Category: R thru S


No sin is greater than another sin in the eternal sense. All sin separates us from God, and all sin needs to be atoned for. Also, there is no “greatest sin” in the sense of “mortal” and “venial” sins, as the Catholic Church teaches. All sins are “mortal” sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of spiritual death and eternal separation from God. At the same time, the Bible does state that on the day of judgment some sins will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14).

Jesus also referred to one sin being a “greater” sin (although not the “greatest”) in John 19:11. Speaking to Pontius Pilate, He said that the one who had handed Him over to Pilate was guilty of the “greater sin.” He meant that the guilt of the person who delivered Him to Pilate, whether Judas or Caiaphas, was greater than Pilate’s because of the deliberate and cold act of handing Jesus over after seeing the overwhelming evidence of His miracles and teaching, all pointing unmistakably to Him as the Messiah and the Son of God. That sin was greater than that of those who were ignorant of Him. This could indicate that those who have been given knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God and still reject Him would be subject to a greater punishment than those who remain ignorant of Him: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).

These incidents, however, do not prove that one sin is the “greatest sin” of all. Proverbs 6:16–19 is a catalog of the seven sins God hates and are detestable to Him: “Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” But none of the seven are identified as a greater sin than any of the others, and none are identified as the greatest sin.

Although the Bible doesn’t name any one sin as the greatest sin, it does refer to the unpardonable sin, which is the sin of unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. The Bible is clear that, in His love for mankind, God provided the means of eternal salvation—Jesus Christ and His death on the cross—for “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). The only condition under which forgiveness would not be granted concerns those who reject the only means of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), making it clear that He and He alone is the path to God and salvation. To reject the only means of salvation is unpardonable and, in that sense, is the greatest sin of all.

The Roman Catholic Church divides sin into two categories, mortal sin and venial sin. The issue of sin as the Bible teaches it is one of the most fundamental aspects of understanding life with God and what it means to know Him. As we walk through this life, we must know how to respond biblically to our own sin and the manifestations of humankind’s sinfulness that we encounter moment by moment, day by day. The consequences of not having a biblical understanding of sin and, thus, not responding to sin accordingly, are devastating beyond words. An incorrect understanding of sin can result in an eternity separated from God in hell. But praise to the glorious name of our God and Savior Christ Jesus! In His Holy Word, God has shown plainly what sin is, how it affects us personally, and what the proper response to it is. Thus, as we try to understand the concepts of mortal and venial sin, let us look for final answers in God’s all-sufficient Word.

In order to know if the Bible teaches the concepts of mortal and venial sin, some basic descriptions will be helpful. The concepts of mortal and venial sin are essentially Roman Catholic. Evangelical Christians and Protestants may or may not be familiar with these terms. Working definitions of mortal and venial sins could be these: Mortal Sin is “sin causing spiritual death,” and Venial Sin is “sin that can be forgiven.” Venial sin is invariably used in contrast with mortal sin. Mortal sins are those sins that exclude people from the kingdom; venial sins are those sins that do not exclude people from it. Venial sin differs from mortal sin in the punishment it entails. Venial sin merits temporal punishment expiated by confession or by the fires of purgatory, while mortal sin merits eternal death.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church is found this description of mortal sin: “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.’” According to the Catechism, “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments.” The Catechism further states that mortal sin “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.”

Regarding venial sin, the Catechism states the following: “One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent. Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of virtues and practice of moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. ‘Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.’”

In summary, mortal sin is an intentional violation of the Ten Commandments (in thought, word or deed), committed in full knowledge of the gravity of the matter, and it results in the loss of salvation. Salvation may be regained through repentance and God’s forgiveness. Venial sin may be a violation of the Ten Commandments or a sin of a lesser nature, but it is committed unintentionally and/or without full consent. Although damaging to one’s relationship with God, venial sin does not result in loss of eternal life.

