Ep.: If someone falls away from God, can they come back?
Jesus said. “What man of you, having one hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7
Many people believe God is a harsh judge. But in this parable we see the extent of His love and desire to save every lost sheep. When one is recovered not only does God rejoice, but all the angels rejoice with Him. That shows us that love is their motivation.
The unpardonable sin is more involved than most Christians realize.
The text where that thought is taken from is in Hebrews 6:4-6. It says, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
In order for someone to reach a point where they cannot be renewed to God’s favor certain requirements must first have been met by the individual. There are various types of relationships people can have with God. This is similar in some ways to our own relationships. We can have distant acquaintances, friends, and close family. In order to be considered sons of God (i.e. close family members) an individual must have devoted his or her life to Him.
This is described in Romans 12:1 as presenting our bodies “a living sacrifice” to God. Once this is done that person is generally baptized as a symbol of their devotion. If God accepts this decision, then the individual is “justified” by Christ’s blood. This is described in Romans 5:9. “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
This justification means the individual is considered righteous in God’s eyes and a personal relationship is established. After justification the individual then receives the holy spirit and is considered a son of God.
This may sound a little complicated, but is important because the unpardonable sin of Hebrews 6 is only applicable to those who have followed these important steps and are now under the blood. If they should go into unbelief and “trample the blood of Christ” there is no longer any blood available to justify them and they will be destined for what the scriptures term “second death.” Most are not even aware of the process and have not dedicated their lives to God and been justified, therefore very few are likely going to be condemned to a final death.
Heaven rejoices when you come back to God. Whatever course your life takes, remember that God is not anxious to condemn you. He is a loving Father who wants to bless the world.
We now live in an age of faith, when believing in God is challenged. For many, faith is not possible and God knows that. So He has also planned a coming time when all the dead will be resurrected to life on earth. In God’s Millennium every individual will be given the opportunity to believe without the misguided philosophies and influence of Satan. (See Revelation 20:1-7)
To learn more about sin listen to, “Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?” and “Are All Sins Forgiveable?”
Ep.1210: Whose Voices Are You Listening To?
Identifying what we hear, its affects and how to rise above the fray
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Theme Scripture: Galatians 5:17
Technology brings the world to the palm of your hand. This means we are bombarded with voices. Worldly voices of opinion, anger, politics, perspective, ego, trends and personal interpretations of morality. If you have technology in your life, it is virtually impossible to completely shut these voices out. On the other hand, we have the voice of God through His Word and through His people. This voice is powerful but quiet. It is relevant but subtle; nourishing but it seems outdated. It is transformative in a very positive way, but it is also laughed at as out of touch. So, how do we identify the voices around us and then intentionally choose whose will influence us to listen?
The voice loop
Our morality as humans is directly related to the voices we choose to listen to. It is woefully easy to get stuck in a “voice loop” where we allow certain voices, certain perspectives, to circulate nonstop in our minds. This results in two tragic consequences:
- We probably don’t even know it’s happening. We have become accustomed to and comfortable with the voices we have chosen. They are now part of the furniture of our minds. Our conscious thoughts accept them as unequivocally belonging.
- These voices affect our behavior, leading us to something called “moral disengagement.”
is a cognitive mechanism that detaches our internal moral standards from our actions, allowing us to engage in unethical behavior without feeling distress. Historically, one of the most dramatic examples of this was Nazi Germany. The Nazi propaganda of that time labeled Jews, Gypsies and others as less than human. The victims were seen as rats. This voice loop became so pervasive that it led to a systematic attempt to exterminate these "vermin." It’s called genocide and became acceptable.
What does this atrocity have to do with us? Unfortunately, more than we might be comfortable admitting. Our “voice loops” likely include a lot more dehumanizing language than we might be aware of. Now, we can say that we’d never resort to genocide, and I hope that is true. The more piercing question is, are we on the same highway as those who became so morally disengaged that they consciously and efficiently destroyed millions of lives?
Check out our December 27, 2021 podcast, “Whose Voices Are You Listening To?” for more. We look at seven mechanisms of moral disengagement, beginning with dehumanization. We apply these mechanisms to how our tech-driven world shapes us and find some disturbing trends. Next, we apply these mechanisms to several people in the Bible who had power and influence. We find striking similarities! With all of this unsettling material to pour through, we also present sound scriptural principles to help us manage these difficult challenges. If the idea of being involuntarily fed destructive voices on a regular daily basis is disturbing, then join us. We face the issues of influence with faith, courage and godly solutions!
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Ep.: Has God hardened my heart and has His spirit left me?
