Pascal’s Wager (You Wanna Bet?!)

11/01/2014 § Leave a comment

Pascal’s Wager (Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662) caught my attention because of its unique “game show-like” approach in philosophy. His position of simplicity makes the assumption that each person must ultimately come to a reckoning about God’s existence (or non-existence) and His relevance (or lack thereof) to one’s life.  It was formed under a Christian apologetic framework that did not give an option of backing away from a choice just because one does not have answers one way or the other. (More on this later as to its relevance to the unbeliever making a decision for Jesus Christ.)  It makes the assumption that (1) God exists and (2) that there is an eternity as He is eternal, and (3) that an eternity with God is a great outcome and a preferable alternative over a person’s non-existence or an existence of separation from God.

A quick logical summary of Pascal’s Wager:

1.  “God is, or He is not”

2.  A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.

3.  According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

4.  You must wager (it is not optional).

5.  Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.

6.  Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

7.  But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves. [1]

I’m not a gambler by any stretch, but the “wager” aspect of Pascal’s argument is one of its major strengths.  It rings true when you consider the decision-making opportunities of an unbeliever of Jesus Christ.  Every day that goes by for the unbeliever is a calculated risk when no decision is made in acknowledgment of Christ as personal Lord and Savior.  Without the intervention of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, a person (the flesh) is incapable of making a decision for Jesus Christ (John 15:26-27; 16:8-11, 13); however, from the moment that the Holy Spirit provides sufficient knowledge and consciousness to a person who has yet to commit to Christ, that is essentially the moment when he or she becomes a “risk taker” as to their eternal destiny.  Can we assume that the rich man in Luke (16:19-31) knew enough about God but chose to take the fateful risk each day of loving himself and his wealth?

The weakness of Pascal’s treatise can be seen in its general criticism that it was insufficient in its explanation of who God is (or even His presence) even though he clearly presented God from a moralistic argument. [2]  His critics were largely atheists and agnostics who dismissed his argument altogether; however, they all missed the point.  Pascal’s point no. 7 (above) is an excellent one.  Even if one does not understand God or question His presence, there is no reason to not “try” to understand (Proverbs 4:7). God only asks for a person to seek and that He would provide the answers (Matthew 7:7-8). In other words, there is no excuse for not seeking Him.  Those that choose to dismiss God’s presence in spite of the realization of nature are taking the ultimate risk:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  Romans 1:20 NLT

When I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, my knowledge of God was at a level somewhere between naivete and infancy.  Once you acknowledge Him, you gain the ability to learn more and more about Him and His ways through faith in those moments you remain in fellowship with Him because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  All of this is a matter of faith.   Agnostics dismiss faith in something that they cannot conceptualize, while atheists deny God altogether and put all of their “faith” in self:

“An atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment.” [3]

I wonder if Pascal had a dialogue with a non-believer who says there is no God and he responded with, “You wanna bet?!”  If I were to present this to a non-believer, I would take the approach that Pascal conveys in his concept:  “What do you have to lose?” and “Try it…you’ll like it!”  A failure to make a commitment would continually challenge the non-believer’s sensibilities in the potential to miss out on eternal happiness in Christ–the essence of lostness (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10, 23).  Some people, however, will make the choice to reject Christ and live according to their flesh (where Pascal says you haven’t lost anything). [4] The person who does not believe there is a God can live a life without a moral foundation, but this comes down to the “you’d better be right” assertion, for the other side of that is being lost for all eternity if God does indeed exist.  By Pascal claiming that the non-believer must make a sincere choice (your wager, please), it presents a serious dilemma.

In my humble opinion, having a person consider Christ will take some time if there has not been given any consideration to who He is and what He is about.  The moment that a person senses that the messenger is exerting pressure or coercion over allowing for a thought process to take place would push virtually anyone away.  A non-believer should always get the sense that Jesus’ burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30), but allow for the Spirit and the Word to do the “heart surgery” necessary to compel the non-believer to make a decision for Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:12-13).

In summary, I was intrigued with Pascal’s Wager as a method to present a non-confrontational message to a non-believer.  Even though we are challenged to go and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20), we do not have the burden of explaining everything there is to know about God (because we can’t)–all we are called to do is bring it (and let the Spirit take care of the rest).