Biblically, the concepts of mortal and venial sin present several problems: first of all, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of how God views sin. The Bible states that God will be just and fair in His punishment of sin and that on the day of judgment some sin will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14). But the fact is that all sin will be punished by God. The Bible teaches that all of us sin (Romans 3:23) and that the just compensation for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Over and against the concepts of mortal and venial sin, the Bible does not state that some sins are worthy of eternal death whereas others are not. All sins are mortal sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of eternal separation from God.

The Apostle James articulates this fact in his letter (James 2:10): “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Notice his use of the word “stumbles.” It means to make a mistake or fall into error. James is painting a picture of a person who is trying to do the right thing and yet, perhaps unintentionally, commits a sin. What is the consequence? God, through His servant James, states when a person commits even unintentional sin, he is guilty of breaking the entire law. A good illustration of this fact is to picture a large window and understand that window to be God’s law. It doesn’t matter if a person throws a very small pebble through the window or several large boulders. The result is the same–the window is broken. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if a person commits one small sin or several huge ones. The result is the same–the person is guilty of breaking God’s law. And the Lord declares that He will not leave the guilty unpunished (Nahum 1:3).

Second, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of God’s payment for sin. In both cases of mortal and venial sin, forgiveness of the given transgression is dependent upon the offender making restitution of some type. In Roman Catholicism, this restitution may take the form of going to confession, praying a certain prayer, receiving the Eucharist, or another ritual of some type. The basic thought is that in order for Christ’s forgiveness to be applied to the offender, the offender must perform some work, and then the forgiveness is granted. The payment and forgiveness of the transgression is dependent upon the offender’s actions.

Is this what the Bible teaches regarding the payment for sin? The Bible clearly teaches that the payment for sin is not found in or based upon the actions of the sinner. Consider the words of 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Take note of the wording, “Christ also died for sins once for all.” This passage teaches that for the person who is believing in Jesus Christ, all of his or her sins have been taken care of on the cross. Christ died for all of them. This includes the sins the believer committed before salvation and the ones he has committed and will commit after salvation.

Colossians 2:13 and 14 confirms this fact: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God] made you alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” God has “forgiven us all our transgressions.” Not just the sins of the past, but all of them. They have been nailed to the cross and taken out of the way. When Jesus, on the cross, stated, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was stating that He had fulfilled all that was necessary to grant forgiveness and eternal life to those who would believe in Him. This is why Jesus says in John 3:18 that “he who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged.” Paul states this fact in Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why are believers not judged? Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? It is because the death of Christ satisfied God’s righteous wrath against sin (1 John 4), and now those who trust in Christ will not bear the penalty of that sin.

Whereas the concepts of mortal and venial sin place responsibility to gain God’s forgiveness for a given transgression in the hands of the offender, the Bible teaches that all sins of the believer are forgiven at the cross of Christ. The Bible does teach by word (Galatians 6:7 and 8) and example (2 Samuel 11-20) that when a Christian gets involved in sin, he or she may reap temporal, physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual consequences. But the believer never has to reacquire God’s forgiveness due to personal sin because God’s Word declares that God’s wrath toward the believer’s sin was satisfied completely at the cross.

Third, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of God’s dealings with His children. Clearly, according to Roman Catholicism, one of the consequences of committing a mortal sin is that it removes eternal life from the offender. Also, according to this concept, God will grant again eternal life through repentance and good works.

Does the Bible teach that a person who is truly saved by God through Christ can lose his salvation and regain it? It clearly does not teach this. Once a person has placed his faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, the Bible teaches that that person is eternally secure–he cannot be lost. Consider the words of Jesus in John 10:27-28: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” Consider also the words of Paul in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Reflecting back upon the fact of the total satisfaction of God’s wrath toward our sin in the death of Christ, our sins cannot separate us from God’s love. In love, God chooses to take Christ’s death as payment for believers’ sins and doesn’t hold them against the believer. Thus, when the believer commits sin, the forgiveness of God in Christ is already present, and, although the believer may experience self-inflicted consequences of sin, God’s love and forgiveness are never in jeopardy. In Romans 7:14-25, Paul clearly states that the believer will struggle with sin throughout his earthly existence, but that Christ will save us from this body of death. And “therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Whereas the concept of mortal sin teaches that a person can lose his salvation through personal sin, the Bible teaches that God’s love and favor will never be removed from His children.

