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Sunday, 29 December 2013

God or Satan?

Throughout this week off work, I had plenty of opportunities to browse the Internet during the days when I was not with the rest of my family during Christmas and Boxing Days. And believe me, there were times when I felt that experience have taught me never to expect edification from a computer screen! Why do I type in such a statement? Because all I seem to come across is continuous slanging between websites supporting their own views.
 
Now don't get me wrong. What I'm referring here are websites created by various church pastors, teachers, college professors, mainstream speakers, and so on, and not any of the blog writers on this site, a number of whom I am a keen follower. If you are looking for sound Christian output, then the website well to avoid is You-Tube, some of the so called "Christian" video stuff found therein had all but destroyed my faith. For example, there is one site written by an American pastor who believes in Once Saved Always Saved, yet who has denounced John Calvin, Martin Luther, James Arminius, Scofield, and others as having advocated the works of the Devil, and had placed them more likely in Hell than in Heaven. He also insists that only the King James version of the Holy Bible is the true Word of God, to him all other more modern English translations are fraudulent.


 
Under one of his articles, in which he says that about 600,000,000 die each year across the globe, up to 99% goes to Hell, there is a link to a terrifying You-Tube video of departing souls screaming as they fall into this fiery pit. Although only about eighty seconds long, watching it has made me tremble all over with anxiety from head to foot. Whether there may be any truth in this view of the afterlife, is a matter of opinion. But in this video, it looked to me that no consideration was taken on how one lived his life before death, whether he was a dedicated charity worker who brought relief to the suffering of others, or an atheist who was also a multiple murderer. There was also no distinction whether the deceased had ever heard the Gospel in his lifetime, or heard but rejected it. This video also seems to me that it had not taken into consideration what the Bible teaches on Judgement: that every person, great or small, shall be judged according to his works, that is, what he has done in life. In other words, there seems to be an indication in the Bible of a grading of intensity in eternal punishment according to sins committed in one's life - surely, a little old lady who had never deliberately harmed anyone would not be graded the same as Adolf Hitler, who used his powers to have six million Jews slain, along with the mentally handicapped and others with various weaknesses.

Then, also earlier this year, I watched another video on You-Tube, of a sermon delivered by Californian preacher Paul Washer, to a large congregation of teenage church-goers. Rather than exhorting them to revel in the love of God as believers in Jesus Christ, he outrightly warned these young people that the vast majority of them will go to Hell when they die, as they do not take the Lordship of Christ seriously enough. This is a very worrying thought. If I was one of the teenagers sitting there and listening to such stuff, I would be wondering just how much commitment is required before I'm assured of my salvation. And also the time of life not long after puberty, when strong sexual curiosity and desires would pour a sense of guilt and spiritual failure or frustration into my soul. With an ethic like this, little wonder many teenagers abandon their churches every year. If ever there was a teaching that seems to make God out to be a sadistic bully, it is the heresy of Lordship Salvation. Heresy, because I found no edification in this teaching.
 
On the other side of the debate board are what we call the Arminians, those who believe that one can be saved by believing the Gospel, but afterwards, the believer must "hold out faithful" or he is in danger of losing his salvation and ending up in Hell. In short, God's grace backed by human choice and effort. By going on the Internet, I have found websites from this group slanging at those who believe in eternal security of the believer, also condemning them to Hell.
 
One of Britain's most popular advocates of this view is Methodist pastor, preacher and author, David Pawson, known in all evangelical churches across the nation. One of his main reasons for saying that many saints will end up in Hell, is to do with marriage and divorce, something I find very disturbing. Now let's bring this idea closer to home. Before I married Alex, she admitted that she slept with a previous boyfriend. Yet I loved her enough to accept her as she was and married her. Now, according to Pawson, all these years we have lived in perpetual adultery, and therefore, it stands to reason that both of us will be candidates for Hell. It does not matter how much we love each other, how much we have devoted ourselves to each other, how faithful we have been to each other, Pawson's version of Jesus Christ makes him out to be something of a cruel beast, who insisted that any man who puts away his wife causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32). So of course, it reasons that by marrying a woman who is not a virgin means a lost eternity for both partners, as it is assumed that when a female loses her virginity, a lifelong covenant was made with only the initial mate. What Pawson does not seem to mention so much is what Jesus also said a few verses earlier; that if only one has to look at a woman with a lustful eye, he has committed adultery with her already in his heart (v.28).

David Pawson
 
The Lord's statement in Matthew 5:28 changes everything, I would say, the entire sermon. What Jesus was teaching was the sheer impossibility of trying to find life with God by keeping the Law, as Paul wrote in some of his letters; that if a perfect Law-keeper stumbles at just one point, he has broken the Law altogether, and is subject to judgement. But further complications on this matter is found in the Old Testament. A fellow named Salmon, a descendant of Abraham through Judah, married Rahab the prostitute of the Canaanite tribe of Jebusites. In 2 Samuel 12:8, it was God himself who "gave your master's wives into your arms" - ten in all, I believe. And it was God who commanded the prophet Hosea to marry an unfaithful prostitute and to love her and take care of her. If these guys were still saved and went to Heaven after death, then according to Pawson, it's eternal death for the same actions since the coming of Christ who was meant to atone for our sins.
 
