Q: My husband and I recently started coming to Element, and we have been getting the weekly update. I noticed that UFC was on this update, and I thought it was interesting. My husband and I have been debating whether it is Biblically (and morally) right to watch UFC. I was going to ask Pastor Aaron about it at church, could you forward this email to him so that I might hear his opinion on the issue.

A: First off, I think we must be aware that if God has called you not to watch UFC, then you must be true to what He asks of you no matter what I may say. God is God, and when He says something we must listen. But we must also be aware if it is a personal preference that you as a person have, and not an issue about Christianity.

Now, you asked for my opinion (and we all know the old adage about opinions…right? If not, then ask me Sunday and I will finish the quote).

Straight up fighting and violence is pointless…but violence does exist in the world that we live in. Some people believe that even learning how to defend yourself is wrong because they believe it promotes more violence (I do not hold to this opinion).  If you talk to the people who are the most proficient at self-defense, the "Masters" of martial arts, they will be quick to tell you (and their students too) that you should never use your acquired skills to inflict physical harm unless it is absolutely necessary.  Conversely, the people who are usually the most eager to use violence are individuals who have not had formal training or instruction.  Many men feel the need to, in some way, prove themselves and test their toughness (it is how men are made…God created us to slay the dragon and protect the princess). Many men do not understand how to properly funnel this God given gift and so become bullies to others or their spouse.

The original idea of the UFC was to determine which martial arts discipline would be the most effective in a real-world combat environment.  At that point in the event’s history, there were no weight limits, and very few rules. While the UFC, and the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) as a whole has evolved significantly from those early days, the idea of testing the various chosen styles and skills of the participants remains intact. With the additional benefits of rules, weight limits, sanctioning bodies, and referees who are dedicated to ensure the fighters’ safety now in place, the UFC and other MMA competitions are the best ways to compete and test oneself within a controlled environment.

In an MMA competition almost all (probably 95%) of the opponents have deep respect for each other.  Even if they dislike each other beforehand, after the fight, they frequently hug and demonstrate mutual respect for one another (the Georges St-Peirre/Josh Koscheck fight was a perfect example of this). In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Randy Couture summed it up like this, "It's a combat sport, and injuries can happen. But what a lot of people don't realize is that you're not there to hurt the other guy. Your adversary isn't your enemy. It's a kinetic chess kind of thing."

As a matter of fact, a couple years ago on The Ultimate Fighter (UFC’s reality show) two of the fighters got in a personal fist fight while living in the UFC house. Dana White, the president of UFC, had a very strong reaction to it…He said, "For the last six years I've been…[trying] to prove that this wasn't what this sport was about." He explained that this would have the non-fan thinking what they've always thought, that this sport was full of "a bunch of goons." Dana kicked the two fighters off the show as well as one more guy who was the instigator of it.

Numerous fighters in the UFC claim to be Christians. Some are very outspoken (one of my favorites is Rich Franklin). But many others claim to be: Quinton Jackson, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Ron Waterman, and Diego Sanchez.

The Bible's perspective:

  • Psalm 144 - The Bible advocates men being strong warriors.
  • The Old Testament heroes: Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Sampson, and David were all men, skilled in battle, and yet still loved God.
  • When Jesus said to turn the other cheek when struck, it had nothing to do with violence, it had everything to do with retaliation, respect and honor. A Rabbi, in Jesus’ day, would never advocate NOT protecting yourself or your family.
  • As believers we are to protect victims.
  • Scripture is full of protecting your country from invaders.

I'm not saying that all violence is good (not at all). As Christians, we believe in the actual existence of evil, and with this belief is the reality that sometimes it is necessary to physically defend yourself, your family, other people, and/or your country against those who are controlled by its influence.

If we can embrace this concept, then watching an event like the UFC is merely observing and appreciating two highly trained mixed martial art combatants who desire to test their skill and their fitness level against one another, to eventually answer their own questions of “How effectively can I apply what I’ve learned?”

Again, UFC is not simply violence for violence sake, but skilled athletes applying what they have learned.

Not all people will see it that way, and I understand that. I believe it is an open handed issue when it comes to faith; which mean it comes down to personal conviction. Personally, I enjoy watching UFC, the one this Saturday is actually at my house. But I also don’t think you should feel judged if you don’t enjoy it…my wife is a nurse and she hates it, not because she sees it as wrong, but simply because she sees enough blood during the day.

We also do the events as a group because it is WAY cheaper to pitch in together than pay for it on your own (haha).

