The Truth of the Bible ~ Part 2: “If the Bible is 100% accurate, how can I heed and follow its message?”

small_bec6dff3b8ba61b175d4080fThis is the second post about The Truth of the Bible.  In order to get the true meaning behind what we’ve been building up to here, it will be beneficial to read the post just before this one – “Part 1: Is the Bible 100% accurate or was most of it made up?”  In that post, we argued for the fact that the Bible was not a creation of man or an illusion of a made up deity.  A strong attempt was made to develop tangible evidence based on logic, reason, clarity and scientific and archaeological evidence.  Once that has been established and taken as fact, one is now ready to read this post.  Believing in God is the first step (the first post).  Trusting in Him and following Him must be the next step (this post).

If the Bible is 100% accurate, how can I heed and follow its message?

faith_vs_fact_toppick_cropThis is a topic that can be debated many times over, so we’re going to avoid that dispute and share our own personal view(s) on this particular subject.  People have their theories and they believe based on the results of what they or others have experienced (this is similar to the scientific method).  From those theories, conclusions are drawn.  What began as an idea (hypothesis) has turned into a theory, which has been converted into tangible evidence of which most people believe to be absolutely true.

The words in the Bible that must be heeded, followed and applied to one’s life must be taken by faith alone.  This is totally opposite from the tangible evidence of the scientific method.  Hebrews 11:1 * says:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Many times, people search for the hard evidence as to why they should follow what is written down in scripture.  However, others choose to accept – by faith – that the Bible and its message comes from supernatural, godly intervention and is inspired by the Holy Spirit.  For centuries, there have been countless debates and arguments from a philosophical point of view by those who disbelieve the Bible’s truth using human logic and worldly wisdom.

We at Cross+Connect+Trinity believe in the deity of God and in His Tri-unity or Trinity of three Persons (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit).  They have divinely created mankind in Their image.  Genesis 1:26 says:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…'” (emphasis added)

Notice the words “us” and “ourceltic-trinity-knotnot “me” or “my“.  This points to a Tri-unity God, not a sole existing, one personality.  It’s hard for the human mind to wrap around the idea that God is One God but is three persons at the same time.  People who don’t believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is true cannot truly heed and follow the Bible.

God eternally exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  This was most completely seen in Matthew 3:16-17:

“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.  And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” (emphasis added)

In this passage, we see God revealed in three separate persons: Jesus (the Son) being baptized, the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on Jesus and God the Father speaking from heaven.

trinityThe truth is that no human mind in its own logic and/or wisdom can fully embrace, understand or comprehend God in His infinite character, for He exalts His Word above His name (Psalm 138:2).  God is a Tri-unity, with each Person of the Godhead (Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colassians 1:9) equally, fully and eternally God.  Each is necessary and each is distinct and yet all are One.  The nature of each Member of the Trinity means that each Person has a specific essence of awareness and consciousness.  In this manner, they associate to each other individually — the Father views Himself as “I” while He sees the Son and Holy Spirit as “you”.  In the same way, the Son regards himself as “I,” (John 10:30) but the Father and the Holy Spirit as “you” (John 14:26).  Each Member of the Trinity is independent from the others but never acts alone.  They are one in nature and purpose.  The three Persons appear in a logical, causal order.  The Father is the unseen, omnipresent Source of all being, revealed in and by God the Son, Jesus Christ, experienced in and by God the Holy Spirit.  The Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Son.

In reference to God’s creation, the Father is the Thought behind it, the Son is the Word (John 1:14) calling it forth and the Spirit is the Deed making it a reality.  We are shown, in faith, God and His great salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11).  Then we must experience Him by faith through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Lets take a look at how some of the first Christians experienced God and heeded and followed Jesus’ words after His resurrection.

The Hallucination Theory

Related imageThe Hallucination Theory says all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were really only supposed appearances – that His followers only had hallucinations.  In other words, if one believes this, all of the post-resurrection appearances can be dismissed right?  Let’s look at it from another angle.  How could so many people have hallucinations – especially 500 at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6)?  The appearances happened under different conditions and were spread out over different times.  Furthermore, the disciples were reluctant to believe in the resurrection in the first place!  They were blinded in their own self doubt that the resurrection even happened.  Let’s look at three scriptures in the gospels that show this unbelief.

Mark 16:11-16 (the unbelief of the disciples) says:

And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her (Mary Magdalene), they did not believe.  After that, He appeared in another form to two of them (disciples) as they walked and went into the country.  And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.  Later He appeared to the eleven (Judas Iscariot had committed suicide) as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (emphasis added)

Luke 24:11-12 (Peter seeks proof) says:

And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.  But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” (emphasis added)

John 20:24-30 (Doubting Thomas) says:

Image result for blessed are those who believe and don't seeNow Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’  So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’  And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’  Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’  And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’  And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.” (emphasis added)

Image result for hallucination theoryThe hallucination theory is simply not plausible because it contradicts laws and principles which psychiatrists say are “essential to hallucinations”.  Psychiatrists have a claim that only certain kinds of people have hallucinations.  These are usually high-strung, highly imaginative and very nervous people.  In fact, usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals have hallucinations.  But Christ appeared to many different types of people.  His appearances were not restricted to people of any particular psychological make up.

Hallucinations are linked to an individual’s subconscious – to his or her particular past experiences and Jesus’ resurrection was certainly not a part of any past experience because it had never happened before.  Hallucinations are usually restricted to when and where they occur.  They usually happen in a nostalgic atmosphere or in a place of familiar surroundings, which places the person in a reminiscing mood.  They occur in people when there is a spirit of anticipation or hopeful expectation.  In the Bible, no such anticipation existed.  The disciples were prone to disbelieve even after they were told of the resurrection.  However, the disciples eventually came around and believed in Christ’s resurrection and were physically there when He ascended into heaven on the Mount of Olives.

Image result for christian vs atheistHow I heed and follow the Word of God

As a professing believer and disciple of Jesus, I love and adore Him – He is my God.  He is my Salvation, Faithful King, Messiah and Savior.  In short; this is my testimony.  In all of my lifetime, even when I was absent from walking with Jesus in His Truth, He never left me, nor abandoned me.  God is the Author and Finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2)!

Since God is Sovereign, the Bible is the absolute Truth.  God is also the Perfect Gentleman  – He is never going to force Himself on anyone.  He has given us a free will where we can choose to follow Him or not.  He is also the ultimate Source of everything good.  I’m sure you have heard people teaching about the truth of the Gospel.

Image result for deathRegardless of whether or not you believe you need to heed and follow the Bible, one
thing is for certain: death will eventually claim everyone.  Death is not discriminatory from one person to another.  One day, every human will find out the ultimate truth: is there life after death or does one just die and that’s it?  How much faith do you have that there is nothing after death?  Atheists actually have to have more faith than Christians.  They have to believe so strongly that there is no God and there is no eternity.  Do you have that much faith?  I sure don’t.  Wouldn’t you rather err on the safe side and know that if there is an eternity, it is secure in Jesus?  Wouldn’t you rather Jesus say to you, “Blessed are you because you have not seen and yet have believed!”?

Those who follow Christ live by faith but God directs His wrath toward ungodliness and unrighteousness.  Notice, that God’s anger isn’t against the people who are ungodly and unrighteous but on their actions.  Romans 1:16-32 says:

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’

Image result for unashamedFor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.  

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

 “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (emphasis added)

It’s up to every individual to believe in the supernatural power of the Bible, it’s truth and accuracy.  Some believe that the Bible is 0%, 25%, 99.9% or 100% accurate.  Everyone has the responsibility to figure out for themselves whether or not all scripture is true or if all of it is false.  There is no middle ground.  All one has to do to see if there is a God is to look at creation.

Image result for Mycoplasma GenitaliumConsider one of the simplest of organisms – the Mycoplasma Genetalium.  Scientists took a group of 128 computers running for 9 to 10 hours to create the information on the 25 classifications of molecules that were associated with the cell’s lifecycle.  “The depth and breadth of cellular complexity has turned out to be nearly unbelievable and difficult to manage,” one of the scientists stated 2.  How can this simple cell exist as a result of evolution?  Think about that for a moment.  Many modern scientists are baffled and mystified by how life actually began.  They can’t point to a specific “missing link” that can prove Darwin’s theory of evolution.  The most concern I have is for those who go such great distances to try and prove the Bible wrong or that there are inaccuracies in Scripture.  Why would that person go to such great distances to prove their point and theories?  If they don’t care what others think, why not just leave it alone?

The Gospel is simply this Jesus will forgive all your sins, if you come to Him humbly lay down at His feet and say, “You’re the Lord, and I’ll follow you the rest of my life on earth, so that I can have the rest of eternity with You and the Glory of Your Father.”

The gospel message is so simple that a child can follow it.  These are the scriptures you can follow in your road to salvation:

Image result for christian fellowshipIf you have followed those scriptures and pray to God to forgive you, you will truly become a Christian!  However, it doesn’t end there.  After you have given your heart to Christ, you must now continue to follow and pursue Him.  It will be helpful to fellowship with other Christians by joining a local church and getting involved in serving or becoming a part of a small group.  With this commitment comes water baptism, Bible study, daily prayer and discipleship.  After you have transformed from a new Christian to a mature Christian, it will be necessary to lead others to salvation in Jesus.

Summit Church in Centennial, Colorado has a purpose: Reach > Raise > Release.  That means to reach those far from God, raise them up in Christ and release them for His mission – that is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)!

Finally, I will end with this.  One of the greatest messages I’ve ever heard about heeding and following scripture was through Keith Green – a Christian musician and evangelist:

Related imageYou know I can’t explain to you, really how He does it.  But He proved Himself to me in such a Holy way, such a complete way, that I’d die for that faith and I’d die for that belief – because it is more than a belief.  He lives in my heart!  And that’s the only proof… it’s the only proof that I can give you because He lives in my heart.  Most people that knew me before – didn’t know that I could believe something so strong.

“Most people don’t find out, ‘til it’s too late, that someone has to pay the price.  You can pay it yourself (Ha!) or let someone else, but who would be that nice, to pay a debt that isn’t his?

“Well I know someone like that.  And He’s your best friend, He really is!  He really loves you!!!

“Most people don’t find out until they half dead, that they need another life.

“You say you’ve heard everything, that’s ever been said, about “the way, the truth, the life…

“You say you’ve heard lots of preaching all before…so many times…BUT did you ever open up your door and give Him a chance, to prove Himself, that He’s real or not???

“I hope you find out, before it’s too late.  That there’s really nobody else, you know it’s breaking His heart the longer you wait, cause you’ve only been lying to yourself – cause you know no one believes a thing you say, not even YOU!!!  You know you’re gonna find out, that He’s the way, no matter which way you choose.  But I pray that you find out by His love for YOU!” 1

References

  1. Keith Green. (1978). Alter Call [CD]. ORU: Sparrow Records. (1978)
  2. Madrigal, A. (2012). To Model the Simplest Microbe in the World, You Need 128 Computers. The Atlantic. Retrieved March 31, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/to-model-the-simplest-microbe-in-the-world-you-need-128-computers/260198/.

