Category Archives: Biblical Lesson/Teaching

GTY Blog: The Christian’s Job Description

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Code: B180507

Years ago, a mundane event turned into one of the more interesting and memorable moments of my life. I was flying from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, to speak at a men’s conference. I was seated in the dreaded middle seat, slowly progressing toward El Paso. The man in the window seat next to me was a Muslim from the Middle East. His presence was distinguished and palpable—he was in traditional dress and had a quiet demeanor. About thirty minutes into the flight, he looked over at me. I had my Bible out and was writing a few notes. He said, “Excuse me, sir. May I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said, and he asked, “Is that a Bible?”

“Yes, it is a Bible.”

“Oh,” he replied, “Sir, can I ask you then another question?”

“Of course,” I said.

He said, “Can you tell me the difference between a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Baptist?”

That was not at all what I was expecting him to ask, but I was happy to oblige. And after I explained the difference between Catholics, Protestants, and Baptists, I said to him, “Now may I ask you a question?”

“Of course, of course,” he said.

We were already talking about the nature of the gospel, but I wanted to bring the issue to his spiritual doorstep. I asked him, “Do Muslims sin?”

“Oh, yes. We have many, many sins.”

Testing his self-awareness, I asked, “Well, do you commit them all the time?”

The honesty of his answer still stuns me. He said, “Yes. In fact, I am flying to El Paso to commit some sins.”

“Really?” I said, somewhat surprised.

“Yes. I have just immigrated into the U.S. I came through the El Paso immigration center, and I met a girl there. We have arranged to meet this weekend to commit some sins.”

Since he was comfortable with blunt honesty, I said, “May I ask you another question? How does Allah feel about your sins?”

I had clearly found a sore spot. “Ah,” he groaned, “it’s very bad. I could go to hell forever.”

“Really? Why don’t you stop doing those sins?”

“I can’t stop,” he said.

I prodded a little further. “Do you have any hope that in spite of your sins, you might escape hell?”

I’ll never forget what he said next. “I pray Allah will forgive me.”

“Well, why would he do that?”

Somewhat hopelessly, he said, “I don’t know. I just pray he will.”

Here was the opportunity I had been pressing for. I said, “Well, let me tell you something. I know God personally, and I can promise you, He won’t.”

He looked at me like I was crazy, as if to say, You know God personally, and you’re in the middle seat on Southwest? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was determined to push past his visible incredulity. “I know the one true God personally, and He cannot overlook your sin.”

“But,” I said, “I have some good news for you. There is forgiveness available. There is a way to be reconciled with God.” And I went on to present the gospel to him.

That’s what I do—I tell people how to be reconciled to God. It’s my job; it’s my life. And it’s yours, too, if you’ve been reconciled to God through Christ. That’s what Christians do—it’s our primary function. We preach the forgiveness of sins and redemption by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Paul speaks about the responsibility that we have as believers to proclaim the message of forgiveness—the message of reconciliation. And that’s the pivotal word we’ll carefully examine in the days ahead.

 

(Adapted from Good News)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180507
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Lessons About Worship and Faith – GTY Blog

Luke 10:38-42

Code: B180502

We don’t often consider the lessons we might learn from the strife between siblings—even when it is recorded in Scripture. But through a brief episode in Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit has much to teach us about the nature of faith and worship.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

The Priority of Worship over Service

It’s interesting to read this narrative and try to imagine how the average woman might respond if placed in a situation like Martha’s. My strong suspicion is that manywomen would be inclined to sympathize with Martha, not Mary. After all, it would normally be considered rude to let your sister do all the hard work in the kitchen while you sit chatting with guests.

So in a real sense, Martha’s feelings were natural and somewhat understandable. That may be one reason Jesus’ rebuke was so mild. In normal circumstances, any older sister would think it obligatory for the younger sister to help in serving a meal to guests. In other words, what Martha expected Mary to do was, in itself, perfectly fine and good.

Nevertheless, what Mary was doing was better still. She had “chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42). She had discovered the one thing needful: true worship and devotion of one’s heart and full attention to Christ. That was a higher priority even than service, and the good part she had chosen would not be taken away from her, even for the sake of something as gracious and beneficial as helping Martha prepare Jesus a meal. Mary’s humble, obedient heart was a far greater gift to Christ than Martha’s well-set table.

This establishes worship as the highest of all priorities for every Christian. Nothing, including even service rendered to Christ, is more important than listening to Him and honoring Him with our hearts. Remember what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: God is seeking true worshipers (John 4:23). Christ had found one in Mary. He would not affirm Martha’s reprimand of her, because it was Mary, not Martha, who properly understood that worship is a higher duty to Christ than service rendered on His behalf.

It is a danger, even for people who love Christ, that we not become so concerned with doing things for Him that we begin to neglect hearing Him and remembering what He has done for us. We must never allow our service for Christ to crowd out our worship of Him. The moment our works become more important to us than our worship, we have turned the true spiritual priorities on their heads.

In fact, that tendency is the very thing that is so poisonous about all forms of pietism and theological liberalism. Whenever you elevate good deeds over sound doctrine and true worship, you ruin the works too. Doing good works for the works’ sake has a tendency to exalt self and depreciate the work of Christ. Good deeds, human charity, and acts of kindness are crucial expressions of real faith, but they must flow from a true reliance on God’s redemption and His righteousness. After all, our own good works can never be a means of earning God’s favor; that’s why in Scripture the focus of faith is always on what God has done for us, and never on what we do for Him (Romans 10:2–4). Observe any form of religion where good works are ranked as more important than authentic faith or sound doctrine, and you’ll discover a system that denigrates Christ while unduly magnifying self.

Not that Martha was guilty of gross self-righteousness. We shouldn’t be any more harsh in our assessment of her than Christ was. She loved the Lord. Her faith was real, but by neglecting the needful thing and busying herself with mere activity, she became spiritually unbalanced. Her behavior reminds us that a damaging spirit of self-righteousness can slip in and contaminate even the hearts of those who have sincerely embraced Christ as their true righteousness. Martha’s harshness toward Mary exposed precisely that kind of imbalance in her own heart.

Jesus’ gentle words of correction to Martha (as well as His commendation of Mary) set the priorities once more in their proper order. Worship (which is epitomized here by listening intently to Jesus’ teachings) is the one thing most needed. Service to Christ must always be subordinate to that.

The Primacy of Faith over Works

Another vital spiritual principle goes hand in hand with the priority of worship over service and is so closely related to it that the two actually overlap. This principle is the truth (taught from the beginning to the end of Scripture) that what we believe is ultimately more crucial than what we do.

Martha’s “preparations” were a distraction (Luke 10:40) from the “one thing” (v. 42) that was really needed—listening to and learning from Jesus. Religious works often have a sinister tendency to eclipse faith itself. Proper good works always flow from faith and are the fruit of it. What we do is vital, because that is the evidence that our faith is living and real (James 2:14–26). But faith must come first, and it is the only viable foundation for true and lasting good works. All of that is wrapped up in the truth that works are not the instrument of justification; faith is (Romans 4:4–5).

Martha seems to have forgotten these things momentarily. She was acting as if Christ needed her work for Him more than she needed His work on her behalf. Rather than humbly fixing her faith on the vital importance of Christ’s work for sinners, she was thinking too much in terms of what she could do for Him.

Again, this seems to be the natural drift of the human heart. We wrongly imagine that what we do for Christ is more important than what He has done for us. Every major spiritual decline in the history of Christianity has come when the church has lost sight of the primacy of faith and begun to stress works instead. Virtually every serious doctrinal deviation throughout church history has had this same tendency at its core—beginning with the error of the Judaizers, who insisted that an Old Covenant ritual (circumcision) was essential for justification. They denied that faith alone could be instrumental in justification, and that undermined the very foundation of the gospel.

Human instinct seems to tell us that what we do is more important than what we believe. But that is a false instinct, the product of our fallen self-righteousness. It is a totally wrong way of thinking—sinfully wrong. We must never think more highly of our works for Christ than we do of His works on our behalf.

Of course, such a thought would never consciously enter Martha’s mind. She loved Christ. She genuinely trusted Him, although her faith had moments of weakness. Still, on this occasion, she allowed her anxiety about what she must do for Christ to overwhelm her gratitude over what He would do for her.

I’m very grateful that Christ’s rebuke of Martha was a gentle one. I must confess that it is very easy for me to identify with her. I love the privilege of serving the Lord, and He has blessed me with more than enough to stay busy. It is tempting at times to become swept up in the activity of ministry and forget that faith and worship must always have priority over work. In these hectic times, we all need to cultivate more of Mary’s worshipful, listening spirit and less of Martha’s scrambling commotion.

