Who Will not Inherit the Kingdom of God?

October 22, 2009 at 10:10 am | Posted in Questions for Pastor Glenn, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dear Pastor Glenn

          At the seniors conference I attended in ______, the pastor who led some of the Bible studies was giving a list of sins that  people who commit them won’t get into heaven.  Homosexuality was named.  My acquaintance from Texas was raised in Baptist circles that taught “once saved, always saved.”  This lady’s brother went through a very ugly divorce, and turned to homosexuality.  In his last days, at his request, the sister prayed, read scripture, and reminisced about their growing up in the church, accepting Christ and being baptized.  At the conference, she was grieving his recent death.  Then to hear this “preacher” say that homosexuals won’t get to heaven devastated her.  I was wondering about scriptures that could encourage this woman in her heart ache.

 Dear ______,

          I’m sorry your friend had to put up with this heretical teaching that so upset her, and I’m appalled that the conference would allow someone to teach things that seem so totally incompatible with their stated doctrine.  I can only assume something was misunderstood somewhere, though there are people out there who believe that way.

          I suppose the idea that homosexuals can never get to heaven comes from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which says “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  You can see the idea there; if you simplify the sentence, it can read “homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

          However, I want you to notice the entire context of that statement.  First, it also says that thieves, greedy people, slanderers and drunkards will not inherit the kingdom either.  I bet those middle two disqualify the preacher who said homosexuals cannot get to heaven!  In fact those statements would disqualify most all of us; I know they disqualify me.  We could add David, Abraham (adultery), Noah (drunkenness), and even Paul (slanderer) to the list of those who won’t make it.  The point is that all of us are sinners and none of us can, on our own merits, inherit God’s kingdom.  It takes God’s grace to give us that kingdom.  This is similar to Jesus’ famous statement about the rich, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”  He followed that with these words, “with men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.”  It takes a miracle of God for anyone to be saved.

          Second, notice the very next verse.  It clearly proves wrong any preacher who says homosexuals can’t go to heaven.  Paul adds for his readers, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (v11)  Notice the past tense.  Some of his readers were homosexuals in the past, but now they are sanctified believers!

            The consistent witness of the New Testament echoes Jesus words, “Every sin and blasphemy of men will be forgiven them.”  The only unforgivable sin is a rejection of Jesus.  You can read my teaching about that here.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace.  He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness; he forgave all our transgressions; he gave himself to redeem us from all wickedness; etc.  When a person trusts in Jesus, God counts Jesus’ righteousness on that person’s account.  On God’s ledger, such a person is no longer a homosexual, or a slanderer or greedy person either.  I hope this can encourage your friend.

In the grip of his grace,  Pastor Glenn

Death of Dispensationalism

October 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Eschatology | 16 Comments

          I have noted at times in this blog my journey from a Dispensational, pre-Millennium, pre-Tribulation theology of the end times to a Historical, pre-Millennium, post-Tribulation theology.  You can read those articles by clicking the Eschatology link here or in the right column.  In this article I have simply listed one of the key reasons I am not a Dispensationalist any longer.  For Dispensational theology to work, one must believe a radical separation between Israel and the church as distinct peoples of God.  However, I don’t believe the scriptures make that distinction.

          The death of Dispensational theology is found in these words of Paul:  Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.  The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:6-9)   And “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

          I don’t think it could be more clear.  Those who believe are children of Abraham.  If you believe you are Abraham’s seed.  In fact, Abraham “is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.” (Romans 4:11)  We who believe in Jesus are Israel.

The Giver

October 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

            My eighth-grade daughter’s English class was assigned to read The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  Discovering it is a controversial book for school kids, my wife and I decided to read it with her.  The Giver reminds me, in may ways, of George Orwell’s 1984, which I had to read in high school.  It presents a world that seems utopian.  People in the community lead quiet lives, while doing their assigned jobs, and all their needs are met; there is no war; crime and pain are almost non-existent; everyone tells the truth.  However, the reader learns this utopia is forced on the people through the removal of their freedoms.  Everyone is pushed, or brainwashed maybe, into “sameness.”  For example, every family has two children, one boy and one girl; and there is no variety, emotion, music or love in their lives. 

            If fact, the more one reads the more dystopian the society appears.  The elderly, the extra babies and those who break too many rules are “released” from the community.  One soon discovers this means, euthanasia, infanticide and capital punishment without trial, but, it seems, the majority of the inhabitants don’t realize this truth.  Unfortunately for younger readers, an infanticide release is told in terms too graphic for some to handle.