* All scripture in this post has been taken from the New King James Version – NKJV

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The Truth of the Bible ~ Part 1: “Is the Bible 100% accurate or was most of it made up?”

bijbel-1Everyone has heard of the Bible.  It is considered one of the most profound and sacred texts ever written throughout history – even by non-believing critics.  It contains 66 books written by about 40 people from all walks of life (kings, farmers, homeless prophets, tent makers, doctors, musicians, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen and scholars), in many different settings (the wilderness, prison, palaces) at different times (during war, peace, famine), on three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa), in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) and during a 1,600 year span (from 1500 B.C. – 100 A.D. – that’s over 40 generations!).  It contains about 611,000 words and 1,189 chapters (chapters were introduced to the Bible in 1238 A. D. and verses were not added until 1551 A. D. 1 ).

motorcycle-post2There are more than 168,000 Bibles either sold or given away every day in the United States according to the Gideons, Wycliffe International and the International Bible Societies.  Historically it has been said that the Bible is the best selling book of all time.  It is regularly on various best seller lists.  The Bible has also been translated into more than 1,200 languages with many more translations in process.

No matter what your faith or beliefs are, you have probably heard of the most famous verse in the Bible:

John 3:16 *, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Many people have asked the following questions: Is the Bible a trustworthy document?  Are the Scriptures true as written?  Or are they full of myths that may have symbolic value but little if any basis in fact?  People have been questioning the Bible almost from its very beginning.  The apostle Peter, for example, experienced suspicion from many as he preached the gospel in the first century.  Many said that his assertions about Jesus were nothing than a ruse of shrewdly made up tales.

However, he and the other disciples (along with many more) experienced and witnessed Jesus’ miracles first-hand!  Then they wrote about them in the gospels – the first four books of the New Testament – and in the book of Acts.  These accounts of Jesus’ life weren’t written from someone who had heard about them from another person or who had read about them in ancient texts – these authors were actually there when Jesus walked on water.  They saw the fish and loaves multiply as Jesus fed the multitudes.  They were able to physically touch Jesus and place their fingers into the scares made by the nails that hung Him to the cross!

Still, there were those who renounced the accounts of Jesus throughout the gospels.  Peter, however, strongly rejected these accusations.  In 2 Peter 1:16-21, he wrote:

tve20365-3607-20150405-0For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were EYEWITNESSES of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’.  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis added)

The point of this first post is to answer the question: Is the Bible 100% accurate or was most of it made up?  The following post will then answer: If the Bible is 100% accurate, how can I heed and follow its message?

First and foremost, we as protestants (non-Catholics) at Cross+Connect+Trinity believe that our entire Bible is 100% accurate.  There is not one word in Scripture that is not true!  Every word that was hand written by man was God inspired and God breathed.  The words written in both the Old and New Testaments are to be taken seriously and applied to your life.

There are four main parts of the Bible that all the writers agree on:

  1. They give the same belief of God from beginning to end – that He is one God, Creator, blogSavior and the supreme Authority.  He is all-powerful, all-knowing and everlasting.  His nature is holy, good, loving and fair 5.
  2. They offer the same comprehension of human character.  Humans were created in God’s likeness and are able to do great good.  However, man is also immoral, sinful and capable of great evil.  The greatest commitment of humanity is to be harmonized with God and with each other 5.
  3. The authors also offer a unified perception of Jesus Christ.  He is both God and man at the same time.   He was born as a human being so He could reveal to the world the God we could not otherwise understand.  Something profound occurred as an outcome of His death on the cross, making it viable for God and mankind to be reunited 5.
  4. Finally, biblical authors offer a unified promise: God will carry out His will for all His creation 5.

Is the Bible 100% accurate or was most of it made up?

An atheist once commented to me:

“Whilst I respect your religious view, I cannot see how you can possibly believe every word in the Bible.  It has been written, re-written, altered, reinterpreted to Kingdom come and back. Not even penned until two or three centuries after the gory death of the ‘Redeemer’.  Your comment does not befit an intelligent man.”

This person holds beliefs that are very similar to many non-believers and antagonists of the Bible.

Here’s another view from someone who doesn’t believe the Protestant Bible is true.  Daniel Miessler (a blogger who vigorously tries to prove the Bible wrong) states:

The Bible is full of massive contradictions, so we really have two main explanations:

  1. daniel-miessler God created all these stories and characters thousands of years before the Bible in order to trick people, and then created new stories and characters that were almost exactly the same.  But the version that went into the Bible—even with all the contradictions and immoral teachings—is the actual word of God. …OR
  2. The Bible was created during a time where stories were orally passed down over thousands of years.  Stories constantly morphed and changed over time, and the Bible is a collection of these.  This is why it has the nearly identical flood story from Gilgamesh, and why Jesus has the same characteristics as Dionysus, Osiris, Horus, Mithra, and Krishna.  The contradictions and immorality in the stories are not evidence that God is flawed or evil, but rather that humans invented him, just like the thousands of other gods that we used to but no longer believe in.” 2

It is interesting to me that Mr. Miessler puts so much effort in this blog post in proving the Bible wrong.  He does write about many other things in his blog but he is a self proclaimed atheist and doesn’t believe in free-will.  Why would he invest so much study and time into something he believes is totally made up?  Why not just leave it alone?  Think about that for a moment.

There are three viewpoints to answer the question: Is the Bible 100% accurate or was most of it made up?

The first viewpoint is from a believing Christian, the second is by using logic, reason and clarity and the third is by using scientific and archaeological evidence.

From a Believing Christian

Because I am a believer and follower of Christ (also known as a Christian), I believe completely and wholly that all scripture is inspired and God-breathed.  I base that on 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Since 2 Timothy was written in Greek, we get the meaning of inspired by God from the word “theopneustos”.  This literally means “breathed by God” or “God-breathed“.  God sometimes breathed His words into the human writers to be recorded much like a dictation.  He said in Jeremiah 1:9:

Behold, I have put My words in your mouth,

But, as plainly evident in scripture itself, God’s divine truth usually manifested through the minds, souls, hearts and emotions of His chosen human instruments who then transcribed them into scripture.  However, by whatever means, God divinely administered the accurate recording of His “theopneustos” truth by His divinely chosen men and women.  In a supernatural way, He has provided His divine Word in human words that any person, even a child, can be led by His Holy Spirit to understand enough to become a follower of Christ.

Scripture is from God and about God.  It is His self-revelation to a fallen mankind.  From Genesis through Revelation, God reveals His truth, character, qualities and divine plan for the redemption of man, whom He created in His own image.canon_illumination_chart

Logic, Reason and Clarity

By stating that some scripture – not all – is inspired by God would be worthless.  Who would be the judge of that?  Any man or any woman?  Why would you trust such a person?  Everyone would agree that all humans are flawed, imperfect and sinful.  Therefore, a normal, everyday man or woman should not be the decider of what scripture should and should not be inspired.

books-oldInstead, men who are filled with God’s guidance and direction should decide what writings should and should not be included in the modern Bible.  These men wrote the 39 Articles written in 1563 for the Church of England and the Westminster Confession of Faith written in 1647 for Calvanism.  They appraised scripture using a “canon” or “measuring stick” and decided what would be included in the Protestant, non-Catholic Bible.

There are of course other Christian, God believing faiths whose Bibles differ from the protestant Bibles (Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Slavonic Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and others).  For example, the Roman Catholic Old Testament has seven additional books than the Protestant Bible.  However, the Roman Catholic New Testament is the same as the Protestant New Testament.

By stating that some – not all – scripture is inspired by God is like saying that God’s grace covers our sins (2 Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 2:8-9, 4:7, James 4:6, Titus 2:11, Romans 6:14, Acts 15:11 and others) but hell isn’t real (Revelation 19:20, 20:13-14, 21:8, Matthew 13:42, 13:50, 25:41, 25:46, Psalm 9:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Mark 9:43 and others – Jesus actually talked about hell more than He did heaven).

Another way to look at it is like opening a human anatomy text-book and believing the feet are for walking but the eyes aren’t for seeing.  Or like opening up a dictionary and believing the meaning of some words but not the meaning of others.  For certain absolute truths like that, one can’t just believe what they want to believe and not believe other things.  Human anatomy and word meanings are not one’s opinions – they are facts.  They either are or they aren’t.

The Bible works in the same way.  Either all of it is true or none of it is.

More portions of the New Testament have been recovered than any other text in the history of the world!  For example, Dr. F. H. A. Scrivener wrote:

scrivenerplainintroduction-224x300…manuscripts of the most illustrious classic poets and philosophers are far rarer and comparatively modern [than those of the New Testament].  We have no complete copy of Homer himself prior to the thirteenth century, though some considerable fragments have been recently brought to light which may plausibly be assigned to the fifth century; while more than one work of high and deserved repute has been preserved to our times only in a single copy.  Now the experience we gain from a critical examination of the few classical manuscripts that survive should make us thankful for the quality and abundance of those of the New Testament.” 4  (emphasis added)

Benjamin B. Warfield of Princeton Theological Seminary wrote:

The most astonishing thing about the manuscripts of the New Testament is their great number: as has already been intimated, quite two thousand of them have been cataloged upon the lists.” 4

This is important because copies of the New Testament are from very different eras and were discovered in many different countries.  Because of that, it would be significant if all of the portions of the New Testament are parallel and tied-in to one another in agreement.  In other words, they all have to say the same thing…and they DO!  Other than a few spelling errors and several minor things like that, every manuscript connects to the others in compete harmony 3!

200804_104_manuscriptevThis also means that it would be very simple to prove if the Bible was altered over time while being translated from one language to another.  All one would have to do is point to a portion of scripture and say, “At this point in the older texts, they all said this.  And then in the newer versions, they all began to say something different.” 3

Also, if scripture were altered, instead of people just alleging that this was true, they would actually be able to prove their claims.  It would be very easy to accomplish this.  It is also critical to know that the Bible is by far the most analyzed texts in the world and there are many intelligent critics who dislike it 3.

It might be shocking to know that the well-read pundits of the Bible don’t find that it has been modified or changed by the scribes.  These critics are too knowledgeable with the original writings to fall for that 3.

masoretic_textWith the Old Testament, it’s easy to establish that it wasn’t modified.  In recent years (about 1947), the earliest duplicates of the Old Testament were only about 1,000 years old.  This is because the Jewish manuscripts were lost in 70 A.D. when Rome devastated and destroyed the Temple where most of the writings were held.  These 1,000-year-old documents were called the “Masoretic Texts” because a family of scribes called the Masoretes owned them 3.

This all changed in 1947 when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found that dated from about 300-100 B.C. to 100 A.D.  Among the scrolls, they discovered remnants from every Old Testament book except for Esther.  Biblical scholars waited in anticipation to find out if the original scribes had accurately and faithfully conveyed the scriptures during this 1,000-year divide between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic Texts 3.

marsamuelWhat they found was that an almost immaculate reproduction of the texts word-for-word was handed down!  It wasn’t such a shock for the Jewish people that the ancient scribes had done such a thorough job in maintaining the text over the 1,000 years because the transcribers were very serious and deliberate with their responsibilities.  In fact, it has been said that if a scribe mis-wrote even one word, they would have to discard the entire transcription and start over from scratch.  It has also been said that they would ritually bathe every time they wrote the name of God – יהוה, Jehovah or Yahweh 3!

