Allied Force Questions
VariousWhen we surveyed the congregation asking for their questions a few months ago, our high school ministry (called Allied Force) turned in their own set of questions. On October 12, the students joined me on the platform and participated in a live question-and-answer session. The questions that follow were taken from that Sunday and also from the list of questions the students submitted last spring.
1. How did Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard meet?
The story of our courtship and marriage begins with a simple prayer. One day my college roommate told me that he had started dating one of the nicest girls on campus. When I asked him how it happened, he said that he had prayed and asked the Lord to give him a pure girl to date. That seemed like a good idea to me so one night I knelt by my bed and prayed the very same prayer-"O Lord, please give me a pure girl to date.” I must confess that I didn’t put much stock in the prayer. I just prayed it because it worked for my roommate and I thought it might work for me. I prayed and promptly forgot all about it.
A few weeks later I began to notice a beautiful, vivacious, lively, attractive, friendly, outgoing girl who seemed to pop up everywhere I went on campus. It turned out that she was the secretary of the music department and had guys buzzing around her all day long. She was much too good for me even to think about dating her. But eventually I worked up the nerve to say hello and we struck up a casual acquaintance. The turning point came one Monday night when I came back to campus from leading a Word of Life Bible Club about 8:30 p.m. There was a basketball game in the gymnasium so I went over to see what was happening. When I walked in, I saw her in the stands-and in the providence of God (I mean that literally) the row to her left was empty. I walked up, turned on as much charm as I could muster and said, “Is anyone sitting here?” She said no, I sat down, and we began to talk. A few weeks after that we went out on our first date and several months after that began to date regularly. I do remember our first kiss. It happened one night on top of Lookout Mountain, which overlooks the beautiful Chattanooga valley.
About a year later I asked her to marry me and she said yes. Four months later we were married in Phoenix, Arizona. It wasn’t until we had been dating for some time that I remembered that simple prayer-"Lord, please give me a pure girl to date.” As I look back on our relationship, I’ve always believed that God brought us together in a direct answer to prayer. Last August we celebrated our 23rd anniversary together. Psalm 37:23 declares that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” and Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desire of your heart.” Both those verses have come true in my own life. My marriage is proof that God always gives more than we ask for and much more than we deserve.
2. If someone accepts Christ when they are young and don’t follow Christ, when they die do they go to heaven?
That’s a good question, isn’t it? After all, not everyone who “prays the prayer” or accepts Christ stays with the Lord. Some people seem to get sidetracked, others get discouraged, some drop out altogether, and a few get mixed up with false doctrine. And it’s certainly true that some people accept Christ but then return to their old sinful lifestyle.
What about people like that? The Bible tells us that the Lord knows those who belong to him. He knows his own children and calls them by name. Just as I know my three boys and can pick them out of a crowd, the Lord knows his own. And even when our children disappoint usóor even disown usónothing can separate them from us. Those whom God saves he saves forever. He never says, “You blew it. You’re not my child anymore.” The Lord knows his children, even if sometimes we don’t.
Oftentimes we won’t know if a person is a Christian or not because he has drifted so far away that his life gives no credible evidence of knowing Christ. In such cases I think we should adopt a basically agnostic attitude, which simply means that we pass no final judgments on professing Christians who stray from God for long periods of time. Only God knows, we don’t, and he will deal with each person fairly.
But what if you are the one who strayed away? If you are still away from the Lord even though you made some profession of faith years ago, I urge you not to trust in that profession but to turn from your sin and trust Jesus alone for your salvation. Don’t think that a momentary prayer can save you if it is followed by a life of selfish disobedience to God.
Some of you will be old enough to remember the slogan for Clairol Hair Coloring: “Only your hairdresser knows for sure.” Today we have too many “Clairol Christians"-"only the Lord knows for sure.” The answer for all of us is quite simple: Live so that no one can doubt the reality of your own commitment to Christ.
3. What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord of all?
The key is the word “Lord.” In the Bible it means “sovereign ruler,” “master,” “owner,” “one with total authority.” To call someone Lord is to acknowledge both his superior position and his right to rule over you. Two key passages come to mind. In John 20:28 Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” And in Philippians 2:9-11 Paul tells us that one day all creation will openly acknowledge that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Two points come to mind on the basis of these truths:
* Jesus is Lord already whether we acknowledge it or not.
* Someday everyone will acknowledge that fact-even the people who deny it today.
