Archives for 2017

We Believe in God’s Holy Word

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Can You Trust the Bible?

Are there errors in the Bible.  I get asked that question a lot.  And what they really want to know is how do we know that the Greek or Hebrew text is reliable?  How do we know that scribes didn’t change the text or that errors haven’t crept into the Bible?

This question has become increasingly important in our day because there are skeptics out there who are making farfetched accusations.  One of the skeptics, Bart Ehrmman, in his Book “Misquoting Jesus,” has even claimed that there are some 400,000 errors in the New Testament alone!  Those are big numbers!  But wait a minute Bart!  There are less than 140,000 words in the New Testament!  If Bart’s math is true, there are errors 3 errors for every single word!  So how does Bart’s fuzzy math work???   It doesn’t.[i]

A cowboy was once lazily riding his old horse over the high desert.  Tumbleweeds were blowing by, and cactus stuck up here and there in the dry wilderness.  He sauntered around a huge boulder, and quickly reigned his horse in.  To his surprise he had almost stepped on an Indian brave who had his ear to the ground right in the middle of the road.  From where the cowboy was sitting he could hear the brave mumbling:

“Ugh.  Stagecoach.  Four horses.  Heading south.  Ugh.  One horse black, three brown.  Driver have white Stetson hat;  Big red feather.  Remington rifle.  Ugh.

The cowboy was stunned!  “That’s amazing he said!  You can tell all that just by putting your ear to the ground????”

The Indian replied, “Ugh.  Stagecoach run over Indian brave 5 minutes ago!”

Today I’m going to give you 10 powerful reasons why the Bible can be trusted.  No disrespect meant to our Native American friends, but that’s the way it is with these 10 evidences.  No single one will make the case by itself, but when you put them all together, they hit you like a stagecoach.  These 10 proofs will knock you flat with the truth.  Let’s look at them one at a time.

1. Manuscripts

Despite what the skeptics claim, that the Bible has often been changed through the centuries, the actual physical evidence tells another story. The New Testament records are incredibly accurate. There are minor differences in manuscripts, called variants, but none of these variants impact or change key Christian beliefs or claims.

Let me let you in on a secret, that really isn’t a secret.  We believe that the original manuscripts written by the authors of the Bible, in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic were inspired and inerrant.  Our English Bible is a translation, and is preserved accurately, but is not inerrant.

There are about 6000 Greek manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament alone.  Those copies have been preserved carefully and accurately, but they are not inerrant.

The oldest Greek manuscript is dated within 50 years or less after the death of the author, John.  There are also 9000 Latin copies!  The New Testament has been quoted in the first 250 years 32,000 times.  There are virtually no mistakes when comparing manuscripts.  But it would be dishonest to tell you that there are not differences between the manuscripts.  That is why it is so exciting that we have so many!  We can compare them to on another!

There is approximately one letter out of 1,000 that varies from copy to copy in the New Testament.  With that kind of amazing accuracy, we can confidently say that somehow God miraculously preserved the Bible in a way no other book has experienced.

2. Archaeology

The Archaeological Study Bible presents many notes and articles documenting how archeology has again and again proven that the Bible does correspond to historical reality.

Nelson Glueck, who appeared on the cover of Time magazine and who is considered one of the greatest archaeologists ever, wrote:

“No archeological discovery has ever controverted [overturned] a Biblical reference.” [Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31.]

These are the words of a man who has been credited with uncovering more than fifteen hundred ancient sites in the Middle East. [“Archaeology: The Shards of History,” Time, December 13, 1963.][ii]

  • In 2016, archeologists uncovered Solomon’s palace at Gezer from 1 Kings 9:16-17
  • In 2015 Herod’s palace, the site of Jesus trial was excavated.
  • The Pontius Pilate stone (which we saw) which confirms that he was prefect when Jesus was crucified.
  • The burial box (ossuary) inscribed James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, dated to AD 63
  • The discovery in Tel Dan which bears the inscription of King David in a newly excavated wall.

We could go on, and on.

3.  Historical accuracy

Let me give you a few examples of the discoveries which have, time after time, proven the Bible to be accurate.

The Hitites:  This ancient people is extinct.  Scholars used to laugh and point to the Hitites as a non-existent people which the Bible made up.  Scripture mentions them 61 times.  In 1906 archaeologists dug up the capitol of the Hitites in modern Turkey.

Solomon’s Chariot Cities:  Once scoffed at as inflated stories.  Now we have discovered sights complete with stalls & tie holes for horses at least 5 ancient cities dated to Solomons time.