Scientific and Archaelogical Evidence

The Bible is also scientifically and archaeologically accurate.  The Old Testament prophet Isaiah mentioned that the earth was round in Isaiah 40:22:

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth…” (emphasis added)earth-from-space-nasa-blue-marble-east-2007

This scripture does not refer to a “flat disk”, as many critics claim, but to a “round sphere”.

In Psalm 103:12, King David describes the earth as being round:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (emphasis added)

Notice, David didn’t use “north and south” but “east and west”.  On a globe, if you go north far enough, you will start going south.  However, if you continue going east or west, you will keep on going in that same direction!  This is not possible to do if the earth were flat.

Man observed that the earth was round 2,400 years later when Sputnik-1, the first satellite was launched into space.  It was amazing that during an era when scientists asserted that the earth was flat, God revealed the truth thousands of years before through several authors.

There has also been recent geological evidence that the Great Flood of Noah’s time actually happened.  Remnants of the ark have been found on Mount Ararat in far east Turkey.

hattus1

Hattusa was the capitol city of the Hittite Empire before 1200 B.C.

For years, the Hittite kingdom was only known in Genesis 23 and 2 Samuel 11.  However, in 1906, archaeologists discovered the existence of a Hittite kingdom in the modern city of Ankara, Turkey 6.

The following biblical cities have been excavated and proven to have been inhabited: Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many others 6.

assyrian-stone-sculptures

Assyrian stone sculpture that mentions the Assycian King Esarhaddon

Finally, in 2014, archaeologists in Mosul, Iraq made a stunning find under the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Jonah (remember Jonah and the Big Fish?).  They discovered the hidden palace of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh.  This is the very cite where Jonah was sent to by God 7!

Many of you who are unbelievers will still hold on to your beliefs after reading this portion.  However, those of you who are searching and questioning the Bible have – I hope – gained a better understanding of the truth behind the Bible and it’s authors.

In the next post, I will answer the question: If the Bible is 100% accurate, how can I heed and follow its message?

Works Cited

  1.  Moore, G.F. The Vulgate Chapters and Numbered Verses in the Hebrew Bible, pages 73–78 at JSTOR. page 75
  2. https://danielmiessler.com/blog/the-bible-is-fiction-a-collection-of-evidence/#gs.MDnDoPY
  3. Walker, M. (2011, July 10). The truth about the Bible revealed – Undeniable proof. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET5LSDe1KIs
  4. Jackson, Wayne. “The New Testament Compared to Classical Literature.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 22, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1441-new-testament-compared-to-classical-literature-the
  5. NKJV Study Bible. (2007). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub.
  6. Maier, P. L. (2004). Biblical Archaeology: Factual Evidence to Support the Historicity of the Bible. Christian Research Journal, 27(2). Retrieved from http://www.equip.org/article/biblical-archaeology-factual-evidence-to-support-the-historicity-of-the-bible/
  7. Rogers, J. (2017). Biblical king’s palace uncovered beneath shrine destroyed by ISIS. Fox News Sciene. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/science/2017/03/06/biblical-kings-palace-uncovered-beneath-shrine-destroyed-by-isis.html

* All scripture in this post has been taken from the New King James Version – NKJV

The Pursuit of Righteousness

pursuit-of-righteousness
As God’s creation, we are fallen and have a sinful nature.  We were created to know God intimately and to serve Him.  Since the fall of man in the garden of Eden, eyes were opened and man knew he was naked.  We all have carnal habits and are immorally selfish.  This places our sin above God, which is idolatry.  Our God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24) and there shall be no gods before Him (Exodus 20:3).  Embedded in the seed of all mankind is the curse of sin.  We are all immorally flawed and without Christ there would be no hope.

1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:17‬ *, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

The wonderful news of the Gospel is that we do have a Redeemer!  Jesus laid down His own life not by force but as a willing sacrifice.  Jesus said:

John 10:17-18, “I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Notice how Jesus said that with such power and authority?

‬‬This made it possible to be saved from an eternal death of destruction, separated from the jesus-on-cross-570x379Living God.  Only through Jesus we have been given redemption through the shedding of His blood on the cross and His powerful defeat over death through resurrection!  He will grant us – the sinner – repentance only through the power of the Holy Spirit.  His rejuvenating power awakens the dead man to be given the chance of confession through repentance.  Not only is it important for us to confess, but to truly repent of our sin and to allow, submit, and surrender our whole lives.  We must step off the throne of our hearts we then ask Jesus Christ to become the Lord of our lives.  Jesus said:

John 6:44-45, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”

So you see, without the enabling of the Holy Spirit as our Helper, our fallen nature wants it’s way.  We can act selfish, egotistical, prideful, arrogant and so on.  To be effective doers of God’s commandments from His Word, we must submit to the Holy Spirit to change us.

Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

James 4:6,10, “…God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.”

its-all-about-meThe old lifestyle of sin and self-absorption or self worship leads to anxiety, loneliness, isolation, defeat and ultimately death.  As soon as one begins to experience these feelings, they again turn back to their self-destructive practices, habits and addictions of a life without Christ and the circle of destruction starts all over again.  With this endless cycle brings loneliness, fear and anxiety.

It is not natural (at first) for us corrupt, selfish beings to deny ourselves and instead surrender to Christ and have faith in Him and His teachings.  We must make a conscious effort to make any lifestyle change.

Luke 14:27, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Mark 8:34, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

True devotion to Christ isn’t just a prayer or bible reading in the morning and evening but by putting Christ as the CENTER in our lives by meditating on Him throughout the day.  Once you have surrendered yourself to Christ and have made it an everyday habit, your new walk will produce fruits of the Holy Spirit and your spiritual growth in Christ will become evident to the unbeliever.  This is just a part in the entirety of His desire for us and the great glory that we can experience here on this side of eternity!

The road to a mature Christian lifestyle starts with realizing that carnal pleasures lead to anxiety and that the world’s wanton pleasures are unfruitful and unproductive.  We must realize that the material things of this world are only temporary.  Our eternity in Heaven lasts forever.  So instead of giving in to the carnal and fallen nature (i.e. temporary pleasures, etc.), we have been instructed to cast our anxieties, which are the cares of this worlds, on Christ.  To put off our old self and give our hearts to Him by humbling ourselves as a living sacrifice, in service to Him.

Finally, if we ask in Jesus’ name and are in sync with His will, the promises will be fulfilled and what we ask will eventually come to pass.  This is the ultimate road to making a daily practice to pursue Christ.  Remember, Christians aren’t perfect…we’re just forgiven!

Carnal Pleasures Lead to Anxiety

ansiedad-portadaThe process of becoming a mature Christian begins with making the choice to pursue Christ daily – it starts here.  Those who don’t know Him, don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. They have rejected Him and do not follow Him.  They are wrapped up in the temporary things of this world, giving in to the carnality and worldly possessions, blinded by addictions, etc., instead of being concerned with Eternity and the narrow road less traveled (Matthew 7:13).  As someone (Christian or not) begins to entertain and chooses to give in to worldly pleasures, those carnal things become idolatry.  As Christians and members Christ’s Kingdom, we have been commanded by His Word not to associate ourselves with the cares of this dying and wicked world.  And by NO MEANS, as members of His body (I Corinthians 12:27), are we to partake or indulge in those worldly things.  We must instead view this as carnal and materialistic, temporary pleasures.  If we do indulge, then we will be blinded by the false hopes that are only temporary.  Soon afterwards (without sincere repentance), we will begin searching for the next best thing(s) in an attempt to drown out those anxieties or sorrows.  Sadly, the solution devised by the wicked one through men of this world, is only temporary.  The things of God and His righteousness through Jesus Christ are Eternal Hebrews 13:8, Psalm 102:26-27.

The word anxious means – “full of mental dist6357405020812055051488693726_anxiety-charlie-brownress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune; greatly worried or concerned“.  The word stress means – “to have fear or pain; to be stressed, disturbed; physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”.  Now I could be dwelling on this, per-se, but both anxiety and stress have detrimental outcomes and effects on the human being.

Unfortunately, the world is a big promoter of self-ism or what I call self-worship“.  They offer substances that try to dampen our anxieties and stress.  Their answer to the quick fix is pretty obvious.  It is whatever  “what makes you feel good” or “anything that helps take the load off“.  This could be any one of the combination of prescription medication, alcohol or smoking weed – for example.

yolo_logoThe influence within our society says – “Do whatever you feel, what pleases or satisfies you.  As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone and makes you feel good, then by all means, do whatever.  After all, we’re only human…right?  You deserve to be happy and feel good.  You only live once!”  Of course, this way of thinking is usually what convinces us to make those choices.  Just remember that those things, whatever they are, are short-lived and are not eternal.  The good news is that we do have a Source.  That Source is perfect.  It’s Jesus Christ and His Power never taps out.  What He has to offer is NOT short-lived or temporary.  So why do we settle for the temporary things or a quick fix?  Why not choose Jesus?

There is an unseen force that has such a deep-rooted spiritual influence.  Most people choose the easy way out and in most cases, it is the self-destructive path that person decides to go down.  Additionally, the lie that hides beneath the surface is to believe that in resorting to an addictive substance, it’s OK to splurge or go on a binge – even if done once in a while.  But the likelihood of becoming an addict is pretty high if resorting to just a few of the things mentioned here becomes a normal habit.

binge-drinking-blamed-on-music1So let’s be frank.  How many people have you have come across in your lifetime, friends and even family, that have been honest about these things.  The truth is, you really can’t do most of these things in moderation.  For one, they are made to mask the emotions.  But what happens when the effect of the substance or what you binge on wears off?  You want more, right?  What I’ve come to realize is that anything the world has to offer is short-lived.  There is no long-term affect for the good or the better.  It’s destruction to the mind and the spirit.  So where’s the solution?  The solution is in Christ and in Him alone.  He died so that He could know you.

Luke 21:34-36, “But take heed [watch] to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness [drinking/doing drugs] and cares [anxieties] of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly [suddenly like a trap].  For it will come as a snare [trap] on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore [staying awake and alert], and pray always that you may be counted worthy [having the strength to overcome] to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man [Who is Jesus Christ]. ” [words in brackets added]

Unfruitful

As people follow these temporary worldly pleasures that lead to anxiety and ultimately death, they produce nothing eternal.

Matthew 13:22, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares [anxieties] of this world and the deceitfulness of riches [material things] choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” [words in brackets added]

“When that which comes of his sowing is unfruitful, the sower’s work is wasted: he has spent his strength for nothing.  Without fruit the sower’s work would even seem to be insane, for he takes good wheat, throws it away, and loses it in the ground.  Preaching is the most idle of occupations if the Word is not adapted to enter the heart, and produce good results.”

–  Charles Spurgeon

The word “unfruitful” means – not producing good or helpful results and also that which is “unproductive”.  Not only are we warned that the material things become a distraction to our godly lifestyles, but they can hinder us and stunt our spiritual growth in the Lord Jesus and block His grace and desires for us to experience.

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  

Remember, We’re Just Passing Through

The nature of the Christian’s life upon earth is onl2da2a89fc316e8d110aefa8c8951701ey temporary.  That is why God calls us pilgrims.  This world is not our home; it is only temporary.  We are merely pilgrims passing through this world and are therefore temporary residents upon earth.  God has given us a deeper attachment than allegiance to our native country.  Everything in this life is transitory.  Christians are not to focus on the things that are seen (2 Cor. 4:18), but to fix our eyes on the Eternal (Heb. 11:13-16).  Soon we will pull up our stakes and leave for our Eternal Home only in His timing.  But while on earth, we have been given a responsibility to obey His calling of the “Great Commission” – Matthew 28:16-20.

