Here's another terrific message from Chris Carrillo, delivered on Sunday to a large audience of residents and rehab patients at Care-age of Brookfield. The subject: Matthew 22's parable of the marriage feast, in which the King extends His invitation to the ultimate banquet. Don't forget to RSVP!
I had a discussion the other day with a very intelligent and thoughtful seeker of truth – a woman who believes in God, but not necessarily the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible.
“I just can’t believe He would object to two people loving each other, no matter the gender,” said she – let’s call her Nancy, in a nod to detective extraordinaire Nancy Drew. “If He is love, how could He condemn a loving, committed, monogamous relationship?”
I totally get the question; I asked it myself early on in my Christian walk. In fact, I studied it out years ago, concluding that the Bible undoubtedly condemns sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman; you really have to twist it to come to any other conclusion.
I tried to answer Nancy’s question, drawing upon various scriptural truths to do so, and attempting to explain how such anti-biblical lifestyles (and here I include the “free love” heterosexual lifestyle that my generation pioneered back in the ‘60s) prevent us from even turning to the word of God, let alone accepting and obeying it, and blah blah blah.
I don’t think she was convinced. No surprise there: I was relying on my fuzzy recall of a subject I’d studied in some depth, but long ago. But she was gracious, and said she’d think about it.
Fast forward to last night, as I continued an Old Testament study of 1 Kings. Imagine my surprise to encounter a passage that answered Nancy’s question in just ten words – one I’d read a dozen times before without once having an “aha!” moment.
This particular passage cites the Lord’s command to the children of Israel to refrain from intermarrying with other nations, for one very simple reason:
“Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” (1 Kings 11:2b)
We go on to learn that this is precisely what happened to Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived: He wound up with 700 wives and princesses and 300 concubines, clinging “to these in love.”
The modern mind asks how God could object to this behavior, as long as Solomon loved these women.
The answer begins in verse 4: “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods: and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” We learn further that he “did evil in the sight of God,” building for his wives temples to worship “abominations” from Chemosh to Molech. And we learn that this was why the Lord later divided the nation of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms, ultimately leading to many centuries of national dormancy.
There you go: sexual sin, like all the rest, turns our hearts away from the living God. And there are consequences, both temporal and eternal.
As Ray Comfort said in his comment on this passage, “Solomon had incredible wisdom and yet lust turned his head from God to women, and then (predictably) to idolatry to accommodate his sin” (The Evidence Bible, p. 456).
In other words, when we give ourselves over to our rebellions of choice, we invariably design for ourselves a god who approves of them.
This is a devastating problem on so many levels.
For instance, from the viewpoint of this life, most of us know, in our heart of hearts, when we are rebelling against God. After all, He has written His law on our hearts. And until our hearts become too hardened to hear, our consciences nag us relentlessly whenever we break that law; our imaginary gods don’t really fool us. But rather than turning to the true God in repentance, most of us instead try to drown our consciences in alcohol or drugs, or work or hobbies or interests that dominate our thoughts every waking hour.
Bottom line: we harden our hearts by turning to everyone and everything but the living God, and so find no true peace in this life. The only comfort we find is in silencing our consciences.
Worse, we find no forgiveness for our sin, and no salvation – which is why embracing sin and idolatry is eternally tragic. It’s not that the Lord is some sort of cosmic, prudish killjoy; it’s that pursuing sin causes us to turn from Him. And the Bible makes it clear: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
No Jesus, no heaven. And according to the demonstrably true Bible, there’s only one alternative.
It’s not that we have to clean up our acts to gain entry into heaven; we cannot. Thankfully, Jesus did it for us; He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, so that anyone who repents and trusts in His sacrifice is given His righteousness, and will spend eternity in heaven with Him.
So here’s the very simple answer I should have given Nancy when she asked how God could object to monogamous marital sex, whatever the genders may be: God objects because “Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.”
I’m sure a psychiatrist could tell us what it is about fantasy literature that so captivates us as children, and well into adulthood. I’m personally an Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass freak. But there are certainly many other irresistible stories to choose from, from The Wizard of Oz to Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia to The Hobbit.
There’s no sign of America’s love affair with such stories winding down. As recently as 2014, according to Publishers Weekly, sales of printed juvenile science fiction/ fantasy/ magic books grew by an astounding 38% – more than twice what the next most successful genre could muster.
What gives? Why do we devote so much of our pleasure-reading time to the most unrealistic of genres, especially when we’re young and have an entire world stretched out before us? Is this world not exciting enough for us?
