Archives For Apologetics

In his excellent book, Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith, Mike Wittmer summarizes the tragic progression of America’s idolatry and the consequences that have ensued.  

We have witnessed God’s judgment in recent history. Americans entered the twentieth century with trust in Athena, the Greek goddess of knowledge and wisdom. We put our confidence in science, and it seemed to deliver. We discovered vaccines and surgical procedures that prolonged life, and we invented cars, airplanes, and air conditioning that made life more enjoyable than ever. But the same science that made our lives so comfortable also saddled us with nuclear weapons, greenhouse gasses, and test-tube children who have sperm donors for fathers. And just when we thought we have licked most of the garden variety diseases, we learned that our antibiotics are contributing to more virulent strains.

Athena cannot save us. Her breakthroughs solve one problem with one hand and open a new possibility for our destruction with the other. Not long ago men boarded ships and traveled great distances to fight enemies. Now we possess the technology to destroy one another with the push of a button.

This terrified us, so in the 1960s we added Aphrodite, the goddess of pleasure and beauty, to our pantheon of gods. Maybe free love, unleashed from the conventions of our Victorian past, could save us. But many Americans soon discovered that sex and drugs were not the saviors they were looking for. What has the sexual revolution brought us? Venereal disease, AIDS, divorce, pornography, sexting, and shattered lives looking for someone, anyone, who will love them. Aprhodite is a terrific flirt but she’s a worthless god. Those people who worshiped love learned too late that their sexual partners didn’t really care about them.

Perhaps science and sex are not the answers, but you can’t miss with money, can you? So in the 1980s we turned to Artemis, the goddess of wealth, who promised an ever-expanding standard of living if we followed the rules of unfettered, crony capitalism. How is that working out?

Do you see a trend here? We put our trust in science; technology threatens to take us out. We aim for love; no one has felt loved less. We go for gold; we end up broke. And we have done this as a nominally Christian nation. America didn’t stop worshiping Jesus, we just pushed him aside to make room for Athena, Aphrodite, and Artemis. And because Jesus is a jealous God, science, sex and money have become the downfall of our society (pages 99-100).

 

TGC:

It’s no secret Western culture is shifting fast, particularly in the realm of sexual ethics. What was unfathomable just 30 years ago is normal today.

How should Christians engage our neighbors who think differently? How can pastors equip Christians to talk about these things in a way that’s loving, winsome, and compelling?

Read the rest here.

Pastor Chris Brauns at Stillman Valley baccalaureate 2016This is not an exact transcript. I preached a slightly shorter version. My central point was that, even when facing those intolerant of Christianity, we should name the name of Christ. Salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12).

I am privileged to deliver the baccalaureate sermon to the 2016 Stillman Valley High School graduates: a group so loved by our community. After introductory remarks, my plan is to read the Bible text, pray, and share a few thoughts.

By way of introduction, if you have not previously attended one of these services, we want to stress that this is not an official school event. Rather, baccalaureate takes place as an explicitly Christian worship event organized and led by our students. The school graciously approves rental of the facilities for a non-school event.

I speak today at the invitation of those who organized baccalaureate. Which is to say that, though I am a parent, I stand here as a minister of the gospel of Jesus: that is, as a servant of the good news of eternal life in Christ.

Of course, we welcome people of all faith backgrounds to this service and we are thankful to reflect with you on truth at such a pivotal time. We live, it would seem, in an age of growing intolerance and we want nothing to do with an unwillingness to fairly engage with different points of view.

To the students, we are thankful for those of you who made this a priority. We know you are busy and I have prayed earnestly that you will be blessed for being here.

Our Bible text for today’s baccalaureate message is from the New Testament book of Acts. God the Holy Spirit wrote Acts nearly 2,000 years ago through a physician named “Luke.”

You may be interested to know: God used Luke to write more words of the New Testament than any other author. We find Luke’s writings in two parts:

  • Part 1 of Luke’s writings is the Gospel of Luke: his account of the Lord’s Jesus Christ’s entrance into history, of his journey to the Cross, and of his death, burial and resurrection.
  • Acts constitutes Part 2 of Dr. Luke’s writings. The title “Acts” is spelled “A-C-T-S”, not “a-x”! Acts is so named because this portion of Scripture references the acts or deeds of the apostles in beginning the church.

Where the timeline of this passage is concerned, it is helpful to see the beginning of Acts in the context of Christian holidays.