Casting our Cares Upon Christ

1 Peter 5:6-8, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care [anxieties; worries] upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober, be vigilant [watchful; on guard]; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” [words in brackets added]

Dealing with anxiety and fear on our own can be a pretty strenuous and difficult thing to take on – for both believer and non-believer.  But as Peter wrote in the above passage, its context can be useful for a new believer in Christ.

tumblr_lksyerdnvz1qg4xgso1_500The application of God’s Word as a disciple is wholly essential to us as Christians.  It’s a commandment of the Lord God, to live obediently to Him.  His Word commands us to live a godly lifestyle.  Sadly, a very large percentage of the body of Christ in this world has fallen asleep in the light.  How can a church that is asleep, effectively shine the light of Christ to a dying and dark world – as “Ambassadors” and a “Holy Priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5)?  Over the decades and centuries, there have been horror stories on how the body of believers have done a terrible job and we have misrepresented the Gospel of Christ.  The mission that has been commanded by the King Himself that we need to live by is the “Great Commission” (Matt 28:19-20).

So how do we as believers deal with anxiety?  The instruction is within God’s Word and it is through His Word that Holy Spirit continues to inform us.  The application is to practice this by living it out.  So to “put away” or “cast all care” (v.7) upon God is a process and takes time just like sanctification or purification.  For starters, it begins with the faith that the Lord God has placed within us.

Hebrews 12:2, “Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God.(emphasis added)

This indicates that purification has been made available with the help that Christ has sent us, which was only possible through the defeat of death and rising again.  Our limited finite minds can barely comprehend the Power at the Cross of Christ.  But the Love of God is SIMPLE and COMPLETE.  The demonstration of His death and resurrection symbolize the defeat of the wicked one – that is the devil.  Why wouldn’t we cast our anxieties upon Him?  He conquered death and sits at the right hand of God the Father!  Let’s set aside the anxiety part for just a moment as we take a look at more scripture.

Romans 8:16-18, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

Notice the key word “MAY is used according to the context meaning: to express possibility and/or express opportunity or permission.  So to be glorified together, there is some effort on our part.  Here’s another scripture Paul wrote:

Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

That’s powerful!

Now we come back to the anxiety.  The enabling or set up comes from the Holy Spirit.  So the effort is on our part – submitting to Him because He won’t force things.  We can’t deal with the “lion” – we don’t even have to go there.  It is Him alone that deals with the “lion” (1 Peter 5:8) – WHO IS THE PUNK DEVIL THAT LIES, KILLS, STEALS AND DESTROYS.

How then do we, the believer, deal with all of the anxieties and cares of the world?

discuss_0We’re all different and have come from various backgrounds – whether it is experience or observing others.  I’m sure that many have dealt with their anxieties differently.  We might ask ourselves: How did I react or deal with anxious or stressful situations in the past?  The real question is – How did we deal with things before we were Christians?

Since we have been saved through Jesus Christ alone, did we resort to those same things that we would before we accepted Christ into our lives?  As one becomes genuinely saved and desires to be changed, the old things have passed away.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  (emphasis added)

This isn’t something that happens overnight – it is a process.  And sanctification is a LIFE-LONG process – a daily pursuit.  The question is – what is the state of the person’s heart?  Is there really a desire to change, or is it the misconception of saying some secret formula step-by-step prayer that gives one free access to heaven when that person’s time is done on earth?

Unfortunately many have been lied to by the enemy and are deceived that as long as the prayer of salvation is prayed, then life is good.  Go ahead and keep on sinning and you’ll be fine.  God’s grace will cover it! – they say.  WRONG!!!  This is a lie from the very pit of hell (Romans 6:1-2)!  If that is the attitude of the heart, then there is a big question you have to grapple with.  The answer will be the determining factor if the genuine conversion to Christ is true or not.  The first thing to help answer this question is: how do I live my life?  Does it bring the Lord Jesus glory or does it misrepresent Him?  If the answer is, “NO”, then I would encourage you to pray for God to reveal the truth to you.

 

Many people use drugs, drink alcohol, give in sexually to porn, look to material or worldly things to fulfill themselves or replace God with self-worship.  These things mentioned are just a few of the struggles that many people of both genders have.  Unfortunately, the society we live in heavily promotes and encourages self-ism and/or self-worship.  The “ISM” is really an acronym for: I, SELF and ME.

This is complete selfishness.  The “ISM” is all about one’s self.  One of the oldest and original lies of Satan and his wicked schemes are that we can become gods – lower case “g” (Genesis 3:5).  Everything that the enemy has designed as a system of this world is cunning and made of idolatry and self-worship.  It is an extremely subtle destruction process that will NOT (in some cases) come as a swift destruction.   Sometimes they may, but the enemy has constructed many subtle, elusive and misleading tactics that are behind the destruction.  They can be so slow that before one realizes, it is too late.  The eyes are opened and sinful nature is revealed, but it will be too late to turn back.

The enemy does not want the Lord God to be glorified or exalted.  Satan is an evil and selfish being!  He wants ONLY his kingdom – which is this world – to be idolized.  Satan will do his best to blind or hinder us humans from worshiping God and bringing Him glory (with a lifestyle of worship and praise).

Resist Satan, be steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world.

Putting Off and Putting On

After one has given their anxieties to the Lord, they must “put off and put on”.  What exactly does this mean?  This next scripture explains this in detail.

Ephesians 4:22-24, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (emphasis added)

new-life1We are to “put off” our old selves (the “old man”) that is the carnal nature or anxiety that comes naturally or instinctive to all humans.  This is no easy thing.  This is like someone who was born in Indonesia and has spoken Bahasa all their lives.  Then they move to Iceland and have to pick up Icelandic.  This new language is very foreign and unnatural to them.  They have to “put off” their old language and adopt this “putting on” of a new language.

However, once the “putting on” of the “new man”, created and renewed by Christ, is done, one will become more joyful and satisfied.  The hardest part is deciding to do it.  Everything else afterwards is so simple.  That’s not to say that your life after “putting on” your new man will be a worry-free, easy-going existence.  If anything, there will be more trials and hardships after the “putting on” of the new man.  But that’s what causes us to rely fully on Christ.  The concept of “putting on” is the easy part.  What comes afterwards is a whole different subject.  Here’s how easy it is to “put on” the new man:

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That’s all there is to “putting on” the new man who is in Christ!  Of course, the “new man” will need to daily immerse themselves in the Word, pursue Christ and surround themselves with mature Christians who can disciple them and keep them accountable.

After “putting on” this new man in Christ, you are now set on a path or set towards a goal.  Have you ever been in a race where you had to run in order to win?  The ultimate goal is the finish line.  However, in this instance, you’re not racing against others, you’re racing for a prize that God has called you to.  In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote:

Philippians 3:12-14, Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

This is the ultimate description of a new Christian.  They have not yet attained the goal.  The Greek word for “press on” used here is diōkō.  It means “pressing on, pursuing, chasing, running flat out”.  Paul used it figuratively to mean a “goal-line” or a “mark”.  It is unknown what this “goal line” symbolizes in the Christian life.  However, I don’t think the goal is heaven or purity.  It is more likely to mean being Christlike and being at one with Him.  Pursuing Christ is a constant persistence towards that calling 1.

It is important to remember that this new man in Christ is not yet developed or experienced.  They should be cultivated and mentored by mature Christians.  Here is a scripture that describes this state:

Hebrews 5:14, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

One who is a “new man” in Christ will not be able to discern with wisdom the things that a mature, experienced Christian can grasp.  They must not take on too much of their calling or they may unknowingly lead people astray in their young Christian age.

Romans 6:16-17, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.”

You were a slave to sin but because you believed in Christ, you are delivered and became a new man through obedience to God!

A Heart Issue

godlooksattheheartDo you know your own intentions, your character, your nature or your essence?  Most people, if they spend enough time alone, do know these things.  Is it safe then to say that you also know your own heart?  No one can really know their own heart.  You might know your mind but not your heart.  The two usually do not get along.  You might want to do something and your mind says to do one thing but sometimes, the heart might be in a totally different place.  Many who claim to “know Christ” but live lifestyles that are totally contrary are deceived into thinking that they are Christians.  Their mouths and their fruits reveal what is truly inside their heart.  The heart is a flighty ever changing thing that cannot be predicted by man.  So is it safe to say that God knows your heart?  Of course He does!

Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?  I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.(emphasis added)

1 Samuel 16:7, “…Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Our hearts are what the Word of God says they are.  The miracle is that only through the shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood, we have been made righteous and sanctified.  Through His defeat of death and His resurrection, He has made us NEW!  Through His sacrifice of Himself, He has made it possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  The process of rebirth and as He supernaturally changes us is that He makes us more like Him!

Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

For me, this has been at times an excruciating experience because of the refining that He does.  Afterwards comes the change and sanctification of my heart.  By nature, we are desperately wicked but the Lord helps us become renewed everyday!!

Humility and Service

1After we have given ourselves and our anxieties to Christ, He renews us.  We then confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that He was raised from the dead, then we are truly saved (Romans 10:9)!  We are then new Christians!  Next, we are to practice humility and service.  Peter was an apostle of Jesus Christ and wrote an epistle to the “Pilgrims of the Dispersion” in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1-2).  Peter was addressing the Christian Jews throughout the Roman Empire who had “dispersed throughout Asia Minor – which is Northwest Turkey today.

When Peter addressed the “younger people” in 1 Peter 5:5 b, he was especially instructing them to do so in context of the attitude of humility – which means “for one to have a modest or low view of one’s own importance“.  This doesn’t mean that he was telling them they should have a low self-esteem.  On the contrary, he wanted them to put others higher than themselves as a way of serving those who were in their age group and the elders as well (but the elders first as a gesture of honor and respect to them).

Jesus stated in this scripture:

Matthew 20:28, Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (emphasis added)

So we have been instructed to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1).  The younger generation to submit to the “elders” (1 Peter 5:5), and to also “be submissive to one another”.  The key of this is the following exhortation Peter gives which is that of humility (verse 5b) where he added:

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”

alaskapastor-thoughts-on-ministry-and-life-and-our-family-nkld3o-clipartThe greatest example of a humble servant is Jesus Himself.  In John chapter 13 just before the Last Supper, Jesus did one of His last acts of service in front of all the twelve disciples.  Here was Jesus, the SON OF GOD who raised people from the dead, healed countless diseases, walked on water and spoke to thousands.  The disciples looked to Him as their Leader, their Authority, their Teacher.  Then He set aside His clothing, wrapped Himself in a towel and began going to each disciple in turn – washing their feet!

During this time in history, the common man didn’t own shoes.  They walked everywhere they went and were lucky if they had a pair of sandals.  After a day of walking in the dusty, muddy streets, their feet must have been filthy.  What Jesus did was no easy task.  This was a job of a lowly servant, not the Son of God!  However, He was stooping to the level of a servant and showing them the example of ultimate humility and service.