 

1 Article – Pascal’s Wager (n.d). From Wikipedia. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal’s_Wager

2 Blaise Pascal, Pensées, part III, p. 59; Published 1958 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. Boston MA http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm

3 Quote – Murray v. Curlett, American Atheist Center (n.d.), Copyright 2014 – American Atheists, Inc., Cranford NJ, Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://atheists.org/about-us

4 Lecture – Vernon Caston (n.d.). Week 2 Lectures, p. 8 – Topics in Philosophy CST5225, Crown College, St. Bonifacius MN

Advertisements

The Prince of Peace

05/17/2013 § Leave a comment

Text from message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, March 24, 2013:

In order to win friends and influence people, you need to be friendly, courteous, and good-natured.  It is much more difficult to convey friendliness when you are mean-spirited.  Your messages to others are best received when there is an underlying calm instead of those delivered with nervousness and tension.  It’s true that words used that are normally perceived as being courteous can have their meaning changed if they are spoken with forcefulness and with a negative intensity.  In order to have a positive influence on others, you need to show yourself as peaceful and approachable.  True, effective leadership rules with love and not with tyranny.

Jesus came to earth because He loved His greatest creation—mankind.  He wanted to reach them and culminate His plan of salvation and create the opportunity for everyone to have fellowship with Him for all eternity.  He would do so with His message of love and peace.

Luke 2:10-14

10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!

His plan was to bring peace to those persons that recognized Him as Lord and Savior.  This is exactly what the gospel message is all about.

Fast forward to just a week before Jesus rose from the dead after His crucifixion, He was traveling with His disciples to Jerusalem at the culmination of His ministry on earth.  One of His comments as He approached Jerusalem, the main city of the Israelites, reflected His love for the Jewish people, the chosen nation, and at the same time His frustration with the people because of their inability to recognize who He was to them—their Savior of peace.

Luke 19:41-42

41 As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

His entry into Jerusalem in what we recognize today as the celebration of Palm Sunday.  It was a day of great celebration for the people who acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah—the Savior of their people; yet, Jesus lamented that those who saw Him yet chose to ignore Him as the Messiah were already suffering from spiritual blindness.

Isaiah had already made the same declaration about Israel in the midst of His prophecy of Jesus’ coming.

Isaiah 42:18-22

18 “Listen, you deaf!
Look, you blind, so that you may see.
19 Who is blind but My servant,
or deaf like My messenger I am sending?
Who is blind like My dedicated one,
or blind like the servant of the Lord?
20 Though seeing many things, you do not obey.
Though his ears are open, he does not listen.”

21 The Lord was pleased, because of His righteousness,
to magnify His instruction and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and looted,
all of them trapped in holes
or imprisoned in dungeons.
They have become plunder
with no one to rescue them
and loot, with no one saying, “Give it back!”

Note Jesus’ words to the physically blind man who had previously spoken to the Pharisees about Jesus’ healing power, and the response of the Pharisees:

John 9:35-41

35 When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked.

37 Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.”

38 “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.

39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.”

40 Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and asked Him, “We aren’t blind too, are we?”

41 “If you were blind,” Jesus told them, “you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’—your sin remains.

In spite of Israel’s continual inability to maintain a relationship with God all throughout their history and even see the true Messiah with their very eyes, Jesus still declared His love for His people.  He came to them in peace because He knew that those who would follow Him would do so with His message of peace.  He also knew that those who would not accept Him would cause division.

Luke 12:49-54

49 “I came to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze! 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how it consumes Me until it is finished! 51 Do you think that I came here to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on, five in one household will be divided: three against two, and two against three.

53 They will be divided, father against son,
son against father,
mother against daughter,
daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law,
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus came to us in peace, but the results of His ministry were anything but peaceful.  He reached many people with His message of peace beyond human understanding, and he also brought change that stirred the people towards a true worship and fellowship with God—much to the consternation of the Jewish religious leadership.

Matthew 21:1-11

1 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
even on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”
 (Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9)

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
 (Psalm 118:25-26)

10 When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!”

There are several items of note to consider with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.

1.  The donkey

Jesus chose the donkey because it was a humble way to enter the city.  It was an Eastern tradition that the donkey was an animal of peace.  Most kings or noblemen used horses in the day, which symbolically represented a declaration or presence of war.  The donkey was more of a communication that Jesus came in peace with a message of peace.  He came as the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor,
 Mighty God,
Eternal Father,
 Prince of Peace.

