Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Where Would You Go If You Died Today?

If you died today, do you know where you would go?

Heaven
Hell
Don’t know.
Don’t care.

Do you know why?

Everyone is born with a malignant disease. There are no vaccinations or shots; there is no chemo or radiation that can stop it. There is no cure in sight. It is called sin. Its basic characteristics are rebellion and selfishness.

Most of the men here have had problems with one or more of the following:

Parents
Wives
Girlfriends
Lying
Rage
Sex
Drugs – pot, cocaine, heroin, meth, etc.
Homelessness
Joblessness
Prison – gangs or threats

It is easy to think that these symptoms of the sin-disease can be stopped by willpower, education, rehab, or prison. But they can be stopped only be receiving Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

There is something more basic than these awful symptoms. Jesus speaks of it more than all of the other problems.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” (Gen. 2:16)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18)

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36)

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Eph. 2:1)

“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15)

You might want to be delivered from the symptoms of your sin. The real issue is everlasting life or everlasting death. When you receive Jesus, you receive life and are delivered from all of your symptoms and from death.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14)

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6)

If you know someone who is a Christian, ask if they would be willing to introduce you to God the Father through Jesus the Son of God. Or you can make an appointment with me. God has helped me introduce sinners to Himself for the last 70 years. My phone number is 208-882-4383, and my email address is jimwilson27@frontier.com.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Starting from the Beginning

Dear S,

Thank you for your good letter of a month ago. It seems that you have misunderstood several things in the material I sent to you. Because of your misunderstanding, you have drawn conclusions that have led you to despair. I hope I can help your understanding and consequently change your conclusions from despair to joy and hope.

The material does not say either “each will find ‘God’ in his own way” or “it all goes back to praying”. In fact, it says the opposite of that.

Here is the way:

1) The way is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

2) The way is a gift.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But, because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:3-9).

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (Titus 3:3-8).

3) The way is not by good deeds. Good deeds do not undo many bad ones. They have no value at all. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10)

4) Mercy and grace are both biblical words. Mercy means that we do not get what we deserve. We deserve hell. God gives us mercy, and we do not go to hell. Grace means that we get something we do not deserve. We do not deserve Heaven. With grace, we get Heaven. God gives us grace and mercy. How did this happen?

I will start from the beginning. First, Jesus is the creator. Before Jesus came to this earth, He was the Son of God from the beginning, before anything was created. In fact, He created everything.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 14).

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rules or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:13-20).

Second, He is the Redeemer. God said, “The soul that sins shall die”, “the wages of sin is death”, “all have sinned”, “there is not a just man on earth who does good and sins not”. Everyone deserves hell.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone…Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:9, 14-15).

The reason Jesus became a man was so that he could die for my sins and your sins. In other words, he died in place of us. He took the punishment for my sins and yours when he died on the cross. Jesus did not stay dead. Three days after he was crucified he arose from the dead. He is alive today.

You have your Bible at the foot of your bed. Here is a reading assignment. Please read the last three chapters each of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Please also read the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians and the 15th chapter of Luke. God loves you and wants you to know the good news.

If you died right now, as you requested, you would not go to heaven. God is good to you in not answering your prayer. He is keeping you alive so you can go to heaven. Ask God to show you the way as you read your Bible.

In Christ,

Jim Wilson

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Storing Up Spiritual Information

Dear D,

Thank you for your letters.

You say that you are reading and praying all day, but that you feel that you are still missing something and that you do not know what it is.

Here is a possibility. You are filling your head up with much spiritual information. That is not the same as filling up your heart with God’s truth. That is why you lost it when your locker was broken into.

In Luke 6:43-45, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:34-37).

“He went on: ‘What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:20-23).

You need to have a clean heart and then fill it up with good things so that when it overflows, good things come out.

When you read a verse in Scripture like Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”, you know it in your head. Your head knowledge is not where you live. You need to get this truth into your heart so that you will normally love your enemy.

