IT’S YOUR CHOICE
By Rayola Kelley
I have a Friday mornings I teach a Bible Study, and one of the topics that always raises the expectation of those attending is that Jesus is coming back soon. Our opinions may vary in regard to how matters may play out, but we all agree that even if we do not know when He is actually coming, it is becoming obvious that we are living in those days where various prophecies concerning Israel are coming together. These prophecies point to a certain season in relationship to national Israel, certain events that must come together to usher in Jesus’ coming, and prophecies that unmistakably outline the spiritual environment that will be present when this blessed event occurs. Jesus clearly stated that we would be able to recognize this time if we cared to properly discern the signs.
As I mentioned in the past, I became a Christian when eschatology was the going subject. It seemed that because of the excitement exhibited concerning this subject, there were many sermons on what it would mean to be ready for the coming of the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). Jesus is coming back and each day and each sign and fulfillment of prophecy should dictate the emphasis of what is being preached from the pulpits. If Jesus is coming back soon, then people must be truly saved and prepared for this wondrous event, but how many religious leaders believe He is coming back and how many people who affiliate themselves with Christianity will be ready?
I don’t know what is being preached from every pulpit today. In the church I attend, the pastor is 90 years old. He still has a strong voice and is an evangelist at heart because he does not want to see people go to hell. He cries at the altar over the goodness of God while praying for others. As he preaches he often sheds tears over the glorious salvation he has received by grace, and those tears speak of an overwhelming awe and appreciation towards God. Every Sunday he contends for lost, wayward, backslidden, and hurting souls. He wants to see God move on hearts, the unfeigned Word of God stir up souls, the Holy Spirit quicken lean spirits, the hurting healed, the seeking found by the great Shepherd, and the lost saved. He believes there can be revival and that God wants to bring forth revival, but the Spirit of God must come, not just to manifest His presence during worship, but to do a deep work of repentance in order to bring forth regeneration, sanctification, and transformation in His church (Titus 1:5; 1 Peter; 1:2; Romans 12:1-2).
This pastor preaches the simple Gospel as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
How important is the Gospel? I have discussed this in the past. The Apostle Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the Gospel for it is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” but Paul feared that many would stray from its simplicity and promote a gospel that could not save. He warned that those who preach any other gospel would stand accursed (Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4; Galatians 1:6-9).
Some people may say, “Hearing the Gospel on most Sundays must be boring.” However, Jesus stated that if He is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). The reality is that the Holy Spirit wants to lead us into all truth and the Gospel often serves as a springboard (John 16:13). Like all pastors, our pastor is an imperfect man saved by grace, who simply serves as a vessel of the Lord. However, it is clear he wants to be faithful to his calling and commission, and the one thing he understands is that as long as Jesus Christ and the message of Him being crucified is lifted up for all to consider in light of their spiritual plight of sin, struggles, and needs, that the Holy Spirit can anoint such a message and quicken the spirit of people.
There are always two main challenges our pastor often puts forth. One is found in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Every man will stand before the great Judge and there will be no pardon offered to those who rejected God’s solution, just judgment of death passed down, and there will be no escaping His wrath with flimsy excuses to try to cover up wickedness.
The second scripture he often quotes is one I use to remind myself that the Christian life, whether it be that of repentance, faith, believing, righteousness, godliness, and obedience is a matter of choice, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
It is hard to watch many of the people of this age rush towards the abyss with their fingers in their ears and blinders on their eyes, while some rage against righteousness and others are covered with shrinking fig leaves to try to hide their spiritual nakedness before a holy God. It’s hard to know that no man would knowingly choose an eternity of damnation, but in selfishness and foolishness he prefers and is quick to outright mock and reject the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. And, the reason for rejecting God is because man wants to determine his own truth, live the way he wants to live, and do as he pleases.
In a world that has dulled people down with sensationalism and artificial forms of communication and now “artificial intelligence,” many “churchites” could easily become bored with the simple message of the Gospel which poses the question, “How many have really heard the true Gospel, believed it and received it?” There is nothing boring about the Gospel because it is the power of God to save people but it does so by cutting right to the core of man’s rejection of God, exposing that he is a sinner, and doomed in sins that have already been judged.
