Spiritual Warfare

The Spiritual Enemies in our Spiritual War

© C. O. Bishop 2014 (THCF 7/6/14)

Ephesians 6:10-13; Judges 6:12-14


I recently watched a video of a “town hall”-type panel-discussion regarding last year’s attack on the US embassy in Syria. An Islamic American woman in the audience raised the question, “Why are you not answering ideological questions with ideology, and discussion, instead of proposing war?”

A forceful woman on the panel addressed the question, stating that she was glad the question had been raised, and noting that throughout the entire forum this was the first time anyone either from the audience or the panel had even mentioned Islam. All had focused entirely on the specific violent attack that had occurred, carefully ignoring the reason behind the attack.

She then went on to point out that there are around 1.2 billion Islamic people in the world, and, as the woman in the audience had inferred, 75% of them were completely peaceful. But she went on to point out that only the peaceful ones were willing to discuss matters, and that the remaining 25%  then, comprise perhaps 300 million people (equal to the population of the United States) who are not willing, and not peaceful, and who are absolutely implacably committed to the destruction of Western Civilization.

Even then, she pointed out, most are not actively involved…but that it had only taken nineteen jihadists to destroy the trade towers and kill nearly 3000 people. She further pointed out that, during WW2, most Germans had wanted peace…but the Nazis ruled because the peaceful people would not resist them…and 60 million people died as a long range result. She recounted example after example of historical precedents where the peaceful majority proved to be irrelevant…it was always the violent minority who made the difference. It is always those who are willing to fight who become relevant in history, as sad as that may seem.

Now: though we know that the Quran demands that adherents to Islam wage violent “holy war” against all infidels, there is no passage in the Bible where Christians are encouraged to adopt violent means by which to achieve peaceful goals. (Yes, Israel was commanded to fight, and, many times they did…and still must do so today…but the Church is not Israel.)

But the New Testament addresses Christians, and a different sort of war is in view. There is also no passage that suggests we are not already soldiers in a spiritual war, with deadly spiritual enemies, absolutely committed to our destruction. If we want our lives to have eternal relevance, (and not fall prey to those enemies) we must embrace the fact of spiritual warfare.

The Source of Our Strength

Paul has just finished telling believers how to walk with the Lord, in Ephesians 4:1-6:9. He makes a complete change of subject (though closely related) in verse 10, saying how they should stand.

We tend to think of “Christian warfare” as a lot of “guerilla-tactics”, sneaking around, looking for a chance to “slip in a good word edgewise”. Sorry. That is not what it is about. It is not to be a battle of wits: quite frankly, compared to the enemies Paul describes here, we are pretty witless. And the people against whom we deliver our “spiritual zingers” are not our enemies, as we shall see. They are in league with them, to be sure, but, ultimately, they are the victims, as we ourselves have been.

Paul begins, then, with the command to “be strong”. Note that he addresses that command to “my brethren”—born again believers—children together of their real Father in heaven. Jesus said that the inhabitants of the world are not by nature the children of God, but of Satan. (John 8:44) Harsh, but completely factual…and Paul agrees, saying that we all began in that state.

But as Christians, we are commanded to “be strong”. Notice, too, that that is not the end of the command. If he only said “Be Strong” we could all order Charles Atlas training courses, or join gymnasiums or go get illegal steroid injections or something, trying to obey the command of God…and we would all be wrong. He says “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His Might.” This has nothing to do with physical strength.

Turn with me back to Judges Chapter 6, the story of Gideon. Judges 6:12-14 tells a very odd story: Israel was a nation under siege, and constantly terrorized by roving bands of Midianite raiders. Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh, was trying to surreptitiously thresh out a little wheat, and get that little harvest in without the Midianites seeing him. (The raiders had a pattern of letting someone else do the work and then swooping in to take the harvest.)

The Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon. Now, in our previous studies, we have seen that the Angel of the LORD always turns out to be the LORD, Jehovah, himself, and this is no exception—verses 14, 16, ff, all have the LORD doing the talking. But what He says is what is so significant: He called to Gideon, saying “the LORD is with thee, thou Mighty Man of Valor”. Gideon looked around and said “You’ve got the wrong guy!” I am the least in my father’s house, and our house is poor in our tribe. I’m no ‘mighty man’ of anything!”

But the LORD commanded him, saying “Go in this thy might…have I not sent thee?”

God knew who he was dealing with—a scared young farmer, just trying to stay alive and feed his family: but he called him a “Mighty Man of Valor”…and then revealed what made him to be strong. In the first place, he said, “The LORD is with thee!” and, in the second place, he said “go, in THIS thy strength: Have I not sent thee?”

The twin facts that as a called individual,

  1. God was with him, and
  2. that God was sending him on a mission

were what guaranteed the strength to do the assigned task. Well! Wouldn’t it be nice if we had those two things? Of course, you already know the answer to that; we do!

How do I know God is with us? Because Jesus guaranteed it, over and over. He said that the Holy Spirit would be with us forever (John 14:16) (remember—the Holy Spirit is God), that He himself would not abandon us (John 14:18), that He and the Father would take up their abode with us (John 14:23), and, particularly, in the context of the Great Commission, he gave his promise “I am with thee always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) So: can there be any doubt that God is with us? No! The only question remains: are we with Him?

God went to a great deal of trouble to get Gideon to walk with him. We like to remember Gideon “laying out the fleece”, but forget that this was specifically an act of doubt. God had just appeared to him in person, and given him a command. Gideon responded with “How do I know you really are who you say you are, or that you are sending me at all?” The two incidents with the fleece, and the subsequent night-prowl to the enemy camp were meant to allay his fears. God really wanted him to do the job, and it seems He really went a long way to get him on his team.

So what does it take to get you on His team? He already died for you. (Of course, he died for Gideon, too, but poor old Gideon didn’t know that.) He gave you the indwelling Holy Spirit; (Gideon didn’t have that particular blessing either.) He gave you the whole Bible. (Gideon may have seen the Torah, but probably from a distance. We don’t even know if he was literate: this was during a very dark period in Israel’s history.) The fact remains that we have been given more evidence and more blessing than any other group of people in History.

You may think, “Ah, but Israel had the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Manna in the desert, not to mention the miraculous gushing river of water from the Rock.” Yes, and they soon forgot them. You have the record of those miracles, and your own copy of the entire Bible…do you read it? Do you believe Him? God wants you on His team, and He has already promised to be with you, and He has called you and has already sent you.

Where has he sent us? Matthew 28:19, 20 “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We treat the Great Commission as if it were the marching orders for eleven or twelve men, but not for us. But read the rest of it: “…teaching them (that’s us) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. Yes, the Great Commission is to all Christians, in all ages and all places in all the World.

Gideon was told, in effect, the same thing that we are told, except that his marching orders were different. “Go, in this thy might: have I not sent thee?” He was to wage war against the Midianite raiders destroying Israel. We are to join battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in this world…not against flesh and blood.

