Those Who Never Heard

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18-19).

The other night my wife and I went out to dinner with some friends. In the course of our conversation, my friend started telling me about an acquaintance who is considering the claims of Jesus as Savior but had one significant objection. This individual’s question was this, “How can God send all these people who have lived in various places and times to hell for not believing in Jesus when they never heard about Jesus to begin with?” This is an excellent and very reasonable question which deserves an answer.

This question is really asking, “How can this be fair? And if it is not fair, then it must not be true.” After all, we all know that life is not fair, right? Still we protest against such gross unfairness, as we should, because we get the concept of justice from a Holy God. First, the question itself is unfair in the wording. The question is constructed as if God sends people to hell for not belonging to the right group or for some other arbitrary indicator. The misunderstanding lies in the fact that no one goes to hell for not believing in Jesus. Let me say that again: no one goes to hell for not believing in Jesus. People go to hell because they are guilty of breaking God’s law.

The book of Romans lays out the case of guilt against all men.

1) All men are morally responsible before God “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

2) All men are morally guilty before God. Paul the Apostle, who wrote the book of Romans, makes the case that men are guilty, writing “there is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 2:10). Paul added that “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

If all are responsible, and all are guilty, then all have a problem. Jesus came as the solution to this problem.

You see, Jesus is the antidote to the problem of sin. He is not the leader of the Christian club. He is not merely the founder of a religion. He is the cure for man’s guilt before God.

Still, throughout history and across geography, some people have had more access to the gospel than others. While on the surface this may be true, we must consider the case of Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius was an Italian soldier who was neither a Christian nor a Jew, yet he was devout in prayer and giving. Cornelius recognized there was a God and that he was responsible before Him and he conducted his life based on this self-evident truth. God responded by sending Peter to bring the gospel to him.

I know a former devout Muslim whom Jesus visited in a vision. In that vision, Jesus revealed to this man that He is the Son of God. I am hearing about this happening with Muslims across the world. Is it only for Muslims that God speaks?

When working with missionaries to the Mayan people of Guatemala, I heard about a Mayan stone carving that depicted a man dying on a cross. The date of this carving was before 1000 AD. I cannot remember many of the details of the story but it made me wonder: had the Mayans received a vision too?

Another example is found in Acts 16 when the Apostle Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man calling for Paul and Silas to come help them. They saw this as an open door to communicate the good news to a group that had not been reached. It was in Philippi, a major Macedonian city, that Paul and Silas found Lydia, a “worshipper of God,” whose heart was opened to the gospel.

On one hand, the geography where the gospel spread in the early years of Christianity seemed unfair. On the other hand, we have evidence of God working where the gospel has not yet gone. His work in people across the globe evens the playing field. If you can believe in a God, you should have enough faith for Him to get it right.

God seems to know when people are ready for the antidote of their sin. The real question is not about those people at all. The real question lies in how you are responding to God’s gracious offer.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Faith of Our Mothers

2 Timothy 1:5: “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”

This coming Sunday, May 12th, 2013, is Mother’s Day. Like Timothy, I have a praying mother and grandmother to thank for handing down a sincere faith. I thank God for the godly legacy provided by both.  My mother came to faith in Christ when I was a young child. She made sure that my sisters and I were in church each Sunday to hear the Word of God. She admits that there were weeks when she did not feel like going to church, but went anyway. She knew the importance of developing good habits for our spiritual growth. She also prayed for us constantly. Most importantly, my mother modeled good spiritual habits in our home. I would see my mother read her Bible every day. She was careful about what entertainment my sisters and I consumed. She served in our local church, in everything from cleaning to teaching Sunday school. Above all, my mother conducted and continues to conduct her life in a way that showed me how a follower of Christ should behave. I am grateful for the spiritual legacy she provided. I will tell you that without her faithfulness, I would not be serving the Lord the way I am today.

When I talk to many people returning to the faith, I hear stories of praying mothers and grandmothers who paved the way. These mothers must be the most powerful people in the church.  Judging from Paul’s letter to Timothy, these godly women have tremendously impacted past generations and will continue to impact generations to come. We bless our mothers and thank God for them.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Do You Seek Great Things for Yourself?

Jeremiah 45:5: “And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”

Baruch found himself in a tricky situation as Jeremiah’s scribe and disciple.  He was young and smart, and he had his whole life ahead of him.  However, there was one small problem: his boss, Jeremiah, kept prophesying the doom of Israel.  Baruch finally becomes exasperated in Jeremiah 45 and admits his grief and despair at his situation.  He was, after all, trapped in Egypt with a rebellious people of Israel who had dragged him there against his will in a failed effort to flee from the Babylonians.

I can identify with Baruch’s frustration.  I’m sure you can too.  We are Christians.  We are devoted to serving God.  We go to church.  We pray.  We say and do the right things.  Some of you have probably even devoted your entire careers to serving the Lord, yet you still find yourself coming up short in certain areas of your life.  What happened to God’s promises?  What happened to the amazing career you were supposed to have?  What happened to the incredible life you were supposed to have?

The Lord responds to Baruch with one question: “Do you seek great things for yourself?”  The context is frightening: God has just promised complete destruction for every Israelite who fled to Egypt, and Baruch has the nerve to express dissatisfaction in the midst of it.  He should have been happy just to escape with his life as the sword, famine and pestilence wreaked havoc on his countrymen.

When we become frustrated and focus on what we think the Lord is NOT doing in our lives, we need to ask ourselves the same question: “Do you seek great things for yourself?”  Are we seeking great things – all those things we are asking for in prayer – for God’s glory, or for our own?

We must remember that we are some of the chosen few who are heirs to the promise of Abraham, and we are promised eternal life in Heaven.   We are saved, and we are blessed (fun fact: ‘Baruch’ means ‘blessed’ in Hebrew).  We must be careful to avoid Baruch’s mistake and express dissatisfaction in the midst of the destruction happening all around us.  Sin is nipping at our heels, but we have a Savior who has redeemed us from the punishment we deserve.  We have a Savior who has earned our Father’s forgiveness for us.

Put your life in eternal perspective, and take joy that you are destined to leave this fallen world with eternal life!

-by Pastor Mike White

Fire of Drama

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

The meaning of this proverb seems pretty obvious yet somehow we can often find ourselves on the wrong side of this Scripture verse. I call these emotional interactions “drama.” I have found it helpful to think of drama as a fire. Fires have a way of growing as long as there is something to feed them. You can choose to add wood to the fire, or perhaps even lighter fluid, and make it grow. Alternatively, you can deprive the fire of oxygen by pouring water or baking soda over it.

Drama is no different.  Drama needs oxygen to grow. Sometimes the individual who is reacting has enough kindling stored up to keep the drama going for several days.  You cannot do much about that. You can, however, attempt to remove the “oxygen” necessary for the drama to grow and spread. To do this, you must ask yourself, “Will what I am saying feed this fire, or will it help smother this fire?” Sometimes you can get someone fomenting drama to step back and look at things differently; other times you cannot. But for every drama you encounter you can choose to add to it or diminish it.

Go and put some fires out this week.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin


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