Hope that helps.

Hebrews 6:4-6

Q: Is the writer of Hebrews addressing those who are born again, but are not? There was a time in my life from the age of 13 to 15 where I believed I was a Christian but left the church/God and started believing and even arguing with other Christians about the bible. A couple years later I asked God to save me and to take control of my life. Hebrews 6:4-6 should I come to the conclusion that I am not saved and hope for salvation is impossible for me?

A: How about a short answer (for once).

If you are worried about it, then I believe you are saved, regenerated, redeemed. Those who weren’t would not care either way.

At Element we do not believe a person can lose their salvation because our salvation is based in the person and work of Christ, not in the person and work of ourselves. If He is an eternal God (which He is), and He has forgiven all of your sins (past present and future), then your future is secure.

We believe in what is called the "perseverance of the saints." This is a simple way of saying that those who God calls, He brings home. The fact that you ran off like a crazy child into traffic, thinking you were doing your own thing, thinking you were so smart in your arguments...but are now WHERE YOU ARE simply shows that your Father in heaven was seeking you, chasing you down, and bringing you home.

Hebrews 6:4-6 must be understood in context. All the verses that people use to say a believer can lose their salvation actually teach the opposite in context of the surrounding passages and the Greek text.

So, rest at ease, serve God more fervently, love those around you more closely, because God holds you in His hands...and as Jesus says in John 10:28-30 "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” You are not stronger than Jesus...so rejoice that He brought you home (like the prodigal son).

Too many Christians have been taught too many clichés. I will tell what truth is...2 Cor 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. Stop living in regret, that is not GODLY GRIEF it is worldly grief and will never lead to life. Jesus left your sin at the cross, you should as well.

You are called to now to live and walk in new life.

Ending of Mark

What’s the deal with the ending of Mark, and where do you think the ending actually is? Is after verse 8 or 20 in Chapter 16? And what would the reason be that there is a discrepancy where the end of the book is? It just doesn't seem the appropriate place to not be too sure. I guess I would think that with something as important as the bible, there would not be anything that would leave room for "personal interpretation" or "guessing."

There is a short and a long answer to your question; I will try to land somewhere in the middle.

Most of the complaints about the verses in Mark 16:9-20 start in the 19th century because the critics believe that Mark should stop after 16:8. The added verses are NOT arbitrary and are not added simply because someone felt like it. Many of our current manuscripts from Mark contain the ending you have in your bible but the style is a bit different from the rest of Mark (which some suggest makes the ending not part of the original).

From the oldest manuscripts we have found, (“we” meaning the church as whole and biblical scholars specifically) the last twelve verses are missing.  There are even a handful of manuscripts that include a shorter ending before the current longer one in your bible today (this exists in the oldest Latin Codex in existence).

What you have to understand is that the current ending of Mark is consistent with the gospel accounts, there is nothing out of place with it. What the note tries to give you is simple honesty: SOME (not all) early manuscripts have it missing. This could be scribal error, the addition could be tacked on because a scribe somewhere didn't like the abrupt ending, or the original ending could have been lost (which is not uncommon with ancient scrolls due to their wearing patterns), or the gospel may have been unfinished, due to death or some form of persecution.

There is also evidence that it was part of the original though. Justin Martyr (one of the original church fathers) wrote a famous work called the Apology (Defense of the Gospel) in AD 160; he states that Ps. 110:2 was fulfilled when Jesus' disciples, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere. His wording is remarkably similar to the wording of Mk. 16:20. Justin's student Tatian (AD 172) incorporated the "Longer Ending" into his Diatessaron (this was a blended narrative consisting of material from all four canonical Gospels – I have a copy you can read if you want). Irenaeus (in AD 180) quoted from the verses 9-20 specifically as part of Mark's gospel.

Critics are divided over whether the original ending at 16:8 was intentional, or whether it resulted from accidental loss, or even the author's death.

To give you more food for thought (and not meant to confuse you at all), in some of our earliest manuscripts there is a shorter ending, which is then followed by the current ending. These appear together in 6 Greek manuscripts, and in dozens of Ethiopic copies. I know you are wondering “what does the shorter ending say,” because I know you want to know, this is it (with slight variations): “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation."

There is huge disagreement among scholars as to whether Mark originally stopped writing at 16:8 -- and if he did so, if it was deliberate or not—or if he continued writing an ending which is now lost. Allusions to a future meeting in Galilee between Jesus and the disciples (in Mark 14:28 and 16:7) seem to suggest that whether what we have the real ending or not, Mark intended to write beyond 16:8.