2.  The clothing and the palm branches

In many lands in the ancient Eastern region, it was customary to cover the path of someone who was worthy of honor.  This honor was bestowed upon Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, in 2 Kings 9:13.  In Jesus’ case, there were people putting their clothing on the ground along with cut palm branches (from the Greek word phoinix).  There was an existing Jewish tradition—the Feast of Tabernacles—that involved the use of palm branches as part of the celebration (Leviticus 23:40).

In Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, the palm branch was also viewed as a symbol of victory and triumph.  In ancient Egyptian religion, the palm was carried in funeral processions as a representation of eternal life.  It later became a symbol of Christian martyrdom as a symbol of spiritual victory over death.  Take a look at Revelation 7:9 for another significant use of palm branches:

Revelation 7:9

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.

Jesus entered the city with humility and the people responded to Him as royalty.  Imagine His presence with the showering of clothing and palms with the joyous shouts of the people.  What a glorious moment it must have been for the people!  It was a celebration, and He was the reason for the celebration.

3.  The use of the word “Hosanna”

Hosanna comes from the use of similar words in both Greek and Hebrew to mean “save” or “rescue” (possibly “Savior”).

Psalm 118:25

Lord, save us!
Lord, please grant us success!

Mark 11:8-10

Many people spread their robes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
10 The coming kingdom
of our father David
 is blessed!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

The people who saw Jesus were making a public declaration—with a loud shout—that He was the Messiah that brought salvation to their people.  He was the provision, and it would be less than a week from that time when Jesus was the One who would sacrifice Himself for their sin in order to them to receive eternal life.  He was the Lamb without blemish who was slain for all of us.

John 3:16-17

16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

When we look at Palm Sunday, the traditional beginning of Holy Week, let us remember the symbolic significance of the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem—the very nature of who Jesus is to each of us and how much He gave to us:

  • The One who loves His people unconditionally
  • His example of humility
  • His deity as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (clothing dropped before Him)
  • The representation of eternal life (the palm branches)
  • His presence of peace that surpasses all understanding

John 14:27

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.

In a few short days, the joyful celebration experienced that day would be a distant memory because of the shocking development when Jesus went to the cross.  No one, at that time, would understand why it happened or that it even had to happen the way it did, but we all know today that it had to happen in order for Him to provide salvation from our sins.  His holiness, through the sacrificial blood of Christ, covers our sins.  He saves His people.  It all started with how Jesus loved us, and He still loves us—each and every one of us.  It is a reason to celebrate Jesus Christ for everything He has done for us.  Hosanna in the highest!

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Searching For Truth

02/27/2011 § Leave a comment

Updated 03.02.2011 – mp3 audio file links for this message are available for download at my other blog, Psalm 37:4.

Do you recall the last time that you were searching around for your car keys?  Was it just the other day that you were hunting around for your cell phone because you could not find where you had last put it down?  Maybe it was your wallet, where you keep your driver’s license.  Don’t leave home without it!  For those times you misplaced your glasses, you really struggled finding them because your eyesight is the reason you had to get glasses in the first place!

All of us have lost something that we need to find as soon as possible in order to be able to continue with our day, or even just feel better because what you thought was lost was not really lost at all.  The process of searching for something can be a very casual search, or a frantic search where you are flipping seat cushions and bed covers, or something in between.

While none of us looks forward to searching for a lost item, we should relish looking for those things that reveal truth in the midst of a very confusing world.  The search for truth can be relatively straightforward, for example, it occurs to you while you are looking for your keys that you left them in your coat pocket, and while your keys are not yet located, you know where to go to find them.  Some searches for truth for some of us are not as simple.  There are still others where the search for truth is hampered by constraints of the world.  Their search is one of futility because they do not know where to go or which way to turn next.  The search process is now fraught with disappointment and despair.  The search for truth can be as simple as the search when you absolutely know where to look, or it can be utterly mystifying and confusing.