Martha and Mary also remind us that God uses all kinds of people. He has gifted us differently for a reason, and we’re not to despise one another or look at others with contempt, just because we have differing temperaments or contrasting personalities.

Martha was a noble and godly woman with a servant’s heart and a rare capacity for work. Mary was nobler still, with an unusual predisposition for worship and wisdom. Both were remarkable in their own ways. If we weigh their gifts and their instincts together, they give us a wonderful example to follow. May we diligently cultivate the best instincts of both of these extraordinary women.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180502
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

False Teaching Out There and In Here – Ligonier Ministries

by Nathan W. Bingham

Here’s an excerpt from False Teaching Out There and In Here, Sean Michael Lucas’ contribution to the April issue of Tabletalk:

The recognition that heresies often start from a biblical platform and basis should humble and warn us. It should humble us, even chasten us, to recognize that we might unwittingly propagate error even as we teach God’s inerrant Word. Though we labor over our sermons and lessons, wrestling with the text, trying to get it right, there is always the possibility that we might teach error in ways that lead God’s little ones astray.

Continue reading False Teaching Out There and In Here

Profiles of Godliness: Martha and Mary – GTY.org Blog

Friends of Christ

Code: B180423

When we think about the life of our Lord, we generally focus on His preaching, His confrontations with religious hypocrites, and His relationships with His disciples. But we can easily overlook the friendships He enjoyed with everyday people—those with whom He found hospitality, fellowship, and refreshment.

Throughout the course of the four gospels, we repeatedly encounter two friends of Christ—Martha and Mary. Scripture consistently presents these extraordinary women together, and displays a distinct and instructive contrast in the character of these two sisters.

Scripture doesn’t give us many personal details about Martha and Mary. They lived with their brother, Lazarus, in the small village of Bethany. That was within easy walking distance of Jerusalem, about two miles southeast of the Temple’s eastern gate (John 11:18)—just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem’s city center. Both Luke and John recorded that Jesus enjoyed hospitality in the home of this family. He went there on at least three crucial occasions in the gospels. Bethany was apparently a regular stop for Him in His travels, and this family’s home seems to have become a welcome hub for Jesus during His visits to Judea.

One Key Similarity

Martha and Mary make a fascinating pair—very different in many ways, but alike in one vital respect: both of them loved Christ. They became cherished personal friends of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Moreover, He had a profound love for their family. The apostle John, who was a keen observer of whom and what Jesus loved, made it a point to record that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5).

We’re not told how this particular household became so intimate with Jesus. Since no family ties are ever mentioned between Jesus’ relatives and the Bethany clan, it seems likely that Martha and Mary were simply two of the many people who heard Jesus teach early in His ministry, extended Him hospitality, and built a relationship with Him that way. In whatever way this relationship began, it obviously developed into a warm and deeply personal fellowship. It is clear from Luke’s description that Jesus made Himself at home in their house.

The fact that Jesus actively cultivated such friendships sheds light on the kind of man He was. It also helps explain how He managed to have an itinerant ministry in Judea without ever becoming a homeless indigent, even though He maintained no permanent dwelling of His own (Matthew 8:20). Apparently, people like Martha and Mary regularly welcomed Him into their homes and families, and He was clearly at home among His many friends.

Certainly hospitality was a special hallmark of this family. Martha in particular is portrayed everywhere as a meticulous hostess. Even her name is the feminine form of the Aramaic word for “Lord.” It was a perfect name for her because she was clearly the one who presided over her house. Luke 10:38 speaks of the family home as Martha’s house. That, together with the fact that her name was usually listed first whenever she was named with her siblings, implies strongly that she was the elder sister. Lazarus appears to be the youngest of the three, because he was named last in John’s list of family members (John 11:5), and Lazarus rarely comes to the foreground of any narrative—including John’s description of how Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Some believe Martha’s position as owner of the house and dominant one in the household indicates that she must have been a widow. That’s possible, of course, but all we know from Scripture is that these three siblings lived together, and there is no mention that any of them had ever been married. Nor is any hint given about how old they were. But since Mary was literally at Jesus’ feet each time she appeared, it would be hard to imagine them as very old. Furthermore, the starkly contrasting temperaments of Martha and Mary seem unmellowed by much age. I’m inclined to think they were all three still very young and inexperienced. Indeed, in their interaction with Christ, He always treated them much the same way an elder brother would, and many of the principles He taught them were profoundly practical lessons for young people coming of age. A few of those lessons rise to particular prominence as we consider their recorded encounters with Christ.

Snapshots of the Sisters

Scripture gives three significant accounts of Jesus’ interaction with this family. First, Luke 10:38–42 describes a minor conflict between Martha and Mary over how best to show their devotion to Christ. That is where we initially meet Martha and Mary in the New Testament. The way Luke described their clashing temperaments was perfectly consistent with everything we see in two later incidents recorded by John. (We’ll return to focus mostly on the end of Luke 10 next time, because that’s where the contrasting personalities of these two are seen most clearly.)

A second close-up glimpse at the lives of these two women comes in John 11. Virtually the entire chapter is devoted to a description of how their brother Lazarus died and was brought back to life by Christ. Jesus’ personal dealings with Martha and Mary in this scene highlighted their individual characteristics. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus affected both Martha and Mary profoundly, but differently, according to their contrasting personalities. John gave very detailed and poignant descriptions of how deeply the sisters were distressed over their loss, how Jesus ministered to them in their grief, how He mourned with them in a profound and personal way, and how He gloriously raised Lazarus from the dead at the very climax of the funeral.

More than any other act of Jesus, that one dramatic and very public miracle was what finally sealed the Jewish leaders’ determination to put Him to death because they knew that if He could raise the dead, people would follow Him, and the leaders would lose their power base (John 11:45–57). They obstinately refused to consider that His power to give life was proof that He was exactly who He claimed to be: God the Son.

Martha and Mary seemed to understand that Jesus had put Himself in jeopardy in order to give them back the life of their brother. In fact, the full depth of Mary’s gratitude and understanding was revealed in a third and final account where both of these women appeared together one more time. John 12 (with parallel accounts in Matthew 26:6–13 and Mark 14:3–9) records how Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly ointment and wiped His feet with her hair. Although both Matthew and Mark described the event, neither of them mentioned Mary’s name in this context. It was nonetheless clear that they were describing the same incident we read about in John 12.

Both Matthew 26:12 and John 12:7 indicated that Mary, in some sense, understood that she was anointing Jesus for burial. She must have strongly suspected that her brother’s resurrection would drive Jesus’ enemies to a white-hot hatred, and they would be determined to put Him to death (John 11:53–54). Jesus Himself had gone to the relative safety of Ephraim right after the raising of Lazarus, but Passover brought Him back to Jerusalem (vv. 55–56). Mary (and probably Martha as well) seemed to grasp more clearly than anyone how imminent the threat to Jesus was. That surely intensified their sense of debt and gratitude toward Him, as reflected in Mary’s act of worship.

That’s where we’ll pick it up next time, as we consider the godly—but contrasting—character of these two women.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180423
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You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath? – Ligonier Ministries

by Steven J. Lawson

The Genevan Reformer John Calvin said, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns.

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners.

Like trumpeters on the castle wall warning of coming disaster, preachers must proclaim the full counsel of God. Those who stand in pulpits must preach the whole body of truth in the Scriptures, which includes both sovereign wrath and supreme love. They cannot pick and choose what they want to preach. Addressing the wrath of God is never optional for a faithful preacher—it is a divine mandate.

Tragically, preaching that deals with God’s impending judgment is absent from many contemporary pulpits. Preachers have become apologetic regarding the wrath of God, if not altogether silent. In order to magnify the love of God, many argue, the preacher must downplay His wrath. But to omit God’s wrath is to obscure His amazing love. Strangely enough, it is merciless to withhold the declaration of divine vengeance.

Why is preaching divine wrath so necessary? First, the holy character of God demands it. An essential part of God’s moral perfection is His hatred of sin. A.W. Pink asserts, “The wrath of God is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin.” God is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) who “feels indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11) toward the wicked. God has “hated wickedness” (45:7) and is angered toward all that is contrary to His perfect character. He will, therefore, “destroy” (5:6) sinners in the Day of Judgment.

Every preacher must declare the wrath of God or marginalize His holiness, love, and righteousness. Because God is holy, He is separated from all sin and utterly opposed to every sinner. Because God is love, He delights in purity and must, of necessity, hate all that is unholy. Because God is righteous, He must punish the sin that violates His holiness.