God’s grace not only redeems the believer from every lawless deed, but it also guides the believer into holy living and makes the believer zealous for good deeds. This doesn’t mean that the believer never sins, but that his passion will be to honor God because of God’s grace working in the believer’s life. Forgiveness and holiness are two sides of the same coin of God’s grace–they go together. Although a believer may stumble and fall into sin at times–maybe even in a big way–the general path and direction of his life will be one of holiness and passion for God and His glory. If one follows the concepts of mortal and venial sin, he or she may be deceived into viewing sin with a flippant attitude, thinking that he or she can sin at will and simply seek God’s forgiveness at a point of personal desire. The Bible instructs us that the true believer will never view sin flippantly and will strive, in the strength of God’s grace, to live a holy life.

Based on the above biblical truth, the concepts of mortal and venial sin are not biblical and should be rejected. In Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, the problem of our sin is completely taken care of, and we need look no further than that amazing demonstration of God’s love for us. Our forgiveness and right standing with God is not dependent upon us, our failings, or our faithfulness. The true believer is to fix his eyes on Jesus and live in light of all that He accomplished on our behalf. God’s love and grace are truly amazing! May we live in light of the life we have in Christ! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we be victorious over all sin, whether “mortal,” “venial,” intentional, or unintentional.

Isn’t believing a work?

Our salvation depends solely upon Jesus Christ. He is our substitute, taking sin’s penalty (2 Corinthians 5:21); He is our Savior from sin (John 1:29); He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The work necessary to provide salvation was fully accomplished bySalvation is through Faith in Christ Jesus Jesus Himself, who lived a perfect life, took God’s judgment for sin, and rose again from the dead (Hebrews 10:12).

The Bible is quite clear that our own works do not help merit salvation. We are saved “not because of righteous things we had done” (Titus 3:5). “Not by works” (Ephesians 2:9). “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). This means that offering sacrifices, keeping the commandments, going to church, being baptized, and other good deeds are incapable of saving anyone. No matter how “good” we are, we can never measure up to God’s standard of holiness (Romans 3:23; Matthew 19:17; Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible is just as clear that salvation is conditional; God does not save everyone. The one condition for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. Nearly 200 times in the New Testament, faith (or belief) is declared to be the sole condition for salvation (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).

One day, some people asked Jesus what they could do to please God: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus immediately points them to faith: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29). So, the question is about God’s requirements (plural), and Jesus’ answer is that God’s requirement (singular) is that you believe in Him.

Grace is God’s giving us something we cannot earn or deserve. According to Romans 11:6, “works” of any kind destroys grace—the idea is that a worker earns payment, while the recipient of grace simply receives it, unearned. Since salvation is all of grace, it cannot be earned. Faith, therefore, is a non-work. Faith cannot truly be considered a “work,” or else it would destroy grace. (See also Romans 4—Abraham’s salvation was dependent on faith in God, as opposed to any work he performed.)

Suppose someone anonymously sent you a check for $1,000,000. The money is yours if you want it, but you still must endorse the check. In no way can signing your name be considered earning the million dollars—the endorsement is a non-work. You can never boast about becoming a millionaire through sheer effort or your own business savvy. No, the million dollars was simply a gift, and signing your name was the only way to receive it. Similarly, exercising faith is the only way to receive the generous gift of God, and faith cannot be considered a work worthy of the gift.

True faith cannot be considered a work because true faith involves a cessation of our works in the flesh. True faith has as its object Jesus and His work on our behalf (Matthew 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:10).

To take this a step further, true faith cannot be considered a work because even faith is a gift from God, not something we produce on our own. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Praise the Lord for His power to save and for His grace to make salvation a reality!

