Well, we are happy to have you all here tonight. Tonight it’s your time to ask questions. There are three mics, one in each of the main aisles. And let’s begin by having you come up to the mic and just get in line behind these guys if you have a question.
One basic truth I want to communicate. This is not stump the pastor – that’s pretty easy to do. This is to have you ask a question that we can help you with. Now all I want to know is your name so I can have a conversation with you, and then you can ask your question. So Tom will begin over on your side, to my right.
AUDIENCE: Hi Pastor John, my name is Aldo, and I just have a quick question. It’s one of the arguments used by post-tribulationists; and my question is in regards to Revelation 20:5 – chapter 20, verse 5. It speaks of the first restoration and it places it after the tribulation and before the millennium. So the question is, “Is this the same restoration from 1 Thessalonians 4:16?”
JOHN: The first resurrection – let me just answer in general. The first resurrection has three parts. The first resurrection has an inaugurational part, which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He’s the first fruits of those who’ve come from the dead, because the first resurrection is resurrection unto life, resurrection unto righteousness, resurrection unto glory. So the first resurrection includes Christ.
The second aspect of that is the rapture of the church. According to 1 Thessalonians 4, that is where the dead in Christ rise first – somebody said because they have six feet further to go. But they rise first, and then they are collected together with the saints who are alive when Christ takes His church to heaven. That is the second part of the first resurrection.
The third part of, in a sense, the first resurrection is the resurrection of the saints in the time at the end of the age, the end of the world age when God raises all from all the graves and gathers them into glory. This is the resurrection promised, for example, in Daniel chapter 12.
So the first resurrection, as I understand it, is the resurrection of the righteous. There will be a second resurrection, and that is the resurrection of the unrighteous to the great white throne. They will be given resurrection bodies suited for hell, and they will literally go into a final form of hell.
They are now spirits without bodies. They are spirits that have separated from God. When people die they go, they go out of the presence of God, but they are not in their final form until that second resurrection, which is the second death also that is described in Revelation chapter 20; and that’s when they are given a body suited for hell. Okay? Good question.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: All right, we’ll go to the middle.
AUDIENCE: My name is Ronald.
JOHN: Hi, Ronald.
AUDIENCE: How are you doing tonight?
AUDIENCE: The question is, “Is it ever okay for a Christian to stop talking to or shun a parent due to an argument dispute or incident?”
JOHN: Is it ever okay to stop talking in the sense that you’re shunning a parent?
AUDIENCE: Right. I have some family that they’ve stopped talking to their mother or father.
JOHN: Oh, I see.
AUDIENCE: So I just want to see, get your input.
JOHN: Yeah. There might be a point – I mean, that’s kind of a judgment call. There might be a point at which you decide that you have said everything you need to say, you have exhausted your options, you have done everything you could to reconcile, everything you could to communicate the gospel. If they are offended by that and they’re relentlessly offended by that and they turn against you, you know, I would maybe borrow the words of Jesus when He said, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” There comes a point where there’s just no interest. The hard heart has become indifferent to what you have to say.
Now having said that, on a gospel level of communicating the Word of God, the truth of the gospel, I still think that if it’s a parent or a family member, or for that matter, any friend that has been a part of your life, you ought to keep the lines open. And maybe you don’t have a long conversation, maybe you don’t engage them again, because they know the truth, and all it does is create some kind of argument, volatility, and just make things go to a worse level. But I think it’s good to keep some door of communication open.
I know that is a problem. That is a problem virtually in almost every family. There’s somebody at some point in almost everyone’s family who is in some kind of form of alienation, and you wonder, “Where do I go next?” Do I keep pursuing? Do I keep talking? Do I keep addressing them?”
I think there’s no real rule for that. But I think all you can do is tell them the truth, express love to them, make a periodic connection with them. Leave the door open. You want to let them know that you’re not the barrier. And when they’re ready to come back and have the kind of relationship that you would like them to have you’re open to that. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Dawn.
JOHN: Hi, Dawn.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I was raised on a legalistic background, basically faith and works combined equals salvation. Since then I’ve come to Christ through faith alone. But Satan still whispers in my ear saying, “Well, the fruits of the Spirit, if manifested properly in the life of a Christian, could equate to works.” And also we have James 2:14 where it says, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Can you please explain that a little bit to me?
JOHN: Yeah. The way to understand that, Dawn, is simply this. Works are not the means of your salvation, they are the result of it. I’ve said this recently in some other settings, and I think I said it here when we were going through Galatians a few weeks ago.
We are saved by faith and grace alone, but we will be judged by works. It’s very clear we will be judged by works. In Romans chapter 2, we hear from the apostle Paul clearly that God will judge us according to our works. So works are the manifestation of the transformation; they’re not the reason for it, they’re not the means of it.
I think Ephesians 2:8-10 is probably the best portion to make that clear: “For by grace are you saved through faith; that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. You’re saved by faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. But we are saved unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Another way to look at is God has saved a people who are zealous for good works. God has saved a people who are transformed, born again, and they’re marked by good works. They’re marked by both attitudinal fruit – love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control – and behavioral fruit. The fruit of their lips is praise. The fruit of their life is service. They use their spiritual gifts, gifted by the Holy Spirit. They’re engaged in the one anothers. They seek to do ministry. They seek to proclaim the gospel.