First: Ask yourself this question: True or False? Is this a command to you? You will not say, “False,” because Jesus gave the command. You may not want to say, “True,” because then you must lend to your enemy. Make yourself say, “True”. After you say, “True," thank God for the command. When you thank God, that will be the beginning of transferring “Love your enemy” from your head to your heart. Keep on thanking God for this command until you feel real love in your heart for your enemy. Then do the same thing for the other commands and promises. This is called meditation.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:1-3).

In the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Good Psalm

One of the Psalms that has defined my life is Psalm 91. I have already claimed the first and last verses.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 91)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Reasoning, Miracles & God's Way of Doing Things

Dear S,

Thank you for your letter. I suggest you read The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel and Basic Christianity by John Stott.

The Bible is God’s history of sinful man and God’s solution for sin in man. God has not changed. There are miracles today. They are not reported in the newspapers or in secular textbooks. I am personally acquainted with some and have read from qualified sources of hundreds of others. There are also fakes; I know of them, too. Again, miracles are not the subject of the Bible, nor are they the important subject today. Let me quote Jesus after He fed the 5,000. "Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill'” (John 6:26).

Here is a statement of St. Paul recorded in the New Testament: "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength" (1 Cor. 1:20-25).

Paul was a very educated man. He said that the Greeks wanted intellectual reasons and the Jews wanted miracles. God chose not to do it those two ways.

Jesus tells a story in Luke 16:19-31 and ends with a quotation from Abraham: "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead'” (Luke 16:31). Jesus later rose from the dead, and Jewish leaders still did not believe.

You say that you believe in and love God but do not know that Jesus Christ is your savior. Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Peter said in Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

John said in 1 John 4:9-10, "This is how God showed his love among us He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us an sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

John the Baptist tells us in John 3:35-36, "The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him."

I would encourage you to read the complete chapters where these quotations occur. You are not a follower of Satan because you are confused. You are a slave of Satan by birth into this world until you are set free by Jesus Christ. Romans 6 is very descriptive of this. Romans 1 tells us that all Gentiles are sinners. Romans 2 tells us that all Jews are sinners. Romans 3 says that “therefore everyone is a sinner.” The end of chapter 3 through chapter 6 tells us the how the deliverance from sin works. It is wonderful!

I was set free on October 18, 1947. All the religions of this world say you have to be good to go to Heaven. If that were true, no one would to go Heaven. The Bible says that we have to be bad to go to Heaven. Romans 3 says we all qualify. Romans 5:6-8 tells us that Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 6:23 tells us that death is the wage of sin, but eternal life is a gift bought and paid for by Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:17 says that faith is caused by the preaching of Jesus Christ. Of course you do not believe. We all start out as unbelievers. After you are convinced of the truth of the Bible and the Gospel by scientific evidence completely to your satisfaction, you still will not believe. You might think that is an irrational statement, but if you believe because you are convinced intellectually, you will be a major exception in the history of Christianity.

You see, conversion has to do with sin, judgment, and the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Intellectual belief does not cause repentance and a trusting belief. I do believe God is drawing you to Himself.

Here are some additional comments. The shroud and the holy grail are not of any biblical or spiritual significance. The shroud of Turin, apart from any scientific significance, was not seriously considered by believers because of John 20:6-7. The image, if there was one, would have been on the piece around Jesus’ head, not on the shroud. The holy grail is medieval fiction. The Roman Catholic church worshiped anything that Jesus supposedly touched, like pieces of the “true cross.”

Solomon's temple was destroyed in 587 B.C. Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. There has not been a temple since that time. This is what Jeremiah said about 25 years before Solomon’s temple was destroyed: "'Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,' declares the Lord, 'men will no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the Lord." It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made'” (Jer. 3:15-16).

Your real need is for forgiveness of sin. No other religion in the world offers forgiveness of sin with an assurance of salvation. The Bible is the only book that offers free forgiveness and everlasting life. It is through the love of God expressed through His son, the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection.