I conclude that it is better to acknowledge Christ as Lord now while you can do it voluntarily. In Luke 6:46 Jesus asked a penetrating question: “Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?” The proof of Lordship is obedience and the first step is always surrender to do His will.
I think teenagers especially need to make that surrender very personal. Romans 12:1 speaks of presenting your bodies as living sacrifices to God. Why does God want your body? Because if he’s got your body, he’s got you. After all, it’s our bodies that keep on getting us into trouble. Our tongues talk too much, our eyes look at wrong things, our ears listen to bad things, our feet take us to evil places, and sometime we use the most private parts of our body for purposes that do not glorify God.
God wants your body-all of it, all the time. This is the practical meaning of Lordship. I challenge each person to offer the parts of your body to God. Make it personal. Do it deliberately as an act of worship to God.
“Lord, here are my hands … my feet … eyes … ears … lips … mind … heart … my personal parts … I yield them now to you.”
4. How are youth important and valuable to the church?
This is an easy question to answer. Young people are the future of the church. You can catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s church by looking at the children and teenagers of today. If we neglect our youth, we are actually neglecting our future.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember your Creator while you are young.” Think of how many young people were used by God in the Bible.
* David who slew Goliath
* Samuel who heard the Lord’s voice
* Daniel who dared to be different in Babylon
* Joseph who withstood the pleas of Potiphar’s wife
* Esther who became Queen in Babylon
* Timothy who followed Paul in his ministry
* Josiah became king of Judah at age 8, ruled for 31 years and led a great revival.
* Mary and Joseph were probably teenagers when Jesus was born.
God has always used young people to do great things. Historians tell us that many great revivals have started first among young people. Why would that be so? Very often the young people are more open to God. They are looking for a cause to believe in.
“Let no one despise your youth,” said Paul to Timothy and I say that to all our teenagers. Don’t let anyone look down on you. Youth is the best time of life to decide for Christ! Most people who convert to Christ do so before the age of 18. Use these years to develop your Christian life. Don’t wait until you become an adult to serve the Lord. The church needs you, the world needs you, your friends need you, and Christ calls us to serve him. What a fantastic opportunity belongs to you. Sow seeds now that will reap a bountiful harvest in the years to come and throughout eternity.
5. I know you’re not supposed to be too busy and leave God out. But how do you know which things to cut out of your schedule?
This is really a question about the priorities of life. I’m impressed that you as a teenager are concerned about this. I can assure you that many adults struggle with this as well. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek God’s kingdom first and then “all these things” will be added to us. That means that when we put God first in our thinking, he promises to take care of everything else for us. Proverbs 3:5-6 also promises that when we trust in the Lord with all our heart, he will direct our path.
Many years ago I heard Grant Howard say that the question of priorities is not a list where God comes first, family comes second, and your job or your school comes third. Although many people think that way, it’s not the most helpful concept. It’s better to think of a circle with Christ as the center and all the areas of life around the edge. If Christ is in the right place, everything else will fit in place. But if Christ is anywhere but in the center, all of life will be slightly off-kilter.
Dawson Trotman of the Navigators used to talk about “The Wheel” illustration. It’s a similar concept with Christ as the hub and the five spokes of Bible study, prayer, obedience, fellowship, and evangelism.
But what things should you cut out of your schedule if things are getting too crowded? Think of the wheel illustration. Anything that hinders you from keeping Christ at the center or anything that interferes with the five spokes needs to be rearranged or removed from your life.
Ask God and he will show you what needs to be changed. Ask godly Christian friends and counselors for their wisdom. Remember, your schedule isn’t the problem. Jesus was very busy yet he was never in a hurry. You will always have plenty of time to do everything God wants you to do.
6. Will any religion that believes in God and Jesus go to heaven?
The answer may surprise you. But the Bible clearly says No! In Matthew 7:23-24 Jesus spoke of certain false prophets who would claim to preach and even work miracles in Jesus’ name. That is, they would say many of the right words but they never really trusted in Christ. In the day of judgment, Jesus will say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Second John 7 warns us that many deceivers have gone out into the world. These are so-called Christians who actually teach false doctrine and were never truly saved. In Acts 20:29-30 the Apostle Paul warns about false teachers who will actually come into the church and lead many people astray.
It’s never enough to simply say, “I believe in Jesus” because even the demons can say that (James 2:19). The Jesus you believe in must be the Jesus of the Bible. You must believe what the Bible says about him and then you must commit yourself to him without reservation-mind, emotions and will.
