Just Living in an Unjust World|
A Reader's Comment:
I don't have all the answers. In fact, I have no answers - just more questions along with my feeble little plans I create to try and live a just life in a world filled with injustice. What saves me from ruin is finding grace in small acts of charity I perform in the world around me.
Helping Others through Small Acts of Charity
Every Sunday I take the leftover food from our Sunday brunch and give it away to a group of homeless people that inhabit a local park. Sometimes when I go to the store, I pay for the groceries of the person behind me - often an old person, no doubt on a fixed income and struggling between paying for groceries and much needed medications. Remember, we are the only "civilized" country in the world without socialized medicine.
Keep up the good work. The world needs people who think and care. Both are rare commodities.
JG in Houston
A Depression Era
Thanks for your comments and questions, JG. It provides us and our readers with a lot to think about. I wish more Christians engaged in acts of random kindness as you do.
Especially in these difficult times which are beginning to resemble the 1930s Great Depression, charitable and thoughtful acts are going to become more and more needed just for survival. We need people like you in the world.
Building an "Ark"
We have been trying to encourage believers to take on building their own ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) for a long time. But, sadly, most Christians fall prey to a "cheap grace" mentality.
We suspect this is due to a movement led by Protestant pastors against Catholicism. In their determination to preach "grace" as opposed to "salvation through works" (such as that often encouraged by Catholic priests), Protestant leaders have created a generation of many lazy, uncaring evangelicals who justify their poor behaviors from a salvation-by-grace-alone theology.
Two Main Points for Christians
I hope you don't mind. But, I thought I might use your comments to make two points to Christians:
1. Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) rewards and encourages believers' works of kindness toward others, and He promises loss of rewards and shame to believers who fail to do good works. (We back this up with Scripture later for all the howling, protesting Christians).
2. Nevertheless, salvation from death - from the inevitable Second Law of Thermodynamics which results in decaying&death - comes through faith in Christ alone. We can't save ourselves from death. We can't save the universe from death. For that we need outside help.
Great White Throne Judgment
Believers are happy and quick to point out that there will be a terrifying judgment for all unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment mentioned in Revelation 20:12-15. This is the time when all those whose names are not found in the book of life are judged by what they have done.
DNA Code Written in Book of Life?
Since the discovery of DNA, some theologians theorize that it is our DNA records which will be found in the "book of life." That is an interesting theory. Here is what this passage says:
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. …And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (ESV).
Yet, Believers' Words, Works&Motives Judged Too!
However, believers are not so quick to accept that they, too, will be judged for everything they say, do, and for their motives in doing things (Matthew 12:36, Hebrews 6:10, and 1 Corinthians 4:5).
While the Bible teaches that believers will be in heaven, if they have behaved badly on earth heaven may not be as rosy for them as they were taught.
Recompensed for Bad Deeds
In fact, a majority of Christians tend to reject hearing that they will be recompensed for bad as well as good deeds, too. Hence, most of us need to challenge our old assumptions about heaven. After all, Christians will not get off "scott free" for the bad things we do even though we are saved from death and sin and will be in heaven! 2 Corinthians 5:10 clearly states,
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (NASB).
What is it about "recompensed…for good or bad deeds" that we cannot understand?
Loss of Rewards
Furthermore, Christians more often than not reject hearing that they may suffer loss of rewards in front of Christ at the judgment seat. That is a scary thought to them.
Yet, 1 Corinthians 3:14-15 tells us,
"If any one's work which he has built on it (the foundation of Christ) endures, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
We just can't ignore this passage which informs us that some of us may be in heaven by the "skin of our teeth." We'll be there "smoking" with burned-up works - it will be just ourselves surviving with nothing to show for it and no rewards forthcoming.
Finally, 1 John 2:28 teaches that it is possible we might find ourselves shrinking from Christ in shame when He returns for us. It doesn't sound like our traditional view of heaven, does it?
The passage says,
"Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (NASB).
2 John 1:8 informs us that we can actually lose part of our reward, too. That certainly won't be a fun discovery! The verse plainly states,
"Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward."
Bema Seat for Rewards&Losses
Christians are often taught that our rewards will come at the Bema Seat of Christ - which is likened to athletes at the Olympics who received wreaths and medals - not punishment.