Second, the ministry of the prophets demands it. The prophets of old frequently proclaimed that their hearers, because of their continual wickedness, were storing up for themselves the wrath of God (Jer. 4:4). In the Old Testament, more than twenty words are used to describe the wrath of God, and these words are used in their various forms a total of 580 times. Time and again, the prophets spoke with vivid imagery to describe God’s wrath unleashed upon wickedness. The last of the prophets, John the Baptist, spoke of “the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). From Moses to the forerunner of Christ, there was a continual strain of warning to the impenitent of the divine fury that awaits.

Third, the preaching of Christ demands it. Ironically, Jesus had more to say about divine wrath than anyone else in the Bible. Our Lord spoke about God’s wrath more than He spoke of God’s love. Jesus warned about “fiery hell” (Matt. 5:22) and eternal “destruction” (7:13) where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). Simply put, Jesus was a hellfire and damnation preacher. Men in pulpits would do well to follow the example of Christ in their preaching.

Fourth, the glory of the cross demands it. Christ suffered the wrath of God for all who would call upon Him. If there is no divine wrath, there is no need for the cross, much less for the salvation of lost souls. From what would sinners need to be saved? It is only when we recognize the reality of God’s wrath against those deserving of judgment that we find the cross to be such glorious news. Too many pulpiteers today boast in having a cross-centered ministry but rarely, if ever, preach divine wrath. This is a violation of the cross itself.

Fifth, the teaching of the Apostles demands it. Those directly commissioned by Christ were mandated to proclaim all that He commanded (Matt. 28:20). This necessitates proclaiming God’s righteous indignation toward sinners. The Apostle Paul warns unbelievers of the “God who inflicts wrath” (Rom. 3:5) and declares that only Jesus can “deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Peter writes about “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 3:7). Jude addresses the “punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). John describes “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). Clearly, the New Testament writers recognized the necessity of preaching God’s wrath.

Preachers must not shrink away from proclaiming the righteous anger of God toward hell-deserving sinners. God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). That day is looming on the horizon. Like the prophets and Apostles, and even Christ Himself, we too must warn unbelievers of this coming dreadful day and compel them to flee to Christ, who alone is mighty to save.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Source: Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath?

Why legalism destroys churches and kills Christians

What if your church’s elders passed down a fiat that members could not take more than 1,999 steps on the Lord’s Day without facing church discipline? One more step would be too closely akin to taking a long trip and that is a no-no on the day God set aside for worship.

What if they forbid you to carry your Bibles to church because such heavy lifting would too closely resemble work? Anything heavier than a dried fig is strictly taboo on this day, they say.

Or, what if they added a clause in the constitution and bylaws that members must not leave a radish in salt because that vegetable might become a pickle and pickle-making is work, which is, of course, forbidden on this day.

And, they added sub-paragraphs to the constitution that prescribed disciplinary action for those found guilty of other activities on the Lord’s Day such as carrying a pen (lest you be tempted to write with it), carrying a needle (lest you be tempted to sew with it), helping those who are sick but with non life-threatening maladies (it can wait till Monday), looking in the mirror, spitting, removing dirt from clothes. You get the picture.

Real-life legalism

Such boorish legalism would make both a congregation and its elders miserable and would likely lead to an elder election. Yet, these were merely a few among the dozens of Sabbath laws added to the Torah by the Pharisees who lived in the Roman Empire during New Testament times. Ironically, the Pharisees and their scribes were the theological giants of the day, yet in Mark 2:25-26 and in other passages in the four Gospels, Jesus asks them, “Have you not read?” In other words, don’t you understand the Scriptures? Jesus tweaks the Pharisees in John 5:39 with similar words, telling them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

In the Mark passage, the Pharisees are watching Jesus—who is a rabbi—to see if he breaks their rabbinic laws related to the Sabbath. In the final verses of Mark 2, they charge Jesus with spiritual criminality because his disciples pick the heads of grain while walking through a field and eat the kernels to satiate their hunger. Jesus points out that David and his band of brothers ate the showbread in the tabernacle with divine impunity while on the run from Saul (1 Sam. 21:1-6). At the outset of Mark 3, Jesus heals a man with a lame hand in direct violation of the Sabbath laws of the Pharisees.

Of course, the Pharisees are infamous for encrusting the moral law of God with hundreds of their own manmade laws and traditions. And we get the idea from the New Testament that trying to obey the laws as a means of salvation made them a miserable people. 

Small wonder.

Alive and well today

While few of us today seek to follow the Pharisaical model, this level of misery is alive and well among those who misunderstand the complementarity of law and gospel and seek to earn favor with God through both keeping the law and misappropriating it to extrapolate a set of personal convictions—often related to modes of dress, music, movies, etc.—that become a system of expected ethical norms to which they hold both themselves an other Christians. As Spurgeon once said of the legalist, “His slogan is, ‘You cannot be spiritual unless you are uncomfortable.’” 

Indeed. 

The law of God as a ground for salvation, as a means of accruing merit, leaves the worker exhausted, miserable—and lost. The law as a guide to salvation is a terrible taskmaster.

For this reason, discussions of law and gospel remain vital and deeply practical. After all, in 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul wrote, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully.” But how can Paul say the law is good? Elsewhere, in Romans 7:11, Paul says sin came alive through the law and killed him. In Galatians 3, Paul says the Law once held us captive and he calls it a “guardian.” If the law kills, holds us captive and leads the Pharisees to lead such shriveled up lives of pure misery, then how is it good?

Rightly divided

I think Paul gets at it earlier in Romans 7:7, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have know what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” The law exposes our sin. The law shows us the holy, spotless character of God. The law produces despair in us—not a despair the leads us to forego attempting to merit any favor with God and drives us to the only place it can be found—in union with Jesus Christ, in his person and work.

Rightly appropriated, the moral law of God unmasks our self-righteousness and exposes us for who we really are: sinners devoid of the righteousness necessary to salvation, sinners hurtling headlong toward a just destruction at the hands of a holy God, sinners in desperate need of a mediator before God.

It shows us that we have indeed sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It points up our desperate need for the gospel. As the Puritans so well put it, the law breaks sinners, the gospel heals them. Calvin saw three good functions for the law: it serves as a mirror, clearly showing our sin, it reveals the will of God (as a guide to sanctification), and it works to restrain evil—protecting God’s people from the machinations of unbelievers.

The law left the Pharisees (and their disciples) miserable because they viewed it as a vehicle to glory, a means of salvation. They used it unlawfully and the result was a shrunken, joyless, bitter existence. This is the result when we misinterpret Scripture and replace the grace of God with legalism. But rightly understood, the law of God is good, unmasking our self-righteousness and exposing our depravity. It sends us running for cover in the righteousness of Christ won at Calvary through his selfless love. It liberates us to rest from our labors at keeping the law, and leads us to green pastures of deep and overflowing joy in Christ alone.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

The post Why legalism destroys churches and kills Christians appeared first on Southern Equip.

What Does It Mean to be Part of God’s Kingdom?

by Bryan Murphy / 16 hours ago

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He dealt with many people who believed they were part of the kingdom. In response, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount and showed those who are in the kingdom of heaven recognize their sin, see God’s perfection, have a pure heart, and conduct themselves with a proper fear of God.

The post What Does It Mean to be Part of God’s Kingdom? appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

April 17, 2018 Tuesday Berean Blast!

Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry – Normalizing Mysticism

Apr 16, 2018 09:50 am | Marsha West

 

Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is nothing of the sort. It’s a sham. Just a way Bethel Church leaders have devised to get their hooks into people, especially undiscerning young people. If you’re unfamiliar with Bethel Church in Redding CA, the senior pastor is the notorious  “Apostle” Bill Johnson.  For reasons that will become clear, Bethel’s considered […]

The post Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry – Normalizing Mysticism appeared first on Berean Research.


You Can’t Love Jesus with a Heart Full of Hate: 7 Reasons to Love and Forgive Your Enemies

Apr 14, 2018 09:15 am | Marsha West

 

Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley offers 7 reasons God gives us in His Word to love and forgive our enemies. Here’s one example: You Can’t Love Jesus With A Heart Full Of Unforgiveness. The reason she gives is that “Your enemy – that person you hate and refuse to forgive because he hurt you […]

The post You Can’t Love Jesus with a Heart Full of Hate: 7 Reasons to Love and Forgive Your Enemies appeared first on Berean Research.


I’m old enough to remember when “evangelical” was a bad word

Apr 13, 2018 10:05 am | Marsha West

 

According to Jesse Johnson “evangelical suffers from an ambiguity largely owning to its diversity. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is different than the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, yet members of both would sign the Manhattan Declaration. If you believe the gospel and the fundamentals (inerrancy, virgin birth, bodily resurrection, personal conversion, etc.), does that make you evangelical? There is […]

The post I’m old enough to remember when “evangelical” was a bad word appeared first on Berean Research.