It’s never enough simply to believe because you can believe with all your heart in the wrong thing. If you eat rat poison because you sincerely think it’s a new kind of oatmeal, you may be sincere, but you’ll soon be sincerely dead. Poison is poison whether you know it or not.
The other side of the question is that those who truly believe in the Jesus of the Bible-the real Jesus who is the God-man who came from heaven to earth to be our Savior, the one who died on the cross, who rose from the dead, and who will one day return to reign over the earth-if you believe with all your heart in that Jesus, you will indeed go to heaven.
7. What about inter-racial marriage-What does the Bible say? Can you relate it to the Tower of Babel?
This is an important question that we don’t often address in church. First of all, let me say that interracial marriage is a non-issue biblically. It may surprise you to know that the Bible says nothing about races per se. That is, the modern concept of a “race” of people is not really a biblical concept. The Bible speaks of tribes and of nations, but not about races.
Here is the most important biblical truth: All humans are descended from Adam. Because of that, we all share a common humanity. That’s what Acts 17:26 means when it says that God has “made from one blood” all the nations of the earth. As far as the Tower of Babel is concerned (Genesis 11), that passage speaks of the confusion of languages, not of races. The various nations and language groups come from the dispersion at Babel-not the races as we know them today.
We can say clearly and definitely that there is no such thing as a superior race or an inferior race from God’s point of view. As descendants of Adam we all share the same heritage and stand on the same footing as bearers of God’s image.
Racism with its belief that certain races are inferior to others is an evolutionary concept, not a biblical one. Throughout the centuries it has been used by kings and dictators to justify the worst kinds of genocide and cruelty. In American history the idea of racial superiority has been used to justify slavery, segregation, and racial discrimination. But none of those ideas can be justified on the basis of the Bible because God’s Word does not teach discrimination on the basis of skin color or racial heritage.
Two other notes of interest. Interracial marriage is not condemned in the Bible. Moses married an Ethiopian woman. Miriam and Aaron criticized him for this and Miriam was struck with leprosy as a result (Numbers 12). Furthermore, no one can say what color Jesus was. Or Moses. Or Abraham. Or Noah. Or Adam.
There is only one prohibition on marriage given in the Bible. Believers must not marry unbelievers-1 Corinthians 7:39-40; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. This constitutes an “unequal yoke” that drags down the believer spiritually.
When a couple is considering marriage, many factors need to be examined carefully. It’s not wrong to think carefully about the impact of differing cultural backgrounds and heritage in making that decision. In a general sense, we can say that from God’s point of view, there is no such thing as inter-racial marriageóonly Christian marriage and non-Christian marriage. In the end it is far better for two believers from different cultures to marry than for a believer to marry an unbeliever of the same culture or ethnic background.
8. What’s going to happen to mankind?
Did you know that we now live in the most dangerous time in the history of the world? For the first time, we now possess the ability to destroy our entire planet. With the push of a few buttons, we can unleash a nuclear holocaust that will destroy life as we have known it. No other generation has had the awesome power of total self-destruction.
The Bible speaks of the “Last Days” when “perilous times” will come (2 Timothy 3:1). Matthew 24 and Luke 17 describe certain events that will take place in those same days. Here are some of the signs of the last days:
* A great apostasy
* Outbreak of evil
* Global economy and global government
* Rise of the antichrist
* Establishment of the nation of Israel
* Rebuilding of the Temple
* Worldwide preaching of the gospel
* Tension in the Middle East
It’s amazing to think that in our day all those things are in the process of happening before our very eyes. Remember, no one knows the day or the hour when Christ will return. He may come today or not for another 1000 years. But we are invited to look at the signs and observe the tempo of events.
Did you know that the New Testament mentions the Second Coming of Christ 380 times? It also calls his return “the Blessed Hope” of the believer. My advice to everyone is to “Keep Your Eyes on the Skies.” Jesus may come back today.
9. What is hell like?
In answering a question like this, our only source for reliable information we have to go on is the Word of God. Everything else is just speculation. The Bible uses a number of fearful images when it speaks about hell: total darkness, burning fire, weeping and wailing, a place of personal consciousness, a dark prison, a fire that burns but does not consume, and a lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
Today some people-including some Christians teach that at the moment of death the soul of an unbeliever is simply annihilated by God. But this is not the New Testament teaching. Jesus himself spoke about hell more than he spoke about heaven. And he used terms that indicate that hell is a real place of real torment where people who reject God will exist forever in a state of conscious torment away from the presence of the Lord. See Matthew 25:46, Luke 16:19-31, and Revelation 20:11-5 for more information on this subject.
