Three Gifts You Never Exchange

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Confession time: I know I don’t always give “the perfect gift” to my loved ones. My family is so gracious, I’ve probably missed even more often than I realize.

Even with the best of intentions, I’ve fallen short in creativity or attention to detail. My second-guessing and insecurity about this is heightened during the holidays, so I save receipts. They can always exchange a gift when it is the wrong color, wrong size, or otherwise unwanted. And there are no hard feelings about it. I’ve chosen to exchange gifts myself. Haven’t we all?

But God is not this sort of gift-giver. Rather, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Our good Father gives us exactly what we need when we need it (Matthew 7:11). There are no genuine exchanges for something better. Better gifts do not exist! In fact, only deception, foolishness, or selfishness would move people to exchange God’s good gifts for the devil’s inferior and damnable knock-offs. Let’s notice three of God’s gifts that the Bible warns us never to exchange.

  1. Never Exchange the Truth of God for Lies. The Wise man advised his son, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). The apostle Paul explained that wicked, idolatrous societies have exchanged the gift of Truth for lies and reap the disastrous results. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25). God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17) and Scripture is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Perhaps we fail to recognize that every word from God is a gift from Him, the gift of Truth. The Bible is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange The Faith for Worldly Philosophies. There is only one faith, one gospel, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:5; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9-10). Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to guard the faith and don’t exchange it for fashionable worldly philosophies. “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Likewise, Christians at Colosse were warned. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Let us respect Christianity as it is revealed in Scripture and not attempt to wed it to worldly philosophies or discard it in favor of man-made religions. The Faith is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange Salvation for Sin. The greatest gift that God gives us is salvation in Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift is priceless because it is only obtainable by the precious death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:26; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Yet Temptation often offers us something in exchange for our salvation. The Hebrew writer warns Christians to view temptation to sin like Moses, these things are only “passing pleasures” and not worth exchanging our eternal reward (Hebrews 11:24-26). Furthermore, learn from Esau not to be shortsighted by the selfishness of the flesh to exchange our birthright of salvation (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation is a good and perfect gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God only gives perfect gifts. He doesn’t include gift receipts. The devil tries to fool us into thinking he can make an exchange for something better. But remember that no matter how Sin wraps the package, it only contains error, apostasy, and death (James 1:14-15). Never exchange God’s good gifts for that.

By Andrew Roberts

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A Bold Confession of Despair

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I felt, with many believers, frustration and righteous indignation at the recent New York Daily News cover story. “Prayer” is disdained as mere platitudes and God (along with those who look to Him for guidance, comfort, and protection from evil) is mocked. The headline suggests that God is absent or aloof when people are “lying in pools of blood.” Ironically, those with the courage to publicly affirm their faith in God and call for prayer are denounced as cowards. These are the times when Christians have a lot of praying to do – especially for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” What an ideology. What a message. If hurting families are robbed of the spiritual solace and support of their neighbor’s prayers, what is left? If the sovereign, holy God will not right all wrongs on His Day of Reckoning, what is left? If all our hope and future rests solely on the shoulders of mere men – elected officials – and their proper governance, what is left?

Despair.

This incendiary message amounts to a bold public confession of despair. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Yet when we are overcome by evil, the result is despair.

  • If you begrudge prayers for victim’s families, you have despaired.
  • If you blame God for the evil actions of men, you have despaired. (This statement is in recognition that the God these politicians are invoking is not the same one that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook were serving with their assault rifles. The Muslim shooters were acting in accordance with the written decrees of their god and so he reasonably shares some culpability.)
  • If you conclude that the highest power in heaven and earth is mankind, well, how could you not despair? Evil has overcome you.

Evil will overcome us…

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with government. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” so the government better. The government can “end [the] gun scourge.” The government can fix everything, right? The government has omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, right? The government can save us, right? The Bible says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1; cf. Psalm 20:7). Ancient Israel made the mistake of looking to government (either their own or national allies) instead of God to deliver them from evil. The prophet encountered the-“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”-message in his day and made clear that impressive horses and chariots cannot overcome evil. Don’t put your trust there. Government cannot overcome evil. If this is the plan, then, “Hello, Despair.”
  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with another law. Obviously the answer to the murders in San Bernardino is another law restricting gun ownership. At least that’s where the New York Daily News seemed to be going with their piece. It’s just so logical: If law-abiding citizens can no longer purchase guns then law-breaking murderers will not possibly acquire them either.