Something is seriously wrong here! How unfortunate for us to have met and married after Jesus Christ came and died. We would have been better off living during Old Testament times instead, if such a great author as David Pawson was to be taken seriously. After all, I could have married ten wives, one of them a prostitute at least, another nicked from a distressed husband, perhaps divorcing another, and still have gone to Heaven after death. Despite holding a M.A. in Theology, Pawson's analysis on who will live or perish falls disastrously short of what the Bible says - whose need to either obey the whole Law perfectly, or perish; or receive judicial acquittal - the forgiveness of  all our sins, past, present, and future - through faith in Christ alone.

Yet authors such as Pawson are reverently held by many Christians as virtually infallible, including members of our church in Ascot. This is what's rotten about our obsession with class - if I was to present my views which conflict with the views of a graduate or professor, then my views will always be turned down or discarded in favour of the other, regardless of how much of dangerous heresy may be present in the professor's teaching. Holding a Master of Arts makes all the difference!

Over the years, and in 2013 in particular, I have carefully thought about and analysed whether material from the Internet were really from God or from Satan. And I have learnt, over time, that if the output builds my faith, brings me closer to the Lord, or cause my heart to feel a level of comfort, even rejoicing, and heightened my sense to worship - then I can be assured that the material was God sent. But if the material sends shivers down my spine, stirs fear, shuts down appetite, and causes my body to tremble, or even just bring doubt, then I can be certain that the material was Satanic. Images of Hell on the Internet are certainly Satanic, for they brings anxiety, fear, or even terror, emotions which God would never bestow on a person.

But one can argue that these images were created and posted online in order to convict of sin and feel the need for Christ. UTTER RUBBISH! The Holy Spirit does not use or even need such tactics. If for several thousand years they weren't needed then, why does he need them now? As with me, and I think, every other true believer as well, if the Holy Spirit needs to point out a sin in my life, then he would do it in a manner which makes me want to willingly repent. For example, suppose I was financially hard up and trying to make ends meet. By invitation, I'm with a group of friends out having a slap-up meal at a restaurant. All my mates are unbelievers, but all of them know that I am a devoted Christian, and have spoken about Jesus with a hope that some would believe. Then at the end of the evening, after we paid our restaurant bills, I then dip into the plate of generous tips meant for the staff, and pocketed some of the money. I might have got away with it had I not caught the eye of one of my mates gazing steadily at me.



Embarrassed, I return the money to the plate left on the table, but it was too late. In guilt and shame, I knew that my testimony is forever ruined. To him, my faith is dead and my religion useless. Alone, I sit in the train and ponder over the terrible letdown of my faith. To those mates, my faith is forever nullified, no amount of talk could ever convince them. Knowing that I have dishonoured the Lord in public, I resolve in my heart never to commit such an act ever again, and ask for forgiveness. From then on, the thought of pilfering becomes so offensive that the idea becomes repulsive. Although this is just a story, in real life I have seen and heard church-goers utter expletives in heated discussions, and I can't help feel the lack of value in that person's faith. Could this be the reason why God is so hot on holiness for all believers? Such exhortations to holiness is so that one's testimony of Jesus Christ remains standing among unbelievers, and not for the believer to "stay saved."

Yet the debate flies across one side of the board to the other, perhaps very much the same as a ball in a tennis court. Videos of Hell are posted, fear and anxiety builds up, and I start to doubt whether there is any love in God's heart. As millions of departed souls scream as they are thrown into Hell, all my  enjoyment of being in company of other people evaporates, leaving me with a burden that I must evangelise to them, or God might hold me accountable for letting them all perish. As I sat at table on Christmas Day, I watch my elderly parents having a good time, my atheist brother as host, and other guests, one boasted of his atheism. I sat there with my wife, with mixed emotions. The atheistic guest told us of his experience with children so crippled and deformed with illness, along with a high percentage of infant mortality, that he had pondered on how God could exist and do nothing to these blighted children. And I believe that "terror evangelism" turn more people off the idea of God than to convert. Surely, any listener can discern the motives of the preacher, and if he detects fear, he'll just turn away more hardened in his unbelief.