With warm regards,

Jim Wilson

Friday, August 17, 2018

Faith, Reason & Objectivity

Dear D,

I have in front of me a copy of A History of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette of Yale University Divinity School. I quote from the preface:
If it is complained that this is not an 'objective' approach, it must be remembered that pure objectivity does not exist, even in the natural sciences. One is either for or against Christianity: there is no neutral or strictly 'objective' ground. Reason has a legitimate place. We must employ it in testing what are presented to us as facts and in searching for other facts. But truth is not attained by reason alone. The insight that is born of faith can bring illumination. Faith is not credulity and if that which is called faith ignores reason it does so to its peril. But uncritical confidence in reason as the sole or final criterion is a blind act of credulity which may be even more dangerous than a faith which disdains reason. Throughout the chapters which follow is the conviction that the faith which is stimulated by contact with the Christian Gospel, the faith which is the commitment to God of the whole man, body, mind, and spirit, the commitment which is the response in love to God Who is love and Who in His love has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, opens the mind towards the true understanding of history. That we fail to understand history is due to our lack of such a commitment. That we understand it partly but imperfectly arises from a commitment which is real but incomplete. No one of us has made a full commitment. If we are honest with ourselves we know how limited our commitment is. We should, therefore, never claim infallibility for our interpretation of history. Yet so far as the faith which follows commitment has been given to us, we must seek in its light to perceive the road which man has thus far traversed.
Thank you for meeting with. Again, I learned more about you than what you told me in your life story. Your story was very interesting. You are a workaholic, study-holic, recreation-holic. You are competitive, very (100K run, 1,2000-ft. peaks).

You seem to be able to double-speak. You made a major point that the positive results of many experiments would not be fact, but only theory. Then you jumped up and down on the fact, the “incontrovertible” fact, of evolution.

You seemed to be confident in what I was about to say and had an answer for it before I finished a sentence. We certainly needed more time.

I have just spent a month on the East Coast, 21 hours of public teaching, many hours (50) in cars, in planes (10), and more hours in one-on-one teaching and in fellowship. It is good to be home!

During this time, I spent eight days in the home of a man who has been a close friend of mine since 1958. He taught physics as the U.S. Naval Academy for 42 years. He got his PhD in atomic physics at Catholic University and completed postdoctoral studies in astronomical physics at Cambridge University. He is a very godly believer. Since I hoped to finish this letter on the trip, I took your correspondence with me. He read your letter and my answer. I had wanted his input. It has been several weeks and I did not take notes, so I cannot give an accurate account of his thinking other than to say that he was concerned for you.

You said that you are “a highly moral secular humanist.” I have not doubted that. The moral standards are different in humanism than they are in the Bible.

Here are a few differences:
You shall have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20:3)

Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matt. 22:37-38)

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:20-23)

...who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. (Rom. 1:25, 28)
The moral decadence that is described in Romans 1:24-27, 29-32 is the duel result of the verses previously quoted from Romans 1. If you are not a part of this described decadence, you are an exception. According to the Bible, you have violated the first and greatest command. That is the greatest sin.

There are few other differences. In the Bible, pride is described as a basic character of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-178 and 1 Timothy 3:6). Humility is the basic character of Jesus (Matthew 11:28, Phil. 2:5-11). “But Samuel replied: 'Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king'” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).

In the KJV, “arrogance” is rendered “stubbornness.” It seems to me that you have an inordinate pride in your energy, your mind, and your accomplishments, academically, physically, and athletically. The problem is not that you have these unusual abilities, but how you hold them.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Skepticism: Faith, Reason & Truth

Dear D,

It was a pleasure to receive your letter and a great delight to read it.

People have wanted to see God for a long time. They cannot, not because of their human limitations but because if they could see Him, He would not be God. He would be another idol, a creation of man.

There are Christians who fit your description. Some of them are not true Christians. Millions of Christians are not rigorous in the reasoning because they have just been saved out of hatred, idolatry, murder, drunkenness into having joy, peace, forgiveness and forgiving. They want others to join them.