  • We recently remembered Good Friday when Christ was crucified for the sins of his people.
  • The Sunday after Good Friday we celebrated Easter: remembering the Lord’s bodily resurrection which demonstrates Christ’s victory over sin and Satan and promises that Christians who have given their lives to Christ will one day themselves be resurrected and share eternity together with Jesus on the new earth.
  • Tomorrow – – seven weeks after Easter – – the day you graduate – – is Pentecost Sunday which remembers how after Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church and the church officially began. The account I will to you today takes place only a few days after Pentecost.

High level, the situation is that the intolerant religious establishment of the day confronted the Apostle Peter and John because they saw them as a threat. Peter and John had healed a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:1-8). They were on their way to the temple for afternoon prayers when they saw a man well known to everyone because he was crippled. The only way this crippled man survived was to be placed at this gate that was the center of traffic so that he could beg for charity.

Now you know how it is. People who do not intend to give beggars anything ignore them when they walk past them. Peter and John, however, when they got to this beggar he called out to them and said, “Hey, look at us.  [5] …he looked at them expectantly… [6] Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” [7] And he took him by the right hand and raised him up—as though he was getting up after a football play– and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. [8] And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

[9] And all the people saw him walking and praising God, [10] and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, [begging]. And they were [blown away] by what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10.

Having heard the ringing of cow bells after we win a football game, we can only imagine how quickly the crowd energy of a well know lame man leaping rippled through Jerusalem.

But the power of Christ – – which meant healing for this man – – threatened the power of others intolerant to the claims of Christianity. Soon enough the religious establishment arrived on the scene. The Bible tells what happened next and this is our text:

[1] And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, [2] greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. [3] And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. [4] But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

[5] On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, [6] with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. [7] And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” [8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

“Rulers of the people and elders, [9] if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, [10] let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. [11] This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. [12] And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:1-12.

Let me pray and then I will share a few thoughts.

Our Father, in heaven, my prayer today is that of the apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 6:19-20. I ask that you would enable me to speak the Good News of your Son with boldness – – that I may declare it boldly as I ought to speak.

I pray this in the name of Christ. Amen.

“Name the name”: this is my thought for you today. It is my thesis. My central aim is to encourage you to specifically remember people, events, and places by name. Pronounce their names. Say their names. Whether or not people are interested – – even when they are intolerant of your beliefs—name the name.

Now, hopefully, the idea of a thesis or main idea is a familiar one to high school graduates. Your teachers began pounding the concept of a main idea into your malleable minds in late elementary school. Do you remember the essay diagrams where there was a middle circle for the thesis and then surrounding circles for supporting points? So, in terms of those essay diagrams you learned in late elementary, “name the name,” would be the middle block of the diagram.

Maybe I should qualify the thesis by saying, “Where good memories are concerned, name names,” because doubtless there are things many of you have done that you prefer not be remembered. I’m not saying you need to remember every Saturday school.

You have repeatedly been taught that a good thesis deserves explanation. The best way I can support the thesis I have for you today is by way of examples.  Let me start with places. As you make your way in this world, many people will ask you where you are from. Name the name of your place.

Noah, for instance, will be privileged to cross the Mississippi river to the great state of Iowa. Now, when you’re at Iowa State, when someone asks where you are from, don’t answer generally. Don’t say – – “I’m from Illinois.” Say “Stillman Valley” in a way that implies they should know as much about Stillman Valley as they do about Cedar Rapids.

Makala, it should be the same thing in Colorado. Don’t say, I’m from Illinois – – or, I’m from near Chicago – – or worse yet, near Rockford – – say, “I’m from STILLMAN VALLEY, IL.”

It is fine to explain the location of where you are from relative to Chicago or Rockford or whatever works – – but come to the point where you say the name.

Say the specific name of events. Name the name. Say, for instance, “our musical my senior year was Hello Dolly starring Savannah Giddings as Dolly.” Or, when referencing football plays, say, “We ran the veer offense in the mud in Oregon, IL our last game.

Name the names of people. Find times to pronounce your grandma’s name the rest of your lives. Be specific.  Say Emily’s name. Say, “I lost a beautiful friend my senior year. Her name was Emily Flemming.” You remember her now and will continue to do so. Keep saying her name. Say your mom’s name. Talk to other people about your dads by name when you can.

Consider three important reasons to name names.