We are to be strong in the Lord and in the Power of His might…not our own.

Our Defense Against Evil

So what is to be our defense against the evil in the world, and, more importantly, against the invisible, active agents of evil around us? (Whoa! What’s this “invisible” stuff? Where did I get that?) In the next few verses we will find out that ALL our real enemies are invisible. So, how will we defend against an invisible enemy?

We are commanded to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the “wiles of the devil” (devil means “adversary”, or “enemy”, but in this case we are to see that ALL of our enemies are under the headship of that one Enemy, the Devil, who “walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour.”)

So, any humanistic defenses will be useless; only the armor of God will suffice. For some reason The World is regularly feeding the public video games and movies with the idea that humans can fight demons…shooting at them, etc. Come on! In the first place they are invisible. In the second place, they are completely immune to anything humans can do, let alone bullets, blades and other such nonsense. God gives the only weapons that have any effect, in the next few verses. We will not get that far today, but you can read ahead and see that we are given a handful of defensive weapons and two offensive weapons. And none of them are connected in any way to human ability.

Think of Gideon again: If you recall, the way the battle was ordered by God was that God first took away all but 300 of his troops. The next thing was that God saw to it that both hands of each of those soldiers were full, so they could not use any weapon in the battle. They were to:

  1. Stand
  2. Shine a light (remember the jugs and the torches?) and
  3. Blow a trumpet and Shout (evidently alternating between the two; sound an alarm.)

Isn’t that what we are also to do?

  1. Stand fast
  2. Shine the light of a holy life
  3. Sound the alarm of the Gospel—the good news and the bad news.

But our armor is a little different, as we shall find out next time.

So…who are our enemies?

The Enemies

God’s Word says we have three major enemies, all under the leadership of one Enemy; Satan. He also has henchmen that we call demons, but the main way the enemies are listed is:

  1. The World
  2. The Flesh
  3. The Devil

(So, how could I have said that they were all invisible? I see the world around me every day, don’t I?) No, as a matter of fact, I see the people of the world: people for whom Jesus died. 1st John 2:2 states unequivocally that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; the full satisfaction of the righteousness of God on their behalf. So, if you think you are looking at one of your enemies, remember that he or she is definitely someone for whom Jesus shed His precious blood. And we are commanded to reach out to them with the Love of God.

The World” that is our Enemy is the world system of thinking, values, and motivation that controls all the nations, politicians, and unbelievers of every kind. The people themselves are sinners for whom Jesus died. The system is and always shall be an enemy to your soul.

The Flesh” refers to our old sin nature, irremediably given over to self-will. God can’t repair it or redeem it, so it will be done away through physical death. In the believer’s case (who has a new nature) this will provide eternal freedom from sin, because when the body is resurrected, the only nature left will be the new nature. For the unbeliever, it means eternal loss, as the only resurrection they face is the resurrection of the damned; eternal separation from God in the lake of Fire.

The Devil”.—Satan himself—is the leader of all his armies, which not only include the invisible evil hosts named here (“principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world” are all in reference to angelic beings) and the spiritual wickedness in high places, but also of the world and the flesh according to Ephesians 2:2, 3.

The Goal: To Stand

And, against all these enemies we are to do what? Just stand! But as we stand, we are to shine as lights in a dark place (Philippians 2:15), and to sound the alarm of the Gospel, so that we serve as ambassadors of God, offering His terms of salvation to all who are willing. (2nd Corinthians 5:19, 20) We cannot re-write history. God will carry out His judgment in His own time.We are to let God handle the execution of His enemies. We are only to reach out to them in Love.

(Next time: The Armor)

Father God, help us to see your presence and your command as the full and sole source of our strength, and to take that command as our own personal marching orders, in Jesus’ Name, and for His sake.

What about the Resurrection?

“Is The Resurrection True?”

(c) Rev. Pat James

Recently Christians around the world celebrated what we call Easter. We say that Jesus was dead, that on the third day He rose, that He walked this earth in His resurrected immortal body and then He ascended to Heaven, both physically and visibly where He remains at the right hand of God the Father. This belief is the very foundation of the Christian Faith!

But is the resurrection of Jesus Christ a well documented historical fact or is it a product of wishful thinking? Is it a myth, or a fable … a bit of old folklore that has come down through the ages? Is it a story that will stand up to serious and objective investigation?

You see, the resurrection of our Lord is either one of the most wicked, vicious, and heartless hoaxes ever to be imposed on the minds of humanity or … it is by far the most important fact of human history! There really is no in-between. It is a vicious lie or a glorious truth, one or the other! And not only that, but the gospel writers who report the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus are either viciously deceptive, hopelessly deceived or boldly honest!

Lets begin our investigation by reading the words of the apostle Paul in 1st. Corinthians 15:3-8,“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one untimely born.

This book was written about 28 years after Jesus’ resurrection and in effect this was an invitation to any who doubted his statements to just check it out! Since most of the 500 witnesses were still available to be questioned, it would have been very easy to discredit his statements if they had not been true.

The writers of the accounts of the resurrection gain even greater credibility when we consider their honesty in telling us of the disciple’s failure to understand the significance of the resurrection or even to believe in Jesus following the resurrection!

For example if we study the gospel accounts of the resurrection events we find that the women, on their way to the tomb, give no hint of expecting that Jesus had been bodily resurrected. In fact, they were surprised to find that His body was gone! This indicates that they must have misunderstood our Lord’s predictions that He would rise again on the third day. If the story had been fabricated it’s very unlikely that the women’s confusion would have been included.

The disciples didn’t expect our Lord’s resurrection either! In Luke 24:11we read,  “And these words (of the women) appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”

The Bible accounts of the resurrection indicate very clearly that Thomas was not the only one who doubted. After Cleopas and another disciple met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they returned to the other disciples to tell them what they had seen. And speaking of this Mark 16:13 says, “And they went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.”

Matthew 28:16-17 says, “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some were doubtful.”

The honesty of the gospel writers in reporting the doubts and disbelief of the disciples is a strong testimony to the truth of what they wrote. If the resurrection of Jesus had been fabricated by the early Christian writers they certainly would not have made the disciples look so lacking in faith and understanding.

Matthew records that the only response from the Jewish leadership to the preaching of the resurrection was the accusation that the disciples had stolen the body. Which actually acknowledges the fact that the tomb was indeed empty and even the Jewish Religious leaders knew it!

It would have been impossible to preach the resurrection in Jerusalem if the tomb had still contained Jesus’ body. How could they say that He was resurrected if His body lay there in a tomb?

Also, if the disciples had invented the resurrection story we would think that they would have been out on the street the very next day proclaiming the risen Lord. But what we actually find is a 7 week delay during which, they seemed generally confused and ignorant of their mission! It was only after the filling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that these peasants, shepherds and fishermen were suddenly changed into a confident witnesses for Christ. They were absolutely convinced of salvation in Christ, their doubts had been completely removed! Do you think they would have rallied to that degree because of some made-up story?