How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, part 1

Apr 12, 2018 09:20 am | Marsha West

 

No matter if you are in your pew listening to a sermon, choosing a book at the Christian bookstore, or reading some essays online, you need discernment to determine if what you are absorbing aligns with God’s word or is a lie designed to incrementally steer you away from the narrow path. In this 2 […]

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Hybels steps down from Willow Creek following allegations of misconduct

Apr 10, 2018 10:26 pm | Berean Admin

 

From the Chicago Tribune: Forty-two years after founding one of the nation’s most influential evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Bill Hybels told his congregation Tuesday night that he would step down from the helm of Willow Creek Community Church six months ahead of schedule. His departure comes less than a month after a Chicago Tribune investigation […]

The post Hybels steps down from Willow Creek following allegations of misconduct appeared first on Berean Research.


Francis Chan: “God Might Kill You If You Criticize Church Leaders”

Apr 10, 2018 04:02 pm | Marsha West

 

During a recent speaking engagement,* popular preacher and author Francis Chan told the group that God will destroy anyone who questions or criticizes the teachings of Christian leaders. Steven Kozar of Messed Up Church has the story which includes a must watch video of Bethel’s guest speaker so that we can see for ourselves that […]

The post Francis Chan: “God Might Kill You If You Criticize Church Leaders” appeared first on Berean Research.


 

All the Messages and Panels from T4G posted in order

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264621513

The messages from T4G are already posted on the T4G website. All the plenary sessions and the panels posted in order below. Lig Duncan’s is one you’ll want to listen to, so I featured it above.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264308282

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264315328

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264326037

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264350899

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264356256

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264437032

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264476858

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264542072

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264542226

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264621513

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264633726

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264641696

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264674255

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264678728

https://player.vimeo.com/video/264688416

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This ‘n’ That for 04/13/2018

  • We do not know when Christ will return, but we do know that He will return!
  • Oh, wait a minute. Forget what I just said. He’s coming on April 23!
  • Read this. Study it. Learn it. Obey it.
  • I think I just found my dream job. Bonus that it’s in Ireland. Please excuse me while I go pack.
  • We need to share Christ’s view of Scripture.
  • I think it’s safe to say that many Christians struggle with prayer, but it is our lifeline.
  • Now, that’s a neat story!
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • This is a really helpful article that leads us to consider why we should be careful about baptizingyoung children.
  • What a comfort to know that our Father holds us tightly!
  • I’m no fan of Saturday Night Live, but this is funny. And true.
  • I wish that my writer’s block could be this productive!
“By the key of faith, we fetch daily new grace out of Christ’s treasury to sanctify us more and more.” —Edmund Calamy

Grace to You Blog: Condemning Callous Piety

Luke 10:30-37

Code: B180411

How do you react when someone tries to make you look foolish? What do you do when an opponent tries to paint you into a rhetorical corner?

That’s exactly what happened to Jesus in Luke’s gospel, when an expert in Israel’s religious law tried to “put Him to the test” (Luke 10:25). This episode in the life of our Lord set the scene for one of His most famous parables, and one of His sharpest critiques of self-righteous religion.

The fact that Jesus continued to answer this man was in itself, an act of grace. The man’s attempt to show Jesus up was obnoxious. Religious leaders tried this many times with Jesus and always failed. His ability to answer all their hard questions only infuriated them. Try as they might, they could not provoke Him.

On this occasion in particular, Jesus’ reply stands out for its warmhearted, gracious, loving restraint. The man was deliberately trying to goad Jesus, begging for a sharp answer that he planned to pursue with a heated debate. But sometimes “a soft tongue breaks the bone” (Proverbs 25:15), and that’s what happens here.

Here is the parable of the Good Samaritan:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.” (Luke 10:30–35)

Jesus does not tell this account as if it were a true story. It’s a parable, a tale spun to dramatize, in an unforgettable way, the point He wanted to drive into this legalist’s heart—and ours as well. As in most of Jesus’ stories and parables, He has one simple point to make. There are lots of details in this story, and plenty of secondary implications, but what’s important here is the central lesson, and that is what we need to focus on.

The Dangerous Road and the Attack

The story begins with a journey on a very dangerous road. It is the road “from Jerusalem to Jericho” (Luke 10:30). The road is real. I have traveled on that very road. Visitors to Israel can still take the same route used by travelers in Jesus’ time. From Jerusalem to Jericho is about a four-thousand-foot drop in elevation across seventeen miles of winding road, crossing barren mountains over very rough terrain. In places, a steep, three-hundred-foot precipice, rather than any kind of shoulder, borders the road. Much of the route is lined with caves and massive boulders, which offer hideouts for robbers. It is still a dangerous road.

In Jesus’ story, the predictable happens. A man traveling alone on that road was jumped by a band of thieves—particularly brutal ones. They didn’t just rob him; they stripped him almost naked. They didn’t just take his purse with his cash; they took everything he had. Then they brutally beat him and left him for dead. We would say today he was in critical condition, a dying man on a desert road.

That road saw a steady stream of travelers when people were coming and going from Jerusalem for the feasts. But in other seasons—especially during the peak heat of summer or the stifling windy season and cold of winter—traffic on the road could be meager. There were no homes and very few stopping points on that stretch of road. It was not a friendly place—especially for someone alone and desperate. It might be a very long time before help came along—if ever. There was no guarantee anyone would find him or help him.

The Priest and the Levite

At this dramatic point in the story, Jesus introduces a bit of hope: “By chance a priest was going down that road” (Luke 10:31). This appears on the surface to be the best of news. Here comes a servant of God, one who offers sacrifices for people in the temple, a spiritual man who should be a paragon of compassion (Hebrews 5:2). He represents the best of men. A priest, of all people, would be familiar with the Mosaic law. He would know Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He ought to know as well that verses 33 and 34 in that same chapter expound on the principle of neighborly love by applying it to strangers in particular: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” A priest would know Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

He would be fully aware that “he who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). The principle spelled out in James 2:13 was woven into the Old Testament as well: “Judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy.”

The priest was surely familiar with Exodus 23:4–5:

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.

So if a person found his enemy’s donkey in a ditch, he was obliged to rescue the donkey, right? Of course he had a greater duty to help a man in critical condition.

But that flash of hope was short-lived. When the priest saw the injured man, “he passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:31). The Greek text uses a verb found nowhere in Scripture other than in that verse and the one that follows: antiparerchomai. The anti-prefix, of course, means “opposite.” It’s an active verb signifying that the priest deliberately relocated to the opposite side of the road. He went out of his way to avoid the injured traveler—purposely shunning the man in need.

The priest obviously had no compassion for people in dire distress. No other conclusion can be drawn from this. Jesus turned the lawyer’s question on its head. The question the fellow asked was, “Who is my neighbor?” But that’s not the right question. Jesus is showing him through this parable that righteous compassion is not narrow. It is not seeking for definitions of which sufferers are qualified to deserve help. The duties of the second great commandment are not defined by the question of who our neighbor is. In fact, the converse is true: genuine love compels us to be neighborly even to strangers and aliens. The full meaning of the second great commandment includes the principle Jesus made emphatic in Matthew 5:44We should love even our enemies. They are our neighbors, too, and therefore we are obliged to bless them, do good to them, and pray for them.

The coldhearted priest in this parable is not necessarily included as an indictment of the priesthood in general. It was quite true that many of the priests and other religious leaders in Jesus’ time lacked compassion. But that is not the point here. This priest represents anyone with full knowledge of the Scriptures and a familiarity with the duties of the law, who is expected to help. But he does not.

The next verse introduces a Levite. All priests were of course from the tribe of Levi. More specifically, those who served as priests were descendants of Aaron (one of the sons of Levi). The term Levite therefore referred to descendants of Levi who were not also in the line of

Aaron. They served in subordinate roles in the temple. Some were assistants to the priests; some were temple police; others worked in various behind-the-scenes roles maintaining and servicing the temple grounds. But their lives were devoted to religious service, so they were (like the priests) expected to have a good knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Nevertheless, when this Levite came to the place where the wounded man lay, he did the same thing the priest had done. As soon as he saw the helpless victim lying there, he moved to the opposite side of the road. Here was another man devoid of compassion and bereft of lovingkindness.

Earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus had prayed, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight” (Luke 10:21). These two religious characters in the parable, a priest and a Levite, embodied what Jesus meant by “the wise and intelligent.” They represented their culture’s best-educated and most highly esteemed religious dignitaries. But they did not really know God.