God does not harden our hearts. Neither does He violate our free will. What about the time that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart?” The account is found in Exodus 7. Although it says that God hardened his heart, you must understand that it was Pharaoh who chose to resist the will of God and not let Israel leave Egypt. Had Pharaoh obeyed it would have indicated a heart that could be influenced for good. When God sent the plagues to force him to let Israel leave, God created the circumstances that led to Pharaoh’s reaction. But, it was Pharaoh who refused God’s will and chose to respond with a hard heart.
That is also true for you and me. When we experience hard trials we may react with bitterness and anger. If we persist in that response, we too can develop a heart that stubbornly refuses to learn from our experiences and becomes bitter. A tender heart does not respond in anger but contemplates things more deeply and chooses to trust in God.
In order to have God’s spirit, we must seek after Him more diligently. Psalm 34:15 says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”
This beautiful promise tells us first to love righteousness and what is true and good. When we do that with our heart, God sees us and hears our cries. When we struggle with life’s experiences, we have two choices. We can be angry with God or trust Him. Trusting Him requires that we remain completely dedicated to Him and His will for us. We cannot be part-time believers.
Proverbs 23:26 says,
“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”
If we give God our heart and do the best we can to observe His ways, He will not refuse us. He is a father who loves His children. There may be times He has to discipline us, but fatherly discipline is a sign of love, not rejection.
Hebrews 12: 6, 7 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?”
Whatever the issues you are dealing with, take them to God in prayer and seek His guidance.
Romans 12: 1, 2 is very helpful guidance from the Apostle Paul. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
If you are doing these things to the best of your ability you will see God’s hand in your life more clearly. But be patient and remember that God knows we are fallen and sinful. When we fall He has provided the atoning merit of Christ to cover our sins.
“…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1
To learn more about free will listen to, “Do We Really Have Free Will?”
To learn more about the holy spirit listen to, “How Can I Get the Holy Spirit?”
VIDEO: Whose Voices Are You Listening To?
The voices we listen to are directly related to our morality. Watch this short vlog then listen to the full podcast of the same name for more details.
Ep.: How do we harmonize discrepancies surrounding Jesus’ birth?
The accounts in Matthew and Luke do have differences that need to be investigated. Mark and John do not describe Jesus’ birth. Matthew tells us that after the birth of Jesus an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod’s plan to murder the children of Bethlehem. After Herod’s death, an angel appeared again to Joseph, instructing him to return to Israel. Upon his return he went to Nazareth. Jesus then grew up in Nazareth. When Mark and John describe Jesus being from Nazareth, they are simply saying he was raised there. So there is no conflict with the record of his birth in Bethlehem.
Luke states that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. People were then required to travel to the place of their birth to pay their tax. Since Joseph was born in Bethlehem he took Mary and went to pay the required tax. The fact that Matthew does not record this event does not mean it did not happen. In fact, in many apparent contradictions, an omission of a detail in one account means little. God provided multiple accounts to insure that the necessary details would be recorded.
Here are some of the differences between the Matthew and Luke accounts:
- Matthew describes the wise men who came to Herod. Luke does mention the wise men.
- Luke describes the angels that appeared to the shepherds. Matthew does not mention the shepherds.
- Luke says that Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple after the purification time of Mary. Matthew does not mention this.
- Luke says Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth. Matthew says they left for Egypt.
- Matthew describes the wise men following a star. Luke does not mention the wise men.
- Remember that a missing detail from one account does not invalidate the detail. We simply need to piece the accounts together.
This is what we can conclude.
- Jesus was born in Bethlehem since that is where Joseph took Mary to pay their tax.
- After Jesus’ birth an angel appeared to the shepherds who then came to the stable to see Jesus.
- When Jesus was eight days old he was circumcised according to the Law.
- 40 days after the birth (the purification time for Mary) Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
- From Jerusalem they returned to Nazareth.
Some time later the wise men, following a star, came to Jerusalem to enquire after the new king of Israel. This was not at Jesus’ birth but may have been one or even two years later. The wise men were told that the prophecy in Micah indicated the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Note however, that the Matthew account does not say the wise men went to Bethlehem.
After leaving Herod it says, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
Why would they rejoice so much if they knew they had to go to Bethlehem? But on seeing the star (which may have stopped guiding them once they were in Israel) they followed it again. This time it led them directly to Jesus. They found him in a house not a manger. The house was likely in Nazareth where Joseph and Mary had returned to after taking the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem.
Herod however, believing that Jesus was in Bethlehem, ordered the killing of all children two years old and under. Warned in a dream, Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, until the death of Herod. After Herod’s death an angel instructed Joseph to return and he came back to Nazareth.
This simple sequence of events harmonizes the two accounts. We do not need to doubt the inspired word. When it seems to contradict, we need to study more diligently. It is only interpretations that are wrong.
To learn more about the account of Jesus’ birth listen to, “How Do We Keep Christmas About Jesus?”
To learn more about how to deal with apparent Bible contradictions visit our resource page: Bible Contradictions Explained