John 13:12-15, “So when He had washed their [the disciples] feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.'” [words in brackets added]

What an amazing depiction of humble service!  This is what we are called to do to others.  Just as Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, we are to show the same example of service.  It might be to serve in your church in the children’s ministry or on the media team, it might be to say encouraging words to a coworker, it might be to get to know your neighbor and witness to them.  Every act of service we do to and for others brings honor to God and unites us together as the body of Christ.

Ask in Jesus’ Name

I used to think “asking in Jesus’ name” meant as long a0c187356c8c4d54e1ec4d3979c000380s I delighted in stories of the Lord or read the bible, sung worship songs or lived my life as strictly as possible – as long as I did those things, the Lord would give to me everything that my heart desired.  Over time and through my maturity as a believer and follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit ministered to me what this truly means.  As long as we are continuous and obedient while walking out our faith in Christ, the desires that He has for us and in His Kingdom become our desires.  It’s not riches or a perfect job and even a perfect wife that I wanted.  Instead, it is to serve and to know the RICHNESS of who my Lord and Savior is and how much He loves me.

Unfortunately, there are Christian teachers who have distorted and perverted the very Gospel of Christ.  False teachers have turned God’s Ministry into a money-making “name it and claim it” gospel that promotes the selfish lifestyle filled with greed and fame – self-ism.  These people will be held to a much higher accountability and standard for doing such things.  The main point is to emphasize that riches, fame and selfish ambitions WILL NOT bring a true and genuine disciple and follower of Jesus truth and eternal life.  Joy that flows from our Savior is our ONLY true Source in Heaven and is in Christ alone.

James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

The word amiss means “rather unjust, dishonest, or of immoral behavior“.  Have you ever been in a conversation or Bible Study with anyone who shared the verse above?  Regardless, many of us have done this several times in the past.  Let’s take a look at it from another angle.

John 14:4, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

What did Jesus mean when He said that?  Does it mean that if we ask for a million dollars in Jesus’ name, He will give it to us?  Or ask Him for a beautiful wife and a perfect marriage (a perfect marriage doesn’t exist by the way)?  You fill in the blank.  My point is that human nature is vile, flawed and corrupt.  Without Christ, we will always seek our own pleasures.

3126540394_706026ac6c_bLet’s go back to what it means to ask something in Jesus’ name.  Here’s the first scenario.  You wake up to someone pounding at your door front.  You look out through the peep-hole, only to realize that the person is a complete stranger and you have no idea what they want.  Your emotions are obviously cautious and maybe even fearful at this point.  So your response is more than likely one of fear and your protective instinct kicks in.  If they don’t go away, you’ll either call the police or take action yourself.

dpd-boston-2_1461448820594_1875502_ver1-0For the second scenario, let’s change the appearance of person at the door.  This time, a similar thing happens, but the person at your front door has a police uniform on.  When you ask them who it is, they reply with confidence and authority, asking politely to speak with you.

Now that your perspective and outlook of this person has most likely changed, how would you respond?  Here is an officer of the law who represents authority.  It makes more sense to feel more comfortable and safe in this situation.  This law enforcement officer represents the government, they most likely abide by the law, and protect and serve the people of the community.  You would feel safer opening your door to this law enforcement officer instead of a complete stranger right?

Basically – as Christians and Ambassadors of Christ, we represent Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  As we follow Him, we have been commanded to do so in obedience and humility.  The key is to submit and to represent Christ by abiding in Him.  This is an everyday pursuit and shouldn’t just be practiced on Sunday when we “play religion” at church or read that one minute devotion every morning.  It’s truly a heart issue here.  We abide in Christ and are His Representatives/Ambassadors.  By following Him, we do so with unconditional love towards others.  As the Holy Spirit enables us and our hearts are in the right place, our walk with Christ is a daily pursuit as He leads us through life.  “Walking out” our faith in Christ in daily actions and speech takes a lot of practice, but the Lord is always there to guide is along – we are never alone!  This is now a life lived out in obedience to Him!  Once one has reached this final step, they are ready to be released into the world and fulfill their calling – the Great Commission!

In Conclusion9f0dd777851ad3e62650012e6e700b25

These are the basic steps of getting on the path of pursuing Christ.  First, one must realize what their carnal, temporary nature is and what worldly pursuits and addictions they must get rid of.  These are the very things that lead to anxiety, grief and a destructive cycle of death.  Instead, they must offer their cares and anxieties to Christ.  In giving it to Him, it’s like gaining a new world-view and realizing how temporary this world is and focusing on eternity.  The putting-off of the old man and putting-on of the new, purified one is the next step.  The hardest part is taking that first step.  The rest is simple although there will be trials and hardships.  We just need to remember that we are never alone!  We can never know our own hearts (or anyone else’s for that matter).  God looks at our hearts and is able to give it back to us cleansed and pure if we are willing to submit to Him.  Next, we must humble ourselves – less of me and more of Him – and follow the greatest example of service: Jesus Christ.  Once we have entered into this servant-hood, we are ready to be released into the world and complete the Great Commission.  We must do this in Jesus’ name and only under His authority.  Just remember, when you cast your cares on Him, give your heat to Him in humble service, He will sustain you and lift you up!

 

*All scripture verses in this post are from the NKJV – New King James Version

 

 

WORKS CITED

  1. Wilson, R. F., Dr. (2017). Pressing Toward the Goal (Philippians 3:12-4:1). Jesus Walk Bible Study Series. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from http://www.jesuswalk.com/philippians/7_pressing.htm#_ftnref166

Approaching God With The Impossible

Are you being faced with insurmountable odds?  Are you going through a drought or a physical infirmity in your life…waiting for that moment where you will finally break through and claim victory?  Maybe these two stories will bring some comfort to you.  The first one is about the Old Testament prophet Elijah.  The second is about a Godless Syrian general named Naaman.  Both men are very much alike but in other ways, they are very different.

I Kings 18 – Elijah’s Droughtelijah

Here, we find Elijah receiving a message from God after it hadn’t rained in the land for 3 years.  God told him to talk elijah_nabothto King Ahab then He would send rain on the land (vs. 1).  Now you must know that Ahab’s wife Jezebel had been killing prophets.  There were actually 100 of them hiding in caves but here was Elijah hearing from God to confront Ahab (vs. 2).  This was his first bold move.

bw3-blogThe second bold move would be to prophesy that it was going to rain.  So Elijah spoke to Ahab and told him to meet him on top of Mount Carmel and bring 850 prophets of their gods Baal and Asherah (vs. 19).  When they arrived, Elijah challenged them.  He told them to stop going back and forth between the true God and the false Baal gods (vs. 21).  This was a showdown.  You have probably heard the story.  Elijah challenged them to place a bunch of sacrificed bulls on an alter and pray to their gods to send fire to consume them (vs. 25).  They did this but nothing happened (vs. 29).

1c-2offering-of-elijah-chagallThen it was Elijah’s turn.  He even had them pour water over the sacrifices so he could prove that his God was the one true God (vs. 30-35).  After he prayed to God to bring fire from heaven to consume the bulls the Lord sent the fire down and it devoured everything…even the stones and wood on the alter (vs. 36-38)! Then the prophets of Baal and Asherah were put to death (vs. 40).

After this, Elijah told King Ahab that there was going to be a heavy rain (vs. 41).  Then to his servant, he told him to look out at the sea for any clouds.  The servant came back with negative news that there were no such clouds.  Elijah told him to do it again…and six more times he didn’t see a thing (vs. 43).  On the seventh time (seven is the number of perfection), the servant came back with a report that there was a cloud the size of a man’s hand (vs. 44).

bw2-blogThen Elijah told his servant to go tell Ahab to go down to Jezreel (a valley in Israel) before the rain stopped him.  As he said this, black clouds filled the sky and it began to rain very heavily (vs. 45-46).

What this story tells me is that even though a situation seems bleak (it hadn’t rained in Israel for three years or in your particular situation, a miracle didn’t happen or fill in the blanks), God is going to bring about a miracle if you are faithful and trust completely in Him.  The strongest example of faith I’ve seen in the New Testament is in Matthew 19:18-22, Mark 5:21:34 and Luke 8:41-48.  Here, a woman had a bleeding condition for 12 years.  By faith, she thought if she could just touch Jesus’s garment, she would be healed…and she was!

We hope and we hope but return with no answer…but there will come that time when we see that small glimpse of a possibility (the tiny cloud or God’s promise). Even that small piece of hope is enough for us to know that God is going to pour out His blessings on us.  And He sure will!

It should also be noted that even after Elijah was a part of bringing about God’s ultimate power and proved the false prophets wrong and prophesied that it was going to rain, he was only human.  After all this happened, he still had to run for his life (I Kings 19:3).  Although he had had enough and wished that he were dead (vs. 4), the Lord still provided for him (vs. 6-8).  God still got the victory and glory in the end!design

I believe that in your desperate situation, even after God brings about all the blessings He’s been promising; it won’t be over just yet.  You’ll still have to go on living your life and will be faced with the problems and difficulties that come your way.  Just because God blesses you and answers your prayers doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will be without difficulty.

However, I believe that during the time of waiting, God prepares His servants to be patient.  We are being challenged and tested in every way.  If we stay strong till the end, we will be ready for whatever else we have to face.  But after we have been tested and if we stand fast, we will be stronger and more equipped to handle more difficulties.  We will do that not alone but together and with God’s help!

Capture

There was a guy named Naaman who was the commander of the Syrian army under the king of Aram.  This guy was pretty intimidating, highly respected and brave…but he had leprosy (vs. 1).  When his wife’s slave (who was an Israelite) (vs. 2) told him about Elisha and that he could cure Naaman of his ailment (vs. 3), Naaman sent word to Elisha (vs. 6).  Elisha sent a message back telling Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cured (vs. 10).  But Naaman scoffed at Elisha’s request (vs. 11).  Why wouldn’t Elisha just come up to him, touch his leprosy and then he’d be healed?  It was that easy right?  It was the best, most understandable way.  Plus, the Jordan River was very dirty.  Why wouldn’t Elisha ask him to wash himself in other rivers in Damascus like the Abana and Pharpar? (vs. 12)

naamanJust as Naaman was going to abandon Elisha’s request, his servants convinced him otherwise (vs. 13).  So he cleansed himself seven times in the Jordan River and as Elisha had told him, he was healed of his leprosy (vs. 14).  Even though Elisha’s way was a bit unconventional and seemed disgusting, it healed Naaman.  He had to trust in Elisha’s absurd request and as a result, he was completely healed.  Naaman then surrendered his life to God because of his healing.

This might parallel with any specific situation you are faced with.  What you want is for God to jump into the midst of your circumstance, wave a Better to Best~magic wand and do things the way you would want Him to do. The easy way would be for there to be no heartache…no trials…no grief…no sorrow.  But, as some of you know, that’s not usually the way things happen.  Could God work in that way?  Of course…but He usually doesn’t.  God usually directs his faithful in an alternative direction that we would never have thought up.  He’s telling you to dip in the dirty waters of the Jordan in order to see the fulfillment of His promise.  Even though that would be the last place you would have wanted to go, you will have to go in that direction if you want to see God’s blessings in your life.

How has your trial or impossible situation started?  When trials are breathing down your neck, when circumstances in life seem inescapable, we must know where it originated so we can respond to it.  There are at least 4 possibilities (or combinations of the 4 origins):

Crash1.  Natural Causes: Our world is fallen and sometimes bad things happen to good people.  Many times, troubles arise just because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You didn’t do anything, you just happened to be driving through that intersection at the same time someone wasn’t paying attention and ran that red light.  Sometimes accidents just happen because they happen.

