Posts Tagged ‘Good works’

Love, Justice and the Cross © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 8:4-9 – INTERVIEW WITH AN ATHEIST ON PSALM 8 – Part 4 

The scene takes place on the top floor of a Skyscaper, in a luxury apartment belonging of a millionaire Atheist. From here the entire city can be viewed. It is breathtaking. The Atheist picks up a Bible and randomly turns to Psalm 8. Alarmingly, he finds King David, (author of Psalm 8) is transported to his apartment. A conversation ensues. (Disclaimer: This is my imagination and my own thoughts imposed upon the characters below as to what might have been said as I personally relate to Psalm 8. Both characters describe my own journey with seeking to understand and apply God’s Word, the Christian Bible, in the world in which I live). Continued… 

ATHEIST: You didn’t really answer my question. Do you really believe that you must turn from your sins, believe that Christ died for your sins, and that you must do this to get into some mythical realm called heaven? To me that sounds ludicrous. 

I strive to be a good person (which most atheists do). “Not believing in heaven means we want to be kind to one another to make life on earth more pleasant and not to be rewarded (or to avoid punishment) in the afterlife.” (quoted from Epi B) 

DAVID: You might be surprised to find that the Christian Bible doesn’t say that heaven is a reward for good works. Written to a Church in Ephesus, Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” I am sure that many Atheists are good people. 

Yes, I do believe that God visited us personally. He gave us His Son, who came to earth. Yes, I do believe He became one of us in order to take our place on Calvary’s cross, to receive upon Himself the punishment for sin. I believe He did that because He loved us and that He was the only one who came to save us, from ourselves and from judgment. 

ATHEIST: So you believe that, even though you acknowledge that I am a good person, that I will go to hell. Who would want to believe in a God like that? This is a major inconsistency in Christianity. If I am a good person He would let me go to heaven. Afterall I’ve lived a pretty good life. I deserve it. Not that I believe in a heaven. 

DAVID: I’m sure you are an excellent driver most of the time too, but when a police officer pulls you up for speeding, and you say, But officer, I am an excellent driver most of the time”as the police officer writes you a ticket he will look at you as if you just don’t get it. 

Living a good life is not the reason for going to heaven. On judgment day you 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. 

ATHEIST: So, if I make one mistake, I am bound for hell. All the good I have done in my life goes for nothing.  

DAVID: I believe that seeking to be good is a good quest in life, but it is not the basis for going to heaven. I notice that there are people mentioned in the New Testament of your Bible, here in Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT) with the same false assumptions! 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. ...’”  These are obviously very religious, very good people. He will probably look at them as if they just don’t get it?  

ATHEIST: So now you are confusing me. You have made mistakes too. So, according to your Bible, not mine, you are also going to hell. This is getting more ludicrous the more you quote from the Bible.  

DAVID: It’s simple really. The Bible 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 (good or otherwise) 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, not as a reward, but as a gift. 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.  

ATHEIST: So, your so-called just God demands that I obey Him or He’ll send me to hell?  

DAVID: Jesus says it’s not an obedience in terms of good works or being a good person, and as I said, 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.  

ATHEIST: OBEY WHAT?  

DAVID: 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.”  

ATHEIST: Obey the good news about Christ! Are you kidding? How is that good news that people are judged for not obeying Him? 

DAVID: 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? 

ATHEIST: So, I have no choice according to your Bible? If I choose to be an Atheist then I am lost. 

DAVID: Of course, you have a choice not to believe in the Christian message, and to ignore that there is a God or Heaven or Hell, but the invitation the Bible gives 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.”  This is why I wrote Psalm 8 so long ago and declared, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” 

ATHEIST:  Sheep is right. You see God in everything. I see God in nothing. So why doesn’t an excellent bolt of lightning strike me dead right now, since I choose not to believe in Christ? 

DAVID: Your Bible tells you. 1 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

Pastor Ross 

P.S. Thanks Epi B for your perspective as an Atheist. I found it helpful to include your comments in my posts. Since I am not an Atheist, I had to simply use my own journey to Christ as a basis for representing Atheism. Great to have your contribution and to read some of your posts.  

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YEAST BREAD - Created by Ross Cochrane

YEAST BREAD – Created by Ross Cochrane

Just add a little yeast! Her old gnarled hands are skilled as she kneads the yeast into the dough. She leaves the lump on the table to go about her household chores. A reaction takes place as the yeast begins to convert the sugars into carbon dioxide. The dough begins to expand and form tiny bubbles and gas pockets. Distorted formations begin to balloon from the dough. 

