Wed, Jun 30th - 1:36PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
The universal church of Christ is the body of Christ. Paul tells us this much in his writings. Every believer is a member or organ of the body, while Christ Himself is the head, controlling, organizing, the body's activities. Not every organ has the same function, but each is vital and necessary for the maximum health and usefulness of the body as a whole.
Thus Christians are part of a world-wide group of people who are connected to Christ and to each other. We are the body of Christ. The whole body is animated by a common life. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit which makes the body one in unity. We owe our coherency of thought and actions to Him. Paul emphasizes that there is one body, one Spirit, and one common purpose in life. Although we observe many outward, organizational divisions of the church, these do not destroy its inward and spiritual unity. Or, these divisions ought not to destroy our unity. If unity is destroyed amongst denominations, then somewhere in the mix there is more than One Spirit actively working. We can't be of the same heart and mind if we do not share in the Holy Spirit. Our common share in Him makes us deeply and permanently one with each other.
Of course, in order to claim membership of the greater, world-side body, one must first share with its local manifestation. As members of a local congregation of believers in Christ we shall find opportunities to worship God, enjoy fellowship with other believers, and to serve the larger community of believers and God.
Many younger people today react strongly against organized religion, and perhaps rightly so. Too many errors have been made without any sort of consequences having been accepted. The mistrust is understandable, for too often the church becomes archaic, reactionary, and inward seeking. We must remember, however, that the church is people and not buildings. People are the church and people are fallible and still commit sins. These are not reasons to avoid going to a church, they are the exact reasons why it is the place to be. Perfect people need not enter through the doors of a Christian church building to worship, Christ only came to seek and to save those who are lost! Christ came to heal those who are hurting, sick, blind, deaf, mute, and to defend those unable to defend themselves.
It must also be realized by all people that not all "members" of the visible church are necessarily members of the real body of Christ. Some of these people have never had their names written into the Book of Life. This is a fact presented by Christ Jesus in the Bible. Yet it is not up to us to root out the deceivers amongst the body, that chore is reserved to God for only He knows what resides within each person's heart. We are able through baptism to accept/welcome into the visible church those who profess verbally faith in Christ. But only God knows those who in their hearts actually exercise faith.
Christ's Holy Spirit not only authors the common life of the church, but also creates its common love as well. The first-fruit of the Spirit is love. The Spirit's very nature is love, and imparts it to those whom He indwells. Believers know the experience of being drawn to other believers whom they hardly know and whose background may be extremely different from their own. These relationships which exist and grow between the children of God are deeper and sweeter than even blood relationships. This love is not sentimental nor is it even fundamentally emotional. Its essence is self-sacrificial; it shows itself as a desire to serve, help and enrich others. It is by this love that the centrifugal force of our sin is counteracted, for sin divides whereas love unites, and sin separates where love reconciles.
Sure, the pages of the church's history are smudged by stupidity and selfishness, even by open disobedience to the teaching of Christ. We are able to witness some churches today which appear to be dead or dying, rather than vibrant with life; and others torn asunder by factions and cliques and tarnished with lovelessness. We simply have to admit that not all who profess to be Christians show either the love or the life of Jesus Christ. It is then up to us to understand how to tell the difference between the two groups.
However imperfect a congregation of believers may be, they are there to seek the new quality of relationship which only Christ gives His people, and that fellowship to share in His worship and witness to the entire world.
That finishes up this section of the study. Next will be about our response to what God has done. It is time for man to count the cost of responding to the call of Christ. Until then, grace and peace of Christ Jesus be yours, walk in the light and not the dark!
Tue, Jun 29th - 12:56PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANTY
How can we subdue "the flesh," so that "the fruit of the Spirit" may grow and mature? Good question. The answer evidently lies in the inner attitude which we adopt towards each. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. They walk by, or in, the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. I may be tempted to pander to the carnal desires of my physical body but I exert self-control, assisted by God's Spirit, and turn away from gratifying those desires. Paul wrote that we are to wrestle with our bodies in order to gain control over them, that they might do what we wish them to do. So towards our "flesh" we must take up an attitude of fierce resistance and ruthless rejection that perhaps only the word "crucifixion" can describe effectively. And towards the Holy Spirit we must trustfully surrender ourselves into the undisputed dominion over our entire lives. The more we deny the flesh and obey the Spirit, the more the ugly works of the flesh will disappear and the lovely fruit of the Spirit will take their place among the branches of the tree of our life.
Paul teaches us the exact same thing in II Corinthians 3:18: "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." It is only by the Spirit of Christ that we can be transformed into the image of Christ, the Living God, as we continue to look steadfastly towards Him.
In this way we have our own part to do, in repentance, faith and discipline, but basically holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit. William Temple used to illustrate this point like this: It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear, and telling me to write a play just like that. Shakespeare could do it; I surely can't. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it; I surely can't. But, if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like that. And if the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life like that. Here is the secret of Christian sanctity. It is not that we should strive to live like Jesus, but that He by His Spirit should come and live in us. To have Him as our example is not enough; we need Him as our Savior.
It is through His atoning death that the penalty of our sins may be forgiven; it is through His indwelling Spirit that the power of our sins may be broken and we are set free from that bondage.
The church of Christ
The tendency of sin is centrifugal in nature. It pulls us out of harmony with our neighbors and with our God. We end up farther away from them and Him. Sin places distance between us and others, it must. Mankind finds it difficult to "dwell together in unity and harmony." Jealousy and animosity seep into the relationships of people and drive wedges between them and create distance.
But God's plan is to reconcile us to each other as well as to Himself. So in His infinite wisdom He does not save independent, unconnected individuals in isolation from one another; He is calling out a people for His own possession. Quickly in the early chapters of Genesis God calls Abraham to leave his home and relations in Mesopotamia, and promises to give him both a land for his inheritance and escendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. God renewed this pledge to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.
Jacob, however, died in exile in Egypt. His twelve sons survived him and became the fathers of the twelve tribes of "Israel" which was the name given to Jacob by God. When these "children of Israel" were rescued hundreds of years later from their Egyptian slavery, God renewed His covenant with His people Israel.
But how were all of the families of the earth to be blessed as so stated in the Old Testament? Centuries passed and Israel seemed to the rest of the world to be more of a curse than a blessing. By surrounding themselves with high walls of their own construction, they protected themselves from corrupting contact with Gentiles. It seemed as though they would miss their destiny as benefactors of the entire world. Many of the prophets knew by the Word of God that when the Messiah came, God's own anointed Prince, pilgrims would come from every point of the compass to enter the kingdom of God.
Finally, at last, the Christ came. Jesus of Nazareth announced the arrival of the long-awaited kingdom. God's people would no longer be a nation apart, but a society whose members would be drawn from every race, kindred, and language.
So God's pledge to Abraham is actively being fulfilled today through the growth of the world-wide church of believers in Christ. In Galatians 3:29 Paul stated that if we are Christ's then we are also Abrahams's offspring, heirs according to God's promise.
That is all for today, beloved! Next time, God willing, I will write about how this group of believers in Christ is pictured for us in the New Testament. It is a graphic picture used to illustrate how we are to act and how to relate to each other. May grace and peace abound in your hearts and lives!
Mon, Jun 28th - 8:38PM
Study in I John
They went out fromus, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued withus: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us(2:19).
Some who make a profession of faith in Christ, who have the outward appearances of being Christians, they are not true believers in Christ. They call themselves Christians, they join some local congregation, get baptized, immersed, they take communion. John says that eventually they will show their true colors and leave the congregation of believers. They will distance themselves from the faithful followers of Christ and will go back into the world of the lost.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us." That is a harsh statement, but it is ever so true. There are many who may even think that they are Christians, but they are not and once they are found out they return to lives of sinful indulgence.
Should we even be surprised at this? Right at the first communion service there was a traitor, Judas Iscariot, and he was one of the original twelve disciples who were closest to Jesus. We can read of it again in John 6:70. Judas looked like an apostle, he acted like an apostle, and he had power to perform miracles, but in his heart he was not a believer in Christ as the Son of God. Judas apparantly was seeking a Messiah who would physically expel the Romans from out of Palestine and then re-institute the kingdom of Israel to its rightful place.
Jesus said to a very religious man, Nicodemas, that he must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This statement remains in solid effect to this very day and beyond. There are persons who "look like Christians" in all that they do and say, but they are not of God. They have not faced up to their sins in the light of the cross. They have not come to God in repentance, owning any guilt and acknowledging their iniquity.
Each of us must check to see if we have evidence of being a regenerate soul of God. Do I love the Word of God? Do I want the Word of God? Is it bread to me? Is it living water to me? Do I love the brethren of Christ? Do I love the Lord Jesus Christ?
Paul writes in Galatians 6:15, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." We cannot boast of the grace of God and say that we do not need church membership, or that we do not need baptism. We can't even trust in church membership and baptism over trusting in Christ Jesus. Am I a new creation in Christ? That is the important question which must be asked, and answered.
Paul spoke to the Corinthians and informed them to examine themselves in order that they might know for sure that they were in the faith(II Corinthians 13:5). It is very important that each of us really know that we are a child of God. How are we doing with the Christian life? Is there evidence in our life that we are a child of God? What have we done after we have committed a sin? Did we continue in that sin, or did we repent of it to Christ? Recall how the prodigal son got himself into a literal pigpen? He did not remain in that pigpen but he decided to return home and beg forgiveness from his father. Likewise, the child of God must return home, repent of his/her sin, and then not continue in it afterwards. If this does not happen, then that person is not a child of God.
As a child of God I must hate sin. The view of sin which is rampant in society today is something that is not scriptural. Too many church-goers take it for granted that they are children of God because they are active "as termites" in the church. They have about the same affect as termites.
At the beginning of this chapter John stated very clearly that we can know that we are God's children. We can still have fellowship with God because the blood of Christ, God's Son, just keeps on cleansing us from all sin.
The brethren of Christ may have fellowship with each other by walking in love. We must recognize that we are called to live a different kind of life. We must feed our new nature. We can now live for God. Obedience is the test of this life. We keep God's commandments as we obey His will. And not only His commandments but the entire Word of God we are to obey. That is how far we are to go in our love of Christ.
We find here the difference between law and grace. The law said: If a man do, he shall live. But grace says: If a man live, he will do. A man must have a life from God before he can live for God. The law says to do but grace says believe. Different approach but the same goal.
Assurance? The Lord Jesus Christ said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand(John 10:27-28)." If you are one of His sheep, you will hear His voice and follow Him wherever He goes. You will love His Word which He has given in love to us.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time I shall continue with the next several verses. I hope that you return to study I John some more with me. Grace and peace be yours today!
Mon, Jun 28th - 12:32PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
THE SALVATION OF CHRIST
It is a massive error to assume that salvation simply is a synonym for forgiveness. God is as concerned with our present and future as He is with our past. His Plan is to first reconcile us with Himself, and then to progressively free us from our self-centeredness and bring us into harmony with our fellow men/women. We owe our forgiveness and reconciliation chiefly to Jesus Christ, but it is by His Spirit that we can be set free from ourselves and in His church that we can be united in a fellowship of love.
The Spirit of Christ
Our sins can't be viewed as a series of unrelated incidents, but as the symptoms of an inward moral disease which corrupts all that we attempt to do. Jesus used the simile of the tree and the fruit. The quality of fruits, He taught, depends upon the quality of the tree which bears them. "Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree can't bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit."
The cause of our sins is our inherited nature which is perverted and self-centered. Our sins come from within, proceeding from out of our heart. Thus, any improvement in behavior depends on a change of nature, or heart.
But can human nature be changed? Is it possible? Can a "sour" person be made "sweet?" The Bible declares unequivocably that these miracles can take place. It is part of the glory of the Gospel. Jesus Christ offers to change not only our standing before God but our very nature. Nicodemas heard this message of nature change, of the new birth, and Christ's words to him are still applicable to us today. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God...Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'(John 3)"
Here is the magnetism which attracts people who desire to dramatically change their lives. Those who are found in Christ are new creations! The old is gone, the new has arrived! Here is the possibility of which the New Testament speaks: a new heart, a new nature, a new birth, a new creation.
The engine of such internal change is the Holy Spirit of God/Christ. This new birth is a birth "from above." Being born again is not a physical act but is to be born of the Spirit of Christ. The mystery of the Trinity is not relevant to this discussion. The apostles witnessed in their accounts that it was the Holy Spirit which indwelled all of them.
An important thing to note here is that the Holy Spirit did not come into existence, nor became active, at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God. He is eternal and shares the exact same attributes of God. The Spirit has been at work in creation since the beginning. The prophets of old referred to Him frequently and looked forward to the time when His activity would increase and spread across the earth's people. They looked forward to that time when God's Spirit would live/dwell in God's people. The prophets knew a time would come when God would enable His people to obey His law.
So what the prophets foretold, Christ promised as an immediate expectation. Just hours before His imminent death, up in that upper room, Jesus shared with the disciples that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, would come and take His place among them.
Indeed, the Spirit's presence would benefit them better than even Christ's earthly presence had. Christ told them that it was to their advantage that He go back to heaven. What advantage could there be in that? Christ was with them, but the Spirit would be in them.
On the face of things it would appear that Christ's ministry turned out to be an utter failure. Time and time again He urged His disciples to humble themselves like little children, but there stood Simon Peter, proud and self-confident. Two of them desired to know if they could sit at His right and left hand in heaven. John wished to bring down fire upon the unbelievers. And yet, looking at Peter's first letter we notice its references to humility, and John's letters are full of love. What made them change? The Holy Spirit of Christ. Jesus taught them to be humble and loving; but neither quality/attribute was in evidence in their lives until the Holy Spirit entered their hearts and began to change them from within.
On the Day of Pentecost they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This was no freakish experience for apostles and elite saints, although we doubtless are not to expect repetition of the outward phenomena that was in evidence back then. To be filled with the Spirit is a commandment repeated many times and directed to all believers in Christ. The inner presence of the Holy Spirit is the spiritual birthright of each and every Christian who has been born again. In reality, if the Holy Spirit is not dwelling within us, we are not Christians(Romans 8:9).
Here then is what the New Testament teaches. We put our trust in Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to Him, the Holy Spirit enters us to dwell in our hearts. Our bodies become His holy temple, our hearts become the sacrificial altar.
It does not mean that we are no longer affected by sin. We are not exempt. In some ways, the conflict is intensified, but on the other hand, a way and means of victory has been opened up to us. In the fifth chapter of Galatians we read a vivid description of the battle taking place within us. The "flesh" wars against the "spirit." They are diametrically opposed to one another.
This is not theological theorizing; it is daily experience of every Christian. My flesh is ever ready to jump into action and circumvent my best intentions in carrying out God's tasks set before me. I remain conscious of sinful desires tugging at my attention from the periphery. But I am now also aware of a counteracting force pulling me upwards to holiness. To give the flesh free reign would result in our being dragged down into a morass of immoral and selfish vices ending in our untimely death. If the Holy Spirit is allowed His way, the results are love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the fruits of the Spirit. We are to be like an orchard which the Holy Spirit is cultivating; He makes the trees good and their fruit will be good also.
Well, that is enough for now, beloved. Next time I will continue along this line of thought and point out how we can subdue our "flesh." Until then, may Christ bless your life with grace and peace everlasting!
Sat, Jun 26th - 1:32PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Paul's words in II Corinthians are among the most startling in the entire teaching about the atonement. In previous verses Paul affirmed that God refused to impute our sins to us, or count them against us. In other words, in His undeserved love for us, He would not make us answerable for our sins. He would not allow it to be said of us as it was of so many people in the Old Testament days, "they shall bear their iniquity." Then what did God do? "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus Christ had no sin of His own; He was made sin with our sins, on the cross at Calvary.
So, we can begin to comprehend the terrible implications of these words. At twelve noon "there was darkness over the whole land" which continued for three hours until Jesus died on the cross. With the darkness came silence, for no eye could see, and no lips could tell, the agony of the soul which the spotless Lamb of God then endured. The accumulated sins of all human history were laid upon Christ. Voluntarily He bore then all within His body. He made them his own. He accepted full responsibility for them all.
But what about those words Christ cried out? "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" This is a quotation from the first verse of Psalm 22. To me , that fact doesn't make it seem as if Christ were forelorn. But why quote that verse? Are we to believe that it was a cry of human weakness and despair, or that the Son of God was imagining things?
No, we can't believe that. These words must be taken at face value. As he had quoted, and fulfilled, other verses so too He believed that He was fulfilling this one. He was bearing all of our sins, and since God cannot behold evil nor look upon wrong, God turned away His face from Christ for the very first time ever. Christ was therefore temporarily separated from the Father, abandoned. Our sins sent Christ to hell. He experienced the torment of a soul estranged from God and held there. Bearing our sins, Christ died our death. Christ endured the penalty of separation from God which our sins deserved, in our place.
But then, emerging from that outer darkness, He cried out in triumph, "It is finished, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit."
I will add more to this post this evening!
With those words above, Christ died. The work He had come to do was completed. The salvation He had come to win for all of us was accomplished. Reconciliation to God was available to all who would trust this Savior for themselves, and receive Him as their own. The unseen hand of God rent the Temple veil from top to bottom. No mean feat, since the veil was many inches thick to prevent anyone from passing through it into the presence of God. The way into God's presence was no longer barricaded, Christ had opened the gate of heaven to all who would believe. And 36 hours later He rose from the tomb to prove that He had not died in vain.
This simple account of the sinbearing of the Son of God is not popular today. That He should have borne our sins and taken our penalty has been said to be immoral or unworthy or unjust. It is not like there is nothing left for us, as believers, to do.
The initiative was with God Himself. He was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Precisely how He can have been in Christ while He made Christ to be sin for us I simply can't explain. But the apostle states both of these truths and I take them on faith due to the fact that I can't possibly know and understand everything that is possible for God to do. This paradox, as well as that of Christ being both God and man, are things which I can't explain until I get to heaven.
But if we can't fathom these paradoxes we should still take Christ's statements on faith that He bore our sins, knowing that He underwent the penalty that was properly reserved for us.
Did Peter mean these things in his epistle? I do believe so. First, he says that it was on the "tree" that Christ bore our sins. He used this word quite deliberately, just as he did in his sermons recorded in Acts. His Jewish listeners, and readers, would have no difficulty grasping his implied reference to Deuteronomy 23, where it is written, "Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree." The fact that Jesus ended His life hanging on a "tree" meant that He was under the divine curse.