I would add that we should never speak of hell in a joking matter because hell is no joke. It will be the eternal destiny of those who die without Christ. If that thought bothers you, then let it also motivate you to win your friends to the Lord.
10. Why did God pick Noah?
The story of Noah and the ark is one of the most captivating of all the Bible stories. Lately Marlene and I have been collecting Noah and the Ark pictures and have them hanging in our kitchen and dining room.
Here are a few facts about Noah. He lived in a generation that was entirely corrupt in God’s eyes (Genesis 6:1-8). In those days Noah “found grace” in the eyes of the Lord and walked with God in purity and truth. Because the earth had turned away from the Lord, he determined to destroy that entire generation and start over again. God used a worldwide flood to accomplish his purpose of judgment. For 120 years Noah preached, warning of God’s impending judgment, but until the very day that the floods came, the people refused to believe Noah. They went on eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage-in short, they disregarded God’s messenger (Matthew 24:38-39).
God directed Noah to build an ark-a large floating barge with the following dimensions (in feet): 450 x 75 x 45. Because of its low-slung design (similar to modern supertankers), it was extremely stable in the water. In today’s terms, the ark would hold the equivalent to 522 standard railroad cars.
Some have wondered how the ark could hold two of each species. No doubt Noah chose younger members of most species because they would need to reproduce after the flood. Most animals would have been smaller than an average sheep. Scientists have calculated that after loading two kinds of all land animals, only 60% of the space would have been used, leaving plenty of room for food storage. It’s also likely that most of the animals hibernated during the days of the flood. If someone asks how Noah and his sons took care of the refuse, either they simply shoveled it out or perhaps the animals did not produce as much during their ocean voyage. Genesis 8:1 tells us that God “remembered” Noah, which means that God supernaturally preserved him during the flood so that he and the animals would survive together.
Finally, let me point out that the New Testament in every reference to the flood always assumes Noah to be a literal person and the flood a true story. Every reference also clearly assumes that the flood covered the entire world.
With regard to lessons we can learn from Noah, here are three of them: 1) The danger of not being prepared for Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:38-39), 2) the power of faith to save an entire family (Hebrews 11:7), and 3) the certainty of God’s promises in the face of unbelieving scoffers (2 Peter 3:1-7).
11. Why doesn’t Calvary practice speaking in tongues?
Let’s begin by acknowledging that this is an area where sincere Christians disagree. For instance, we can’t believe that God wants to give every Christian the gift of tongues if they want it; agree on the definition of the gift, who gets it, or how it is used. Some people think the gift of tongues is not for today at all while others believe it might happen today and still others believe it is valid but not for everyone.
At Calvary our position is that God alone bestows the spiritual gifts and that no believer has all the gifts. We acknowledge that the Lord can give the gift of tongues to anyone he chooses. However, we also believe that an emphasis on this gift over other gifts is counterproductive to a healthy church life. We understand that tongues is one of the “lesser” gifts of the Spirit and not as valuable to the body as teaching or prophecy. Therefore, we oppose any effort to make tongues a test of spirituality or a mark of a close walk with God.
Having said that, we also acknowledge that some people in our fellowship believe that God has given them the gift of tongues. We don’t dispute that while at the same time we don’t affirm it either. We do believe that the gift of tongues must be exercised precisely in accordance with the guidelines laid down in 1 Corinthians 14.
I would say to everyone who wonders about thisóDon’t judge by what you hear or see. Judge everything by the Word of God. Test all things that claim to be from the Spirit, hold fast only to that which produces good fruit. Reject everything that gives any appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
We must avoid going to extremes when thinking about the gift of tongues. 1) If someone says they speak in tongues, don’t argue with them. You don’t have to explain anyone else’s personal experience. 2) If you believe you have been given this gift, thank God for it. But don’t make your personal experience the standard by which you judge other Christians.
To summarize, we do believe that tongues is a legitimate spiritual gift that God can give today if he chooses to do so. However, it is clearly prone to abuse because of its spectacular nature. It is not a mark of spiritual maturity nor is it as important as the gift of prophecy-which needs no translation. Nowhere does the Bible suggest that believers should seek to speak in tongues.
Here are some concluding thoughts: We need not fear believers whose practice may be different than ours. God can lead them just as he leads us. Second, every church has the right to determine what it will believe and practice. We personally don’t believe the gift of tongues is necessary for the healthy functioning of the local church. This doesn’t mean we rule it out but it does mean we don’t emphasize it or seek it.