We might also consider the fact that nearly every one of the disciples of Christ were killed for their faith! Does it seem likely that these men would have died for their belief if they hadn’t been absolutely positive of the truth of that belief?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ IS true and it is Scripture’s most encouraging message!

The empty tomb validated, confirmed, established and settled once and for all the truth that Jesus spoke. That He is the Son of God, the Messiah; the Savior of all mankind!

The empty tomb is the single most hope-filled fact of history and it is absolutely essential to the Christian faith.

Pat James is Pastor Emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship Church, at

2506 18th Ave., Forest Grove, OR 97116

Ph. 503-357-8534 ~ Email: pastorpatj@gmail.com


What about the Holy Spirit?

Have You Experienced The Holy Spirit?

Pastor Pat James

The book of Acts tells of how the Holy Spirit came upon the believers who were gathered in the upper room. There was a sound like a strong wind, there were what appeared to be flames of fire over their heads and they were changed in a dramatic way. Most believers have never experienced anything like that, however many of us consider it to be an example of what it means to experience the Holy Spirit in our life.

A Pharisee named Nicodemus paid a rather clandestine visit to Jesus one night, (the first case of “Nic at night”), and Jesus spoke to him of the mystery of the Holy Spirit. He said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; …” (John 3:8)

The Holy Spirit is like the wind, we will not be able to tell where He came from or where He is going, but we will be aware of His presence. But how? How will I be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life? To answer that, we must be aware of what the Holy Spirit does.

Jesus said , “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;” (John 16:8).

One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin. Has He done that in your life? Though we may call it different things most everyone is aware of the wrong things they have done in their life.  Yet those who believe and have the Holy Spirit within them, are not driven to deny or hide from their sins; they do not feel the need to blame others or attempt to escape their guilt through intoxicants and such. The believer somehow finds the strength to face the fact that he has sinned, without allowing that fact to overwhelm him. If you have experienced that strength then you have experienced the Holy Spirit in your life!

Jesus tells us the Spirit would also convict the world concerning righteousness. Many have tried to find righteousness by keeping rules and regulations. No matter how hard we tried we always felt that we haven’t tried hard enough, that we just haven’t been good enough. Then we came to understand that righteousness is not gained through self-efforts, instead it is a gift that we receive by faith. It is through our faith in Christ that we are forgiven and His righteousness is credited to our account. That realization causes us to respond in love because we have been set free from a life of struggling to earn the favor of God. And that realization is a touch of the Holy Spirit!

Jesus also said the Holy Spirit would convict the world concerning judgment. Most all of us know what it is to be judged. Many of us have felt the pain of being miss-judged by others. But there comes a time when we realize the judgments of others are not what is important. The Holy Spirit causes us to realize that our worth is based not upon the judgments of other people, but on God’s judgment. We are forgiven of our wrongs, we are loved and we are free to enjoy the possibilities of each day before God. And that wonderful, liberating realization is a touch from the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit is truly active in the life of every believer, but we must learn to recognize His work.


Pastor Pat James is pastor emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship Church, at

2516 18th. Ave, Forest Grove, OR Telephone 503-357-8534

What about Religious Liberty?

Religious Liberty

Rev. Pat James

While celebrating Independence Day I began thinking about the First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees Religious Liberty in this great country. That Amendment reads in part;  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”

In modern times, that Amendment is being used as the basis for all sorts of rulings and laws and many of those rulings are completely contrary to the intentions of our Founding Fathers who wrote the Amendment. For example, the First Amendment has been used to silence prayer in public schools and at school functions.It is being used as the basis for insisting that all symbols of Christianity be removed from any publicly owned building. It is being used in an attempt to prevent Christian groups from meeting on publicly owned property.

The First Amendment has been called “The wall of separation between church and state”, but the intent of that law was to prevent the government from ever establishing a State Sanctioned Church. It was to prohibit the government from passing laws that would favor and support one denomination or religious belief over all others. It was also intended to prevent the government from interfering in the expression of a persons faith regardless of what that faith is.

Most everyone has heard that in the beginning, one of the main reasons why people came to settle in this country was to escape religious persecution. What many folks don’t realize is that for the most part, that “persecution” was from the official government established churches of the various countries. For example in England, the established church was the Church of England.  Therefore no other church or denomination was recognized as legitimate. Those who held beliefs that differed from theirs were persecuted in various ways because they were considered to be “heretics.” In Scotland the Presbyterian Church was the State Church and they too persecuted anyone who didn’t agree with their doctrinal beliefs.

In Germany the State Church was the Lutheran Church. In Spain, Italy, and France, the State Church was Catholic.  Most every country had a State sanctioned church and in every case those who didn’t belong to the State Church were persecuted in one way or another.

Of course there were people who lived in those various countries who’s beliefs differed from the State Church. For example, even though the Church of England was the official church in England, there were still Lutherans and Presbyterians and Catholics who lived there.

In most countries there were also those who’s beliefs differed from those of the popular denominations. These people were called by many different names but the oldest and most common name was “Ana-Baptist”.

They were originally called that because most of them didn’t accept the doctrine of infant baptism, so if someone wanted to join their church they had to be baptized even if they had already been baptized as a baby.  That was called “Another Baptism” and that’s what “Ana-Baptist” means … “another baptism.”

Over time however, nearly any church or group that didn’t align with one of the State sanctioned denominations were usually called “Ana-Baptist” regardless of their beliefs about baptism.

In the early days of immigration to this country, the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and the Church of England groups established separate colonies. There they immediately passed laws establishing their particular church as the only legal church in their colony, to the absolute exclusion of all others.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony, which had the Congregational Church as their State Church passed a law that read; “It is ordered and agreed that if any person within this jurisdiction, shall condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants or go about secretly to seduce others from the use thereof or purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance, such person shall be sentenced to banishment.”

Banishmentwas serious business in those days, it usually meant that a person would have to go and live with the Indians in order to survive. Of course there were many other kinds of persecution which included confiscation of property, public whippings, imprisonment, etc.

In 1638 a group of people who had been banished from other colonies, and were led by Roger Williams, and an Ana-Baptist Preacher named John Clark, decided that even though they didn’t have legal authority from England, they would organize a colony of their own. They found a little section of land that had not yet been claimed and settled there forming what came to be known as the Rhode Island Colony.

In 1663, after finally receiving permission from England, the Rhode Island Colony wrote a legal charter that attracted world wide attention because it was the very first legal declaration of Religious Liberty in the whole world!

When Congress began discussing the question of whether the United States should have an established church, there were three primary contenders; the Church of England, the Congregationalist Church and the Presbyterian Church. However, the so-called Ana-Baptists who were supported by James Madison, and many others, argued for complete and total religious liberty.