Apostle Paul explained this in Galatians 3. The inescapable, and plain meaning, is that the righteous curse of the broken law which rests on transgressions was transferred to Christ on the cross. Christ has freed us from the curse by taking it upon Himself when He died on the cross.
By studying out both I Peter 2 and Isaiah 53 we can find no less than five clear verbal comparisons. We have already seen that this chapter portrays an innocent sufferer who in sacrificial death is wounded for the transgressions of others. Beyond any question Jesus interpreted His mission and death in the light of this chapter, as did His disciples after Him. As an example of this, when the Ethiopian eunuch asked the evangelist Philip to whom the prophet Isaiah was referring to in this passage which he was reading in his chariot, Philip immediately began to tell him the good news of Jesus Christ.
Finally, Peter has other references to the cross in his letter which confirm this interpretation of his words. He describes his readers as having been "ransomed...with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." This expression alludes to the original Passover sacrifice at the time of the Exodus from out of Egypt. Each Jewish family took a lamb without any blemish or spot, killed it, and sprinkled the lintels of their door with its blood. Only in this way were they protected from the judgment of God and only so did they escape from their bondage. Peter boldly applies the Passover connection to Christ, as does Paul. His blood was shed to redeem us from impending judgment from God and so that we may escape our bondage to sin. If we are to benefit from it, it must be applied on our hearts, applied to each of us individually, not corporately in families or denominations.
Sin had separated us from God, but Christ desired to bring us back to God. So He suffered willingly for our sins, an innocent Savior dying for guilty sinners. He did it once for everyone, so what He did can't be repeated or improved upon or even supplemented. What He did for us was sufficient and complete.
What does this imply? It means that no religious observances or good deeds of ours could ever earn our forgiveness. Hail Mary's, rosary beads, and donations to the poor will never earn us God's approval or forgiveness. The problem today is that too many people have accepted this path to be true of Christianity and so they see no fundamental difference between the Christian gospel and the eastern religions. They commonly say, "God helps those who help themselves." But this notion can't be reconciled with the cross of Christ. Christ died to atone for our sins which we can't atone for ourselves. If we could, then Christ never would have had to die. To say that we can secure God's favor by our own efforts is to say that we can manage without God, He does not need to bother us with His presence, or with His love.
And so the message of the cross remains as foolishness to the wise and a stumbling-block to the self-righteous today. Yet it continues to bring peace and forgiveness to the conscience of millions who choose to believe. As John Stott once said, "There is healing through His wounds, life through His death, pardon through His pain, salvation through His suffering."
That finishes this section of this study. Next I will look at the salvation of Christ. God willing, we shall all meet here once again to open up His Word and to study His wisdom.
Fri, Jun 25th - 6:16PM
Study in I John
And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God remains for ever(2:17).
Each of us needs remember that all of the buildings, edifices, stadiums, cathedrals, and mosques will one day crumble into dust. It will all pass away into the history books of humanity, pictures to be stared at in school classrooms by wondering students. All of the works of our lust shall pass away into nothingness. It is vain to waste precious time on these sorts of things, not to mention the inordinate amounts of money it requires to erect these buildings.
As I begin looking back to when I was a young man I wish that I could regain some of that strength, some of that utterly lost time. I would use it for God now since this world is passing away.
"But he that does the will of God remains for ever." Why not work at something which is permanent? Build upon something which will stand for ever? Why not establish works which will last into eternity?
Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many anitchrists; whereby we know that it is the last time(2:18).
The word for "little children" here is a different word from the one used back in verse 12. There it is a term of affection and implies all who are born into God's family. Here these little children indicate the first degree of spiritual experience which we have seen in verses 12-14. John is speaking to the most immature believers for they are the most likely to be tripped up by "antichrists."
"It is the last time." We are therefore still living in the last time even today. It is an extended period of time between when Christ ascended to heaven and when He returns to earth the second time. This is the age during which God is actively calling out a people for His name. At any time during this period is the acceptable time, the time to repent at the hearing of His voice. Why the urgency about salvation? Because tonight in my sleep I just might pass away. Tomorrow I might die in a car accident. Or in a plane crash. Or something just might fall from out of the sky and flatten my home while I am reading and I shall die in a heartbeat. Or perhaps some deranged individual will come to where I am shopping and begin to fire their gun indiscriminately and murder me there, while I am totally unaware of what is unfolding behind my back. Life is not a very secure or definite thing, my friends. It is a precious commodity and we need to treat it as such. I may not be around tomorrow and so it behooves me to give out the Word of God today, while I may. And it behooves the unbeliever to accept the Word of God today, for they do not know that they will have tomorrow to reconsider and accept it then. So today is the day of your salvation! This is the day that the Lord has made and we ought to be glad in it!
Many antichrists had already appeared during John's day, but there is still to come the Antichrist. What is meant by this term? There have been some misconceptions over the past few decades as the American culture has become "enlightened." This term is made up of the root word "christ" and the prefix "anti." This prefix commonly means today "to be against." If I am anti-war then I am against all wars. But "anti" can also mean "instead of, an imitation of." Therefore, it can be a substitute. It could be a very good substitute or just a sham, a veneer of something.
Is the Antichrist to be a false Christ or is he an enemy of Christ? There are several references made in I John, but we can only figure out from these that there is going to be the Antichrist and that there were already many lesser antichrists present in John's day. What was the identifier of an antichrist? He was one who denied the deity of Christ. We are given that primary definition in I John, as we will see when we reach verse 22. We need to recall that Jesus Christ said, "...many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many(Matthew 24:5)." That is antichrist - instead of Christ, they claim to be Christ. Anybody like that come to mind?
I believe that there are going to be two separate persons at the end of this age who will fulfill both of these types: being against Christ and claiming to be Christ. Scripture presents it exactly this way in Revelation 13. There we are given the "beast" who comes up out of the sea, and Satan is the one who calls that one forth. That one is the political ruler, and he is definitely against Christ. There is a second beast who comes out of the land. He appears to be a lamb, but he is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He pretends to be Christ. He will be a religious leader. The political leader most likely will come from out of the Gentile nations of the former Roman Empire. The religious ruler will come from out of nation Israel, most likely. Israel would not accept him as their Messiah unless he was one of them. So there will be two individuals who will simultaneously be antichrists working together. One will be against Christ and the other instead of Christ.
That is all for today, beloved. I sincerely hope you come back next time as we continue this study! May grace and peace be within your heart this day1
Thu, Jun 24th - 1:42PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
So, is the death of Jesus Christ anything more than an inspiring example? If it weren't more than this, much of the Gospels would be absolutely inexplicable. There would be all of those strange sayings in which He said He would give His life as a ransom for many and shed His blood, the blood of the covenant, for the forgiveness of sins. There is no practical redemption in an example. A pattern can't secure our pardon from anything whatsoever.
Besides, why in the world was He burdened with such heavy and anxious foreboding as the cross approached? How shall we explain the dreadful agony He experienced in the Garden of Gethsamane, His tears and cries and bloody sweat? Was the cup from which He shrank the symbol of death by crucifixion? Was He then afraid of pain and death? If so, His example may have been one of submission and patience, but it was hardly one of courage. Socrates, Plato tells us, drank his cup of hemlock in the prison cell in Athens quite readily and cheerfully. Was Socrates braver than Jesus? Or were their cups filled with different poison? What is the meaning of the darkness, and the cry of dereliction, and the rending from top to bottom of the thick Temple curtain before the Holy of Holies? These things have no meaning, no explanation, if Jesus died only as an example.
Our human need would remain unsatisfied if Jesus death were purely an example. We need more than an example; we need a Savior, a Redeemer. Examples can stir our imaginations, kindle our idealism, and strengthen our resolve, but they can't cleanse the corruption of our past sins, bring peace to our troubled souls or reconcile us to God. Something more is needed for all of those things.
The apostles leave us in no doubt about the matter however. They routinely associate Christ's coming and death with our sins.
"Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures(I Corinthians 15:3)."
"Christ also died for sins once for all(I Peter 3:18)."
"You know that He appeared to take away sins(I John 3:5)."
All three apostolic writers are unaminous in linking His death with our sins.
We need to now delve into the relationship between Christ's death and our sins. In Peter's letter (2:24) he used the phrase "bear sin." This phrase has a rather alien sound to our modern ears. A trip back to the Old Testament is needed in order to gain some understanding of this concept. The idea occurs in the books of Leviticus and Numbers. It is written many times that an offender who breaks one of God's revealed laws "he shall bear his iniquity" or "he shall bear his sin." The expressions can mean only one thing. To "bear sin" is to suffer the consequences of one's sin, to bear its penalty. Ah! In our modern society if one breaks a law then one may very well be arrested, tried, found guilty, and forced to pay some kind of penalty. Maybe. There is where the crucial difference lays; we may pay the penalty for breaking manmade laws, but God does make us pay the penalty each time that we sin against Him.
But in the Old Testament it is implied that somebody else can assume responsibility for the sinner. In the 30th chapter of Numbers, which deals with the validity of vows, Moses explains that a vow taken by a man or a widow must stand. A vow, however, taken by an unmarried girl or by a married woman must be validated by her father and her husband respectively. If on the day on which the man hears of the woman's vow he does not invalidate it, and it later proves to be foolish, it is said, "he shall bear her iniquity." Another example appears towards the end of the book of Lamentations, "Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bare their iniquities."
This concept of somebody else accepting the responsibility for, and the bearing of the consequences of, our sins was visually taught by the blood sacrifices of animals in the Mosaic ordinances within the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Those ordinances seem very strange to us today in our culture. Of the sin offering it was said that God had given it to "bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord." On the Day of Atonement, Aaron was instructed by God to lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, thus identifying himself and his people with the animal; he was then to confess the nation's sins, symbolically transferring them to the goat, which was driven out into the wilderness; "The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land." It is clear from this that to "bear" another person's sin is to become his/her substitute, to bear the penalty of their sin in their stead.
But the writer of Hebrews reminds the reader that despite this remarkable provision, "it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." Animal shed blood was only a temporary solution, a teaching tool to prepare the Israelites for the coming of the Final Atonement. The Book of Isaiah is full of pictures depicting Christ as the innocent sufferer, one who is intentionally sacrificial. His soul was made an offering for our sins. Upon Him was the chastisement that made all of us whole, and with His whippings we are healed. Then all of this clear language of substitution, describing Him as being stricken for the transgression of My people, is summed up in two phrases with which we have been made familiar by Leviticus, "He shall bear their iniquities", and "He bore the sin of many."
Finally at last, after centuries of preparation, Jesus Christ Himself arrived, and John the Baptist greeted Him publicly with the extraordinary words: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Indeed, all of the New Testament writers had no difficulty identifying Christ's death as the final sacrificial death which fulfilled the Old Testament sacrifices. The old sacrifices were of bulls and goats; Christ offered Himself. The old sacrifices were endless in nature; Christ died once for all.
The Son of God identified Himself with the sins of men. He was not content to take our nature upon Himself; He took our iniquity upon Himself as well. He was not only "made flesh" in the womb of Mary; He was "made sin" on the cross of Calvary. Praise God! What love!
That is all for today, beloved! May you study these scripture references out, google them, go beyond what I have provided in such a short blog. Be sure to check them out and make sure that I am speaking accurately the Word of God. Make no assumptions that I know what I am talking about therefore you need not go and read them for yourself! Go, read the Word of God, see for yourself what is written therein. May Christ bless you abundantly this early summer day!
Wed, Jun 23rd - 12:48PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
To the Corinthians, who were dangerously close to becoming entangled in the labyrinth of Greek philosophy, the apostle Paul wrote, "Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God(I Corinthians 1:22-24)." This was the only message which he gave to them, from the first time he visited them upon arriving there from Athens until his later letter to them.
This exact same emphasis upon the cross can be found throughout the New Testament. In the letter to the Hebrews comes the statement that Christ "has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself(Hebrews 9:26)." Then we find in the Book of Revelation, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah...a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain...Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing(Revelation 5:5, 6, 12)!"
So from the beginning chapters of Genesis to the final chapter of Revelation we can observe a "scarlet thread" weaving its way throughout all of God's Word. Consistently it is to be found within the writings of all books of the Scriptures. It enables us to find our way through the Scriptures, and through our very lives. And what the Bible teaches about the centrality of the cross has been embraced in general by the church of Christ. Perhaps Catholicism has incorporated this too much into their rituals by the building of crosses on cathedrals, crosses upon graves, crosses worn upon the breast or cuff. The cross most importantly must be worn upon my heart, never forgetting the price Christ willingly paid for the redemption of my sins, so that I might lay claim to eternal life with God. The cross is the symbol of our faith. It is the faith of Christ crucified. There can be no conquest of sin in our lives without the cross, there can be no Christianity without the cross. So what does the cross mean?
THE CROSS'S MEANING
The complete meaning of the death of Christ remains a mystery to us all. We have been given only as much as God has deemed is necessary for us to believe. But the cross is a pivotal event in all of history, Christians fervently believe so. How can our finite minds fully comprehend all that must take place during Christ's time upon the cross? One day the veil covering total understanding shall be swept away by God. We shall see Christ as He really is and worship Him through all of eternity for what He has done. "Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood."
Let's turn to the writings of Peter. First of all, we ought to seriously consider this man's writings for he was one of the inner and intimate group of three apostles. Peter is as likely as anyone to have grasped what Jesus had taught and thought concerning His death.
Secondly, we may turn to Peter with confidence, because at the beginning he was himself very reluctant to accept the necessity of Christ's sufferings and subsequent death upon a cross. Yes, Peter had been the first to adknowledge the uniqueness of Christ's person, but he was also the first to deny the need for His death. Peter denied His Master three times out in the courtyard after Christ's arrest. Peter had retained his stubborn hostility towards the idea of a Messiah who would die throughout the remaining days of Christ's ministry. Only after the resurrection, when Jesus came and taught them all from the Scriptures that it was necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory, did Peter begin to understand and believe. And within a few short weeks more he had laid hold of this concept so firmly that he could address the crowd in the Temple with these words, "what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He thus fulfilled." We too may at first be reluctant to admit the necessity of the cross and be slow to understand its meaning, but if anyone can persuade and teach us it will be Simon Peter, and perhaps also Paul.
Third, all of Peter's references to the cross in his first letter are asides. His allusions are more ethical than doctrinal and so are believable. He simply urges his readers to live their Christian lives consistently and to bear their sufferings patiently, and use the cross for inspiration.
Persecution is the broad background to this letter of Peter's. Emperor Nero was hostile to the church, and many believers were shrinking back in fear. Outbreaks of violence towards Christians had begun to happen in Rome and could it be very long before it spread across the Empire?
Peter's advice is that if servants are receiving ill-treatment at the hands of their masters they should know that it is undeserved. They were to suffer through it for righteousness' sake and for the name of Christ. There was to be no resistance, no retaliation. They were to submit. To bear unjust suffering patiently has God's approval. Peter ties this concept directly to what Christ did upon the cross, it is part of our calling as believers, "because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." Christ was sinless and guileless, and yet He was insulted, suffered, and did not seek revenge nor utter any threats. Peter deeply appreciates this calling to suffer for Christ since he had boasted to follow Him to prison and to death. But he failed miserably on both accounts. But upon the shores of Galilee after the resurrection Peter received a renewal of Christ's calling and his commission, "Follow Me." Peter finally understood that he was to follow Christ's example completely in obedience.
The challenge of the cross is as uncomfortable to the individual in this century as it was in the first century, and it is as relevant today as ever it was. In America today nothing is more completely opposed to our natural instincts than this command not to resist, but to bear unjust suffering and overcome evil with good. And the cross bids us accept injury, love our enemies and leave the outcome to God alone.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time, God willing, I shall continue with this study as we may begin to discover why He is to be our example. May the grace and peace of Christ flow abundantly in your life today~
Wed, Jun 23rd - 6:56AM
Study in I John
We now enter a section which informs us that we "dear children" must not love the "world." John has been writing about how we can know that we are of God's family, of how we can know that we are obeying God. But by obeying His commandments is not meant to be adhering to the Ten Commandments, for Jesus Christ has brought us into the Holy of Holies through His precious blood in a very personal relationship with Him. The Ten Commandments no longer point us toward our need for Christ, we have found Him and accepted Him. We must now honor and do all of the remaining commandments of Christ found within the New Testament.
So the way in which we can be a proof not only to our neighbors but also to ourselves that we are genuine children of God is by our obedience to Him and our desire to please Him in all that we do. We can't grit our teeth and say, "Yes, I will obey Him." That won't work. Our motive must be love, then our obedience shall flow freely and willingly.
Friends, when we obey the commandments of Christ because we love Him, a great many of our family problems will be solved and uncertainty in our hearts will disappear. Christianity is based upon a love relationship. Salvation is a love affair.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him(2:15).
What is this "world" of which John speaks? It is not the created world, the physical world. Nor is it the world of humanity or mankind. God spoke of so loving the world, which is the world of mankind. The Greek word for "world" here is kosmos which means "world system." It is the system which Satan has formed which leaves God out, which actually leads people to live in direct rebellion of God. The thing which we are to hate today is this "thing" in our world which is organized against God.
You might say, "But I don't see any organized system which operates actively against God." Well, then I say that you aren't really looking critically at what has been going on around you over the years. We live in a society influenced by satanic forces. Christ told us that much in His statements found in the Book of John. "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in Me," "Of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged." The prince of this world is none othe than Satan. Cast out of heaven, he became the ruler of our fair planet without any of us realizing it happened. The entire world system belongs to Satan. He offered the kingdoms of this world to Christ during the temptations in the desert, he couldn't have done so if they weren't his to give away in the first place. In Ephesians 2:2 Paul says, "Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world..." What is "the course of this world?" It is greed, covetousness, envy, selfish ambition, deceit, lying, and fleshly pleasures leading to addiction. This is the "world" in which we live, and this is what we are not to allow ourselves to be sucked into.
We live in a godless world. It is in rebellion against God. Our culture and civilization is anti-God, and we as children of God ought not to be in love with it. We are in the world but not of the world. We may have to move in the business world, or within the social world, but we do not have to be a part of it.
