Monday, September 24, 2012

Do You WANT to Go to Heaven?

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."
Luke 13:24

When I read this verse, a profound thought came upon me: There will be some people who WANT to go to Heaven who won't be ALLOWED to enter its gates!

Often when we witness, perhaps after we have engaged in some small talk, we will lead the conversation into the spiritual realm by asking this question, "Would you like to go to Heaven some day?"

I certainly don't think that is a bad question to ask. In fact, 's a very good question to ask. But we must remember some things as we ask that question.

First, the vast majority of humanity, deep down, surely WANTS to go to Heaven when they die. This includes Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Agnostics. Even most Atheists would admit that, if there truly is a Heaven and a Hell, they would prefer to go to Heaven. When we ask this question, our purpose is not really to find out if the person wants to go to Heaven (Who doesn't?!); rather, the purpose is to get the person thinking about spiritual matters and eternity.

Second, we must remember that mere DESIRE to go to Heaven is not what God requires in order to receive His salvation. The conditions for salvation are repentance and faith--nothing more, nothing less.

Third, people don't forfeit God's gift of salvation because they don't WANT it; rather, they forfeit His salvation because they are not WILLING to come to Him on His terms.

In closing, let's be sure to do three things in consideration of this post:

1. Compel the lost to "enter in"! Without the preaching of the gospel, there is no hope! People need to hear the message of God's love and the work of Christ on Calvary!

2. Remember that the entrance gate to Heaven is a "strait gate". It's not so broad that anyone and everyone can enter in merely because they WANT to. There are some who will be "able" and others who will not. God's salvation is indeed offered to anyone and everyone--but those who WANT it must be WILLING to receive it on His terms.

3. Help those who are wanting and willing to understand HOW they can be "able"! Throughout the New Testament there are two conditions upon which Christ and His salvation can be received: repentance and faith. If a person will turn with His heart unto the Lord Jesus Christ, believing in who He is and what He has done, that person will be instantaneously and eternally saved! you WANT to go to Heaven? If so, you must come to Christ on His terms.

What a tragedy it would be for a man, who WANTED to go to Heaven, but was refused entrance because he was never WILLING to turn to Christ?!

Equally tragic would be a man who WANTED to go to Heaven, but was refused entrance because no one ever told him HOW to receive the gift of salvation!

We have a great privilege and responsibility to share the good news of salvation to a hurting and hopeless world! Lets be faithful and steadfast in shining the light!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Fruit of Longevity in the Pastorate

Tonight we celebrated Pastor Thomas Crichton's 37+ years as the pastor of Greater RI Baptist Temple. In 1975, he led his wife and children to the spiritually barren region of New England and planted the Greater RI Baptist Temple in Johnston, RI.

For almost 4 decades, Pastor Crichton stayed faithful to the Lord morally, doctrinally, and philosophically. He loved, fed, and most importantly, shepherded his flock through thick and thin. He sacrificed his life and laid it down for the sheep--and not only for the sheep, but for their little lambs, and for grand-lambs, and great-grand-lambs!

Nearly 38 years later, generations of families gathered together for a Pastor Appreciation Dinner. One by one, members of the Greater RI Baptist Temple stood up and gave words of thanks to Pastor and Ginny Crichton. As the members spoke, the theme of Pastor Crichton's faithful love and care throughout the decades became pronounced. It was truly amazing to hear how the lives of individuals, couples, and generations of families were touched and eternally changed by the influence of one faithful pastor.

Few are the pastors who can rejoice in witnessing the fruit of 30+ years of faithfulness in one single church! Though God may not allow some pastors to have such a long-lasting ministry in one particular church, I can't help but ponder how many pastors quit prematurely, forfeiting the profound impact they might have had if they would have remained for the long haul.