So the difference is you can’t count on any of that to save you, but you can be certain that if you have been saved those works are going to follow. And that’s what James is saying. Faith without works is dead, because a true saving faith brings about new birth, transformation, regeneration, new life. And you heard twice tonight the quoting of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any person’s in Christ, he’s a new creation; old things are gone, and new things come.”
So it’s a question of where you put the works. They’re not the reason you’re saved, but they are the manifestation of that transformation. As long as you understand that difference you’ll understand where works belong.
And again, I remind all of you, what you heard again tonight, and we hear it so often in baptism, “I thought I was a Christian, I thought I was a Christian, but my life didn’t show it,” right? We heard that several times tonight. And that’s pretty typical of almost every baptismal service, even people being baptized going to church. But what they love, and what they desire, and what they think ,and what they feel, and what they say, and what they do are not consistent with that, as we heard again tonight.
And the difference is that you heard those people say, “Now my life has changed. I desire the Word of God. I desire Christian fellowship. I love the Lord; I want to do what honors Him.” That’s the evidence of that salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Hi. My question’s on –
JOHN: What’s your name?
AUDIENCE: Sorry. Will.
JOHN: Hi, Will.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My question’s on social justice and love. A particularly relevant verse is in Mark 8:36 about, “What will profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” A variety of Christians use this as the central aspect of their understanding of love. A particularly relevant one today that seems to be generally held by conservative Christians. Albert Mohler stated he did not sign the social justice statement in part to his Southern Baptist position that Christians are to make the world a better place. A Christian leader who signed the social justice statement responded by denying making the world a better place is a biblical mandate under the reason of, “What good does it do to the world for it to be a better place while separated from God?”
I had a personal reaction with a Bible study leader here that made a similar argument. A variety of Christians disagree this depiction of love citing Matthew 5:45 where it said, “The Father causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous as a testament to them,” is universal love.
I have kind of a cluster of questions that I think will kind of –
JOHN: Yeah. Tom, you’re supposed to be screening those people. So what is the question?
AUDIENCE: What is your understanding of Matthew 16:26 as it pertains to love?
JOHN: Look, let me answer. The bigger question is not Matthew and it’s not the other Scriptures. The bigger question comes back to what I’ve just been saying.
First of all, let me just say this. Justice is not a word that needs an adjective. If somebody puts an adjective on justice, then they have something else in mind. Justice is justice. Justice is what is right. Now when we talk about social justice I try to make this clear in the series we did on Ezekiel. But let me answer this.
I understand that no temporal, political, social enterprise is a component of the saving gospel. Okay? That’s what I’m saying. Certainly we believe in justice for all. We are to live justly, we are to do justice, it says in Scripture. We are to give justice to every man.
Beyond justice, we are to be marked by love. We are to be marked by sacrificial, compassion. We are to be marked by kindness, mercy, tenderness, lovingkindness, just as God is. Never are you more like God than when you love, and never more like God than when you love your enemies. We are to be marked by love and kindness and mercy and compassion. We are to care to widows. We are to care for orphans. We are to care for the oppressed. We are to deliver people from trials and difficulties, burdens that are too hard to bear. We are to visit those who are in prison. We are to care for the sick. We are to be in the hospitals with those who are hurting.
We are to do everything we can as Christians in the world to relieve the difficulties of those around us, to show the love of God. And the model for that is Jesus Himself, because when Jesus came into the world, in order to declare His deity, He could have done a lot of things. He could have done many things that would have demonstrated His deity. He could have done some astonishing things. He did occasionally create. But what He did most of all to demonstrate His deity was heal – heal sick people, feed hungry people, raise dead people – so that He was not only demonstrating the power of God, but He was demonstrating the compassion of God; the tender, loving mercy of God for those who suffer. So no one, no one who is a Christian would ever deny anyone who suffers or anyone who has difficulty love and care. That is not the question.
The question is, “Is somehow that part of the saving gospel?” And the answer is what I just said to Dawn. No. That behavior is the evidence of a transformed heart. It’s not part of it, it’s the evidence of it. You can go to the New Testament, you will never find, you will never find anything other than believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing Him as Lord, believing in His death and resurrection, believe in the true God, the true Christ, His life, death, substitutionary atonement, resurrection, exaltation, lordship – believing that, confessing your sin, repenting. That’s the gospel. Nothing can be added to that gospel. But gospel-transformed people, of course, are called to be Christ in the world. The church is the body of Christ in the world, we are Christ in the world, and the world needs to see our redemption in our love and kindness.
Yes, God has demonstrated His kindness to the whole world, the rain does fall on the just and the unjust. There is what theologians call “common grace.” Common grace is sunshine and rain, and a good meal, and love, and marriage, and children, and every beautiful thing in life. That’s common grace. That’s God loving all men in some way. And we are to literally fill the world with that common grace.
And if you go back in history you will find that Christianity has done that. Christians are basically the ones who have changed the world. Wherever you have had Christianity for centuries, you have the most advanced societies providing the most care for people. It was Christians who developed nursing hospitals; and all of that basically had its roots in the transformation the gospel made in people’s lives that caused them to reach out to care for people. If you go back in history to primitive cultures they were happy to behead each other and kill each other. Christians change the character of the world wherever they have gone, and that’s the way it absolutely should be.