First, by referring to people and places specifically, you will make fun and exciting connections. You will be pleasantly surprised in London, England if you say you’re from Davis Junction and someone tells you they have been to Davis Junction. Better still – – tell someone your grandfather’s name and they will say, “Oh yes, I knew your grandpa. Did he ever tell you about the time . . . ?” A good story may follow.

Second, and more important, naming names demonstrates gratitude. Remembering someone by name is a way to be thankful the rest of your lives. For so many of you, your grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, organized their schedules around you. Specific people loved on you from the moment you were born. Now, the rest of your lives, you can be thankful for them by remembering their names. Your moms and dads did so much on your behalf.

Third, and most important, naming names shows love and loyalty. To specifically connect ourselves identifies our allegiance. It shows where we belong. In the next decade – – a large number of you will marry someone. Here is a little tip for you – – if you are in what you think is a serious relationship, but the other party is not willing to tell anyone your name – -well, that’s a really bad sign. People don’t get married in general, they get married in particular – – they say their vows publically and, in the vast majority of cases, share the same last name.

Now, this matter of naming the Name is precisely what is in view in Acts. The intolerant leaders who crucified Christ demanded that Peter explain his allegiance. “By what power or by what name did you do this?” They wanted to know where Peter was coming from in terms of his faith.

Those who were intolerant of early Christianity, would have been quite content if Peter had answered them with a general reference to “god” that aligned with their allegiances and did not threaten the influence of the power brokers.

But the apostle Peter was having nothing of it. Peter said – with laser like specificity – – “Rulers of the people and elders, [9] if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, [10] let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. [11] This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. [12] And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:1-12.

Notice, Peter was specific about the place: Nazareth. The events: the crucifixion and resurrection; Most of all – -the person: Jesus. Regardless of their intolerance and threats – Peter was specific and clear. Peter named the name.

This confession of Christ was exactly what the religious authorities did not want to hear. And the Apostles understood for their part that a specific confession of Christ would likely mean death. Indeed, naming the name did mean death for many in the early church at the hands of those intolerant of Christianity. While Peter’s death is not recorded in the Bible, historical documents tell us that Peter was later executed. And Scripture does tell us of Stephen, James, and others who died at the hands of those intolerant to Christianity and hostile to the name of Christ.

Still, we must see, that not fearing the intolerance of the day – – Peter named the name of Christ.

For him, it was a matter of connections – – we are with the one you opposed – -and now we are part of the body of Christ – the church of Jesus Christ.

It was a matter of gratitude – – he was crucified for our sins – – he paid the penalty we deserve.

It was matter of love and loyalty. We have decided to follow Christ and there is no turning back.

Peter spelled it out very specifically:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

In giving this confession, Peter shared what Christians call the good news or the gospel. His point was that even though all fall short of God’s standard, those who trust Christ as Lord and Savior are forgiven on the basis of his atoning work on the cross and will spend eternity with him.

Stillman Valley Class of 2016: As you go out into the world, people will ask not just where you’re from, but where you’re coming from, in terms of faith commitment. Where faith is concerned, it will be up to you to decide where – – like Peter – you will name the Name.

We live in an age of vague generalities and qualified allegiances. Yet, to be a Christian is to accept and believe a very specific claim – – that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life – that no one comes to the Father except with him as King (John 14:6).

To be sure, there can be a cost for following Christ. Many are intolerant of Christianity. People are comfortable alluding to the man upstairs – – or even God – – or a higher power. Increasingly, broader culture allows undefined allegiances. But this is not the Christian faith. Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to humanity by which we can be saved.

Inevitably, those intolerant of Christianity will object that naming Christ is narrow and dogmatic. The answer is, “Well, of course, it is narrow to say that Jesus is King.” Truth is narrow – -by definition. Are you from Davis Junction or aren’t you? If you are – – to say you are from DJ isn’t being unreasonable. It is the truth. Is Christ God or not? Was he resurrected or not? The answer is inevitably narrow.

Surely it is also obvious that is as narrow to deny that Christ is not the Messiah as to believe that he is.

Or, maybe you have heard someone accuse: “You are a Christians because you were born in America.” To this, we would respond, “be reasonable.” We don’t have to think long about that accusation to see it doesn’t hold together. Jesus lived in Asia. We live in North America – –  the other side of the world from Christ – – we are not Christians because we live in America; we are Christians because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the father except by Him – – and those who lived on the other side of the world went throughout the world to make disciples.