What a God-given blessing to be able to live to see the fruit of faithfulness and longevity in the ministry! What a blessing to see 2, 3, and even 4 generations within one family come to Christ and live for Him! What a blessing to know that God's Word prevailed, and that the unseen sowing of yesteryear blossomed into magnificent trophies of grace years later!

May pastors be encouraged and challenged to "keep on keepin' on!" May Christians everywhere be encouraged and challenged to be faithful in their witness before family and friends! May we never forget that God's Word will not return void, and that we shall reap in due time if we faint not! May we remember that our labor is not in vain in the Lord, and that the impact we have on people all around us has the potential to save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins!

In the old Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" George Bailey was blessed by being given the opportunity to see that his life touched the lives of countless others! Tonight, the members of Greater RI Baptist Temple were able to witness the life-changing impact that one man of God had on his sheep over the course of 37 years. As a pastor, I can't think of a greater blessing than that of knowing and seeing that my life made a difference--that my life counted--that my life was used of the Lord to salvage the lives of many!

Some day our time on this earth will be over, and what will matter most is our faithfulness to the Lord, the fruit of which being the lives of others touched by our own.

Thank you to pastors, parents, and Godly friends who have remained faithful! Don't quit! Keep your eyes on the Lord, trust His Word, and finish your course! It might just be that someday God will allow you the blessing of beholding the fruit of your labors--but usually this blessing is reserved for those who remain faithful for many 37ish!! Thank you, Pastor Crichton, for your example of longevity and faithfulness!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Exceedingly Sinful, Exceedingly Gracious

"Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." (Luke 7:47)

This is a great story about a woman who was notably a "sinner" and a man who was a Pharisee.

The main idea of this story is not a contrast between a wicked person and a righteous person.

The point of this verse is not that wicked people who get saved end up loving the Lord more, while morally upstanding people who get saved end up loving the Lord less.

The point of this story has to do with a person's estimation of himself. Typically a "sinner" who gets saved is deeply and sincerely grateful for his salvation, because he realizes that he is utterly undeserving. A Pharisee, on the other hand, who gets saved, is typically not as grateful for his salvation.

Why? Is it because he wasn't quite so bad, not so wretched, not so despicable?

No. The reason why a redeemed Pharisee isn't as grateful as a sinner is not because the Pharisee has been forgiven less. It's because the Pharisee doesn't REALIZE just how much he's been forgiven!

Pharisees could be compared to middle-class Americans, or better yet, to second-generation Christians, especially young people, who have never found themselves sunk in the overwhelming mire of sin.

So what is the application then? We, who have never experienced the pain, shame, and regret of heinous sin must remember that we are no different--no less vulnerable--no less depraved--no less culpable than those who have taken the road of sin to its end. Were it not for the grace of God we would be no better than they!!

As preachers, we must preach hard on the exceeding sinfulness of sin (especially the sins that are less apparent and more commonly accepted). We must constantly remind our listeners of how wretched we truly are, and how undeserving we are of God's grace. We should always remember that, if it weren't for God's grace, I would be in the same heap of trouble as the vilest criminals of our day.

We must always remember also, that the sins of the heart are just as wicked as those of the hands, and that God's forgiveness is sufficient to release us from every sin.

No saved person should rightfully be any less grateful than another. If there are differences in gratitude, it is not because one was forgiven much, while another was forgiven less. The fact is that all redeemed sinners have been forgiven infinitely much; it's just that some don't quite realize how much.

Let's be sure to humbly acknowledge how wretched and how undeserving we really are, and how gracious and merciful God was when He sent His Son to Calvary!

Monday, September 10, 2012

God-incited vs. Self-incited Words

"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." - Proverbs 10:19

It's always safer to refrain from speaking. Of course, we must speak when God prompts us to speak, and there is a world of difference between God-incited words and self-incited words. We know when God is prompting us to speak; for it is usually difficult and frightening, and is certainly always honoring to Him and edifying to the listener. But when we speak from the selfish impulses of our sinful hearts, it is usually self-glorifying and destructive to the listener.