Patrick Henry proposed a bill that would establish four churches (or denominations) as the official churches of this country and his bill would allow the tax payers to indicate which church received their tax money.

It’s interesting that one of the major obstacles to religious liberty in America (and probably all over the world at that time), was the idea that the church could not possibly exist without governmental support. The idea that a church could survive just on the voluntary offerings of their congregations was considered an impossibility!

And the churches that were already established as State Churches used that as the basis for their arguments against religious liberty. Their conviction was that if the government didn’t support the church then this country would soon become a nation of “non-religious heathen” and our society would crumble.

But thanks to the Providence of God it was finally decided that; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”

For centuries, that law is what has set this nation apart from all others. That law, (when observed in the way it was intended), is what prevents the government from establishing a State Church, and from interfering with the church through taxation or zoning laws or anything else.

I thank God for that law and I hope you do too.

Rev. Pat James, Pastor Emeritus, True Hope Christian Fellowship

2506 18th. Ave.

Forest Grove, OR  97116


email: pastorpatj@gmail.com

What about Sunday?


Pastor Pat James

What do you normally do on Sunday? When our Lord gathers His church together on Sunday morning are you there or are you enjoying your favorite hobby, doing chores or just relaxing with the Sunday paper? What is it that is so important that it prevents you from taking part in public worship?


Matthew 12:8 teaches that Jesus is “the Lord of the Sabbath”. Do you claim Him as your Savior and Lord while refusing to honor the day of His resurrection?


Jesus has promised to be with us when we assemble for public worship. It is sad that so many are not faithful to meet Him there! True saving faith in Christ is evidenced when we place our relationship with Him above all things, when He occupies the place of highest priority in our lives. That would certainly include assembling together with other believers for worship and instruction. That would also include taking an active and supportive role in our church.


Idolatry means loving something or someone more than God. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we are repeatedly warned against that. Yet each Sunday morning many professing Christians clearly demonstrate that their love for recreation, comfort and entertainment is greater than their love for God!


In the Living Bible Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.”

This Sunday when the Lord gathers His family together for worship, will you be there?



Pastor Pat James is the pastor emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship Church

2516 18th. Ave, Forest Grove, OR Telephone 503-357-8534



What about Hell?

“What About Hell?”

Anyone who has spent much time sharing the gospel has heard the argument that goes something like this; “How can you believe in a God who sends people to hell?” or, “How can a loving God sentence someone to hell for eternity?”

Over the past 100 years there have been a lot of changes in what the majority of professing Christians believe, especially in areas such as:




Many professing Christians no longer hold to those concepts, but it’s certainly not because the Bible doesn’t teach them, because it does!

In 2nd Thessalonians 1:9, the Apostle Paul is speaking of those who don’t know the Lord and do not obey the Gospel, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction …”

In Revelation 14:11 the Apostle John wrote, “And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.”

We should also note that the greatest preacher who ever lived was also the most descriptive teacher on Hell, and that was Jesus Christ!

Jesus said things like: “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,” (Mark 9:47)

He also said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

And in Matthew 13:41-42 Jesus said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Our Lord was meek, mild, and gentle, but he taught about Hell. He taught it clearly and he taught it often!

It’s interesting that most people will agree that not everyone is going to go to Heaven, but at the same time they deny the existence of a real and literal Hell! Since the Bible teaches both then I must believe in both!

One objection to the concept of hell goes something like this; “Justice demands that punishment fit the crime, and what crime is so bad, as to demand an eternity of torment in hell?” The question then isn’t, “Is it right for God to condemn to hell?” The question is, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” The “crime” that sends people to hell is the rejection of God and His offer of eternal life. Is that worthy of eternal damnation?

The problem is, we cannot understand the severity of the crime of rejection until we have some understanding of God. We must have some appreciation for God’s awesome goodness, His love for us, His patience with us and all that He has done for us, in order to understand what a tremendous crime it is to reject Him.

The punishment does fit the crime because God is infinitely good and perfect and loving and because of that, He deserves infinite adoration!


In 1st. Timothy 6:16 Paul said, (God), “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion!”

God has been infinitely benevolent to us. He has given us a wonderful world in which to live and the senses of smell, taste, touch, and vision that allow us to enjoy it.

God has been infinitely patient with us.

Romans 1:21 says,“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

In spite of our rebellion and willful ignorance God has lavished on us the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience. He has giving us every opportunity imaginable to come to Him.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind, and all your strength. How many of us have really done that?

Yet what has been God’s response to our rejection?

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Paul said, (Acts 4:12) “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

2nd. Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God gives us infinite opportunities to recognize His mercy and He reveals Himself infinitely.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3)

The invisible God has been made known through the visible universe!

The Apostle Paul said it well, in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

And not only that, but we can look at mankind and see the image of God. We can see that humans have a moral instinct, a personality and a free will. In our own sense of anger when we are wronged we see there is such a thing as right and wrong and we sense in our own hearts that evil must be judged!

God has given us infinite opportunities to see who He is – We can see him in creation.   We can see Him in His word. We can see Him in His Ultimate revelation – His Son. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

In light of the infinite revelation of God, the infinite opportunity that I have been given to respond to the infinite Grace, the infinite Goodness, and the infinite Glory of God, if I reject God, then my sin is infinitely evil and I am infinitely accountable!

God is so Glorious, so Good, so Gracious, and His revelation is so complete that if we reject Him, that is the ultimate rejection and it can only result in an ultimate penalty some day!

Simple annihilation is not enough to condemn our sins against God. There are only two things that can pay the penalty for that, either the Lake of Fire, or the Cross of Calvary! It has to be one or the other! But because of God’s love, you get to choose which it will be for you.

God will get rid of His enemies! He will either have them in the Lake of Fire or He will adopt them as children, but God will get rid of His enemies!

The question we must all answer is, “Do I want God’s Justice? Or do I want God’s Grace?”

To me that’s a “no-brainer”!

Pat James is Pastor Emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship, in Forest Grove, OR



Rev. Pat James

As we begin another year some folks look to the future with fear and worry, others are excited and optimistic, but one thing we all have in common is we all hope for happiness.

Every one wants to be happy: that’s a universal desire. If we cut through all the rhetoric, we find that everyone’s real goal is happiness.

Blaise Pascal, who was a 17th century philosopher said this: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. This is the motive of every man, even of those who hang themselves!”

When writing the Declaration of Independence our founding fathers thought of happiness as a very precious aspect of life. They wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Happiness is the underlying theme of most advertising. The message is; “You want to be happy? Buy this product, go to this movie, use our credit card.” But for all of our focus on how to be happy, it seems there are very few people who are truly happy.

A valid question might be to ask ourselves is, “What makes me happy?” I suspect there are some common responses to that question. Many would say happiness is greater financial stability as well as spendability! Someone has said, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but I wouldn’t mind trying.”