My point here isn’t so much about gun control. A person can become a Christian, faithfully serve God, and go to Heaven whether their nation allows them the right to bear arms or not. My point is about law, in general. We are inviting despair if we think a stricter law or more laws will overcome evil – any laws. Law has never delivered people from evil. People break laws! Law would overcome evil only if it was kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11). Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ, only Jesus Christ has ever kept a law perfectly, none of the rest of us. Jesus Christ can overcome evil but another law in our justice system cannot. Of course we need law and order and government has a role ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). A law names and convicts evil. But if another law or a harsher law is our answer to overcome evil… “Hello, Despair.” Somebody will break the new law too, eventually.

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil without God. In Romans 1 we read of a society that knew God but rejected Him. They chose willful ignorance of the true God. What does that look like? “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…murder…deceit, evil-mindedness…haters of God, violent, proud…inventors of evil things…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:28-31). It looks like San Bernardino and a myriad of other reports on the evening News.

What do you think? Are parents talking about God to their children, so that they might “retain God in their knowledge”? Do the halls of Academia “retain God in their knowledge” as they present either science or the humanities to educate our populace? Do public officials or religious leaders “retain God in their knowledge” when they preach to the masses that all gods and religions are basically the same and thus shape public opinion and policy?

Surely it can’t be both ways. If we ignore, forget, or despise God then we cannot decry “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” We are overcome with evil. “Hello, Despair.”

Yet evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). Friend, there is no good without God (Matthew 19:16-17; James 1:16-17).

  • Evil is overcome with God by the gospel. Governments and laws won’t overcome evil but the gospel can. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel changes our state with God and justifies us by forgiving our sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11). A sinner dies to sin and gets a new life when they are baptized (immersed in water) and buried into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-14). Their heart is changed. Their mind is renewed. Their life is transformed from the world around them (Romans 12:1-2)… a world currently intent on forgetting God. Evil is overcome by God, not false religions, not governments, not laws, and not practical atheism. His plan to overcome evil by defeating Sin is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:27). Evil is overcome one soul at a time as they respond to the gospel.
  • Evil is overcome with God by prayer. I don’t know if I will vote for any of the men on the cover of this paper. I don’t know if any of them will even be on the ballot by the time elections roll around. But they got it right when they asked a nation to pray for neighbors and victims. Bible believers know to pray for the hurting, their leaders, pray for peace, pray for all the saints, pray for boldness, and pray for their enemies (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). They also know to keep praying during dark times (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Evil is overcome with God by love. God loves sinners and Jesus died to redeem them regardless of how they have sinned (John 3:16). You and I are no more sinless than Muslim terrorists or the editors at New York Daily News. We are all equally lost apart from God’s love and gracious salvation. Love is shown and known when it touches the despairing. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what people need to hear right now. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair. Let Christians hear it for what it is – an angry and rebellious child pushing away the only parent whose love can make things better. Aren’t our arms tired of pushing God away? Aren’t we ready to surrender our personal rebellions to God? We must come to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ who fixes us by His love and teaches us to love our neighbors also (Romans 13:8-10; Titus 2:11-14).

“Innocent Americans” are not “left lying in pools of blood” because there has been too much God in this society or too much prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair, especially when the truth is so obvious – only God can fix this. Only the gospel changes people. The Bible – God’s Word – has the answers. Who will share it with others? Who will listen and respond?

By Andrew Roberts

Truth, Sincerity, and a Bloody Tunic

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Have you read, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23)?

Sadly, Truth is not a hot commodity these days. The item flying off shelves is Sincerity – especially in religious matters.  While the wise man counseled God’s people to value Truth (i.e. “buy it”), the current society prefers to question the existence of Truth. No one would dare question Sincerity, though. Today, if a person sincerely believes something to be so, who has the audacity to challenge its accuracy?

Personal perspective, individual preference, emotional response – Sincerity is the standard to go by. The mistaken notion is that Sincerity constitutes Truth. As if believing something strongly enough could make it so.

But this is as wrong as it could be. You don’t believe something to make it true; you believe something because it is true. Christians don’t believe the gospel to make it true; they believe the gospel because it is true!