But that is not social justice. That is not what people are talking about when they talk about social justice. That’s a Marxist kind of phrase that is really used to deconstruct society, to shatter the structure of society to overturn the powers that be. It really has no solution; it’s just like kind of classic, it just wants to break up and destroy. It has been tried many times, nothing new; and it is destructive, it always has been destructive.
Christians don’t do that, we don’t destroy the culture. We don’t try to overturn, we don’t do revolution. We are known as those who honor the King, right, and all those in authority over us, because they’re ministers of God. We are those who pray for the salvation of our leaders and our rulers. We are those who live quiet and peaceable lives in the world. We aren’t revolutionaries, we aren’t reactionaries, we aren’t activists; we don’t start riots, we don’t storm the streets, we don’t smash the doors of the Supreme Court. We don’t do any of those things. We love people, we care for people, we minister to people’s needs. We accept the authority that is in power, we know that it’s ordained by God. And if you start tearing into that authority and you weaken that authority, you will have increasing anarchy, and you will go back to a primitive kind of society where we can barely survive.
God has ordained a human conscience to restrict people’s sin. He has ordained the family and the rod to restrict people’s sin. And where you have the conscience breaking down because there’s no moral law being taught to people so their conscience doesn’t know what to react to, and where you have the complete collapse of the family, you have no rod to bring inflicted training on children, you have a population of potential criminals. And where you weaken the power of the police and you weaken the power of authority, you’re going to get anarchy, and all hell breaks loose; and you see glimpses of all hell breaking loose whenever you see the kind of a riot that police can’t control. That’s the human heart without the controls that God has placed. That’s why the Bible says those in authority, don’t bear the sword in vain, they are ministers of God, Romans 13.
So we don’t tear up culture. We don’t try to overturn leadership. We don’t attack. We don’t have riots and revolutions. We quietly, graciously, lovingly, mercifully, kindly care for people; and we love them, and we show them the very love that God has shown us, even in the common grace in His creation.
Social justice is a fancy name for disrupting society, for breaking down its institutions. You see it being activated in universities where students want to take over the school, overturn the authority of the teachers. You see it in governments where rioting people want to overpower the police. And you saw it recently even on the steps of the Supreme Court.
That is not how Christians behave, our God is sovereign. Our God rules in the world, and our God has called on us to be known by our what? Our love. Our love. That love has to be shown to those that are hurting and depressed and mistreated in our society, no matter who they are.
But social justice is a formula for complete social disruption. That’s what’s going on in our culture. I don’t know that we can survive it, to be honest, because ultimately, if it keeps going the way it’s going to go, we’re going to end up in a police state, because it can’t get out of control. And we’re liable to have an army just to control the citizens of this country rather than to try to prevent another country from attacking us.
As Christians, we live peaceable, God-exalting, Christ-honoring lives; and we do everything we can to meet the need of every person. And in Christ, there’s neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor free; we’re all one in Him – right? – and we show that love. Okay.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Jason.
JOHN: Hi, Jason.
AUDIENCE: I want to say thank you for your faithfulness to preaching God’s Word; and my question is regarding Revelation 8:7. It says, “Since Revelation is in chronological order, why does chapter 8, verse 7 describe all the grass being burned up, and then chapter 9, verse 4 says the fifth angel blew his trumpet and said, ‘Do not harm the grass of the earth.’? Does it grow back by then or am I misunderstanding the text?”
JOHN: Well, yeah. I’d have to go a little deeper into looking into that. But, yes, Revelation is chronological. And when you come to this part of it, you come to the seventh seal; and out of the seventh seal come the seven trumpets. This is at the very end, or near the very end of the period of the time of tribulation. I haven’t looked at it in detail enough to be able to make a comparison between grass being burned up here and grass appearing somewhere else.
Where else did you say the grass appeared? Okay, let me look at that for a second. Yeah, you’re exactly right; it’s a good point. I don’t know, I’ll have to take a look at that in more detail.
There’s grass in 8:7. I mean, there’s no grass in 8:7, at least extensively. A third of the earth is burned up, a third of the trees, and all the green grass was burned up. We could assume that, apparently, it makes a comeback if it appears in chapter 9, verse 4. I’ve known grass to do that. So this seems to be something that wasn’t final. In 8 it wasn’t final, because the demons that come out of the pit in chapter 9 are told not to harm that.
And I think it’s important to remember that these are a flurry of devastating judgments that don’t destroy everything, but part of it, until finally our Lord comes and redoes the earth for His own kingdom. Okay? I’ll look a little more into that; just kind of a curious question.
AUDIENCE: Hi, John. My name is Andrew.
JOHN: Hi, Andrew.
AUDIENCE: And thanks for being our pastor, first of all.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I got your booklet here, Is it Real? A Love and Biblical Test of Genuine Salvation, and one of the things you say is, “Have you experience communion with God and Christ? Have you sense Their presence?” And you said fairly recently in a sermon, you were talking about basically the more mystical movements, and you were saying how you’ve never felt God’s presence, you’ve never basically sensed His – you never felt the presence of God. And I just wanted you to clarify that.
AUDIENCE: And then as a follow up, when you do pray, you’re praying for direction and answer to something, a yes or no, “Should I go this way or that way?” How do you generally get the answers? You know, we don’t hear voices. So how you usually get the answers for that?
JOHN: Good question, Andrew. When I say as a believer one of the evidences that you are a believer is when you – maybe “sense” wouldn’t be the best word. But I had the choice between sense God or experience God, and either one of them is a little bit difficult to explain. What I mean by that is, “Is your life evidently filled with providences that could only be orchestrated by heaven?”
