Thoughts to Ponder

Results of the Feel Good Gospel

This Thought to Ponder is in a different format than most. I want to quote a message I received from a person and my response to that person. I am not trying to ridicule this person but I want to show why I think that the gospel which is preached in so many churches today is so devastating to those who hear it. We need to get back to preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified and what that means.

I would like to ask all of you who read this, to please pray for this person. Whether you agree with everything I say, or only part of it, or none of it, still pray that God will touch this person's heart and draw this person to Himself.

The person's message to me in is blue, my response is in green and Scripture is in red.

Hello sir
At this point in time I regret to say that suicide to me seems the only option. Today i tried to kill myself with pills. I wasn't able to do so. Because I was afraid. But there is such a void in me and such a deep depression and pain. That who knows I might try it again. I have no one to talk to about these things. My hope is to get some help by me e-mailing you. Mainly someone who will listen. I've been going to church for about 5 years now. And truly there is nothing fulfilling about having a relationship with God. Yes there is alot of hope,but also a ton of guilt. Whenever I mess up in my walk with God. I think of how I'm going to Hell. I look at my life and I see the what could have been's?and the oportunities i didnt take. As I'm writting this I think about leaving God for good. Some people are just gifted to become great christians others are'nt born with this gift and unfortunately have to live out their lives until their time is up. I think Im one of those people. God, I want to die right now! I need to find my real purpose somehow before it's to late. hopefully it's a purpose with God. I'm just tired of going to church and doing these activities. There is no real meaning. It's a social club. I hate organized religion. I wish it was different. Well i think i wrote to much. Please pray for me, Pray that God would use my life for good somehow.

I sure don't mind listening, but I will also answer and I will tell you right up front that I am blunt and some of the things I say might not make you real happy. I can only tell you the truth, I hope that is what you want. I noticed something that bothered me in your message. You said there is a void in you. You also said you have been going to church and that having a relationship with God does not help. I think I know the problem, you don't really have a relationship with God. Calm down, like I said I am very blunt but how else am I suppose to say it? When you have a true relationship with God the void will be gone.

Now let me try to explain what I think the problem might be. I think you love the Lord and I think you believe in Jesus, but there is more to it than just that. Yes all we have to do is believe in Jesus and ask Him to forgive us and He will and we are saved, but it is important for us to really understand who He is and our relationship with Him. See today too many churches preach a Jesus who is not the Jesus of the Bible. They preach a Jesus who is the answer to all of life's problems but in the wrong way. They tell people to accept Him, like He needs you, instead of you needing Him. They preach that if you will just accept Him, then your life will be so much better, you will be happy and everything will go well, etc.. The problem comes when people look to God as the solver of all their problems or the genie in the sky.

Here is the real problem, if a person will read their Bible they will see that God is not a genie in the sky who will give them all their hearts desires. Yes He is the One we all need, but we need Him because He is the only way to obtain eternal life. We are all under a death sentence because of the sins we have committed. (Ezekiel 18:4 NIV) For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son--both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

God, because He is holy and just, can't just forget about our sins, there must be payment for them. But He loves us and does not want us to spend eternity in hell. (Romans 5:8 NIV) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ died for us. That is what this verse means: (John 3:16 NIV) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

God sent His only Son to die in our place so that justice would be served and yet we would not have to all spend eternity in hell separated from God and His love. Because sin separates us from God and since we have all sinned we all have that void in our lives. Most people don't understand what it is. They will try to fill it with all kinds of things. Drugs, money, sex, adrenaline rushes (like I did as a cop), alcohol, you name it people will try to fill the void with it. The problem is that all of these only give temporary relief. People will also try to fill that void by accepting a Jesus other than the one in the Bible, but again that one can't fill the void for long.

God says this: (Romans 10:9 NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

But what does it mean that Jesus is Lord? That is the central question and it makes all the difference. Jesus is not a genie, He is Lord. That means that He is God and we owe Him a debt that we cannot possibly pay. Jesus was very open and bold about what it takes to serve Him: (Matthew 16:24 NIV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." You have probably heard that before, but do you understand what it means? It means that we must put Jesus first, we must make Him Lord of our lives. People get all warm and fuzzy over the cross, but it was a horrible way to die, so when Jesus told these people to take up their cross He meant be prepared to die for Him. When a person was condemned to die on the cross they made the person carry the cross out to the execution place. So when Jesus said to take up your cross He meant head out to die. What did He mean? He meant that we must be willing to give up everything for Him. I know that there are not many churches that preach that anymore, but that is the gospel message. Unless we are willing to give up everything we cannot be followers of Christ.

He promises to never leave us but we must follow Him. Look at the early church, at the disciples. What happened to them? They all died because of their faith. The only one of the original disciples who was not martyred was John and he did not lead an uneventful life either. He was boiled in oil but God did not allow him to die, because God still had work for him to do. All the rest died horrible deaths. But don't miss this, they all went to their deaths happily because they knew that this life is just a minor stop in the journey to God. We who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ will spend eternity with Him. It won't be like this life, the evil and the struggles will end: (Revelation 21:4 NIV) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

You mentioned something else that makes me question your relationship with God. You said that there was hope in it but there was a ton of guilt too. What I am about to say might not make sense at first but think about. The Christian who has a close relationship with God should not have a ton of guilt. We all have remorse at times; remorse for the sins that we commit. We all stumble at times and do things which are not acceptable to God, or in other words we sin, but if we have a true relationship with God those times will be out of the ordinary, and the moment we commit them we will feel remorse for them. This is how the Holy Spirit brings us back into a close relationship with God. Guilt on the other hand is condemnation and that should not be part of the Christian's life. Now Satan will try to condemn you, but we have an advocate before the Father: (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV) [14] Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. [16] Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

God also tells us: (Romans 8:1-4 NIV) [1] Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [2] because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. [3] For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, [4] in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

This is not what many people preach. They try to claim that this passage means that a Christian can do anything they want and not be condemned. That is false doctrine straight from the father of lies. What this passage is saying is that when we stumble we can boldly come to Jesus and obtain the help and forgiveness we need, without condemnation. It also means that we who have a true relationship with Christ don't have to sin, in fact our lives will not be characterized by sin. We have been set free, we are no longer slaves to sin.