There is Hezekiah’s tunnel, discovered in the 19th century.  There is the King Belshazzar whom modern archaeology has only recently discovered as being authentic.  It is extremely difficult to choose a few examples of the hundreds available!  Every year there are an increasing number of discoveries which shed light on Scripture.  Not one has yet to contradict any single Biblical item!

Paul Rader in 1930 offered a thousand dollars to anyone who could come up with one single proof that the Bible contradicts one demonstrated scientific fact in any domain: history, geology, archaeology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, ethnology, etc.  Nobody ever took him up on his offer.  There is a great difference between a hypothetical acquaintance and proven facts

4.  Scientific agreement[iii]

Of course many critics of the Bible would disagree that the Bible is scientifically accurate. They point to verses that say things like “the sun stood still” in Joshua 10:13 or John’s reference to “the four corners of the Earth” (Rev. 7:1). And they conclude that the Bible teaches that the Sun revolves around a flat, four-cornered Earth.

Well, they are overlooking the fact that the writers of the Bible were not writing a technical textbook on astronomy. They were describing things as they appeared to the eye, as when we call it “sun rise” or “sun set,” or employing normal figures of speech, as was the case with John’s reference to the “four corners of the Earth.”

We must also remember that Evolution is unproven, has nothing to do with fact, and is outside the scope of scientific investigation.  In fact, the facts fit creation much better than they do evolution.

The amazing thing about the Bible is that it was written in a pre-scientific age.  Remember that some cultures thought that the earth rested on the back of an elephant or turtle.  Some experts of the past thought that blood-letting was required to get disease out of the body, and others thought that the stars could be numbered.  However, the Bible was preserved from these primitive notions!

The Earth –  Job 26:7 says, “He hangs the earth on nothing!”  Before Isaac Newton discovered gravity, Hindus believed the Earth rested on the backs of elephants who stood on the back of a turtle that was swimming in a great endless sea. That’s some turtle! There were all kinds of theories in the ancient world. People thought something has to support the Earth. What did the Bible say? In one of the oldest books in the Bible, Job said: “He [God] hangs the Earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). Nothing! In other words, the Earth hangs completely unattached in space. This is astounding. Scientists were still trying to figure this out thousands of years later.

Life – Leviticus 17:11 says that “life is in the blood.”  Contrast that to the 18th century idea of blood-letting.

The Stars – Jeremiah 33:22 claims “The stars are without number.”  Before the invention of the telescope, people believed the stars could all be numbered. People were so confident of this, they drew up star charts, with all the stars named and numbered. The Greek astronomer and mathematician Hipparchus (190-120 BC) claimed there were 1,026 stars. The astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy (AD c. 85-165) said there were 1,056 stars. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) counted 1,006.

God says the stars cannot be numbered. In fact, trying to do so would be about as futile as trying to count the grains of sand floating around in the sea, obviously an impossible task. Jeremiah wrote that more than 2,000 years before Galileo made his discovery.

Today, with the help of powerful telescopes, astronomers tell us that the universe contains somewhere between 100 billion and a trillion galaxies containing anywhere between 100 billion and 10 trillion stars each. [Source: AP/Washington Times]

This all adds up to a lot of stars! Astronomers have to keep revising their estimates of how many stars have been discovered. A new study, published in the journal Nature, suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros, or take 3 trillion and multiply it by 100 billion. [Source: AP/Washington Times]

The Sun – the Bible teaches that the Sun is actually on a circuit through space. Psalm 19:6. Scientists once thought the Sun was stationary. However, it has been discovered in recent years that the Sun is in fact on a circuit through space, just like the Bible says.

So many examples could be cited.  Now all of these statements in the Bible about the stars, the universe, and the Earth raise a question: How did the authors of the Bible know these kinds of things? Were they taking wild guesses?

5.  Fulfilled Prophecy

This is one of the strongest arguments there is.  There is a wide range of fulfilled predictions in the Bible, many in amazing detail.  In fact we can say that 100% of all the Bible’s prophecies that should be fulfilled, are fulfilled.  It has never once been wrong.

  • The Bible predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, 700 years before it happened – Micah 5:2.
  • Zechariah 9:9 predicted Christ’s triumphal entry 500 years before it happened.
  • Psalm 22 predicted Christ’s method of death 1000 years before Christ, and hundreds of years before the Romans even invented crucifixion.

There are a total of 333 Messianic predictions that came true during the life of Christ, not to mention the hundreds more about Israel and other items.

