You’ve heard it said that “We are all God’s children.” This rings flowery and nice.
It’s an insidious lie.
Indeed, God both created and loves – in a way most unfathomable – everyone who ever lived. He wove us together in our mother’s womb and numbered our every hair. But God the Father has only one begotten Son. The rest of us, in order to become one of God’s children, must be adopted – in, by and through – the One Who is the Son: Jesus Christ. Those who are not adopted are not children of God. Christ and Christ alone is “the way, the truth and the life.”
Indeed, to become a child of God, we must ask God – through Christ – to adopt us. We mustn’t just believe upon Him – for “Even the demons believe that” (see James 2:19) – but, rather, we must also accept Him. We must follow Jesus, the one true God, as our only God. “But to all who believed him and accepted him (Jesus), he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
Don’t believe? Don’t accept? You have no right to become a child of God.
And that’s unholy hell.
I’m not here to question God. I can neither fully understand nor explain why what He says is so. I can only convey to you that He unmistakably, unequivocally and without stuttering, says it is so.
And so it is so.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The postmodern concept of religious pluralism is likewise an insidious lie. It’s a relativist tool of deception, dreamed up the greatest of all deceivers. It’s a false religion – jazzed-up paganism – propagated by the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (see Ephesians 6:12).
Merriam Webster defines “pluralism” – in the context of which I refer – as “a theory that there are more than one or more than two kinds of ultimate reality.”
The goal of pluralist philosophy is to muddy the waters and divert mankind from the “narrow gate” that leads to eternal salvation (Jesus), while, at the same time, herding them along the “broad road” to eternal damnation (anything and everything that denies the singular and exclusive deity of Christ – or that rejects the certainty that He alone can save us from hell).
Pluralism is a non-starter. It’s inherently self-defeating, contradictory and, frankly, just plain stupid. Pick your “ism” – be it progressivism, socialism, Hinduism, Buddhism, communism, Marxism, atheism, et al. – and central to each you will find the leavening lie of pluralism.
Each of the world’s major religions fundamentally contradicts the other. They cannot all be true. Either one is true or none is true.
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13) Again, Jesus alone is that “narrow gate.”
Here’s the thing. You can deny Christ until the day you die. But after that, you will deny Him no more. Hate Him you may still, but deny Him you will not. Philippians 2:10-11 assures us, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
John 3:36 warns: “Whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
Christ is both tolerant and intolerant – utterly exclusive and wholly inclusive. He said in no uncertain terms: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Universalists, atheists, pluralists and other followers of false god’s and religions, take note: Jesus, rather conspicuously, did not say: “No one comes to the Father except through me, the Buddha, Muhammad, Ganesh or L. Ron Hubbard.”
The narrow gate to heaven is utterly exclusive.
Yet Christ also promised us this: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Romans 10:13 is even more direct: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The narrow gate to heaven is wholly inclusive.
If religious pluralism is true, which it cannot be, then Jesus is a liar. And if Jesus is a liar, then Carl Sagan was right when he said, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”
Thank God Jesus is not a liar.
Still, some apostate, celebrity mega-church pastors like Rob Bell have become wealthy calling Jesus a liar. They teach the heretical doctrine of “universal salvation,” which suggests that, ultimately, everyone ends up in heaven – even those who rejected Christ while here on earth.
Bell and others like him claim that “we’re all God’s children.”
This is a pseudo-Christian form of religious pluralism that may well condemn untold millions – to include celebrity mega-church pastors like Rob Bell – to the unimaginable horror of eternal separation from God. (Rob, brother, I pray that you’ll repent posthaste and ask Christ’s forgiveness for both your heresy and for leading your flock to slaughter. He’ll forgive you, just like he’s forgiven me for all the crap I’ve pulled over the years.)
And the Truth will set you free.
Romans 8:1-2 promises: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
By logical extension, the converse is true. There is condemnation for those who arenot in Christ Jesus. Until and unless you believe upon, accept and follow Jesus – you remain imprisoned under the law of sin and death.
Unconvinced? You don’t have to believe to quietly pray this simple prayer to yourself: “Jesus, if you’re out there, please reveal yourself to me. If you’re real, help thou my unbelief.”
If I’m right – if Jesus is not a liar and He is who He says He is – then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by inquiring further.
If you don’t inquire further, you have everything to lose.
Genesis 41:53-57, 42:1-4
Saving and spending
When the seven years of plenty had passed, the storehouses in Egypt were full. Then, just as God had said, seven years of famine followed. Joseph opened the storehouses and started selling grain to the Egyptian people. Things were getting so bad that even people from distant countries came to buy food.
Joseph’s father Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt and sent his sons to buy grain there. Only his youngest son Benjamin stayed behind because Jacob was afraid something bad might happen to him.
Should I spend my pocket money or save it?
Whether your parents give you pocket money, or whether you do chores to earn money, what you do with the money is up to you.
It is probably best to keep a balance between spending money and saving it. By keeping money for a while (saving), you can make sure you have money when you need it. If you spend all of it straight away on buying things you don’t really need, you may not have enough when you want to buy something special. By learning to save now, even if it is only a small amount, you will be starting a good habit.
Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19). This means that we should be careful not to heap up treasure—whether money or things—that could become more important to us than having eternal life.
If you want to use money wisely, don’t rush into buying things. Rather wait and ask the Lord to help you make a good decision. But remember, money and things won’t last forever; what is far more important are the things we do to store up treasure in heaven.
Verse for today
“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” Proverbs 30:25.
He was bent over. The hair he had left on his head had turned white. And he could no longer see. He knew he would die soon.
And so he called his son Esau.
“Here I am,” Esau answered.
“My son, before I die, I want you to take your bow and your arrows and go out hunting. When you come back, cook the meat you have caught. Make one of your delicious meals, the kind I like so much, and bring it to me. And then I will bless you.”
Now, Rebekah just happened to hear all of this from the other room (the walls of tents aren’t very thick!).
As soon as Esau left, Rebekah took Jacob by the arm and said to him, “Your father has sent Esau away to hunt. When Esau gets back, he is going to fix your father’s favorite dinner, and your father is going to give him his blessing.
“Quick! Do what I say! Go out into the fields and bring me two young goats, and I will make your father’s favorite dinner from them. Bring it to him, and your father will think you are Esau, and he will bless you instead.”
But Jacob said, “Esau is all hairy, and I am not! If my father feels me, he will know I am trying to trick him, and he will curse me instead of blessing me!”
“Let the curse be on me,” Jacob’s mother said, “Just do what I say.”
And so Jacob did.
When Jacob had brought the two goats, Rebekah prepared a delicious meal. Then she took some of Esau’s clothes and had Jacob put them on. She took the skins from the goats and put them on Jacob’s arms and the back of his neck so that he would be hairy like his brother.
Wearing the disguise his mother had made, Jacob took the steaming hot meal in to his father.
“Who is there?” his father asked.
“It is your first born son Esau,” Jacob said. “I have brought your favorite dinner, just like you asked.”
“How did you do it so quickly?” his father asked.
“Your God was with me, and he gave me success,” Jacob answered. “Eat, and then you can give me your blessing.”
“You don’t sound like Esau,” Isaac said. “You sound like your brother Jacob. Come here. Let me touch you.”
Isaac felt the fur on Jacob’s neck and arms. And then he said, “The voice is Jacob’s, but the arms are Esau’s.”
He was about to give his blessing when he asked again, “Are you really my son Esau?”
“Yes, I am,” Jacob lied.
And so Isaac ate the meal he thought Esau had brought him. When he was finished he said, “Come here, my son, and kiss me, and then I will give you my blessing.”
So Jacob came near his father and kissed him. Isaac could smell the smell of Esau’s clothes, and so he said,
“The smell of my son is like the smell
But he thought it was Esau.
Jacob had barely left when his brother Esau came in from his hunting. He fixed his father’s favorite meal, just as his father had asked him to. He brought it in to him, so that he could get his blessing.
“Who are you?” his father asked.
“Why, I am your firstborn son Esau, of course!” Esau said.
All of a sudden Isaac began to shake terribly. He knew he had been tricked. “Then who was just here? Who brought me my favorite meal, the one that I just ate? I gave him the blessing. and I can’t take it back!”
Esau knew right away who it was.
He cried out a terrible cry.
“Bless me also!” he pleaded.
“I can’t,” Isaac said, “Your brother has tricked me, and he has stolen your blessing.”
Esau cried out again.
“You named him right when you named him Jacob,” Esau cried (‘Jacob’ sounds like their word for ‘cheat’). “He has cheated me twice. First he took my birthright, and now he has stolen my blessing!” Now he knew how valuable his father’s blessings were – but it was too late.
“You must have a blessing for me,” he said to his father.
Isaac said, “I have already made you your brother’s servant. I have given him the corn and new wine of our fields. What do I have left to give to you?”
Esau fell to his knees. “Is there nothing left for me?” he cried out.
Then his father said to him,
“You will not have the richness of the earth,
From that day on Esau hated his brother Jacob. “One day, my father will die,” he said, “And then I will kill my brother Jacob!”
Esau’s words got back to Rebekah, and so she sent her son Jacob to run for his life. “I can’t lose both my sons in one day,” she said.
What a mess we make when we lie and cheat.
Jacob did lie, and he cheated his brother. But, still, God didn’t leave him. God knows our weakness, and he is forgiving. He accomplishes his good and wonderful plans through us, even when we mess things up.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.”—Exodus 30:11–12
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tisa, which means “when you raise up,” from Exodus 30:11—34:35, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:20–39.
The murder of millions of people during the Holocaust didn’t happen spontaneously. The process of extermination was systematic and deliberate. It included a phase of dehumanization in order to break the spirits of the victims. The Nazis achieved this by placing people in cattle cars, feeding them subhuman food, and most notably, by giving them a number. Upon entering many Nazi camps, people were given numerical tattoos, taking away their names and turning them into a number.
In this week’s Torah reading, Israel experienced a very different kind of counting. The reading begins, “When you take a census of the Israelites.” God commanded Moses to count the people of Israel. But unlike the counting done by the Nazis, this numbering expressed the value of the people. The Hebrew words for “When you take a census” are “Ki tisa.” Literally, these words mean “when you raise up.” When Moses counted the people, it would elevate them, not diminish them.
