JOHN: Hi, Mark.
AUDIENCE: There seems to be a resurgence of a certain book and a couple programs – you mentioned it, Fool’s Gold – and I want to mention the book with the author, but you’ll figure it out. Are we supposed to be more in touch with our heart being more on the wild side or are we supposed to practice self-control; because it’s going around again.
JOHN: Well, is this the Wild at Heart kind of books?
AUDIENCE: Yes, sir.
JOHN: Yeah, there’s a series of books. It started out with Wild at Heart, and basically it said that men should go out into the wilderness and live out under the starlight and camp in a tent and express sort of your inner savage, as if this was some spiritual exercise. No, none of these books are really helpful at all, they’re utterly misguided. Manhood is not basically achieved by abandoning all your responsibility and going out and staring at the sky. Manhood is achieved by taking full responsibility for everything that exists in your world. Abandoning things is just an old approach. It goes back to monastics and monks in the past who thought that isolation was the key to spirituality, when in fact, spiritual development and spiritual growth and coming to the place of utter and complete abandonment to Christ and usefulness to Him happens in the context of the life of the church.
My argument with that, there are a lot of things wrong with that whole series of books. But the primary thing is the idea that God wants to develop our virtue and our sanctification in the fellowship of the saints, not in some isolated fashion. So that is the opposite of coming together, assembling together, stimulating one another in love and good works. So all of those books you waste your time reading them because they create an artificial kind of spirituality that’s been around for a long time, it’s just the latest version of it. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you, sir.
JOHN: Thank you. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hi, John. My name is Andrew.
JOHN: Hi, Andrew.
AUDIENCE: Merry Christmas.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Thanks for being our pastor, and congratulations on 50 years of ministry.
JOHN: Thank you, Andrew.
AUDIENCE: I was raised charismatic and spent ten years Pentecostal. As you may know, those movements are all into like praying against the spirit of this, or rebuking and binding the spirit of that, and so on and so forth. So my question is basically, do we need to think of or be afraid of Satan? How should we think of Satan? You know, he prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking who to devour. What does spiritual warfare entail? One of the pastors here said that spiritual warfare is just warring against your own sinfulness. So basically, how should we think of Satan, or should we think of Satan? Should our mind just be on worship?
JOHN: Well, it’s a good question. We don’t want to be ignorant of Satan’s devices, that’s what Scripture says. We don’t want to be ignorant of his devices.
Satan comes at us through devices, he comes at us through the world system. Satan, first of all, is not omnipresent, okay. He’s fast, but he’s not omnipresent. So the notion that whatever’s going wrong in your life is specifically Satan at work is just not accurate. Satan has a host of demons as well who do his bidding around the world, but primarily he functions with this system of evil that is basically within the human race. So a fallen race of people are basically in the hands of Satan.
The whole world lies in the lap of the Evil One, that’s what Scripture says. So it’s not a matter of us fighting Satan as a personality, but it is important that we not be ignorant of his devices. And he goes around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, not in some personal encounter with Satan, but he goes around creating an environment in the world that becomes solicitous to what is evil. He drives the world system at the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
Just look at advertising alone. Just look at television alone or film or any form of media; it is just loaded with things that appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That sort of sums up the contemporary human philosophy. We have a right to be proud. We have a right to fulfill our desires. We have a right to fulfill even what we lust for. This is all legitimate. This is Satan’s big lie.
So it’s important for a Christian to understand that you may never engage in a personal battle with Satan; but if you do, he’s no more powerful than any other demon. And it’s important to say that the Scripture gives us this promise: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It’s not so much that you have to identify him and flee. It’s that if you resist him and you resist him by being strong in the Word and wearing the armor of Ephesians 6, he will flee from you.
There’s no basis for chasing around Satan and talking to him. I’ve never said a word to him in my entire life, I don’t intend to; I don’t even know if he’s around. But that would be pointless anyway. But I avoid Satan and I avoid the operation of Satan if I avoid the things that come from the world system at the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And you insulate yourself from those kinds of things by setting your affection on things above, by loving Christ, by dwelling on His Word. David says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world, right? The Spirit of God is greater than Satan. You belong to God; not even Satan can take you out of God’s hands. Nothing can remove you from His care. Nothing can separate you from His love. So no need to be preoccupied with him. You don’t need to speak to him or even to speak to demons.
Spiritual warfare – you brought that up at the end – is described in 2 Corinthians as addressing the lies and the deceptive theologies and philosophies in the world with the truth of God. What the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians is, “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, they’re not human.” In other words. we’re fighting a spiritual war, but we can’t use human ingenuity, human wisdom, human ideas, human strategies, because we are assaulting fortresses, he says, fortresses. The idea is a stone fortress. The targets are too formidable for us to be using human ingenuity to attack the kingdom of darkness.