To be sure, there are some religions that are relatively limited to particular places. But not Christianity. And where the spread of Christianity is concerned, it is worth noting – – Christianity does not obliterate cultures – it does not insist that people all dress the same way nor does it oppress – rather, it is redemptive.

Someone still others object, “Well, naming Christ is offensive to those who disagree.” It may be – – but the nature of truth and loyalty demands specificity. Just as it would be silly to say you should not get married because some other disappointed person will resent your allegiance, it is ludicrous to say that you cannot confess the name of Christ because someone else may not like it.

And – of course – the sword that the cries “foul” when a different position is articulated cuts both ways. It could just as easily be pointed out that those who deny Christ are being unfair to believers.

Christian graduates – – those of you who are followers of Jesus Christ – – the expectation is that you have given your lives to Christ with a willingness to confess his name – – even to die for his name if necessary. This is saving faith. This is not a matter of being unreasonable. And there is every reason to follow Jesus. If it was clear in the book of Acts, that a lame man leaped, it is one million times more vivid today that Christ went to the cross, was crucified, and rose again. Any objective examination of the evidence bears out that it is the name of Christ that has brought salvation and freedom wherever people bow before him. It is the name of Christ that has shaped all of history – you are, after all, graduating in this, the year of our Lord, 2016, so dated because time is measured in terms of his life. As surely as North America has steeples on the horizon of nearly every small town, the good news of Jesus has gone into the world.

Now, how will you respond when intolerant people demand an explanation for your life? I implore you to look to Christ. Name the place (He was from Nazareth and he went to the cross on Calvary), the event (the Cross and resurrection), name the name: Christ.

I recognize, of course, that everyone hear may not be a follower of Christ. To you – – I would encourage you to investigate very carefully who you will serve – what name will you name. Don’t think about life’s big questions in general – – consider them in particular. Who is Christ? What did he claim? What is love? Who is the source of love? If you have any question talk to one of your pastors or leaders. Ask specific questions.

In concluding, allow me to practice what I preach. As one of your pastors, I love you – – not in general – – but in particular. We love the graduates of Stillman Valley High School. And I commend to you the good news – – that salvation is found in the name of Jesus Christ. Name the name.

Watch this video and see, also, What Scares Me Most as a Pastor.”

150yearlogo.jpgLuke gives the purpose of his gospel in his opening, “It seemed good to me . . . to write an orderly account for you. . .you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:3-4.

Sunday’s sermon at The Red Brick Church will continue our series, A Confident Christmas.  This sermon will consider the inevitable collision between the Christian worldview and that of naturalism. Below are definitions and quotes I am providing our people on the sermon notes.

I so look forward to this sermon because the more we study Luke’s gospel, the more confident of the Christmas message we grow – – and the more we will respond with worship to our glorious Savior.

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A Lexicon for Sunday’s Sermon

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. . .’” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.[1]

The Annunciation – The announcement by Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) that she would be the mother of Jesus and that Jesus’ Kingdom would never end.

Dystopia / Dystopian – “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”[2]

Incarnation – The term literally means “in flesh.” It references when Jesus Christ, the second person of the Triune godhead, became humanity without ceasing to be deity. The Westminster Standards summarize, “Two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion”: no conversion: God was not changed, no composition: a third hybrid was not formed that involved both deity and humanity, no confusion: deity and humanity are not a mixture.

Magnificat – The song of Mary found in Luke 1:46–55. This poem is in the style of the OT psalms, and is strongly reminiscent of the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1–10.[3]

Metanarrative – “An attempt to grasp the meaning and destiny of human history as a whole by telling a single story about it; to encompass, as it were, all the immense diversity of human stories in a single, overall story which integrates them into a single meaning.” Richard Bauckham[4]

Miracle – “I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power.” C.S. Lewis[5] “Events which run contrary to the observed processes of nature.” J.D. Spiceland [6]

Naturalism – The belief that there is no God and that there is nothing after death.[7] Naturalism goes further than atheism because it offers a comprehensive view of life. A web definition reads “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”

Nihilism – The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless. If followed to their logical conclusions, non-Christian worldviews end in nihilism.

Theological liberalism[8]The religion which developed in the modern era built on the foundation of autonomous human reason (meaning humans can understand reality without God’s Word) which led to the denial of basic tenets of the faith such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, authority of Scripture, imminent return of Christ, and bodily resurrection.