Neither was truly fit for heaven; they were “sons of disobedience”—and therefore objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:25:6Colossians 3:6). They didn’t truly love God, because if you love God, you keep His commandments. They also didn’t love their neighbors, because when they faced a real and urgent need and had an opportunity to demonstrate love, they refused. They are striking illustrations of religious hypocrites, observing the ceremonial law, and even devoting their lives to the service of the temple but lacking any real virtue.

People sometimes cite the story of the Good Samaritan, point to the priest and Levite as examples of utter inhumanity, and then close the book with a sense of moral superiority.

To do that is to miss Jesus’ point.

It’s right, of course, to condemn the callous disregard of these two men and look upon their deliberate heedlessness with utter scorn. But in doing so, we condemn ourselves as well. Their attitude is precisely what we see in human nature today, even within our own hearts. We think, I don’t want to get involved. I don’t know what this man, or the people who beat him up, might do to me. Without in any way justifying the coldhearted apathy Jesus was condemning, we must confess that we, too, are guilty of similar blind indifference, wretched insensitivity, and careless disregard of people in dire need. Even if we don’t turn away every time we see someone in need, we all fail in this duty enough to stand guilty before the law with its demand for complete perfection.

Jesus makes that point unmistakable by introducing us to the Good Samaritan. And that’s where we will pick up the story next time.

 

(Adapted from Parables.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180411
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Does God Like Me?

I am not just barely tolerated by God, but accepted in the beloved. He loves ME, and, yes, if I may say so, he likes me. And so let’s all put aside our doubts and our fears and run this race together, shall we? Let’s quit trying to lift ourselves up by tearing one another down. Let’s quit trying to one-up each other, bragging and boasting about our accomplishments. Let’s quit worrying about whether anyone else likes us or not. If God is for us, who can possibly be against us.

8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (Jam 3:8-9)

How many of us have been attacked by the tongue? How many live at home with a reviler and are subjected to the lash of ugly words?

You’re fat.

You’re stupid.

No one even likes you.

You are worthless.

If it wasn’t for me, no one would even tolerate you.

There are millions who were raised by cruel and harsh men and women who have never known a kind word; who have never known what it is to be accepted or loved.

And there are also millions who scoff and say, “It’s only words. I just get angry sometimes…” To you, I have just one thing to say: Please read carefully Matthew 5:22 and meditate on how you use words. You are in danger of hell. If you have ever called one of God’s children ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, unlovable – who shall deliver you from the wrath to come? It is a dangerous thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Your words do not come from God. They are lit on fire from hell.

These are not the words that we have learned from Christ Jesus. He taught us to use words of truth and grace, seasoned with salt, edifying to the hearer.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph 4:29)

There are so many ways to tear people down with words. One of the most insidious is to never revile out loud, but just simply let your victim know that they really aren’t very likeable. Perhaps they are weird. Perhaps they do things differently. Perhaps they think a little…not like you. This is the classic passive-aggressive bully. God hates it.

This one is close to my heart, because I am…let’s face it…weird. I cannot small talk for anything. I have no idea what is going on in any sporting event. I say weird things at weird times. I don’t have a clue what “guys do”.  At my bachelor party, two of my friends picked me up from work and said, “This is YOUR NIGHT. You can do whatever you want!” I sat on their couch and stared at them for two hours until they let me go home.

I’m weird. There is no situation where I am not awkward, no conversation that I can’t stop by saying something very weird.

And most of my life, I was absolutely convinced that most people would be far happier if I just went home. So I usually did.

It occurred to me the other day that I have a hard time believing that anyone likes me. And then it occurred to me that I carry this belief to God himself. Does God actually like me?

It is an interesting question. I think that question is particularly difficult for those who have been attacked with the tongue. How can anyone like me? Does God like me? Does it matter?

It isn’t the same as “Does God love me”. We know that God does love us. He loves us with perfect, infinite, unchanging love in Jesus Christ, his beloved Son. We also know that nothing separates us from his love.

But does he like me?

I’ve heard of parents who say to their kids, “I love you, but I don’t like you very much.”

I’ve heard husbands say that about their wives. “I love her, but I sure don’t like her at times.”

And our greatest fear is that God just barely tolerates us. He loves us in Christ, but really just wishes we would go away. Can you think of anything more shameful than hearing God say, “I love you, but I sure don’t like you much.”

Do you see what I am getting at?

Read More

The post Does God Like Me? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

False teachers are not always argumentative or divisive; often they are some of the nicest people we know. They usually creep in not with scowls on their faces but with big smiles. They don’t normally creep into churches and teach obvious heresies and falsehoods; they usually subtly question the truth and teach partial truths, and they are not always identified by what they actually teach but by what they leave out of their teaching. 

Throughout history, our enemy has raised up many false prophets and false teachers, but perhaps never before in history has the church itself raised up so many of its own false teachers, parading them and welcoming them into their homes and churches. False teachers abound on many of the so-called Christian television networks, and books by false teachers fill the shelves of many so-called Christian bookstores. And while many Christians are rightly concerned about the growth of religions such as Islam, the greatest threat to orthodox Christianity is not other religions but false teachers who creep into the church unnoticed.

False teachers creep into the church not because they look like false teachers but because they look like angels. They disguise themselves just as their master Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. When false teachers attempt to creep into the church, they typically don’t look like wolves because they wear sheep costumes and use some of the same language that the sheep use. They regularly quote Scripture, and they are often able to quote more Scripture than the average Christian.

False teachers are not always argumentative or divisive; often they are some of the nicest people we know. They usually creep in not with scowls on their faces but with big smiles. They don’t normally creep into churches and teach obvious heresies and falsehoods; they usually subtly question the truth and teach partial truths, and they are not always identified by what they actually teach but by what they leave out of their teaching. They often speak of Jesus, salvation, the gospel, and faith, but they twist the words and concepts of Scripture to fit their own versions of the truth, which is no truth at all.

They typically don’t attempt to creep into churches where the Word of God is preached boldly and passionately, in season and out of season, and where the people are eager for the sound preaching of Scripture and are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, they usually target those churches where people are indifferent to doctrine and apathetic about the preaching of the Word of God.

The surest way, then, to prevent and stop the spread of false teaching is for Christian leaders and laypeople, pastors and parishioners, teachers and learners, to be committed to the sound preaching of God’s Word and to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Only then will false teachers be recognized for who they are and the sheep of Christ be protected from error, all to the end of living coram Deo, before the face of God, for God’s glory according to God’s unchanging truth.

Ligonier © 2018. Used with permission.

The post Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Combatting the Lies the World Believes

Code: B180406

It makes sense that the truth is the best defense against a lie.

But should that be the church’s strategy when combatting the lies of the world? Should we try to persuade and out-argue sinners bent in defiant rebellion against their Creator? Should we present rebuttals and counterpoints to sway the minds of those caught in the slavery of sin? Should we pin the hopes of another person’s eternity on our ability to present a better, more convincing argument?

We recently asked John MacArthur about the best strategy to combat Satan’s lies and penetrate the darkness with the light of God’s truth. Here’s what he had to say:

We need to be aware of the lies that permeate and corrupt this world, and the threat they present to those in the church. But we should not overestimate our own persuasive abilities when it comes to reviving dead hearts. There is no argument that can awaken the conscience or impart new spiritual life. There’s no speech that can soften the sinful heart of stone.

Throughout our recent series on the lies that dominate the world, we attempted to impart the tools and insight you will need to defend against these lies and their poisonous influence. But the power to truly defeat them lies solely in the gospel, and the work of the Holy Spirit to convict, illuminate, redeem, and transform.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180406
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Herescope: Did Hell Disappear?

Creating A “Low-Intensity Faith”

The Wall Street Journal wrote last week that “Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, a friend and frequent interviewer of the pope, reported that the pontiff had denied the existence of hell.”

Sinners who die without achieving eternal salvation “are not punished,” the pope said, according to an article by Mr. Scalfari in the Itlaian newspaper La Repubblica. “There is no hell; there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”[1]

Predictably the Vatican would later release a statement that partially denied the report, but also “stopped short of a specific denial.”[2] This clever dialectic maneuver is a perfect example of two steps forward, one step back. Now the issue of hell is on the table and up for debate, once again illustrating how the Pope Francis has “shaken up perceptions of Catholic doctrine.”[3]

The Pope is merely following in the steps of other theologians and leaders who have professed orthodoxy out of one side of their mouth while teaching new doctrine.[4]Their strategies appear to be the same. The Wall Street Journal’s Vatican correspondent, Francis X. Rocca, describes it:

For more conservative critics, the pope’s approach amounts to promotion of a “low-intensity Catholicism that can be easily welcomed by those far from the faith and even hostile to it,” said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for Italy’s L’Espresso magazine.[5]

An Editorial by Pastor Jim Jenkins

The nun turned her back on the class. (We were still not safe from scrutiny… we all knew she also had eyes in the back of her head.) Jimmy Cummings could make these strange voices and sounds and get us giggling… and then when the good sister turned around to find the culprit, Jimmy could instantly take on the countenance of a cherub and someone else would be blamed. His unique ability served him well. He is now Voice Actor Jim Cummings… the voice of Winnie the Pooh!