Recognition must exist that we are going to obedient to one world or the other. We are either going to obey the world system and live in it and enjoy it, or we are going to obey God. In Galatians 6:14 Paul in effect tells us that there stands between us and this satanic world system, a cross. Both are calling to us and, as children of God, we are obedient to Him, and we are to glory in the cross of Christ.
In II Peter 2:20 we read about how the world is corrupted and polluted. We hear daily about air and water pollution, but what about the minds which are being polluted by all the pornography and foul language? What of the minds of our children that are being corrupted by unethical and immoral behavior and language? Who is willing to stand up for them?
In Romans 7 Paul describes his own struggle as a Christian. He discovered that in his flesh dwells nothing good. That which he did not want to do, he ended up doing anyway. It was frustrating to him. The flesh remains at war with the spirit and therefore the believer must feed the spirit to make it stronger than the flesh for the flesh is meshed into the world system.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world(2:16).
Three things John lists here. These are not the only temptations which face us, but they are the ones which Satan brought before Eve in the Garden of Eden and Jesus out in the desert.
1. The lust of the flesh. Eve saw that the tree was good for food, a good place to eat from. Today there is an overemphasis on sex both in the church and outside of the church. Satan appealed to the hunger that Jesus obviously would be suffering from upon fasting for so many days. He appeals to our hungers today, wishing to satisfy them via any means necessary. Jesus was tempted in the same area in which you and I are tested - the desires of the flesh. There is no sin in being tempted, only in yielding to the temptation.
2. The lust of the eyes. Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes. Remember that Satan showed Jesus Christ all the kingdoms of the world. They are very attractive, they are Satan's to give. There is a godless philosophy which is trying to get control of the entire world today. There will come a day when it will happen, that is when Antichrist will rule the entire planet. He is coming and we can do nothing to prevent that from happening.
3. The pride of life. Eve saw that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. There are many people today who pride themselves on their families. Or they pride themselves belonging to a certain race. That was the appeal which Hitler made to the German people, and it is an appeal to any race. It is pride of life. It is that which makes us feel superior to other people. It is found in religion today. It is alive and well inside of every saint who feels that they are "super-duper" saints. Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and told Him to cast Himself down and demonstrate His superiority. Jesus declined, He never performed a miracle in order to demonstrate His superiority.
So there are the three basic appeals that this flesh-driven world makes to you and me daily. But when we make our stomach the goal in life, or we make beauty our goal in life, or even when we attempt to make that which is religious our goal, it leads to the most distorted view of life that is possible. These things are of the world and are deadly. We are not to love these things. God is going to destroy this entire world system one day. What is our enemy? The world, the flesh, and Satan. Satan brought these temptations to Eve and Jesus, he has not changed his tactics in the least. And people still fall for the ruse.
God willing we shall all meet up again at this blog. Until then, may the Lord order your steps and light your path.
Mon, Jun 21st - 7:58PM
I John Study
He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now(2:9).
It is impossible, as a child of God to walk in the light and still hate your brother or sister. If you hate your Christian brother or sister, it means that you have something radically wrong with your confession of faith. We are not talking about having objectionable manners or habits, or even being offensive in their speech. But to hate reveals that you are in darkness spiritually. Hatred excludes a person from being in the light. We can read of this in Ephesians 4:18 where Paul spoke about the natural darkness in which all of us are born. But our condemnation is not from what we are by nature, rather it comes from our rejection of the light which came into the world to alert us to our nature. Reject Christ and we are condemned by our choice to do so.
Once we choose to walk in the light all darkness is chased away. Those who choose to reject the light will one day face the time when God withdraws the light completely from them. They shall then wander in utter darkness for the remainder of their lives.
He that loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes(2:10-11).
John has given us a test to see if we are living in darkness. Do we love our brother/sister? Have we really trusted Christ? Is He our light? Is He the One who is guiding us to the point that we are not hating anyone?
Admittedly, there are plenty of believers whose habits you may dislike. You may have a distaste for their clothing choices, their speech patterns, or their facial expressions. You may even have personality clashes. But that does not translate into hatred. It can not be allowed to. We are to love them as ourselves.
I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake(2:12).
Here John begins talking about three different degrees of believers. These "little children" comes from the Greek teknia, "little born ones." This seemingly refers to all believers despite age or maturity as believers. It speaks of the basis on which all believers rest: the forgiveness of sins because of the shed blood of Christ. Sadly, some believers stay in that position of little children and never grow up.
I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him that is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father(2:13).
"Fathers" would be those saints who have known Christ for many years and have spiritually grown and matured. King David probably wrote Psalm 23 when he was an old man. The "young men" obviously are not as mature as the fathers. But they have learned the way to overcome the enemy by the blood of Christ and living for God. "Little children" here comes from the Greek word paidia, meaning "immature little folk." These are the believers who know that they are saved, but not much more than that. Sadly, too many of them feel that that is all they need to know. Too many congregations feel like nurseries! People with gray hair can fall into this classification!
I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one(2:14).
The fathers do not have anything to be added for they are mature believers in Christ. How do we get to know someone? By living with them day by day. My wife knows me, and I know my wife. We have been living together for almost 25 years so we know each other quite well.
So how are we to know the Lord Jesus Christ? Beloved, the only way to know Him is in the Word of God. That is where He chose to reveal Himself to everyone. The Word of God is like food. The more we ingest the stronger we can become but the more regularly that we consume food the healthier we can then become. This is one purpose of my blogs, to feed regularly and be able to become healthier. It is why the Word is called the Bread of Life.
John addresses the "young men" and reveals their secret to overcoming Satan: the Word of God remains in them. This is why we hold dear the passage in Ephesians 6:17 where we are told that the weapon of choice in our battles with Satan is the Word of God. In order to defend ourselves against Satan we must have a solid knowledge of the Bible. Why do so many Christians cave in to the pressures of the world? Because they fail to study and understand the Bible. We eat three physical meals each day, we need to feed ourselves spiritually in like fashion.
That is all for tonight, beloved. God be with you all and may you experience the grace of Christ.
Mon, Jun 21st - 12:55PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
THE CROSS'S CENTRALITY
In order to understand that the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin is cental to the message of the entire Bible we must first go back to the Old Testament. Religion was sacrificial from the very beginning. Adam and Eve did not leave the Garden of Eden until after a sacrifice. Abel brought lambs from his flock and we learn that God had regard for Abel and his offering. Worshippers of Jehovah brought sacrifices to Him and built altars upon which to shed the blood of animals. This occured long before the law of Moses was brought down from the mountain top. But under Moses the covenant was ratified between God and the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.
During the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. the prophets preached against the immorality and formalism of the worshippers, but the sacrificial system continured without interruption until the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.. All Jews were familiar with the ritual. They understood the burnt, trespass, and drink offerings. They knew all about the weekly, monthly, and yearly offerings that must be made. It was all part of their culture, children learned all of this as part of their childhood. They knew that the life of the flesh is in the blood, and that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The sacrifices written about in Leviticus foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ in visible symbol for the people. The prophets and psalmists foretold of it in words. We can detect Him in Zechariah's shepherd who is smitten and whose sheep are scattered abroad, and in Daniel's prince or "anointed one" who is "cut off." We can find Him in the noble figure who appears in the Servant Songs near the end of the prophecy of Isaiah, the suffering servant of Jehovah, the despised "man of sorrows," who is wounded for the transgressions of others, is led like a lamb to the slaughter and bears the sins of many. All of this was pictured in the annual national redemption of sin, in which the high priest had to carry the shed blood of a lamb into the Holy of Holies and use it to redeem the people from all of their sins of the past year. It was an imperfect redemption, not long-lasting.
Jesus came and knew that the scriptures bore witness to Him and that it was in Him that their expectation was to be fulfilled. The turning point of His ministry came at Caesarea Philippi when, immediately after Peter had confessed Him to be the Christ, He began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things.
He "must" have suffered these things, there was no option on His part. This sense of compulsion laid upon Him by the Scriptures as revealing the Father's will, continually occurs in His teaching. He had a baptism to be baptized with and felt Himself constrained unti it was accomplished. He kept moving inexorably towards what He called "His hour." This "hour" repeatedly is said to not have come yet, and at last, just before His arrest, Jesus says that the hour has come.
The prospect of the ordeal set before Him did fill Jesus with foreboding. "Now is My soul troubled. What should I say - 'Father, save Me from this hour?' But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!(John 12:27-28)" When the hour of His arrest finally arrived, Jesus commanded Peter to sheathe his sword. Could He avoid drinking the cup which the Father had given Him? No, He could not. If it had been necessary, Jesus could have commanded more than twelve legions of angels to come and fight for Him. Fighting was not the solution. Aggression was not the solution.
The supreme importance of the cross which the Old Testament foretold and Jesus taught is fully recognized by the New Testament authors. Two-fifths of the first Gospel, three-fifths of the second, one-third of the third, and almost one-half of the fourth, are given to an accounting of the events between His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His triumphant ascension into heaven. It is very striking to observe such emphasis upon this part of His life, and ministry.
What is implied in the Gospels is boldly stated in the Epistles, or Letters. The apostle Paul perhaps states this the most boldly of all. He never tired of reminding the reader of the cross and its importance. He had a vivid sense of indebtedness to the Savior whom he had met on the road to Damascus. The One who had died for him still loved him inspite of the persecution which he had purposefully pursued.
There is more but there is not enough time right now to finish this section. Tomorrow I shall attempt to finish this up and move on in this study. I pray that you find strength and determination to bolster your faith through following this study. May Christ be with you always!
Sun, Jun 20th - 3:45PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
CONFLICT WITH OTHERS
But my list of the awful consequences of sin is not complete. We must consider sin's effect upon our relationships with others.
Sin is a deep-seated infection of nature. It lies at the foundation of our personality. It controls our ego. Sin is self, it is ego personified. All of the sins that we commit are simply assertions of the self against either God or other men. The Ten Commandments set forth our duty to God and to others. This is made even more clear by considering what Jesus gave as a summary of the law.
The first commandment concerns our duty to God. We are to love God first and foremost, then we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. God demands that we put Him first, others second, and ourselves last. Sin reverses the order of these things and places self first. When ice cream and cake are brought into the kid's party the cry erupts, "Me first! Me first!" As we grow older we learn to not say it, but we tend to still think it.
All of our relationships in life are complicated: parents and children, husband and wife, employer and employee. Juvenile delinquency no doubt arises from many causes, but the fact remains that delinquents are asserting themselves against society. Divorce could be much reduced if people were humble enough to blame themselves more than their spouse, and placed heightened importance upon their marriage vows to begin with.
Most arguments are due to a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is due to the failure to appreciate the other person's point of view. We are disposed to talking more than we are to listening, arguing rather than submitting. This is true in the workplace, domestically, and in school. This extends outward to the international arena where complex conflicts are due largely to fear and foolishness bred out of that "Me first!" attitude. We exaggerate our own virtue and the other person's vice.
Self-centredness is the cause of all of our troubles whether it be pollution, bigotry, expansionism, aggressiveness, intolerance, or open warfare. It always brings us into conflict with each other. A spirit of self-sacrifice is needed to eliminate conflict. Sin's characteristic is the desire to "get" while love's characteristic is to "give." This is why redemption through Christ causes a radical change from self to unself. And this change is not something which man can cause within himself. He needs a Savior who can perform this operation on him.
Exposing our sin is for one purpose only. To convince us of our need of Jesus Christ, and to prepare us for understanding and accepting what He offers. Faith is born of need. No one ever put their trust in Christ until they first despaired of themselves. Once we realize and admit to the seriousness of our "illness" we will then admit our urgent need for a cure.
I am now at the point where Christ's work must be discussed.
DEATH OF CHRIST
Christianity is a rescue operation. God has taken the initiative in Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sins. God sent Christ to seek and to find that which was lost in order to return home with them. God recognized that humanity was spiritually sick and so He sent a Physician to heal our illness.
Since sin has three principle consequences, salvation includes our liberation from them all. Through Christ we can be brought out of exile and reconciled to God; we can be born again. We receive a new nature and are set free from our moral bondage. The first aspect of salvation Christ made possible by His suffering of death on the cross, the second by the gift of His Spirit and the third by the building of His church. Let's focus now upon the first.
Apostle Paul described his work as a "ministry of reconciliation." He also clearly indicated from where this reconciliation came from. God is its author and Christ is its agent. All that was achieved through the death of Christ on the cross had its origin in the mind and heart of God.
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself." "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." "In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross."
But what does "reconciliation" mean? The same word is translated as "atonement" in Romans 5:11, and an "atonement" denotes either an action by which two conflicting parts are made "at one" or the state in which their oneness is enjoyed and expressed. Paul tells us that this atonement is received by us through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can't receive it through our own efforts, it is a gift from God. Sin caused the estrangement of mankind from God; the cross accomplished the atonement of mankind. Sin created enmity, the cross has brought peace. Sin created a gulf between man and God; the cross has bridged that gulf. Sin broke fellowship; the cross has restored it.
But why was the cross necessary for our salvation? Is it really vital? What did it achieve? Those questions must be answered, but that is for next time, beloved! Grace and peace be with you all.
Sat, Jun 19th - 10:27AM
Study in I John
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word which you have heard from the beginning(2:7).
"The beginning" is the time of Christ's incarnation. An example of this "old" commandment is found in John 13:34-35: "A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another." And in John 15:10, 12: "If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love...This is My commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you." This is how a believer shall be identified by the lost, by loving other believers and holding no grudges, not being offended at every turn. We are to mimick Christ's obedience to His Father's will in heaven.
Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines(2:8).
This was referred to as a new commandment since it was given before Christ went and hung on the cross. None of the disciples were regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit yet. That came after Christ's resurrection and His return to heaven. Jesus meant to break the news about His new commandment ahead of time, to prepare all of their hearts for what was to come.
The very beginning of God's will for us is that we love Him and delight in doing His will. The "true light" has redeemed us from our sin-debt, and has driven the darkness from out of our hearts. We are not to invite that darkness to reenter our lives. We ought to be able to "see things clearly now, the clouds are gone." Each day we should be growing spiritually and that growth can only come about through effectively studying God's Word.
I will repeat once more, the Christian life is not about following a bunch of little rules, a bunch of "do's and don'ts." We are not computers, we are not machines, we are human beings. Once we have been redeemed we have a new nature which must be fed and allowed to grow strong for it is in constant warfare with our old nature. The new nature desires to please God while the old nature desires to satisfy the self, the carnal aspects of life.
One might say, "But I see dark things all throughout the world today!" Very true. But Christ effectively drove darkness from its position of being in complete control of humanity. People have been given the means to take back control of themselves from the darkness, the choice is theirs. Ignorance of the Word of God is very much in evidence everywhere. People remain ignorant of the fact that the true light has graciously given them an escape hatch through which to flee to personal freedom from the slavery of sin. The true light is continuously breaking upon our world. Jesus Christ remains the most controversial person who has ever lived on this earth.
That is all for today on this study. Next time, God willing, I shall cover verses 9-12 which continue to develope this concept of Christ as the light of the world. May you enjoy the end of spring as summer fast approaches, grace and peace be yours!
Fri, Jun 18th - 12:38PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
CONSEQUENCES OF SIN IN OUR LIVES
It would be ever so nice to be able to move right along to the good news of Christ's salvation, but we are not ready to go there yet. You and I need to grasp what the results of sin are before we can truly appreciate what God has already done for us and is offering to us in Christ.
Alternative from God
The most awful result of sin is that it cuts us off from God. Mankind's highest destiny is to know God, to be in personal relationship with Him. Our major claim to nobility as human beings is that we were made in the image of God and are therefore capable of knowing Him. But God is a righteous Being, infinite in His moral perfection. Hear what the Bible stresses about this point:
"For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dewll in the high and holy place..."
"The King of kings and Lord of lords, who...dwells in unapproachable light."
"God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth."
"Our God is a consuming fire."
"Who among us can dwell with the devouring fire?"
"Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"
"You who are of purer eyes than to behold evil and can't look on wrong."
All of the men who were favored in being able to catch a mere glimpse of God's glory in the Old Testament shrank from the sight in feelings of unworthiness in the presence of such purity and holiness. Moses hid his face for fear of looking at God. Job said that he despised himself upon seeing God. Isaiah cried out that he was lost, a man of unclean lips living amongst a people of unclean lips. Ezekiel upon seeing the glory of God fell upon the ground with his face down upon it. Saul of Tarsus was struck to the ground and blinded by a brilliant white light from heaven, and later he wrote that Christ had appeared to him in that light. The apostle John while exiled upon the isle of Patmos had a vision of God which sent him falling to the ground as if he were a dead man.
Whenever the veil surrounding God is drawn aside, the unspeakable majesty of Jehovah overwhelms whomever is viewing Him, the individual is unable to bear the sight of purity and holiness and righteousness. We finite beings down here on earth have no comprehension of how pure and brilliant must be the glory of almighty God. How do we perceive and comprehend light capable of baring the very soul of a person, their every thought, desire, and intention? In knowing our limitation in this regard, we are able to know that while we remain in our sins we can never approach God in His righteousness. An immense canyon separates God from us because of our living in our sins. It is why the question is asked as to how righteousness and iniquity can have any partnership. They can not. Light and darkness can not have fellowship.
That sin cuts us completely off from God is driven home forcefully in the Old Testament account of the construction of the Tabernacle and then of the Temple. Both were made in compartments. The first was larger and was called the Holy Place, while the second and smaller one was known as the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies was where the shekinah glory, the visible sign of God's presence, was to be found. Between this compartment and the outer one was a very thick veil of material which prevented anyone access to the presence of God. Only one person was allowed access into His presence, the high priest. And that was only one time per year, on the Day of Atonement. On that day he would take the blood of a sacrificed lamb into this compartment for atonement for the sins of all of the Jewish people for the past year.
That is all the time I have for now. I will attempt to finish this tonight after vacation bible school has finished for the week. See you then!
A great time had by all at the conclusion to our VBS "High Sea Expedition." Now, it is time to finish this post!
In the actions of the high priest within the Tabernacle and the Temple the Israelites could see visibly demonstrated what is written by the Old Testament writers. Sin brings separation, and this separation is "death," spiritual death, the severance of a person from God who is the only source of life.
Also, if in this current world we reject Christ through whom alone we may find eternal life, we will die eternally in the next world. Hell may be a grim and dreadful reality, but the lake of fire is eternal. Jesus called it "outer darkness" because it is an infinite separation from God who is light. It is also called the "second death" which term describes symbolically the forfeiture of eternal life.