Worldview – A translation of the German term “weltanschauung” which reference the grid or lens through which people make sense of reality. The “collision” referenced in today’s sermon title is that of Orthodox Christianity with its belief in miracles and that of naturalism which insists that everything must be explained by natural processes.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, vol. HarperCollins (San Francisco: Harper, 2001).

[2] “Dystopia,” Oxford Dictionaries, accessed December 11, 2015, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/dystopia.

[3] B.J. Beitzel, “Magnificat,” in The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 1377.

[4] Richard Bauckham, The Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 4.

[5] C. S. Lewis, Miracles, New edition edition (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2015), 5.

[6] J.D. Spiceland, “Miracles,” in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 723.

[7] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), x.

[8] J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009).

Here is a Tim Keller sermon that will feed the soul of people in our day. This sermon will help you understand some of the reasons you think like you do. And it will show how Christ can set you free. In terms of interacting with the cultural waters in which we swim, it is one of the most profound sermons I have ever heard.

Watch, listen, and be nourished.

Justin Taylor summarizes:

Tim Keller speaking at chapel for Wheaton College (November 11, 2015), explaining that our culture repudiates as oppressive the idea that someone else names us and gives us an identity, but that when you trust Christ you have the only identity on earth that is received instead of achieved.

Keller goes on defend a form of individualism as inescapable but to critique expression individualism (the idea that you must look inside and then express them outwardly no matter what anyone says). He offers five critiques: it is  (1) incoherent; (2) unstable; (3) illusory; (4) crushing; (5) excluding.

We are social beings who need recognition and naming from outside—someone whom you love, approve, and esteem—to speak to you.

See also:

Communicating Truth in Our Late Modern Moment

HT: JT

The final pages of The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name:

One day, John knew, Heaven would come down and mend God’s broken world and make it our true, perfect home once again.

And he knew, in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be more wonderful for once having been so sad.

And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.

“I’m on my way,” said Jesus. “I’ll be there soon!

It is self-referentially absurd to claim there are no absolutes.In Sunday’s sermon, I defined the term “self-referential absurdity.” This is an important concept when dealing with the mind of the late modern age. Have you ever encountered self-referential absurdity?

Self-Referential Absurdity – When the application of a claim to itself refutes what is being claimed, it demonstrates “self-referential absurdity.”

The most obvious example of “self-referential absurdity” is the claim that there are no absolutes. Such a claim contradicts itself by saying absolutely that there are no absolutes.

Likewise, people who insist that it is wrong to make moral judgments of any sort, are themselves making moral judgments, and hence demonstrate “self-referential absurdity.”

When Jesus gave the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, he made sure to anchor His ethic in the “law and the prophets.” So what Jesus taught is in sharp contrast with the view many hold today that ethics are strictly a matter of the views of people.

Our culture is infatuated with Jesus’s admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1-2).” But, as I explained in Sunday’s sermon, the reason this is a favorite saying may not be good news.

There are, arguably, two reasons, our culture so often quotes Jesus’s prohibition of making judgments. First, hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus warned against, is ugly. The person who presumes to know why another person suffers, or the motives of another’s heart, or another’s status with Christ, puts him or herself in the place of God. Jesus warned against such hypocrisy in the strongest possible terms (Matthew 7:2).

Of course, when Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” he did not mean that we are not to make reasoned moral judgments. After all, in this same context, Christ cautions that we should identify some as “dogs” and “pigs” so as to not see truth trampled in the filth (Matthew 7:6).

The second reason that our culture is so enamored with the concept of not judging is that many do not like the idea of judgment at all. “Judge not” means to some that not even God judges. Yet, the idea that God will not judge is patently false. The Bible consistently stresses that God is a God who will judge sin. Consider a small sampling of biblical examples of judgment.