I digress… Back to what the nun had written on the green blackboard. She took the pointer, a weapons grade staff with a rubber tip that looked like a ballistic missile, and pronounced the phrase she had written:

Ex Cathedra 

She then went on to explain that whenever the Pope was seated in the chair (also called the throne of St. Peter) whatever he said was infallible. He was not to be questioned for he was speaking in the place of God. The Latin phrase ex cathedra means “from or out of the chair”

There was another Latin term we would learn:

Imprimatur 

Imprimatur was the term used to describe the authority of the Church when it came to anyone publishing anything that had to do with the teachings of the Church. It was an official endorsement or sanction… a seal of approval. Yet another Latin phrase would be the official Imprimatur:

Nihil Obstat

It means “Nothing is in the way or is unacceptable or offensive.”

Two days ago, I was listening to a national talk show. I actually got on the air and was able to engage the host on a topic that is important to me… how the media is intentionally trying to undermine our values and beliefs. After the conversation and just before the commercial break, the host teased the topic for the next segment:

“Stick around folks, did you hear the Pope said there is no Hell?”

The current Pope has made numerous remarks that seem to confute not only Catholic Dogma, but the Bible itself. He took a lot of heat when he opined about the whole issue of homosexuality. “Who am I to judge?” I mean no disrespect, but I said out loud when I heard it, “I know who you are… You are Vicar of Christ on earth, the unquestionable representative of God to over a billion people. You sit on a throne, and utter remarks that are deemed to be infallible. You and those who rule with you can excommunicate people, hence cut them off from the means of grace… ergo consigning them to the Hell you said is not what the Bible describes, and Jesus believed to be real. In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the word Hell more than He did Heaven.”

The implications of all this are far reaching. What else in the Bible will be deemed to be inaccurate or false? Does the word infallible mean… sometimes or ‘sort of’? And what of all the tormented souls who died believing that they were damned to Hell? The Pope is reported to have said that the unrepentant ones don’t go to Hell. They just disappear. The Bible describes torment that never ends… a Dante’s inferno.

There is an angst that is palpable in our world… Constitutions mean nothing. Vows mean even less than nothing and we, lemming-like, rush to fall into the abyss as the institutions of power in our country disassemble all that was based on God’s word.

Listen to this noble school mission statement:  

“Christo et Ecclesia”

For Christ and the Church! This is the founding mission statement of Harvard! Princeton had this lofty goal for its students, To know God in Jesus Christ… to live a godly sober life.”[6]

God said, “For I am the Lord. I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”(Malachi 3:6) The writer to the Hebrews said under the unction of The Holy Spirit, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!” (Hewbrews 10:31) We have for a long time meekly submitted to the abandonment of the very notion there is such a thing as Truth. One writer quipped “God created man in his own image and likeness… and now man has returned the favor.”

I remember preaching a message years ago in which I talked about the Bible’s use of the word authority. Now for Catholics, authority rests in a man who speaks ex cathedra… from the chair. For those who rule us politically their authority can be described as ex officio… out of the office they hold. But for the believer in Jesus, the authority that He grants us is based on our relationship with Him. The word translated authority in the Greek is exousia. It is a derivative of the verb “to be” It can be rendered ‘Out of who I AM’.

Is there a Hell? Is it how the Bible describes it? I read in the Bible that there is a hell and that Jesus affirmed it and warned that some will go there. I have staked my life on its veracity.

I hold that the answer does not rest with a man, or an organization, or a tradition. The Bible says, “All Scripture is God breathed.” (1 Timothy 3:16) “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” said Jesus, “but My Words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33) That is proof enough for me.

The Truth:

For the truth about hell, see Pastor Larry DeBruyn’s excellent article, “An Imaginary Cosmic Reality,”[7] where he refutes the denial of hell. Here is a brief excerpt:

Many, even Christians, reject the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles regarding the eternal punishment of the wicked. They point out that no biblical word expresses the concept of “eternity,” but only “a long period”or “remotest time” (Hebrew ‘olam) or “age” (Greek aion). They argue that because of these words’ multifaceted meanings there is no word in Scripture expressing a forever category of time. Therefore it is presumptuous for anyone to think hell will never end. But the Apostle John describes the state of being consigned to the Lake of Fire as one of being “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). The time frame expressed is in multiples of forever-s, one of ages of ages. These multiples of ages is the longest concept of time the Greek language, or perhaps any language, can express (Greek plurals, eis tous aionas ton aionon, Revelation 20:10). Combined with “day and night” (Greek, hemeras kai nyktos), “for ever and ever” nuances a timeless existence in which 24/7, for ages of ages, the unholy trinity—the beast, the false prophet, the devil—and others will be confined. Together, the clauses express the “the unbroken continuity of their torment” in perpetuity.

“And I say unto you my friends,
Be not afraid of them that kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear:
Fear Him, which after He hath killed
hath power to cast into hell;
yea,
 I say unto you, Fear Him.” 
(Jesus, Luke 12:4-5)
“Jesus saith unto him,
I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto
 the Father, but by Me.”
(John 14:6)

Endnotes:
1. Francis X. Rocca,  “Shifting lines: Pope’s Uncertainty Principle,” The Wall Street Journal, March 31-April 1, 2018, p. A9.
2. Ibid
3. Ibid.
4. See Pastor Larry DeBruyn’s “Love Loses,” a review of Rob Bell’s book Love Winshttp://herescope.blogspot.com/2011/05/love-loses.html and his article “An Imaginary Cosmic Reality” reviewing Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About Godhttp://herescope.blogspot.com/2017/06/an-imaginary-cosmic-reality.html
5. Rocca, Ibid.
6. Everett Piper, The Wrong Side of the Door, p. 23.
7. http://herescope.blogspot.com/2017/06/an-imaginary-cosmic-reality.html

Four Things People Often Miss About Judas (and What We Can Learn from Them)

James tells us that the “double-minded man [is] unstable in all of his ways” (James 1:8). That is a very good description of Judas. He was double-minded, and in the end, the faith that he once professed he abandoned completely. Here are four things that are commonly overlooked when it comes to Judas.

The Commitment He Made

Judas had made a commitment to Jesus. There was no reason to think he was anything but sincere in his faith. Like the rest of the disciples, he had left everything to follow him. Judas had been actively involved in ministry. He had been given remarkable spiritual gifts.

Luke tells us, “[Jesus] called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1-2).

Judas was a gospel preacher! He had been given a special gift of healing. He had exercised authority over demons. Active involvement in ministry is a good and a wonderful thing, but it is not, in itself, a sign of spiritual life or spiritual health.

The Opportunity He Was Given

Judas walked with Jesus for three years. He saw the greatest life that has ever been lived, up close and personal. You can’t have a better model of faith than Jesus or a better environment for forming faith than Judas had in walking with Jesus.

He was a direct witness to the miracles. When Jesus fed the 5,000, Judas was there. He took the bread and distributed it along with the other disciples. When Jesus calmed the storm, Judas was there. And he was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. You can’t have better evidence for faith than Judas had.

Judas heard all of the teaching of Jesus. He heard the Sermon on the Mount, so he knew that there is a narrow road that leads to life and a broad road that leads to destruction. He heard the warnings that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, so he knew that there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. He heard the parable of the prodigal son, and he knew that Christ was ready to welcome and forgive those who had wasted themselves in many sins.

With his own ears, this man heard the finest teaching. With his own eyes, he saw the clearest evidence. In his own life, he had the best example. And yet this man betrayed Jesus.

How deep the problem of the human heart is! It “is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;” (Jeremiah 17:9). Do you understand your own heart?

Can you understand how a young person who is raised by godly parents in the context of a healthy church, taught the truths of Scripture from an early age, and grounded in apologetics can end up abandoning the faith that he or she once professed?

There is an important truth here for parents, leaders, and friends who grieve over someone you love who has abandoned the faith they once professed. You say, “Where did we go wrong? What more could we have done? Did we fail in our teaching? Did we fail in our example? Should we have immersed our son or daughter or friend in a different environment? Perhaps that would have made a difference.”