Some interpreters have concluded that Mark's intended readers already knew the traditions of Jesus' appearances, and that Mark brings the story to a close at 16:8 to highlight the resurrection and leave anticipation of His return.

Either way, whether it belongs or not, nothing about it is arbitrary. It has been thoroughly thought out, researched, and placed in scripture. They give you the footnote for honesty’s sake. It is their way of letting you know what we have and what we don’t, so you as the reader have nothing hidden from and are fully infirmed.

And whichever way you see it, it is all good news, the tomb is empty and He is risen.


[blockquote]Question: My brother (who is in jail) told me that he is following in the Asatru Religion.  Know anything?  I'm getting ready to write to him and trying to think about how Jesus would respond.[/blockquote]

A: Do you remember Norse mythology? Odin, Thor, and all the Norse gods? Asatru is German Paganism (sometimes called Odinism or Norse Tradition). There were believed to be 2 families of gods...1 was called Æsir the other was Vanir. Asatru literally means "Æsir's Faith."

This is the religion that was practiced before Christianity reached the Germanic peoples. They believe in multiple gods and have strong leanings toward animism. They believe elves (or land spirits) can inhabit inanimate objects and these objects can have a fate all their own.

For your brother to use the word Asatru is very odd because it is pretty specific. He is being influenced somewhere because this is not some THING some ONE finds just wandering around. If he is actually in jail (I think that is what you said) he is probably embracing it so he can join a gang. Odinism in the US has VERY strong ties to the American Neo-Nazi scene. I have a friend in jail right now and he says YOU HAVE TO be a part of a gang inside or you are essentially dead. I would think he is probably following it so he can keep his butt safe and really has no idea what it truly believes. He probably is told "it's a religion for white guys."

In talking to him maybe you could ask if he knows why many of these people in pre-Christian Europe decided to follow Christ. I think you need to approach it from the standpoint that your brother is looking for some security…and yet only Jesus can truly offer that. Not trying to be too harsh, but when Jesus’ disciples were worried about Jesus’ safety he responded in Matt 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus is NOT telling us that fear should be our motivator…but if you are going to live in fear, there is really only ONE that needs to be feared (and it is not people). Jesus goes on to say in Verse 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

You mentioned before that he wanted to follow Jesus; maybe he needs to realize that now is time…and even in jail…that is the place.

Salvation AFTER Death

Why can't a person believe and give their life to Christ after death?

I have been trying to put into words how to answer your question about Salvation AFTER death in a way that makes sense.

What you were talking about, by a person trusting Christ after salvation, is a form of what is known as Universalism. Universalism teaches ALL people will come saving faith…no matter what they believe or how they have lived (it is considered a heresy).  Seriously, why would Jesus hold the Gospel and its proclamation in such importance if NONE OF IT MATTERED.

First, there is a vast difference between life and death (right?)…The difference between a death bed conversion and an after death conversion is that the person on their death bed is STILL ALIVE. Sin brings death; Jesus in John 8:23-24 is talking to the religious leaders and tells them plainly, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." Jesus wasn’t confused on what happens after death.

If someone dies in their sins they are DEAD in their sins, separated from the life of God.

In Jewish thought, which would have been prevalent for Jesus, everything was thought of in terms of life. A house wasn’t a home unless someone was living in it…if no one lived there it was just sticks and mortar. This is why EVERYTHING has to deal with life. Romans 6:22 "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." No Jew, especially Jesus, would argue about people changing their minds after death.

From a Calvinistic perspective if someone is not redeemed in this life it is not going to happen…period; but I am trying to give you a broader perspective just in case you don’t hold to a reformed point of view (which I am guessing you don’t if you think people can change their mind after death).

One of the most amazing things about God is that NOT ALL PEOPLE go to heaven. He doesn’t force those who disbelieve to live in His presence forever. Most people want to live without God in their lives, so why not simply get your wish for all eternity? Is it that living without God for eternity is not pleasant enough so they would want a change from hell they currently participate in? That would seem to indicate that God then tortures people after death into believing…something I am sure He does not do.

This is why God gives us THIS life and THIS time... 2 Cor 6:1-2 As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

Many people have gone off the rails because they want things done differently than God does them. We think we are smarter, kinder, more loving, more gracious…but we are not. We must trust that God knows what He is doing better than any of us.

I guess I should end with the most important verse on this: Hebrews 9:27-28 "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

Hope that helps,

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