The existence of sin is not only taught in the Bible but it is confirmed by human experience. I can pray earnestly to God before I ever repent of my sins and wonder in puzzlement why He seems so far away, hidden in mists which I could not penetrate. It is the unrepented sins which prevent me from approaching God.
God is not responsible for the state of being hidden from us. We are. It is very similar to how the rainclouds block out the sun from our sight. Until our sins are forgiven, we are exiles, far from our true home. In biblical terms, we are lost.
It is this state of being "lost" that creates the restlessness of men and women today. The spiritual hunger within humans can't be sated by anything short of reconnection with the God who created them. All other means are only temporary, short term solutions, which end up leaving them with a feeling of emptiness. Demand for sensational news stories, extravagant love or crime stories in the movie theater, bars and taverns, NASCAR and sports, horse and dog tracks, drugs, sex, and violence; all are symptoms of mankind's search for personal satisfaction. Man is missing the destiny for which God made him.
Bondage to self
Sin not only separates, it enslaves. It alienates and captivates. Sin is more than an unfortunate outward act or habit; it is a deeply ingrained, inward corruption of the spirit. The sins that we commit are simply outward manifestations of what truly is wrong with us on the inside. They are symptoms of our moral disease. Christ used the metaphor of a tree and its fruit. It matters what kind of fruit the tree bears as well as the fruit's condition. These things depend upon the the nature and health of the tree itself. A sickly, disease-ridden tree will produce sickly, rotten fruit which is good for nothing. Sin causes us to be producers of corrupted fruit, infested with our personal agendas, biases, and prejudices. Our acts become worthless.
We are all influenced for good or bad by our education and environment, by the political and economic system under which we live. We should seek justice, freedom and well-being for all men. Yet it was not for a lack of these that Jesus laid the blame, but the evils of society originate from man's very nature, what is called the "heart." Hear Christ's words from Mark 7:21-23: "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." The prophet Jeremiah taught this very concept. The Bible is full of references to this infestation of the human heart. It is a bias of self-centeredness which we have inherited, it is embedded deeply in our personality, and it manifests itself in a myriad of ways. The apostle Paul called it "the flesh" and gave us another inventory of its deeds in Galatians 5:19-21.
Because sin is an inward affliction we are in bondage and many times we become totally unaware of its existence. The acts do not necessarily enslave us, but the infection of sin in our heart always does. Christ aroused the anger of the Pharisees when he said to them that if they continued in His word then they truly were His disciples, they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free. They maintained that they were descendants of Abraham and had never been in bondage to anyone. Jesus replied that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
The apostle Paul wrote several times of this humiliating servitude which sin drags us into. The example of our lack of self-control which James gives is the difficulty we have in controlling our own tongue. We all know this only too well in our own experiences. We have high ideals but weak wills. We want to live good lives, but we are chained up in a prison created by our own self-centeredness. We may boast much about how free we are, but in reality we are but slaves. It may be drugs, sex, food, pornographic materials, money, property, power, status, fame, video games, sports, or any of a myriad of addictions, but it all boils down to the harsh fact that we are enslaved to these things.
Do not bother to give us rules of conduct, we will not keep them. Lectures do not solve our problems; we need a Savior. The education of the mind is not enough without a change of heart. Man has discovered the secret of physical power in nuclear reactions. Now he must discover spiritual power in order to set him free of himself, to conquer and control himself, the power to give him moral character to match his scientific achievement.
That completes this section of this study, beloved. I wish you all a good night with blessed rest.
Thu, Jun 17th - 10:02PM
Study in I John
He that says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him(2:4).
John earlier gave us the positive side of this argument. Now he presents the negative side: disobedience to Christ is a proof that we do not know Him. It is plain and direct. Disobedience to Christ by a professing "Christian" is the same as being a liar. Their life is a complete lie.
Many people claim to be children of God, but are they really? The world accepts their word as being true, without checking to see if they are genuine or not. What about us as believers? Do we accept everyone who claims to be a Christian, at face value? Or do we size them up to discover whether or not they truly are born-again. Talk is cheap, so we must verify that their walk is worthy. I personally can't believe that all of these people who claim to be Christians and yet hate the Word of God and disobey the commandments of Christ are children of God. If God's commandments are distasteful to you, then you are not a child of the light.
But whoso keeps His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him(2:5).
Dr. McGee pointed out several years ago that there is a difference between the commandments of God and the Word of God. The commandments are a part of the Word of God, but the Word of God is much more than just commandments. The Word is the expression of the will of God, either by commandment or otherwise. His Word contains His complete revelation to us about His will for our lives.
As a child of God we may want to obey the commandments of God but we also desire to obey the Word of God. I see people who want to live as much like the unsaved as possible without sacrificing their salvation. They obviously do not wish to please their heavenly Father as much as their own selfish desires.
Too much emphasis seems to be placed upon the sins of commission and forgotten are the sins of omission. James hammered the nail on the head in James 4:17, "...to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin." All sins are equally bad, there is no sliding scale on that spectrum.
Each of us needs to take an inventory of ourselves. What is our attitude toward sin? Does it trouble us? Does it break our fellowship with Christ? Does it cause us to cry out during the night? Or do we feel that sin is an obsolete term that needs to be relegated to the lexicon trash heap?
He that says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked(2:6).
Admittedly, none of us can do or be all that Jesus Christ did or was. But we surely must be setting our hearts on doing our Father's will, which was job number one that Christ did while He walked upon this earth. Wasting our time on golfing, scuba diving, fishing, or bar-hopping is not spending our time doing God's will for our lives.
Many restoration churches today throw about the term "commitment." They give invitations at the end of services and ask if anyone desires to commit themselves to Christ. What is meant by this? The Bible tells us that it means to love Christ. You are going to keep His Word, you simply can't help it. You want to please Him for you love Him. You dedicate yourself to studying His Word and applying it to your life. It means to be teaching it to others, to be investing yourself into the lives of others. This is what the apostles were all about.
Well, that is all for this night! It has been a long day. I trust that you will return once again to continue this study with me and we all can become more knowledgeable of God's Word and of His will for our lives. Grace and peace of Christ be with you all.
Wed, Jun 16th - 12:54PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
8. You shall not steal.
To steal is to rob another of anything which belongs to him/her or is due to him/her. Theft of money or property is not the only infringement of this commandment. Tax evasion is theft. Dodging immigration is theft. Circumventing customs is theft. Deliberate working of short hours is also stealing. To overwork and underpay your staff is theft. Identy theft breaks this commandment. Slandering of a person's reputation, or name, breaks this commandment as it steals someone else's good reputation. How many of us have been scrupulously honest on a consistent basis in our personal and business affairs?
The "negative" commandments imply a positive counterpart, don't they? In order to abstain from killing, a person must do all within their power to strengthen the health and and preserve the life of others. To refrain from the act of adultery requires the right, healthy and honorable attitude of each sex towards the other. Likewise, to avoid stealing one must engage in honest work and continue to do so until reaching the point where they can give to those in need. It requires one to stop coveting what others are perceived to have that you do not.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Here is another commandment directed towards respecting the rights of others which is implicit in true love. Breaking any of these commandments is to rob a person of the things most precious to them, their life, their home or honor, their property, and now their reputation. Another thing which can be robbed is the feeling of security in one's home. These things are all precious to every individual.
This commandment obviously has application within our judicial system. But it also covers such things as scandal, slander, idle talk, gossip, and all distortions and exaggerations of the truth. Bearing false witness can be done by simply listening to unkind rumors as well as actively passing them along. Or by making jokes at somebody else's expense, or by creating false impressions, by not correcting untrue statements, and by our deafening silence in all of these situations. Knowing what good we ought to do, but failing to do it, is sin my friends. There is no way to dodge around it.
10. You shall not covet.
I have already mentioned this. This commandment returns our focus from an outward legal code to an inward moral standard. The civil laws can't touch us for covetousness but do touch us for theft. Covetousness belongs to the inner person, in our hearts. What lust is to adultery and temper is to murder, covetousness is to theft.
We are even given items which we are not to covet. They remain rather modern, don't they? Homes, neighbor's wives, possessions. The apostle Paul wrote that covetousness is idolatry. The contrasting point is that there is great gain in godliness with contentment. We are to be content with what we have now. If we practice this then we will not become covetous of what others are perceived to have. I will not wish that I had my neighbor's car, house, kids, or wife. I will not wish that I had a 72 inch HD flat screen LCD TV like my best friend does. I will not wish to exchange my vehicle every two years for the latest flashiest model with all of the bells and whistles. I will be content with what I currently have. I will be able to attain a measure of balance in my life.
Now, a lot of people today do not like the fact that listing these commandments brings out into the light of day a nasty catalogue of sins. These sins all dwell beneath the surface of our daily lives, within our minds and our hearts, which other people cannot see and even we manage to conceal from ourselves. But God sees all of these things very clearly. His sight penetrates to the deep recesses of our hearts and minds and reveals us as we truly are. God then sees us for who we really are and His law shows us how far short of the glory of God we fall in our efforts. It is the stated purpose of the law to expose sin.
As Jesus Christ said, to break just one of these commandments means that all have been broken. Rob a man of his means to earn income and you do not love him and you do not love God. You have placed something other than God in the preeminent place in your heart. You have coveted something about that man. You end up not honoring your parents, nor God.
That completes this section of our study. Next will be a look at the consequences of sin. Some things may surprise you. Perhaps not. I look forward to meeting all of you here once again as we open up God's Word to learn more about how we ought to be living our lives as believers in Christ.
Tue, Jun 15th - 12:53PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
5. Honor your father and your mother.
This commandment still belongs to the first half of the law which concerns our duty to God. Our parents, while we are children, stand before us in loco Dei; they represent God's authority in our lives. And yet it is in their homes that young people are at their most selfish and inconsiderate. It is so easy to be ungrateful and neglectful, and to fail to show our parents due respect and affection. Especially in this day and age of movies, TV shows, and novels, all of which depict parents as either foolish, ignorant, tyrannical, or self-absorbed in their own interests. The media influences the youth culture far more than it ought to. Our youth are fully plugged into today's media and they get their information about life from that source in an ever increasing proportion. How frequently do we write to them, or call them, or visit them? Or do they need financial support which we could supply, but we deny them? Did they not sacrifice while we were being raised by them? Where is our gratitude?
This commandment generally comes with a promise, do it and experience a long and happy life. The opposite is left unspoken, but we all understand what sort of life a child lives out when he/she decides to be ungrateful, or disrespectful, of his/her parent/s.
6. You shall not kill.
Much controversy stems from what term is meant here. If it is "kill" then we must refrain from killing anything: animals and plants. If it is "murder" then we enter into the realm of intent. This would appear to be what God has intended for us to understand here as other scriptural passages speak in more detail concerning this commandment. If looks could kill, many of us would be murderers. If murder can be committed with cutting words, many more are guilty. Jesus Himself said that to be angry with someone without any cause, and to be insulting, are just as serious. And John reaches the correct conclusion when he writes, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer." Every loss of temper, every outburst of uncontrolled passion, every stirring up of sullen rage, every bitter resentment and thirsting for revenge-all of these things are murder. We can kill by malicious gossip. We can kill by studied neglect and cruelty. We can kill by spite and jealousy. Each of us is probably guilty of at least one of these things. And this is why each of us must keep our selves under self control, think before we speak, weigh the consequences of our actions before acting. This is why we ought to love one another as Christ loves each of us. Not because any of us are rightly lovable, but because we are all precious in the sight of God.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
This commandment is in direct conflict with the liberal mindset concerning personal relationships. The liberal believes that if it feels good then it must be good for you. The liberal also believes that the old fashioned morality is obsolete, it needs to be updated and become relevant to today's cultural practices. They fail to understand that morality does not change to suit a culture, the culture changes to meet the expectations of the moral standard.
This commandment thus has a much broader application than just to unfaithfulness in marriage. It includes any sort of sex outside of marriage for which it was designed. It includes flirting, experimenting, and solitary sexual experience. It also includes all sexual perversions, for although men and women are not responsible for a perverted instince/nature, they are for its indulgence in their daily lives. It includes selfish demands within marriage, and many, it not all, divorces. It includes the deliberate reading of pornographic materials, watching of pornographic films, and giving in to impure fantasies. Jesus said, "...everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." This applies to women looking at men in the same manner.
To entertain adulterous thoughts in your heart is to commit adultery. Every sexual abuse is embraced within this commandment.
That is all for today, beloved. There is much to chew upon with these three commandments. It is easily seen how far any culture has strayed from the expectations of God. It can then be determined what corrections any society must undertake in order to return to walking with God in spirit and in truth. The huge question is this: Will any society be willing to change?
Mon, Jun 14th - 1:02PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image.
Whereas the first commandment concerns the object of our worship, this one concerns its manner. First, God demands our exclusive worship, and then our sincere and spiritual worship. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.(John 4:24)." If I am not plugged in spiritually, my worship must then be false, suffering from a lack of truth.
Although this commandment does not forbid the use of all external forms in our worship, it implies that they are useless unless there is inward reality in our worship of God. Do we feel connected with Christ? Do we cultivate our "inner gardens" where we make time to commune with Christ? We may frequently attend church; but have we ever really worshipped Christ? We may have spoken many prayers; have we ever really bared our soul in prayer? We may have read the Bible many, many times; but have we ever allowed God to speak to us through it, and then done what He said? It does us no good to approach God with our lips if our hearts are far, far away from Him.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
The very name of God represents the nature of God. His name must be reverenced, the Lord's Prayer informs us that His name is hallowed. We profane His name through our loose language and quite frankly, most who profane God's name through their normal conversation could stand to expand their working vocabulary of words. It can be indicative of a lazy mind, a mind which refuses to properly describe people, things, actions. But taking God's name in vain is not just a matter of words, but also of thoughts and deeds. Whenever our behavior is inconsistent with our belief, or our practice contradicts our preaching, it is at those times that we take God's name in vain. To call God "Our Lord" and be filled with anxiety and doubts is to deny His name. To call Christ "Our Master" but refuse to repent of sexual sin is to deny His name. Taking God's name in vain is to talk one way and act another. It is hypocrisy.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
The Jew's Sabbath Day is a divine order. To set one day in seven apart is to give our human bodies a break from physical labor, a time for relaxation and restoration before resuming labor once more. It is God's plan. He is the Lord of the Sabbath, not man. The Sabbath was made for man and not for God. Since God made this special day for man, he adapted it to man's need. Our bodies and minds need rest but too many of us today ignore the needs of our bodies. God arranged for this period of rest from the completion of creation which can be read about in the Book of Genesis. He made this seventh day of the week to be a time of rest and of worship of God. We are to recall all that God has done for us on a weekly basis. If we never stop long enough to consider what has gone on during the past week, then how will we ever be able to make corrections in our lives? We have become too busy too much of the time. We must slow ourselves down.
Not only are we to keep this Sabbath ourselves, but we are to do all that we can for the common good to make sure that others do not have to work unnecessarily on this day either.
Christians have made Sunday a "holy day" since that was the day of the week that Christ rose from the dead in newness of life. It is an appropriate day to designate as a day in which to focus oneself on worshipping God. To set oneself apart from general society to do God's work, to sing praises to Christ for all that He has done for you, and to not seek out one's own selfish pleasure is to be the person's goal.
I will state emphatically, that Sunday is not now the "new" Sabbath Day. Saturday has been, and always will be, the Sabbath. God instituted that day and it has not changed. Why is it that we do not have to observe the Old Testament conditions associated with the Sabbath? For that we would need to study the Book of Hebrews to discover what the Sabbath was representative of all of this time. That is not the thrust of this study. Suffice it to say that each of us must determine which day of the week we shall set apart for God, and not for ourselves.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time, God willing, I shall continue with numbers 5-8. May you all begin to prepare yourselves for potential shifts in your spiritual walk as you continue to study God's Word. The Holy Spirit beckons to each of us to come, enter in to a deeper "death" to this world system which seeks to overwhelm us each and every day. Grace and peace of Christ be yours today!
Sun, Jun 13th - 6:24PM
Study in I John
This second chapter of I John continues the thought begun in the first chapter regarding the manner in which "little children" may have fellowship with God. We already know that we can have fellowship with God by walking in the light, or in other words, in God's presence. The second thing we must do in order to maintain that fellowship is to confess our sins to Christ. When we walk in the light we know that the blood of Christ keeps cleansing us from all sin, but we also know that there is still imperfection in our lives and that we must go to Christ in confession.
In this chapter we find the advocacy of Christ. We will see the conclusion to John's statement where he said, "This then is the message." The message is the gospel of grace from God that takes us, the doomed sinner, and by our simple faith in Christ brings us into the family of God where we become heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. It is this relationship with the Father that is all important.
My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous(2:1).
God does not want us to sin, and so He inspired John to write these words to us. Our entrance into His provision is imperfect, and we do continue to grapple with sin in our lives. It is due to our imperfection. We must notice that this verse does not say that we cannot sin, but that these words are written for us so that we may not sin. God wants us to walk in obedience to His Word, that is well pleasing to Him.
We are studying all about "family" relationships here. God stesses family relationships. Ephesians is a book which stresses "body" truth as it relates to our being members of a body. But God realizes full well that we also need to move ourselves a bit further out into the realm of this "family" truth. We must have fellowship with our heavenly Father.
"My little children" comes from the Greek word teknia and should be translated as "my little born ones" or "my little born-again ones." Upon becoming born-again each of us start out as spiritual babies and must grow spiritually and mature into adult believers.
I dare say that none of us have yet attained, or reached, that exalted plane where we do not sin. If we are honest with ourselves, we are forced to admit that God hasn't made us perfect yet. In some of our cases, He has much work to accomplish!
You and I might be tempted to comment, "I don't think that I have done anything real bad." But have we done anything that is good? James tells us "Therefore to him that knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin." We can sin by omitting to do certain things. Every sincere child of God desires to do what is good and to have fellowship with the Father. We simply fall far short of the mark due to our imperfection. We must realize this fact and not become despondent over it. Becoming ever more aware of the "spiritual" clouds which can come between us and our God, we must stop during our day and take time out to pray over some of our imperfections. Prayer can eliminate upcoming problems from this direction and save us much grief and weeping. Sin causes a break in fellowship and must be atoned for before the fellowship may be restored.