2.  Personal Sin: Other trials originate as a result of our own sinful behavior and actions or they are set up from God to veer our paths and turn us from our sin.  If this is the case, the solution is to repent.

3.  Spiritual Attack: The devil is against God’s faithful people and will try anything to bring about hardships, warfarediscomfort, destruction and obstacles to us.  Sometimes our enemy becomes angry at us and hits us with all he has.  During these times, occasionally God permits Satan to attack us as He did with Job.  This is where God wants to teach us spiritual warfare.  During these trials, we need to arise in faith, know how to defeat the enemy and be a part of establishing God’s will.  When the devil is attacking, it is not a time to say, “I’m not doing anything right now because I’m waiting on God.” No!  God has equipped us to call upon His name in times of spiritual warfare and with His help take the offensive against Satan’s attacks.

4.  Purposed by God: Other times, God allows suffering and burdens to afflict us in order to perfect and develop us so we can become more Christlike and grow in maturity.  It is during this fourth trial origin that we must learn to wait on the Lord in quietness and confidence.

Faith is the tool we need to carry us through these trials.  Here are two quotes from great Christian authors that I want to close this post with:

“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2 NKJV – [emphasis added])

“God is speaking about something immediate in this verse. It is not something He is going to do but something He does do, at this very moment. As faith continues to speak, God continues to give. He meets you today in the present and tests your faith. As long as you are waiting, hoping, or looking, you are not believing. You may have hope or an earnest desire, but that is not faith, for ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Heb. 11:1). The command regarding believing prayer is: ‘Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24). We are to believe that we have received – this present moment. Have we come to the point where we have met God in His everlasting now?”

– A. B. Simpson

“…the person of faith will not act hastily or out of desperation when the crisis is on.  Faith means: no frantic decisions in the face of crisis.  The man of faith is willing to wait patently for God’s direction, provision, and salvation.  The man of faith is unhurried and unflustered, calmed by a confidence in the unstoppable nature of the kingdom.  He cannot be flustered into impetuous, snap decisions.”

– Bob Sorge

Refuting the Palatable Gospel

blog_mm-the-palatable-gospelBy guest writer: Kent L. Barber

We are living in a time where apostasy within the church is at an all-time high.  Much of what is being preached in hundreds and perhaps thousands of pulpits in the westernized world and called “the Gospel” is really no gospel at all.  By gospel, I mean the “good tidings” of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension.1   So if a message does not accurately portray Christ as revealed in scripture or attempts to water-down the offense of the gospel then that message effects no real change for it has not the transforming power wrought by the Spirit of God alone.  In order to make God and His message less offensive, many have sought to preach a “palatable gospel.”  One that is easy to swallow, one that allows men to remain comfortable in their sin and even believe that they can “invite Jesus into their hearts” and yet remain unchanged.  However, this message of “easy-believism” is not the message of Scripture.

Perhaps a greater heresy than to preach that one can come into an intimate relationship with Christ and remain as they are is to preacher-pulpit2propose that Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit could take up residence in the life of someone and not transform their life.  For it was not the dead, unbeliever’s decision to come to life nor is it ever the believer’s will to live godly and obey our Lord apart from the radical move of God upon that life.  If we have any desire to obey God, it is the transforming, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  As the Apostle Paul stated succinctly, “In my flesh dwells no good thing.” (Romans 7:18)

In this writing, I’d like to touch on two things which I believe have been instrumentally damaging to the souls of many and to the weakening of the Church.

1.  A misinterpretation of Paul’s usage of the term “carnal” as used in 1 Corinthians chapter 3.

 

Paul here is speaking to the Corinthian church, which like many churches today was very dysfunctional.  They were unloving, selfish, vainglorious, inconsiderate, envious, divisive and prideful to name of few.  In verse one, Paul tells them that they were behaving carnally as babies in Christ.  This meant that they were indeed Christians, but acting spiritually immature.  Anyone who has been a Christian for more than a few days understands that they are still flawed and subject to sin so let’s be clear that we are not talking sinless perfection in this life.

 

We also know that through the power of the Holy Spirit we now have a choice whether to sin or not and that we can grieve the Holy Spirit by our willful disobedience.  Even in Scripture there are countless examples of godly people who at one point or another chose not to live godly.  We Christians should also understand that we are accepted by God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone and even our good works are bad apart from Him (Isaiah 64:6).  Therefore, we are not talking a works-based salvation either.  By grace are we saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8)!

 

However, to classify someone as a carnal Christian when they perpetually live year after year bearing absolutely no fruit, having no conviction of their sins and no interest in pleasing God is (in my humble opinion) rank heresy.  In this regard, the church is more concerned about avoiding the offense of people than avoiding the offense of God.  This in turn, renders the message of the Gospel impotent and makes us ashamed to speak the truth about what God says about an unredeemed of life.  Often this “carnal Christian” will say, “Well God knows my heart.”  To that, I say you are 100% right, Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

2.  The second issue that I believe merits examination and is perhaps the leading exasperator of the aforementioned is our readiness to declare someone as saved and tell them “welcome to the family of God” when they most certainly are not. Now before I get into this, let me first say what I am not saying. I am not saying that by any means that any of us are the judge as to whether or not someone has truly accepted Christ or that someone isn’t saved unless we say they are.  It is not our place to tell someone they’re not saved.  But here is what I am saying: nor is it our place to tell them they are saved.  Consider the below scenario:

Someone attends a good solid, Bible-believing/teaching church.  They hear the Word of God, and they’re moved.  Even moved to point of raising a hand or coming forward at the beckoning of the speaker during an invitation.  Let’s say this person kinda feels like that want to follow Christ at this time.  We then welcome them to family of God and attempt to disciple them.  They change some things about their behavior, learn a few “Christian” things and even serve in the church.  They stick around for while but later just stop coming or associating with Christianity and retreat back to their old life.  Inwardly there was no real transformation. Even when someone reaches out to them we assume they are “saved” and tell them they just need to “re-dedicate their life” or “start coming back to church.”

5-Church-SubstitutesNow, in the above scenario does convincing an unregenerate, lost sinner that they are simply a carnal Christian needing to re-dedicate their life or repent of a few sins help them to see their pending utter ruin (for by nature they are a child of wrath) and need for true repentance?  We would all do well to let Scripture be the final arbiter in this matter.

 

Before you think to knock my scenario and dismiss the scenario, please understand that it is very similar to a parable Jesus told albeit His being infinitely greater:

The Parable of the Sower 

Matthew 13:1-9

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down.  And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.  And since they had no root, they withered away.Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

b11The Parable of the Sower Explained

Matthew 13:18-23

18 Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.  This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it.  He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

While many things that Jesus taught were “hard sayings,” I don’t think this one is hard to understand.  The bottom line here is there are some who initially respond favorably to the Word of God, but then sometime later they reject it for it never took root in their lives.  I know there are many God-fearing men of God who study diligently every week to feed the flock of God and have nothing but the best intentions for the lives of all who enter their church.  But based on Jesus’ own words here, there is no way we can know right away whether the Word of God has actually taken root in someone’s life and that they are in fact saved.

 

This is why I say it is not our place to tell someone they’re saved.  Doing so has led to much confusion and many ungodly (organizational) church “members.”  John also makes this clear in his epistle when he states, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

 

Now, let’s take a brief overview and share some thoughts on a few scriptures which readily expose the fallacy of any teaching that claims that one can be saved and remain unregenerate, unsanctified, untransformed and uninterested in the things of God.  The first of these is the Change that God affects.

1.  Change that God affects

Philippians 2:13

Philippians 2-13“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

 

Thought: it is God who works in the life of believers, therefore how can His work not be evident at some point?  Is God weak?  Is His work deficient?  Is He not greater than our sin?

graceEphesians 1:1, 5-6

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Thought: is it possible for God to raise someone from death to life and seat them with Him in heavenly places and yet they still live everyday in sin, self-will and rebellion like they’re still dead (spiritually)?

 

new creation2 Corinthians 5:16-17

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Thought: can that which God Himself makes a new creation still remain like the old? 

Philippians 1:6

finishline“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Thought: in spite of ourselves and the fleshly bent that remains, it is God who began the work in us and will complete it!  The rebellious King Nebuchadnezzar, after an encounter with God made this declaration in Daniel chapter 4:

Nebuchadnezzar“I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

 

Titus 3:3-5

washing_hands flickr_sca____“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

Thought: this passage states that we’re saved by the “washing of regeneration” and “renewal of the Holy Spirit”.  Regeneration – (Greek) Palin-genesis.  Palin = Again or New, Genesis = Beginning or Birth.  The new birth and “regeneration” do not represent successive stages in spiritual experience; they refer to the same event but view it in different aspects.  The new birth stresses the communication of spiritual life in contrast to antecedent spiritual death; “regeneration” stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old.1

 

Therefore, if all believers are regenerated by the work Holy Spirit, is it not ludicrous to say that the Holy Spirit is not affecting any change them or that He is not conforming them to the image of Christ?

 

Romans 8:5-11

Christ-Flesh-Spirit2“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Thought: let’s follow Paul’s reasoning here…

  1. If someone is a Christian, the Spirit of God dwells in them (v. 9)
  2. If you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, you are also indwelled by Christ (v.10)
  3. If you indwelled by the Holy Spirit and Christ, you are also indwelled by the Father (v.11)
  4. If you indwelled by God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), you can’t also live your life according to the flesh at the same time (v. 5-8)
  5. The flesh is death (v.6), but God has made us alive (v.11)

 

Therefore, it is impossible for a person to have God living on the inside of them and for Him not to change them!

 

1 John 3:4-10

lawlessness_banner“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Thought: on the surface, it would seem that John is saying that Christians don’t sin.  The operative words/clauses here are: “keeps on” (v. 6,9) and “practices” (v.7-9).  This goes hand in hand with Romans 8:5-11.  The Bible does not teach the sinless perfection of the believer on earth, but it does teach that when a life has a true encounter with the living God and salvation is wrought by His grace, that He Himself comes and makes His abode in that life and that there is a persistent, radical, flesh-demolishing transformation over the course of that life.  He demands nothing less than our holiness, our allegiance, our self-denial and our love.

 

Next, let’s survey a few aspects of a believer’s life which can give the believer himself assurance of faith and make those evidences apparent to others.

2.  Evidences of True Faith

 PERSEVERANCE perseverance-cropped-300x2561

Remember we talked about John saying that some in their midst whom they thought were believers and that through them departing from the faith, it was revealed that they were never of them in the first place (1 John 2:19)?  God already knew of course, but He revealed it to them.

 

Now, a true believer may go through a period of doubt, discouragement and may even backslide or fall into sin.  But scripture is clear that it is God who saves us and it is God who keeps us.  That is why we continue through various trials, temptations and tribulations.  Listen the words of the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:3-5):

JesusBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

 

Did you hear that?  It was God who caused us to be born again (v.3), our inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”, and kept in heaven for us (v.4) and we are being guarded by God’s power!  The old King James says we are “kept” by God power.  Now that’s some glorious truth!