That is, to me, one of the great evidences that I belong to God is nothing seems to happen in my life randomly, nothing. Every day of my life is another day of divine intersections where God has orchestrated something to happen that is so evidently heavenly because of its outcome. I don’t know that coming, I don’t even know it at the moment; but in retrospect, how did that ever happen? How did that conversation ever come up? How did I ever meet that person? How did those circumstances ever become aligned to accomplish such a wonderful, divine end?
I say that all the time about the people God brings into my life. There’s a range of ministry in my life that is pretty hard to understand, pretty hard to imagine when you have a university and a seminary, and you have a church, you have Grace to You, you have TMAI, you have all of these ministries. And a providence of God that is just miraculous in the providential sense, that I am never unaware of. I am aware of it all the time is how God has brought into my life and to our lives the right person for every single responsibility. And it’s a movement of God that never could have been orchestrated, it never could have been done.
So that’s what I meant by that, that when you are a believer your life all of a sudden becomes a chronology of heavenly events. You can’t explain your life any other way. Okay? Good question.
AUDIENCE: Hey, Pastor John. Just want to thank you so much for the opportunity to come up here and ask a question, and thank this church so much for all of its faithful leadership, the elders here, and those leading the Bible studies.
JOHN: Thank you. What’s your name?
JOHN: Your name?
AUDIENCE: Joseph, yeah.
JOHN: Hi, Joseph.
AUDIENCE: I had a particular question, just a general one about prayer. Let’s say you allot about 30 minutes in the morning to pray, and you’re faithful to the prayer time, and you enjoy it, and you enjoy communion and worship to the Lord, and asking for a request for particular people. And you’re on a consistent basis of doing so, but there are times where you awake in the morning and you just don’t want to pray. Even though you know it’s a commandment and that we should, and it’s so helpful for people, do we force ourselves to pray when we don’t want to, or do we just refrain from it?
JOHN: Yeah, yeah. Look, Paul says in Romans, “I don’t do what I want to do, and I do what I don’t want to do,” so he admits that his want is involved. You’re never going to be the kind of Christian who just flows into spiritual disciplines as a sort of default position. Holiness is not a default position. You’re always going to have to have a conscious will to obey, a conscious sense of responsibility. That doesn’t lessen the purity of that spiritual experience in any way at all. The fact that it’s a discipline, the fact that you have to do it even when you don’t want to do it, the fact that you don’t want to do it and don’t do it is a lot worse than you don’t want to do it, but you do it.
So that’s just part of Christian life and discipline. It’s always going to be an uphill struggle, particularly in prayer, because prayer is such an intimate reality. And, of course, you can pray anytime and all the time, as I know Christians do. But, yes, that is a discipline that requires you to commit to doing it.
To give you a parallel: in all honesty, I don’t want to come here every Sunday and preach. Do you find that hard to believe? But I mean, there are times when I say, “I think I’d rather stay in bed, I am tired,” and this morning was one of them. In fact, that’s not unusual in driving the activities of life that you would have those kinds of times. But that doesn’t lessen the value or the blessing of that spiritual discipline when you do. Okay?
Where are we, over here?
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Latricia.
JOHN: Hi, Latricia.
AUDIENCE: And my question is on the fall. In Romans 5:12 it says, “Sin came into the world through one man,” and it seems to be that the focus is on the man. But in Genesis 3:7 it says, “And the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked.” But before, Eve didn’t seem to like know that she was naked; or maybe she just didn’t react at first? Like how would I better understand that if it just had been Eve that bit the apple would we still be in a fallen –
JOHN: Listen, Latricia, you ought to be glad that the man got the blame. That’s headship. That’s God’s design. We can assume that there was some measure of responsibility which Adam should have taken on behalf of Eve to give her some protection and some covering from the serpent, because the apostle says Adam was not deceived, she was deceived.
But God has ordained that there’s a sense in which Adam was designed by God as the head. He acted for the race, just as Christ acted for the redeemed race. That’s just by God’s design. That’s the headship of the man, the submission of the woman. It doesn’t mean that they’re unequal spiritually or unequal in any other way, it’s just that somebody has to have the responsibility of leadership and protection and care, and be the deliverer or the rescuer or the savior in that relationship.
So God identified Adam as the head, the representative of humanity and the representative of Eve. And so it was the sin of Adam that marks the fall, as it is the righteousness of Christ that marks the rescue. And that’s purely by God’s design. God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians. Okay?
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: My name is Christian.
JOHN: Good name.
AUDIENCE: So a friend of mine once told me with regards to foreknowledge of God, that there was not a time or a point in eternity that God never knew us; so He’s always known us. And at that time I dismissed it, you know, because of I had a different view. But then I heard it from you from one of your sermons, and I cannot dismiss what I heard. Hence the question: “If that is so, then is creation, you know, imperative, that God had to create us because of what He knew in eternity?” And if that’s the truth, do we worship in a free God or an eternal database who doesn’t have any choice but to do what is, you know, known from God?