Most people relate happiness to having more money, that is why millions of people are trying to become happy by winning the lottery. However, the chances of winning are something like 80 million to one! Not good odds if you’re trying to find happiness that way!
According to reports I have read even those who have won the lottery usually don’t end up all that happy! It is very doubtful that many people are going to find happiness in the lottery!

I read recently that, when asked what happiness was, a lady replied, “Happiness is seeing your husband’s old girlfriend … and seeing that she is fatter than you!” It seems that we all have an opinion of what will make us happy, and for most people it involves the circumstances of their life.

We can learn very important truths about happiness by studying the writings of the great Apostle Paul in the Bible. In the book of Acts we are told that he had been arrested and was being brought before King Agrippa. We wouldn’t think there would be a whole lot of happiness in that situation, but read what Paul said in Acts 26:2 “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews…”

If happiness is a product of our circumstances then Paul had no business being happy! He ought to be miserable and filled with fear because of his circumstances (on trial and in chains) but Paul understood that his happiness was not dictated by his circumstances!

Paul was happy because he knew that he was in God’s will, that he was in close fellowship with God and that he was doing what God wanted him to do. You see, Paul’s source of happiness was God and ONLY God!

The truth is, if our happiness comes only through maintaining a sufficient flow of favorable circumstances, then we will see very little happiness in life! Even if we could determine our happiness by circumstances we wouldn’t be happy for long because we have little or no control over our circumstances! Happiness pursued through circumstances will always lead to disappointment!

If we look for happiness in what this temporary world has to offer then life will be a profound disappointment! True happiness will never be found in pursuing the things of this world! So the question naturally follows: “What will make us happy?”

One day a big dog saw a little puppy chasing its tail … and he asked, “Why are you chasing your tail so?” The puppy said, “I have mastered philosophy; I have solved the problems of the universe which no dog before me has rightly solved; I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is my tail. Therefore I am chasing it; and when I catch it, I will have happiness.”

The old dog said, “My son, I, too, have paid attention to the problems of the universe, and I have formed some opinions. I too, have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog, and I too have found that happiness is in my tail. But I have noticed that when I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I just go about my business, it comes after me.”

“Happiness is not found by chasing after it; true happiness is a by-product of pursuing God.” True happiness is something that comes when we truly commit ourselves to living our life in obedience to God, seeking only to do His will. That is the only way to real and lasting happiness!

In Psalm 16:11 the Psalmist wrote, “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”

I believe most folks would agree that God has all wisdom; we would also agree that the Bible contains God’s wise instructions for living fulfilled and happy lives here on earth. Now, with that in mind, please read the following selected verses of Scripture;

Psalms 144:15 “ … How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!”

Proverbs 16:20, “He who gives attention to the word shall find good, And blessed (or happy) is he who trusts in the LORD.”

Proverbs 29:18 “ …. happy is he who keeps the law.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

John 15:11 (Jesus), “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

Happiness is found in the pursuit of God; and when do that we will discover that God is pursuing us with His love!

Do you want to be happy? Sure you do! Pursue God and watch happiness come after you!


Rev. Pat James is the pastor emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship Church at 2506 18th. Ave. Forest Grove, OR 97116 ~ Phone: 503-357-8534 ~ email pastorpatj@gmail.com

Is the Bible True?

Is The Bible True?

Pastor Pat James
(Originally published in the Oregonian)

I understand there are many Christians who simply decided to believe the gospel message; that Jesus is the Son of God, He paid the debt of our sin and we can have salvation and eternal life simply by believing that.

I must admit that I cannot believe something simply by deciding to believe. I must first become convinced that a thing is in fact true. So for me the question was, how do I go about verifying the truth of the claims of Christianity?

Since the claims of Christianity are based on the Bible, then our basic question involves the veracity of this great book. Is the Bible really the inerrant inspired word of God?

If the Bible truly is the Word of God, then we would expect to find some very unusual and significant facts surrounding this book. If the Bible is what it claims to be then one would certainly expect to find unique information within its contents. We would also expect to find unusual circumstances related to the development, preservation and transmission of such an exceptional document.

Even a cursory study reveals that the Bible truly is unique, not only in the message that it brings to mankind, but also in many other ways. For example, the Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by at least 40 different authors who were inspired by God. These authors represented nearly every social and economic level. They included kings and paupers, as well as the educated and uneducated. They were separated by location, time and culture; they wrote on every conceivable topic relating to human existence, many of them controversial, yet their writings merge into one cohesive whole. It is doubtful that we could name even three secular authors who agreed completely on all things. The only reasonable explanation is that of a supernatural influence.

The Bible is also unique in its survival. Powerful dictators have determined to wipe the Bible from the face of the earth. Those men have gone, but the Bible remains.

The Bible has withstood every form of criticism known to man. However historical investigation, archeological discoveries and scientific examination have repeatedly proven the Bible to be entirely accurate and reliable. Not to mention the literally hundreds of prophecies which have been perfectly fulfilled to the smallest detail.

It is only reasonable to conclude that the Bible truly is the inspired word of God and since that is true, what could possibly be more important than to learn what it says and do what it says?

Pastor Pat James is the pastor emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship Church
2516 18th. Ave, Forest Grove, OR Telephone 503-357-8534

Embrace The Cross

Embracing the Cross

© C. O. Bishop 2013 THCF 6/2/13


Last week we discussed the tendency that we, as humans, have, to avoid discomfort, and circumvent the Cross, in our dealings with God. As sinners we want to approach God as if we were NOT sinners. As created beings, we want to approach God as if he were a fellow creation, instead of the almighty, holy, all-knowing, all-powerful God of all time and space. God reasons with us, giving us time to repent, but ultimately insists that the only way we can approach Him is through the agency of Christ. Jesus, who is in fact God in the flesh, is our only intermediary, bridging between the whole fallen human race and the Holy God who desires to redeem us.

But let’s say that I have finally submitted to God’s directive; I have humbled myself to realize that I am a lost and condemned sinner, and that I need a savior. I have placed my full trust in Jesus’ blood at the Cross as my only hope for salvation. I have become a child of God! My troubles are over, right?

Well–no. When God redeems a sinner it is by means of the new birth. I gained a new nature, and that new nature is righteous and holy, just like God. But I still have my old nature, and it has had fifty-eight years to practice and grow strong in rebellion and pride and foolishness. My new nature is a baby by comparison. I need to feed my new nature on God’s Word, so that it will grow strong, and I can learn to walk with God. I need to learn Discipleship.

What is a Disciple?

Jesus had a fair bit to say about discipleship: He repeatedly stated the need to count the cost of discipleship; the need to make the person of Christ the central issue in one’s life, and to join him in the journey to the cross. In Luke 9:23, he made the statement that a disciple should “…deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him.”