These are much better ways to arrive at truth than logic and reasoning:

• Revelation: Man is not a cause, but he has been a recipient.
• Empiricism: Theory, experiments of the theory. The results, fact or not fact.
• Observation: This has the difficulty observing facts from a biased position. This bias does not change the facts, but it might change our perception of the,.
• 1 Corinthians 2:12-15: The Spirit of God within us.

You use the word faith in defining Christians. I certainly would not use it in that way. I would use a word that is a good word to you: truth. There is another good word, grace, and many others: love, kindness, joy, patience.

Yes, I am interested in truth. You are interested in truth. We have a difficulty, not with us, but with untruth-tellers, liars. A liar says that he is telling the truth, and a truth-teller says that he is telling the truth. It is up to the listener to know the difference between the two.

One of the ways to know is the character of the teller. You see this in the old Professor's question to Peter and Susan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who is more likely to be the one who tells 'whoppers', Edmund or Lucy?”

Let me quote a few verses to bring them back to your attention.

The expression “I tell you the truth” shows up about 80 times in the four gospels.
“he Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. (Col. 1:5-6)

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. (1 Tim. 4:3)
There are many other references to the Truth in the Bible. If they are untrue, then they are false.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-19)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:15)
Truth must be spoken in kindness, gentleness, and love. Truth, by definition, is not up for discussion. It is a given. It can be rejected. It should not be negotiated or compromised. If so, it ceases to be true.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4)

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:23-26)

He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
This is good news; it is to be proclaimed and preached to all nations.

It sounds like you think this is unfair, not a level playing field. Suppose for an instant that the gospel is true, but God wants to be fair and provide a level playing field. I re-word His instructions as follows: “Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins are now available to all nations. I want you to train thousands of Christians in thousands of languages, in thousands of villages, to conduct reasoning discussion groups on the possibility of Christ's death and resurrection, repentance and forgiveness be accepted as truth.”

God did not send Christians to dialog.

The animist Hindus, Muslims, cannibals, etc., are not moral humanists or intellectuals wanting discussions. Good news, forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life has to be broadcast, published, proclaimed, and preached. It would immoral to keep silent as well as disobedient to the One to whom all authority in Heaven and Earth has been given.

Concerning your expression “an honest skeptic who was enamored of truth,” I suppose it would depend on which of the words is more important to you, “skeptic” or “truth.” Most skeptics are strongly attached to being skeptics. If truth is more important, then that person would no longer be a skeptic when truth is presented to him.

Here are a few expressions from the Bible that touch on this subject:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:13)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb. 11:6)

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jer. 33:3)

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isa. 65:24)
Many years ago, a Presbyterian pastor told me that he was agnostic about the resurrection of Jesus. Then he added, “What's more, I do not think it is important.” It did not bother me that he was agnostic about the resurrection. It was his second sentence that made no sense. If he did not know whether it was true, he was in no position to determine its importance. In the same way, a skeptic should not have the final say on what is true. He is the last person to find out (if he finds out at all).

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'” (Matt. 9:36-38). More people want in the kingdom than there are Christians who want them in.

If you are right, then there is no such thing as a real Christian. He is deceived. If you are right, then you were not a Christian until you were nineteen. You were also deceived. However, if there is such a thing as a Christian (a person in whom Jesus Christ dwells, with love, joy, peace, who loves his neighbor, and who loves his enemy), then there might not be as many Christians as there are those who make the profession of being Christians. Many “born again” Christians have not been born again. If there is such a thing, you might have been one. If so, you still are a Christian. The old covenant was a two-way covenant. The new covenant is one way only. God keeps His word even if the person no longer believes! “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). “Hears” present tense, “believes” present tense, and “has” present tense. The everlasting life does not end.

On the other hand, you might have been an evangelical, cultural Christian and not one in whom Jesus Christ dwells. That is an easier explanation for where you are now. I do not know.