I am reblogging this because I think it’s worth illustrating once again for believers who question faith and salvation

altruistico

This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This  question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant  churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical  Christianity and most of the “Christian” cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or  by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to  believe in Jesus and do certain things?

The question of faith alone or  faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages.  Compare Romans 3:285:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a  difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by  faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone  (Ephesians  2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus  works. This apparent…

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General revelation and special revelation are the two ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity. General revelation refers to the general truths that can be known about God through nature. Special revelation refers to the more specific truths that can be known about God through the supernatural.

In regard to general revelation, Psalm 19:1-4 declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” According to this passage, God’s existence and power can be clearly seen through observing the universe. The order, intricacy, and wonder of creation speak to the existence of a powerful and glorious Creator.

General revelation is also taught in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Like Psalm 19, Romans 1:20 teaches that God’s eternal power and divine nature are “clearly seen” and “understood” from what has been made, and that there is no excuse for denying these facts. With these Scriptures in mind, perhaps a working definition of general revelation would be “the revelation of God to all people, at all times, and in all places that proves that God exists and that He is intelligent, powerful, and transcendent.”

Special revelation is how God has chosen to reveal Himself through miraculous means. Special revelation includes physical appearances of God, dreams, visions, the written Word of God, and most importantly—Jesus Christ. The Bible records God appearing in physical form many times (Genesis 3:8, 18:1; Exodus 3:1-4, 34:5-7), and the Bible records God speaking to people through dreams (Genesis 28:12, 37:5; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 2) and visions (Genesis 15:1; Ezekiel 8:3-4; Daniel 7; 2 Corinthians 12:1-7).

Of primary importance in the revealing of God is His Word, the Bible, which is also a form of special revelation. God miraculously guided the authors of Scripture to correctly record His message to mankind, while still using their own styles and personalities. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is inspired, profitable, and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God determined to have the truth regarding Him recorded in written form because He knew the inaccuracy and unreliability of oral tradition. He also understood that the dreams and visions of man can be misinterpreted. God decided to reveal everything that humanity needs to know about Him, what He expects, and what He has done for us in the Bible.

The ultimate form of special revelation is the Person of Jesus Christ. God became a human being (John 1:1, 14). Hebrews 1:1-3 summarizes it best, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son … The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” God became a human being, in the Person of Jesus Christ, to identify with us, to set an example for us, to teach us, to reveal Himself to us, and, most importantly, to provide salvation for us by humbling Himself in death on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus Christ is the ultimate “special revelation” from God.

The Bible is estimated to have been written between 1450 B.C. and 95 A.D. This chart shows scientific facts and principles referred to in this ancient Bible, but not actually discovered by humankind until later centuries. Dead sea scrolls, historical documentation, and other sources all confirm the authenticity of the Bible. Since people had no official knowledge of these scientific facts until more than a thousand years after the Bible was written, is this scientific proof that the Bible was inspired by God?

Scientific Fact or Principle Bible reference Date of discovery by man
Air has weight Job 28:25 16th Century
The Earth is round Isaiah 40:22 15th Century
Oceans have natural paths in them Psalms 8:8 1854
Both man and woman possess the seed of life Genesis 3:15 17th Century
There is a place void of stars in the North Job 26:7 19th Century
Earth is held in place by invisible forces Job 26:7 1650
Taxonomic classification of matter Genesis 1 1735
Certain animals carry diseases harmful to man Leviticus 11 16th Century
Early diagnosis of leprosy Leviticus 13 17th Century
Quarantine for disease control Leviticus 13 17th Century
Blood of animals carries diseases Leviticus 17 17th Century
Blood is necessary for life Leviticus 17:11 19th Century
Earth was in nebular form initially Genesis 1:2 1911
Most seaworthy ship design ratio is 30:5:3 Genesis 6 1860
Light is a particle and has mass (a photon) Job 38:19 1932
Radio astronomy (stars give off signals) Job 38:7 1945
Oceans contain fresh water springs Job 38:16 1920
Snow has material value Job 38:22 1905, 1966
Infinite number of stars exist Genesis 15:5 1940
Dust is important to survival Isaiah 40:12 1935
Hubert Spencer’s scientific principles Genesis 1 1820
Light can be split up into component colors Job 38:24 1650
Matter is made up of invisible particles Romans 1:20 20th Century
Plants use sunlight to manufacture food Job 8:16 1920
Arcturus and other stars move through space Job 38:32 19th Century
Water cycle Ecclesiastes 1:7 17th Century
Life originated in the sea Genesis 1 19th Century
Lightning and thunder are related Job 38:25 19th Century
Human beings were the last living things created Genesis 1 15th Century