A search requires effort on your part.  Searching for truth requires effort, as well.  Jesus certainly knew that there would be many people today seeking the truth about Him or the truth about salvation and what it means to trust in Him as your personal Savior.  With all of this, He provides us with some guidelines as we search for truth in this world.  Let’s “search” the Scriptures in seeking his advice.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

The search for truth has some basic components that are within the search process.  The first of these is relatively straightforward…to ask for information.  We must be prepared to ask questions in order to receive answers that will guide us into truth.  In the process of asking questions, we should always challenge ourselves to make sure that we are in the proper learning environment.  All of us would agree that we would want the best possible environment for our children when it comes to education.  We would not want to settle for anything less than a quality education for them.  If that is the case, then why would you settle for a church that is short on teaching ability and that does not provide that same quality for you?  You make the distinction and determination that you are in the best learning environment in church by asking questions.  Once you hear the answers, now you can note them and test their veracity as you are challenged to do according to God’s Word:

Acts 17:10-12

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men.

Asking questions during bible studies or Sunday school classes will most certainly confirm, with the proper scriptural fact checking, whether or not you are in the proper environment for seeking God’s truth in His Word.  The Spirit guides us into truth if we are paying attention to Him.  Jesus promises that when we ask, we will receive the answers that we need through the Spirit.

John 16:13

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.  For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears.  He will also declare to you what is to come.”

Jesus also advises us to seek what we are looking for, and there will come a point where what we are looking for will be found.  Notice that Jesus does not immediately proclaim that you are to seek Him directly, but what you will find is that the more you actually search through the Scriptures, the likelihood is that you will come to the same conclusion:

John 5:39

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.

This verse points to the fact that while you may be studying scripture and asking questions, it is important to note that you could be looking directly at Jesus Christ and missing the important message that He is trying to communicate.  Matthew Henry’s commentary of this verse is that even though the Jews were scholars and believed that they had everything they needed because they had God’s Word in their hands, they still neglected God’s true message and had lost their love for God.  Many may believe they are very religious, and yet they sadly do not love or even know Jesus in a relational way.

It is important to not only seek, but to keep seeking—to continue to look for the truth.  It may take several attempts before you make the discovery, but the key to all of this is persistence.  Persistence requires a desire to get to a place in your search where you are completely satisfied with the results.  In order to get to that point, you must keep seeking…keep looking for answers.  The answers come from Scripture, and as we seek the truth, we should have the desire to seek it even more.

Psalm 1:1-3

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

The search for truth requires asking for information, seeking answers to your questions, and another act of persistence, knocking.  The act of knocking, specifically in Matthew 7 on a door, is to create a sound that brings attention to the one who is creating the noise.  To knock on the door is to alert someone on the other side that you wish to obtain entry to a place that you cannot readily access without the door being opened for you.  Logically, if you could open the door and enter the room, there is no need to knock.

Why the reference of knocking and the door will be opened?  This is also an example of persistence and also endurance.  The door being knocked on is considered to be an obstacle.  The obstacle can be perceived as a small thing, or it can be a very great trial.  Of the commentaries that you may review in looking at this verse, there are references to the combination of prayer to God, persistence, and endurance with the act of knocking on the door.  You continue to knock on the door until it is opened.  Let’s look at the parallel verse, which gives a more detailed example of this:

Luke 11:5-9

5 He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

The opening of the door allows you to enter into a place of rest and security in the Lord.  An open door after persistent knocking brings on a sense of relief and satisfaction.  If you notice closely in the verse that the Lord promises that He will open the door…not that he might open it or could open it…He will open the door.  This is a promise that He gives to each of us who remain persistent in seeking Him, endure hardships to fellowship with Him, and look for ways to understand Him in the best way possible.

Notice that this is exactly what Jesus Christ wants you to do in your efforts to seek Him.  To keep asking questions, to keep seeking understanding, to continue to pray in earnest through your hardships until the time He responds to you.  Seeking the truth means that you are doing much more than just learning about Jesus Christ—you are learning that the actions of asking, seeking, and knocking mean that you are seeking a living Christ…the Messiah…the God who knows all about you while you are continually learning more about Him, learning how to love Him as He already loved you.

Romans 5:8

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

John 3:16

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9-10

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (sacrifice) for our sins.

Seeking truth is all about seeking Jesus.  We are to never cease from seeking Him, for the more we learn about Jesus Christ, the more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that we will receive from Him through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.


Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

A Clear Conscience in the Holy Spirit

05/16/2010 § Leave a comment

Have you ever heard the famous quote, ‘Always let your conscience be your guide?’ Do you know whom that quote is attributed to?  If you guessed Jiminy Cricket, you are absolutely correct.  This phrase was made famous in the Disney movie Pinocchio in 1940.  ‘Let your conscience be your guide’ has been quoted in other plays and movies since its introduction in Pinocchio 70 years ago, but the essence of that quote, your conscience, is much older than that.  In fact, having a conscience is as old as Adam and Eve.

The definition of the word ‘conscience,’ (WordNet Dictionary, Princeton University), is a motivation that is derived logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person’s thoughts and actions.  Note, in addition, that it also refers to a person’s own sense of right conduct, and it also means that your conscience will trigger within you a feeling of shame or recognition that something wrong has occurred.  We all know that feeling very well, and Adam and Eve knew it, too.

Genesis 3:1-7

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

It was at this very moment that Adam and Eve knew the feeling of shame (they realized that they were naked, which up until then was no big deal), and they knew they had to cover themselves up.  They now were aware of both good and evil, and each of them now had a conscience.

Because Adam and Eve succumbed to sin and disobedience, we all have a conscience to go along with the propensity to commit sin.

Now, at first blush, you may conclude that having a conscience, in other words, knowledge of good and evil, is necessary to distinguish things that are right, and things that are wrong.  On the surface, that’s true.  A conscience will alert you to those very things.  One needs to keep in mind, however, that it is not just having the knowledge of right and wrong that is important—it is also what you do with that knowledge.  If you recall, we also learned that a conscience is also what one can determine as right or wrong in his or her own eyes.  It is because of who we are, and our war with the flesh, our perception of right and wrong is invariably skewed because of our propensity to be subject to sin.

Since we were talking about Jiminy Cricket and letting your conscience be your guide, hears what R.C. Sproul had to say about conscience:

“It was Jiminy Cricket who said, ‘Always let your conscience be your guide.’ This is good advice if our conscience is informed and ruled by the Word of God. However, if our conscience is ignorant of Scripture or has been seared or hardened by repeated sin, then Jiminy Cricket theology is disastrous.” – R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (page 151).

Even Scripture refers to both the good and weak-minded conscience where the differences in successes and failures are quite clear:

2 Samuel 24:10

David’s conscience troubled him after he had taken a census of the troops. He said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I’ve done. Now, Lord, because I’ve been very foolish, please take away Your servant’s guilt.”

1 Corinthians 8:12

Now when you sin like this against the brothers and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ.

Psalm 16:7-8

I will praise the Lord who counsels me—even at night my conscience instructs me.  I keep the Lord in mind always.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Romans 9:1

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit.

Since our conscience is highly susceptible to fleshly influences and sinful propensities, we need something more to help us overcome what comes all too naturally for us.  We need more than our conscience to overcome the flesh.  We need the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who empowers us with His living Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Without Jesus Christ, we have the same fate that Adam and Eve experienced once they transgressed against God…separation from God.  Sin separates us from God’s very presence because sin is rooted in ungodliness, while God is holy.

Genesis 3:23

So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove man out, and east of the garden of Eden He stationed cherubim with a flaming, whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.

Sin separates us from God, and full-blown sin leads to death…not just physical death, but also spiritual death.  It is our eternity that is at stake.

Matthew 10:28

Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Our eternal destiny is sealed in our belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, but it is also our assurance that we have an Advocate that covers our sin.  We need an Advocate because our conscience alone does not cover our sins.  God knew, from the very beginning, that all of us would need a Savior.

1 John 2:1

My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One.

Our conscience needs reinforcement.  Where does this reinforcement come from?  The Holy Spirit is the living Spirit of God that is always present in the life of the believer.  God’s Word gives us instruction that helps us to see things from God’s perspective instead of in our own perspective.  Both God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are the guiding forces as we navigate through life and learn how to live our lives according to His will.  Your conscience will only take you so far in that direction; in fact, it does not necessarily lead you to the things of God.  Remember, your conscience makes you aware of good and evil, but it also allows for the flesh in your life to determine what is good and evil, and the flesh, in all circumstances, has nothing to do with the things of God.