Calculations using the science of probability on just 8 of these prophecies, have shown that the chance someone could have fulfilled even just 8 of these prophecies is: 1 in 10 to the 17th power.  If you were to take that many girl scout cookies (that’s over a quintillion cookies) and you were to spread them across the state of Texas, they would cover every inch of the state, and form a layer of Girl scout cookies, two feet deep.  Now drop in just one Oreo cookie from a jet plane flying over the state, blindfold yourself and go find that cookie.  The chances of you finding the Oreo on first try is the same odds of fulfilling just 8 prophecies like Jesus did… except that he fulfilled 333 of them!

And there are hundreds of other prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled.

All this points to one thing… The Bible can be trusted.  Now you have a choice.  Let me illustrate that with this story:

William Franklin Graham steadied himself by gripping both sides of the podium. He was eighty years old, fighting Parkinson’s disease, but he stared intently at the throngs inside the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and spoke in a steady, forceful voice. There was no hint of hesitation, no uncertainty or ambiguity. His sermon was essentially the same simple and direct message he had been preaching for fifty years.

“God loves you so much that he gave us his Son to die on the cross for our sins. And he loves you so much that he will come into your life and change the direction of your life and make you a new person, whoever you are.” So he urged them to come. And they did.

Some five hundred miles north of where Billy Graham was staging his Indianapolis campaign, Charles Templeton a once long time friend of the evangelist was struggling with Alzheimer’s.  For Charles Templeton — ironically, once Billy Graham’s pulpit partner—questions about God hardened into bitter opposition toward Christianity. Like Graham, Templeton once spoke powerfully to crowds in vast arenas. Some even predicted Templeton would eventually eclipse Graham as an evangelist.

But that was a long time ago. That was before the crippling questions. Today Templeton’s faith—repeatedly punctured by persistent and obstinate doubts – has leaked away. Maybe forever. Maybe.

FROM FAITH TO DOUBT

The year was 1949. Thirty-year-old Billy Graham was unaware that he was on the brink of being catapulted into worldwide fame and influence. Ironically, as he readied himself for his breakthrough crusade in Los Angeles, he found himself grappling with uncertainty over the fundamental issue of whether he could totally trust what his Bible was telling him.

In his autobiography, Graham said he felt as if he were being stretched on a rack. Pulling him toward God was Henrietta Mears, the bright and compassionate Christian educator. Yanking him the other way was Graham’s close companion and preaching colleague, thirty-three-year-old Charles Templeton.

The skeptical Templeton was tugging his friend Billy Graham away from repeated assurances that the Scriptures are trustworthy. “Billy, you’re fifty years out of date,” he argued. ‘People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple.”

Templeton seemed to be winning the tug-of-war. “If I was not exactly doubtful,” Graham would recall, “I was certainly disturbed.” He knew that if he could not trust the Bible, he could not go on. The Los Angeles crusade — the event that would open the door to Graham’s worldwide ministry was hanging in the balance.

Graham searched the Scriptures for answers, he prayed, he pondered. Finally, in a heavy-hearted walk in the moonlit San Bernardino Mountains, everything came to a climax. Gripping a Bible, Graham dropped to his knees and confessed he couldn’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that Templeton was raising.

“At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it. ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.’”

Rising from his knees, tears in his eyes, Graham sensed the power of God as he hadn’t felt it for months. ‘Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed,” he said. “In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.

For Graham, it was a pivotal moment. For Templeton, it was a disappointing turn of events. Now on different paths, their lives began to diverge.

History knows what would happen to Graham in the succeeding years. He would become the most persuasive and effective evangelist of modern times and one of the most admired men in the world. But what would happen to Templeton? Decimated by doubts, he resigned from the ministry and moved to Canada where he became a commentator and novelist.

Now an aging man struggling with Alzheimer’s, Templeton would write that a God of love would never inflict that disease on anyone.  In fact it was the very issue of evil and suffering that caused the evangelist turned novelist to doubt the scriptures.  That’s how Lee Strobel found him.  “What caused you to lose your faith in God?”  He asked

“It was a photograph in Life magazine. It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa. They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, ‘Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?”

“Prior to that, I had been having more and more questions.  I found to my dismay that I could no longer believe the message. To believe it would be to deny the brain I had been given. It became quite clear that I had been wrong. So I made up my mind that I would leave the ministry. That’s essentially how I came to be agnostic.”

“Would you like to believe?”