Bread Rising (Timelapsed) by Micaël Reynaud, YouTube

By the time she has returned the dough has risen. She breaks it into pieces to form each loaf, leaving them to rise again. The yeast will die when she bakes the bread but the air pockets will remain. I can smell the tantalising aroma of fresh bread filling the room and wafting on the morning breeze.

Just add yeast! When I add my rules and regulations to God’s intentions for my life; my rituals, habits and observances and hold myself and others to certain religious, intellectual or philosophical constraints and I have an inflated distortion of God’s truth; a life that appears larger but has no real substance; a life that lacks the freedom of the Holy Spirit, with an aroma that is alluring, tempting me with it’s cheap grace, then what I have added dies on the inside.

Just add the yeast! When I try to use my good behaviour as a means of being acceptable to God; a religion of good works, of social respectability; a “do-it-yourself” salvation. When I have an air of self-righteousness that permeates the loaf and folds in upon itself, as self-reliance rises above my dependence upon God; an external religion with no need for a personal relationship with Christ, just empty strivings; then I am blowing up a coloured balloon until it bursts.

When I add to God’s Word anything that neutralises the central message of God’s grace; anything that rejects Christ (the “Bread of Life”) dying for our sins and His work alone on the Cross in bringing us the gift of eternal life, I am using the “YEAST OF THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES”.

Romans 10:3-4 says “For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with Himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who BELIEVE in Him are made right with God.” 

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) says “God saved you by His grace when you BELIEVED. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a GIFT from God. Salvation is NOT A REWARD FOR THE GOOD THINGS WE HAVE DONE, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

The yeast of the Pharisees will never satisfy once I have tasted the bread of life. My service is a by-product not the catalyst of my salvation!

Christ is enough for me. No need for yeast when Christ is present in your life and when He is Lord of your life. He transforms, reforms and gives us the perspective and the direction we need to live life to the full, a life of substance, not a life that simply looks larger but is filled with air pockets. A beautiful song was recently released by our Church (Hillsong Church) written by Reuben Morgan. It expresses that Christ is enough.

The invitation is to acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that He alone died for your sins and offers you eternal life and to believe in Him, trusting in Him alone for salvation and fullness of life. We don’t serve to get saved by Him. But when we are saved, we get to serve Him and live a life of substance. 

Pastor Ross

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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

Genesis 4 – Part 1 – “HOW CAN I KNOW THAT I AM ACCEPTED?”

Unacceptable!

They had behaved badly in class but they were equally disruptive in the detention room, swearing, acting tough and defying anything I said with a smart comment. Unacceptable behaviour. I have never really had a problem with anger, but the closest I came was in that classroom. Teaching in a highschool can be stressful at times, and I was being hooked into their GAME.

It was a game that is commonly played in a classroom and if you could give it a name it would be “Make me!” or “I don’t care and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

If these guys had been in the garden of Eden and told not to eat the fruit they would have said to God “You can’t make me do anything! I’ll do what I like and I don’t care what you think!”

In Genesis 4 Cain reminds me of those guys, because he is playing a REBELLIOUS GAME with God, only things get way out of hand and he ends up killing his brother Abel. It hasn’t taken very long for the first murder to be committed, only one generation away from Adam and Eve. Cold blooded, reckless, callous, uncaring and unacceptable.

It’s interesting that Cain and Abel BOTH bring an offering to the Lord. Why? God didn’t tell them to do it. There’s no law that says they MUST do it. They just did. Abel’s offering was ACCEPTED and Cain’s offering was not.

Why is Cain’s offering UNACCEPTABLE? Does he bring rotten fruit and veges in defiant rebellion against God rather than bringing the best of the crop? Or is this a sin offering where he needs animals for SACRIFICE? We are not told, but we are told that God considers that Cain has not done the right thing and his attitude is also out of line.

Why does he come in the first place? It beats me! Why do some people come to Church when it is clear that their lives are up the creek and they don’t really have any relationship with God, nor desire one? I don’t know! To gain points with God? Maybe.

Whatever reason Cain has, it doesn’t go down well with God. Nobody can expect to come to God with their own agenda, their own works, efforts, fruits, ways, religion, or ritual. It doesn’t work that way. You have to come to God on His terms, not by trying to impress Him with our imperfect thoughts and ways.

