Archive for July, 2012

Matthew 7:22-23 – HOW TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE AND STILL GO TO HELL!

Judgment. Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge and MorgueFile.org

“I think he’ll go to heaven. He lived a pretty good life. He deserves it.” I speak to a relative after the funeral service and suddenly I am aware that nothing I said was understood. My assistant Chaplain tries to redeem the opportunity, but the relatives eyes show confusion and the moment is lost among other guests.

“But officer, I am an excellent driver most of the time”. As the police officer writes me a ticket he looks at me as if I just don’t understand (I never drive over the speed limit … Hardly ever … OK, probably too often).

Living a good life was not the reason for Graham (not his real name) going to heaven. On judgment day he will not stand before the Lord and say “Lord, I lived a pretty good life.” How lame would it be to stand accused before any judge and say “Well judge, I’ve lived a pretty good life” and expect the real problem for you being there to be pardoned. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death,…” Time off for good behaviour doesn’t count when it’s a death sentence.

Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT) says it hasn’t changed. Same false assumptions! But Jesus says “On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’” Will He look at them as if they JUST DON’T GET IT? 

The Bible mentions various forms of JUDGMENTS. This judgment refers to the last judgment, sometimes referred to as the judgment of the GREAT WHITE THRONE. It pictures a COURTROOM where a VERDICT is pronounced on those who have made a choice not to include Christ in their lives.

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says that “… there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” It’s like the law of DOUBLE JEOPARDY. Christ paid the price for my sin so it’s been dealt with once and for all (Romans 6:10). Those who don’t know Christ, however, will be judged according to their WORKS. It will be THEIR WORKS versus THE WORK OF CHRIST on the Cross (Revelation 20:12). The judgment will verify what the Bible has said all along – that HUMAN WORKS, no matter how good, CANNOT satisfy the justice of God concerning our sin (Matthew 7:22-23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23).

Since God is totally fair then He can only be satisfied by the work of Christ on the Cross for our sins. When we trust in what Christ has done, then, and only then, can He offer us a place in heaven. Romans 6:23 (NLT) goes on to say “… but the free gift of God is eternal life THROUGH CHRIST JESUS our Lord.”

OUR GOOD WORKS DON’T ERASE OUR SIN, any more than eating lettuce will somehow counterbalance the calories you have just consumed in eating an extra large pizza. Those who insist on their OWN GOOD WORKS rather than accept the WORK OF CHRIST in paying the price for those sins will be CONDEMNED. Jesus says that even those who cast out demons and perform miracles in His Name will not be accepted for doing so if they don’t know Him personally and …

… OBEY HIM. OBEY WHAT? 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NLT) speaks about God’s judgment “… on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to OBEY THE GOOD NEWS OF OUR LORD JESUS.” Obey the good news about Christ! The good news about Christ is found in John 3:16-18 (NLT). It says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. “There is no judgment against anyone who BELIEVES in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.” He’s the only One who has come to save us! We can’t save ourselves. No-one but Christ can. What are you trusting in – yourself or Christ?

The invitation is always to know and trust in Jesus Christ. In John 10:27-29 (NLT) Jesus says “My sheep LISTEN to My voice; I KNOW THEM, and they FOLLOW ME. I give them eternal life, and they will NEVER PERISH. No one can snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:21-23 – THE HEART SHAPED KEY AND A USELESS LIMB

Cross = Love

Shirley has dementia and has real difficulty in understanding her world. She has also suffered a stroke which has paralysed half her body. With her good hand she lifts her paralysed hand to me and says “What is this? Here, take this away will you. I don’t want it!” She doesn’t recognise the useless limb anymore as being hers! It has the appearance of an arm but it’s power has been denied. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that there are some like that useless limb. They have a “FORM OF GODLINESS but DENY ITS POWER” (NIV).

Does God look at some of us like Shirley looks at her paralysed limb and say “Depart from Me! I NEVER KNEW YOU? You are not My hand, the instrument of My purposes! You are paralysed and useless even though you look as though you belong. You have a FORM OF GODLINESS but have DENIED IT’S POWER!” (Matthew 7:23, 2 Timothy 3:1-5)?

With the right key, HUGO, an orphan, in the movie by the same name, restores an intricate, robot-like automaton. Hugo was convinced that if he could make the automaton work, it would give him a message of hope to make sense of his life. In order to find purpose in life he fixes broken things, and reflects on the fact that machines don’t have any extra parts. Every part of the machine is necessary. At one point he says “I couldn’t be an extra part. I have to be here for some reason.” Not only does he find all the right parts including a HEART SHAPED KEY, but eventually he also finds the purpose and love he has been looking for as he is accepted into a new family.

So DENYING THE POWER OF GODLINESS IS NOT USING THE HEART SHAPED KEY! Without it life will not make sense. John 3:16 (NLT) says “For God LOVED the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who BELIEVES IN HIM will not perish but have eternal life.” To have the key but not use it is to DENY IT’S POWER.

Denying the power of godliness is rejecting the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to impart forgiveness and connection with my heavenly Father. If I don’t turn the key by believing in Christ and coming under His authority I forfeit the purpose for which I was created, and no matter how good or religious I look, I will only have a FORM OF GODLINESS. I am a broken automaton, or a lifeless limb.