It is not that we may have lost our salvation, but that our fellowship becomes broken. This is why God supplied us with an Advocate, Someone who is fully capable of forgiving us of our sin. Salvation rests upon what Christ has done for us, a finished work, fellowship rests upon our confessing to Christ any new sin that enters into our lives.
The second part of this verse informs us of this important Person who is waiting for us to ask Him to assist us in dealing with unwanted sin in our lives. The word advocate is from the Greek parakletos, which gets translated as "comforter" in John's gospel account. The Holy Spirit was given as our Comforter down here on earth, and Christ is our Advocate up in heaven.
Advocate, a paraklete, a helper, is a legal term. It means "one who will come to our side to help in every time of need." God has provided us with this person. Why? Because there is someone who does want us to lose our salvation. His name is Satan. He is the accuser of the brethren. Revelation 12:10 informs us that Satan accuses us at the throne of God. Who is willing to stand up for us in our defense? Jesus Christ, that's who. He is far mightier than the accuser! Here is a poem to sum up these thoughts:
"I hear the accuser roar
Of ills that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more,
Jehovah findeth none.
Though the restless foe accuses-
Sins recounting like a flood,
Ev'ry charge our God refuses;
Christ has answered with His blood.
And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world(2:2).
This word propitiation, is a different word from that used in the Epistle to the Romans. In Romans the word meant "mercy seat" or that Christ is the mercy seat , the meeting place between God and man for reconciling sin-debt. Here in I John this word means "an atonement or an expiation." Another has suffered to pay for my sins. Christ is my Advocate, interceding for me, and He Himself is the propitiation.
A big point here is that John does not say if anyone repents he will have an Advoacate. John simply states that factually, everyone has Christ as their Advocate. The moment that we commit a sin Christ is there at the throne to represent us.
Because of the faithful advocacy of Christ the Holy Spirit brings to us conviction and we confess our sin to God. To confess means that we get on God's side, we see our sin from His perspective and agree that it is sin.
Friends, if you are a child of God, you are in the family of God, and He wants to have fellowship with you. God does not want you as a programmed computer Christian, following all of the rules exactly. You are a human being with your own free will, but you are a member of His family. It is up to you to develop an intimate relationship with Him and talk to Him about things that you talk about with no one else.
John has spoken of how God is light, but now we are going to discover something else about God. Before he spoke of walking in the light, but now we are going to be told to walk another way as well.
And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments(2:3).
Keeping God's commandments has nothing to do with salvation. Our assurance of being in God's family is by keeping His commandments. "If we keep His commandments" usually is assumed to refer to the Ten Commandments only. Those commandments were given specifically to nation Israel, and upon those commandments most, if not all, modern nations base their laws. The Ten Commandments are for the unsaved, the unbelievers. I understand that there might be some consternation at that statement. But we are told that the law was our schoolmaster, our taskmaster, and was meant to direct our attention to the fact that we needed Jesus Christ in order to satisfy the law.
In Galatians 6:2 the family of God is told: Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." In I Thessalonians 4:2 the family of God is told: "For you know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus." Some of those commandments are mentioned in the last chapter of I Thessalonians. J. Vernon McGee once said that he counted twenty-two commandments in that chapter. If we are to have intimate fellowship with Christ we must keep these commandments. We can not feel free to do as we please. The Christian does not do as he/she pleases, he/she does as Christ pleases.
We also need to remember that John was answering the Gnostics of his day in this epistle of his. They claimed to have superior knowledge that no one else had, and generally it was heresy. John tells the reader that they can gain superior knowledge of Christ. We know that we know Christ by keeping His commandments. Obedience to Christ is essential and is the very basis of assurance.
That is all for today, beloved. God willing, next time I shall look at verses 4-8. Pray without ceasing asking God to open up the eyes of your heart so that you may see people all around you each day. Be their friend if at all possible. You may be surprised to learn that you become their only friend! I semi-befriended a young man many years ago while I worked in a modular furniture company. He was vehemently atheistic in belief, and thought that I was crazy to believe in God. Over the course of a year we had intermittent conversations, discussions, and arguments. But at the end of the day, he began reading parts of the Bible to his two young children at bedtime because he discovered that it seemed to calm them down and they could fall asleep and remain asleep all night long. He was at a loss of words to explain why it worked that way. I simply told him that it was God working in the lives of his kids because their dad was reading the Word of God to them at bedtime. Faith comes by hearing. He and I parted on very good terms when I was laid off later on.
Grace and peace be with you this day! Amen.
Sat, Jun 12th - 4:24PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
UNIVERSALITY OF SIN
All of the biblical writers are very clear that sin is universal. Solomon said that there is no man who does not sin. In Ecclesiastes the Preacher says that there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Psalm 14 gives us a very pessimistic description of human wickedness.
The prophets are as insistent as the psalmists on the fact that all men are sinners. Two very definite statements are found in the Book of Isaiah: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," and "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment."
The New Testament writers are no less insistent. Paul begins his epistle to the Romans with a tightly reasoned argument which extends over the first three chapters, that all men indiscriminately are sinners in God's sight. Pagan and Jew alike are sinners, all have fallen short of the glory of God. The apostle John is, if anything, even more explicit when he declares that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves", and "If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar." These quotes come from I John 1:8, 10.
But what is sin exactly? Its extent has become clear; what is its nature? One word represents sin as a lapse, a slip, a blunder. Another pictures it as a failure to hit a mark, as when shooting at a target. Yet another word shows sin to be an inward badness, a disposition which falls short of what is good.
Sin is also transgression. One word makes sin the trespass of a boundary. Another reveals it as lawlessness, and another as an act which violates justice.
All of these words imply the existence of a moral standard. It is either an ideal which we fail to reach, or a law which we break. James says that whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. John says that everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness.
The bible accepts the fact that men have different standards. The Jews have the Law of Moses. The Gentiles have the law of conscience. But all men have broken the law they know and fallen short of the standard which they know. What is our ethical code? It does not matter what it is, we have not succeeded in observing it. We all stand self-condemned.
To those people who feel that they lead good lives, this comes as a shock. They have their ideals and think they obtain them, more or less. They are not unduly self-critical. They are aware that they have had occasional lapses. They may even be aware of their own character flaws. But, they are not particularly alarmed by them. We must, however, remember two things. First, our sense of failure depends upon how high our standards are. Second, God concerns Himself with the thought behind the deed and with the motive behind the action. Jesus clearly taught this in the Sermon on the Mount. So let us take the Ten Commandments as our standard and find out how far short of it every man falls.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
Here is God's requirement for man's exclusive worship. It does not require us to worship the sun, stars, moon, or any other heavenly body to break this law. It is broken whenever we put something else ahead of God in our thoughts or our affections. It can be a sport, a hobby, or selfish ambition. It can be someone whom we adore or idolize. It can be our investment portfolio. It can be our home. None of these things are necessarily wrong in themselves, but become wrong when we give to them the place that rightly belongs only to God. Sin is fundamentally the exaltation of self at the expense of God.
To properly keep this commandment would be to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind; to make His will our will and His glory our goal; to put Him first in thought, word and deed; in business and leisure; in friendships and career; in the use of our money, time and talents; at work and at home. No person has ever kept this commandment except Jesus Christ.
That is all for today, my friends. May Christ's grace and peace flow abundantly in your heart and in your life. May all who see you find Christ being lived out through your words and actions. May all that you do be to direct people towards Jesus Christ.
Fri, Jun 11th - 11:20AM
THE UNKNOWN CREATOR
"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not(John 1:10)."
What a sad, sad, statement we are given in this verse! That which was created did not recognize its Creator when He was amongst them all. According to Acts 17:28 "we live, and move, and have our being" in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator/Redeemer. The very atoms which compose our bodies are sustained by Him(Colossians 1:17), and yet millions upon millions of people ignore Him, ridicule Him, and take His name in vain. What presumption, what foolishness, and what arrogance!
One time God even physically entered the world He had created so that people could actually hear His wards of life, hope, and salvation, so they could see His works of love. But they willfully refused to hear and to see, rejected Him, and then hung Him on a cross to die horribly.
The depth of foolishness is reached when those who have been created by Christ refuse to even consider the fact of creation, or to admit the fact of God's existence. They live out the words found in Psalm 100:3: "It is not He that has made us - it is we ourselves!" Modern men not only deny God's creation, they also reject outright His salvation, thinking that they can save themselves, or else believing that they do not require salvation.
It is important to realize that our text today points out that the "world" refuses to know Christ as its Creator. How can it then accept Him as its Savior? Only its Creator could become its Savior. No one else is both deserving and capable of such a mission.
Even more inexcusable than those who rejected Him when He was physically here in the world are those today who reject Him out of hand. With all of the incredible evidences of creative design present in our natural world as revealed by modern science, as well as the unanswerable evidences of His own bodily resurrection from the dead, it is wickedly foolish for modern men and women to continue rejecting Christ as their Creator and Savior.
Fri, Jun 11th - 7:06AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
THE FACT AND NATURE OF SIN
Once done considering and examining the evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ, we may be convinced that He is the Lord, the Son of God. Yet the New Testament's thrust is not simply with who He was but with what He came to do. Jesus is presented to us as not only the Lord from heaven but also as the Savior of all sinners. It would appear that the two can't be separated. The validity of His work is dependent upon His divinity.
So in order to understand, and appreciate, the work that Christ did, we must understand who we are as well as who He was. That is logical, for what He did was done for us, and not for Himself. It was a mission undertaken for needy humans by the only One competent to meet their need. His competency lies in His deity, our need lies in our sin. We need to expose our need for His competency.
Christ was sinless and full of glory, humans have sin and shame. Only upon fully grasping what we are shall we be positioned to perceive the utter wonder of what He has done for us and offers to us through His love. As is the case with regular doctors, it is only once we have our sickness diagnosed will we be willing to take the prescribed medicine. But as is the case with those addicted to nicotine, one may still refuse to get well and continue in sickness unto physical death.
Let's face it, sin is not a popular subject today. Christians are heavily criticized for even mentioning the term. But if we are realists, we must mention the fact of sin's existence in our lives.
History shows us that the nineteenth century exhibited a liberal optimism, a belief that human nature was fundamentally good, that evil was largely caused by ignorance and bad housing, and that education and social reform would allow men to live together in harmony and happiness and goodwill. History has not proven that liberal point of view to be accurate and true, yet that optimism continues to hold sway amongst the liberals today. Educational opportunities have rapidly spread over the world in the last 50 years, many welfare states have been created and yet atrocities consistently occur. Both world wars, various international conflicts, ethnic purgings, political oppression, racial discrimination, and general violence and crime force thoughtful people into the inescapable conclusion that humans are basically capable of evil. Every person has within them a hard core of selfishness.
The reality of "civilized" society is based upon the assumption of human sin. Why else the need for any laws? Nearly all legislation exists because "good" people cannot be trusted to settle their own disputes with justice and without self-interest. Promises are not enough, we must have contracts. Doors are not enough, we must have locks and deadbolts. The payment of fares is not enough, we need tickets to be issued, inspected and collected. Law and order are not sufficient, we must have police to enforce the law. We normally fail to remain aware of why all of these things have to exist to begin with, we simply say that that is how life is. Well, if that is how life is, we must be willing to acknowledge why it is this way. It is this way because of sin in our lives. We simply can't trust one another. We need protection against one another otherwise abuse takes place. What is even worse is that too often the abuse still takes place! Burglars still break in and steal our possessions, con artists still prey on the ignorant and foolish, embezzelers still steal money from others, and abuse in the forms of physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual still happen much too often. Murders happen on a regular basis as do kidnappings. People force the police to arrest them by purposely breaking various laws. Society basically is a mess because of the sin in our lives. Humanity's depravity is validated by its actions.
That is all for today, beloved. Next I will write about how universal sin is, that no one race corners the market on it. There are not certain days of the week in which no sin happens, it happens every day all around the world.
May God's grace and peace be evident in your life today. May you dip into Christ's abundance of blessings that He has stored up for you. May you be a positive influence in at least one person's life this day. Amen.
Thu, Jun 10th - 7:00PM
Study in I John
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us(1:8).
Another method employed by mankind in order to bypass having to deal with God is to say that man has reached sinless perfection and that he is now living on that very high plateau.
This verse reveals an even worse position than being a liar. As soon as we reach a place where we say to ourselves we have no sin in our life, there is no truth in us at all. It isn't about being a liar, it is about not having any truth in our being. We are deceived about our nature.
Beloved, I dearly hope that you do not believe that you have arrived at a point in your life where you no longer sin. It will not happen until Christ returns bodily to this earth. It is impossible to attain perfection in this short life of ours.
Whom do we think we deceive when we say that we do not sin? We do not deceive God, or anybody else. We simply reveal that the truth is not within us. Sadly, many people exert great effort in this fashion in order to bridge the gap between them and holy God.
If we cannot bring God down to our level and cannot bring ourselves up to God's level, then what can we do?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness(1:9).
Here is the method we need to use in order to reach God. This method brings together sinful man and holy God; confession of sins. Oh, but modern man rails against such thoughts!
The word confess comes from the Greek verb homologeo, meaning "to say the same thing." We are to say the same thing that God says. When God says in His Word that what we have done is sin, we are to get over onto His side and look at it. Then we need to agree with God. That is confession of sin. That is a very great need within the church today. It is how the Christian must deal with sin in his/her own life.
After we confess our sin, what does God do? He cleanses us. In the parable of the Prodigal Son the young man returned home after squandering his inheritance and smelled like a pigpen. The father cleaned him up, clothed him in a fine robe, and threw a welcome home party for him. That is in essence what God does for us each time we confess sin to Him. Confessing our sin means that we have turned away from that sin. Sin is a terrible thing. God hates it. But confession restores our relationship, our fellowship, with God.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us(1:10).
John's conclusion is this: Do not make God a liar. Just open up your heart and talk honestly with Him as you talk to no one else. Tell Him your problems. Tell Him your sins. Tell Him your weakness. And say to Him that you want to have fellowship with Him and to serve Him all of your remaining days. Do this, and God will embrace you in love and welcome you back into His fellowship.
This concludes chapter one of I John. Next time I will begin chapter two whose theme is that of the advocacy of Christ. Another major topic is of how we may have fellowship with each other and that we must not love the world and its ethics/morality.
Thu, Jun 10th - 12:43PM
Shall We Turn Away from Mankind?
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men(I Timothy 2:1)."
I have heard many complaints made against Christians that we are only concerned with those people who think like us. That we have the mentality of "me and my three" and could care less about everyone else.
Well, the book of I Timothy is composed of different charges made to Paul's disciple Timothy. The first charge(2:1-8) concerns prayer in the church. The fact that Paul mentions it "first of all" indicates to us that he felt it of primary importance. Let us see that there are four types of prayer in the text verse.
Supplications, could also be called petitions, refer to one's personal needs:Recognition of our continual dependence upon God's provision. Note James 5:16: "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
Prayers, comes from a general term with a number of applications, but primarily it indicates reverence for and worship of the One to whom the prayers are offered. "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting(I Timothy 2:8)."
Intercessions, comes from a word which implies a personal bequest on an intimate basis, as child to parent. The only other time of use regards the eating of food which "is sanctified by the word of God and prayer(I Timothy 4:5)."
Giving of thanks, when we give thanks, we are recognizing that our blessings are undeserved. "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever(Revelation 7:12)." Giving of thanks allows us to be gracious and appreciative, items in short supply in society today.
These types of actions which represent all types of prayers, should be made "for all men." specifically those in positions of authority(verse 2) and for the unsaved(verse 4). It is not good enough to pray for those whom we love, are intimate with, or are related to. We must pray for everyone, even those who treat us abusively. We are to act like Jesus and intercede with God on their behalf.
If we do this, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will present our prayers to the Father(verse 5) and insure that He will answer them as He sees best, when He feels best. Amen.
Thu, Jun 10th - 7:03AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
DISCIPLES WERE CHANGED
Maybe the transformation of the disciples of Christ is the greatest evidence of all for the actuality of the resurrection. No one invites the reader to look at them, as we are invited to look at the empty tomb, the empty clothes, and the Lord whom they had seen. Through our reading of their accounts we are able to see the dramatic change in them without being asked to look. The men in the Gospels are new and different men in the Acts. They went from being despondent, disillusioned, and despairing upon the death of their Master, to men who hazzarded their lives for the name of Jesus Christ and who turned the world upside down spiritually.
What caused such a change? What accounts for their new faith and power, joy and love? Where has their new found courage and certainty come from? Without a doubt some came on Pentecost with the arrivall of the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit came only when Christ had arisen and ascended to heaven. It seems then that the resurrection loosed mighty moral and spiritual forces. A floodgate was opened and the disciples had been given access to the mighty flow.
One example of this is Simon Peter. The account of the Passion of Christ shows Peter has suffered a tragic eclipse of character. He has denied Christ three times. He has cursed and sworn as if he had never known the influence of Christ in his life. He has gone out into the darkness and wept bitterly. When Jesus is dead, he joins the others in the upper room, behind locked doors "for fear of the Jews" and is completely dejected. His world of expectations is at an end.
However, when we turn a few short pages over in the Bible, we see him standing in the street, perhaps just outside of that same upper room, preaching so boldly and powerfully to a huge crowd that three thousand souls believe in Christ Jesus and are baptized. Turn a few more pages in Acts and he is found defying the same Sanhedrin who had condemned Jesus to death, rejoicing that he is counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Simon Peter is a new man. He is deeply changed. There are no shifting sands beneath his feet anymore, he has become true to his name and become a rock. What has made the change?
Another example is James, who later assumed a position of leadership in the Jerusalem church body. He is one of "the brethren of the Lord" who did not believe in Jesus throughout the Gospels: "Even His brothers did not believe in Him." But in the first chapter of Acts we find these words, "and ...His brothers." This was a listing of a gathering of disciples. James was evidently a believer in his brother, Jesus, now. What made the difference? What convinced him now? Perhaps Paul provides us with an easily overlooked clue over in I Corinthians 15:7 where Paul lists for us those who had seen the risen Christ, and there is James' name.
So it was the resurrection which changed Peter's fear and denial into courage, and James doubts and unbelief into faith. It was the resurrection which changed the meaning of the sabbath and the Jewish remnant into the Christian church. It was the resurrection which changed Saul the Pharisee into Paul the the apostle, the fanatical persecutor into a preacher of the very faith he previously had tried zealously to erradicate.