Truth accords with reality. Truth is the way it is. Truth is the fact of the matter. What is True is true whether you and I know it or not. True is true whether you and I like it or not. True is true whether you and I believe it or not. Our sincerity about something will never change the truth of the matter.

A Bible event testifies to the distinction of Sincerity and Truth. In the book of Genesis, Jacob believed with all his heart that his son Joseph was dead (Genesis 37:31-35). Joseph’s eleven brothers conspired to trap him and sell him into slavery. To hide their misdeeds, they took Joseph’s colorful tunic, tore it, and dipped it in blood. Then they presented the garment to Jacob and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”  Jacob said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.” Jacob tore his clothes, he wore sackcloth, and he refused to be comforted. Jacob said that he would go to his grave mourning. He sincerely believed Joseph was dead. In truth, Joseph lived. No matter how sincerely Jacob believed Joseph was dead, it did not change the truth that Joseph was alive.

We may pity Jacob because he was misled by his sons and the bloody tunic. What a shame to needlessly mourn like that. In fact, when the eleven admitted that Joseph lived, Jacob had a hard time believing them (Genesis 45:26-28).  Jacob was deceived and committed to a delusion for many years. But that did not change the truth: Joseph lived.

This account shows us three things about the Truth. First, one can be ignorant of the Truth. But that does not change it. Second, one can be deceived about the Truth. People can lie and lead you astray. It happened to Jacob. But that does not change the Truth. Finally, a person can be utterly sincere in some falsehood or delusion. But that will never alter the Truth.

Religion is not exempt from the force of Truth. Thoughtful people can look at different world religions and wonder if any of them are true. Every religion presents its own cast of characters, holy books, system of salvation, stories of origin, antidotes for suffering, and visions of future life. Are they all true? It is impossible.

Yet some people would say that various religions are all true in their own way; there are many paths and many truths – even portions of Truth are sprinkled throughout them. Another popular idea is that most all religions are basically the same anyway, so people should find the one they like best or content themselves with the religion of their parents. It matters little practically.

The gospel destroys these notions because the gospel is true (Ephesians 1:13). The gospel is the true word of the Lord (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s word is Truth (John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The Bible is true. So Christians are both lovers of truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and preachers of truth (Colossians 1:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:15).

People can be ignorant of the gospel, but that does not change it. They can be misled or deceived about the gospel, but that does not change it. They can be completely sincere in their faith and dedication to error, but that will not alter the gospel either. There is no salvation to be found in counterfeit gospels or false religions (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 4:12).

The world would like Christians to stop pestering people with Truth. “Leave other cultures alone,” they say, “Let them celebrate their religious heritage. After all, they are sincere.”

Surely they are sincere but so was Jacob. Sincerity does not make a religion true nor does it secure a soul. The gospel says that people are lost because of their sins and there is only one savior – Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16; 3:23; 6:23; John 14:6). People must be told the Truth (John 8:31-32) and encouraged to seek the Truth. Let’s search God’s Word to discover Truth (Acts 17:11). Let’s get back to buying Truth.

By Andrew Roberts

3 C’s of 2 Peter

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Shortly before the Apostle Peter’s death (ca. AD 67), he penned an inspired message “to those of like precious faith.” We call the letter, 2 Peter. It is a short epistle, a mere three chapters. But it contains vital warnings against error and false teachers along with exhortations to continued growth and hope in the Lord’s return.

One can easily outline the book according to the three chapters, The 3 C’s of 2 Peter.