You made two statements that seem contradictory to me. “There is such a thing as sin” as an accusation against of the Christians. Earlier you wrote, “Yes, I am a highly moral secular humanist.” I suppose that you would recognize that most of the world is made up of immoral secular people and immoral religious people. Would you use the words “evil,” “wicked,” and “criminal” but just not use the word “sin”? We did not invent the word “sin” or the practice of it.

Jesus came into this world in order to die for people who have sinned. Every one has sinned. Sin is the common denominator in this world. If He only died for intellectuals, then He did not die for many people.

No, I am not against reason or logic. However, reason, no matter how clear it is, does not bring people to repentance (sometimes, maybe).

There was a time when I was rigorous in my reasoning. I found out that I could win arguments and not win people.

Paul's conversion is described three times in the book of Acts, in chapters 9, 22, and 26. This was revelation, not reason. He could reason. He chose not to.

I have two other difficulties with reason as a premise. Reason or logic is a process of thinking between a premise and a conclusion. It cannot be a premise when it only proceeds from a premise.

Your other statement was, “No Christian commits themselves fully to the care of logic; that would require them to start from a null hypothesis, and defend their belief syllogisticaly until they arrive at the conclusion of God, which cannot be done.”

You are a seeker of truth and demand that a Christian do something your way to convince you there is a God, which you know cannot be done. You only want to know truth if it ends up being no God.

I have in front of me Che, The Making of a Legend by Martin Ebon. You mentioned the political idealism of Che Guevara, Utopia, and the Manifesto. You did not mention the practitioners of these ideals: Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Castro, and Cambodia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany, and North Korea.

This is longer than planned. As you figured out, I will do it the way Jesus and Paul did it and commanded. I will also play dirty - I will pray.

With much affection,

Jim



Monday, August 13, 2018

Faith, Reason & Morality

Dear D,

Thank you for visiting with me on Sunday. If you are willing, I hope to have you meet with my sons. All three can handle biblical questions. They are also Christians by faith, as are their children. They have had all of the questions you ask, given to them and maybe asked by them. Their education has only been secular. They have had no Christian education. They are strong-willed, but the fruit of the Spirit governs their lives. I do not expect their answers to convince you. I do expect you to see intelligent, educated people who do not close their eyes to problems, but are not skeptics.

You may also see why I gave up, many years ago, answering questions like yours.

It seems that you think your skepticism is a moral high ground. However, you have identified yourselves with many people who are not skeptics - they are dead sure of their positions. You do not seem to be skeptical of their absolute certainties. You may think that they have reasonable answers. If so, side with them in their certainties and cease being a skeptic. You haven’t done so, which may man you are hoping that there is truth over here. You want this truth to be established empirically in the same way the naturalist seeks to establish truth. It can be approached, but it cannot be done and should not be done. God decided not to do it that way. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

Here are three definitions of empiricism: 1) relying on experience or observation alone, often without due regard for system or theory; 2) originating in, or based on observation or experience; 3) capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experience.

In communicating with man, God used revelation: natural revelation and special revelation.

Natural Revelation:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day unto day they pour four speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice has gone out into all the earth their words to the end of the world. (Ps. 19:1-4)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plan to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invincible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Rom. 1:18-20)
Special Revelation:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Ps. 19:7)

And He made know unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Eph. 1:9-10)

Acts 2: The apostles experiences of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9: Saul’s conversion experience.

Currently, my experience and millions of others in this generation who have passed from death to life.
You can ignore observation of creation, you can ignore special revelation, you can ignore the experiences of others, and you can refuse your own experience. All of these decisions are foolish or unwise.

Reason does not cause faith, even if all the reason points to the truth of the Gospel. There are many people who are convinced of the truth of the Gospel who are not Christians. I will be glad to introduce you to a few here in this community. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

You mentioned that your moral and ethical standard was created by civilization, the reasonable outcome of caring for one another. When I mentioned Islam and Hinduism, you replied that that was religion. True enough, but those religions provide the culture for a third of the world. Atheism, Catholicism, and animism are religions that determine the moral standard for another third. If your ethical and moral standards come from society, it is the society of evangelical Christian northerners, specifically your mother and father.