These are the evidences for the resurrection. The body had disappeared, the graveclothes had remained undisturbed, the Lord had been seen. And the disciples had changed. The only consistent explanation for these phenomena is this: "The Lord is risen indeed!"
So we have studied a modest carpenter from Nazareth who became a peasant preacher and died a criminal's death. His claims were stupendous, He seems to have been morally perfect, He rose from the dead, and the cumulative weight of this evidence is all but conclusive.
All of this makes it very reasonable that the last step of faith is to fall to our knees before Him and say, "My Lord and my God!"
That, my friends, concludes this part of this study. Next will be some things concerning man's need, the fact and nature of sin in our lives. May the light of Christ shine through you and out into the world of darkness, allowing others to clearly see the Living God and find their way home to Him.
Wed, Jun 9th - 8:29PM
Study in I John
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth(1:6).
There are a lot of people who claim to have fellowship with God when in reality they do not actually know Him. John is quite blunt in this verse. If we say that we are Christians but we have not changed anything in our lives, then we continue to walk in darkness and we are liars. Truth is not in us. John might have been called the apostle of love, but he is fully capable of speaking the truth very bluntly. John was a strong fisherman, not some wimpy curly-haired creampuff.
One thing that we hear plenty about is sin among Christians. They commit adultery, steal, ly, and become addicted to various fleshly desires. All the while they claim to be separated unto Christ, to be priests of Christ. They do not speak truth. One can't claim to follow the Mosaic Law and also steal or practice adultery. If one commandment is broken, then they all have been broken. If a person is to walk with God, then you are going to walk in light and not in darkness. We cannot bring Christ down to our level, we must allow Him to lift us up to Christ.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin(1:7).
John lays it out very clearly for everyone to understand. If we walk in the light as Christ is in the light, then and only then will we be in fellowship with one another and Christ's blood will cleanse us from all sin. If we remove the blood of Christ from our teaching, then we are left with nothing. If we do not love one another, then we have nothing. What is important here is not how we walk, but where we walk. Have we come into the presence of holy God and allowed the Word of God to blaze upon our sinful heart? It is very, very, easy to walk in darkness and still believe you are perfectly all right.
All across this planet are multitudes of people who are sitting in churches every Sunday morning but are not hearing the Word of God. They are sitting there in darkness, hearing various messages about social good works, helping the poor, and saving the planet. They are comfortable with these messages. But if they were to get into the light of God's Word, they would see that they are sinners and that they can't bring God down to their level.
I fully understand that we are living in a day when moral standards are changing drastically and people rationalize their sins and attempt to explain the sin away as "errors in judgment." Beloved, if you and I live in sin, God will not have fellowship with us. To think otherwise is to fool oneself or to try a psychological ploy to make oneself feel better. The bottom line is that there are hypocrites within the church.
Now, as a child of God, when you sin you realize that you are sinning. And upon that realization you change your behavior to correct the sin. It is like sitting in the dark and then upon turning on a light you see that one of your hands is covered in dirt. Will you just ignore the dirty hand, pick up a sandwich with that hand, and begin eating the sandwich? No. You will clean the dirty hand before you pick up the sandwich and eat it. The light reveals the dirt just like the Word of God reveals the sin in my life. Upon seeing what is wrong I must then take steps to get cleaned up. What can clean me of my sin? The blood of Jesus Christ, shed for me upon the cross of Calvary. The really nice thing is that the Greek word for cleanse is in the present tense, meaning that it happens currently. The thing is this: when you sin after becoming saved, you do not lose your salvation but you do lose your fellowship with Christ until you cleanse yourself anew.
John speaks of family truth here. Upon salvation we do become part of the body of Christ but just as importantly we become part of the family of Christ. Being a part of the family of God when we sin means that the Father will treat us as a disobedient child rather than as an outsider. He will take us out to the proverbial woodshed for our discipline. King David, Ananias and Sapphira did not get off easily. Their methods of bridging the gap between God and sinful man did not work. In King David's defense, he only strayed away from doing things God's way. Ananias and Sapphira gave up their lives because of their hypocritical methods of serving God.
That is all for today, my friends. I will write some about how to remove ourselves from this spiritual "hole." Until then, grace and peace be with you!
Tue, Jun 8th - 3:52PM
Doctrines of Salvation
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek(Romans 1:16)."
Soteria, the Greek word meaning "deliverance" or "salvation" has as its Jewish counterpart yeshua. As many of you probably already know, "yeshua" is Jesus. This "soteria/yeshua" is prominent in both the Old and New Testaments. It is used for local and and much greater deliverance from perils. Of greater priority is its use for deliverance from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin in daily life, and from the very presence of sin in the future life.
Salvation is found only through the Lord Jesus Christ, whose coming into the world was to save His people from their sins(Matthew 1:21). The name "Jesus" means salvation. Devout Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms and exlaimed by the Holy Spirit, "mine eyes have seen Your salvation(Luke 2:30)."
This theme of salvation is so great that it embraces several major doctrines found within the Scriptures. We can find these doctrines: atonement(Leviticus 17:11); substitution(Isaiah 53:5); imputation(Romans 4:6-8); propitiation(I John 2:2); redemption(I Peter 1:18); remission(Acts 10:43); justification(Romans 3:28); adoption(Ephesians 1:5); reconciliation(Romans 5:10m11); regeneration(Titus 3:5); sanctification(Hebrews 10:9-11); and glorification(Romans 8:30). When a person is saved, the blessings that are implied in every single of these great doctrines of slavation become theirs, whether they are Jewish or Gentile, whether found in Old Testament prophecy or New Testament fulfillment. No need to wonder why Paul was not ashamed of this great gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, and so neither should we be ashamed!
I pray that you determine to read God's Word daily and to study its depths of spiritual truth. I dare say, for one to drill a well into the depths of the Scriptures is to draw upon the living water which quenches our thirst for all eternity.
Tue, Jun 8th - 7:03AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
CHRIST'S GRAVECLOTHES LEFT UNDISTURBED
Interestingly, the narrative accounts which tell us that Christ's body had disappeared from the tomb also tell us that the garments which covered Him had not gone. John emphasizes this fact and it must be because he went with Peter to the tomb on that morning. He gives the account in John 20:1-10. It features the marks of first-hand experience. John outran Peter and reached the tomb first but he did not enter into the tomb. Peter arrived and he went inside the tomb. John then entered and saw, and believed. Question: What did he see which made him believe?
John tells us in 19:38-42 that while Joseph of Arimathea begged Pilate for the body of Christ, Nicodemas came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds worth. They then took the body and bound it up in linen cloths with the spices, which was consistent with Jewish burial custom. As they bound the body up with the linen it meant that they sprinkled the spices into the folds of cloth. A separate cloth was used for His head. We get this aspect of the custom from the recorded account of Lazarus in 11:44. They then laid the body on a stone slab which had been hand carved out of the side of the stone tomb.
What should John and Peter have expected to see upon entering the tomb? Should they have seen Jesus begin to move, and then yawn and stretch and get up? No. He did not recover from some feinting spell. He had died, and He arose again. His was a resurrection, not a resuscitation. We believe that He passed from death into an altogether new phase of existence. What then should we have seen, had we been there in the tomb? We would have realized that the body of Christ was not there. It evidently passed through the graveclothes, for they were left undisturbed in the tomb.
Carefully reading the text of John's account reveals that it is just these sorts of characteristics of the discarded graveclothes which he saw. He saw the cloths "lying." Next he saw the head linen was not with the linen body cloths but in a place by itself. It was separated from the body cloths and it was wrapped. The Greek word used suggests rounded shape like the head.
So here is what faces the disciples: an empty tomb, a stone slab, collapsed graveclothes, the head covering, and a space between these last two. The positioning of the graveclothes and head covering showed that Christ had not unwound anything, but He had simply disappeared from within them. This is why they saw and believed He was resurrected.
Then, when Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb again and looked inside she beheld two angels clothed in white sitting inside where Christ had formerly lain. Matthew and Mark reported in their accounts that the angels told them that Christ was not there, that He had risen just as He said He would(John 20:11, Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6). The positioning of the angels, the position of the clothes and the absence of the body all were concurrent witnesses to Christ's resurrection.
CHRIST WAS SEEN
The gospels contain accounts of astounding appearances by Christ to His disciples after His resurrection. Ten separate appearances are told of, when Christ showed Himself to chosen witnesses. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the women returning from the tomb, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the ten gathered in the upper room, to the eleven including Thomas a week later, to more than five hundred brethren at one time, to James, to some disciples including Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John by the Galilee lakeside, and to many on the Mount of Olives near Bethany at the time of His ascension to heaven. Paul perhaps is the last to have seen Christ bodily while he was traveling on the road to Damascus. And since Luke tells us that over the forty days following His resurrection Christ presented many proofs of His resurrection there were most likely many, many more people who had witnessed the fact of His being alive once again.
We cannot ignore all of this testimony. There must be some explanation. It would seem that there could only be three possibilities. First that they were inventions; the second that they were hallucinations; the third that they were true.
Could they have been inventions? That these resurrection accounts are not deliberate inventions is quite plain based upon the soberness of the accounts. Another factor is that they are graphic, and contain detailed touches which sound like the work of an eye-witness. Everything fits into how we would have behaved and reacted if we ourselves had been there to witness these things.
If this were mere invention then it would have contained a much more dramatic account of the resurrection itself, describing the power and glory of the Son of God as He broke the chains of death, snatched the keys of death and hell from out of Satan's hands, and burst from the tomb in triumph. But we see none of that. No one was able to see it, and it is not in the accounts. Which makes perfect sense. Would we have chosen Mary Magdalene as the first witness? Would we have made Judas Iscariot feel such personal remorse?
Invention is out of the question since the apostles, the evanelists, and the early church, were all completely convinced that Christ had risen. The New Testament writers may have been tragically mislead, but they were not deliberately misleading themselves.
If not inventions, were they then hallucinations? A hallucination is the "apparant perception of an external object when no such object is present." It is usually associated with someone who is at least neurotic, if not actually psychotic. It is extremely difficult to paint the apostles as unbalanced people of this sort.
Hallucinations are known to happen to ordinary people, but with two characteristics which can be discerned. First, they happen as a climax to a period of exaggerated wishful thinking. Second, the circumstances of time, place and mood are favorable. There must be a strong inward desire and the predisposing outward setting.
Studying the Gospel accounts of the resurrection both of these factors are missing. The people involved are far from involved in wishful thinking. The two women who visited the tomb first fled away trembling and astonished and afraid. When they told the other disciples of what they had seen at the tomb the disciples did not believe them at all. Finally, when Christ appeared before them in their midst, they were startled and afraid and thought that they saw a ghost, or spirit. Some doubted their eyes and ears, there definitely was no wishful thinking or naive credulity on their part. These people were not susceptible to hallucinations. They were dealing in the hard facts of verifiable experience.
If the appearances had all taken place in specifically sacred places, and their mood had been one of expectation, we would be well advised to be suspicious. If we only had the account of the appearance in the upper room we would have grounds to suspect them.
But there was variety to the circumstances of person, place, and mood in which they happened. Christ was seen by individuals alone, by small groups, outside in a garden, inside in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, by the ake of Galilee, and on a mountainside.
Mood varied as well. Mary Magdalene was weeping. The women were afraid and astonished. Peter was full of remorse. Thomas was full of incredulity. The disciples were fishing at Galilee. Yet Christ made Himself known to all of these people. It is very difficult to dismiss these accounts as that of deranged minds. So if they were not inventions nor hallucinations, we are left with the third option. These things actually happened. Christ rose from the dead into newness of life.
That is all, beloved. I am sorry for splitting up the posting of this study today. Time constraints dictate postings sometimes. Next time, God willing, I will write about how the disciples were changed after the resurrection. Grace and peace be with you always!
Mon, Jun 7th - 10:23PM
Study in I John
That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ(1:3).
John declares to us that we may have fellowship with God. That is a wonderful thing. And John says once again that that which the apostles have seen and heard are being declared to the readers. This is the third time that he has said this, and we ought to be getting the message, shouldn't we? And why is John telling us this? Because he wishes us to understad that we may have fellowship with one another and with Christ. I understand how I can fellowship with other people, but how in the world can I do so with God? God is holy, I am unholy. How do I bridge this wide gulf? Amos put it quite eloquently, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
John is going to present to us three methods. Two of them are man-made and don't work. The other method is God's and it is the only one that will work.
But before I get into that, let me explain what this "fellowship" thing is all about. It comes to us from the Greek word koinonia which means "having in common or sharing with." Christians share the things of Christ. To do this we must know the Lord Jesus Christ; not only know about Him, but know Him as our personal Savior.
It becomes apparant that today we are largely missing the true meaning of fellowship. Often is it heard that all are invited to remain after the worship service for a meal and fellowship. It too often involves the consumption of lots of food and friendly banter between friends and family. It rarely involves serious discussion of Christ and the things of God. No discussion about the benefits of a deep prayer life, or service life, or giving, or studying of the truth.
So true Christian fellowship means that we meet and share the things of Christ. We talk together about Christ and His Word. In this fashion we also fellowship with Christ.
And these things we write to you, that your joy may be full(1:4).
Here is a second reason why John is writing this epistle, that the reader's joy may be full. We are not to have just a little joy, or some joy, but we are to have a full measure of joy in our lives. This joy will come from having genuine fellowship with other Christians. Koinonia can also be an act of fellowship, such as during communion. Giving is an act of fellowship, and so is praying. But John is writing to us about experiencing fellowship with Christ.
The ultimate aim, the goal, of preaching God's Word is that through conviction and repentance, people might come to either salvation or to a deeper walk with Christ. This would bring great joy to their hearts. The Ethiopian eunuch comes to mind. This man did not continue his travels bragging about how great a preacher Stephen was. Rather, he went on his way rejoicing! That man had joy in his heart! He now knew Jesus Christ personally.
Now, there does remain a hurdle which we must overcome in order that we may experience the fullest joy possible. John writes about it beginning with the next verse.
This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all(1:5).
This means that God is holy, and that man is unholy. How can the great gulf between God and Eric Rajaniemi be bridged? The cry of Job was for a "daysman" who might lay his hand upon Job and upon God and bring them together(Job 9:33).
John says that God is light, and this is a defintion of God. It is one of His attributes. Man has darkness in his heart and that defines him. So it sounds as if either God comes down to mankind's level or mankind must go up to God's level. There are no other alternatives that work. People have valiantly attempted to raise man up to the level of God, without any success. People continually try to drag God down to our level, without any success.
Modern science treats light as energy and matter. It can't nail down either one as strictly defining what light actually is. The source of light might be one thing, but when I turn on the light in my bathroom the darkness which hides in the corners suddenly becomes light. Was darkness driven out, or was it converted? Did the light drive out the darkness? Puzzling, since when I turn off the light in my bathroom the entire room returns to darkness, including those pesky corners.
When John writes that God is light, he reveals many aspects about the person of God. It may not cover the entire realm of attributes of God, but it speaks a great deal about Him.
First, light speaks of the glory, the radiance, the beauty, and the wonders of God. Ever gaze at the eastern sky when the sun slowly comes up in the morning? It is easy to imagine that God is creating a brand new day each time. The radiance and colors are spectacular! The darkness of night drains away from the landscape and is slowly but steadily replaced with light which reveals all of the details which darkness had hidden all night long. This is how the glory of God shall shine forth in all of its unspeakable power and radiance.
Another characteristic of light, which I have already alluded to, is that it diffuses itself. It illuminates the darkness and is revealing. The light reveals to me that one of my hands is dirty and requires cleaning. Without the light nothing would be revealed to me concerning my hands. I would remain in ignorance. So light reveals flaws and impurities. Since God is light, my hidden sin/s are revealed to Him and He can clearly see them all.
God moves without causing a shadow for He is pure in His light. Light also acts as a guide for men. It points out the path. Light on the horizon gives courage to men to continue on in their journey. What about the other extreme? Darkness is more than simply the lack of light. It is not just the opposite of light. It is hostile to light. The light and holiness of God are in direct conflict with the evil darkness and chaos of the world.
Dr. McGee once said that the problem was that we are wee little creatures down here on earth filled with sin. We are depraved. Without the grace of God for salvation we would be nothing in the world but a creature in rebellion against God , with no good within us at all. God has made it very well known that He finds no good thing within man(Romans 7:18; 3:10).
What's worse, the human heart is coupled with a carnal mind which is in enmity against God. We are living in a world that is in rebellion against all powerful God. I am only saved through the grace of God. But how may I have fellowship with Him? How may I walk with Him, as in the Garden of Eden? Answers to these questions come next time we meet here.
May the God of light give you rest and give you abundantly to meet all of your needs. May you lift up on high your praise and honor to Him. Make a joyful noise unto God! Share the good news with all who are willing to listen! Ask and you shall surely receive! Knock and it shall surely be opened to you! Amen!
Sun, Jun 6th - 9:34PM
Study in I John
All three of of these writings by John are often called epistles, or letters. But this first one does not have any salutation at the beginning nor any greeting at its finish. It actually appears to be more in the form of a sermon than a letter.
John did serve as pastor of the church in Ephesus, which was founded by Paul. John died in Ephesus and was buried there, the Basilica of St. John was built over his grave by Justinian in the fifth century.
To set the backdrop against which to read these three small books by John we should understand what important factors prevailed in Ephesus and throughout the Roman Empire:
1. There was an easy familiarity with Christianity. Many of the believers were children and grandchildren of the first Christians. The "newness" had begun to tarnish, to wear off. The thrill and glory of the early days had faded. The Ephesians' devotion and dedication to Christ began to fade, to lessen, and they began to be drawn back into the world of pagans.
2. The high standards of Christians made them different, and the children and grandchildren of the first believers did not want to be viewed as being different. Believers were called saints, from the Greek word hagios. The intent of this term is "set aside for the sole use of God-that which belongs to God." The pots and pans of the Temple were said to be holy because they were for the use of God. The Temple was hagios; the Sabbath was hagios. Now the saints of Christ were hagios, to be set apart for the sole use of God.
The problem was that the Ephesians had become assemblyline Christians, much like many of us are today. They had become plastic Christians. They were cast from a different mold than that of the apostles. There was a breakdown of the Judeo-Christian ethics and a disregard of Bible standards. They were compromising with the world. Sound familiar?