JOHN: Oh, I understand what you’re saying: “Is it all predetermined by God?” Look, there’s never been time with God, so there’s never been a time when God didn’t know something, because there’s never been time. And since God is omniscient, God has always known what He’s always known, and never not known what He’s always known; which means He’s always known everything. And He created with perfect knowledge, with perfect knowledge, and He created for His own redemptive purpose. He created so that He could bring a redeemed people to heaven as a bride for His Son, and so that He would have redeemed humanity in heaven to show the angels attributes that the angels would never have seen, because salvation was never extended to angels; so they would never have seen His mercy, grace, His forgiveness, His salvation.
So God created the universe. There’s nothing He didn’t know about about anything. So He created it to fulfill His will. However, at no point in Scripture does God say that mankind is not responsible for his behavior. In fact, God holds sinners responsible. It’s not fatalistic determinism, and I can’t fully explain that; but that’s exactly what Scripture says.
Look, I’m content not to be able to explain God. That means God is far greater than I am, I don’t need to have Him fit between my ears. But I do know this: God is holy, and God does not create people for hell; He sends them there when they reject Him. So there is human responsibility and human volition in the middle of this.
Does God know? Of course, He knows. But that doesn’t necessarily remove the responsibility. You might know if somebody’s going to do something. You might know exactly what they’re going to do. You’re not responsible for the doing of it, but you know it’s coming because you have some signals that it’s coming.
In a microcosm that’s how it is with God. There’s nothing He doesn’t know from the beginning to the end. There’s nothing outside His knowledge. There’s nothing outside His presence, His presence is as infinite as His knowledge; and trying fit into that human behavior, human volition, human will is a very difficult thing philosophically or intellectually or rationally, but not scripturally, because the Scripture says, “You will die in your sins,” – Jesus said – “John, because you believe not on Me. And where I go, you can’t come.” So the man within the framework of God’s will still bears culpability for his sin and unbelief.
AUDIENCE: But does that mean God is free, that He freely created, or He didn’t have any choice to create?
JOHN: No, God is completely free, completely independent. God always does exactly what He wants to do. Nobody tells God what to do, nobody has told Him what to do. Nobody gave Him advice, no one gives Him counsel. That’s part of the benediction at the end of Romans 11. Nobody says anything to God. Nobody gives Him any information, nobody prompts Him, nobody motivates Him; He does exactly what He chooses to do as the infinite Sovereign. Okay.
AUDIENCE: All right.
JOHN: How are we over here? Yeah?
AUDIENCE: Hey, Pastor John. How are you?
AUDIENCE: Good. I’m Justin, by the way.
JOHN: Hi, Justin.
AUDIENCE: So just in a conversation with friends and, I guess, coworkers, I had a question about your social justice series.
AUDIENCE: Is there any difference between social justice and the social gospel? And if so, what are they?
JOHN: I’m afraid there’s a pretty clear connection, and I’ll run it by you very quickly. Whenever the commitment to the Word of God begins to weaken in the church’s history, whenever and where the commitment to the Word of God begins to weaken, the church kind of sinks into social efforts independent of the gospel, not the kind of social efforts that are done by born again, regenerated believers; but the church begins to become a society of social change, because when it begins to weaken its grip on Scripture and its sense of the authority of Scripture and the purity of Scripture and the purity of the gospel – and that happens in a church because Satan sows false teachers and tares in the church, so there’s always a false church. And the false church has a weak view of Scripture; therefore, it has a weak view of the gospel. It wants to have some reason to exist. It wants to make a difference in the world, so it turns to social issues.
Now this is exactly what we see in our own country. Go back to the couple hundred years ago – in fact, back to the beginning of the twentieth century, and you can see it even before that at the end of the eighteenth century – liberalism began to flourish. It came from Europe and it began to flourish in the United States, and it basically destroyed all the convictions of all the seminaries. And the seminaries began to produce men who didn’t believe the Word of God, didn’t believe the gospel, wanted to believe the best about humanity. And in wanting to believe the best about mankind, that mankind was basically good, and wanting to win the favor of the world, they began to turn toward what we call the social gospel. And so they began to do philanthropic work, they began to care for people.
It didn’t take long before once the gospel had vacated the pulpit and the Bible was gone, these social efforts were all that was left. And as a result of that, the main line denominations in America that had such historic beginnings around creeds and doctrinal statements began to die out. Episcopal church, Methodist church, Presbyterian church, American Baptist denomination – those were all denominations that basically followed the pathway.
And it’s a series of steps. You weaken the view of Scripture. You begin to deny the inerrancy of Scripture; and when you deny the inerrancy of Scripture, then you’re free to interpret Scripture any way you want. And then you take the offense out, and then you try to help people in their physical needs, or whatever.
That’s kind of what was called the social gospel, and it was the replacement for the saving gospel, the true gospel. It killed the denominations in this country, they’re dead. Their churches are big rock piles with nobody in them, and they’re losing more people all the time, if there are any people left at all. Their seminaries are – they’re in the hands of Satan for certain. So that was the path of the social gospel.
We’re seeing it recycling again; and I want to just make a couple comments on this. As the church – and I pointed this out in the series – “evangelicals,” quote-unquote, decided a few years ago that they wanted to win the world. And the youth culture of the world was pulling apart from the adult culture. So it was very highly defined. And if they were going to reach this young generation, they were going to have to make some adjustments. So evangelicals started changing their style, the style of how they did church, and how they dressed, and how they talked, and all of that, and they thought, “We’re going to win the world. We haven’t changed the message, we just changed the style.”