“Of course” he exclaimed. “If I could, I would. I’m eighty-three years old. I’ve got Alzheimer’s. I’m dying, for goodness sake.  But I’ve spent my life thinking about it and I’m not going to change now. “No,” he declared. “No. There cannot be, in our world, a loving God.”. “There Can not be.”

That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. He said as his voice began to crack, “I . . . miss . . . Him.”  I miss Jesus. With that, tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.

One man was headed for a life of blessing.  The other for a life of shipwrecked faith.  Which direction are you going?  And how will you bring down the blessing on your life?

[i] https://www.truelife.org/answers/are-errors-in-the-bible

[ii] http://alwaysbeready.com/bible-evidence?id=99

[iii] http://alwaysbeready.com/bible-evidence?id=99

We Believe in the Holy Spirit

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Someone once asked George Washington Carver how he was able to do so much with the simple peanut.  He answered, “You know if you love something enough, it will give its secrets up to you!”  Today we are going to begin to discover the secrets of the amazing Holy Spirit!  And it all starts with a love relationship with Him!

Will the real Holy Spirit please stand up!  Just who is the Holy Spirit?  To most Christians, the Holy Spirit is something of a mystery.  Sure, we know He’s God, or so, we’ve been taught.  For the last two thousand years, Christians have steadfastly held to a precious truth called the Trinity; three persons, only one God. The Father is God, the Son is God and yes, the Holy Spirit is God. The Trinity depends upon the reality of the Holy Spirit.

Just who is the Holy Spirit? And does it matter? The Bible is very clear on the subject. Take 2 Corinthians 3:17 as an example; “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Nothing ambiguous about that!

The Word “Lord” in the New Testament is the equivalent of the Old Testament words Adonai (Lord) and Jehovah, or Yaweh! We could easily say, “Now Jehovah is the Spirit,” or “The Spirit is Jehovah,” just as easily as we say, “Jesus is Lord,” (Rom 10:9), and the Father is Lord; “I am the LORD, and there is no other, there is no God beside me!” (Isaiah 45:5)

The Holy Spirit is an amazing “person!”

The Amazing Holy Spirit is a person!  When I say person, I don’t mean human.  I mean that he is a living individual.  He has incredible thinking and creative powers.  He can love you like no one else.  And he is the most wise decision maker over.  He thinks, he feels and he acts, like any other individual.  Over and over, the Bible identifies Him in personal terms.  Listen to these powerful passages.

John 15:26; But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

John 16:7-8, Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

John 16: 13-14. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

He loves (Romans 15:30), Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.  Ro 5:5  the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit

He teaches (John 14:26), But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” 1 Cor 2:13, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

The Holy Spirit does things only a person could do.

He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4) But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?  4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

The Amazing Holy Spirit is God.

He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). the eternal Spirit

He is everywhere (Omnipresent) (Psalm 139:7-10). Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

He knows “all things” (Omniscient) (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

He was involved in the creation process (Genesis 1:2). And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath [Spirit] of His mouth.”

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19.

Some passages in the Old Testament that are attributed to God are applied to the Spirit in the New Testament

Isaiah 6:8-10 with Acts 28:25-27

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

“The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,  26 saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive;

Exodus 16:7 & Psalm 95:7-9 with Hebrews 3:7-9).

Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt.  7 And in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord; for He hears your complaints against the Lord. But what are we, that you complain against us?”

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ 11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”

The Amazing Holy Spirit lives inside us!

Now the good news; believers have The Spirit living inside us! We don’t have some impersonal life force, electrifying our insides… we don’t have an angel or even an extension of God’s invisible hand reaching out to us, we have God Himself living inside as our constant companion and guide. We have The Holy Spirit empowering, filling, convicting, gifting, transforming, empowering and renewing our lives. We have the Spirit!

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[c] and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor 6:19-20)

We are a holy temple! Inside us is the most incredible power of the universe! The God who made the stars, spoke the world into being, parted the Red Sea, walked on water and made the blind to see indwells every believer! What kind of man or woman are you going to be when that truth finally awakens you to its full potential? One day you will wake up, and with Paul you will shout, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phil 4:13) The Holy Spirit is our strengthener.  He enables us to do more than we can ask or think!

He fills us!  He lives inside us.  Prayer is made possible by the Holy Spirit, that God’s work is accomplished as God pours out His Spirit.  According to 2 Cor 3:17-18 it is the Holy Spirit who changes us into Christ’s likeness.  It is the Holy Spirit that produces such incredible life changing qualities as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness and self control (Gal 5:22)  When you know that you have been pulled from the pit, you cannot help but be grateful!