The Sages compare God’s desire to count His people to a person’s joy at counting his or her money. God rejoices over each soul the way a person might delight in each dollar. This also explains why Moses himself had to do the counting and not some clerk. This was an important job for God’s most trusted servant. When an Israelite appeared before Moses to be counted, the message that person received was, “You matter! You count!”
It’s easy to think that we don’t matter that much to God. After all, there are more than seven billion people on our planet, and we are just one of them. But God wants us to know that we are not just a number. God knows and cares for each and every one of us. He rejoices at our existence and delights in counting us as one of His.
On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, tradition teaches that God judges every living creature. In Jewish teaching, this is depicted in a very vivid manner. We say, “All mankind will come before you like sheep inMeron.” Mount Meron is a mountain in the Galilee that is shaped like an “M.” Anyone or any animal who wants to pass through the narrow middle can only do so one at a time. This is how God looks at every individual – one at a time.
We may be one of God’s seven billion children, but to Him we are like His only one. And like an only child, we are cherished, beloved, protected, and guided. So as you go through your day today, remember that no matter what anyone says or how anybody else makes you feel, you matter. You do count, and your value is more than you will ever know.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Okay, I’ll admit that the title of this reflection won’t be compelling to most of my readers. A few grammar nerds may cheer, but most of you won’t be running out to buy a grammar book. Just as well. I’m not talking about English grammar here, but Greek grammar. The fact is, knowledge of Greek grammar will help you understand how you can be a new person in Christ. Really.
After reminding the Ephesians that they were taught to put off their “old man,” Paul adds, “[You were taught] to be made new in the attitude of your minds” (4:23). In Greek, unlike in English, infinitives of verbs have multiple forms and senses. For example, they can be present, past, or future in form, and this affects their meaning. So, in our verse, “to be made new” is one word in Greek (ananeousthai), a present infinitive form of the verb ananeoo.
Now that we know the tense of the infinitive, we need to grasp its distinct meaning. The present infinitive in Greek conveys a sense of ongoing action. Whereas the past tense of the infinitive suggests a singular endeavor, the present implies a process. Thus, an overly literal, expanded translation of verse 23 might read, “[You were taught] to continue in the process of being made new in the attitude of your minds.”
When we first receive the good news of the gospel, we become God’s handiwork, newly created in Christ for good works (Eph. 2:10). Emphasizing the newness that has already come to us, Paul can write in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” Yet, earlier in the same letter, Paul says, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed [present tense] day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). In writing to the Romans, Paul advises, “Be transformed [present imperative] by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
Is Paul hopelessly confused or contradictory? No. Rather, he understands the eschatological dimension of our lives in Christ, the “already and not yet” reality in which we live. When we become Christians, we are already made new by God’s power through the Word and Spirit. Yet, that newness isn’t complete yet. Our lives in Christ are a long process of ongoing renewal through the Word and Spirit. In Ephesians 4:23, the present tense reminds us of this fact.
As you look at your life today, you should be able to see ways in which God has already renewed you. And, I expect you can also identify ways still in need of renovation. If you accept this grammatically clarified understanding of renewal, then you’re ready to open your life to this ongoing process.
But there is good news ahead, very good news. It depends on yet another grammar lesson. Stay tuned.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you reflect on your life, how have you already been renewed in Christ? In what ways do you still need to be renewed?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for all the ways you have begun to make me new inside. I’m sure I can’t even count half of them. Yet, how grateful I am for what I can see. Thank you!
Still, Lord, I know that your renewing work in me is a process. Yes, you will bring it to completion one day. But, for now, I am still being formed and reformed by you. Thank you. And may this continue to happen as I open my whole life to you. Amen.
It is beautiful to notice Joseph’s reverent references to God in his first interview with Pharaoh. When the heart is full of God, the tongue will be almost obliged to speak of Him; and all such references will be easy and natural as flowers in May.
These words might have been uttered by the Lord Jesus. They are so perfectly in harmony with the tenor of His life. He loved to say that His words, and works, and plans, were not His own, but the Father’s. Once, when a ruler called Him good, He reminded him that only One was good, and that all goodness was derived from God. Men knew little enough of Jesus, because He sought ever to be a reflecting mirror for His Father, and to glorify Him on the earth. But the Spirit reveals Him to those that love.
These words might have been the Apostle Paul’s. He delighted to say that he worked, yet not he, but the grace of God in him; that he lived, yet not he, but Christ in him; that he knew and spake the mysteries of God, yet not he, but the Spirit of God.
Thus we should speak. Our light must so shine that men may turn from us to Him from whom we have derived it. Whenever the temptation arises to revert on ourselves, to attract men to ourselves, to lead them to think that we can meet their need, let us count ourselves dead to the suggestion, saying, “It is not in me; God shall give” (Act 3:12). What strength and comfort come into our hearts, in view of demands which are too great for our weak nature to meet. “It is not in me; God shall give.” If our hearts were inditing a good matter, they would boil over, and we should speak more frequently of the things that touch our King.