Whatever the moral standards of whatever part of the world, the standard does not make people moral. It does two things: 1) It makes them conscious of their immorality. 2) It makes them immoral. “The (moral) law was given to increase the trespass. But where sin increased grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Societies with moral standards have no “forgiveness” in their societies or religions.

We are not imposing morality. We are offering forgiveness for known immoralities.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Friday, August 10, 2018

Does God Still Like Us When We Sin?

Dear B,

You said, "When a Christian sins, God still likes him as well as loves him."

If by “like” you mean “is pleased with,” then no. However, I do not think like means “is pleased with.” I do not use the word like. God does not use the word. Even if it meant “is pleased with,” the answer is definitely not yes.
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (1 Thess. 4:1)

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (2 Cor. 5:9)
There is only one type of forgiveness. God forgives our sin when we receive Christ. He forgives the sins that we commit after we receive Christ when we confess them. He already paid for them.

You also said, “Many Christians express the view that God loves them but does not like them; that is, that God has their best interest in His heart, but He is displeased on a day-to-day basis because of their daily sinning.” You are correcting the wrong part of their wrong belief. The solution is not explaining that He likes them, but that He loves them differently than they understand.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Heb. 12:5-11)
God chastens those He loves. If we are not chastened, we are not sons. Chastening yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

I notice that you often mention what some Christians believe and then you react to their false beliefs instead of giving them a straight biblical answer.

You have a mixed-up view of objective and subjective. Objective is always based on truth. Subjective is based on feelings. However, some feelings are truth. My feelings may be God-caused. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are feelings. Therefore, these feelings are objective truth. If God chastens me, that is a God-caused feeling. Therefore it is true. If someone thinks that God does not love him because he is being chastened, he has believed the lie of the Devil. Someone must come alongside him and tell him this chastening is the love of God for him.

From the time of our receiving Christ until we go to be with Him, the constant is God’s faithfulness and God’s love. These do not change. We are not condemned. We are saved. His love for us expressed in His once-for-all death on the cross is the beginning and end of our pilgrimage. Any action of God in our lives is based on His death, His faithfulness, and His love.

His faithfulness is expressed in different ways:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thess. 5:23-24)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:23)

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. (Rev. 19:11)

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. (Rev. 1:5)
We can see that this faithfulness is active in our lives. It is not only a once-for-all faithfulness. His love is expressed in different ways in addition to John 3:16, although that is the greatest expression of love.
Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 21)

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)

Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. (Heb. 12:6)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph. 3:16-17a)
This love of Christ is continually being expressed to us.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Systematic Theology: Bad Reasoning

Thank you for your response. Before I comment on actual differences of content, there is certainly a difference in how we read Scripture.

You made a point that people read Scripture in light of presupposition. You gave Mormonism as an example, which is true. Many other people, mostly non-Christians, do the same. Just because people do it does not mean people should do it—certainly not Christians. The basic presupposition of the Christian should be that the Scriptures are inspired and should be read in context. The Christian should believe that they mean what they say. I may not understand what they say, but I may not make it say something else so that it is understandable to me.

Second, you seem to practice a reasoning that goes something like this: Scripture “A” says this. Scripture “B” says this. Then you draw a conclusion “C” that is outside the text. The conclusion, if you reason at all, must be in the text, too.

This is true of all systematic theology. It is a wrong way to study Scripture. The question is not which theology is right. This form of study ensures many answers. They are all just different wrong answers. You rightly say that the unity is the gospel.

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…” (Eph. 4:2-3).

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10).

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?” (1 Cor. 3:1-4).

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:2-3).

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification…So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” (Rom. 14:19, 22).

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Rom. 16:17-19).

Monday, August 06, 2018

Longing for Harmony in Our Relationships

This is an article written by Scotty Smith. I thought it was worth sharing.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting. Psalm 133 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, having just seen a documentary on the Beach Boys, I have a fresh appreciation for the magic and power of harmony—the blending of great voices, interpreting the same piece of music. But I also recently heard a very bad wannabe Barbershop quartet. The contrast between the two was shocking.