The Holy Spirit gives us liberty

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit bears Witness with Our Spirit

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,.

The Holy Spirit Prays for Us

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us[b] with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

The Holy Spirit enables us to overcome all things. The Holy Spirit overcomes stagnation. resistance, desperate situations, the works of the flesh, the wilderness in human life, temptation, world history, decay, even death.

The story is told of a composer who had fallen on hard times.  He was almost bankrupt, he was weak and tired.  He returned one night to his room in a drab section of London.  There he found a manuscript with a request that he set the words to music.

As he read the words he discovered they were scripture.  He became so immersed in his task that he sometime forgot to eat and sleep.  One day he emerge with the great oratorio called “The Messiah!”

Later George Fredrick Handel told his friends that when he was composing the “Hallelujah Chorus,” it was as though he could hear the angels singing, and it was as though he was only writing down the music which the Holy Spirit put in his head.  Such is the amazing power of the Holy Spirit!

Jesus is the Son of God

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In 2010, when being interviews by Parade Magazine, Sir Elton John made this comment about Jesus: “I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him.”[i]

B-b-b-Benny and the Jets!  Holy Cow!  Gad zukes man!  I THINK Sir Elton meant that to be a compliment, but somehow, unbeknownst to him, I think the pop icon did exactly the opposite!  And I’m not sure which is the biggest un-compliment of all; being “gay,” or being “super-intelligent?”

Calling the Prince of Peace “gay” places Jesus squarely in the camp of sinners like the rest of humanity… and that is just plain appalling theology.  It’s not even theology; it’s a corruption of the Scriptures and a complete re-reading of history.  But denigrating Jesus by assuming that He is nothing more than “super-intelligent” is to compare the Son of God to a super successful game-show contestant on Jeapordy:

“I’ll take ‘humanizing Jesus’ for $100, Alex.”

“Name the president who cut ‘diamonds from the dunghill,’ to create his own Bible, complete with nothing but the Words of Jesus?”

(Beep, beep, beep)  “Thomas Jefferson!”

Right.  That’s Double Jeopardy for sure!  There are so many contradictory portraits of Jesus available that the ordinary Christian cannot help but be confused. Nowadays the wildest speculations are eagerly aired on the Discovery Channel or published by “The Jesus Seminar” and obscure the genuine character of our Lord which is essential to Christian faith.

Was Jesus nothing more than a super-intelligent man, or was he the all-wise God?  In the past, theologians have framed this theological issue by explaining Jesus two natures as “the hypostatic union of the theoanthropic person.”  In laymen’s terms this means that Jesus two natures, divine and human, were combined in one person.

The book of Hebrews chapter one in an incredible commentary on just who Jesus is!  In this chapter Jesus is compared to the angels.  According to 1:4 he is better than angels.  In verse 5, He is a Son, angels aren’t.  In verse 6 Jesus is worshiped, angels are not.  In verse 7-8, Jesus is reigning with God, angels are simply his subjects.  In verse 10 Christ is the creator, and the angels?  They are the created.  So lets dig into this in a little more detail to see what we believe about the Son of God.

The Person and Work of Jesus 1-3

Verses 1-3 describe the words and works of Jesus Christ.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

This is a sublime summary of our amazing savior.  Here is what we learn about Jesus:

He is God’s spokesman – “in these last days spoken to us by His Son”  When Jesus speaks, God speaks.

He is the heir of all things – He owns it all.

He made everything.

He is the brightness of God’s glory and the express  image of His person.  (3) This verse is designed to state the dignity and exalted rank of the Son of God.  Every word is employed with great importance.

GLORY:  The word “Glory” means, “splendor, honor excellence, perfection, praise!”  It is prefaced by the word “brightness,” the brightness of his glory!  It is used of a reflection.  Jesus reflects the Father’s glory!  God is light and Jesus is the Light of the world.  It is as though when you look at Jesus in the mirror, you see the incredible glory of the Father streaming back into the room.

EXPRESS IMAGE:  The Greek word is one you will recognize:  “character” Our English word is simply a transliterated Greek word.  And it literally means the imprint, stamp or engraving, like those on a coin meant to be an exact resemblance of the bearer.  In other words, when we look at Abraham Lincoln on the Penney, that is what he supposedly looks like!  When you look at Jesus you see the spitting image of His Father!  The writer of Hebrews wanted to be clear.  Jesus and the Father are one!

