Ask Your Preacher
Would you please give me an overview of John chapter 11? I know that it is telling us that death does not have the final say for those of us who are children of God, but I need a better understanding.
Dear Explanation Please,
John chapter 11 is about the resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus lived in Bethany and had two sisters, Mary and Martha (Jhn 11:1). Lazarus became sick, and they sent word for Jesus (Jhn 11:3); Jesus purposefully delayed in coming to care for Lazarus (Jhn 11:6), so this event could glorify God (Jhn 11:4).
Eventually, Jesus traveled to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead (Jhn 11:11). The key verse to the whole chapter is Jhn 11:25 where Jesus refers to Himself as “the resurrection and the life”. Lazarus’ resurrection became a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Many believed in Jesus because of the miraculous resurrection (Jhn 11:45), and conversely, the Pharisees began to seriously plot Jesus’ murder because of the popularity He gained from Lazarus’ resurrection (Jhn 11:47, Jhn 11:53). Lazarus’ resurrection was a real event that pointed to the real power of Jesus to save.
Why is it important that we have to say the Greek word for this or the Hebrew word for that is translated to mean this?
Dear Speak English,
It isn’t necessary to know the Greek or Hebrew words found in the Bible. Reading in the original language adds color, but you don’t have to know Greek/Hebrew to learn God’s will. However, you do need to be willing to dig in, compare verses, look up definitions, etc. Understanding the Bible is about being a student of God’s Word, and all students have to do their homework.
Even the hardest passages can always be understood by comparing them to the sum of God’s teachings (Ps 119:160). If you run into a difficult-to-understand passage (even Peter said that some Scripture is hard to understand – 2 Pet 3:16), it takes work to dig in and compare the other verses, but you can find the truth on the subject.
Anyone can understand the Bible in their own language, but that doesn’t mean everyone will just understand the Bible because doing so takes work. God tells us that we must hunger and thirst after righteousness if we want to be filled (Matt 5:6). He also says that it takes a love for the truth to be saved (2 Thess 2:10). That hunger and love will lead people to the truth.
I have a question that is somewhat troubling to me. Two friends of mine were having a debate about politics and religion, and one of them said that God hates the unrighteous. Put so point blank, it really made me think, and I did some reading online, searching Christian sites to see what people have to say about it and received further conflicting messages.
I know God hates sin, but God sent out His word to everyone in the world. The unsaved reject it, but it was sent to them. So how can He have tried to save people He hated? Does He hate them? If He does hate sinners, how does that go together with Jesus’ admonitions to love thy enemy and what He says about a doctor not coming for those already healthy but rather for those who are sick? Jesus and God are one, so clearly, if God hating the sinner is true, it goes to together somehow, but I don’t understand how.
I read someone’s comment that said, “A man who steals is a thief. God hates the thief who steals”, and yet, Jesus sought out thieves to save them.
This question is very troubling to me. I know everything God does is right, but somehow it is very hard to accept the plain statement ‘God hates the unsaved’. I know the unsaved will go to hell, and I know justice is very important to God, but again, Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost are one, and there so many instances of compassion in the Bible that it’s hard to believe He just hates them, and that’s it. Or am I just having troubling believing this because I don’t want to believe it?
Not A Hater
Dear Not A Hater,
The Lord loves people but hates sin. God tells us it is appropriate to be happy when evil is destroyed because it means righteousness is prevailing (Pr 28:28), but God also says that it pains Him when the wicked perish (Ezek 18:23). Here is the problem – when a person's life becomes so intertwined with sin that the sin has become the essence of who they are, God hates that. Ps 5:5, Ps 11:5, Lev 20:23, and Pr 6:16-19 makes that clear.
Think of it this way, if you saw someone push a small child, would you be upset at the action or upset at the person? The answer is both. The action came from the person and originated from their character. All sin is that way. God doesn't inherently hate people, but when someone consistently rebels against God, hurts others, spreads lies, and harms God's work here on Earth... God's anger extends to both the sins and the people who flagrantly commit them. They have chosen to put their lives in opposition to Him, and as much as it pains Him, He must consider them enemies.