TABLE 1. SELECT BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT

Example Text Comment / Summary
The Fall / Adam & Eve’s Disobedience Gen 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God and God pronounces a sentence of spiritual death and all the pain and heart ache of a fallen world.
The Noahic Flood Gen 6-9 God destroyed everyone on earth except Noah and his family: the one family who had faith.
Sodom and Gomorrah Gen 19:23-29 God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, though Lot is spared
The Passover Exodus 12 God struck dead the firstborn in Egypt except those covered by the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:21-28).
The Golden Calf Exodus 32 God sent the tribe of Levi to execute about 3,000 and more died from a plague because of their idolatry at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
So severe that even Cannabilism Lev 26:14-35 God warned that if Israel broke covenant that the judgment would so severe that there would even be cannibalism (Lev 26:29).
Adult Israel dies in wilderness Num 14:20-38 God vowed that all of the adults of Israel (save Joshua and Caleb), who would not follow Moses into the Promised Land, would die.
Jericho Josh 6 The city of Jericho was completely devoted to destruction.
Jesus promises judgment Matt 16:26-28 Jesus warned that he will return and reward people according to what they have done.
THE CROSS 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Pt 2:21, 1 Jn 4:10 God’s simultaneous demonstration of love & judgment. Love: Jesus died for sin. Judgment: Jesus received the punishment we deserve.
Ananias and Saphira Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira lied about their commitment to the Church and God struck them dead.
Herod Acts 12:23 God struck Herod dead while people were praising him for having the voice of a god.
Those who destroy the church 1 Cor 3:17 God warns that people who harm God’s temple (the church) will be destroyed.
Warning to N.T. Believers 1 Cor 10:1-22 Paul warned the church at Corinth that examples of O.T. judgment are warnings for our day as well as then.
Partakers of communion in unworthy manner 1 Cor 11:27-34 Paul explained that the reason some are sick and have died was because they participated in communion in an unworthy manner.
Leaders / Teachers Warned Luke 12:47; Jam 3:1; Heb 13:17 Warnings that those in positions of responsibility have an increased accountability to Jesus when He returns.
The Judgment Seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:9-10; Rom 14:10-12 When Christ judges Christians resulting in rewards for some and a sense of loss for others.
The Great White Throne Judgment Revelation 20:11-15 Follows the Millennial Kingdom and is the occasion when the unsaved of all the world will receive their punishment of eternal hell.
Jesus’s final words in Revelation Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20 Jesus promised that He will soon return and that when he does he will dispense punishment to those whose who do not know Him.

If these examples of biblical judgment people do not make you uncomfortable, then maybe you are not engaging with this idea of God’s judgment. The judgment of a holy God is a sobering topic. It is so uncomfortable the reality is that many churches in North America speak little of God’s judgment. And, perhaps the reason many pastors won’t speak of judgment is the same reason Jesus admonition, “Judge not that you be not judged,” is the most popular saying in the Bible.

For biblical Christianity, there is no denying the reality of judgment. Some insist that the Old Testament presents God as a harsher judge. But this is inconsistent with the Bible. Look at the table above. Read Revelation 20-22.

Some counter, “Well, then I’m not sure if I want the Bible. I’m not sure that I want judgment at all.”

But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should!

The fact is that people who object against God’s judgment are okay with justice and judgment. They just want to dictate judgment on their own terms and that, says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, is what we must not do. To insist on being the judge is a matter of pride. Only God is worthy of rendering judgment.

But then someone else will counter, “These examples of God’s judgment are harsh. Think of Sodom! Think of eternal hell. How can a God of such harsh judgment be loving?”

This is where we need to go to the middle of the above table and focus on the the Cross! On the Cross we see how God’s love and God’s judgment are both on display. John tells us (1 John 4:10) that the ultimate display of love is that Christ died for our sins. The reason he died, was to give Christ as the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For sure, one reason that our culture appreciates Jesus’s admonition to not be hypocritically judgmental is because such hypocrisy is so ugly and damaging. But, I fear, the greater reason so many quote Matthew 7:1-2 is because they have misread it to mean even God does not judge. About this, unbelieving culture could not be more mistaken. God is just and he will judge sin. Those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will suffer God’s judgment eternally (John 3:36, Revelation 21:8).

See also:

What do Christians mean when they reference the gospel or good news?

The Pastoral Privilege of Telling Christians When Jesus Will Return

Jonathan Edwards Was as High on Heaven as He Was Hot on Hell

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People

Sproul_1And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 4:41

C.S. Lewis said that one of the reasons he believes Christianity is that it is not the sort of religion anyone would have made up. In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul makes this same point in interacting with Jesus’s calming of the storm:

It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that people invent religion out of of a fear of nature. We feel helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, we invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease. God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.

What is significant about this scriptural story (Mark 4:35-41) is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would the disciples invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place? We can understand if people invented an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.