Many people have misunderstood him to have said that this is the recipe for salvation. It is not. In John 6:28, 29, the people asked him “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” He answered them and said, “This is the work of God; that ye believe on him whom He hath sent.” So, salvation comes by faith in the person and work of Christ. Discipleship is the logical result of salvation.

What does it mean, then, to “Take up the Cross?”

Remember that the Cross is a means of death, and nothing but that. It is not a pretty decoration, or a piece of jewelry, though we frequently see it that way. It was one of the worst, most cruel means of execution used by the Roman Government. We would find it pretty repulsive if someone today had a little gold electric chair as a piece of jewelry, but the electric chair is quite humane, compared to the cross.

A person who had taken up his cross was a walking dead man–he was headed for a cruel execution. Jesus took up his cross for the joy that was set before him, according to Hebrews 12:2. He did not do it because it was a good religious exercise. He was going there to die, knowing that his death, specifically, would be the satisfaction of God’s Holiness, for the sins of the whole human race. “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame…”

All the way through the Bible, the concept of Death has to do with separation of one sort or another. Adam and Eve were separated from fellowship with God the moment Adam ate that forbidden fruit. They were spiritually dead, separated from God. Adam experienced physical death 900 years later, as his spirit and soul were separated from his physical body. All of us have experienced spiritual death, as we are born in that state. Virtually all of us will experience physical death, as it is appointed unto us once to die. But there is another kind of death, called “the Second death.” People who experience what is called “the Second death” are permanently separated from God, in the Lake of Fire. Death always implies separation of some sort, not simply cessation of life. So what does the Cross separate us from?

Galatians 6:14 says that “…the World is crucified unto me and I to the World.” I have been separated permanently from the World, whether I like it or not. Galatians 5:24 says that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. In God’s eyes, at least, the old sin nature is no longer part of who I am. It is definitely still there, but I need to recognize that it is dead to me, and learn not to respond to its clamoring demands. God only wants to fellowship with my new nature…he sees the other as dead. I need to learn to see it that way, too.

Galatians 2:19-21 says “I, through the law, am dead to the Law that I might live unto God. I am Crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for if Righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

Our crucifixion with Christ is a fact. It is not something for us to try to accomplish. We take up the cross when we accept the fact that we are separated from the World and from our old self, and choose to live that way. So what does it mean when one talks about “having a cross to bear”?

Is all suffering “bearing the cross?”

In a word; No! We hear people talk about something being their “Cross” to bear. Frequently it has nothing to do with suffering at all, much less suffering for Christ. Just because you don’t like some circumstance does not make it a “cross to bear”. Even if it is genuinely “suffering”, there are many kinds of suffering.

Philippians 1:29  states that “unto you it has been given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on His name but also to suffer for his sake.” So we need to know what that means.

Thirteen reasons for suffering:

As far as I can see from God’s Word, there are at least 13 different reasons for suffering. There may be more, of course; my understanding is limited. Let’s look at the ones I do understand:
In the first place, let’s remember that God is Sovereign: He does not require our approval. His ways are just, even when we don’t like them. God defines righteousness. The evil that is in the world came here as a result of Human sin, not Divine caprice. But it is not always “punishment”, and it is not always “suffering for Christ”.

So, we can begin with:

  1. Consequences of Original Sin. There are bad things happening in the world; it is full of tragedy. The world got that way when Adam sinned. Romans 5:12—“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Everyone experiences some of this, in varying degrees, whether or not they are believers. It has nothing to do with “suffering for Christ”.
  2. Consequences of Personal (past) Sin (or simply error, etc).—there can be (and usually are) consequences for sin, folly or error. This is not punishment per se, but simple consequences. Sometimes the natural consequences for an error are seen as punishment—but punishment implies wrongdoing, and some error is not wrongdoing, but just bad judgment, or clumsiness, or ignorance—all can have terrible consequences. I have a cousin who is missing an arm. He lost it because he fell out of a tree as a young boy, and broke it…and the attending physician did not realize the bone had pierced the skin, and plunged into the soil before pulling back into the flesh—thus infecting the flesh with bacteria that nearly killed him. They had to amputate the arm to save his life, and even so, they nearly lost him. Was it Punishment? No—it was partly original sin—there are terrible bacteria out there (remember the ground was cursed…); bacterial infections can disfigure, maim, or kill a person. It was partly error on my cousin’s part—he fell out of a tree; kids do that. It was partly error on the physician’s part—he was not careful enough in his diagnosis. But possibly, even had they known exactly what they were up against, they may have lost that arm anyway. No matter how you look at it, it is not punishment. But it is also not suffering for Christ.
  3. Consequences of (current) Personal Sin. God may institute chastening in a believer’s life to turn us away from error. It is still not the same as punishment. God says the wages of sin is death—eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. That is punishment. Jesus said (John 3:18) “He that believeth in Him is not condemned; He that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God.” We who are believers have placed our trust in Jesus’ shed blood at the Cross: where is our Judgment? At the Cross. Where is our sin? At the Cross. Where is our punishment, our condemnation? At the Cross. But God does chasten believers, to straighten them out. (Consider Jonah: do you think his trip back to the beach was fun?) This can go as far as physical death; remember that Annanias and Sapphira were believers who lost their lives because of sin. This is still not punishment, nor, obviously, is it suffering for Christ.
  4. Training, or testing, in the sense of an athlete, or soldier, or student. God still refers to this as “chastening”, but it is not punishment, nor even as a result of wrongdoing. It is a “workout” given so that we may profit thereby. Sometimes God allows us to go through hard times to develop our faith. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all Joy, my beloved Brethren when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this; that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” God loves us and subjects us to stresses to make us better able to serve, and better able to stand against the evil of the world. (Have you ever noticed that an athletic director or coach never selects someone at random out of the bystanders in the bleachers, and makes them run laps after practice? He only requires that of the members of his team.) Another way to look at the same concept is “pruning”. John 15:2(b) states that a genuine, healthy, live, fruit-bearing branch of a vine may still be pruned to make it more fruitful. This is entirely up to the vine-dresser…God, in this case. We trust his good judgment.
  5. Because it is simply God’s will for us at the time. Job did NOT know what was going on in his life, nor why he suffered the loss of all his possessions, and all his children in a single day. We were given a little peek into what was going on. God did have a purpose, and it had nothing to do with any error on Job’s part, nor, apparently, any need for correction, testing or training (though we could read that into the result). God had his own purpose in Job’s life, and was not required to explain it all to Job. (And he didn’t, as far as we know, unless Job was the author of the book, and God gave him revelation to know what all had happened behind the scenes.) But Job was neither being punished (God says so!) nor was he suffering for Christ, so to speak. It was simply God’s will for him.
  6. Consequences of Personal Righteousness. This is an odd one—we think that if we are doing right, everything ought to go well…and sometimes it does. There is a verse, (Proverbs 16:7) that states, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him”. That is a general truth—in general, that is something we can expect. But if our enemies are God’s enemies, then at some point, we will be attacked for being good. 1st Peter 2:19 “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” Also, there may be advantages to immoral or unrighteous behavior (perhaps a promotion, in an ungodly business world) that we will simply miss out, because we choose to behave righteously. This is the beginning of “Suffering for Christ”.
  7. Suffering for Faith. Being subjected to threat from those around us, and suffering rather than renouncing faith. (This is related to #6, consequences of personal righteousness, but is a little different.) Under genuine persecution, a believer may be offered a chance to recant his faith in order to escape persecution. Refusing to recant, and accepting the suffering, is part of the believer’s lot. During the early days of the church, many lost their lives for that very cause. Philippians 1:29 “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake”
  8. So that we may be a comfort to others. 2nd Corinthians 1:3-11 (read) Verse 4. That we may comfort others with the same comfort wherewith we were comforted by God.
  9. So that our consolation in Christ may abound. Verse 5. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so may the consolation of Christ abound. We are called to join Him in the fellowship of his sufferings (Philippians 3:10). But we are to experience the reality of His consolation, as well. (Habakkuk 3:18)
  10. So that others’ consolation may abound through us. Verses 6-7. We can learn from the experiences of those around us. We will not experience everything ourselves.
  11. So that we will learn to trust God, and not ourselves (could be tied to #5, as in Job’s suffering). Verse 9. This is an important one.
  12. So that we as Christians may learn to pray for each other. Verse 11.
  13. So that Thanksgiving may be offered on our behalf. Also verse 11.