When discussing controversial issues like this, it’s crucial that we love all believers and have cordial relationships with all God’s children. In short, my advice is that, whatever you believe about the gift of tongues hold your convictions, but hold them in love.
12. What should you do when you’re mad at God?
First of all, remember that most of us go through periods of being angry at God because we don’t understand why something bad has happened to us. I would suggest that it’s not wrong to be angry with God, but it is wrong to stay that way. Second, you might as well admit the truth. You don’t feel like God has treated you fairly. You can tell God that. It’s better to be honest with him than to keep your feelings bottled up inside. Remember, he already knows what you are thinking. Third, read the psalms as a way of dealing with your feelings. David often poured out his soul to God and confessed his pain and frustration to the Lord. Use the psalms as a means of praying to God. Finally, remember the first truth of the spiritual life: He is God and you are not. Perhaps you feel that God has made a mistake and that you would have done things differently if you were the Lord. In the end you will have no peace until you let God be God in your life and affirm that he is Lord. This won’t necessarily be easy or happen quickly but there will be no rest in your soul until you decide that God is God and you are not.
13. How far can we go physically in a dating relationship without sinning against the Lord?
I remember wondering about this when I was a teenager. I believe most Christian teenagers truly want to do what is right in this area if only someone would give them good advice. In the old days we used to talk about certain rules for dating, such as the “18-inch rule” or the ’nothing below the neck rule” or the “keep it vertical” rule. Unfortunately, whenever you lay down a rule like that someone (usually two people at the same time) will push the limit to see how far they can go without stepping over the line. And even if you don’t push the limits, those rules only deal with outward behavior-not with the motives of the heart.
I think we can say that it’s normal and natural that girls and guys should be attracted to each other. As we grow up and our bodies mature, it’s only proper that we should want to spend time with the opposite sex. What I’m suggesting is that the desire for closeness, for intimacy and even the desire to express your affection physically is not necessarily wrong. It may simply be a sign that you are becoming an adult and coming closer to the time when you can make a lifetime commitment to another person.
While the Bible doesn’t give us hard and fast rules about physical touching, it does lay down some very useful principles. For instance, we know that it is wrong to do or say (or wear) anything that has the impact of producing lust in another person’s heart. The Bible also speaks of “defrauding,” which means to create a desire in someone else that cannot be righteously fulfilled. Sometimes guys and girls flirt with each other in a way that ignites feelings and thoughts that lead in the wrong direction. While it is true that each of us must be responsible for our own behavior, it’s also true that I must take responsibility for not leading someone in a wrong direction. This touches the whole area of provocative dress, aggressive flirting, suggestive comments, and seductive actions. Some things that might be good and proper within a marriage relationship (because they prepare a couple for the act of physical intercourse) are inappropriate for dating couples.
But there is an even deeper issue at stake here. The Bible reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. In some way we cannot fully understand, God himself dwells in us and his light shines through us to a watching world.
Let me explain. I know that many of our teenagers wear a letter jacket from the local high school. Those sweaters identify them with that school. If you see the jacket, you think of the school and what it represents. The public reputation of the school rests on how you personally conduct yourself in public. Whenever you put on your letter jacket, you take the name of your school wherever you go.
By the same token, each of us wears an invisible letter sweater labeled “Jesus Christ.” Although we can’t see it, your unsaved friends can see it clearly. His name is stamped indelibly on your life. Everything you do and say reflects either positively or negatively on the Lord. His public reputation is in your hands every day.
Now take that principle into your dating relationships. You carry the name of Jesus with you on every date. If you will remember that, you’ll have no problem in the area of physical intimacy. Do everything for his glory and you will have nothing to apologize for when the date is over. This truth is worth more than a thousand rules.
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Sermons I Always Wanted To Hear
» SEE SERMONS IN THIS SERIES
Real Christian vs. Religious John 3
How Can I Learn to Forgive? Matthew 18:21-35
What Happens When We Die? Hebrews 9:27
Can I Lose My Salvation? Philippians 1:6
What About Creation and Evolution? Genesis 1:1
What Does it Mean to be Filled With the Spirit? Ephesians 5:18
What Does the Bible Say About Divorce and Remarriage? Matthew 19:1-12
How Can I Discover God's Will For My Life? Proverbs 16:9
When is Jesus Coming Back? Matthew 24:32-51
Allied Force Questions Various
What is Heaven Like? Philippians 3:20-21
If God is Good, Why Do I Hurt? Job 23:10» Index for this sermon series