  1. Cultivate Christian Character (2 Peter 1). Christians are taught to develop certain spiritual virtues and assured that if they practice them in life, they will never be unfruitful in their service to God nor miss out on heaven (2 Peter 1:5-11). Peter also directs them to the confirmed Scriptures as the source for their faith and doctrine. Scripture is inspired and it can be correctly interpreted by anyone, not just preachers, pastors, professors, or some other kind of self-professed “expert” (2 Peter 1:19-21). This assurance in Scripture is vital because…
  1. Condemn False Teachers (2 Peter 2). Peter warns the Christians that God’s people have always contended with false prophets and now false teachers would trouble the saints. They would deny Jesus and lead many astray. God has and will differentiate between true teachers and true followers as well as the false and the wicked (2 Peter 2:1-11). Peter describes the coming false teachers in terrible terms: covetous, beasts, corrupt, deceptive, adulterous, accursed, etc. (2 Peter 2:12-17). Though their works should manifest their hearts, many saints will be enraptured with their licentious teachings and return to the captivity of sin. Thus, some will lose their salvation (2 Peter 2:18-22). And judgment is coming…
  1. Confidence in the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3). False teachers have little interest or need to warn people about judgment. Such unpleasant teachings fail to tickle ears. Peter warned that the truth of the Lord’s return will be scoffed at (2 Peter 3:1-4)! Thus, living with the Day of the Lord in view will draw ridicule from the world, and likely the false teachers and backsliding saints will also mock it (see 2 Peter 2:1-2, 12-13). But God’s Word has created the world, destroyed it with the flood, maintained it until this day, and decreed the world’s ultimate destruction in fire (2 Peter 3:5-7). If it hasn’t happened yet, it is because God considers time differently than we do and His longsuffering and desire to see people saved is not yet exhausted (2 Peter 3:8-9, 15). But because Christians are confident in the Day of the Lord, they will live like He’s coming tomorrow (2 Peter 3:10-15). Saints will heed Peter’s warning and be about the business of living and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18).

Reading this letter is great way for any Christian to begin the day. It sparks us onto growth, warns us against satanic wiles, and reminds us that today could be the day that we meet Jesus! Can you remember the 3 C’s of 2 Peter?

By Andrew Roberts

“A Little Lower Than the Angels” Or a Little Better Than an Ape?

 

 

 

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Where did we come from?

What could be more human than contemplating this great question? Human beings are unique among God’s creatures for pondering and debating their origin. Yet God’s true word, the Bible, reveals the simple and wonderful facts of the matter.

On the sixth day of Creation, God made all animals that walk on the earth (Genesis 1:24-25). He spoke them into existence and they came forth from the earth. Then God created man separately, in His own image (Genesis 1:26-8). God intended man to have dominion over all of the earth and over all of the animals. Man is not (and never was) just another animal. Man is superior to animals. He did not descendant from them.  In the details recorded in Genesis 2:7, 18-24 it is clear that Adam found no animal comparable to him. Without Eve, Adam was alone, though he was surrounded by animals.

People are not animals. Some people teach that they are simply animals. Some people act like a bunch of animals (to their shame). But the Bible is clear. “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds” (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Consider Jesus Christ. Part of His unique role in God’s redemptive plan involved dying to pay for our sins (make propitiation – 1 John 4:9-10). In order to die, He shared in “flesh and blood” with all the people (Hebrews 2:14). He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He “came in the likeness of men” and was “found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7-8). “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…” (Hebrews 2:9).

You see, He was fully God and fully Man at once. I’m comfortable saying with Paul that it is a great mystery how “God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). But I believe it. And to be man – flesh and blood human – is to be a little lower than the angels; not a little better than an ape. Humanity is not equal to the animals. Humanity is closer akin to spiritual beings than terrestrial beasts. We are a little lower than the angels.

But some people don’t see aspiring angels in their fellow man. They only see lucky apes. They approach life from Old-Earth-Evolutionary presuppositions. The planet is a billion years old. The dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. Some ape-like creature was transitioning into modern humans over the past 2 million years. Here we are today trying to figure out which apes or ape-like creature people descended from.

I read about a cartoon where a princess kissed a frog in one frame and in the next frame she is kissing her prince charming. The caption read: “If a frog instantly transforms into a prince that is a fairy tale. But if a frog transforms into a prince over 300 million years, that is Evolution.”

Well, the October issue of National Geographic details the latest find of a supposed missing-link ape-like creature called Homo naledi. A cache of fossilized remains was discovered in a cave system in South Africa in 2013. It is thought that between 15-18 specimens are being reconstructed from the extant fossils. No one knows how old the bones are or how they came to be in the cave.