Embracing the Cross

I frequently have told my students at work to “embrace reality”. By that, I mean that they should accept the reality of work, the reality that life “isn’t fair”. Sometimes life is hard, but we are to embrace that reality and go ahead and function. That is what maturity teaches us; to accept responsibility and go ahead and function when life isn’t fun.

God wants us to embrace the Cross: we are to accept the reality that we are separated from the World (we no longer can really feel at home here, as we see the monstrous reality of Man’s rebellion against God, and his cruelty toward other creatures, animal or human.)

We are to accept the reality that we are separated from our old sin nature–it is no longer the “real me”. My old desires are a foreign thing, now. They are definitely not the desires of my new nature. Ephesians 4:24 says that my new nature is “…created in righteousness and true holiness”, in the likeness of God. I must accept the reality of my two natures, and daily choose to feed the new nature, and fulfill its desires, rather than those of my old nature. I can never “coast” or “glide”. It is accurately called a “walk”: it demands day-by-day, step-by-step choices, in order to follow Jesus.

One of the things God requires of us is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. That we be concerned with the needs of those around us, as much as with our own needs. That Agapé love that he requires of us is not possible in the flesh, I am convinced. In fact, the whole Christian life is not possible in the flesh. The Christian life is not difficult; it is impossible apart from daily (moment by moment, really) choosing to allow the Holy Spirit to Love and Live through us. But that means constantly embracing the fact that we died with Him, and then allowing Him to live through us.

It certainly isn’t easy, folks. But that is what the Christian life is all about.

Embrace the Cross, and Learn to Walk with Jesus.

Have we Circumvented the Cross?

Circumventing the Cross

© C. O. Bishop 2013


I re-read an old novel a few weeks ago, one that is widely known and appreciated, in which the heroine goes to a tiny Appalachian community (setting in 1912), and is mentored by a Quaker missionary, who has tirelessly worked to gain the confidence of the people, and to bring the love of God into their homes and hearts. (All sounds good so far, right?)

The two women and the various others in the story demonstrate the grace and love of God in their lives, and gradually people are won over, hearts soften, people desire to learn literacy, begin to read their Bibles, and God’s character miraculously begins to show up in people’s lives. That all sounds great, too, right? And it really does…except that, after I had finished the book, and actually began to think about it, I realized there was something missing. The writer had preached the love and grace of God, and had seen transformed lives, and visions of Heaven, even, all without a single mention of Christ! There was no blood sacrifice—nothing offensive about this Gospel, because it left out the Cross, and left out Jesus Christ, entirely. Even the vision of Heaven was without Christ—just a bunch of happy people wandering around playing with babies.

A Bloodless Sacrifice for Sins

You recall the story of Cain and Abel. Most people may primarily remember that Cain killed Abel, which is true, of course. But they forget the root cause: Abel had correctly approached God with a blood-sacrifice for sin, as had been demonstrated in Genesis 3, but Cain had brought a bloodless sacrifice—a worship offering, perhaps, but one that ignored the fact of sin. The sin issue has to be addressed, one way or another, before worship and interaction with a Holy God can begin. God rejected Cain’s offering quite gently, reasoning with him that he (Cain) knew what was required, and that if he did what was right, He (God) would certainly receive him (Cain) as well; there was no respect of persons here.

Cain rejected the plan of God, and, in anger, went and murdered Abel.

Why would he reject God’s plan? Apparently he did not want to confess that he needed a savior. He did not want to bring a blood sacrifice, confessing his own sin…he apparently thought he should be able to address God as an equal. (We are most certainly not God’s equals. We are not the creator; we are the created beings, and sinners, besides.)

But taking it a step further; what if he simply confessed his sin, and threw himself on God’s mercy and Grace, but still brought a bloodless sacrifice? Would that be OK?

No! The Holiness of God must be satisfied, or fellowship can never occur. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”  What do you think he was talking about? By acting like Him? By seeing him as a great teacher, and trying to obey his teaching, and follow his lifestyle? Or by admitting that only His blood can save, and that I, personally, need a savior, or I cannot be saved?

Why do we reject the Cross?

Today people reject the cross for a variety of reasons, but all can be traced to two fundamental reasons: They consider it offensive, one way or another, or they consider it utter foolishness, and will not consider the possibility that God’s Wisdom is so far beyond theirs that it seems to be foolishness, simply because they can’t begin to understand it.

They either think it offensive: (a) that a Holy God should require a blood sacrifice for sin (such a heathen-sounding thing!) or (b) that He should consider them a sinner, and that everything they do is tainted by their sin.

Interesting that those are the two grounds for rejecting the Gospel, today— those are also the reasons that were mentioned in 1st Corinthians 1:23. Paul said “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block (an offense) and unto the Greeks foolishness”. But he went on to say that Christ is the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God. In another passage (Romans 1:16), referring specifically to the Gospel of Christ, Paul stated that “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The Power of God! The Gospel is Christ, in a nutshell. And he is the only way given for us to be saved (“…neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12) Has it ever occurred to you that when the book of Romans states that the Gospel of Christ is the Power of God to save those who believe, it is stating an “exclusive” truth? There is no other thing in the scriptures, described as being the “power of God” to save believers; Just the Gospel. There is no other way given by which we may approach God; Just Christ. And yet, as a race, we continue to reject God’s only plan of salvation. There is no “Plan B”. This is it, folks! If you are not specifically preaching the Cross, you are not telling people how to be saved. If you are not specifically dependent upon the Cross, yourself, then You are not saved. There is no other way.