All that to say, we bring our relationships to the occupied throne of grace today—praying for the refreshing, “wonderful and pleasant” harmony you commend. None of us want our relationships to emit the dissonance, discord, and anti-harmony of a bad Barbershop quartet.

We’re not na├»ve; we realize that until Jesus returns Satan will continue his assault on our friendships, marriages, churches, and families. He will do anything and everything he can to sabotage unity and sow dissension, fuel comparisons and raise suspicions, erode trust and build walls.

Father, for the glory of your name, we will resist him tenaciously, like we’d resist an intruder trying to break into our homes. For that is who he is—the thief who has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). We will “make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

And the best way we can do that is by “blasting” our hearts constantly with the gospel of your grace. For the more we are alive to your love for us in Jesus, the less we will tolerate our pettiness and indulge our self-righteousness; the less we will pick fights or avoid conflicts; the more we will seek to make peace and live at peace with one another.

So, Father, grant us grace and wisdom for our messiest of relationships, but also for the best of our relationships. None of our relationships is beyond the reach or need of your grace. Help us to be the chief repenter in each of our relationships—the one most desirous of reconnecting, the quickest to humble ourselves, the one most bull-dogged committed to harmony. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

Friday, August 03, 2018

You Have to Be Bad to Go to Heaven

Dear N,

You have been on my mind off and on for the last several years. My grandson told me that you had been asked him why he had not rebelled.

This same question came to me as to why my four children had not rebelled when they were all very strong-willed kids. I wasn’t sure, so I checked with them. I cannot remember Gordon’s response, but Heather’s was that she knew that if ever one of the kids stepped out of line, I would leave the ministry that same day. She did not want that to happen. Evan’s response was that they knew that real Christianity was in their home, not in the church. Doug’s response was that he could not rebel against someone he agreed with.

I bring this up because I suspect you know that I spend most of my time with hurting Christians, the second most with hypocrites–people who are pretending to be Christians but are not, and the third with unbelievers of all kinds, including those who have trouble with meth, marijuana, alcohol, and sexually immoral people.

Last summer and fall I had four different alcoholics living with me as well as a marijuana addict. The reason for this is that I know that God is real and His solution works.

Christ died for the ungodly: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Christ died for sinners: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In other words, a person has to be bad in order to go to Heaven. Christ did not die for good people. He died to forgive people. A person has to qualify first. He/she must be bad.

In the 70 years I have bean a Christian, I have seen people saved hundreds of times. The most remarkable was seven years ago. He was 32 years old and had never read a book in his life. He has now read the whole Bible. He lived for money, sex, revenge, bitterness, hatred, and profanity.

I saw him four times for about a minute each. The fifth time I saw him, all of those things had disappeared. He now loves everyone this side of the horizon. I had to tell him he had been saved. He now reaches out to many homeless, drunks, and ex-cons. His wife does the same with women.

Although you many have read them, I will send you some things that helped me and some that I have written. You do not have to read them. In any case, I would like to hear from you. Feel free to unload on me.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Parables & True Stories

Dear Friends,

Jesus told many stories. Some of them were parables, as in the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:1-10), the tenants in Luke 20, and the ten minas in Luke 19. He also told true stories like the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 and the prodigal son in Luke 15. We also have stories of real encounters with Nicodemus in John 3, the rich young ruler in Mark 10, and the woman at the well in John 4.

Let’s look at one of the true stories:
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

‘No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' (Luke 16:19-31)
This is not a parable. Lazarus is named, as is Abraham. This is history. This is the real thing.

This judgment was instant upon the death of the rich man and Lazarus. There is no second chance after death. The gulf is fixed. Jesus said it. We can't get away from it by saying this is a parable. If it were a parable, the real thing would be far worse. There is a real place of punishment and a real place of happiness, and it starts when we die.