We also learn from verse 3 that Jesus holds all things together.

He paid for our sins

He is sitting at the right hand of the Father.

That is a great summary, and we could spend a lot more time on these verses going deeper, but today, we are going for the big picture.  We are going for the whole chapter.

He is the begotten Son of God 4-5

4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”?  And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”?

Muslims say that God is above having a Son.  To say that God had a Son is a monstrous thing; at it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin that they should invoke a son for God.  [ii]

How could the Almighty have a son?  How is that evern possible?  Well if God is a Father, I suppose He is named so, because He had a Son.  And if God had a Son, what else would He have, certainly not a mere mortal.  If Dogs beget dogs; and cats have cats; and if humans are born to humans, if God were to beget a Son, he would of necessity be divine.

The Nicene Creed explains it this way, “[we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

In other words, although Jesus was a fully human person, he also was and is fully God. He is God; who was made flesh.

He is Worshiped as God

6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

For a Jewish writer to ascribe worship to Jesus Christ is unimaginable.  Deuteronomy 6:13 commands, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”  Jesus Himself quoted that verse in the New Testament.  It is one of the Ten Commandments.  God and God alone is worthy of worship.  Angels are not.  Men are not.  Only God is.

But Jesus accepted the worship of men.  No wonder the Jews wanted to stone him!  No wonder it is so difficult for a Jew to accept Jesus.  But the writer of Hebrews claims that God the Father commanded the angels to worship Jesus!  If that truly happened, it is a certain proof that Jesus is God.

It just so happens that it did.  For there were shepherds abiding in the fields by night, and the glory of the Lord shown round about, and the heavenly host of angels worshiped and shouted, “Glory to God in the highest!”

He is enthroned as God 7-8

7 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.” 8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

The statement I want us to ponder is one which God the Father Himself composed about Jesus; “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever!”  God the Father called the Son, God! He led in the coronation of Jesus as the supreme ruler of the Kingdom!  A place reserved for God alone, because it is God alone who takes the throne!

He is the Eternal Creator God 10-12

10 And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.”

It was Jesus who laid the foundation of the earth!  It was Jesus who made the heavens as the work of his Hands.  Jesus is the creator!  All things were made by Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made.  He is before all things, and by Him, all things consist!

The world is coming to an end.  The universe is winding down.  All things are growing old.  Like a worn out coat, it will one day be cast aside.  There is coming a new heaven and new earth that will be need to be created by Jesus Christ for those who love Him and Serve him.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John,[a] saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,[b] “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things] and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21: 1-7)

[i] http://www.news-record.com/blog/52992/entry/83049  http://www.parade.com/celebrity/celebrity-parade/2010/elton-john-web-exclusive.html

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_view_of_the_Trinity

Does God Exist?

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“Carl Sagan once told a parable of a man who comes to us and claims:  “There is a dragon in my garage.” Fascinating! We reply that we wish to see this dragon—let us set out at once for the garage!

“But wait,” the claimant says to us, “it is an invisible dragon.”

Now as Sagan points out, this doesn’t make the hypothesis unfalsifiable. Perhaps we can go to the garage, and although we see no dragon, we may hear heavy breathing; or perhaps footprints that mysteriously appear on the ground; and instruments show that something in the garage is consuming oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.

But now suppose that we say to the claimant, “Okay, we’ll visit the garage and see if we can hear heavy breathing,” and the claimant quickly says no, it’s an inaudible dragon.”

We propose to measure carbon dioxide in the air, and the claimant says the dragon does not breathe. We propose to toss a bag of flour into the air to see if it outlines an invisible dragon, and the claimant immediately says, “The dragon is permeable to flour.”

To secularists, God is the dragon; invisible, inaudible, and non-existent.   They say that he is un-provable because he does not exist.  Today in our series called, “We Believe” in God, we are going to discuss – What do you say to the person who does not believe in the existence of God?

The book of Romans has some very straight forward things to say to the world of skeptics, agnostics and atheists.  And the point of this passage is to point out the obvious: Yes Virginia, there is a God.  I want to take you through the conversation that Paul had with the imaginary atheist of his day, in a question and answer format.  We will ask and answer 5 questions that Atheists ask.  And by the time we are finished, I hope you’ll be soundly convinced that there is evidence for the existence of God.

  1. Why don’t atheists believe in God?

I did quite a bit of reading this last week, and watched a number of videos from Atheists.  Here is what I found.  There is a wide variety of reasons that skeptics give for disbelief.  They rank God up there with fairy tales and unicorns.  They struggle with the injustice of the universe that God would correct if there was a God.  They complain about the many supposed contradictions in the Bible.