I have a younger group of friends, and I love them, but one of them has already been married, left their spouse, and divorced them (not for scriptural reasons), and I have a second friend who is currently no longer living with their spouse and is going to divorce their spouse (not for scriptural reasons). It absolutely breaks my heart that they are doing this because marriage is such a blessing, a blessing that God instructed us not to dissolve unless there has been unfaithfulness by a spouse.
Having been at both friends’ weddings, I was a "witness" to their marriage, not to mention I have known them for so long that I want what is the very best for them. One friend is already divorced (a couple years ago), but what should I do, if anything, about my second friend? I worry so much for them and what consequences this will bring upon them.
Any advice you have will really help me greatly! Thank you!
Dear Struggling Friend,
It is such a difficult thing when we see others we love doing that which is so very harmful to their souls. What does the Bible teach to do in such matters? Here are a couple of principles to consider:
- Pr 23:23 says to “Buy the truth, and do not sell it.” The truth must always be more important to you than anything else, and you can’t compromise the truth and sell it out just to preserve a friendship… no matter how dear they are to you (Lk 14:26). In no way can you compromise your morals by saying that what they have done is no big deal or somehow okay. They have chosen to sin – plain and simple.
- The Bible also teaches that we should have mercy on those that are turning from the Lord and seek to snatch them from the fire and hate the sin at the same time (Jude 23). Being Christ-like means intertwining both the hatred of sin and the love of man together.
- You must also be careful to not compromise your own conscience. If you feel that doing things with them is sending the message that you don’t care about this sin and somehow approve of their decision, then you must obey your own conscience (1 Tim 1:5). How close or distant to be when a friendship is strained by sinful choices is a matter of wisdom and discretion. You must decide for yourself what boundaries to set.
Balancing these principles, here are our thoughts. If you haven’t already, you must make your position known to these friends. If they were seeking an abortion or some other clear sin, you would address them – divorce for any reason other than adultery is just as clear a sin (Matt 19:9).
You didn’t indicate whether or not these friends are Christians. If they are, hopefully their congregations will also be addressing them on this issue, and you wouldn’t be the only voice. If not, you may be the only person that they know who will stand in the gap for their spiritual well-being. After saying your piece, you can then treat the relationship like any other – watch and use wisdom to decide the boundaries and level of closeness, so you may both snatch them from the fire but not compromise your own firm convictions by being steamrolled by friends that have unfaithful convictions of their own. Allow your unwavering example to be a blessing, and then let them decide whether or not they want that blessing in their life.
Hello and thanks for your time. A true saved person will produce fruit and good works… not because they are self-righteous or do physical outward works, but as an inward spiritual production. Okay, I understand that. But when the Bible says persevere, endure temptation, do not willfully sin, walk in the light, do not live in the flesh, this sounds like free will. So with that being said, if Christ justified me, and the Holy spirit is sanctifiying me each day, and I am saved, then is my persevering and walking in the light self-righteousness or works-based? Jesus said if we continue in His word, we will be His disciples. So if getting saved gives you a clean start, then it seems like we have to maintain that relationship. If we struggle with sin, it comes down to our willingness to resist temptation. So it seems we are having to work to maintain the relationship. We are to fight the good fight… sounds like still a works-based salvation unless the Holy Spirit does it for us through us. Your thoughts? I'm really struggling with this.
Working It Out
Dear Working It Out,
You are saved by works… but not works of perfection. You are saved by works of faith. James specifically says that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:24-26). You are correct; we have free will, and you do have to work to maintain your relationship with God. Faith doesn’t mean God takes control, and you become incapable of falling away.
The Bible says that we are saved by faith (Eph 2:8), but it never says that we are saved by faith only. The Scriptures mention a lot of things that are involved in our salvation. We are saved by hope (Rom 8:24). We are saved by baptism (1 Pet 3:21). We are saved by the love of the truth (2 Thess 2:10). All of these things are involved in your salvation. In order to understand a topic, we must look at the sum of God’s Word on that subject (Ps. 119:160).
Faith is hearing what God says (Rom 10:17)… and then acting upon it. It is impossible to be a faithful person and live an unrepentant life. Faith is more than belief; even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19). Faith is belief combined with action. We must be hearers and doers of God’s Word (Jas 1:22). God has given us an immense gift – one we could never pay for ourselves. However, He expects us to reach out and seize that gift.