While the magazine offers beautiful photographs of artistic models and paintings of what Homo naledi looked like, the artists had to use imagination to fill in the gaps of fossil evidence. Page 37 says, “While primitive in some respects, the face, skull, and teeth show enough modern features to justify H. naledi’s placement in the genus Homo.” But when one sees the fossils pictured on pages 44-48 it is clear that there is no complete skull at all, and the face bones themselves are missing. Only the top of skulls, one lower mandible and partial upper teeth plates have been recovered. Thus there is no way to know if the creature had a “flat” face like a human being or the more elongated and sloped face of an ape.

According to the article, Homo naledi has shoulder blades, a flared pelvis, and long curved fingers all consistent with apes. It also has a small braincase consistent in size with smaller extinct apes. But its legs are long, its hand could probably hold a tool, and its foot looks pretty human. Their working hypothesis is that Homo naledi is a transitional fossil and probably the root of the human family tree. Thus today, humans are a little better than an ape.

I think this is a fascinating story of paleontology and discovery. It is neat. But I’m not persuaded this is the missing link which finally demonstrates Man’s evolutionary chain. Currently, the evidence would also support the hypothesis that a new species of extinct ape has been recovered or perhaps it shows there was more variation in the extinct ape Australophithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) than previously realized.

Ideas have consequences. If people accept the opinion that humans are evolved from animals – just a better breed of ape – it can impact them negatively. But when we remember that we are created in the image of God, and closer to angels than animals, it informs the way we look at life positively.

  • Human life is sacred. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6).
  • We are responsible to treat our neighbors, animals, and the environment “humanely.” We have dominion and the stewardship that comes with it (Genesis 1:26, 28).
  • We can look up, knowing that we aspire to be God’s servants and to exist with Him in heaven.

We’re only a little lower than angels! Let’s remember who we are and live like it this week!

By Andrew Roberts

Adultery, Sin, and The Ashley Madison Affair

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Millions of philandering (and would-be-philanderer) spouses were “outed” last month when the Ashley Madison website was hacked. The personal information of 39 million users from 53 countries was leaked. Aftershocks from these revelations were felt from the Pentagon to the pulpit.

A bevy of investigations was launched among government employees over the security breach. Some of the exposed website users committed suicide. Others resigned from their work or lost their job – including Ashley Madison’s CEO. It was even reported that some 400 clergy resigned publicly from their ministries on Sunday August 30, 2015.

The Ashley Madison website offered a simple product: Adultery. Their trademarked slogan was, “Life is short. Have an affair.” For one subscription price, the website would moderate customer information to help facilitate a potential affair for users. But for a premium rate the website practically guaranteed an extra-marital affair.

Yet the adulterers and adulteresses face terrible consequences for their sin. Publicly there is scandal, disgrace, and potentially unemployment. Privately there is broken trust, broken hearts, and possibly divorce. Some adulterers even go to rehab.

So how did the Ashley Madison website persuade people to pay for the privilege of losing everything?

Ashley Madison offered an approach to the sin of adultery that promised, “Sin is safe.” They marketed a particular temptation. For the disenchanted spouse, or simply the curious, this company presented the illusion that adultery is easy, fun, popular, fulfilling…and no one will ever know.

This is always Sin’s pitch. One can replace adultery with any number of unrighteous deeds that the Bible condemns and see people running headlong into them because they are deceived.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NKJV.

Sin does not work the way Ashley Madison promised. The Bible tells us how sin really works. There is a “passing pleasure” with it (Hebrews 11:25). But then sin “brings forth death” (James 1:15). And “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Do not be deceived. There is no safe sin. An Ashley Madison approach to sin says three things, all of which are false!

  1. Sin is safe as long as it is inconsequential. “Life is short. Have an affair.” This echoes another lie that the Bible exposes, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Life is short but it does not follow that we should indulge every appetite. There are consequences – temporally and spiritually. There is a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-49). There is a final judgment (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). There is eternal life to be gained and perdition to be avoided (Matthew 25:46). Life is short. Eternity is long. Don’t have an affair! Don’t think your sins do not impact yourself, your family, or your neighbors. Don’t think that you won’t answer for it to God. Sin has consequences. It’s been said that sin takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you can ever pay.
  2. Sin is safe as long as it is consensual. “We’re all consenting adults here.” Who consented? Fallout from this Ashley Madison affair shows that while millions of people subscribed, clearly millions more were neither consulted nor consented. God’s Word is the moral authority, not personal inclinations. Righteousness is declared by the Word of God. Sin is identified and condemned by the Word of God. God never consents to sin and since life is short, His judgment matters the most (John 12:48).
  3. Sin is safe as long as it is concealed. Ashley Madison’s brand is a beautiful woman shushing the world with her fingertip. The Ashley Madison website promised discretion, absolute secrecy, and identity protection. But hackers showed they could not deliver. Such secrets rarely stay hidden in this life but nothing is hidden from God (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Hebrews 4:13). No sin is safe.

