Who does not get to heaven

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Today’s reading in found in I Corinthians 6:9-11. Paul makes a list of the kind of people that will, for sure, NOT be in heaven. In today’s ‘be nice’ society this would not be acceptable preaching! Poor Paul, he would be so politically incorrect! In Paul’s list of who does not get to heaven we find adulterers, sexually immoral people, idolaters, thieves, homosexuals, sodomites, covetous, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers (people who promote pyramid schemes). Paul’s list does not make one sin greater than another but he does make it clear that anyone who is giving themselves over to these sins will not get to heaven. If we are honest with ourselves and with God, all of us have had to battle with these sins, but the important thing is that we don’t surrender to these sins but instead we recognize that they are wrong and we repent and ask God to forgive us when we do fall.

It is sad that there is so much confusion today, even among God’s people, as to what is sinful and how should we deal with sin in our lives. It would help if today’s pastors would be a little more courageous and let their flock’s know what is right and what is wrong! It is so sad that many of today’s pastors will not talk about anything that might offend someone and hide behind the thin veil of saying it is ‘too political!’ Right and wrong are always going to be ‘political!’ But also each person is ultimately going to be accountable for their own behavior. I agree with Paul, “Don’t be deceived.” Stay close to God; listen to His Holy Spirit, read His Word. Everyone does not go to heaven when they die! Have you asked God to forgive you of your sins? Do you know where you are going?

When getting an “F” is better than getting an “A”

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Today’s reading is from Mark 2:1-12. It is the story of four guys who carried their friend so he could see Jesus. They were hoping that Jesus might heal him, since he was paralyzed. It is a great story that ends with Jesus healing this man. But it would not have happened if he did not have friends to carry him. When it says Jesus saw their faith, we know these are not just hired hands. These are friends who want their friend healed and will do what it takes to help him get this healing. It is because of friends that these miracles still happen today, every day. Many of you today are walking miracles. Some of you were destroyed by hate, caught in a web of habitual sins. Some of you were alcoholics, drug addicts, and thieves. Some of you were making bad choices and heading down a road to destruction. Some of you looked good on the outside, but were full of sickness on the inside. Yet on a special appointed day, a friend invited you to church or talked to you about God, and God touched you and you were healed. You became born again.

This is when an “F” is a good grade. The “F” is for friendship. This is one time you don’t want to get an “A” for alone! Healthy living requires good friends. No matter how we live our lives, we are going to have times when we are in need, physically, spiritually, or emotionally and without friends to help us, our potential for healing is greatly diminished. Do you have friends like this in your lives? Do you have people who would carry you to see Jesus if you were in need? Do you have friends who would come to your house and pray for you if you were sick? Do you have friends that love you enough to talk to you, when they see you making bad decisions? Friendship is a valuable thing, and we cannot be healthy if we don’t have friends. We were made to be social people. We need to have good relationships with others. If we want to live healthy and full lives friendship is not an option.

The four men could have found a lot of excuses NOT TO bring their friend to Christ; He was too busy, they were too busy, there was no room, he was too heavy, but they didn’t. They recognized a need and they zealously sought to get him to Christ. Good friendships are able to overcome obstacles to helping one another. They stick it out until help arrives.

How can we go about making friends? Well to be sure it is hard and it takes a lot of time and energy and money. You don’t make life-long friends in a week. We have to be committed to making friends with people. We have to make time for friends in our busy schedules. This is why at Vineyard we are so committed to encouraging all of you to get involved in a small group. We want to encourage you to meet people and make friends, especially Christian friends. Friendship is an investment that pays great dividends. Getting this “F” is one of the best grades you will ever get in life! How is your report card looking?

Did God really forsake Jesus on the cross?

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Today’s reading is found in Matthew 27:46, “My God why have you forsaken me?” This cry has puzzled many. Jesus is actually quoting the opening line of Psalm 22 and using it to express His deep agony on the cross. He was suffering the penalty for our sin, in our place. Every sermon I have ever heard on this cry of Jesus has usually gone something like this, “This is a hard thing to understand but God did forsake Jesus. He turned His back on Him because He cannot look at sin and sin separates us from God.” It almost makes sense, except that God says in Hebrews 13:5 that He would never forsake us. God did not leave Jesus on the cross, but when the sins of the world came upon Him it felt like God had forsaken Him. Sin does separate us from God. It blinds us, makes it hard to see God and brings confusion, but God does not forsake us when we sin

When God’s people were being punished in exile they complained and said, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me,” God replied, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. I have tattooed you on the palms of my hands.”  (Isaiah 49:14-15).

When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden. They went and hid. God came searching for them. He did not forsake them. Their sin drove them from God as it still does to us today. Our sin does not cause God to forsake us or turn His back on us. When God said He would never leave us or forsake us, did He really mean to say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you ONLY if you are good?” or “I will never leave you as long as you do what I say?” That does not have much power, as a matter of fact, I can say that and I am not God! “If you are good to me I will be good to you.” This does not mean much to anyone, but if He is saying, “I will NEVER leave you, no matter what you do, I won’t ever leave you. I will always be there” Now that is something powerful. Now that is something very different. That is something I could never say. I might be able to put up with rejection for a while but at some point I am going to reject that person. At some point I am going to give up and forsake that person.