The invitation is to believe in Christ and what He has done for you, to turn the heart shaped key, to be free from the penalty of your sins (Romans 6:23), to see the cogs begin to whir and life begin to pulsate through you so that you can operate as your Creator intended. Far from being a lifeless limb, you will find healing grace through His love. Far from being a broken automaton, God says “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NLT). Accepted into His family, born again, you will be no longer orphaned, but a child of God. (Galatians 3:26). Turn the key today.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:20-23 – HOW TO BECOME WELL-KNOWN

Deceptively Fruitful

It is winter in Australia and the only tree we have in our backyard has miraculously borne fruit. This is remarkable since it is not a fruit tree. At first glance you would never know. It has hundreds of ripe mandarins in it’s branches. On closer inspection, the branches of a flourishing fruit tree from my neighbours side of the fence has made my tree deceptively fruitful. My tree is actually quite bare, not even a leaf. I don’t want my life to look genuine, yet in reality find that I am as bare of good fruit as my tree in winter.

Matthew 7:20-23 (NLT) in the Bible says “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Who are these fruitless people who call Jesus Lord, yet perform miracles and prophesy in His Name? Somehow they do these things and still aren’t KNOWN by Christ? On one hand Jesus says you will know a person by the good fruit of their ACTIONS. On the other hand there are those who cast out demons in His Name and perform miracles in His Name who appear to bear good fruit but who are NOT recognised by Him as His followers! Are you well-known?

According to Barna research 64% believe they will go to heaven when they die. Jesus says that there will be FEW who find their way to heaven because few have KNOWN Him on earth or are known by Him (Matthew 7:13-14). Few have come under His authority. Too many have a superficial faith. Big words, no character. Duty but no depth. Flowery prayers and floury lives. Dancing like David outwardly but disabled like Mephibosheth inwardly (2 Samuel 4, 16). Ritual without righteousness. Religion but no relationship. Sanctimonious but not saved. Bowing but not obedient. Deceptively fruitful, but inwardly bare.

In the end, it’s not going to be what I have done for Christ that counts, but what HE has done for me. It is not MY words about Him, but HIS Word applied to my life that will enable me to obey His will. 1 John 4:19 says that I love because HE first loved me. So it is not MY profession of Him that matters but HIS profession of me. It is not how much I try to do things for Him to gain points, but what HE has freely done for me by sending His Son to die for my sins.

The invitation is to know Christ as Lord, not simply mouth that He is Lord. The word “LORD” (Kurios) in the Bible signifies sovereign power and absolute authority. The kingdom of heaven IS coming under HIS authority. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NLT) says that the person who loves God is KNOWN and recognised by God. In John 14:15 (NIV) Jesus says “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” Loving God opens up a genuine pathway of communication and relationship with God. This relationship with God through faith in Christ informs my life and enables me to live and be fruitful in the way God intends. ARE YOU WELL-KNOWN BY GOD?

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:16-18 – CHRISTMAS TREE OR FRUIT TREE?

Christmas Tree or Fruit Tree? All is not as it seems.

Strange to chop down a tree, decorate it with fake fruit and place it in the living room as if it is growing. Smells real, but cut off at the roots and propped up. Replace the apples with brightly coloured baubles, fancy lights, garlands, ornaments, tinsel, ribbons and candy cane. Place a toy angel or star on top of the tree for religious significance and presents around the base. Then after a while, throw it out or burn it. Christmas trees are seasonally profuse and then of no use.

John Stott says “The Christian should resemble a fruit tree, not a Christmas tree.”

When Jesus speaks of false prophets in Matthew 7:16-19 I thought of John Stotts analogy with Christmas trees. They look attractive, exciting, different. They set the stage to get us emotionally involved but they don’t really have anything lasting to offer, nothing that will sustain. Matthew 7:16-23 (NLT) says “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions….”

WHAT IS BAD FRUIT? Rotten? Poisonous? Imitation? Baubles and bells – attractive alternatives? All the above. It looks good but has no life. Teaching which has dangerous consequences for my life and no correlation with what God is saying. In the context of Matthew so far, bad fruit is related to the negativity and judging attitudes of the Pharisees, their hypocrisy and reputation-driven public displays and wrongly motived “good” works, their legalistic unbending traditions (Matthew 3:10), their self-righteousness, and their unforgiving, rigid, harsh and pettyminded outlook on life, expressed in words and actions.

Sometimes it is what we say and begin to believe about ourselves which isn’t true. I can become my own false teacher. My own negative attitudes distort who I am in Christ and can be a powerful influence in my life. An over inflated view of myself is just as bad. Romans 12:3 (NLT) says “… Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” It’s always worth asking “What characterises my life? How does God see me? Am I living a fruitful life? What kind of influence do I have on others? What positive difference am I making in the world? Do I belong to a fruitful Church?”

WHAT IS GOOD FRUIT? Tasty, nutritious, useful, performs what it was designed to do, carries seeds of the same kind as the tree. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) speaks of fruit which is actively outworked in our actions and motivated by the Holy Spirit. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Of course I know that a Christmas tree is just a traditional decoration. So at certain times in the year I tolerate counterfeit reality. What is disturbing is that there are times when I am also tempted to accept what amounts to false teaching of false prophets because at first it is so appealing, so glamorous and promises a candy cane, sugary kind of love, joy and peace which has no substance. It gives me an emotional high and helps me justify my sins with cheap grace. But long-term I discover no sustenance from the fruit these trees bear and I am left craving for the next quick fix.

I soon find that there are no Christmas tree substitutes for the Cross and repentance (Luke 3:8). No fancy lights to substitute for the light of the world. Jesus simply says “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12 NLT). No brightly wrapped presents to substitute for the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” No candy cane junk food quick fix substitutes for developing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The invitation that Christ gives is simply to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). Christmas Tree or Fruit Tree?

Pastor Ross

PS You may not have seen the face hidden on the edge of the Christmas tree? Side on. Looking down. Not all is as it seems. Sometimes what is concealed is an important part of the picture.