My heart breaks for the millions of homes shattered – to different degrees – over the Ashley Madison affair. The media cycle has moved on but the families are still picking up the pieces.

Yet it would be a tragedy compounded not to learn from this situation.

Know that everything the Bible says about Sin and Temptation is true. You will feel inclined and deceived into involving yourself with it, but in the end it will ruin your life and damn your soul. Neither Ashley Madison nor Satan himself can deliver on all that Sin promises.

Know that if you invested the time and money romancing your spouse rather than cheating on them, you might be pleasantly surprised by how fulfilling marriage can be. This is an application of the Bible truth: you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

Know that there is power to conquer sin. While this post has explored some of the deception and pain involved with sin, God loved us too much to allow Sin and Death to be the final words in our story. The gospel really is good news because by Christ’s cross there is forgiveness and reconciliation with God that can lead to forgiveness, peace, and healing between all of sinful mankind – even wounded spouses.

By Andrew Roberts

 

Facing Death with Terra Cotta Warriors

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I’ll never forget taking my kids to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. As we toured their exhibit, China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, I came face to face with a twenty-five-hundred-year-old Chinese General. As I learned about these full-scale sculptures, it brought to mind the Scripture:

“For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6:7.

But China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (260-210 BC), could not have disagreed more. He invested an estimated 70,000 craftsman over three to four decades constructing an elaborate underground city for his burial, complete with a population made of clay. Until relatively recently, tales of Qin Shi Huangdi’s necropolis were a favorite Chinese legend.

In 1974, rural farmers accidently discovered the emperor’s ancient burial complex while digging a water well. As archaeologists began investigating the area in the Shaanxi Province, they unearthed an army of elaborate, life-sized, terra cotta sculptures. 1,000 of an estimated 8,000 terra cotta warriors have been excavated. There is believed to be 130 full scale chariots and 670 horses as well. Qin Shi Haungdi’s terra cotta army includes Generals, Infantrymen, Archers, and Cavalrymen, as well as Acrobats, Musicians, and Birds. Each sculpture held an actual tool or weapon and thus far, no two faces are alike.

This emperor approached death as he did life – he intended to reign. Qin Shi Huangdi managed to conquer all of China’s warring regions and consolidate an empire. He was a violent man and paranoid about his rule. While his tomb has not been opened, excavations and histories demonstrate that he killed sons suspected of treachery, his wives were buried alive with his body, and all of the workers and craftsman involved in constructing the necropolis were executed to prevent grave robbery. Like the Pharaoh’s of old, this Chinese ruler believed he would need a palace, provisions, riches, and even an army to serve him in the afterlife.

Today the terra cotta warriors stand at attention; a silent witness of one man’s plan to face death. While his materialistic approach demonstrates he was wholly unequipped for the spiritual realities of death, no one can accuse him of taking his death lightly.  Over 30 years he contemplated and prepared for what should happen after he died.

It is good to ponder death (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). King Solomon of ancient Israel (reigned ca. 970-930 BC) also considered death. With wisdom from God he wrote, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Indeed, death is the great equalizer – rich or poor, king or peasant, wise or fool – the time comes to die. “And how dies a wise man die? As the fool!” (Ecclesiastes 2:16; see also Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Furthermore, in Psalm 89:47-48, Ethan’s contemplation is found, “Remember how short my time is; For what futility have you created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”

How many of our neighbors in American society truly ponder death for even 30 minutes a year, let alone a 30 year public works building project of terra cotta? Like other ancient rulers, Qin Shi Huangdi saw himself as the Master and the Potter. But Scripture teaches us that the truth of the matter is people are the clay, not the potter. We do not need to craft things to serve us in death but allow God to mold us in life that we might serve Him today and glorify Him through death (Romans 14:8).

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand,” Isaiah 64:8.

By Andrew Roberts