And now the world is never going to be content with just the style change, they want the message to change because it offends them. They’ve got a message, and their message is social justice, not just for racial groups, but social justice for women, social justice for LGBTQ, social justice for any disaffected kind of minority group they see is on the bottom rung of society.
So evangelicalism has had to chase – once they started chasing the world and said, “We’re going to become like the world so we can win them. And we’ll just change the style, but we’ll keep the message,” pretty soon the world demanded a different message. And so, for a while it was, “Well, we’re going to give them, we’re going to accommodate their message. We’re going to go down the path that they’re down. We’re going to go down the path of maybe feminism and all this other stuff, and social justice, but we’re going to hang onto the gospel. We’re going to hang onto the gospel.”
That didn’t last very long. In fact, I might recommend to you that you check out a website that Ligonier Ministries put together, R. C. Sproul’s ministry, called thestateoftheology.com, thestateoftheology.com. You will be shocked to see 78 percent of Christian evangelicals in America believe Jesus was created by God, 78 percent of evangelicals believe Jesus was created by God. That is an Arian heresy. That is to say if you’re a Christian you likely believe a heresy about Christ and you’re not saved. They don’t believe in biblical authority. They don’t believe that the Bible is absolute truth. They want to make a place for homosexuality, sex before marriage.
It’s a shocking thing to see. But this is what happens when you begin to chase the world and you give the world the message the world wants to hear. You start omitting doctrine, because that’s where the offense lies. And then you have, quote-unquote, some kind of “evangelicalism” that is in itself a heresy.
It doesn’t take long; just decide that you’re going to let the world dictate what you say. You say, “Okay, we’ll just do the style.” That’s not enough. Then they want you to get into their world and their message. And pretty soon they want you to put your gospel aside, because that’s what so offends them.
We’re there. That particular survey will be shocking to many people. I’ve seen it coming for a long, long time. But the heading of it, which I thought was interesting was, “If you’re an evangelical you probably believe heresy.” That’s frightening. But that’s what happens when the church leaves the Word of God and leaves the purity of the gospel, and adds anything onto it to accommodate the culture.
In all honesty, not only are individuals doing this, individual pastors doing this, but whole denominations are doing this. When somebody stands up as a denominational president and says, “Our main goal is social justice. Our main goal is to develop reparations for women who’ve been offended. Our main goal is to welcome those who self-identify as LGBTQ,” the Bible has been set aside.
So, again, I go back to what I said at the beginning. We believe that we are to live in this world in such a way that we make a difference in society. But that’s the fruit of the gospel. If you put that alongside or in front of the gospel, you destroy the gospel, the church loses its mission.
What kind of church is it that believes Jesus is a created being? That’s not a church, and those aren’t believers. Very serious. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m Hayden.
JOHN: Hi, Hayden.
AUDIENCE: I wanted to ask, “If God is a loving God and there are people in the world who don’t have access to the gospel and never will, why would God continue to allow these people to be created?”
JOHN: Sure. For His glory. The question comes up a lot: If God is a God of love and mercy and compassion, and He knows people are going to go to hell, why does He continue to create them, right? That is what’s called the – basically that’s the ultimate problem. That’s the ultimate agnostic, atheist problem. We say, “God is all-powerful and all-loving. If He’s all-powerful, why doesn’t He save everybody? And if He’s all-loving, why would He send anyone to hell?”
The answer to that is simply this: God is who He is. And you can’t invent Him, and you can’t change Him, and you can’t alter Him. You can either believe in Him or not believe in Him. You can’t accommodate Him to your own thinking. And that means if you don’t understand His perfect righteousness and perfect holiness, the problem is with you and not Him.
I don’t expect to fully understand God because I have a jaded viewpoint because of my own fallenness and my own sinfulness. I don’t expect to have a full comprehension of an absolutely holy being. God doesn’t ask me to be able to reason everything about Him in my pigmy mind. But God does ask me to believe in Him. And when He says He is holy and when He says He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, that that is a true expression of God. I don’t know how that works together with His sovereign purpose and His sovereign ends, that is the ultimate question.
But as I always say when we have a Q&A, in every major doctrine that comes from God and touches us, there’s going to be an apparent paradox. For example, if I say, “Who wrote Romans?” you’re going to say Paul wrote Romans, or somebody might say, “Well, actually it was the Holy Spirit.” Was it all Paul? Yes. Was it all the Holy Spirit? Yes. Was it a hundred percent Paul? Yes. Was it a hundred percent the Holy Spirit? Yes. That’s impossible, it can’t be two hundred percent of something.
If I ask you, “Who lives your Christian life?” if you say, “I do,” you’re taking too much credit. If you say, “God does,” you’re not taking enough responsibility. I wouldn’t blame it on God and I wouldn’t take credit for it.
You have the same dilemma in everything. If you ask, “Is Jesus God or is He man?” the answer is, “Yes, fully God, fully man,” or, “Truly God, truly man.” You have that apparent paradox because you have the infinite God and His infinite perfections coming down to such a small, small mind, putting the eternal One in a tiny little package.
God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God weeps, through the eyes of Jeremiah, over the death of the wicked. God’s heart is broken. Jesus stood over the city of Jerusalem and wept. The prophets say, “Why will You die? Why will You die?” Jesus says the same thing, “Why will you not believe in Me? Why do you reject Me?”
