- Question: “Romans 8:30… predestination?” Answer: Yes. But your question is incomplete. Predestine to what? Verse 30 is based on verse 29 where it says, “whom He foreknew, He predestined…” God’s “election” is based on His foreknowledge of who would receive Christ. Scripture interprets Scripture. John 1:11-12 puts several huge holes in the idea some have that God chose some people to salvation and others for Hell based on anything other than receiving Christ.
- Question: “Does Pastor John have ADD?” Answer: Beavers and Ducks. I mean, yes.
- Question: “Why does God want us to save sex for marriage?” Answer: Because God created sex, and He knows that the vulnerability that true sexual intimacy requires is only safe in a committed marriage relationship. There is a trust that a couple builds together when they wait that is absolutely irreplaceable when sleeping together before marriage. Sex outside of marriage ruins good relationships and prolongs bad ones. I said more on the subject here.
- Question: “In Heaven, are we completely sinless?” Answer: Yes. Revelation 21:27
- Question: “What is the ‘Unforgivable Sin’?” Answer: Rejecting the Holy Spirit prompting toward Jesus (Matthew 12:22-32). And it’s only “unforgivable” in the context of John 3:18. At what point has a person hopelessly rejected Christ? I don’t know. Not my place to know. Only my place to speak in His name and draw others to Him (that’s your job too, by the way).
- Question: “Would God forgive the most awful repeat sinner?” Answer: He already did… me. That’s how big God is, and how small we are. He can forgive the most vile human being and make them like His Son. “Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20.
- Question: “Who is God?” Answer: “God” is the single, all-powerful Being possessing all knowledge and existing outside of time and space. Therefore, all things created are per His authorship, and nothing has ever happened apart from His knowledge and foresight. From His perspective, the future is just as much a matter of fact as the past. As the greatest “thing,” all good is measured by His standard, and all things short of His standard are utterly short and wicked. His standard of perfection can only be compared to His standard of love. The cross of Christ is the perfect example of both. That’s as good as I can do for a reasonable human description of an infinite Creator.
- Question: “Where is the love in creating Hell?” Answer: Questions like this are lop-sided. I would counter this with the question, “where is the justice in letting every drunk, pedophiler, adulterer, serial-killer, and white-collar criminal go to Heaven?” The truth is, we can’t have it both ways: a God who forgives our sin, but has no sense of indignation toward it. If God would simply overlook sin without destroying it, then why overlook it? Just let it be! But God is loving and holy. The love you find in a God creating a place like Hell is two-fold: 1) That He loves us enough to destroy all wickedness that separates us from Him, and 2) That He would provide a means of not going there ourselves by trusting in Christ as the payment for our sin.
- Question: “Can prayer change God’s mind?” Answer: Good question. If God knows everything past, present, and future per our definition of God in question 7, then technically God already knows everything He is going to do (from His perspective, He already did it). But His motive for why He does what He is going to, is often because His people pray. The Bible is full of examples (2 Cron. 7:14). In other words, God already knows what He is going to do, and why He’s going to do it, because He knows our prayers before we ask them (Matthew 6:8).
- Question: “What is grace?” Answer: Grace is God blessing us with something we did not earn. I like the acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
Of Heaven and Hell
It seems as if there are times in everyone’s life that are marked with concentrated periods of stress, trouble, and tough times. It always seems to come in waves:
- First you fight with your spouse over finances and the lack of time you’ve spent together.
- You get to work and find out that your hours are getting cut in half.
- Because you’ve been moved from full-time to part-time you realize you now lose your company-paid benefits as well.
- On the way home the car starts overheating.
- You check the mail on your way in to see the familiar stack of bills, that seem to be constantly rising.
- You share all of this info with your spouse who starts to cry.
- She then tells you all of the problems in her day: house, kids, depleted savings account, etc…
- A family member called her because her mother (5 states away) is in critical care at the hospital.
- To top it off, she suspects that she’s also pregnant.