Now what does he mean by attack it? Well, he goes on to say we are assaulting fortresses; and when you ask, “What does he mean by that?” the very next line, “We are assaulting logismos,” which is the Greek word for “ideas,” okay. Spiritual warfare is not chasing Satan, it’s not chasing demons. It’s attacking ideologies. It’s attacking the lies of psychology, for philosophy, all forms of religion. And Paul goes on to say, it is virtually an assault or an attack on any idea raised up against the knowledge of God. Second Corinthians 10 has all of this.
So the weapons of our warfare, they’re not fleshly, but they’re mighty unto God. We have to use divine weapons. And the weapons assault the fortresses in which people are held captive, and those fortresses are their ideologies. So spiritual warfare is essentially taking the truth and smashing the false ideas that hold people prisoner. Those fortresses become their prisons, and those fortresses ultimately become their tombs, and the word for “fortress” refers to all three.
So spiritual warfare is not chasing Satan, it’s not chasing demons. Think of the sons of Sceva in the book of Acts who were supposed to be able to cast out demons, and the demons said to them, “Jesus we know and Paul we know, but who are you?” as if to say, “You have no authority over us.”
So your whole life long you don’t need to be chasing demons, you need to be building yourself up on His most holy Word so that you know the truth well enough to protect yourself, and you know the truth well enough to assault the ideologies that Satan has formed in the world that hold people prisoner. And ultimately then, you take the truth and bring every thought, Paul says, captive to Christ. So we’re smashing these fortifications, these wrong ideas raised up against the true knowledge of God, to bring people into the knowledge of Christ. That’s spiritual warfare. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much.
JOHN: Yeah. And that is so much a part of the charismatic movement, but it fits in that movement because there’s so much fantasy in that movement. There’s not only fantasy about dealing with Satan and demons, there’s fantasy about even dealing with the Holy Spirit, there’s fantasy about miracles, there’s fantasy about speaking in tongues, and it’s full of things that are not biblical, so it’s not surprising that that’s part of it as well.
Okay. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE: Sure. Hi, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Christian Noasa.
JOHN: Hi, Christian.
AUDIENCE: Merry Christmas.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: In cases of those who has come to faith in Christ, but eventually left the faith, in light of Hebrew chapter 6:6, you know, does it prevent us from telling them the gospel again or praying for their salvation or inviting them back to salvation, or should we just consider them to be dead?
JOHN: No, that’s a very good question, Christian. When you have somebody who makes a profession of faith in Christ and then they abandon that, turn away from that, should we not then call them to Christ, call them to faith in Christ, or should we just assume that they have violated the – basically what is laid out in Hebrews 6, that if they reject, they can never be brought back to the point of salvation. That would be describing an apostate. And the answer is this. When you have someone who professes to be a Christian and who walks away from that, you would apply immediately the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, and you would go to that person and you would call that person back to faith, back to obedience. This is the first step in discipline. If a believer sins, you go to him, right? And there might be a sin of unbelief that arises. You don’t know if this is a true believer. So you go to him. And he still doesn’t repent of that – let’s say it’s unbelief or the denial of the Lord – you would still exercise that same effort. You would then go with two or three witnesses to confirm that this is a real denial of the faith, and you would still call that person back to faith. And if you tell the church and the church does the same thing and the person still does not respond, then Scripture says you treat them like an unbeliever, you treat them like an outsider.
So I think when someone who professes faith in Christ appears to turn away, wander away, defect, you don’t want to assume that this is a permanent act of apostacy. You want to go through the process of calling that person back to fidelity and faithfulness to Christ, following up with the two or three witnesses, and even all of the saints who know that person, calling that person back to faith in Christ. And I think our Lord gives us an illustration of this in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew where He says, “The shepherd had a hundred sheep,” – right? – “and one of those sheep wanders away.” What does the shepherd do? “He leaves the ninety and nine and he goes after that sheep.” I’ve had occasion in my life to do that a number of times, to pursue someone who has walked away from the flock and might apparently be a false believer who went out from us, as John says in 1 John, because he never was of us. But I don’t know that.
So I would follow what our Lord says. If I have a sheep who wanders away, I’m not going to say, “Well, good riddance; there’s another apostate.” I’m going to pursue that sheep and do everything I can to find that sheep, to tear him, even so, out of the wolf’s mouth and bring him back. A shepherd did that. That was the picture of the shepherd. If a sheep wandered away, and a shepherd would go and find that sheep and bring it back to show to the owner of the sheep that he had tried to rescue that sheep. Even if he couldn’t do it, he would need to bring back a piece of the sheep sort of ripped out of the wolf’s mouth to prove to the owner that he hadn’t stolen the sheep.