Matthew 16:23

But He (Jesus) turned and told Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.”

Romans 7:18

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

We need both the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to beef up our sense of right and wrong and lead us into holy living.  Why both?  The Holy Spirit focuses on the things of God and teaches you as you speak to others and make decisions.  God’s Word, the Bible, provides the information that gives you insight into how God can truly help you to rely more and more upon the Holy Spirit and conform to His will in everything that you do.

John 14:26

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Even with the presence of God’s instruction through His Word and the Holy Spirit, we are still reminded to pray to withstand and overcome temptation and the flesh that we will always experience as long as we are in the world.

Matthew 26:41

Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, operating through the saving grace of Jesus Christ, teaches you how to be holy and not rely just upon the flaws of relying only on your conscience.  He calls us as His people because He has higher expectations for us in our pursuit of Spirit-filled living.

Leviticus 20:26

You are to be holy to Me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine.

1 Peter 1:15

…but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct…

Of course, all of this is a moot point unless you have Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.  No standard of living without Christ is sufficient because we cannot be holy without His loving, saving grace.

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Have you stopped and reflected on the significance of the presence of the Holy Spirit as a believer in Jesus Christ as your personal savior?  Without Christ, we are unable to meet God’s holy standard of goodness.

We need to continue prayerfully that we can live beyond what is considered worldly and live according to what is godly.  God’s standard is the standard that we must continually seek, above and beyond our mere conscience.

Colossians 3:5-10

Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator.

Psalm 24:3-5

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in His holy place?  The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Your conscience is clear as long as you are relying on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

2 Corinthians 13:13

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB® and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.

No Greater Love

03/30/2010 § 1 Comment

Good Friday is a sacred day for Christians as we contemplate the depth and breadth of when Jesus died on the cross.  It is an event that we sometimes need to give greater attention as it is not a holiday in the sense of taking the day off of work, but it truly is a holy day.

The events of this day make up what we refer to as Good Friday, a day that, on the surface, seems to be the definition of anything but “good,” but in reality, the death and burial of Jesus Christ is the beginning of the events that brought about the opportunity for each and every one of us to experience eternal life.  It is all about the measure of God’s goodness in that He felt that we were worth the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

First, we are to understand that Jesus’ death was far from an accident.  While at first glance Jesus’ death was the result of a mob of angry dissenters bent on His destruction, it was actually part of God’s plan for eternal life for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.  Remember that Peter tried to defend Jesus when He was about to be captured, but Jesus responded in Matthew 26:53-54—

Matthew 26:53-54

Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”

Consider that Jesus spoke these very words in John 17:1-5:

John 17:1-5

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ. I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.”

John 17:24

“Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.”

Jesus was to complete the work that was planned all along on this sacred day with His death on the cross.  It is clear that Jesus is speaking from the timeframe of BEFORE the occupation of man populating the earth, which means that we were part of the plan for salvation before Adam and Eve existed!

One cannot begin to measure the magnitude of what Jesus’ death on the cross involves except to conclude that His death on the cross was an act of benevolence and eternal love.  His act of love was an act of obedience to His Heavenly Father, and His love for the Father also transcends to love for each and every one of us.  Listen to these words in John chapter 15 that speak of this love for us a deep, sincere friendship that is born out of obedience to the words of His Father:

John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: love one another.”

John 17:26

“I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.”

The love of Jesus is a love that is far from the sadness that one would experience from a lack of understanding of what actually happened to Jesus on Good Friday—the love of Jesus for us should bring about a true joy in our understanding of Him and of our growing relationship with Him.  Without His death on the cross, we would not have the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised for us to live within us.  Without His death He could not demonstrate to the world’s believers the ability to overcome death by rising from the dead.  All of these things were part of the plan of God for all of us, and they were done out of love.  Even when Jesus was being nailed to the cross, He asked His father to forgive those involved for their sin, because He loved them.  True love is to forgive even when you have been hurt.

Do you see the lessons that Jesus gives us on Good Friday?

  • Keeping promises
  • Sacrifice
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Joy

We do not have to wait until Easter Sunday to experience the joy of a risen Savior.  We can experience joy today in that Christ paid for our sins by dying on the cross one time that sacred day, and we believe in Him and will have life ever after with Him because of His amazing love.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with eternal life at Melvin Gaines.