            When Jonas, the main character, turns twelve, he is assigned his special job of Receiver.  He will carry the memories of the true pain and pleasures of life and of past societies.  The society must have these available to the elders for wisdom sake.  However, when Jonas realizes the truth, he, with the help of his mentor, “The Giver,” escapes from the culture with a small child recently assigned to be released.

            The book made for some good discussion about the idea of utopia.  My daughter realized there is no such thing as a perfect society because we are all sinful people.  Because of sin, every society is dysfunctional in some way.  We also talked about some freedoms being removed from us today, such as those in the proposed health care plan, and how removing those freedoms may seem, on the surface to be a good thing, but are small steps toward government control of our lives.  The book’s hero realizes the need for distinctions and freedoms, and in that regard, The Giver is a positive book.

            The Giver is only book one of a trilogy, all of which we will read this school year, so we don’t yet know the outcome of Jonas’ escape from society.  On the positive side, it will be interesting to find out.  Can one person bring freedom to an oppressed people?  On the negative side, books tend to be more graphic as series progress, not less.  I hope this is not the case with Lowry’s trilogy.

Devising Injustice

October 12, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

            The tag line for my blog is “a teaching pastor’s devotional and theological thoughts.”  In that light, I have tried to avoid political comments.  There are plenty of blogs out there with those anyway!  Yet sometimes, theological/devotional thoughts overlap with political ones.

            This morning in my devotions, I read this question from Psalm 58:  “Do you rulers indeed speak justly?  Do you judge uprightly among men?”  And the answer is not a wishy-washy answer, “No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.”  That sounds like many politicians in power in the USA today.  They don’t speak what is best for men, though they couch everything they say in terms that sound good, at least to some; instead they mete out what amounts to violence and injustice.  I have heard references in recent months to some who have hoped for and prayed for Obama’s failure as a president.  Though I believe we must pray for his salvation, this psalm seems to indicate there’s nothing wrong with praying that sinful and misleading programs, and politicians, fail.  So seems to be the indication of verse 6-8 – a harsh prayer against David’s enemies.

            To the end that Obama’s programs further entrap the poor in poverty, while giving more to those in power, I pray that he fails, even if I personally think they’re wonderful programs.  To the end that his programs genuinely help with the injustices in the world, I pray that he succeeds, even if I am personally against such programs.  Ultimately, however, we want to see God glorified and people coming to know him, as the last verse of the passage indicates:  “Then men will say, ‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.’”

My Chosen Instrument

October 8, 2009 at 9:29 am | Posted in It's All About God, Theology | Leave a comment

            This week I gave a bold sermon on Calvinism.  I address these matters often, but since many lay people are turned off by the name, I usually take a more subtle approach by pointing out the depth of our sin or the sovereignty of God, by telling the congregation “it’s all about God,” or by showing how He is the subject of most of the verbs, etc.  But when I came across the emphatic phrase, “he is my chosen instrument,” in Acts 9:15, especially after Luke’s emphasis on Saul’s evil, I had to address it more plainly.  I feared how some of our Arminian attenders might respond.  But the responses from the ones who talked to me were far more positive than I imagined.

          I read the following quote, from Michael Horton in Modern Reformation, as an illustration: 

          The doctrine of election, like many other hard theological topics, is taboo in many Christian churches today.  Instead of discussing the central doctrines of our faith, many only want to talk about marriage, child rearing, church organization, or spiritual warfare.  These “practical” subjects are considered to be more important than controversial doctrinal issues that only serve to divide our churches.  But the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians begins his teaching of marriage, child rearing, church organization and spiritual warfare with a no-holds-barred discussion of God’s sovereign election of individuals to salvation in Christ.  A subject that many Christians will avoid by moving to the other side of the room is the foundation for all of Paul’s subsequent instruction on the day-to-day life of the saints.

Then I read Ephesians in my devotions this week.  I was tickled by chapter four because I think of the first three chapters of Ephesians as being the “controversial doctrinal issues,” and the last three as being the “practical matters.”  But what I noticed was the number of times these “doctrinal issues” are referenced in the fourth chapter.  Paul begins with “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” and “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called.” (4:1, 4)  Then the chapter ends with these reminders, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption,” and “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (4:30, 32) 

            It is our calling by God, our sealing by the Holy Spirit, and our forgiveness in Christ that is the basis for practical matters in the church.  The practical matters are an outworking of the doctrinal matters, or, as Horton put it, “the foundation of all Paul’s subsequent instruction on the day-to-day life of the saints.”  If we want to get our day-to-day life in order, then we must begin with getting our theology in order.

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