It’s no surprise that we can find the answers to these questions by consulting the word of God.
For instance, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, tells us that our Creator has written eternity in our hearts (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). Deep down inside, we know that this limited life is not all there is; we know that there is more.
And somehow we know that this more will not be found on the earth we now occupy. As Hebrews 13:14 reminds us, this world is not our permanent home.
What’s more, the Bible teaches that our lives beyond these earthly senses will, at least for some, represent a vast improvement over the world we see today. For instance, referring to heroes of the faith from Abel, Enoch and Noah to Abraham and Sarah, the writer of Hebrews tells us:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
So we know these things instinctively, even if we’ve spent years burying that knowledge beneath layers of earthly pleasures and concerns. We know that we will live forever. And we hunger to know what it will be like.
Unfortunately, many of us simply ignore what the Bible has to say on this overwhelmingly important topic – even though it’s our only demonstrably authoritative source of truth.
Perhaps that’s understandable: We want to be able to define eternity, to say who gets in, under what circumstances, for what purposes. And we want our arrivals to be celebrated because of the stellar character and extraordinary benevolence we demonstrated on earth.
But creating such a world is hard work. It takes a lot of thought and effort and planning and recording of our ideas to invent a world that’s everything we want it to be. So the vast majority of us leave that to professional writers, limiting our involvement to selecting, reading about, and contemplating the fictional fantasies that best suit our tastes.
How bewildering that so many of us turn to fiction when we could go straight to the Bible for the truth about everlasting life. And how eternally tragic that so many embrace fictional “entrance requirements,” rather than consulting God’s word to find out what it really takes to ensure oneself of a heavenly forever.
If you are not sure of these things yourself, I hope you’ll decide today to find out what the Bible has to say. How foolish it would be to trust eternity to the imaginings of a writer who has simply created the kind of world he’d like to explore.
It's bad enough when so-called experts teach us lies about everything from economics to the environment. But when they start telling us what we ought to believe about eternity, look out!
Consider what has been said about heaven and hell by those who are highly revered in our culture. Just a handful of examples:
Why in the world do we revere these people, and mock those with an accurate -- which is to say, biblical -- view of heaven and hell?
Fortunately, we have a completely reliable source of truth on this most important matter -- Jesus Christ Himself. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3)
Just as important, in His word He tells us precisely how to get there. If we don't, we'll have only ourselves to blame.
I do have some ideas about people and places and things I hope will be in heaven. And the Wilhelm Tell restaurant in Munich is one of them.
It was on our second trip to Europe together in the 1970s that Mom and I discovered the Wilhelm Tell.
Instead of the grand old hotels we had stayed in on our Caravan tour the previous year, we were staying in cheap places that were just a step above pensions – all humble but clean, all featuring a bathroom down the hall that we shared with other guests. The name of our Munich hotel is lost to history – and here I never thought I’d forget these details – but it had the typical stucco exterior, painted a pale salmon pink, and our room was stark white and very austere.
The Wilhelm Tell was a tavern just down the street and around the corner from our hotel. It was dark and smelled of beer and cigarettes and a roast in the oven and we loved it. Although we really weren’t all that fond of German food generally, we ate lavishly here, feasting on pan-fried pork chops and carrot salad with a vinaigrette dressing and quite possibly the best French fries in the world. (The Germans really know their way around a potato.) And it was cheap to boot, especially for Americans in those days of favorable exchange rates.
This was no tourist spot; the neighborhood was pretty far from Munich’s major attractions. It was noisy and not exactly spotless, but the waiters were friendly and smiled encouragingly as we spoke in broken German (delivered with a Polish accent, one insisted), making us feel like part of the crowd.
I think we stayed in Munich three nights on that trip, and ate all three of our dinners right there at the Wilhelm Tell. I suppose, in retrospect, that Mom might have been bored with that, or, for that matter, less than thrilled with our accommodations. After all, she had traveled through Europe extensively with my dad on his business trips, staying at luxurious hotels and dining at some of the finest restaurants. But if she was either, she never let on. In fact, she seemed to thrive on rubbing shoulders with the locals, laughing along with them as she explained in her floundering German that her husband had been in Deutschland geboren and that we had beloved freunden in Siegen.
My mother had her dreams of heaven, dreams that included the “strange and lovely” streets of Salzburg and a crisp October morning and a 10 a.m. glass of beer.
I have mine, too, and one of the best takes place in a dark little restaurant called the Wilhelm Tell.
(From Heaven Without Her, pages 244-246)