We know the word “gospel” means “good news.” However, I fear that much of the “good news” that is promoted is not about the sin that spiritually ails people but about how the Gospel will benefit them. The crux of the “Gospel” is the bad news that man is lost to God because of sin, but the “good news” of the message is not that man is saved in his sins; rather, that God provided His Son to not only address sin, but take it away so man could be redeemed from the judgment of sin (eternal damnation) and be reconciled back to God, the giver of eternal life. Clearly, if any gospel is missing the “bad news” about the reality of sin, then the “good news” of Jesus’ redemption will not mean a thing. Jesus did not come so man could be saved and blessed “in his sin;” rather Jesus died to save man “from the claims” that sin had on his lost soul so he could be blessed with a new life. The Apostle Paul made this clear in Romans 6:14-15, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? God forbid.” Keep in mind the law was given to show each of us we are transgressors of God’s holy Law, sinners or offenders of the Law. As Scripture states, “For all have sinned…and the wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God), but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 3:20, 23; 6:23).
Although we live in a world that lives in denial about what lies at the core of man’s plight, the reality, consequences, and destruction of sin abounds all around us. Families are falling apart, future generations are being systematically aborted, immorality is taking center stage as the land is beginning to spew the people out in greater measure, lawlessness abounds in our societies, the stagnation of indifference and corruption marks much of our leaders, people are looking to various addictions to exist, and there are activists instead of judges overseeing our courts who make an absolute mockery out of the law of this nation. In fact, we live in a culture of death, that is caught up with deception, anger, hatred, and death.
Sin is the problem and the only One who can address sin and take its power away and replace its deadly consequences with life is the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the matter of sin does not fit in our politically correct society. Man wants to feel good in his sin, not be broken over it in complete repentance because it cost God His Son. Man wants to hide behind God’s love thinking he deserves grace rather than face the fact that God’s love provided the solution for sin because man warrants judgment and damnation and is deserving of hell. Man wants to believe his sin is not so bad in spite of the fact that it is leaving a wake of destruction behind it. He wants to take some artificial stimulant to try to keep ahead of the depressing reality that surrounds him in his pathetic plight instead of facing it along with fear that torments him. Man wants to blame his misery on everyone else from those who disagree with his insanity to those who will not play along with him in the cesspool and stench of the sandboxes of the world.
Sadly, it appears that much of the visible church has been conditioned to not only accept a watered-down gospel but to promote it as well. The popular gospel that is gaining momentum fits into the present day narrative. It is the “feel-good gospel” or the “social gospel.” In this gospel man is encouraged to do those things that ultimately will make him feel good about himself, whether it is doing good deeds or certain religious activities, while appearing spiritual enough to others, but false gospels do not address the guilt, the regrets, the vicious cycle, and the fear that often besets him when he comes face to face with the loneliness created by the vacuum of his fleshly activities and appetites. Sadly, these modern gospels have nothing to do with pleasing God or lining up to God’s righteous attitudes (Hebrews 11:6). In some cases religious people are covering up a half-hearted commitment, moral deviation, unbecoming dispositions and practices with a few good deeds here and there to soothe whatever religious conscience might be remaining after it has been seared by constantly feeding on the logic and deceptive philosophies of this world.
As I was meditating on what to write about, my plans changed. The reason the subject changed is because I realized that I first must deal with the matter of why man is not prepared to meet Jesus. Until the reason for man’s lack of preparedness is confronted, the instructions behind preparation will have no real meaning.
The crux of the problem that confronts us today in Christendom is nothing new. In fact, it has plagued the world since the Garden. It is called “unbelief.” People do not believe God’s Word and as a result they do not believe God; therefore, they do not believe in the God of the Bible. But, should this surprise us? According to the Barna Group research done in 2009, one quarter among those who describe themselves as Christians dismiss the idea that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
The fact that man changes, or rejects, God’s Word reveals that he does not believe it is God’s Word, and if it is, it has been changed or is becoming obsolete. But, let me remind the reader, the validity and authority of God’s Word rests solely on His character and power and not on man’s ineptness to do something right or perfect. Granted, there are many watered-down, questionable, and blasphemous versions out there, but the trusted KJV is still available. Whether we love the truth or not is a choice and what we partake of—truth or the poison of heresy—is a choice, and we need to know that when we stand before the Lord, it will be His truth that will judge us as all other arguments, philosophies, false doctrines, and excuses are shaken and end up collapsing in utter ruin (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 16:25-31).