God DID NOT leave Jesus on the cross. In 2 Corinthians 5:19 we read, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” God the Father DID NOT forsake Jesus on the cross. As all the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, the guilt of sin was placed on Him as well. It was this guilt that was placed on Him that made Him feel like God left Him. But God did not leave Him in His darkest hour, just like He would never leave us in our darkest hour. It may feel like it but He is always with us. God did not ‘turn His back” or “look the other way.” God did not separate Himself from Jesus on the cross. It is just that it felt that way. To Jesus it felt like He was alone and that God was far from Him. This is what sin does. It messes with your mind. Sin makes you think crazy thoughts. Sin makes you act like a fool.

It would have been nice if God gave us an answer. Like, if He just spoke out of heaven and said something to Jesus, but He did not. Yet in Psalm 22 we do have God’s answer. Just like David felt that God had forsaken him in Psalm 22, Jesus felt like God had forsaken Him, but in fact God did not forsake Him. The gospels don’t record an answer to Jesus question, but Psalm 22 does. In response to the first verse where the psalmist cries out the prophetic words, “Why have you forsaken me?” there is an answer found in verse 24. Here is the answer to the question of Jesus, the question of the psalmist and the question of every person who has ever felt abandoned by the Father: For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.” God did not hide His face from Jesus, nor did He turn His back on Him, when He needed Him most.

What makes God so very different is this whole idea of Him never forsaking us, no matter what! If God forsook Jesus on the cross because He became sin, what will God do when you and I sin? He would have to turn His face away from our sin, and from us, but that is not how our heavenly Father is, nor what He does. This does not mean you won’t ever get punished for you sins. You will. This does not mean if you forsake God and live a life of sin you will not go to Hell. You WILL. This means that He will never forsake you! You can forsake Him if you choose. But He will never forsake you once you have opened your heart to receive His Holy Spirit. If you have not opened your heart you are already separated from Him. But God is reaching out to you today, open your heart. Let Him in and He will never leave you or forsake you.

To judge or not to judge, that is the question!

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Today’s reading is found in 1 Corinthians 2:15, “He who is spiritual JUDGES all things.” There seems to be a lot of confusion today about whether a Christian should ever tell someone that what they are doing is wrong. Often we hear people say, “Judge not lest you be judged,” which is found in Matthew 7:1. These were the words of Jesus. So who is right, Paul or Jesus?

They are both right. You can be sure that the Word of God does not contradict itself. When Jesus said, “Do not judge others,” He was telling us that it is not our job to go around straightening everyone out. It is not our job to tell people that what they are doing is wrong. That job belongs to God and He does it through His Holy Spirit. What Paul was referring to is a different situation. Paul was saying that there are times when God’s people need to speak up, especially in the church! At that time in the Corinthian church, the people were so afraid to say anything that might be considered offensive or come across judgmental that they were allowing everybody to do whatever they felt like doing, people were getting drunk, misusing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and causing divisions in the church. One guy was even sleeping with his father’s wife and no one in the church would say anything about it. Paul’s entire letter is written to correct the church in Corinth. Actually in chapter 5:3 Paul says, “For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already JUDGED (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.”

Although it is not easy to do, there are times when Christians do need to speak up and help people to see what is right and wrong, especially in the church and even in our communities. Pastors need to be able to speak freely from the pulpit about what is right and wrong. Friends and family need to be able to speak freely about what is right and what is wrong. This is not being mean spirited. This is not judging people and telling them that they are going to hell. We don’t have to continually bring up a specific issue, but when the issue comes up, there needs to be someone who has the backbone to speak up and help people process through confusing issues. This is being a mature believer, representing Christ. The best way to discern when to speak up and when to keep quiet is to have a real relationship with God through His Holy Spirit and to be listening to him on a daily basis. Sometimes He is going to tell you to speak up and sometimes He is going to tell you keep quiet. They are both right! How about you, do you think it is ever right for Christians to judge?

Whose will is being done?

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This week’s reading is from Mathew chapter 26. In verse 39 we find Jesus praying in the Garden. He was greatly troubled, knowing what was about to happen. He did not want to go through with the horrible crucifixion that was awaiting Him. He was praying to His Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will but as You will.” This was the moment of decision for Jesus. Was He going to go through with this or was He going to do what He wanted to do?

I believe at some time in everyone’s life we all come to a place like this. We are challenged to let go of the control of our lives and surrender our wills to the will of God. This is never an easy thing to do, especially the older we get. We like to be in control of our lives and make our own decisions. But there will come a time when we have to decide who is going to be the boss or the Lord of our lives. Jesus was struggling, as we all will, but He finally came to the right decision, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It may not be the easy road that we are called to walk, but if God is calling us to surrender it is always the better road to walk. Have you surrendered your life to Him yet? If not, why not? If so how has it been?