3. Persecution was not the enemy of the church. The primary enemy in Ephesus was seduction from within. Jesus Christ had warned against this in Matthew 24:24. Paul had told them much the same thing in Acts 20:29-30. It was not that Christianity was in danger of being destroyed, but that it was in danger of being changed. There were attempts to improve it, give it intellectual respectability, and allow it to speak in terms of what was popular.
4. Gnosticism was the real enemy of the Church, and it still remains so. Surprised? Gnosticism was the basic philosphy of the Roman Empire.
Gnosticism took many forms. Whatever the form, the primary principle running through this philosphy was that matter or material was essentially evil; only the spirit was good. All the material world was considered evil. Therefore Gnosticism despised the body. They held that in the body was a spirit, like a seed in the soil. The same principle is alive in modern liberalism which maintains that there is a spark of good in everyone and that each person is to develop that spark of good. The Gnostics sought to cause the "seed" to grow and tried to get rid of the evil in the body.
There were two extreme methods of reaching for this goal; the Stoics and the Epicureans. Paul's encounter with these two groups is recorded in Acts 17:18: "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seems to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection."
The Stoics and their name came from the Painted Portico at Athens where Zeno lectured. They wre pantheists who held that the wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law. They observed rigid rules and self-discipline.
The Epicureans took their name from Epicurus who taught in Athens. They accepted the Greek gods on Mount Olympus. They considered pleasure rather than truth the pursuit of life. Originally they sought to satisfy intellectual, not sensual, gratification; but later they taught their followers to satsify the body's desires so it wouldn't bother them any more. Sound familiar?
Of course, there were all sorts of Gnostics on a sliding scale between the two extremes, but all denied the messiahship of Jesus. They denied the incarnation, reasoning that God could not have taken a human body because all flesh is evil. This perception currently is quite popular.
Docetic Gnosticism, considering the Incarnaion impossible since God could not unite Himself with anything evil such as a body, taught that Jesus only seemed to have a body, but actually He did not. They claimed that when He walked He left no footprints.
Cerinthus was more subtle in what he taught. He claimed that there was both a human Jesus and a divine Jesus, that divinity came upon Him at His baptism and left Him at the cross. The early church fathers fought this heresy by maintaining that Christ became what we are to make us what He is.
We could view these epistles as John's rebuttal of the Gnostics' position.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life(1:1).
Which beginning is John referring to here? The very first one is found in Genesis 1:1. The second beginning is found in John 1:1. The third beginning is the one we are at right now. It is referring the reader to the time Christ came into this world in Bethlehem. John met Him and decided to leave the family business of fishing, which appeared to be a rather lucrative business. Now John wants to tell eveyone about what he heard, saw, and touched: the Word of life, Jesus Christ. He says that Jesus had a physical body which people could, and did, touch on a regular basis.
John is not relaying second-hand information to us. He is relaying that which he heard Jesus say. He also asserts that he is relaying those things which he saw with his own two eyes. This is important to believers today for we can't see, hear, or touch Christ. We must believe through faith, said faith coming from hearing the Word of God which tells us of that time when God walked amongst mankind in the flesh.
The Greek word translated into looked is theaomai which gives us the English word theater. This English word means "to gaze upon." John says that they spent three years steadily gazing upon Christ. This dovetails with John's writing, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up(John 3:14)." During the wilderness march the people who had been bitten by the serpents were to gaze upon the brass serpent on a pole for healing. John links that to Lord Jesus and says that today we are to gaze upon Christ for healing, for salvation. Today many of us need to do more than merely look to Christ for salvation, we need to spend time gazing upon Him in order to achieve true separation from the world.
After Paul's death around A.D. 67 gnosticism arose in the church. It is the opposite of agnosticism which holds that the reality of God is unknown and probably unknowable. Agnostics abound in universities and colleges in our time. They are willing to say that they do not know. Now the Gnostics are the ones who say, "I do know." They are the group who came into the church claiming to have superior knowledge which simple Christianity did not have. They believed that they were super saints, knowing more than anyone else, including those who actually knew Christ in person.
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;)(1:2)
John says that the life was brought out into the open where all people could see it. Christ did not hide Himself away in a monastery or a cave out in the desert. Eternal life is a Person, and that Person is Christ. If a person trusts Christ then they have eternal life. If they reject Christ then they do not have eternal life.
That is all for tonight my friends. Next time, God willing, I shall cover verses 3-6. Hope you all come back and follow along!
Sun, Jun 6th - 4:11PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST
Clearly, Christ's resurrection has great significance. If Jesus rose from the dead, then He was beyond dispute a unique person. The question is of His conquest of death, not of His spiritual survival or physical resuscitation. Who else in recorded history has this been verified with? Modern man is scornful of anyone claiming to raise the dead back to life, let alone themselves.
I do not argue that His resurrection establishes His deity, but that it is consistent with it. It is logical for a supernatural entity to arrive and depart from this earth in a supernatural manner. This is exactly what the New Testament reports/teaches and consequently what the church has always believed. Christ's birth was natural but not His conception. His death was natural but not His resurrection. A miraculous conception and resurrection are congruent with deity.
Christ never predicted to die without adding that He would rise from the dead. He also said that it would be a "sign." The apostles wrote and recorded in the Acts, repeatedly asserting that by the resurrection God had reversed mankind's sentence and vindicated His Son.
Luke, who was a painstaking and accurate historian, says there are "many proofs" of this resurrection. Indeed, many have judged the evidence to be extremely good in support of this resurrection having taken place. Lawyers who have taken the time to study the evidence generally conclude that it must have taken place. They have proven charges in court on evidence not nearly so compelling as is found in the Bible. Truthful witnesses are artless and disdain effect. The Gospel writers fall into this classification.
What then is this evidence? Let us check four statements which are able summarize the evidence.
THE BODY HAD DISAPPEARED
The resurrection narratives in the four Gospels begin with the visit of certain women early on the first day of the week to the tomb of Christ. Upon arrival they are flabbergasted to discover that the body of Christ had disappeared.
Not very many days later the disciples began to preach that Jesus had risen from the grave. It was the main point of their message. Would they have even bothered to spread such a message if all people had to do was stroll on down to the tomb and find the body? No, they would not. So obviously the body was no longer there. The tomb was empty. So what happened to the body of Christ?
There is a theory that the women went to the wrong tomb. Hey, it was still dark, and they were dazed with sorrow and grief at the death of their Master. They could have made a mistake. Right?
This theory does not bear up under scrutiny. First of all, it could not have been completely dark. John says in his account that the women went while it was still dark but Matthew wrote that they went toward dawn. Luke said that it was at early dawn, and Mark distinctly states that the sun had risen. Thus we can conclude that the women arrived at the tomb when there was sufficient light to see where they were walking.
Moreover, these women were not fools. Two of them had seen for themselves where Joseph and Nicodemus had laid Christ's body. They had even witnessed the entire process of burial, sitting opposite the tomb. These two, Mary Magdalene and Jesus' mother, returned at dawn with Salome, Joanna and some other women. Do you believe that Christ's mother would forget where they had buried her son? I do not think so.
These women had come to the tomb on a practical mission. They had brought with them spices and were going to complete the anointing of Christ's body, since the Sabbath's approach had made such a hasty work of it two days earlier. These women were there to finish a cultural duty, it was business to them. They were unlikely to mistake which tomb to go to. It is even less likely that Joseph and Nicodemas, who had placed Jesus in the tomb, would suddenly forget where it was located. Besides, it was Joseph's tomb to begin with.
Another explanation offered of the empty tomb is the swoon theory. Proponents of this theory would have us believe that Jesus did not actually die upon the cross, but only fainted. he then revived in the tomb, left it and subsequently made Himself known to the disciples.
Nice try, but this theory bristles with complications. Evidence clearly contradicts it. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead, but he was sufficiently convinced by the centurion's assurance to give Joseph permission to remove the body from the cross. The Romans were rather particular about crucifying people on a cross until they were dead. That was the stated purpose of this activity, to kill the person and make of them a spectacle. The centurion was certain of Christ being dead because he must have been present when Christ's side was pierced with a spear and at once blood and water came out of the wound. Thus the pronouncement of death was issued.
Are we to seriously believe that Christ was only unconscious? That after all of the pre-crucifixion ordeal He went through, the flogging, and then the carrying of the cross, that He could survive the crucifixion. Not to mention spending thirty-six hours in a stone tomb with neither warmth, food, or water? At the very least He would have bled to death in that tomb. They expect us to also believe that some how he managed to rally enough superhuman strength to roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb, defeat the contingent of Roman soldiers set there to prevent such an event from occuring, and then beat a swift get away? Of course, they cannot provide us with any location to which He could have then gone to recover quickly from being exhausted, wounded, and starved, all without anyone noticing such a public figure. Where could He have hid for forty days, only appearing by surprise. Where could He have disappeared to without any explanation? Such incredulous allegations are more than we can stand. They are more than those of Thomas in his own unbelief.
Next there is the idea that thieves came and stole the body. There is no evidence to support this allegation either. It flies in the face of Roman military protocol. The Roman guard were ordered to the gravesite to prevent anyone from taking the body. The Romans and the Jewish Sanhedrin did not want Christ's body to be anywhere except in that tomb. They could not afford the body to disappear. If the Roman guards failed in their orders they would face the same execution as Jesus. So they were amply motivated to not allow anyone to remove that body from the tomb. Besides, what motive would thieves have in taking the body of Christ?
Next there is the theory that the disciples removed the body. Hey, they had motive. Matthew quite frankly tells us that this rumor was spread around by the Jews right from the beginning. A delegation of priests from the Sanhedrin came to Pilate as Jesus was being entombed and requested that something be done to "secure" the body in the grave. Pilate concurred and thus the stone was sealed in front of the entrance and a guard set. All of this could not prevent the resurrection from happening just as Christ as predicted. The guard went into the city and reported to the chief priests what had happened. The priests did not execute the soldiers, no, they bribed them with money and gave them a story to tell everyone.
But that story holds very little water. Roman or Jewish, picked guards would not all sleep while on duty. And if these men remained awake, how did the women or disciples get past them unawares to roll away a massive stone?
If the disciples had been successful in removing Christ's body, are we to then believe that they would turn around and preach His resurrection to everyone? Are we to believe that they deliberately lied? Are we to believe that they were willing to be martyred for preaching a known falsehood? These were ex-fishermen and tax collectors. They were not known for fabricating lies. They were prepared to go to prison for it, to be flogged for it, to be put to death for it. Does that seem to make sense to you? Would you consider doing what they had done? No, you would not for you would say that that would be crazy. Neither were these men crazy. They were practical individuals. Paul came from a Pharisaical background, a learned man. He was a Roman citizen, why would he throw all of that away on a known lie? He wouldn't.
From all that we can read in the Gospels and in Acts we discover that the disciples and apostles were sincere. They may have been deceived, but they were not deceivers. Hypocrites and martyrs are not made from the same stuff.
The last theory/explanation of Christ's disappearance is that the Roman or Jewish authorities took it into their own custody. The argument is that due to fear of "hanky-panky" on the part of Jesus' disciples the authorities confiscated the body and kept in their possession.
But this also fails to prove out. Within a few weeks of Jesus' death the disciples were fanning out to proclaim His resurrection. To disprove these new claims the authorities simply could have produced the remains of the body and put to rest the disturbance. But they did not do this. The Jews feared conversions and the Romans feared civil riots. If they had the body they would not have just sat on it and said nothing. They would have acted quickly.
Instead, they remained silent. They arrested the apostles, threatened them, flogged them, jailed them, vilified them, plotted against them, and killed them. All of this was unnecessary if they had the body of Christ in their possession. The church was founded upon the resurrection of Christ. Show the resurrection to be a lie, and the church would have collapsed completely. The authorities could not for they did not have the body, nor did they know where the body was. Their silence is as great a proof of the resurrection as anyone else's eyewitness account of it happening.
Thus we can rest assured that the Bible contains the accurate account of how the body of Christ got out of the stone tomb. It was raised by God and not removed by men.
That is all for this study today, beloved. God willing, I shall continue next time by writing about the gravesclothes being left in the tomb. May the grace and peace of Christ Jesus dwell with you each and every day!
Sat, Jun 5th - 7:23PM
II Peter Epistle Study
Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat(3:12)?
Peter points out that we ought to be looking forward to the coming day of God. This day will feature the dissolution of the heavens and the earth. This ties in with Revelation 21:1. This remarkable statement comes from a fisherman from Galilee. Could he have figured out on his own how the very water in that sea could burn? Could he have suddenly figured out how everything could just dissolve away via fire? I don't believe so. Peter uses a different Greek word here for "melt" than he used in verse ten. Here it is tekomai, which actually means "wasting away, the wasting away of nature." Of course, there are those who feel that this word directly means that our world shall be destroyed through atomic explosions going off in series. But that would mean that mankind had caused the destruction, and not God. So this option comes off of the table of possibilities since God has said that He shall cause our old creation to waste away before creating a brand new creation free of sin.
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness(3:13).
Peter comes to that which is yet to come. Future world. Righteousness does not exist in this current earth of ours. It can't be found in Washington D. C.; London, England; Beijing, China; or Paris, France. It can't be found in your hometown. But in this future world it will be found to be everywhere.
In our world today everything seemingly is all about trading in the old, the obsolete, for the cutting edge new models that are available. God has a new model of earth and heavens in mind, just waiting for the appointed time in order to become existant. This new version of creation will be characterized by righteousness, and it will have righteousness actually dwelling in it.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless(3:14).
If we do not know to be looking for such a thing to happen, then how can we be reassured by the fulfillment of God's Word? Only by reading, and studying, the Word can we gain confidence and strengthen our faith. Then, since we now know that the earth and all of its construction and deeds will be burnt up, we realize how important a life of godliness is here and now. We are to live a holy life down here, a life separated unto Christ. What is actually worthwhile in this world today? What are your goals? As a productive Christian are you and I moving toward a worthwhile goal? Raising a family on godly foundations is worthwhile as is earning a good living for your family and educating your children. But what is the object of those things? Is it to live for Christ? If we live for Christ then all of these secondary issues will take care of themselves.
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you(3:15).
We have here a two-fold purpose. First Christ's longsuffering on the cross created salvation for all those who hear His call to redemption. Secondly Christ's longsuffering of mankind, namely, delaying His return to earth, creates opportunity for people to gain salvation.
We are to mirror the longsuffering of our Lord by patiently waiting for His return. We do not need to be alarmed today by what goes on. Things definitely are not right in our world, but God is going to make them right someday. Our task is to patiently be faithful to Christ and continue to spread the Gospel message of salvation. We are to connect with people, befriend them if possible, provide for their needs in some measure. We are to pray for our enemies and ask God to forgive them for they know not what they are doing.
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable try to wrench loose, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction(3:16).
Peter states here that what Paul wrote was Scripture. He also states that Paul wrote of truth in depth. Peter also wrote of truth in depth. People who attempt to tear it apart and pick and choose what parts they feel are acceptable to their lifestyle are profaning the Word of God and will suffer judgment for their actions.
You therefore, beloved, seeing that you know these things before, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness(3:17).
We are to know certain things, and they are to be found in the Word of God. There is no tiny program to enroll in that will transform your life; there are no shortcuts. We must seriously study God's Word and not pick one or two verses to kick around like some soccer or football. We must gain a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible. This way we can become, and remain, steadfast believers.
Peter's pet term here has been "knowledge." It is expressed in his final verse of this epistle.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen(3:18).
We aren't talking about some form or formula, a rite or ritual, nor is it some secret order or code. We are speaking about knowing Christ as He is revealed to mankind in the Word of God. Here is to be found the secret of life and of Christian living.
Only as we spend time with Christ, as He is revealed in His Word, can we grow in our knowledge of Him. Only this way may we mature in our faith, mature as Christians. It requires intimate time spent praying and studying Scripture.
Well, that finishes the epistles of Peter. I hope you have gained as much from this study as I have. God willing, next time that we meet here I shall begin studying the epistles of John starting with I John. Some in the past have considered the Bible ending with these epistles. I do not believe that that would be prudent to do. Until next we meet, glory and honor and praise to our Lord and Savior!
Fri, Jun 4th - 7:31PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
WHAT CHRIST'S ENEMIES CONCEDED
The enemies of Jesus definitely did not have any bias in His favor. We are able to read in the Gospel accounts that "they watched Him" and tried to "entrap Him in His speech." It is common to find that when a debate can't be won by reasoning, controversies are inevitably resorted to, and they spiral down into personal abuse. Just go to any open forum where religion is discussed, or to Yahoo Ask.com website's religion and spirituality category, and you will soon discover what tactics end up being resorted to. If arguments are lacking, then good old fashioned mud slinging seems to be a good substitute. So it was with the enemies of Christ.
Mark's gospel account contains four of these criticisms(2:1-3:6). The first accusation was concerning blasphemy. Jesus had forgiven a man's sins. To the religious leaders of the day this was an invasion of divine territory. They felt that it was arrogant. But in bringing the subject up begs a question. If Jesus were indeed divine, to forgive sins was His perogative.
Next, they said they were horrified by his evil associations. He hung out with sinners. He ate with publicans. He allowed prostitutes to approach Him. Pharisees could not imagine any situation where they would deem this behavior acceptable. A Pharisee would almost fall over to avoid contact with these people, for they were considered unclean. He would believe himself to be righteous for doing so. The Pharisee could not comprehend the grace and tenderness of Christ who earned the title "friend of sinners."
The third accusation was that His religion was frivolous. Christ did not fast like the Pharisees, or even like the disciples of John the Baptist. They claimed that Christ was "a glutton and a drunkard." Jesus was full of joy but there can be no doubt that He took religion very seriously.
The fourth accusation was that they were incensed by His sabbath-breaking. Christ healed sick people on the sabbath day. His disciples walked through the cornfields on the sabbath, picking and eating corn. To the scribes and Pharisees this was equal to reaping and threshing. It was labor which could not be done on the sabbath. Yet no one could deny that Christ was submissive to the law of God. He obeyed it Himself, and frequently He referred His opponents to it as an arbiter. Christ also affirmed that God had made the sabbath, and that He had made it for man's benefit. Christ went on to point out that since He was "Lord of the sabbath" He had the right to set aside the false traditions of mankind and to give to God's law its true interpretation.
