Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Those Disturbing Bible Verses

"Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! ' " (Matthew 7: 21-23, NIV). Jesus, in this verse, is obviously putting us on notice that MANY (not few!) people who genuinely believe they are saved will be cast out of His presence, forever! We need to get this right! But I find myself wondering, "Am I doing His will?" For doing God's will covers quite a lot of ground!

"But the cowardly...----their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Rev. 21: 8, NIV). Other translations have used the word "fearful" in place of "cowardly." As a person for whom fear has always been a major problem, this verse convicts me as fear (or cowardice) is, according to this verse, ranked right along with murder, lying, sorcery, and sexual immorality and puts a person at-risk of suffering a horrific eternity.

"The wicked borrow and do not repay,...(Psalm 37: 21, NIV). Ouch! As a person who knows something about debt, this verse lets me know that God may not view debtors as victims as our culture does, but rather as wrongdoers.

"If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable." (Proverbs 28: 9, NIV). Clearly, God is declaring that we can not use prayer to compensate for lack in our holiness nor can it be used to substitute for other things He may want us to do. He certainly will frown on our prayers if we refuse to live His way. And, as we who follow Jesus know, sin covers A LOT of ground. No loopholes allowed. Often, even as I pray, I find myself wondering, "Am I using this to make up for the fact that I'm letting social anxiety keep me from face-to-face witnessing?" or "Instead of talking to God about it, should I be talking to this person about God?"

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children---yes, even his own life---he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14: 26-27, NIV). Now I know that Jesus did not mean that we are literally to "hate" our loved ones or to "hate" our lives. Clearly, though, He demands, desires, and deserves devotion from us that that is extreme, so extreme that we are willing to risk rejection from our families and even to be willing to die for Him. Followers of Jesus all over the world experience these things as reality. As I look at their lives, I ask myself: Would I be willing to endure family rejection, torture or death for Jesus? I pray so! This reminds us that if we ever want to be equipped for severe persecution, we need to successfully face insults, ridicule, and so-called "minor persecution," for Jesus' sake.

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46, NIV). The commands of Jesus and His Apostles (who wrote the Epistles in the rest of the New Testament) cover much ground. Jesus' probing question is an ongoing question that keeps me on the spot as Lordship cover everything, including those areas that are, frankly, uncomfortable, terrifying or plain inconvenient to place under His absolute Lordship.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3: 15-16). Jesus is clearly not impressed by "good Christians" who are nice, sweet, mind their own business, may even attend worship services every Sunday and may even fill church leadership positions, but who are unwilling to pay the price of giving up all they have and are to Him. Make us willing to be made willing to pay the price!

"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the the truth, no sacrifice of sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God....How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' and again, 'The lord will judge his people.' It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:26-31, NIV). If you read this verse, and the surrounding verses, you will know that it is believers that this severe warning is addressed to! Sometimes I wonder just what "deliberately keep on sinning" means. Sharp warnings like these certainly tear to shreds the notion that when we become followers of Jesus, that we can keep on sinning with the assurance that God will keep forgiving us because "that is His job"! Many Bible teachers interpret these verses as being addressed to people among these readers who may not have been "saved in the first place," but it seems to me that these verses are meant for believers. If anything, warnings like this mean that we should take sin seriously!

I understand that the late preacher, Charles Spurgeon, was said something like, "If there is any verse in the Bible that you want to see removed from the Bible, that is the verse that you should attend to. It should stick with you like a blister." Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "The Bible verses that I have the most trouble with are not the ones I don't understand, but the ones I do understand!" It is tempting for me to ignore these verses as they apply to my life, and to hide them from others lest I offend them, but God has included verses like these, hoping we will be motivated to live holy lives. Remember, as I need to keep reminding myself, He wants us to be holy even more than He wants us to be happy; He wants us to be conformed to His Son's image more than He wants us to be wealthy, healthy or successful.

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