FRUIT

Luke 3:7-9

Michael-York-as-John-the-Baptist“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

 

Thought: here, John the Baptist informed the hypocritical religious leaders that God will cut down every tree that does not bear good fruit and burn it with fire.  Obviously this is not about trees, fruit or nuts but about the lives of people.  Interestingly enough, he also associates good fruit with repentance (v.8) which goes hand in hand with faith and obedience.

 

Luke 6:43-44a

apple tees that grow well in calgary“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit.”

 

Thought: here Jesus Himself gives us the only proof-test we can use to evaluate someone’s life of faith.  Notably, he didn’t mention gifts or talents but only fruit.  Later, Paul reveals in detail what good spiritual fruit is (Galatians 5:22-23).  This fruit is only produced through a life which abides in Christ (John 15:1-11) and therefore cannot be counterfeited.

OBEDIENCE

Hebrews 5:8-9

jesus-cross“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”

Thought: here, the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus in the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  So how can we separate Christ as Savior and Christ as Lord?  He is either both or neither.  But let’s take the thought one step further, if He is the Savior of all who obey Him, then can we not also say that all whom He saves obeys (don’t practice or keep on sinning) Him?  Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”  Implication: he was not truly Lord to them.

 

Lastly, we’ll look at an area which is probably none existent on most western Christian’s bucket list.

WILLINGNESS TO EMBRACE AND ENDURE TRIALSlifes-trials-and-tribulations

Acts 14:21-22

“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.”

Thought:  this message is glaringly missing from the message of myriads of those who claim to preach the gospel today.  The call to salvation and being a follower of Christ is the call to pick up a cross.  Not a fancy piece of art or gold cross on a chain, but an ugly instrument of self-denial, shame, ruin, defeat and death.  Yet at the same time, it is place of victory where we overcome (Galatians 2:20).

 

Where is the message of health, wealth and financial/material prosperity for the believer in the Bible?  It is not there!  The true Gospel can be preached to bring hope to the poorest of the poor.  Not to promise this life’s riches but riches eternal found in the face of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:24-27).

 

diction_1Christian rapper Ackdavis has a line in his song “Be a Problem” that I found all too true:

“Childish Christians only want bubblegum and pray for the rapture because persecution’s troublesome,”

 

Meriam-Ibrahim_2918728b

Meriam Ibrahim with her husband Daniel Wani. Miriam was arrested in August 2013 and sentenced to death. While in chains, she gave birth to her daughter. Miraculously, she was released and is planning to make her home in the US with her family.

The bottom line is we’re weak, frail, and most of all selfish.  We say we love the Lord but would not give up our comforts let alone suffer willingly for one moment for His sake.  I think of people like my sister Miriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was on death row and under threat of torture for not renouncing her faith in Christ.  Praise God, she’s been released and I’m told she’s safe and sound in the US.  But she was ready to die for her faith.  In our hyper-narcissistic brand of Westernized Christianity, we know nothing of that here!

 

The Apostle Paul knew something about suffering and he knew that a servant is not greater than his master and if Christ suffered to save Him, then it was an honor and privilege to suffer for Christ.  He wrote, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Philippians 1:29

 

Consider Paul’s life:

2 Corinthians 11:24-28

paul-shipwreck_1349-361“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

2 Corinthians 12:10

strong-weak“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I know to the average believer this a foreign gospel of sorts, Biblical nonetheless.  I want to exhort you and challenge you in your walk with God.  First of all, let us take Paul’s counsel in 2 Corinthians 13:5.  He says “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

 

Be honest, get over yourself and what other people think and if you haven’t already, you need to seriously repent, humble yourself before an All-Powerful God, receive His love and forgiveness, turn away from your sins and make it your business to live for Him.  If you do that, then ally yourself with others in the body of Christ through a Bible-believing, no-kidding Bible-living church.

 

If you are already saved, but walking in disobedience, then your direction is pretty similar.  Remember from whence you came, get back up, pick your cross back up and follow Him to the death if need be.

 

For the rest, let us not rest on our laurels or be content with our meager service, but continue to press toward the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ.  I also recommend reading Hebrews 11, particularly verses 35-40.

 

I close with a sobering quote from the great English theologian/pastor Charles Spurgeon:

 

spurgeon_chair1“Now observe, brethren, if I, or you, or any of us, or all of us, shall have spent our lives merely in amusing men, or educating men, or moralizing men, when we shall come to give in our account at the last great day, we shall be in a very sorry condition, and we shall have but a very sorry record to render; for of what avail will it be to a man to be educated when he comes to be damned?  Of what service will it be to him to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, and heaven and earth are shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire, and swallows up the soul unsaved?  Of what avail even to have moralized a man if still he is on the left hand of the Judge, and if still, ‘Depart, ye cursed,’ shall be his portion?  Blood-red with the murder of men’s souls will be the skirts of professing Christians, unless the drift, and end, and aim of all their work has been to ‘save some.’”

 

Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?  No!  There’s a cross for everyone and there’s a cross for me!

jesus-carrying-the-cross

 

References

1. Vine, W. E. (1952). Vine’s expository dictionary of New Testament words. S.l.: STBC.

Fathers Of The Past…Lessons For The Present

Father-Son1

“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.”

–  Pope John Paul XXIII

As Father’s Day approaches, we remember our own fathers, father figures or maybe there was no father in your life.  Every man seeks to be a “hero” to somebody.  We yearn for someone to look up to us.  No matter what position a man holds, leader, pastor, blue-collar worker or step-father, they also seek to be affirmed in their place as a father.

A man comes in from mowing the lawn.  He’s dirty.  He’s smelly.  But he provides and he just did something he probably didn’t want to do.  The best thing his wife could say to him is, “Honey?  You mow the lawn like a stud!  There is no man on earth I know who can mow the lawn like you do!” That is what he needs to continuing his quest for “hero-ship”.

The easiest way to deflate a man’s “ego” of being a hero is to be his worst critic, which makes him feel unappreciated.  No matter if he’s a high ranking general or the CEO of a successful business.  He will feel like his “hero” status just took a nosedive.  He will close up.  He will internalize everything.  He might blame himself.  And in extreme cases, he will run away from it.

The bible is filled with many fathers and father figures.  Not one of them were perfect because they were all human.  The following are three biblical fathers who were by no means perfect but most men and fathers can relate to them today:

The Prodigal son’s father

Prodigal, a noun, means a person who spends money in a carelessly excessive way, leaves home and behaves foolishly but later makes a repentant return.  Although the typical name for this parable is “The Prodigal Son”, there are three characters in the story: the prodigal son, his older brother and the father.

downloadThis story is found in Luke 15:11-32 just after Jesus had healed a man of dropsy during the Sabbath.  Many people, including sinners and tax collectors, had gathered around him and He told a series of parables including this one.  Most everyone knows this story, so I will focus on one point that is overlooked many times: the father running to meet his son.  Many people can recognize what the prodigal son went through but only fathers can empathize with the prodigal’s father.

After the son had spent all his inheritance, he was on the road home, not knowing if the father would even take him in.  Verse 20 says:

But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him,” NKJV

Here, we realize that the father hadn’t forgotten his son.  He had probably been up in the watchtower of the city every day looking ProdigalFatherfor his son’s return, although he didn’t know when or if he was ever going to return.  He had eyes of mercy and those eyes were quick-sighted.  When his son was still a great distance away, his father saw him, before any other of the family was aware of him, as if from atop a high tower he had been looking in the direction his son had gone, probably thinking, “Maybe today, I’ll see my son return home!” 1

Here the father was, operating in the very heart of mercy; yearning to catch a glimpse of his son coming from a great distance.  The father had compassion for his son.  His soul lamented for the misery of his son 1.

And on the quick-paced feet of mercy, he ran to meet his son.  The prodigal son trudged slowly, under the heavy weight of his disgrace and apprehension of the unknown.  But the father ran to meet him! 1

In first century Israel, however, a Middle Eastern man never ever ran.  Only in dire emergencies if he had to run, he would have to pull up his tunic so he would not trip.  If he did this, it would uncover his legs.  In that culture, it was demeaning and immodest for a man to expose his bare legs.  So, the question is: If it was disgraceful for a man to run in that culture, why did the father run when he saw his son?  What prompted him to embarrass himself?  First let me explain more of the Jewish custom of this time period 2.

In first century Israel, if a Hebrew son squandered his inheritance, lived among Gentiles then returned home, his home town would perform a ceremony, called the kezazah which means “the cutting off”.  In kezazah, they would shatter a large clay container in front of the accused man and yell, “You are now cut off from your people!” The society would totally renounce him, leaving him to live apart from them and his family forever 2.

prodigal_sonNow back to the first question: why did the father run?  Probably to reach his son before he entered the village.  The father ran and disgraced himself so he could reach his son before the town saw him.  He experienced temporary shame so his son did not have to go through permanent shame and excommunication.  Imagine the sight of the running father, hurrying to the outskirts of the village, embracing his son.  After this emotional exchange of reconciliation between father and son, it would be evident that there would be no kezazah and the son would be welcomed back by all despite what he had done 2.

The parallel of this story is very clear.  Although it is a fictional parable, Jesus spoke it to people who understood its meaning very well.  As fathers, we can relate to the prodigal’s father just as we can relate to our Father God.  Through His son, Jesus Christ, God the Father took on our shame and remorse when Jesus was crucified.  He was humiliated, He was disgraced and dishonored.  He ran out to meet us and welcomed us back into His graceful arms and He does it again and again every day if we’re willing to come back to Him as the prodigal son did 2.

Joseph – Jesus’ stepfather

nativity20story1Joseph appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke as the husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  He was not the biological father of Jesus, which would make him Jesus’ step-father.  This title is very common today as 40% of married couples with children in the US are step-parents, many of those being step-fathers 3.  By trade, Joseph was a “tekton”(τέκτων) or a carpenter.  In those times, tektons were craftsmen of wood, iron or stone.  Joseph was from the tribe of Judah and a Nazarene from a region in northern Israel.

At the time when Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she and Joseph were still engaged.  In first century Israel, Jewish marriage traditions concerning an engagement between a man and a woman contrasted greatly and were much more rigid than modern marriages, especially in the West.  Arranged marriages by the parents existed during these times; usually without discussing things with the couple.  At first, a binding contract was drawn up between the parents.  The unwed couple was even regarded as “married” even though the wedding and consummation of the marriage had not happened for as long as a year later.  This preliminary time in-between was a tentative period of tested loyalty where the couple would have little, if any, contact with each other 4.

It was during this “engagement” time that the angel Gabriel visited Joseph’s fiancée Mary and told her of her upcoming pregnancy.  In Luke 1:34, when Mary told the angel, “How can this be since I know no man?” it’s very understandable why Mary was so forward with the angel; she was still a virgin and would “know no man” sexually for several more months, maybe as long as a year or more 4.

Joseph soon became aware of Mary’s pregnancy and was no doubt concerned.  As stated before, Jewish law stated that Joseph and jesus-of-nazareth-joseph-jesus-of-nazareth-30770580-432-334Mary were treated as a married couple although the act of marriage had not been consummated.  In other words, Joseph and Mary had experienced no sexual contact between each other.  Joseph had found himself in a quite a predicament.  According to Jewish law, his fiancée, because of her presumed infidelity, could go before the Jewish elders for judgment and could consequently be stoned to death 5.