What about the religions (or preachers) that ignore the cross?

When a religion (or preacher) circumvents the Cross, regardless of how nicely they teach the rest of the scripture, what must we conclude? Surely such nice people must have a right standing with God, mustn’t they? Surely if I follow their teachings, I will also have a right standing with God…right? All those nice, pious, gentle, pleasant people can’t be wrong, can they?

Then what about sin? How do they deal with sin?

What do we do with Sin?

There are only three ways that human religions deal with the issue of Sin:

  1. Deny that it exists at all. Nothing is intrinsically good or bad.
  2. Admit that it exists, but deny that it ultimately matters… God is too loving and kind to condemn anyone. Just do your best to live right, and God will accept you.
  3. Admit that it exists, and that it matters (God hates sin!) and demand that the sinner do many good works to expiate all the bad works (penance, alms, service). God will accept you if you do enough good to overbalance all the bad.

Any of those three will result in the eternal loss of the adherent. Your faith will not save you if the object of your faith cannot save you. It matters who you trust and what you believe. If you trust in a crook, you lose your money; if you place your faith in a false God, or a false religion, or a false creed, or false principle, you lose your soul…you are eternally separated from God, in eternal punishment.

Truth is not dependent upon what people believe.

Truth is a fact, regardless of what anyone thinks:

  • Either God is Holy, or He is not.
  • Either He created all things, or He did not.
  • Either Man is a sinner, or he is not.
  • Either sin requires a blood-sacrifice for forgiveness, or it does not. (Doesn’t that sound primitive and gory? Surely we have progressed beyond such savagery… Doesn’t that argument sound familiar? “Ye shall not surely die…” Satan can sound pretty persuasive!) It doesn’t matter what I think about it—it either is true or it isn’t.

There is no middle ground. These are black-and-white issues. Truth does not depend upon public opinion. God addresses each of these questions numerous times in the Bible.

  • He clearly states, numerous times, that He is Holy. He cannot abide Sin.
  • He gives a fairly detailed account of the creation, with many later references to that historical fact, all pointing to the fact that He is the Creator, and has full authority over His creation.
  • He gives a detailed account of how man fell into sin, and many references to that historical fact, all agreeing that Man is a fallen creature, lost, apart from God’s Grace.
  • He demonstrated the blood sacrifice in Genesis chapter 3, accepted a blood sacrifice (and rejected a non-blood sacrifice) in Genesis 4, demanded a specific blood sacrifice in Exodus 12, and ultimately declared Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices, in John 1:29, and many other New Testament references. He concludes (Hebrews 9:22) that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”…and that only the blood of Christ can achieve the satisfaction of the Holiness of God. (1st John 2:2, cp. John 1:29)

Now: you can believe whatever you want to about these things. Only you can choose. But if you reject these truths, no one else can take the blame, either. You are fully responsible for your own choice.

Assuming that you have chosen to believe God, and have placed your trust in the shed Blood of Jesus Christ as full payment for your sins, then you have become a child of God, by the new birth. You are responsible to Him, personally. He has assigned you the job of being His ambassador to the lost world. You have been given a message to deliver. Two questions, then, remain:

  1. Do you know what that message is?
  2. Are you willing to deliver it?

Both are a yes-or-no issue, but we recognize that even if our answer is “yes” to both, there are degrees of practical competence involved. How well do I know the message? How willing am I to deliver it? There is always room for growth. We grow stronger with study and practice.

What is the Gospel? 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4 states the portions of the message that must be there:

  1. The death of Christ for our sins
  2. His burial (demonstrating that he was really dead, ) and
  3. His resurrection, demonstrating that he really is the savior.

If we leave out this message, or selected parts of it, then we are not delivering the message, period. When one claims to be “Preaching the Gospel”, but is circumventing the cross, they are NOT preaching the Gospel, and may be inviting people to avoid eternal life.

The whole message of salvation is wrapped up in the preaching of the Cross.

Paul’s message:

At Athens, though Paul had been preaching Christ faithfully in the Synagogue and in the marketplace, when he was called upon to speak publicly, he gave a “slick” sermon that has appealed to human reasoning down through the ages, ever since. It was NOT effective then, nor has it been effective when people have emulated it to any degree, since then. People do not come to Christ because of reasoning—they come to Christ because they believe the Gospel; they choose to place their trust in the Blood of Christ. The door to the truth is the will, not the intellect.

Paul left Athens immediately after delivering that sermon (no church was established there), and went to Corinth with a new resolve to “know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified”. He was resolved to “…preach the Gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the preaching of the Cross be made of none effect.” Has it occurred to you that we can “muddy the water” by our meddling with the truth, adding our arguments, our persuasion, etc.?

Paul delivered the message he was given. We need to do the same. Preach the cross of Christ. Do not make the Gospel more palatable by excluding the part people don’t want to hear. That is the part they desperately need.

What would the Passover be without the Passover lamb? Just a skimpy meal? The real Passover saved the believers because of the scarcely dry blood of that lamb, on the lintel and the two doorposts. The Cross, even 1500 years before Christ, was the salvation God prescribed. Do we like that? Not really, perhaps, but it is the simple truth. We cannot save ourselves, and God only offers one way whereby He, himself, can save us.

We either believe it, and are saved, or reject it and are lost. It’s a black-and-white choice.

And, as His emissaries, we either echo that message, offering that salvation to others; or we dampen and water down the message, and condemn our listeners. Again, it is a clear choice.

When we deliver a “comfortable” message, only preaching the goodness and grace of a loving God (which we all want to hear), then we ignore the holiness and judgment of a righteous God, and thus circumvent the Cross. The result is eternal loss. We have made people comfortable in their lost state, and convinced them that there is no need for a savior. Remember that John 3:16 states that “how” God loved the world was that he gave his only begotten son. (“…God so loved, that he gave…” The means of loving was the giving of Christ) Yes, we preach the love and grace of God—but we preach the Cross as the means of receiving that Love and Grace.

In Galatians 2:21, Paul said, regarding this very matter, “I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for, if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.” If you can approach God just by “being good”, then Jesus died for nothing…he wasted his life, and his death was pointless.

If you preach a message that circumvents the cross, then you declare that Jesus died for nothing; that his death was pointless. And if a church approaches God in that way, it is a false church, and leading its people to Hell. Sounds harsh…but it is the simple truth.

We don’t want to be accused of any such thing. We preach the Cross, and encourage our listeners to place their trust in the blood of Jesus as full payment for their sins. If you desire to be the ambassador God has called you to be, then learn the message, and start learning to deliver it.

God help us all to be the Men and Women of God that he has called us to be.