So I think the Lord wants us to go after those believers who wander away, not to make an assumption about them. And after we’ve done all we can there, we then may decide that this down the road becomes a permanent rejection of the gospel; and that goes into the category of apostacy. And Hebrews 6 says that if you have heard the truth and been exposed to the truth and had complete understanding of the truth and you turn away in a final act, then it’s impossible to be renewed again to repentance. But only the Lord knows when that moment comes. I think for the rest of us, we pursue those people with love and try to call them back. Okay? Good question.
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Mr. MacArthur. I’m Michael Marshall.
JOHN: Hi, Mike.
AUDIENCE: You spoke on the Christian – Christmas how it started back in Genesis. Through some of my study, there in 1 Kings, Jeroboam started a feast of his own to correlate with the feast in Judah it says. So I’m convinced that that’s where Christmas started. And I’ve talked to many Christians that realize that Christmas is of pagan origins, and as in Jeremiah 10 it says not to learn those ways of cutting down trees, and I think it’s high time that we stopped doing the things and get back true to true Word of God and believe what He said.
JOHN: Sure. Let me respond to that. And I appreciate that. I don’t know, I’d have to think about going back to the passage that you referred to about Jeroboam. But I understand that Christmas, the birth of Christ has gotten mingled with paganism through the years, I fully understand that. How else could you explain Santa Claus? And let me tell you how bad Santa Claus is, okay. You asked, so I’m going to tell you how bad Santa Claus is.
Santa Claus is the world’s counterfeit god, and the reason I say that is because Santa Claus is summed up in, “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout, Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve good or bad,” – really; there is another omniscient being in the world”? – “so be good for goodness sake, because if you’re good he’ll reward you.” That is a false god of a works righteousness system, right? That’s the devil’s lie. Somebody up there is watching you, and if you’re good you’ll be fine. That’s a works-based concept. And then you give Santa omniscience, and you also find out that he’s not righteous because you know you were bad and you got a bunch of stuff anyway. So you can’t trust his word, and he’s not righteous. This is just the world creating a kind of children’s picture of false deity. I get all that. I also understand the rest of the falderal like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and all of that has nothing to do with the person of Jesus Christ. And I get that it clouds the clarity of the picture of Christ. I understand all of that.
But having said all of that, I will say this. God has allowed in human history for the birth of His Son to be essentially a global holiday, whatever accoutrements have been added to it to confuse it, whatever pagan elements have been added to it. Same with the resurrection, and Easter, and rabbits, and chickens, and whatever. The world may do everything they can to confuse and cover that. But it is still true that at this time of year the whole world is focused on the fact that the Son of God was born into the world, and that reality gives us opportunity to speak the truth into that consciousness; that’s all I’m saying. So I think we have to take advantage of these opportunities rather than just condemn. None of us is worshiping a false god. None of us is worshiping Satan. But we do understand that while the world is conscious of Christ, we need to speak about Him.
Now about a tree, let me say this. I don’t know what Pagans do with trees, I know who made them. God made trees. And to celebrate God’s creation and even the birth of Christ with some kind of expression that comes down to a tree is far different than creating an idol, because a tree is the handiwork of God. So I just think you have to cut through the garbage that surrounds Christmas, and you can celebrate the birth of our Lord because your heart belongs to Him, He belongs to you, and clear out the clutter and get to the celebration of Christ, and use the opportunity to speak about who He is as long as people are aware of it. Okay? Fair enough?
AUDIENCE: I have to say it reminds me of the children of Israel and the golden calf.
AUDIENCE: They were serving God. He said Yahweh, His name. But He said, “Stand back, I’m going to destroy them.”
JOHN: Right. It’s different in this sense, Mike. We’re not serving God in the name of Santa, we’re serving God and trying to clear Santa out of the picture.
AUDIENCE: According to the Word of God it is sinful, it’s unlawful, and we should not be doing it. The Baptist church back in 1704, the Puritans, the Baptists, and the Presbyterians was fighting against it. But now if I walk into a Baptist church that I grew up in, they would bust the window with me throwing me out.
The Word of God is true, John MacArthur. I listened to you for years back in Kentucky. And it’s time, I say today, to serve the living Yahweh. His name is Yahweh, His Son is Yeshua, and those are His righteous, holy names, and no man is going to stop the things that God’s going to do. And His law, we’re all going to be judged by that law. And when we was – you was saying so much this morning –
JOHN: I was trying.
AUDIENCE: about Psalms 86.
AUDIENCE: 89:34. He will not alter nothing He said. He won’t change nothing, He won’t break it. We’ve got to realize that. He is not going to change for us, we’ve got to change into Him. And those schools, the schoolmaster, that’s the law. It’s spiritual now. I’ve studied, and He’s woke me up to the truth of His Word. And people are coming awake. It says, “Awake unto righteousness. Sin is transgression of the law.”