We will always be slaves to something either we are slaves to sin and the sinful nature or slaves to righteousness, but we will never be in control ourselves. So if we continue to struggle with constant sin in our lives we need to take stock of our relationship because there is a problem. (Romans 6:16-18 NIV) [16] Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? [17] But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. [18] You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Many people seem to miss the point here. They think that having a relationship with God means that God will enable them to live a holy life and resist temptation, or in other words be the master of their own lives. That again is false doctrine from the father of lies. We will never be in control or the master of our own lives, we are incapable of doing it. Our sinful nature will be in control or God will be in control and which one is in control is totally up to us. When we try to keep control all we are doing is leaving our sinful nature in control. We must die to self (take up our cross daily) and allow God to control our lives. Only then will we be free from the grip of sin. Only then will we be free from condemnation and guilt.

We all have regrets. There are so many things in my life that I regret. I walked away from Christ and stayed away for about 21 years. There is not a day goes by that I don't feel regret for that. I no longer feel guilt over it, because God has taken those sins and placed them in the bottom of the sea of His forgetfulness. God can't forget of course but He can choose not to remember and that is what He does with our sins. He will never condemn me for those evil choices I made in the past because He knows even better than I do that I can't go back and change what I did 30 seconds ago much less what I did 20 years ago. I am a new creation in Christ, I am no longer even the same person I was then.

Satan will try to defeat you because of your past but we know that he is a liar. He will tell you that maybe God has forgiven you but He will never trust you or use you because of those past things you did. He is a liar, there is not truth in him. Christians live defeated lives because they are ignorant of God's word. Does God come out and say "I will use you no matter what you did in the past!"? No, but all you have to do is read His word and you will see that is exactly what He does.

Let me give you a couple brief examples. If you look at the genealogy of Jesus as recorded by Matthew in his gospel you will see two men and four women mentioned that I want to examine. The first man (that I want to look at) is Judah and the first woman is Tamar. If this was all we knew of these two people we might think that they were very righteous individuals, but the Bible tells us about them. Judah of course was one of the sons of Israel (Jacob). He had a son who was married to Tamar but who died without having any children. In Jewish culture having children was of utmost importance because they were looking for the Messiah. So when a man who was married and died without children his brother if he had one was to marry the widow and have children by her. Judah's son refused to allow Tamar to get pregnant. This was a great disgrace for a woman, after all if she never had any children then she could never be the one to bring forth the Messiah. Anyway, Tamar took things into her own hands and pretended to be a prostitute. She had sex with Judah, her father-in-law and became pregnant by him. Her son, Perez, was in the line of the Messiah.

Then there is Rahab. She was a pagan living in Jericho, but that is not all. She was the town prostitute. When Joshua sent the spies to look over Jericho she hid them and helped them because she knew that God was on their side. In return when Joshua defeated the city of Jericho he spared Rahab and her family. She married and is in Jesus' genealogy.

Now the next woman mentioned in the genealogy is Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite. They were pagans, looked down on by Jews. They were descendants of one of Lot's daughters who had incest with her father to carry on their family line. Yet there she is in the genealogy of Jesus.

Finally we come to King David and Bathsheba, who is referred to as Uriah's wife in the genealogy. King David lusted after and committed adultery with Bathsheba and to cover her pregnancy he had Uriah murdered. Yet there he is a central part of the genealogy of Jesus. King David had multiple wives, but God chose Bathsheba to be the mother of the next king and to be in the line of the Messiah.

My point is that God does not hold our past against us once it has been forgiven, if He did there would be none who could serve Him, since we have all sinned.

Were these people born to be great believers (Christians)? No they were normal human beings just like you and me. They struggled and they sinned, but they came to God without excuses and worshipped Him. Not for what He could do for them, but because of Who He was. God is the same today as He was in their day. He is still just and holy and merciful. Come to Him in humility knowing that He loves you and will care for you, but also knowing that He must be first and foremost in your life.

He gives us many promises, but He does not promise to meet all our whims and desires. If we will set as our desire to be used by Him and to serve Him, He will allow us to do so. He will provide for us and comfort us even in times of great distress. He will be the closest friend that we could ever imagine.

I will pray for you. I will pray that God will open your eyes so that you can truly see Him. I know that God has a purpose for your life. I have no idea what that purpose might be. It might be that you will be the next Billy Graham or maybe you are just to have an Internet website, or maybe you are to be the witness of God's love to a child you come in contact with. I have no idea, but with God nothing is impossible if we are willing to allow Him to control us.

You stand at a cross roads, you can choose to leave God or you can choose to really find Him, it is up to you. If you choose to leave Him, He will continue to love you, but He will demand payment for your sins when you die and only you will be able to pay the price and it will take all of eternity. If you choose to truly find Him, He will take you from the miry clay and set you on the solid rock. He will fill that void you feel inside and He will be your God, your Redeemer, your best friend and your Father. Choose today whom you will serve, your own evil nature or God Almighty.

Ralph

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These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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August 2002