But one thing I heard over and over was that the burden of proof was on the believer, because, they say, there is a complete lack of evidence for the existence of God.  So they say it is up to us to convince them of the evidence.

The Bible gives a completely different reason why people don’t believe in God.  In verse 18 it claims that it is because of the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”  While skeptics may give many reasons for unbelief, the underlying motive is that they want to live how they want to live, and they don’t want some real or imaginary god telling them what to do!  This is a universal problem.  Neither men, women or children want to submit to God.  We are rebels at heart who bristle against anyone who dares to challenge us to tell us what to do.

Romans 1:18 claims that even though they know deep down inside that God exists, they purposefully suppress the truth.  Not only do they not like the truth, they suppress it in order to convince others that religion is nothing more than an imaginary fairy tale.

  1. Where should I look to find the evidence?

Verse 19 says that, “what may be known of God is manifest.”  Manifest is a word which means really “obvious, something clearly seen, easily observed, universally known.”

If you want to know where the evidence for the existence of God is, just look around.  Evidence abounds everywhere you look.  It is in a child’s smile, in a starry sky, in a mountain stream, in your DNA and fingerprints.  It is in the sunshine as well as in a thunder storm.  The existence of God is staring out at us from every atom in the universe.  It has become so ordinary and everyday that for those who fail to look, they cannot see it.

But let’s just say that that your Atheist friend suggests that believing in God is like believing in leprechauns.  Don’t buy it for an instant.  Believing in leprechauns is unjustifiable.  They are based on fabricated tales told to children.  But Believing in God is like believing in atoms.  Why do you believe in protons and neutrons?  Have you ever seen one?  I have not.  But you believe in them?  How did you come to that conclusion?  You followed the evidence of what you can see to believe the existence of something you cannot see.

Here is my proposal to you:  I challenge you to look closely at everything in life, and if you do, you will discover evidence of a loving God who is there.  Ask God, “Please show yourself to me.”

  1. Why doesn’t God just show me he exists?

He has!  Verse 19 concludes, “God has shown it to them!”  Now I told you that evidence for the existence of God is universally available and knowable by anyone who wants to see.  So now I’m going to get specific about where you can find it.

The first place to look is internally.  Eccl 3:11 states that God has put eternity in our hearts.  We cannot escape God, because we have a God consciousness stamped in our hearts.  Augustine said that there is a God shaped vacuum inside every man, and that man is restless until he finds his rest in God.  Man can intellectually argue God away, but he cannot crush the consciousness of God in his own heart.

Marilyn Adamson writes, “I was an atheist at one time. And like many atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don’t believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people…to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded.

To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.  I didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known.[i]

author Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.”

C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”[ii]

  • Philosophers agree that a transcendent Law Giver is the only plausible explanation for an objective moral standard. So, ask yourself if you believe in right and wrong and then ask yourself why. Who gave you your conscience? Why does it exist?
  • People of every race, creed, color, and culture, both men and women, young and old, wise and foolish, from the educated to the ignorant, claim to have personally experienced something of the supernatural. So what are we supposed to do with these prodigious accounts of divine healing, answered prayer, and other miraculous phenomena? Ignorance and imagination may have played a part to be sure, but is there something more?[iii]

Man has the uneasy feeling that we are not alone.  Man in the depths of his heart knows there is a God.

  1. Just what is this evidence you speak of?

Verse 20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…”

Very simply, creation points to the creator.  The Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe, observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset—all of these things point to a Creator God.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth (with all of its evils) and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.

Here are some truths that creation teaches us.

  • Discoveries in astronomy have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe did, in fact, have a beginning at a single moment of creation. The universe burst into being in one moment.  They call it, “the Big Bang.”  We call it Creation.  Because we know that every Big Bang requires a Big Banger!
  • Advances in molecular biology have revealed vast amounts of information encoded in each and every living cell, and molecular biologists have discovered thousands upon thousands of exquisitely designed machines at the molecular level. Information of this complexity requires intelligence and design requires a designer.
  • Biochemists and mathematicians have calculated the odds against life arising from non-life naturally via unintelligent processes. The odds are so astronomical they are impossible. In fact, scientists aren’t even sure if life could have evolved with some intelligent processes guiding them.
  • The universe is ordered by natural laws. Where did these laws come from?[iv]