This story is telling us that even the finest teaching, the best example, and the most compelling evidence—the ultimate environment for incubating faith—cannot, in and of themselves, change the human heart.

The Choice He Made

Satan made a relentless assault on the soul of Judas, as he makes a relentless assault on everyone who chooses to follow Christ. There is nothing unique about the experience of Judas here.

  • “Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot…He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them” (Luke 22:3, 4).
  • “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son to betray him” (John 13:2).
  • “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27).

The Bible’s clear statements about Satan’s activity have led many people to say, “Well, poor Judas, he didn’t have a chance. Satan entered into him. What could he do about that?” But that evaluation overlooks the fact that Judas opened the door of his life to Satan.

Judas had been stealing from the bag. And when he kept this sin secret, Satan entered into him. He made a deal with the chief priests and then sat down at our Lord’s Table with a known sin that he would not confess, and Satan entered even further into his life. Unconfessed sin always opens the door to Satan’s power.

Satan does not gain a foothold in the lives of people who are walking in the light with Jesus. He only has access when we open the door. Klaus Schilder says, “It is the peculiar majesty of Jesus that He can conquer man without man’s first approaching Him. But Satan’s frailty is proved by this, that he cannot approach a soul unless that soul has first turned to him” (Christ in His Sufferings, 185).

Sometimes in the church, we get this the other way around. We are afraid that Satan will somehow have secret access to us, but Jesus, he can do nothing unless we ask him to. No, the Bible teaches us precisely the opposite.

The Outcome He Embraced

Judas went out into the darkness he had chosen, “and it was night” (John 13:30). When you get close to Jesus, one of two things will happen: Either you will become wholly his, or you will end up more alienated from him and more antagonistic toward him than if you had never known him at all.

Among those who hate Christ the most are not a few who once professed to trust him. Christ’s claims are so exclusive, and his demands so pervasive that, in the end, you must either give yourself to him completely or give him up altogether. There is no middle ground.

Only those who have never known him can remain indifferent to him. For those who get close, the only outcomes are full devotion or eventual antagonism and every day, each of us is heading in one direction or the other.

Worth Any Cost

In a day when many people are abandoning the faith that they once professed, the story of Judas warns us to guard our hearts, lest we drift away. The story of Judas also equips us to reach out to others who may be close to walking away from faith. Christ calls us to “be merciful to those who doubt. Save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 22-23). Finally, the story of Judas reminds us that nothing good can come from giving up on Jesus Christ. He is of supreme value, and following him is worth any cost.

[This article originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition.]
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]

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The post Four Things People Often Miss About Judas (and What We Can Learn from Them) appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility

God is sovereign in creation, providence, redemption, and judgment. That is a central assertion of Christian belief and especially in Reformed theology. God is King and Lord of all. To put this another way: nothing happens without God’s willing it to happen, willing it to happen before it happens, and willing it to happen in the way that it happens. Put this way, it seems to say something that is expressly Reformed in doctrine. But at its heart, it is saying nothing different from the assertion of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” To say that God is sovereign is to express His almightiness in every area.

God is sovereign in creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Apart from God, there was nothing. And then there was something: matter, space, time, energy. And these came into being ex nihilo—out of nothing. The will to create was entirely God’s. The execution was entirely His. There was no metaphysical “necessity” to create; it was a free action of God.

God is sovereign in providence. Traditional theism insists that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent—all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present. Each assertion is a variant of divine sovereignty. His power, knowledge, and presence ensure that His goals are met, that His designs are fulfilled, and that His superintendence of all events is (to God, at least) essentially “risk free.”

God’s power is not absolute in the sense that God can do anything (potestas absoluta); rather, God’s power ensures that He can do all that is logically possible for Him to will to do. “He cannot deny himself,” for example (2 Tim. 2:13).

Some people object to the idea that God knows all events in advance of their happening. Such a view, some insist, deprives mankind of its essential freedom. Open theists or free-will theists, for example, insist that the future (at least in its specific details) is in some fashion “open.” Even God does not know all that is to come. He may make predictions like some cosmic poker player, but He cannot know absolutely. This explains, open theists suggest, why God appears to change His mind: God is adjusting His plan based on the new information of unforeseeable events (see Gen. 6:6–71 Sam. 15:11). Reformed theology, on the other hand, insists that no event happens that is a surprise to God. To us it is luck or chance, but to God it is part of His decree. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). Language of God changing His mind in Scripture is an accommodation to us and our way of speaking, not a description of a true change in God’s mind.

God is sovereign in redemption, a fact that explains why we thank God for our salvation and pray to Him for the salvation of our spiritually lost friends. If the power to save lies in man’s free will, if it truly lies in their unaided ability to save themselves, why would we implore God to “quicken,” “save,” or “regenerate” them? The fact that we consistently thank God for the salvation of individuals means (whether we admit it or not) that belief in absolute free will is inconsistent.

God is sovereign in judgment. Few passages of Scripture reflect the sovereignty of God in election and reprobation with greater force than Romans 9:21: “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” On the face of it, this might appear unfair and arbitrary—as though God were playing some vindictive child’s game with the petals of a flower: “He loves me; He loves me not. He loves me; He loves me not.” In response, some people have insisted that God has the right to do whatever He pleases and it is none of our business to find fault with Him—a point that Paul himself anticipates (Rom. 9:20). Others have taken the view that if God were to grant us what we deserve, we would all be damned. Election is therefore a gracious (and not just a sovereign) act. Both are true. But in any case, our salvation displays God’s glory: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36)

HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY

The assertion of divine sovereignty is not without further questions that should be addressed.

First, there is the question of evangelism. If God is sovereign in all matters of providence, what is the point of exerting human effort in evangelism and missions? God’s will is sure to be fulfilled whether we evangelize or not. But we dare not reason this way. Apart from the fact that God commands us to evange-lize—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19)—such reasoning ignores the fact that God fulfills His sovereign plan through human means and instrumentality. Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to be passive and inert. Paul commands his Philippian readers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13).

Second, there is the question of ethics. We are held responsible for our actions and behavior. We are culpable in transgression and praiseworthy in obedience.

Third, in relation to civic power and authority, there is the question of God’s sovereignty in the determination of rulers and government. God has raised up civil governments to be systems of equity and good and peace, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them who do well (Rom. 13:31 Peter 2:14). But this is also true of evil powers and corrupt regimes that violate the very principles of government itself; these are also under the sovereign government of Almighty God.

Fourth, in the question of both the origin and continued existence of evil, the sovereignty of God meets its most acute problem. That God does not prevent evil from existing seems to call into question His omnipotence or His benevolence. Some non-Christian religions try to solve this problem by positing that evil is imaginary (Christian Science) or an illusion (Hinduism). Augustine and many medieval thinkers believed part of the mystery could be solved by identifying evil as a privation of the good, suggesting that evil is something without existence in and of itself. Evil is a matter of ontology (being). Reformed thought on this issue is summarized by the Westminster Confession of Faith:

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain what-soever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the crea-tures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (3:1)

God is the “first cause” of all things, but evil is a product of “second causes.” In the words of John Calvin, “First, it must be observed that the will of God is the cause of all things that happen in the world: and yet God is not the author of evil,” adding, “for the proximate cause is one thing, and the remote cause another.” In other words, God Himself cannot do evil and cannot be blamed for evil even though it is part of His sovereign decree.

God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He displays His majestic glory. With out it, we would have no being, no salvation, and no hope. Soli Deo gloria.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Source: God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility

Turn My Eyes from Looking at Worthless Things

The eyes are the lamp of the body. It becomes what they behold.

Lured by desire and the passions of the flesh, the eyes look upon secret loves too dark for anyone but their Creator to fully see and know. Prone to wander, how they feel it—the pull to gaze upon worthless things…

Worthless Vanity

She rolls out of bed and gets ready for the day, wrestling through outfits, but finally choosing the deep blue shirt. People say it compliments her eyes. Her friend, the mirror, is also her greatest foe, faithfully awaiting her gaze and reflecting what she wants to see—but only after it condemns her, only after she heeds its brutal, silent critiques.

Do people see how hard she’s working to maintain her figure and erase her years? And if they did, would it matter?

Would the mirror be any gentler, any kinder to her?

Worthless Attention

The bright screen bores itself into his brain. A constant barrage of entertainment, his phone never leaves his sight or lacks for his attention. He fears missing out—yet he doesn’t hear the flesh-and-blood voices around him when they call his name.

A like outweighs a life.

But it’s never enough; the attention feels like an endless black hole. He’s not even sure who he is anymore since he can change his reality at the touch of a button, with the swipe of a screen—

He’s got others fooled. He’s even got himself fooled.