However, this is only partially true. The Bema Seat is also where Jesus appeared before Pilate to be judged for His "crimes." In other words, the Bema Seat involves punishment as well as rewards for Christians. This idea of this is shocking to some.
It's Not just an Awards Ceremony
In other words, our appearance before the judgment seat of Christ will not just be an awards ceremony. It will also include loss for those who took lightly their behaviors while on earth.
This is emphatically what Scriptures teaches. Believers are brought before Christ for accountability for everything we have done - not just to receive "rewards." Let's burn this on the frontal lobes of our brains!
Let's Mark it in our Bibles
We all need to "get our act together" and learn to behave as Christ wants us to. Yes - we will be in heaven if we trusted Christ as our Savior from sins and death. No - we will not be given rewards if we have indulged in bad behaviors!
In fact, we may just stand there before the Bema Seat alive but "smoking" from our bad deeds burning up around us! So let's mark with a bright-colored pen these references in our bibles:
Matthew 12:36-37 - Accountable for our words.
1 Corinthians 4:5 - Accountable for our motives.
Hebrews 6:10 - Accountable for our deeds.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 - Works can result in loss before the judgment seat of Christ although our persons may be "saved."
2 Corinthians 5:10 - Believers recompensed for bad as well as good deeds.
1 John 2:28 - Believers may be "ashamed" before Christ at His coming.
2 John 1:8 - Believers may lose part of their reward.
The extent of our inheritance and rewards in heaven are conditional upon our faithful works while we are here on earth (see Galatians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Ephesians 5:5).
Salvation based on Lordship&Atonement of Christ
However, our salvation from death and sin is through faith in the lordship and atonement of Jesus Christ alone. We can do nothing to save ourselves from death. Nor can we do anything to save ourselves from sin, either. Just as our bodies are decaying and rotting until we die, so our sins contaminate our minds and thought life and lead us to commit horrid acts of evil until we die, too.
Atrocities due to Sin
This is apparent as we observe the horrendous atrocities committed by men against one another in the world today: beheadings and vicious murders, prejudice, hatred, and teaching children to kill - there is horrid evil lurking in mankind and in the things we do to one another.
S-I-N Positive Humanity
Sin is a genetic problem. As Dr. Chuck Missler says, we are all S-I-N positive. In a sense, we need a spiritual and physical blood-transfusion from the God who visited us by becoming one of us. As C.S. Lewis quipped, God became one of his own creatures to communicate this with us.
Saving gospel message - 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4
"It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you…that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said" (NLT).
Dead Sea Scrolls Validate Legitimacy
The phrases used in this above passage, "just as the Scriptures said," are important. This is because we know that these verses were prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus Christ appeared on earth.
They are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered in Israel in 1946. The Isaiah 53 verses and Psalm 22, which foretold Christ's sacrifice, were proved to have been written at least 285 years before Christ was crucified.
Yet, "just as the Scriptures said," …"they have pierced my hands and feet…they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" (Ps. 22:16-17) - these were verses written between 700-285B.C. "just as the Scriptures said."
Shroud of Turin
Although many books are written about this subject, belief in the idea of a resurrection just isn't as difficult anymore.
For example, Physicist Dr. Frank Tipler theorizes after studying the image on the shroud of Turin that Jesus probably converted the matter of his body "into invisible radiation made up of neutrinos" when He disappeared or appeared in His resurrection body (Tipler 2007, 271).
Jesus' image left on the cloth of the shroud of Turin seems to suggest it.
Science of Cloning
Furthermore, since scientists are now experimenting with the science of cloning, it seems that all God needs to resurrect us is information contained in our DNA. In fact, cloning may be a crude example of "resurrection" of the body.
It is not such a "stretch" to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and possesses the ability to raise us, too. All He asks is that we simply trust Him for salvation from death.
After all, Muhammad, Confucius, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and others are still in their graves. Only Yeshua's tomb is empty! We have many infallible proofs of it. For those who are skeptics, please consider taking the time to study them for yourself.
Benware, Paul. 2002. The believer's payday. Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
Muncaster, Ralph. 2004. Evidence for Jesus. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Strobel, Lee. 1998. The case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Tipler, Frank J. 2007. The physics of Christianity. N.Y.: Doubleday.
Bruce Wilkinson, A Life God Rewards (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2002).
Authors Ken Emilio is the Director of the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where his wife, Valorie teaches and works with women residents.