Here’s the latest sermon I preached on the myth “All Good People Go to Heaven and All Bad People Go to Hell.” Timothy McVeigh is my case study for whether or not I would rather believe this myth or the true gospel. Let me know what you think.
Does the candidate you’re voting for support these values from Matthew 5?
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.
HT: Ben Witherington
I’m preparing for my sermon on Sunday where I’m going to posit that the most heinous of criminals can receive the grace of God. While studying for it and trying to take it out of the realm of logical abstractions and into the world of real life, I came across this famous photo from the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19th, 1995.
Maybe it’s because I have a daughter now about this girl’s age, but I have to tearfully admit that this question really forces me to consider whether I really believe the gospel can redeem such evil. That I know, logically, that it does and can redeem such evil, forces me to bask in the greatness of God’s grace. But my heart still doubts and fears, not only for Timothy McVeigh, but for myself. – Matthew 5:21-22
From the newest attempts to start a revival by “liking” Jesus on Facebook, to the more traditional attempts to start a revival by hosting a “revivalist” to preach fire-and-brimstone sermon series, I am continually reminded that we contemporary American Evangelicals remain woefully ill-informed about what true revival actually is. Duped into thinking revival is something we initiate through our own activity, we’ve been convinced that if we just “did the right things” revival would come not only to our church, but also our nation.
But where is the Holy Spirit in that?
Where is the freedom of God to send or withhold revival at His own discretion?
Where is God in any of this?
The fundamental problem with our understanding of revival is that it simply doesn’t need God. All it requires is some effort on our part. All it requires is a good program. All it requires is the right politician. Even a good slogan might do the trick.
After all, if I can start a revival by getting a bunch of people to “like” Jesus, we don’t really need the Spirit’s activity.
But in the Scriptures, genuine revival is the work of the Holy Spirit challenging the church to repentance (something we’ve grown weary of hearing about), outward focus (something our narcissism disallows), and humility (something completely antithetical to our normal ways of operation in American culture).
We don’t force the Spirit’s hand by “liking” Jesus on Facebook. We don’t command the Spirit through organizing revival services. We obey in the present as we wait for the Spirit to come upon the church in that special way. We long for it, but we don’t make it happen.
Your job isn’t to start a revival. It’s your job to live in obedience so that when God finally decides to start a revival, you’re in a prime position to see it for what it is and join in what He’s doing. When revival comes, it comes on those who have been faithfully, actively waiting for God to show up.