JOHN: Hey, listen. Can I just tell you this?
JOHN: I agree with everything you said. Welcome. Glad you’re here.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Ramon.
JOHN: Hi, Ramon.
AUDIENCE: This is actually my second time at this church. The first time was this morning.
JOHN: Welcome, Ramon. Glad you’re here.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. I’d heard a lot about you in the recent years. And when I realized that you were actually here in my city I was really surprised. I’ve been living in the valley for quite a few years now, but I’m glad to finally have come in attendance and heard you speak in person.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: And I want to thank Brother Joe for helping me articulate this question. Mark 9:42 through 49 talks about the danger of making little ones stumble and removing all sin from your life to the point of, you know, removing any eye or hand that might make you sin. However, in this passage there’s one verse that’s not included in any other gospel; it’s Mark 9:49 specifically. It says, “Everyone will be salted with fire.” I was just curious what that meant. Thank you.
JOHN: Yeah. You need to get a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible. Do you have one of those?
JOHN: Okay. Joe will give you one after the service. And all those kinds of passages – yeah, all those kinds of passages are fully explained in a MacArthur Study Bible. Joe, that’s your assignment, okay, to the bookstore.
That is why we put together the Study Bible, because there are passages like that that on the face are hard to understand in the context. So get a MacArthur Study Bible, and the answer’s all in there. Okay, Ramon?
JOHN: Thank you so much. Thank you, brother.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Okay, next.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Sherry.
JOHN: Hi, Sherry.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I just wanted to ask you, we know that even good solid Christians can feel fear when they’re facing imminent death. And I was just wondering what your personal favorite verses are to comfort a believing Christian when they’re near death that, like the song said tonight, that all is well.
JOHN: Yeah. I’ve been reading a fascinating biography of a Scottish preacher from back in the 1600s, and I came – his name was William Burns – and I came to the end of his life in the book. It’s a fascinating book. Banner of Truth has published it. It’s The Pastor of Kilsyth is the title of it. It’s the story of this faithful, faithful pastor. And when he came to the end of his life he had one request as he was on his deathbed, and it was this. He asked his family that were gathered around him to read over and over again to him Romans chapter 8. This he found to be the greatest comfort.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. So who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 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.” And he found his comfort in that promise, that nothing could separate him from the Lord, not even death itself. I don’t know how you get any better comfort than that. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Sarah, and I was just wanting to know which attribute of God that you rest in most and why.
JOHN: I think that the most comforting attribute of God is His love because it is the kind of love that transcends all failures. That which is most wonderful about God is that God so loved the world. There is no other God in the world of false religions that is, by nature, a loving God. This is bound up in the fact that I made a comment about it this morning, that God is a Trinity.
Think about Islam. Allah is one; therefore, Allah eternally possesses no relational attribute. Who would he relate to? He is one; therefore he has no interest in a relationship with anyone. That is why no one in Islam assumes that Allah loves them or has any reason to build a relationship with them, because here is supposedly an eternal being who is one. Contrast that with the Trinity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And when our Lord describes His relationship to the Father, He describes it as a relationship of love, that the Son loves the Father and the Father loves the Son, and they are bound together eternally in this love.
God is relational. God is, by nature, a loving God. And because of His love for the Son, He determined to give the Son a gift of love, and that gift of love was a redeemed humanity. And that redeemed humanity would be loved by God and be chosen to be the bride for His Son. So it is compelling to understand that you cannot have a single God who is the eternal being who has within His nature any interest in a relationship with anybody else.
You say, “Well, wait a minute. Allah created.” Yes, but Allah created only for his own devices, only for his own purposes, only for his own duties, only for his own service, and not to have a relationship, because a single god can possess no attribute that is, by definition, relational. That is why you don’t ever want to undersell the significance of the Trinity. When the very creation occurs, what does Genesis say? “Let Us make man in Our image.” There is a loving Father and a loving Son and a loving Holy Spirit that are in relation eternally, and through them and God’s love for them, He extends that love to us; and God, by nature, is a loving God. That is the most defining characteristic of God. That’s why God is called a Father.
You’re not a father unless you have a relationship with a son. And even though it’s an eternal Father and an eternal Son, it’s still, by definition, the reality that God is, by nature, a loving God, that He loves His Son and His Spirit with an infinite love. That is the most compelling attribute of God. And because He loves, He seeks to demonstrate that love to His Son and through His Son. And when Jesus prays in John 17, Jesus says, “Father, I want to bring them to glory, that they may be loved as You love Me.”
