Labor to Enter His Rest (Hebrews 4:11)

Migrant-Mother-Dorothea-Lange

The other day a strange man approached a young girl and offered her candy if she would get in his car. Thankfully, the girl knew all about stranger danger and quickly walked to a shop where she was safe. I know you’ve heard this sort of story before but this was different for us because it happened on the street where we live and the girl was a classmate of one of my daughters. She was walking home when it happened so you can guess what every parent in our school is now thinking. That could’ve been my little girl! I mention this story because a few years ago this incident would’ve sent … [Read more...]

Keep Plowing or Die! (Luke 9:62)

cow_plow

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62) Is Jesus calling you to a life of unswerving service? Is he saying, “You’re here to work and work hard”? Well if he is, then he’s contradicting what he says here: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt 11:28) See the problem? In one verse Jesus exhorts us to “Plow” and in another he says “Rest.” Plowing is hard, back-breaking work. You can’t plow and rest at the same time, so which is it? “It’s both,” says the mixed-up … [Read more...]

Is it Wrong to Ask God for Forgiveness?

forgiveness

“Beware the grace Pharisees who jump on you if you dare to ask God for forgiveness. They will say you’re operating in unbelief and legalism.” This claim is sometimes made against those who preach grace. Because we say God has forgiven all your sins, apparently it’s wrong to ask him to forgive you. Apparently asking God to give what he has already provided is an insulting sin. But I don’t buy it. It’s true that God has forgiven you, but if asking helps you to receive, then by all means ask! There is nothing wrong in coming to the throne of grace in your hour of need to receive mercy … [Read more...]

Herod’s Death and the Wrath of God

Herod

The Old Testament writers record a brutal history of divine wrath that came to an abrupt end at the cross. Before the cross, wrath was poured out on… - a world hell-bent on violence and self-destruction (Gen 6:13) - Sodom and Gomorrah on account of their “grievous sin” (Gen 18:20) - the slave-owning nation of Egypt (Exodus 7-11) - a generation of sinful Israelites (Heb 3:17) - the Amorites because of the “full measure” of their sin (Gen 15:16) - Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:2) - ten fearful spies (Num 14:37) - the rebel Korah and his men (Num 16:31) - the pagan enemies of … [Read more...]

What Pleases the Lord?

boy scout

Scripture exhorts us to “find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph 5:10). Do you know what pleases the Lord? You do! You are his dearly-loved child and your heavenly Father is thrilled to bits with you. You need to know this otherwise you will spend your life trying to earn what you already have. You’ll fall prey to those who say, “You need to improve yourself to please the Lord.” Or “You need to clean yourself up before God will be pleased with you.” Such messages will distract you from God’s grace. They will draw your attention to your sin instead of his Son. They will cause you to fall from … [Read more...]

Myth 5: Hyper-Grace Preachers say God is not Grieved by your Sin

Schultz

“Hyper-grace preachers say God doesn’t care when we sin.” Actually, we say God cares very much because sin hurt the objects of his affection—us! Sin damages people, fractures friendships, and destroys families. Sin hurts you, and that makes your Father sad. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:30–32) Is God oblivious to our … [Read more...]

Myth 2: Hyper-Grace Preachers are Against Confession

confession-youfirst

“Hyper-grace preachers say it’s wrong to confess sins. They say confession is a form of unbelief.” Actually, every hyper-grace preacher believes in the power of confession. We say things like, “confession is good for you,” and “confession is healthy.” But what is confession? Like the word repentance, confession is a word that has been mangled in the machinery of manmade religion. Instead of bringing healing to the hurting and life to the dead, confession is seen as the cost of admission into the house of grace. “You wanna be clean? Then ‘fess up you miserable sinner! Tell God your dirty … [Read more...]

How Do We Live at Peace in a Hostile World?

Spock_peace

Our world is marred by violence, greed, and all the fruits of sin. What this world desperately needs is a revelation of Jesus and his peaceable kingdom. But how do we live at peace in a world of hostile Herods and Pharisees? Jesus said, “When you go someplace to reveal the good news of heaven, let your peace rest on that place” (Matt. 10:12). This seems an odd thing to say, but it makes perfect sense if you grew up watching Star Trek. In the Star Trek universe, visitors from faraway places would arrive with unknown intentions. If they said, “We come in peace,” you knew all would be well. … [Read more...]

If We’re Holy, Why Does God Call Us to Be Holy?

be holy

Here's a question grace preachers hear a lot: “If we are already holy, then why does God call us to be holy?” Answer: He’s calling us to be who we truly are. He is saying, “You are my sanctified children. Act like it. Be who I made you to be.” As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said: Holiness is not something we are called upon to do in order that we may become something; it is something we are to do because of what we already are… “Paul, I’m still confused. It seems there are a lot of scriptures exhorting us to become holy. How do we reconcile those with other scriptures that say that we are … [Read more...]

Myth 1: Hyper-Grace Preachers are Against Repentance

repentance bear

“Hyper-grace preachers say there’s no need for repentance. They dismiss repentance as unbelief.” Actually, hyper-grace preachers are for repentance, not against it. We say things like “repentance is essential” and “repentance is to be our lifestyle.” We are for repentance, for without it no one can receive the grace of God. But what is repentance? Repentance is one of those words that means different things to different people. Those with a performance-oriented mindset typically interpret repentance as turning from sin. It’s something you do (turn) as a result of something you’ve done … [Read more...]

Conversations about Hell

hell_harp_n_accordion

[The following are extracts from conversations I’ve had in the past month.] Paul, you’re opposed to inclusionism and you're skeptical about universalism. Why do you want to condemn people to hell? Me: Huh? I’ve come to embrace inclusionism (or universalism) because I cannot conceive of a good God torturing people for eternity. Neither can I, but what has that to do with inclusionism, universalism, or any -ism? Uni/inclusionism says God loves his enemies… Actually, the Bible says that – it’s Romans 5:10. It’s the gospel of grace. But the traditional church view is that God … [Read more...]

What about Those Who Never Hear the Gospel?

Palestinian kids

Everybody responds to God’s love and grace, one way or another. But what about those who die before they get a chance to respond? To pick an extreme example, what about those Palestinian children who perished last week and who presumably never heard the gospel, never heard that God loves them, and never heard about Jesus? What about Israeli children who have been killed by suicide bombers? And what about the children caught up in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan? What happens to them? In my last post I asked the question, “What happens to babies who die?” It should be a … [Read more...]