All of the accusations are either trivial or question-begging. So when Christ was on trial for His life, His detractors were forced to hire false witnesses against Him. But even then they did not agree with one another. In the end, the only charges that they could make stick against Him were not moral but political. Even then Christ was pronounced righteous several times. Pilate cowardly washed his hands of the matter and declared himself "innocent of this man's blood." Herod likewise could find no fault in Christ. Judas Iscariot, filled with remorse, threw the thirty pieces of silver at the priests' feet with the words "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." The penitent thief on the cross rebuked his partner in crime for his abuse and said, "this man has done nothing wrong." Lastly, the centurion, having watched Christ suffer and die, exclaimed, "Certainly this man was innocent!"
In assessing Christ's character we do not need to rely only on the testimony of others; we can make our own estimate. The moral perfection which was quietly claimed by Christ, confidently asserted by His comrades, and reluctantly acknowledged by His adversaries, is clearly visible in the Gospels.
We have been given sufficient opportunity to form our own judgment. The apostles paint a comprehensive picture of Jesus for us. It depicts His public ministry of almost three years, gives glimpses of His childhood, and mentions His maturation process at Nazareth.
We are able to see Him withdrawn into privacy with His disciples, and observe Him in the noisy throngs of people who flock to hear Him speak. We witness how He deals with the "hero-worship" of the mob and how He handles Himself in the depths of the Jerusalem Temple where the Pharisees and Sadducees united in their covert inquisition. But in all of these situations He remains the same Jesus Christ. He is consistent. He has no temper tantrums, no moods. He does not change. He remains the same throughout all things.
Christ believes ardently, fervently, in what He teaches, but is not a fanatic. The zealots desired to use Him as a figurehead for their agendas, but He refused to play that game. Christ's doctrine is unpopular but He is not eccentric. There is as much evidence for His humanity as there is for His divinity. He gets tired. He gets thirsty. He needs sleep. He becomes unhappy. He cries. He feels sorrow. He is fully human; yet He is fully God also.
He was unselfish. Although He thought that He was divine, He put on no airs. He was never pompous. Self-importance could not be found in Him. He was humble.
This paradox is what is so baffling about Christ. This combination of the self-centeredness of His teaching and the unself-centeredness of His behavior. In thought He put Himself first; in deed last. He showed both the greatest self-esteem and the greatest self-sacrifice. He was the Lord of all, but he became the servant of all. He had come to judge the entire world, but He stopped to wash His apostles' feet before going to die for them.
Christ gave Himself away in a ministry of healing, helping, teaching, and preaching. He was misunderstood and misrepresented, and became the victim of men's prejudices and vested interests. All of which was known by God beforehand, and yet was incorporated into His plan of redemption for mankind. Christ was despised and rejected by His own people, and deserted y His own friends. He gave His back to be flogged, His face to be spat upon, His head to be crowned with thorns, His hands and feet to be nailed to a rugged wooden cross. As the spikes were driven home through His flesh Christ continued to pray for His tormentors, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
Such a person is completely beyond our reach. Where we invariably fail Christ succeeded. He was under complete self-control. He never sought revenge. He did not become resentful or irritated with anyone. No matter the circumstances or situation Christ would deny Himself and abandon Himself to the will of God and the welfare of mankind. "I seek not My own will, and I do not seek My own glory." Christ did not seek to please Himself. He sought only to redeem mankind from its sin.
It is this utter disregard of self in the service of God and man is what the Bible calls love. There is no self-interest. Love's essence is self-sacrifice. Such nobility surfaces occassionaly in man, but the life of Christ radiated this love like a bulb with a never-fading incandescent glow.
Next time I will review the resurrection of Christ and its evidences. I hope that you will follow along and discover some things about this resurrection. Until then, may you experience Christ's mercy, grace, and peace.
Thu, Jun 3rd - 12:44PM
Old Nature...New Nature
"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death(Romans 7:24)?"
This cry escapes the lips of the apostle Paul following his rather disturbing monologue on the inner strife between his two natures(Romans 7:13-24). He describes the conflict which goes on in believers' lives, until such time the carnal life is brought under control and the will of Christ reigns supreme. The elevation of the self is indicated by the use of the personal pronouns "I", "me", and "my" no less than 35 times in those verses as Paul gives an account of his inner thoughts and feelings. He experienced the same difficulties each of us faces. The things he desired to do for God he did not do for his body would do other things instead. He wished to not spend time on eating and clothing but found that it still was done. Time wasted which could have been used to spread the Word of God. Time spent on not praying when praying was what he desired to do. His testimony is filled with introspection, revealing how he too was victimized by his carnal flesh. No wonder then his conclusion became so miserable! "O wretched man that I am!"
How unfortunate that today it seems that a majority of Christians' status is one of almost completely being self-centered. Christian books and sermons are designed to appeal to such personal interests, and the explosive modern growth of Christian professional "counseling" likewise reflects the multitude of self-centered Christians. Their focus is out of balance, it is lacking resolution.
But the happy and useful Christian is the one whose concerns and activities center around others and who earnestly seeks to follow and honor Christ and His Word. This is the conclusion to which Paul came to in his crying out of anguish. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord(Romans 7:24-25)."
Who shall deliver us from this body of death? None other than Jesus Christ. Yes, we must battle the old nature, but in Christ we have the incentive and power to "put off the old man with his deeds(Colossians 3:9)," and to "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness(Ephesians 4:24)." And so we need to feed our new nature for it to become dominant in our life. Reading and studying God's Word renews our mind. Doing good works for others strengthens our faith and enables others to see Christ in us. Connecting with others on their level shows that we care about them and are genuinely interested in them. I believe that this process is alluded to when we are told to work out our faith in fear and trembling. It is a life-long process of growing spiritually and is not accomplished in one shot.
That is all beloved. May you praise our God with every action and word today!
Wed, Jun 2nd - 9:01PM
II Peter Epistle Study
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up(3:10).
There are those who argue over whether the "day of the Lord" mentioned here takes place at the coming of Christ to establish the Millennial kingdom or at the end of the millennial kingdom. I can see a position of maintaining that this day of the Lord begins with the millennial kingdom and ends when God makes final judgment upon all mankind. This "day" ends as shown in Revelation where the new heavens and the new earth come into view.
This day of the Lord will begin unexpectedly, "as a thief in the night." It is the same expression as used by Paul in I Thessalonians 5:2.
All of creation shall pass away with a great noise, how else could it be? We also see here that the elemens are identified as melting with extreme heat. Matter will be turned back into pure energy. The Greek word stoicheia is used here for elements. It would appear to be a better term to use than our accepted "atom" for this word means something you cannot cut, and we now know that an atom can be cut and split apart into other pieces.
"Melt" is translated from the Greek verb luo which means "to untie or to unloose." Man figured out how to "untie" the atom and manufactured a bomb with immense destructive power. God stocked our planet with all sorts of energy sources and we have proceeded to mismanage our resources. Sometime in the future we shall exhaust the "pantry" and the "filling station" and the "supermarket" will have empty shelves. All that will be left is the latent energy in the atoms of the matter of this planet. All God has to do is release, "untie", those energy bonds holding atoms together and this earth of ours will melt away in heat. All of the empires created by the efforts of men will go up in flames, their monetary gains shall burn up.
Peter says here that God will judge in the future just as He has in the past. Scoffers believe that all things will continue just as they have for centuries. They forget, do not know, the past. The Day of the Lord will include judgment. This phrase is familiar in scripture. The prophets used it, Jesus Christ used it, and many of the writers of the New Testament used it. This Day of the Lord begins in darkness, with tribulation. It ends with great judgment of the earth by fire. In between these two events is a period of seven years of tribulation, the coming of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom, the millennium of peace, the brief rebellion of Satan and those who flock to him, Satan's final demise, and the Great White Throne judgment of the unbelievers. After the judgment of the earth the new heaven and the new earth come into view.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness(3:11).
The reader is put to the test here. In view of what has happened in the past, of what has happened and what God is going to do in the future, you and I ought not to be standing around procrastinating, twiddling our thumbs, or indulging in criticism. It is so easy to criticize others, but what are you and I doing today to get out the Word of God to our communities? This is what is really important to every Christian, every pastor, every congregation. Our attitude needs to be "Not I but Christ." I am not here to judge other Christians; I am here to get out the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
That is all for tonight, beloved. May the grace and peace of Christ rest upon you each and every day!
Wed, Jun 2nd - 12:51PM
Here is a devotional from Days of Praise:
"But you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things(I John 2:20)."
This text comes from the section of New Testament which I am going to be studying after I Peter finishes. This word "unction" is translated "anointing" the two other times it is used in I John 2. This term, and a companion word, are used seven times in the NT, but all refer to the same essential concept often spoken of in the Old Testament.
Both things (tabernacle, temple, vessels, offerings) and people (priests, Levites, kings, ambassadors) were anointed, often ceremoniously, to identify them as consecrated or honored for a special service or position. Once anointed, the person or object was to be held in great respect by everyone.
So, we who are the "children of God" (Romans 8:16) have been anointed by God Himself (II Corinthians 1:21) in such a way that the anointing remains, teaches, and is truth (I John 2:27). This anointing is, obviously, no ceremonial oil demonstrating an honor(Psalm 133:2), but rather the "pouring out" of the Holy Spirit Himself onto and into our bodies, consecrating us to be the very "temple" of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19).
This "unction" further designates us to be "kings and priests" (Revelation 1:6) who will one day "reign on earth" (Revelation 5:10). We are called "lively stones" (I Peter 2:5) being built into a spiritual house for the Lord.
In addition, we are to be seen as "chaste virgins" (II Corinthians 11:2) who are ambassadors of Christ (II Corinthians 5:20), having been set apart as a "vessel unto honor" (II Timothy 2:21) in the "household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). We are to know all of these things.
Thus we discover that we are not to move through our lives in ignorance. We have much to know and much to learn. But what we may know is to give us confidence in our faith. Our knowledge of the holy is to strengthen our determination to run our race until the finish line is crossed. We are to know that since God has started a good work in us, He will not allow us to die until such time as He has completed that good work in us. We have been given that much assurance from Christ. It is what drove Paul and Peter, and all the rest of the apostles into boldly doing God's work. It is what ought to be driving each of us today into being about our Father's business as well.
Tue, Jun 1st - 9:21PM
II Peter Epistle Study
Peter now talks about three worlds in one. This is not a new concept to us as we have three-in-one oil and used to have two-in-one shoe polish. We have heard much about one world, and it is moving toward the day when a dictator will take over. Great thinkers of the past century took the position that we have come to a crisis and the end of mankind on earth. It spawned many doomsday scenarios in both novels and movies. Let's look first at world number one, the world that was.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished(3:5-6).
The beginning of verse five puts today's scientists and scholars in a very poor light. Verse six would appear to refer to the Flood of Noah's time. There have been some who believe that this might refer to a period of time before Adam was created. Perhaps Isaiah 14:12-14 speaks of this time period, or perhaps not. I think not since no flood was spoken of, and there were no nations in existence before Adam.
The antediluvian civilization was utterly destroyed with a flood. Excavations at the site of ancient Ur of Chaldee has shown evidence of several civilizations having been destroyed. Much silt and sediment from some flood covers the remains of a very high civilization. Evidence of Noah's Flood? Could very well be.
Whenever the earth was overflowed with water and destroyed does not matter in the long view of things. Most importantly, it has happened at some point in the past. There is evidence of some great cataclysm having taken place and that the earth's climate has never been the same since.
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men(3:7).
Peter presents to us the second world, the world that is. You and I still are living in this world. This verse points out that our world has been purposely reserved for the coming fire of judgment. The original wording suggests that our world is stored up with fire, with resident forces which are capable of destroying the earth. We live upon the surface of a veritable powder keg! Our world is temporary, it moves inexorably towards another judgment, one that shall determine the ultimate future of everyone.
"Kept up in store" is the same Greek term used by Jesus when He told of the man who laying up treasure. God had been laying up this secret of how He made this universe and it seems that man has broken into God's secret treasure house. But it would appear that man has opened up a Pandora's box, and thoughtful men and women are very frightened with the implications of that.
Winston Churchill said, "Time is short."
Dr. Charles Beard, American historian, said, "All over the world the thinkers and searchers who scan the horizon of the future are attempting to assess the values of civilization and speculationg about its destiny."
Dr. William Vogt, in the Road to Civilization, said, "The handwriting on the wall of five continents now tells us that the Day of Judgment is at hand."
Dr. Raymond B. Fosdick, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said, "To many ears comes the sound of the tramp of doom. Time is short."
H. G. Wells declared before he died, "This world is at the end of its tether. The end of everything we call life is close at hand."
Former President Dwight Eisenhower said, "Without a moral regeneration thoughout the world there is no hope for us as we are going to disappear one day in the dust of an Atomic Explosion."
If men from all walks of life have spoken in such manner, certainly we ought to stop and seriously consider what the Bible has had to say about our future. I do not say that our world will be turned into a cinder by atomic bombs as God's judgment of mankind. I merely point out the obvious, that mankind is realizing that the revelation of God makes very good sense. We live in a world that knows the ability of science to destroy the planet completely via nuclear bombs and thus God's judgment becomes much more plausible in every mind.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day(3:8).
It is interesting to me that these two time periods are tied together in this verse. I know that many have pointed out that creation must have taken six thousand years to complete using this verse as their main argument. Perhaps. But I am intrigued by the fact that the Day of the Lord is one day, and Christ's Millennial kingdom is a thousand years. One follows the other immediately in time. Judgment of the earth does not come until after both of these events has happened. So, even if the "rapture" of saints were to happen tonight, final judgment would not happen for another one thousand and perhaps three and half years.
Another thing to keep in mind is that with God time is not a factor. This verse also points out that fact. God is outside of the dimension of time, He is eternal. He knows the end from the beginning. He views events from all time periods as "present time" since He is present everywhere at all times. It is consistent with His character.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance(3:9).
God is patient, He is longsuffering, He is not rushing into things. Why does He need to rush? He has eternity behind Him and eternity in front of Him. Time is of no concern to God. Time concerns each of us, especially as we begin to sense the coming end of our short lives here on this planet. We worry about time, God never does. The point here is that the final judgment, the dissolution of heaven and earth, is definitely coming. While that appointed time gets ever closer God is giving mankind ample time and opportunities to repent and return to Him. People need to get into the Word of God, that is how hearts get changed. Peter said it all back in I Peter 1:23.
Many today claim that this verse tells us that everyone will be redeemed and that we do not need to do anything, God has already done it all. If God is not willing that any should perish, how will anyone end up in hellfire? An ingenuous argument since Christ declared that none could come to the Father except through Him. That declaration forces each person to decide what to do with Jesus Christ as they attempt to reach Jehovah and heaven. Yes, God desires that everyone not perish that they come to repentance. And that is the key word: repentance. People today do not wish to repent of anything that they are currently doing. They desire the easy path into heaven of doing nothing. God has spoken, and He has declared that the narrow path into heaven is in accepting Christ as your Savior. None will perish who have accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts for they will be changed from the inside out and become new creations spiritually.
You and I cannot prevent God from loving us. We can reject His love, but we cannot keep Him from loving us anyway. When it rains upon us we can't stop it from falling, but we most certainly can raise an umbrella to keep it from reaching us. So too, we can raise an umbrella of indifference and unbelief so that God's love will not reach us. But God still continues to love us.
Beloved, you can slap God in the face, turn your back on Him, blaspheme Him, but you can't prevent Him from wanting to redeem you. He has provided a Savior, His own begotten Son, to die in your place as payment for your sin. Christ Jesus will save you if you receive Him into your heart and accept the salvation which He offers. Life will not continue to go on unchanged. The monotony of life will end one day. The end of this age is coming and judgment will follow. The countdown has commenced and continues despite anything that you or I decide to do.
That is all for today, beloved. If you have not actually accepted Christ into your heart, I truly hope and pray that you will do so now. There is no guarentee that you will wake up tomorrow morning, or that you will not die the next time you enter your automobile. Why not cover all of your bases by accepting that God wants to redeem you so that you can live forever with Him in heaven?
God willing, I will continue this study tomorrow. I hope that you all follow along as we study God's Word.
Tue, Jun 1st - 6:23AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
From the eyewitness accounts it is quite clear that Christ Jesus believed Himself to be sinless, as He believed Himself to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Is it not possible He may have been mistaken in these beliefs? What did His disciples think?
It could be thought that the disciples of Christ were poor witnesses. After all, weren't they just some dumb fishermen by and large? And it has been argued that they were biased, and that they deliberately pictured Him better than He deserved. The apostles' statements can't be lightly dismissed however. Here are some reasons why we are able to rely upon their evidence.
First, they lived closely with Christ for about three years. They ate and slept together. They pretty much all traveled together. They had a common purse, or wallet which can lead to much disagreement. They got on each others nerves and bickered. But no matter how many quarrels they had amongst themselves, they never found any sin in Christ. Familiarity frequently breeds contempt, but not here. In fact, two of the chief witnesses to Christ's sinlessness (Peter and John) belonged to the inner circle to whom was given special privileges and even more intimate revelation. Yet they reported no "warts."
Second, their testimony is trustworthy on this subject for they were Jewish men whose minds had been trained since infancy in the docrines of the Old Testament. And the one Old Testament doctrine which they certainly had accepted was the universality of human sin:
"They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no , not one."
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way."
In view of their Biblical teaching, they would not easily have accepted sinlessness in anyone.
Third, the apostolic testimony to the sinlessness of Christ Jesus is more credible because it is indirect. They do not set out to establish the truth . As they discuss other subjects they add asides which refer to His sinlessness.
Peter first describes Jesus as "a lamb without blemish or spot" and then says that Jesus "committed no sin; no guile was found on His lips." John declares that all men are sinners, and that if we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are both liars ourselves and make God a liar also. But he goes on to say that in Jesus, who was manifested to take away our sins, "there is no sin(I Peter 1:19, 2:22, I John 1:8-10, 3:5)." To this testimony we can add the words of Paul and of the author of the book of Hebrews. They both describe Jesus as one who knew no sin, but rather was holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners. That He was tempted in every way as we are in our lives but without sinning.
That is all for this portion today, beloved. Next time I will look at what Christ's enemies conceded. In many respects this is more supportive of His divinity than anything else. Grace and peace be yours this day!
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