That’s the wonder of eternal heaven; all the redeemed will be loved with the same infinite, eternal love with which the Father has always loved the Son and the Son has always loved the Father. Everything else issues out of that: His promises, His sovereignty, His faithfulness. Those are also comforting, right? It would be less than comforting if God was loving but not sovereign. That is to say He wanted to show His love but He wasn’t in control. So you have to have His sovereignty alongside His love. Or, He’s sovereign and He’s loving, but He changes His mind, so you have to have His faithfulness, because otherwise He’d make promises that might be broken.
So it’s hard to isolate one. But as far as we are concerned, what separates God from every other invention of a deity is that He is a Trinity, and so by nature, exists in an eternal bond of love. And that is what He extends to us. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome. Thank you, Sarah.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name’s Jenna.
JOHN: Hi, Jenna.
AUDIENCE: I had a question regarding several of my personal experiences, and especially at my college campus and at work. How would you biblically respond to suicide and mental illness?
JOHN: To what?
AUDIENCE: Suicide and mental illness, especially –
JOHN: To suicide?
AUDIENCE: Suicide and/or mental illness, especially regarding the increase in our generation today.
JOHN: Well, I think obviously this is a tragic reality. But we live in a society where isolation, loneliness, emptiness, and unfulfillment in life is at a pandemic level, and it’s that way because of the complete disintegration of the family. People are just islands; they don’t have meaningful relationships. They have serial kind of short-term relationships that disappoint them one after another, after another, after another.
I think you can’t survive alone; and we feed that, that you’re the most important person, you should be whoever you want to be, “This is who I am, take it or leave it. This is me.” That is a death sentence, because, “Okay, that’s you,” and you can have that kind of attitude, but it’s going to be very difficult for you to build a meaningful relationship that’s going to fill life with any sense of value. And if you don’t have anybody dependent on you, if you don’t have anybody that loves you and needs you and holds you and trusts you and enriches you, then what do you have to live for? The ultimate end of this mentality today that you’re the most important person in the world is absolute and total despair, because eventually you’re isolated. You’re so important that you destroy every relationship there is.
You have a generation of kids being raised in this kind of environment. They don’t even know a meaningful relationship. And when they find out that they’re not nearly as important as they were told they were, and they can’t be anything they want, and they can’t do anything they want, and they can’t accomplish anything they want – and pride is disastrous because pride alienates everyone away from you when they finally wake up in that reality, what is there to live for? And if there’s no God and there’s no future, the pain is too great.
I don’t think there’s any solution to this. I think that it’s partly why there’s so much drugs, opiod epidemic and all of that, partly why alcoholism is what it is. And you see it played out in the homeless. These tragic people who are all one-off people. You see that, right? They’re aren’t a lot of – there are some homeless families; it happens because of some economic issues. But the massive epidemic of homelessness is all these isolated people who have lost control of life, become alcoholic or drunken, or have such an isolated life that they’re thinking to escape into oblivion. This is the legacy of destruction of the family.
So I don’t think it’s going to go away. I think what we want to show is sympathy and mercy and compassion toward people that do that. It is a devastating thing to people who do care about somebody like that. But, you know, it’s pretty rare that someone takes their life if they’re in a loving family or if they’re in a loving relationship. It’s a dysfunctional relationship where the absence of any meaningful relationship that causes people to take their life.
And I remember years ago being a UCLA having some discussions with some people in the mental health part there because there was a girl that I knew who tried to take her own life. And I was basically informed that this is very often caused because people are trying to inflict the ultimate pain on someone who hurt them. “Oh, take this. Try to recover from this. I’ll kill myself and you can live with that.”
This is the despair of living without meaningful, loving relationships. And I think we have to talk about things like that. We have to talk about how important it is to have a family. And that’s what a church is. Beyond just your natural nuclear family is a family that demonstrates love and care. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. Terri Taylor from Sherman Oaks.
JOHN: Hi, Terri.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I just wanted to start off by saying I just thank the Lord for you and for this amazing church.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I feel so blessed to be here.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: My question is, did Jesus die for the sins of the world or only for those who were predestined?
JOHN: Good question, Terri. Let me ask you a question. Did He die for everyone or no one?
JOHN: Okay. The Bible says He’s the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but the sins of the whole world. So the only Savior the world has is Christ. A second question is this: Was His death an actual atonement or a potential one?
JOHN: Yeah. Okay. So if it was an actual atonement, then it actually provided atonement for someone, not no one. So let me unpack that for you, okay.
If you believe that Jesus provided an atonement for every human being who ever lived, then everyone goes to heaven. Right? If He actually died for everyone in the world, everyone goes to heaven, because that’s an actual atonement. But since we know that’s not true, because there is a hell, and many are headed to hell, we know that He didn’t actually die for everyone. So you could conclude, “Oh, He didn’t actually die for anyone, He potentially died for everyone.” In other words, He had sort of a potential atonement that the sinner activates by faith.
