Weekend Message Q&A

Piece of advice: If you're about to delete a file and it says it will be deleted permanently, make sure you're deleting the right file. I spent about two hours writing this post today. I deleted it. I think I can rewrite it, but it will never be as good. It was the best post ever! It was brilliant. But now it's gone. Oh well, here's a poor substitute for most amazing post ever.

Here are the questions I received about yesterday's message:

Q – (1) In this weekend's message, you talked about how God wasn't being vengeful but was simply hurrying on judgment for decisions that people had already made. That decision being to live on their own and to reject God. If His will was to speed up judgment then, why does he not do the same now? Is Jesus the main difference? Why give us a chance when but not those of Lot's or Noah's times? I guess it falls under the idea of why does God not strike down those who decide to ignore Him? I realize that this is probably something that we don't get to know on this side, but it's one of those things that I've been curious about. (2) What about everyone born before Jesus? Do they not have the chance for salvation? (3) How do we help others prepare for the kingdom of heaven without being shut out? (4) And how do we keep from turning back? I know you mentioned that going deeper in the word helps us to live a life of not turning back but how do we know if we're turning back because we want what we had or if we're turning back because we want those who were there at that time?

A – I took the liberty of numbering your questions since you have several in there.

(1) Actually, ever since Adam and Eve the default mode of God has been to delay judgment. Judgments like the one on Sodom and like the flood are the exceptions in the Old Testament. And God does bring swift judgment in the New Testament as he does in Acts 5:1-11 and as Paul may allude to in 1 Corinthians 11:30. Again, it’s the exception. And we don’t know that he doesn’t do the same thing now from time to time. Unfortunately people look at present day tragedies and pronounce God’s judgment, but that’s not a good idea. It presumes knowledge that those people don’t have.

From a biblical standpoint, the question is why does he delay judgment? The ultimate answer is above our pay grade, but we do know it has to do with his mercy and his bigger redemptive plan (2 Peter 3:8-10).

(2) Romans 1-3 may provide some of the answers to your question. I’ll highlight two. First, Paul says that everyone has the opportunity to know God but everyone suppresses the truth about God. All humans are culpable for their own sins and rebellion against God. Second, Paul says that the Jews who lived before Christ came and put their faith in God (as God’s chosen people) and participated in the covenants to Abraham and Moses (including the sacrificial system that was always pointing to Christ), will be saved.

(3) We help others by pointing them to Christ. We're called to be signposts to Christ in our everyday lives. We announce the Kingdom. One of the most effective ways of doing that is by sharing your own faith story and including the basic gospel in your story. Second, demonstrate the Kingdom by loving others concretely—caring for hurting people, living a life that is focused on serving others, sharing your stuff, etc. Third, avoid self-righteousness like the plague by humbly confessing your sins to others. 

(4) The bottom line is that ultimately we don’t keep from turning back; God keeps us from turning back. The Bible underscores this in countless ways but several passages drive it home. Take a look at John 10:27-29, Ephesians 1:13-14, Romans 8:29 and Philippians 1:6. You are family now. God will not let you go. When he gave you his Spirit, he sealed the deal. You are in his grace. When he saved you he committed to finishing what he started. Your effort is involved, but it’s always an outworking of his grace and all our efforts to stay in Christ flow from grace.

Q - You mentioned in your sermon that God is speeding up what was going to occur
in the OT. How is that supported biblically?

A – That’s not exactly what I said but what I said is not exactly what I wanted to say either. So let me try again: When God brings swift judgment like he does in Sodom, he is, in essence, simply speeding up the inevitable consequences of what we’ve unleashed on ourselves.  In other words, our choice to sin unleashes forces of chaos and disintegration and death and human conflict. When God intervenes, as he sometimes does in the Bible, and he exacts violent judgment here and now, he is actually (and quite simply) speeding up the inevitable. He’s making happen now what inevitably will happen later as a result of our own choices—death and destruction. I don’t know that there is a chapter and verse supporting that idea. It’s more of a theological reflection on what can be observed in the Bible. And the idea is not original with me but has helped me come to terms with these kinds of passages.

Q - Yesterday, you mentioned not looking back that we should look to the Cross. We should lean into grace more to help us. If I understood you correctly, the more we embrace grace the less you look back. Do you have any books that you recommend about grace?

A – Yes, the deeper we embrace grace and lean into it the more we become the kind of people who are not preoccupied with this world or attached to our stuff and our way of life apart from Christ. A book I’d most recommend on grace is The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. But study and reflection on the Bible is one of the primary ways of going deeper with grace, so I also highly recommend participating in our Story of God small group experience. It majors on God’s amazing rescue mission and how the whole Bible tells the story of God’s grace from beginning to end.

Q - Are there Old Testament references to a second coming?

A – Actually, the whole Old Testament points to Christ in obvious and subtle ways (Luke 24:25-27,45-47). Sometimes it’s referring to him in his first coming (e.g., the whole sacrificial system and the suffering servant of Isaiah 53) and other times to what happens at his second coming (e.g., references to putting all things right and a kingdom that lasts forever). The prophets evidently were not able to distinguish between the first and second coming. Theologians compare it to looking at a mountain in the horizon and not being able to see that it’s really two mountains, one shorter than the other but blending to our eyes. So also the prophets would see both events as one, sometimes in the same sentence.  

Okay, I'm seriously disappointed I lost that other post. So sad.