Or does he?

Worthless Lust

It’s destroying him, the brazen image he can’t get out of his mind. It’s one in a series, and it’s shriveling his soul. He knows this—but he can’t seem to win the fight. The allure is too much, the immediate pleasure too sweet…

The nagging conviction too strong to ignore.

He knows he needs to tell her, to confess everything. But he also knows the outcome, that he fully deserves whatever happens…

Worthless Ambition

Success is her drug. That promotion? The applause and respect? The best high. She’s addicted, though she won’t admit it. She works to live and lives to work, even though her Bible tells her this will never satisfy her.

On any given day, her circumstances rule her. Failures sap her confidence and spoil her mood, while success fills her with pride and delight to keep going—

But how unreliable. She’s controlled by something she can’t control, and she knows it.

She wants out of ambition’s grip.

Looking to Death

But him—

He sets his face like a flint to Calvary, refusing to turn back. He will do his Father’s will, even if it means torture and brutality, the hatred and venom of men. Even if it kills him.

Even if it means his Father’s wrath.

He has her in mind, her obsession with vanity weighing upon his shoulders; and him, as he carries his selfish desire for man’s approval. He takes his addiction to lust, and suffers the punishment for her idolatrous ambition.

For all their worthless loves, he loves them unto death.

Looking to Jesus

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

My brother, My sister, My friend: You will become what you behold. Look to Me. Take in My goodness and perfection, and see what I endured—for you. Behold My sacrifice, My life-blood spilt for you, the nails in My hands, and the anguish in My soul.

Weep and mourn for what your worthless loves cost Me.

But don’t stop there.

Look to the empty grave. See how I disarmed death and triumphed over it. Behold how the chains of your sin hold Me no longer. Because I’m alive, no longer do they hold you.

I died to give you life in My ways, to turn your eyes from worthless things…to Me.

Behold Me, and as you do, your whole body and soul will be full of light.

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HE IS RISEN: Jesus Christ Is Risen From Dead To Prove That He And He Alone Is The Only Way To Heaven

Jesus Christ was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the THIRD DAY according to the Scriptures. He did all that for YOU, to buy your pardon to SET YOU FREE.

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”Matthew 28:6 (KJV)

For the past 2,000 years, there has been one story that has taken precedence over any and every other story ever told. The story of a man, flesh and blood, who gave His life willingly on the cross as a ransom for sin, as the Old Testament prophets have proclaimed, and rose from the dead 3 days later to prove that every word He spoke was true and faithful.

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12,13 (KJV)

On the cross at Calvary, Jesus of Nazareth willingly shed His blood as a payment for sin. More specifically, as a payment for your sin, and my sin, for the sins of the whole world. Are you thinking that your religion will save you? Think again, it will not. It cannot. Maybe you’re a good Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, take your pick. They are all equally meaningless apart from the shed blood of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Open the pages of the Bible and search to your heart’s content, but you will never find a ruling class of priests for the church. There are no nuns, no popes, no Vatican, no sacraments, no confessing to a priest, no eucharist, no mass, no dress code, no haircut length. No tithing for a Christian. But on page after page, you will see a recurring theme. Everywhere you look, you will see Jesus, and He alone is enough. He is sufficient.

jesus-king-thousand-year-reign-millennial-temple-jerusalem-israel-bible-prophecy-now-end-begins

THE COMING LITERAL, VISIBLE AND PHYSICAL THOUSAND YEAR REIGN OF JESUS CHRIST ON THIS EARTH FROM JERUSALEM

In the Philippines, they are slashing their own skin in idolatrous rituals because they do not believe that Jesus on the cross paid it all. But Jesus shed blood is enough, it’s more than enough. And there is nothing you, on your best day, can ever add to it.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Ephesians 1:7 (KJV)

After Jesus died on the cross, He lay in the tomb for 3 full days and 3 full nights. He was as dead as dead ever gets. But on the third day, according to the scriptures, He rose from the dead with the power over life and death in His own hands. Proving that He and He alone was the sacrifice for sin that God will accept. This is the gospel which we preach to the saving of your soul.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (KJV)

Jesus Christ was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the THIRD DAY according to the Scriptures. He did all that for YOU, to buy your pardon to SET YOU FREE. All you have to do is accept or reject that FREE GIFT. If you reject it, when you die, you will burn forever in a place called Hell. If you accept it, the Bible says the moment you die you will be with Christ in Heaven never to die again. Which one do YOU want?

Our sins have separated us from a righteous and holy God, but in His Mercy and love towards us He has made a way of escape for all those who seek it. I am talking to you, right here and right now. God has an AMAZING gift for you, it costs you nothing but it caused Him to shed every drop of blood He had so He could purchase it for you. What is it? It’s your salvation.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” Romans 10:9-10 (KJV)

Pray and ask the Lord, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me a sinner, and save me. I now, with a repentant heart, receive you as my personal Saviour”.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:13 (KJV)

Jesus Christ was crucified, died, buried, and rose on the third day to save you from the flames of an eternal Hell. He made the payment for your sin on the cross at Calvary, and rose from the dead 3 days later to prove it.

He is the only way to Heaven, without Him there is no hope of any kind. With Him there is eternity with God in Heaven. Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of Israel, the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world. The one and only hope of mankind. The only Saviour.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 (KJV)


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Resurrection and Justification

How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament? To answer this question, we must first explore the use and meaning of the term justification in the New Testament. Confusion about this has provoked some of the fiercest controversies in the history of the church. The Protestant Reformation itself was fought over the issue of justification. In all its complications, the unreconciled and unreconcilable difference in the debate came down to the question of whether our justification before God is grounded in the infusion of Christ’s righteousness into us, by which we become inherently righteous, or in the imputation, or reckoning, of Christ’s righteousness to us while we are still sinners. The difference between these views makes all the difference in our understanding of the Gospel and of how we are saved.

One of the problems that led to confusion was the meaning of the word justification. Our English word justification is derived from the Latin justificare. The literal meaning of the Latin is “to make righteous.” The Latin fathers of church history worked with the Latin text instead of the Greek text and were clearly influenced by it. By contrast, the Greek word for justification, dikaiosune, carries the meaning of “to count, reckon, or declare righteous.”

But this variance between the Latin and the Greek is not enough to explain the debates over justification. Within the Greek text itself, there seem to be some problems. For example, Paul declares in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Then James, in his epistle, writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar” (2:21) and “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (2:24).

On the surface, it appears that we have a clear contradiction between Paul and James. The problem is exacerbated when we realize that both use the same Greek word for justification and both use Abraham to prove their arguments.

This problem can be resolved when we see that the verb “to justify” and its noun form, “justification,” have shades of meaning in Greek. One of the meanings of the verb is “to vindicate” or “to demonstrate.”

Jesus once said, ” ‘Wisdom is justified by all her children’ ” (Luke 7:35). He did not mean that wisdom has its sins remitted or is counted righteous by God by having children, but that a wise decision may be vindicated by its consequences.

James and Paul were addressing different questions. James was answering the question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2:14). He understood that anyone can profess to have faith, but true faith is demonstrated as authentic by its consequent works. The claim of faith is vindicated (justified) by works. Paul has Abraham justified in the theological sense in Genesis 15 before he does any works. James points to the vindication or demonstration of Abraham’s faith in obedience in Genesis 22.

The Resurrection involves justification in both senses of the Greek term. First, the Resurrection justifies Christ Himself. Of course, He is not justified in the sense of having His sins remitted, because He had no sins, or in the sense of being declared righteous while still a sinner, or in the Latin sense of being “made righteous.” Rather, the Resurrection serves as the vindication or demonstration of the truth of His claims about Himself.

In his encounter with the philosophers at Athens, Paul declared: ” ‘Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead’ ” (Acts 17:30-31).

Here Paul points to the Resurrection as an act by which the Father universally vindicates the authenticity of His Son. In this sense, Christ is justified before the whole world by His resurrection.

However, the New Testament also links Christ’s resurrection to our justification. Paul writes, “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25).

It is clear that in His atoning death Christ suffered on our behalf, or for us. Likewise, His resurrection is seen not only as a vindication of or surety of Himself, but as a surety of our justification. Here justification does not refer to our vindication, but to the evidence that the atonement He made was accepted by the Father. By vindicating Christ in His resurrection, the Father declared His acceptance of Jesus’ work on our behalf. Our justification in this theological sense rests on the imputed righteousness of Christ, so the reality of that transaction is linked to Christ’s resurrection. Had Christ not been raised, we would have a mediator whose redeeming work in our behalf was not acceptable to God.

However, Christ is risen indeed!

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.