Credit: John N. Clayton

Daniel 12:2 summarizes the two very different fates facing mankind: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Everyone will be raised from the dead, but not everyone will share the same destiny. The New Testament reveals the further detail of separate resurrections for the just and the unjust.

Revelation 20:4-6 mentions a “first resurrection” and identifies those involved as “blessed and holy.” The second death (the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14) has no power over these individuals. The first resurrection, then, is the raising of all believers. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14) and the “resurrection of life” (John 5:29).

The first resurrection takes place in various stages. Jesus Christ Himself (the “first fruits,” 1 Corinthians 15:20), paved the way for the resurrection of all who believe in Him. There was a resurrection of the Jerusalem saints (Matthew 27:52-53) which should be included in our consideration of the first resurrection. Still to come are the resurrection of “the dead in Christ” at the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and the resurrection of the martyrs at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4).

Revelation 20:12-13 identifies those comprising the second resurrection as the wicked judged by God at the great white throne judgment prior to being cast into the lake of fire. The second resurrection, then, is the raising of all unbelievers; the second resurrection is connected to the second death. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).

The event which divides the first and second resurrections seems to be the millennial kingdom. The last of the righteous are raised to reign “with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4), but the “rest of the dead [that is, the wicked] lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5).

What great rejoicing will attend the first resurrection! What great anguish at the second! What a responsibility we have to share the Gospel! “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23).

Our hearts go out to those who have thoughts of ending their own lives through suicide. If that is you right now, it may speak of many emotions, such as feelings of hopelessness and despair. You may feel like you are in the deepest pit, and you doubt there is any hope of things getting better. No one seems to care or understand where you are coming from. Life just is not worth living…or is it?

If you will take a few moments to consider letting God truly be God in your life right now, He will prove how big He really is, “for nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Perhaps scars from past hurts have resulted in an overwhelming sense of rejection or abandonment. That may lead to self-pity, anger, bitterness, vengeful thoughts, or unhealthy fears that have caused problems in some of your most important relationships.

Why should you not commit suicide? Friend, no matter how bad things are in your life, there is a God of love who is waiting for you to let Him guide you through your tunnel of despair and out into His marvelous light. He is your sure hope. His name is Jesus.

This Jesus, the sinless Son of God, identifies with you in your time of rejection and humiliation. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Him in Isaiah 53:2-6, describing Him as a man who was “despised and rejected” by everyone. His life was full of sorrow and suffering. But the sorrows He bore were not His own; they were ours. He was pierced, wounded, and crushed, all because of our sin. Because of His suffering, our lives can be redeemed and made whole.

Friend, Jesus Christ endured all this so that you might have all your sins forgiven. Whatever weight of guilt you carry, know that He will forgive you if you humbly receive Him as your Savior. “…Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you…” (Psalm 50:15). Nothing you have ever done is too bad for Jesus to forgive. Some of His choicest servants committed gross sins like murder (Moses), murder and adultery (King David), and physical and emotional abuse (the apostle Paul). Yet they found forgiveness and a new abundant life in the Lord. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Why should you not commit suicide? Friend, God stands ready to repair what is “broken,” namely, the life you have now, the life you want to end by suicide. In Isaiah 61:1-3, the prophet wrote, “The LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Come to Jesus, and let Him restore your joy and usefulness as you trust Him to begin a new work in your life. He promises to restore the joy you have lost and give you a new spirit to sustain you. Your broken heart is precious to Him: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:12, 15-17).