My question to the unbelieving, skeptical Christians is, is God big enough and powerful enough to maintain the integrity of His Word in spite of imperfect man being the vessel in which it has been passed down? Was He lying when He made statements such as Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” or 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” and 2 Peter 2:20-21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit?” When we declare that God’s Word is not trustworthy and applicable for today, we are calling Him a liar because He has declared differently.
If a person does not believe the Word of God why would he or she take its various warnings seriously about such subjects as sin, Jesus’ coming, hell, and damnation? Why would such individuals see the need to do right when they can be contrary to God’s Word, believing that if there is such a day of reckoning it will not really matter? Why would people gamble with their souls to secure something that is temporary and will prove to be useless in the end? The answer is simple, they do not believe the Word of God; therefore, they do not fear God and tremble before His Word.
If people do not believe the Word of God, we can only reason they do not believe God. By not believing Him, they are calling Him a liar and questioning His character, stripping Him of His authority in their mind, and showing contempt towards His Word (1 John 1:8, 10; 2 Samuel 12:9). Just how serious will such disregard play out on judgment day for such people? Romans 1:18 already makes it clear that those who mishandle His Word in unrighteousness are already under His wrath, and that which is not of faith is a sin (Romans 14:23). Clearly, people may have some knowledge of the Bible, but they are not mixing faith with what they know and walking it out in obedience. As Hebrews 4:2 declares, God’s message cannot spiritually benefit them.
This brings us to the reason people risk their souls by calling God a liar: they want to do their own thing and the Word of God brings an indictment against fleshly activities. God’s Word establishes clear absolutes about morality. There is an eye opening statistic that was pointed out by the Barna Group and that is only 46 percent of born-again adults believe in the existence of absolute moral truth, while 41 percent of self-proclaimed Christians believe that the Bible along with other religious books such as the Koran are simply different expressions of the same spiritual truths.
How do such attitudes play out as far as moral conduct? In a 2003 survey, 49 percent of born-again Christians believed that living with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage was morally okay. The World Magazine reported that 53 percent of men who belong to Promise Keepers visit porn sites every week, where an Internet survey of 6,000 pastors conducted in 2002 found that 30 percent of pastors had viewed Internet porn in the last 30 days, and the figures have gone up every year. One figure I heard had 50 percent of church leadership being involved in some form of pornography and another staggering figure has 68 percent of Christians involved with some form of pornography.
The figures do not end with these alarming percentages. With over 173 million Christians in the U.S. there are tens of millions who say that they love God and yet they are liars, thieves, fornicators, adulterers, and child-murderers (had abortions). And, what does the Bible say about such actions in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Emphasis added.) We must not forget what the Apostle John said in his first epistle in 1 John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” It is important to point out that this Scripture is in relationship to those who walk in and continue to practice sin. If the Holy Spirit is in a person, He will convict that individual of sin, causing repentance.
When it comes to our young people 61 percent believe a place in Heaven can be earned through good works, 63 percent believe Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and all other people pray to the same God, and 58 percent believe all religious faiths teach equally valid truths, and yet the Bible warns us the way to life is narrow because it can only come through one way, the person and work of Jesus Christ, while any other way outside of Jesus will prove to be the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). In fact, many will strive to enter in through this narrow gate and fail to do so, while others will try to come in from other ways, but will be found to be thieves who have no part in the Lord’s flock (Luke 13:24; John 10:1-5). No wonder Jesus posed the alarming question, “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily, Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). (The statistics from the previous four paragraphs was taken from the book, God Has a Wonderful Plan For Your Life, by Ray Comfort, pgs. 10-12.)
The problem is clear: “unbelief” is rampant in the American Church, which would explain its ineffectiveness in this age as a witness, its lack of power to affect souls, and its lack of vision. For years there have been a few in the wilderness trying to warn Christians about the environment that has been produced by such teachings as “easy believism” or the improper emphasis of God’s love at the expense of His holiness. God has not changed His attitude towards sin, and if anyone is moving from the center of what is true and right, man will be found to be the culprit every time.
Regardless of unbelief, God’s Word will have the last say about such matters, and what about those who choose to not believe His Word? Revelation 21:7-8 speaks of their end, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
The last Scripture seems like gloom and doom, but it is from this premise that one can receive the good news of the true Gospel, that Jesus died for our sin. He took our place on the cross and by believing, for today is the sure day of salvation, we each can flee the wrath that is coming upon the unbelieving. (Matthew 3:7; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 5:3-6).