any time”.

Why you ask? Because it would not be in the interest of sound wisdom or discretion to invite such obvious potentially destructive elements into my life and family without disastrous results. And I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else either.

Would you invite a child molester to hang out with your children? Really? If you can’t judge a child molester as being an unfit guardian for your children, you really shouldn’t be a parent.

So…we must make character assessments, or “judgments” about others in order to live according to God’s standards. If we live according to the standard of God’s word, we use wisdom in choosing our associations and friendships.

The scripture tells us that if we love the world and the things in it, that the love of the Father is not in us, and that we are not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers.

Oxen are yoked together for their combined strength, but if one is stronger than the other, the weaker will be led by the stronger. We are not to be associated with someone whose unbelief is stronger than our faith. If we do, we will be corrupted by their ways and pervert the ways of God.

  1. Imposing Sentence

God is the judge. We are not God.

While I have shown clearly above (and it is equally clear in God’s word) that we must judge the behavior of others, we cannot determine a person’s eternal outcome. I cannot say of another “You are not worthy of God’s kingdom, and will surely end up in hell.”

I can share what God’s word says about sin and the certain consequences of continuing in it.

“I warned you before and tell you again that no fornicator, no idolator, adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God”.   I Corinthians 6:9

This list is repeated in some detail in Galatians 5:19-21

The very next verse says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

It is a level playing field. We all begin in our corrupted state because we were born in sin, but “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away and all things have become new. 2 Cor 5:17

But let’s not stop there –  let’s read on…

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.  For what have I to do with judging those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. (Pretty clear, right?”) Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

That is not my judgment, it is God’s. I didn’t say it, God said it in His word, and it is His word that will judge each of us ultimately.

The person here is judged as “evil” because of their evil actions, but later after they have turned from their sin, Paul encourages the church to receive him again so he will not become discouraged. Paul reproved the church for their liberality with the situation.  It is therefore the church’s responsibility to judge so that we are not judged by God.

“For if we would judge ourselves, we will not be judged.”  1 Corinthians 11:31

For those of you who don’t think it is right to judge under any circumstance (and I know you’re out there…),  what do you do with this passage…?

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?”

What is my point, or conclusion of the matter?  It is this;

As God’s ambassadors and representatives, we are to rightly interpret and speak what God’s word has already said. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness.” 2 Tim 3:16

And it is clear from the scriptures that we have looked at here that there is a clear distinction between making necessary character assessments for the purpose of maintaining the purity of the church (ourselves) and imposing a sentence on another person’s life, which is God’s place, not ours.

God’s purpose in judgment is essentially two-fold; it is to make a distinction between what is acceptable to Him and what is not through His dispensing of justice; and to demonstrate His mercy for His redemptive purposes that are clearly seen in His Son Jesus Christ by His death and resurrection from the dead.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24

RE: Tragedy in Connecticut

Posted in Articles with tags , on December 19, 2012 by Stephen Hare

Yes, I too was stunned and horrified by yet another outbreak of senseless violence. It took quite a while for it to actually sink in. You hear it, but it’s just too hard to conceive that anyone could be capable of such evil against another human being, let alone his own mother. These tragic “events” are becoming more and more common.

Your question is one that all of us have asked or will ask at one time or another, and while the understanding of God’s love, justice, mercy and judgments against sin are vast and complex topics, I will at least try to share just a few ideas here in the hope that it will lend even a little clarity to these difficult themes. I will only ask that the reader(s) will extend a little grace, bearing in mind that these themes really require a book to cover adequately, and this blog post runs the risk of offending those who fail to understand that this “covering” of the topic can’t be comprehensive enough to satisfactorily answer every question posed by this and similar tragedies.

But really, if God was to stop the gunman, how would He go about it? I mean, what would that actually look like…should He strike him dead in his tracks? Just a question…

I only want to hold up some of my ideas and some supporting passages of scripture for your consideration and contemplation.

That being said;

 

First, where questions related to the character of God are concerned, the reader must decide whether they do or do not believe that the source and inspiration of the bible is God Himself; that the bible is authoritative – the very word of God. i.e., “No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, but holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” If you do not, then you have no reason to believe or seriously consider anything that I will share here.