Then lately, I have read an online article posted by Richard Murray, a criminal defence attorney who also hold Masters of Practical Theology. Not being that trusting towards well-educated men, I read his article with caution, and which I had to read over again before I began to catch the gist in what he was saying. Basically he was saying that God is a God of love who does not send anyone to Hell, but desires that all have a relationship with him. Hell is for the Devil and his angels, not for man. But to put it all in a nutshell: every form of death, destruction, judgement and punishment, illness, killings, earthquakes, tsunamis etc, etc, were and are from Satan, according to Murray, and not from God, who in Christ, wishes to save lives, give eternal life, have life more abundantly, enjoy good health, and so on. Then on Facebook, in which the link to the article appears, I wrote a comment asking about the destruction of Korah and his followers, found in Numbers 16. After all, I asked, wasn't it God who appeared at the Tabernacle soon after the rebellion? And wasn't it Moses who spoke and the earth opened up to swallow them? The reply came back saying that because Korah and his mates had pushed away any protection God had offered them, Satan filled their hearts, and as they swallowed Satan, Satan swallowed them. And according to Murray, anyone who deliberately keep God out of their lives will be taken by Satan.

This article written by Murray may be the liberating agency I much need after growing up to believe in the wrath of God, and staying with the difficulty believing in the love of God all throughout my life.

Wishing you all a happy New Year.

 

6 comments:

  1. I believe absolutely that God is long-suffering with us, and that the Holy Spirit is given us, being both teacher and comforter, in order to renew our minds in Christ. If we did not have to work out our salvation (with fear and trembling the scripture actually says) then there would be no point in being given the Holy Spirit for instruction and enlightening of the word. However because of God's love for us and the fact that He wants none to perish, then we have to grow in Him (Jesus) gradually and will mature in Him as we act on the word given to us and are not just hearers of that word. So there is a process of learning and we are told that we must not sin wilfully, but while we are learning Jesus blood is upon our door posts and He stands in the gap as the one mediator between man and God.

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  2. Dear Frank,
    As the End Times (and ultimately the Rapture) draw closer, false teachers abound. Their credentials and venue are of little help in identifying them, for wickedness shall increase in high places, and the devil has infiltrated his minions into institutes of higher learning, TV platforms, etc. That is why it is so important that we rely on the Holy Spirit for discernment. If your skin crawls or your stomach turns or you feel fear and loathing as you hear or see "preaching," change the channel! The more we study His Word, the more our mind will be transformed to the mind of Christ, and our discernment will continue to improve. All the false teachers start with a kernel of truth from God's Word, but then they add to it, take away from it, or change it, just as Satan did in Genesis 3, leading to the original sin by Adam and Eve.
    Thanks as always for the thought-provoking, well-written post, and may you and Alex have a blessed New Year.
    Laurie

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  3. Satan doesn't really care whgat people believe as long as they do not put their faith in Christ. The entire argument is intended to distract us from what God has said, and everyone of these groups you mention are contributing to his success by focusing peoples attention elsewhere.

    It is true that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It is also true that God is a holy God who cannot bear to look upon sin, and that like a parent, he cannot and will not overlook deliberate rebellion and intentional hurting of others because he loves us and wants the best for us. Most of the teachers you mention want to focus on only a portion of the picture, never realizing that by ignoring the other parts, they have distorted the truth, and become aides to Satan.

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  4. David Pawson's words on divorce and remarriage between believers are a repetition of the Lord's own words on the subject - Matthew 19:1-8, Matthew 5:31-32, Mark 10:1-10, Luke 16:18. Paul also, rightfully, reasserts this teaching - Romans 7:1-3, 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. In an age when a great deal of the church is a reflection of the world on this issue, rather than a beacon on a hill. People who hold to what the Bible actually teaches are not popular with many but their teaching has more of the real love of God and their neighbour, in that it seeks to see people truly reconciled to God, than the teaching of those who tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

    I've also seen the Paul Washer video you mention. It's hard hitting but the gist of his message is that those who simply put their faith in the "sinners' prayer" and have no real fruit in their lives are deceiving themselves. If his message is false then so is much of the letter of James.

    Salvation is about redemption, not self realisation, it's about being conformed to Christ, not self elevation. You've taken an article which is full of flaws to support an argument that defies sound doctrine.

    The Lord came full of grace and truth. Many preach the former and forget the latter. It's a mistake to take one element of doctrine, such as once saved always saved, and have a distorted view of other areas of doctrine because of it. The reality is that the letter of the apostles are written for the instruction of believers and they are a better basis for sound understanding than articles that are written to appeal to our sensibilities and try to negate those areas of God's words that may offend the normal human perspective.

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  5. ’10 Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples.

    11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

    12 When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.

    13 Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9 NJB)

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  6. Our focus if it remains on ourselves, is always hopeless. If our focus is Jesus, our lives reflect His forgiveness, humility, faith, hope, and charity...the fruits of the Spirit. When I dwell on my shortcomings I start to drown, like Peter looking at the wind and the waves....and the I, like Peter did, cry out to Him, and He lifts me back up, rescues me from myself and my hopelessness. If our hope is in ourselves we would all be lost. Our hope is in Christ, His forgiveness, and His mercy, His finished work on the cross for us.

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