That diminishes the atonement. Now you’re telling me that if Jesus only did a potential atonement that is activated by faith, then it would be fair to say that He did the same thing for the people in hell He did for the people in heaven, but the people in heaven were smart enough to take advantage of it. This makes the atonement something less than real. But if the Scripture says, “He bore our sins in His own body on the cross,” then it is an actual atonement. If it is an actual atonement, it was an actual atonement only for those who believe; and those who believe are the elect. Okay? You don’t want to turn the atonement into a potential atonement, because now you’ve diminished it. You’ve made it not an atonement at all, but only some potential atonement that somehow is activated by a person’s faith. The atonement is never described that way.
“He became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” We were there when He died. We died with Him, right? Romans 6. We rose with Him. It was a real atonement. We were really there. He was really bearing the sins of His people, and His people would be all who believed; and those who believe are those who were given life and regeneration by the Holy Spirit because they were chosen before the foundation of the world. So it’s a real atonement.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Elizabeth.
JOHN: Hi, Elizabeth.
AUDIENCE: So I was wondering, what does the Bible say about tattoos?
JOHN: About tattoos?
JOHN: Elizabeth. You go back into the Old Testament, tattoos are identified with pagan religion. They were basically in ancient times people identified their deities with the use of tattoos. So the people of God were basically forbidden to have those in the Old Testament. The New Testament says nothing about that. So one could conclude in ancient times they were identified with paganism. There were certain things that Pagans did, and God’s people were to avoid doing the things that Pagans did. Even the Jewish people were required to dress a certain way, eat a certain diet, and avoid marks of paganism.
So you could say, “Well, that was the standard in the Old Testament, but the New Testament doesn’t say anything about tattoos,” and that would be true. So I don’t want to go so far as to say that tattoos are sinful. The New Testament doesn’t say that. I could assume that you could have a tattoo of a cross or something that reflected your love for Christ. Or some people get a Bible verse. I have to tell a funny story about a guy who got a Bible verse and they spelled the book of the Bible wrong on his chest; so that’s not good. But the Bible doesn’t really say anything about that. But my feeling is that in the ancient sense, it belonged to paganism. It would have to be a pretty compelling reason for me to do that.
Again, I wouldn’t say it wrong. I don’t have a tattoo. But I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s wrong to do that. But it was part of what was pagan in the past. It’s a choice people make. I would personally rather be able to change my shirt every day and have something different than to have something I’ll have to wear the rest of my life every waking moment and sleeping moment. So just think about the reality of indelibly impressing something on you if you do that, and maybe down the road you might wish it wasn’t there; that’s the issue. But I don’t want to say that in and of itself there’s something wrong with that, because even the fashion has changed.
You know, the Old Testament, women were not to wear what pertained to a man. But what did that mean in the ancient days when men wore dresses? They wore robes. Women wore robes. So there wasn’t a whole lot of difference there. I’ve heard people say, “Well, that’s why women can’t wear pants because the Old Testament says they’re not to wear what pertains to a man.” Well, men didn’t wear pants in the old time. So you’ve got to be careful with some of that, you know, how far into this culture you bring that. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Just be thoughtful about that.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hello, Pastor.
AUDIENCE: I’m Joey Cusenza, and my question is, why didn’t Jesus stop Eve at the garden of Eden when she ate the fruit? Like, I mean, pow, He can just stop it like that. Why didn’t He?
JOHN: That is the most profound question of all questions: Why didn’t God stop Eve from eating the fruit? This theologians call the problem of theodicy: Why is there evil in the world? If God is absolutely holy, why is there evil in the world? That’s essentially that question: Why didn’t He stop it before it started?
First of all, the broad answer is this: because God allowed her to eat that fruit, God allowed sin to come into the world, so that He could be glorified. Now God is a God of love, and He could express that love even in the perfection of the Trinity. And He expressed that love to Adam and Eve when He walked and talked with them before they sinned and before she ate. So God could express His love.
But if there had never been a sin, there would never be forgiveness, there would never be mercy, there would never be grace, there would never be compassion, there would never be healing, there would never be restoration. And so, forever and ever, the angels would never be able to worship God for all those aspects of His nature. So God allows evil so that He can display grace and mercy and compassion because those also are attributes of God that can only be put on display through His response to sin.
There’s another reason, and that is that God is holy and just and righteous. He would never be able to display ultimately what that means unless there were sinners to judge. So whether it is judgment on sin or whether it is salvation from sin, the fact that sin exists allows God to display eternally the glory of the full scope of His attributes. Okay? Great question. Thank you, bud.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor. That’s a tough question to top. My name’s Salvador and I’m going to piggyback on Terri Taylor of Sherman Oak’s question on atonement. It has to do with our Jewish friends and it has to do also with what you spoke of this morning, the chosen people.