Sound familiar? This story is not entirely hypothetical. More than likely, you have your own lyrics to the same song. There’s an entire message I could preach here about God’s grace through life’s difficulties, and His faithfulness to see us through. Or I could talk about the fact that God is not putting us through the fires of life to burn us, but to forge our faith and promote us to another level of His blessings. All of that would be true.
Instead I want to share a story and a simple thought that I got once from an amazing man, pastor, father, and mentor in my life from years back when I was in high school. His name is Norwood Tadlock. I went to school with all three of his kids. I knew him as my Bible teacher at my Christian high school. His wife passed away while I was still a teenager. Making similar observations as I have above, he once pointed out to me:
For those of us who know Christ, this is as close as we will ever get to Hell.
That’s a relief. The Bible even tells us that compared to Heaven, our present sufferings are but “a light affliction that is working for us a far greater weight in glory!” God is not minimizing our pain. He is simply encouraging us that one day, all of this will seem very small in comparison to Heaven. But “brother Tadlock” didn’t stop there. He quickly made the opposite observation:
For those who do not know Christ, this is as close as they will ever get to Heaven.
Frightening. And not what God wants for them, either. These thoughts coming on the back of a week full of natural disasters, false prophets, hurting people within my church, hurting people outside of church, and trying to pastor others through this messy thing called life, make me think 2 things:
1) Heaven must be unimaginably amazing. I want everyone to go there.
2) Hell must be unimaginably terrible. I don’t want anyone to go there – not even my worst enemy.
Let’s stop trying to guess at the day that Jesus is coming for us since He said that “no one knows the day, nor the hour of the coming of the Son of man,” and let’s get passionate about seeing people far from God awakened with life in Christ. We have a world to change. Let’s “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and make a difference.
“Love Wins” Controversy
“I can’t believe in a God that would send someone to a place like Hell.”
“What kind of loving God would send people to Hell?”
“Who gets to decide who gets into Heaven and who has to go to Hell?”
Rob Bell addresses these common questions in his upcoming book, Love Wins, which has already stirred massive controversy by his implications that no one will go to Hell. Below is the video trailer that he himself has released, which is largely responsible for the widespread controversy. I’ll attempt to address the questions he raises as concisely as possible…
- “Gandhi’s in Hell? He is?!? And someone knows this for sure?” My Answer: I don’t know. And no human could possibly know for sure.
- “Will only a few select people make it to Heaven?” My Answer: As far as the Bible is concerned, yes. Matthew 7:13,14
- “And will billions, and billions of people burn forever in Hell?” My Answer: I have no idea how many it will be, but yes, many, many people will go to a real place called Hell. Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:15
- “And if that is the case, how do you become one of the few?” My Answer: Turn away from your man-made attempts at pleasing God and pleasing yourself, and give your life to God by placing your faith in Jesus, who lived a sinless life, died as a substitution for humanity, and rose again on the third day proving to be God. John 3:16-19, Romans 3:23-28, Romans 10:9-13
- “And then there is the question behind the question. Like: What is God like?” My Answer: This a great question. A loaded question, but a great one. I’ll answer this in a separate blog post this week.
- “So what gets subtly caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God.” My Answer: Jesus is God. Jesus dying for humanity is God taking upon Himself His own righteous judgment for man’s rebellion. His holiness demands that wickedness be eliminated. His love demands that mankind be pardoned. The cross is the greatest evidence of God’s holiness and love.
- “How can that God ever be good?” My Answer: Bell is defining “good” based on getting what we want (Heaven) without the consequences (Hell). The real question would be, “How could a pure, perfect and holy God allow wicked humanity into His heaven?” But to answer the question, God is good in every sense by virtue of His willingness to die for sinful man, allowing us the opportunity to experience both His love and holiness. Romans 5:6-11, 1 John 4:7-12
I sense that we are no where near done talking about this, and that I a likely to hear from many of you in emails and through the comments. I welcome your interaction, but let’s keep it civil, please. More posts WILL follow about these issues…