The bible describes Joseph as a “just” man and in other versions as righteous, upright, good, honorable, of stern principle and noble.  Matthew 1:19 says:

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly,”

Even though the law stated that Mary was to be stoned to death because of her apparent unfaithfulness, Joseph wanted to just “put her away secretly” without public knowledge. During these times, the only way a betrothal or marriage engagement could be annulled was through an official divorce ruling.  Although Joseph was Jewish, he probably didn’t agree with the law that would put his fiancée to death.  He couldn’t rationalize the action of bringing open humiliation on Mary.  Instead, he did the right thing and was intent on putting her away privately for fear that she would face public embarrassment and shame 5.

I’m sure Joseph was pretty distressed when he discovered that his wife to be was pregnant…and not by him.  But being a righteous man, he offered her mercy.  He treated Mary with empathy as if he had been responsible for what he had suspected she had done.  Joseph’s decision to not consult the authorities about Mary’s pregnancy was confirmed almost thirty years later.  His step-son Jesus said to a woman who was worthy of death, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” (John 8:7 NKJV) 5.

All these thoughts were going on in Joseph’s mind and he was probably not getting much sleep.  Then an angel showed up.  Matthew 1:20 NKJV says:

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,’

36618_all_004_02The angel went on to say that Mary would have a son to be named Jesus who would save the world from their sins.

When this angel showed up in a dream and confirmed to Joseph that his fiancée was “conceived by the Holy Spirit”, Joseph was probably very relieved at this bit of news.  He had already made the choice to not have Mary punished but after he was told that she hadn’t become pregnant by another man, Joseph probably breathed many sighs of relief.

I feel blessed, inspired and challenged by Joseph.  He was the perfect man chosen to be Jesus’ step-father.  So remember the example of Joseph’s life that exists in every Christian but most importantly his example to his step-son, Jesus Christ to always guide us to regard others in the same way we would want to be treated if we were them (Matthew 7:12).  Let us follow the same example Joseph and Jesus did by not shaming or disgracing those who we only assume of wrongdoing but showing them mercy.

King David

31118_000_031_13King David had the greatest relationship with one of his son’s, Solomon (who was also king after his father).  Now we all know what David did wrong.  But David also did some things right.  Yes, he did commit adultery with Bathsheba, and yes, he did arrange for her husband to be killed in combat.  And yes, he attempted to cover-up his sin by marrying Bathsheba and living a lie and hiding his bloody sin for nearly a year 6.

He was manufacturing the impression that he was a man of honor by marrying the pregnant wife of one of his fallen soldiers.  But David had also seduced a man’s wife while he was away from home fighting for David.  And then, after David had gotten the man’s wife pregnant, he arranged for Uriah to come home and have some time with his wife.  Uriah was so honorable that he wouldn’t sleep with his wife if his men couldn’t be with their wives.  So David had him set up and murdered (2 Samuel 11) 6.

That’s what David did wrong.  But when Nathan the prophet confronted him, David broke, and he came clean about his sin.  He retched over his sin with the dry heaves of genuine repentance and threw himself on the mercy of God.  David knew what it was to sin.  I know it and you know it.  That was a terrible chapter in David’s life.  But in the mercy of God, He gives the broken the opportunity to write new chapters in our lives.  David – after screwing up his integrity, his character, and his reputation, was determined to do some things right with the rest of his life.  He continued to deal with the consequences of his adultery and murder in his own family for the rest of his life 6.

There is tremendous cost to sin.  Maybe that’s where you are.  You’re sick of your sin and there’s no one to blame for the mess that 20130310_thebible_david_bathsheba_solomonyou are in except for yourself.  As you turn to Christ and give Him every ounce of your life and heart, He can enable you to start getting some things right.  It’s not too late, it really isn’t.

Two Towering Shots: As a matter of fact, David did a lot of things right.  Two things immediately come to mind that David did right:

1. David was a man after God’s own heart.

2. David was the only king who attempted to biblically mentor his son.

Those were two towering home-runs that David put out of the ballpark.  And you’ll notice that number one and number two fulfill the job description that God gave to every man and king out of Deuteronomy 6.  First, David loved the Lord and followed Him from his heart of hearts.  When Samuel was sent to anoint him as king, the Lord told Samuel that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

David was chosen because of his heart.  After he died, it was said of David that he was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:4), and that his heart was “wholly devoted to the Lord” (1 Kings 11:4).  When you think about all of David sins and blunders, that is a remarkable statement.  It’s a very redeeming statement, because it tells us when we genuinely repent, the Lord is merciful to cleanse us to bless and use us.  Did David therefore escape the consequences of the sand?  Absolutely not!  All of his days he endured the pain upon another as a result of his poor decisions.  But he never turned bitter and blamed God 6.

In the end, he loved the Lord with his whole heart and as we will see, he did learn through his ghastly mistakes.  Did David follow the Lord perfectly?  No.  And neither do I.  You don’t either.  But God is not looking for perfection – He’s looking at your heart.  And if you were loving Him from the deepest part of your heart and soul, there is going to be a growing consistency in your walk 6.

“You never become sinless, but you will begin to sin less,”

bible-episode-2-king-davi-PThat’s a big lesson we can learn from David.

Second, David attempted to mentor and prepare Solomon to assume the leadership of the nation for the next generation.  As far as what’s been determined there was no other king who purposefully tried to prepare and mentor his own son before the Lord, other than David.  I’m sure that many of the other kings made sure that their sons were educated in all of the intricacies of kingsmanship.  But I don’t see that any of them attempted to mentor them with a heart for the Lord the way that David did with Solomon.  There may have been some others, but if there were, their efforts to mentor are not clearly recorded 6.

David was a complete and total failure as a father to his other sons.  He knew that in his heart.  He was reminded of it every day.  But he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again.  He was going to try and get it right with Solomon.  That’s why we have to give David an ‘A’ for the effort when it came to mentoring Solomon 6.

Although King David wrote most of the Psalms, it was his son, King Solomon, who penned this one:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127 NKJV

While David may have been a tremendous leader, a gallant warrior, and even “a man after God’s heart,” his failures as a parent are legendary 6.

size1A daughter, Tamar, was raped…by her half-brother, Amnon.  Amnon was killed by Tamar’s full brother, Absolom.  Absolom, disgusted with his father’s management of this situation, rebelled against David, inciting a brief civil war in which Absolom was eventually killed 6.

To add tragedy to failure, one of his children died at birth.  So, with three dead sons and one raped daughter as part of his parenting legacy, David was a diminished man and a broken-hearted father.

It is not David who writes about the blessings and benefits of parenthood, but rather it was David’s son, Solomon, who, with a unique vantage point from which to observe the struggles of his father and siblings, wrote Psalm 127 (cited above), proclaiming the promise and blessing of parenthood. What an optimistic perspective from one who witnessed firsthand that children can be trouble and that parenting is difficult 6.

These are just a few examples of fathers of the bible who many fathers can relate to today.  The Prodigal Son’s Father denied his own modesty in order to save his son from humiliation.  Joseph decided to not turn Mary in even though she became pregnant (not from him) during their engagement.  And what a legacy to live being chosen to be Jesus’ step-father!  Then there is King David.  He messed up so many times with his other children but got it right with Solomon.  Then Solomon became one of the wisest and richest kings in the history of Israel.  Although David didn’t see the fruit of his efforts during his lifetime, he was able to leave a legacy through his son Solomon.

Anyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.  Are you a father who is struggling to be a dad?  Have you messed up royally with your kids?  Remember, its not too late to turn things around.  Start to earn their trust back little by little.  Remember you can’t change in a day but be contestant and purposeful.  Eventually, you will see that your kids will be ready to take you back to be their daddy again!  May the Lord bless you in your quest to be the hero of your kids!

References

1.  Henry, M. (2014, January 1). Matthew Henry’s Commentary. . Retrieved June 11, 2014, from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/15-11.htm

2.  Williams, M. (2010, January 1). The Prodigal Son’s Father Shouldn’t Have Run!. . Retrieved June 11, 2014, from http://magazine.biola.edu/article/10-summer/the-prodigal-sons-fathershouldnt-have-run/

3.  Deal, R. (2014, April 1). Marriage, Family, & Stepfamily Statistics. . Retrieved June 11, 2014, from http://www.smartstepfamilies.com/view/statistics

4.  Houdmann, S. M. (2014, January 1). When were Joseph and Mary considered married?. .Retrieved June 11, 2014, from http://www.gotquestions.org/Joseph-and-Mary.html

5.  Viola, F. (2013, March 6). A Lesson That Christians Should Learn from Joseph (Stepfather of Jesus). . Retrieved June 11, 2014, from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/joseph/

6.  Farrar, S. (2005). King Me. Chicago, IL, Moody Publishers

A Call To Sobriety

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“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” I Thessalonians 5:6-8 NKJV

This clearly states a strong point; be sober!  For how can we discern the guiding of the Holy Spirit when we are under the influence of any controlled substance?  Most of the time, when the word “sober” is brought up, one automatically thinks of alcohol.  But this can mean any number of controlled substances: marijuana, narcotics, pain killers, barbiturates, NSAIDs or anything else that alters the mind.  This post, however, will simply deal with the most abundant controlled substance: alcohol.  The bible doesn’t condone drinking alcohol.  When Jesus turned the water into wine, it wasn’t “grape juice” as my Sunday School teacher said, it was real, authentic, Israeli wine!  However, the bible clearly states that we should remain “sober in spirit”.weistling_-_water_to_wine

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 1:13 NKJV

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV

Is drinking alcohol wrong?  No.  Is drinking too much wrong?  Yes.  So how does one know when they have had too many drinks?  How do they know their limit?  Because they’ve gone too far before.  The Bible is very up front that mature Christians should prevent others from falling away by drinking alcohol (Romans 14:21) and that those in authority should refrain from drinking alcohol (Proverbs 31:4-7) and shouldn’t be become drunk (1 Timothy 3:3Titus 1:7)  How can one just have one drink?  With self-control, which is also a fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law,” Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

o-NO-ALCOHOL-facebookGod’s Holy Spirit has given us specific instruction and has called us to a life of obedience.  Our limitations are not in line with our logical thoughts – especially after we’ve had one too many.  If you’ve been drunk before, you’ll know that your senses are dulled, you say and do things you wouldn’t normally say and do.  At that point, logic and reason have been dismissed, therefore losing any sense of self-control, lacking the distinction of when it is enough and time to quit.  So rather than putting ourselves at risk of becoming drunk, we choose to drink in moderation, knowing our limitations.  “One is too few and 5  is not enough.”

“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit,” Galatians 5:24-25 NKJV

carac_photo_1I think we can interpret this both literally and figuratively.  An obvious interpretation is, don’t get drunk.  Don’t be under the influence of anyone or anything except for Jesus Christ.  But, figuratively speaking, we can be intoxicated with other things.

Jesus said in Luke 21:34, “Watch out!  Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the words of this life.  Don’t let the day catch you unaware,”

What you will eat or where you will live are normal human concerns as you provide for yourself and your family but let’s not allow these things to become more of a preoccupation than our number one priority: Jesus Christ.  Let’s not allow ourselves to become intoxicated with things that hinder us in our relationship with Christ and being His example here on earth!

Good Articles:

–  “Can Christians Drink Alcohol?”

–  “Should Christians Drink?”