Will you accept the Lord as your Savior and Shepherd? He will guide your thoughts and steps—one day at a time—through His Word, the Bible. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6). In Christ, you will still have struggles, but you will now have hope. He is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you in your hour of decision.

If you desire to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, speak these words in your heart to God: “God, I need you in my life. Please forgive me for all that I have done. I place my faith in Jesus Christ and believe that He is my Savior. Please cleanse me, heal me, and restore my joy in life. Thank You for Your love for me and for Jesus’ death on my behalf.”

If you are considering suicide, please seek help now. Call 1-800-273-8255, the national hotline, get yourself to a hospital if you can, call 911, go alert someone in your home, apartment, or workplace, or wherever you are, and do whatever it takes to get help.

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
To Write Love on Her Arms: http://twloha.com/find-help
Befrienders.org: http://www.befrienders.org/directory
Suicide hotlines available in most countries: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

God wants custodyThis world is a battleground. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17-19), the world God created has been in conflict with Him (Romans 8:20-22). Satan is called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and due to Adam’s sin, we are born on his team (Romans 5:12). John Bunyan pictured this conflict in his allegory The Holy War. Prince Emmanuel besieges the city of Mansoul to wrest it from the power of Diabolus. Unfortunately, the citizens of Mansoul are blindly committed to Diabolus and fight against Emmanuel, to their own detriment.

When we reach the age when we can make moral choices, we must choose whether to follow our own sinful inclinations or to seek God (see Joshua 24:15). God promises that when we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). When we find Him, we have a choice to make: do we continue following our own inclinations, or do we surrender to His will?

Surrender is a battle term. It implies giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an opposing army surrenders, they lay down their arms, and the winners take control from then on. Surrendering to God works the same way. God has a plan for our lives, and surrendering to Him means we set aside our own plans and eagerly seek His. The good news is that God’s plan for us is always in our best interest (Jeremiah 29:11), unlike our own plans that often lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Our Lord is a wise and beneficent victor; He conquers us to bless us.

There are different levels of surrender, all of which affect our relationship with God. Initial surrender to the drawing of the Holy Spirit leads to salvation (John 6:44; Acts 2:21). When we let go of our own attempts to earn God’s favor and rely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we become a child of God (John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But there are times of greater surrender during a Christian’s life that bring deeper intimacy with God and greater power in service. The more areas of our lives we surrender to Him, the more room there is for the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we exhibit traits of His character (Galatians 5:22). The more we surrender to God, the more our old self-worshiping nature is replaced with one that resembles Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Romans 6:13 says that God demands that we surrender the totality of our selves; He wants the whole, not a part: “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” Jesus said that His followers must deny themselves (Mark 8:34)—another call to surrender.

The goal of the Christian life can be summed up by Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Such a life of surrender is pleasing to God, results in the greatest human fulfillment, and will reap ultimate rewards in heaven (Luke 6:22-23).

The word rapture does not occur in the Bible. The term comes from a Latin word meaning “a carrying off, a transport, or a snatching away.” The concept of the “carrying off” or the rapture of the church is clearly taught in Scripture.

The rapture of the church is the event in which God “snatches away” all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the tribulation period. The rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50–54. God will resurrect all believers who have died, give them glorified bodies, and take them from the earth, along with all living believers, who will also be given glorified bodies at that time. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

The rapture will involve an instantaneous transformation of our bodies to fit us for eternity. “We know that when He [Christ] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The rapture is to be distinguished from the second coming. At the rapture, the Lord comes “in the clouds” to meet us “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the second coming, the Lord descends all the way to the earth to stand on the Mount of Olives, resulting in a great earthquake followed by a defeat of God’s enemies (Zechariah 14:3–4).

The doctrine of the rapture was not taught in the Old Testament, which is why Paul calls it a “mystery” now revealed: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).

The rapture of the church is a glorious event we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We will be in God’s presence forever. There is far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God’s intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope; God wants us to “encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).