A woman I visited yesterday in hospital asked me “How do I know that I am ACCEPTED BY GOD?” It seems that God establishes something with Cain and Abel that’s important. He will never accept you apart from the SHEDDING OF BLOOD of substitutionary innocent sacrifice. The BLOOD OF CHRIST Himself is shed so that you can be accepted by God, and He is the perfect and only substitutionary sacrifice necessary.

You want to bring something to God? Try to bring the fruit of your own good works and it won’t cut muster with God. First go to the Cross and accept the sacrifice that was made for you. Then instead of trying to impress God with your good works you will serve God because you see yourself for who you really are, a sinner saved by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

The “POSB Commentary” says “The clearest explanation as to why Abel offered an animal sacrifice and was approved by God is that God did institute salvation by animal sacrifice with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were bound to have taught their sons to approach God through animal sacrifice. But only Abel approached God properly. Cain, as so many down through history, rebelled and did not.”

God bless you Church as you realize you can know for certain that you can be ACCEPTED by God! My acceptance is based on what Christ has done for me, not on my own good works.

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Genesis 18:16-33 – THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

One Way

A person recently said to me as they were dying that the Bible was just a series of myths and stories, and if I want to, I can choose to live my life assuming that it is. I can choose to treat heaven like a GAME OF CHANCE and the Bible as something less than a sure thing. I can wager all my GOOD WORKS against the WORK OF CHRIST on the Cross. Even when my chips are down I can throw the DICE OF DEATH on the chance that I will win.

Or perhaps it’s the Roulette Wheel. As the marble dances on the roulette wheel, I am saying in effect

“I have not sinned to any great extent. Why should I repent and accept the work of Jesus Christ as He paid the penalty for my sin by dying on the Cross.”

I can place all I have on the highest number of GOOD WORKS that I can, but as the wheel spins I will inevitably LOSE EVERYTHING – my life and any chance of eternity with God. The only sure thing is that I will lose.

In John 14:5-7 (NLT) Jesus gives me the winning tip that I need if I am to STAKE MY LIFE on winning the incredible dividends of going to heaven. Jesus said this.

“… I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE CAN COME TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”

WANT ANOTHER TIP? Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it this way. It says

“For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favour) that you are saved (delivered from judgment) through (your) faith (in Christ and what He did on the Cross, paying the price for your sins). And this (deliverance from being judged) is not of yourselves (It is not of your own doing, or your own good works), but it is the gift of God; Not because of works (no matter how good you may be), lest any man should boast. (Heaven is not the result of what anyone can possibly DO, so no one can pride themselves on how good they are or take the credit of getting into heaven on the basis of their good works. It is entirely dependent on faith in the work of Christ.)”

The stakes are as high as they can get.

And a similar game is taking place in Genesis 18:20 (NLT) It says

“So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”

Isn’t God omniscient? (all knowing). Why does He have to check things out first? It seems to me that when God appears to Abraham in the FORM OF A MAN (a Theophany) then He also uses HUMAN WAYS to communicate His plans. He shows to Abraham that He is not about to ACT OUT OF IGNORANCE. He doesn’t act on HEARSAY. This is not a game of chance. He EXAMINES THE FACTS PERSONALLY and ACTS JUSTLY (He is totally and absolutely fair in His decisions).

God’s grace and love have given the people of Sodom every opportunity to repent. They have even had the example and leadership of Lot in their midst. Now their evil has reached the point of no return and judgment is imminent. An outcry for justice, perhaps from those who were oppressed in Sodom, has risen to God and the only appropriate response is about to take place.

But did you catch the contrast. God comes personally to EXAMINE ABRAHAM’S RESPONSE to Him and finds BELIEF, evidenced by his SACRIFICE, HUMILITY, SERVICE AND WORSHIP and He declares Abraham RIGHTEOUS (Genesis 15:6). THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

God then comes personally to EXAMINE THE RESPONSE of the people of SODOM and finds total UNBELIEF evidenced by their wickedness, violence, perversion, the outcry of those oppressed and He DECLARES JUDGMENT upon them. YOU LOSE! GAME OVER!

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 speaks about a time yet to come

“…when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power.”

God bless you Church as you stake your life, not on chance, but on the assurance of the truth of God’s Word (a sure thing) and on your response to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

Acts 4:12 (NLT) says

“There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:31 (NLT) says “…Believe in the Lord Jesus and YOU WILL BE SAVED,…”

We often miss out the next verses after John 3:16. Let me read it in it’s context. It actually 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.”

Sobering thought! WINNER TAKES IT ALL. AND THE LOSER….? Well, the loser gambles his life on a false assumption that the Bible is only a myth.

Pastor Ross