…our adversary Satan hates every living thing and especially all men, women and children who are created in the image of God.”

If you do understand that the bible is God’s prophetic historical record of things past and record of things to come, you realize that all the earth is and has been in a cosmic conflict since the fall of man. Lucifer, who is the devil and Satan (the adversary), who was created perfect in wisdom and beauty led an angelic rebellion against God and His kingdom since iniquity was found in him. The bible doesn’t disclose exactly how sin came to be, only that it exists. And one thing we understand  from the bible; that our adversary Satan hates every living thing and especially all men, women and children who are created in the image of God.

 

So then, violence has been with us from the beginning. Well, since the fall. The first act we see in the scripture after the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, is Cain killing his brother Abel; because his deeds were righteous. God, knowing Cain’s heart (as He knows the hearts of all people) warned Cain and said, “Sin crouches at the door, but you must master it.” Well, he didn’t master it, but succumbed to it and killed Abel. God did not kill Cain, but said that the blood of Abel cried out to Him from the ground, and pronounced a curse on Cain and his offspring.

I John 5:19 says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one”.

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The Fact Is: Some people who are “under the influence of the evil one” choose evil, unthinkable things instead of good, and innocent people have and always will suffer because of the sin of others. How many accounts of genocide or other crimes against humanity can you list?

  • The French and German Holocaust
  • Cambodia
  • Red China
  • Oklahoma
  • 9-11
  • human trafficking resulting in death
  • child molesters
  • incest and rape perpetrated by fathers against their own children
  • Domestic and foreign terrorism

 

The list of atrocities is virtually endless – and depressing.

 

How about the Abortion Industry Holocaust that has been going on for decades now right under our noses, with our current administration pushing for its increase? (Currently, 1.3 million, yes, million unwanted children are being systematically murdered every year in the US alone.)

 

What if He removed his Holy Spirit and all restraints from man and allowed the god of this world (Satan) free rein? How long do you think we’d last?”

 

So, we have looked at some (certainly not all) of those who have suffered because of wicked people, but what about those that God has rescued? How about obvious interventions in your own life? Have you ever faced death and somehow escaped? Psalm 68:20 says that “Our God is the God of salvation, and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.” Can you hear that? He owns every escape from death!

 “but what about those that God has rescued? How about obvious interventions in your own life?”

When I was 19 years old, I hit a tree traveling at 70 mph without a seat-belt. Three of us sustained minor injuries and walked away from a car that looked like a crushed aluminum can. I could share many other times when I could easily have perished at the hand of others with their finger on the trigger literally.

How many people have you heard of or know personally who have had near-death experiences? Ask yourself this question: What if God chose not to be involved at all in the affairs of men? What if He removed his Holy Spirit and all restraints from man and allowed the god of this world (Satan) free rein? How long do you think we’d last? I praise God for His great mercy toward us!

In the midst of suffering and loss, when you don’t understand, do you trust in your own wisdom, or do you turn to Him and trust in the One who made you?”

 

Summary Statement:

 

There are many who hold different opinions about God than I do, but I know Him. He is good, and He has been good to me, my family, and many others I know(as well as millions who know Him that I don’t personally know. He continually reaches out to millions who care nothing about their Creator, even though He died in their place. Figure that one out…

Life and death are far too complex for me to understand, but I do know that God is in control and there has never been a moment that He has not been in control and He is all about fulfilling His purposes in the earth for both time and eternity. He is the One who made me, so I can entrust myself to Him as to a faithful Creator. He died for me, so now I live for Him.

Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones in this recent tragedy in Connecticut (the state where I grew up), and my wife and I have been praying daily that they will turn to the Lord in their grief, and not away from Him (which I believe some are doing).

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

In the midst of suffering and loss, when you don’t understand, do you trust in your own wisdom, or do you turn to Him and trust in the One who made you?

We all have the same decision to make about our life now, and for eternity to come. How about you?

 

Hope this helps someone, somewhere.

 

Stephen Hare

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