The Jews are the chosen people. You said earlier this morning God made a covenant with Himself for Abraham to bless His nation. So it’s hard for me to just fathom all Jews is heaven and hell, all Jews are going to go to hell. So that’s my first question, if I’m correct in that assessment. Second question is, when we have a conversation with our Jewish friends, especially now through Hanukkah and Christmas, how do we turn the conversation to say, “It’s not enough; you have to go to Jesus, to our Messiah, to the Son of God so that you can go to heaven”? What do you suggest we have a conversation with?
JOHN: Well, this is great. Great question, Salvador. Let me answer it a couple of ways. First of all, not all Jews are going to hell.
JOHN: Throughout human history God has always had a remnant; that’s Isaiah 6, that there is a remnant. It’s the doctrine of the remnant, it’s throughout the Old Testament. While the nation Israel was disobedient, the nation Israel was apostate, the nation Israel got involved with Baal and idols. There was always a remnant of believing Jews. That is true now. In Christ there is Jew and Gentile and there’s no distinction. We saw that in Galatians 3:28 this morning. So there has always been a believing remnant.
There has always been, let’s say, the seed of Eve, the believers in the true God, those who were God’s people among the Jews. Paul says in Romans, “Not all Jews are Jews.” By that he means not all those who are ethnic Jews are in the covenant. But there is a remnant. So throughout all of human history, God has retained a remnant of believing Jews.
And that is true today. And there are many believing Jews, many around the world, and there have been for the whole of human history. But in order to be a part of that remnant, they had to believe in God. And when Christ came, they had to believe in Christ. Jesus basically said, “Believe in Me and you’ll have life. You’ll die in your sins if you believe not in Me,” the gospel of John. So Jew who believe in Christ are in the kingdom; and there is a remnant, and it’s a large remnant all over the world today.
But the other aspect of this is a promise given that through that nation Israel, the nations of the world would be blessed. That’s chapter 12 of Genesis, the first promise to Abraham, that through Abraham would come a seed through which salvation would come to the world; and that has come to pass. How? Because God used the Jews to be the people who received His divine revelation – this Book, the whole Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, the promises, the covenant – Paul says in Romans. All came through the Jews.
So part of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise was that God would deliver the message of salvation through the Jewish people. There were Jews who believed it, and they were from that group chosen, those who would receive the revelation and write it down. Even in the New Testament, the apostles are Jews, and they are chosen, along with those who were with them, to receive the New Testament. So God used the Jews to receive His word, to write down His word, and to give His word to the world. So it is through the people that came out of Abraham’s loins that the entire message of salvation has come to the whole world.
And then there’s a final aspect. There’s a promise that God is going to save the nation Israel as a nation. Jeremiah 31 talks about the time when God will take out the stony heart and give them a heart of flesh, write His law in their hearts. That’s the new covenant. That is yet to come. It’s reiterated in Romans 11: “All Israel will be saved because the promises of God have to be fulfilled.”
So we believe in the future salvation of Israel promised in the Old Testament, reiterated in Romans chapter 11. That is yet to come. There will be some rebels purged out, the prophets say, and then the nation Israel will be saved. What is remarkable about that is that there are still Israelites in the world, because all the other people groups that were around the Jews have long since passed into the dust bin of history. There are no Hittites, Amorite, Hivites, Jebusites or any other “ites.” But there are Israelites. God has preserved them until the end, as a people, to save them, as Romans chapter 11 says.
Early in Acts when Peter preaches, he actually says, “Even though you killed the Prince of life and desired a murderer to be released unto you, Barabbas, you are the children of the covenant that God has made.” God is preserving His nation. God is gathering His nation back with a future view to save them. And that is what I’ve been telling you about, Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is the confession that the Jewish nation will make one day in the future when they look on Christ and say, “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.”
I think the best way to reach the Jews is to do what I did this morning, to show the promise, starting in Genesis, fulfilled through the fathers, through David, details by the prophets; and the answer is Christ, son of Abraham, son of David, virgin-born. And He is the one who goes to the cross and fulfills every single detail of Isaiah 53. That’s why when I was with Ben Shapiro, I took him through Isaiah 53, and I was pretty amazed because it went on for almost 20 minutes and he didn’t even interrupt me, which was really – that was very gracious of him. And somebody asked him, “Were you offended by John doing that?” and he said, “No, for two reasons. I know he believed it with all his heart and I know he cared about my soul.” Well, that is absolutely true.