So you don’t want to turn God into some imaginary fatalistic being. You want to take the full revelation of His nature from the Word of God. He is the God revealed in Scripture. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon, Pastor John. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
AUDIENCE: I’ve had the opportunity to – oh, well, my name is Jorje.
JOHN: Hi, Jorje.
AUDIENCE: I’ve had the opportunity to minister to people who have been raped, and then I get the opportunity to preach in jail and men who have raped people. But if you had both of them in the room, a person who has been raped and the person who did the rape, how would you minister to both?
JOHN: Well, there’s really little hope of human reconciliation at the point of such an incredible, horrendous crime. But I would say the remedy is always going to be the same: in Christ they become brother and sister. How bizarre is that, the rapist and the victim in Christ become brother and sister.
We are called to forgiveness – are we not? – to forgive seventy times seven. As I was saying this morning, God forgave Adam and Eve for taking down His entire universe. And that’s the beauty. If it ever is going to happen, you know, Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Such were some of you,” – and he goes through immoral, homosexual, effeminate, all this, murderers – “but you are washed, you are cleansed.”
The only way ever to really reconcile people is in Christ, because it’s the default position of the human heart to hate. It’s just we hate by nature. We hate God, we hate His truth. We love ourselves, so we hate anybody that intrudes on us, that stands in our way, that harms us. And certainly this culture has set that loose. So I think to be able to say to people in that kind of a setting that in Christ with your sins forgiven and you become a new creation, you could become brother and sister, that’s the power of the gospel.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Kyle.
JOHN: Hi, Kyle.
AUDIENCE: In light of a lot of the misrepresentation of the Holy Spirit, especially in the church, the charismatic church, and a lot of the music today, should we worship the Holy Spirit the same way we do the Father and the Son in our church services? And if so, how should we be doing that?
JOHN: Yeah, the answer is, “Of course.” You worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You worship them equally as the three members of the Trinity.
The issues is not – I mean, we don’t want to let the charismatics turn us against the Holy Spirit. And that’s why we had a Strange Fire conference a few years ago, and I gave an opening message. In fact, I did a – I think I did like a ten-part series on the Holy Spirit, sort of trying to get the Holy Spirit back in biblical focus. You might want to listen to some of those – maybe not all of them, but some of them.
No, we worship the Father, we worship the Son, and we worship the Holy Spirit in spirit and in truth. We praise Them. We praise the Father for designing the plan. We praise the Son for providing the sacrifice that made the plan possible. And we praise the Holy Spirit for regenerating us so that we can embrace the plan of salvation that the Father had designed and the Son had ratified. So we worship the triune God.
And again, that comes back to that bizarre quote that I gave you that 78 percent of Christians think Jesus was the most important being God created. That is just such a blatant heresy that He is a created being. That’s Mormonism. That’s cultism.
So, yes, we need to worship the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and we try to be very conscious of that. I love what one theologian said, and he said, “We need the hold them in our affections evenly. We need to hold them in our affections evenly.” Okay? Good question. Should we go over to the left?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Ethan.
JOHN: Hi, Ethan.
AUDIENCE: And I’ve heard Psalm 119:9 through 11, and I want to follow that. But in order to do that, how much time would you recommend spending in God’s Word daily?
JOHN: Well, Ethan, how much time in God’s Word daily? What he’s saying is, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Right? So you know to keep your way pure you have to be in the Word.
I think as much as possible. But I would encourage you, maybe as a young guy, start with 15 or 20 minutes every day. And I think what will happen to you is what happened to me when I was very young and started reading the Bible. It’s so fascinated me that I couldn’t put it down, and I found myself reading it a lot more. So I’m happy if you have a MacArthur Study Bible. But it would be really good if you got a small one you could stick in your pocket and take it with you; and when you get a little time here and there, just be reading it, because it will control your thoughts. And that’s how you keep your way pure.
I have found for me that reading through books is the best way. And I would start in the New Testament and take some short books, and every day just read that book, and read the same book 30 days. Like Philippians, 30 days. It’ll take you 15 to 20 minutes or so to read Philippians. Come back the next day, do that for 30 days. You’ll know Philippians, you’ll know what’s in it. You’ll know where chapter 2 is on the page, you’ll visualize it. Go to another book. When you come to a big book like John, read five chapters every day for a month. And eventually as the months go by you will have embraced that whole book.
It’s much better to read books than to just kind of read spotty and randomly around, because when God gave us His Word He gave us books, 66 books, and in particular, the New Testament books. So I would encourage you to do that. And if you set not so much a clock target, but a book target, “Okay, I’m going to read the first five chapters of John every day for 30 days.” I know when I first did that I started with 1 John, and I read it for 30 days, and I thought, “Oh, I want to do that again.” So I read it for 90 days, and I had 1 John in my mind. And once it was mine, I didn’t need to have my Bible because I could see it with my mind’s eye. So I think the best way is not the time, but pick an amount that you can read every day, and just keep reading it over and over and over. Does that make sense?
AUDIENCE: Yeah. Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: Good evening. Thank you for being here. My name is Stephen.
JOHN: Hi, Stephen.
AUDIENCE: It seems to be a divisive conversation. But do you think Christians should celebrate Halloween?
JOHN: Do I? No. Yeah, no. It’s just ridiculous. What is it about? It’s just a bunch of – it feels more demonic every year. And, you know, they start pumping out all these books and all these movies and all these television programs that are just satanic fantasies of horror. Just awful. No, just avoid it.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Have a fall festival. Okay, we’ve got time for a couple more. I think we probably ought to do this again. Okay.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor MacArthur. My name is Tyrell.
JOHN: Hi, Tyrell.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I was hesitant to ask this question because the topic has come up a couple of times already. But my question is, “Are Christian activists for sex trafficking, what some would call, quote-unquote, ‘social justice warriors,’ or are their efforts fruit of the gospel that they say they believe?”
JOHN: No, no. I think sex trafficking is a horrendous crime, devastating. I think it’s wonderful when Christian people want to do something, do anything to stop that. I think as a general rule as believers, anytime we can ever stop trying, we can ever stop the destruction of any group of people, and the Lord gives us the opportunity to step into that and do something about it, that’s a noble and a righteous thing to do.
God hates that. God hates the defacing of His image, even in young – even in unregenerate people. I mean, we’re created in the image of God. That is a horrific defacing of people, destructive. And I think those who engage in that are doing a wonderful service. However, a lot of people get involved in that who don’t have any gospel knowledge to offer, which is the only real solution. So that’s important.
Okay, I’m going to do two more. Sorry, you’re the non-elect for tonight.
AUDIENCE: Pastor John, my name is George.
JOHN: Hi, George.
AUDIENCE: I want to take us back many moons ago. I was one of the first students from Dr. J. Vernon McGee that started a Bible class in South Central LA, and you came down and preached for us a number of times, and you gave us a little red folder, right here, on leadership. It’s a little red one. And I’ve enjoyed over the years –
JOHN: How long ago was that, George?
AUDIENCE: 1962. 1962. You was much younger back in those days.
JOHN: Yeah. So were you.
AUDIENCE: My question is, is that I’ve read through this –
JOHN: George, I can’t believe you’ve got that thing in your hand from 1962.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, that’s another confession, another time. But I was wondering if you had today a little more information on the role of the woman in the church, because I’m having to deal with some of that, the role, like elders and women pastors. I’m having to deal with that. Do you have something you have in print or whatever, or could you recommend –
JOHN: George, I’ve got more stuff than you can carry out of here. Yes. Carl’s going to make sure you get all of it. He’s going to take you to the bookstore and he’s going to get you everything you need. Okay?
AUDIENCE: All right, thank you.
JOHN: Thank you, George. Okay.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. I’m Jayden.
JOHN: Hi, Jayden.
AUDIENCE: And so I know I’ve heard that the best way to kill sin is by having a greater affection for God. I was wondering how do you reverse the affection for sin toward a greater affection for Christ in order to kill that sin?
JOHN: Jayden, that’s such a wonderful question. God is so magnificent, and particularly as He has revealed Himself in Christ. God spoke, Hebrews 1 says, in time past in many ways to the fathers. But in these last days He’s spoken unto us in His Son, who is the image of the invisible God. So for me, it’s the beauty of Christ that overpowers the attraction of sin.
Second Corinthians 3:18, “As you gaze at His glory, you’re changed into His image from one level of glory to then next by the Holy Spirit.” The Christian life is not about hoping for some event to bump you up, some emotional feeling, some experience. It’s about seeing the beauty, the glory, the wonder, the magnificence, the incomparable majesty of Jesus Christ. He is so glorious, so wonderful, so far beyond anyone, that everything pales compared to Him.
You have to replace the affection for sin with a greater affection; and that is the sum of all commandments. The summation of all commandments, the first and greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all” – what? – “your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” It’s about love. It’s about love. How do you grow to love Him? By knowing Him. How do you know Him? He’s here.
Through my life, what, eight-nine years in Matthew, nine-ten years in Luke, a few years in Mark, twice in John, the last time several years. I added all that up, and just in the Gospels here at Grace Church I’ve probably preached nearly twenty-five years in the Gospels, which meant that I was looking at Christ every week for all those twenty-five years. And then He’s revealed in Romans, and then He’s revealed in Colossians, and then He’s revealed in the book of Revelation. And as you read the Word of God, it’s Christ that you see.
And then I remember when we finished going through the gospel of John here at Grace Church, some people asked me if we could now go back to the Old Testament. We did a whole series on “Finding Christ in the Old Testament,” and we saw His beauty there. And we started from Luke 24 where Jesus said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus that they didn’t know what they should have known. So He went into the Old Testament – the Law, the Prophets, and Holy Writings – to speak of the things concerning Himself, and He revealed Himself to them from the Old Testament. And it says in Luke 24, “They said to one another, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us?’” That’s the fellowship of the burning heart when you see the wonder of Christ.
On top of that, go back and write commentaries – four volumes on Matthew, four volumes on Luke, two volumes on John, a volume on Mark. So many years of my life have been completely engulfed in studying Christ. And the book of Hebrews presents Christ, and the other books in the New Testament.
I don’t think there’s any experience that you could have, there’s any moment in life that can take you to a place where you have literally put Christ in the priority role in your heart. Nothing is going to take you there except getting to know Him; and that is going to drive you to Scripture. The more you know Him, the more you love Him. The more you love Him, the more you love God, and the more you long to love Him more.
And this should characterize a church, shouldn’t it, this love. And it does characterize our church, and it’s why we love each other too, isn’t it, because we love Him.
So make Christ the object of your love. Get to know Him as He revealed here. Okay, Jayden?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: That was a great question. Thank you for wrapping things up at the highest point.
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