So I think the burden is with them to deny that Jesus is the fulfillment, when He is born of a virgin, when He is fully God and fully man, when He fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies about being born in Bethlehem, all the details, and at the cross, every detail from Isaiah 53, and even the resurrection, and even the ascension. So what I encourage you to tell Jewish people is, “Read Isaiah 53, and then read Matthew or Mark or Luke and see if Jesus isn’t the fulfillment.”
The Scripture has the power. I don’t think there’s kind of a way that you can do it better than the Word of God can do it. His Word is alive and powerful. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you. And as always, great answer.
JOHN: Thank you. That’s it? Time’s up? Oh. Do you guys have questions?
These are challenging times. I just want to say that in general, these are very, very challenging times. This country, this culture, this society we live in is disintegrating at every possible level. You can get caught up in a lot of things, right? There’s a lot of things that Christian people could be angry about. We don’t like what they’re doing to our country. We don’t like that they’re normalizing transgender deviation and wanting to teach it in elementary school to our kids. This is a terrifying kind of thing. We don’t like that they’re taking the Bible out of everything.
We don’t like it that there’s a deep and growing resentment of Christianity. We don’t like it that there’s an advocacy of abortion in our culture that has completely taken over an entire political party, and murdering babies is the agenda, and giving place to homosexual deviation, homosexual marriage, and all other kinds of deviations. And we ask, “How did these people ever get so much power?” It’s very easy to get caught up in all of that. It may kind of feel, if you know your history a little bit, like we’re living in ancient Rome. If it’s any encouragement to you, it’s not new, it’s not new.
Our focus always has to be the same. We have to focus on honoring the Lord, living for the Lord, and proclaiming the gospel. And as I reminded some people in a visit some years ago to Washington and talked to some of the White House staff, we can’t turn this group of people into the enemy, they’re the mission field. Do you understand that? They are the mission field. We have to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why it is so ridiculous – and I’ve been saying this on Sunday morning – for Christians to be fighting each other. What is the point of that? That doesn’t do anybody any good. The reason they’re fighting each other is because they’ve lost sight of the real mission of the church. It’s not to attack other Christians over racial or gender issues, it’s to reach those who don’t know Christ, right? This is where all our efforts and energies need to go. And you all have been very faithful in that.
And we know the promise of Scripture is going to get worse and worse, right? Not going to get any better. You’re not going to be able to make it better politically or sociologically. It is what it is. Evil men will grow worse and worse. Christianity will become more antithetical to the culture. It’ll be more alien to the culture. It’ll be more unacceptable to the culture. There will come down more laws against the truth, against the gospel, against the Word of God over then next how many years. That doesn’t change anything.
I just read this week that Bibles have been banned in China. Probably more Bibles right now are printed in China than anywhere in the world. And I asked the question of a publisher this week, “What’s the deal?” and he said, “You can print them there, you just have to export them.” They want to make money on the Bible but they don’t want anybody to read it. So there is a growing hostility.
But that doesn’t change anything. The world is always hostile, right? They have been more polite in past years. It was a more polite world. They’ve always – sinners have always hated the truth, but they’ve been more polite. They’re not polite anymore. They want to raise the stakes and they want to crush us and frighten us and push us into the background.
But this is a time to be bold; this is a time for courage. I don’t see a lot of that even among many Christian leaders who seem to be kind of caving in to the culture. But that’s not surprising, because for the last 25 years or so they’ve been trying to accommodate the culture with basically a style of church that appeals to unbelievers. And now that they’ve sort of made an issue out of appealing to unbelievers and it’s time to take a stand against these things, they’ve painted themselves into a corner. So where is the courage of real conviction? It’s not that you want to fight, it’s that you have to proclaim the truth, you have to proclaim the truth; that’s our mandate.
Truthfully, these are the most exciting times of my life. I’m glad, even at this age, that I can be in the fight for the truth and be proclaiming it. These are times when people, as we heard earlier, are in deep despair. That’s the best time to reach a sinner, right, when he or she is at the end of her resources. So preach Christ, live Christ, proclaim Christ, be a faithful witness; the Lord will lead you to the right people. Okay?
All right, I don’t think we got all the questions answered, Michael, we probably should do this again. We will.
Our Father, what a wonderful evening together. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for revealing the truth so that we don’t need to wonder in doubt and ignorance. Your Word is light. It is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path. And we have been basically given this gift from heaven, the Bible, the Word of the living God – every word true, applicable, essential. We have been designed to be the people of the Book, who can speak it into the lives of those around us. Use us in that way. And may we find great joy in faithfulness, even in the darkest of times.
We thank You that as the needs in this society in which we live have been escalated, such a profound level, that You have placed us here and now to speak the glorious realities of Christ to this lost society. Use every person here for Your glory in showing Christ and speaking of Him as the only hope. Be glorified in the salvation of many through the witness of this faithful church, we pray in Christ’s name. And everyone said, “Amen.” Thank you so much.
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