The human body is an absolute marvel.  Take the eye for instance.  Our eyes are inset, so as to protect them.  The eyelid defends the eye from injury, wipes it, keeping it moisturized and clear, and closes in sleep.  Its vision is sharper than a camera, and has never been replaced by a newer model.  The ear is an acoustic marvel.  We can hear some 15,000 tones.  Not only is the ear for hearing, but it controls equilibrium as well.  Stretched over our body is skin, so tough as to endure a shocking amount of use and punishment, and yet so sensitive as to detect texture and temperature of most anything it contacts.  Then there is the heart.  It has its own nervous system that operates independently so that if all other nerves were severed, the heart would keep beating.  It beats some 20,000 times a day, 40 million beats per year, and over 2 billion times in a lifetime.  Most without maintenance, without rest or repair.  Even man’s best engines cannot match that.  Then there is the mouth, what can we say about that.  Some of us can talk for hours on end without so much as a single breath.  Only God could have created such an intricate and amazing creation.

God’s invisible attributes are clearly detailed in creation.  God’s eternal power and Godhead are clearly understood by what he has made

A revolutionary once boasted to a peasant, “We are going to pull down all that reminds you of God.”  Said the peasant dryly, “Citizen, pull down the stars then!”

  1. What if Still I don’t believe?

You are in trouble.  Look at the last four words of verse 20, “they are without excuse.”  You are without excuse.  Facts are stubborn things and whatever our wishes may be, they cannot alter the state of facts or history.  You may wish pigs to fly, or monkeys to be men, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

The Bible says that in the long run, we must accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If God so desired, He could simply get on TV and prove to the whole world that He exists. But even then, many would not believe.  Even if one cam back from the dead, they will not believe.

“Jesus told Thomas, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believe’” (John 20:29).

[i] https://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

[ii] https://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

[iii] http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/does-god-exist-c.htm

[iv] http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/does-god-exist-c.htm

God and the Culture of Disbelief

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The summer of the 2017 fire season will go down as one of the worst in history.  So far over 500,000 acres in Oregon have turned to ash, costing some 240 million dollars this year.[i]  Oregon is burning.  Pray for rain.  Over in Montana, the scorched earth has spread to over 1 million acres.  Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Arizona are battling wildfires as well.  And believe it or not fires have burned over 100,000 acres in Florida earlier this summer, where they now await Hurricane Irma.

These wildfires are a parable for our country.  Our culture has become a tinderbox of disbelief that has exploded into chaos.  The morals, values and beliefs that once held our society together are now in smoldering ruins.  America is burning.

We live in a culture of disbelief.  More and more people refuse to accept that the Bible is true.  The world is quickly becoming skeptical.  Increasingly, faith is written off as the stuff of silly fairy tales.  We Christians who hold to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scriptures are now the object of scorn and ridicule.  And our message, that Jesus death and resurrection is necessary for salvation, has become so offensive that critics are clamoring to silence it.

But ideas have consequences.  And the consequences of disbelief are a loss of hope and a world in chaos.  In this message, we are going to address the serious problem of disbelief and show you the incredible power of faith in Jesus.  This is the first in a series where we will respectfully lay out our creeds and show you that what you believe makes a difference in how you live.  If you want to live well, you must believe well.  If you want hope, peace and joy, you must get a grip on the fundamental truths of the faith.

But first, let us address the culture of disbelief

The Culture of Disbelief

22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

Let’s begin at verse 22.  It details the two major reasons for disbelief.  The world does not believe because of two major obstacles.

#1 Some people demand a sign.

If God exists, why doesn’t he make it a little bit more obvious to the skeptic?  Why not make a big show of himself?  Why not give a sign of incontrovertible proof that he exists?  Have you ever asked yourself the question, what evidence is there that is convincing enough to prove to you that God exists?

One woman tells the story of how she begged God for a sign.  “Around three o’clock in the morning I decided to get out of bed and go sit on the balcony. Our room boasted a spectacular view of the Southern Rocky Mountains, looking out at two huge peaks. When I stepped outside I was stunned to see a storm raging silently between the two mountains. The only sound was the rustling of a mild breeze as the lightning flashed brilliantly to illuminate the great cloud, probably a hundred miles away. It must have been 60,000 feet tall with raging winds, battering the ground below with rain or hail; and yet it seemed like it was framed neatly there between the two mountains just for my amusement. An artist wouldn’t have painted like that, because it would seem too contrived.

“The rest of the sky was completely clear, and packed with stars. Just as I looked up to try to pick out some constellations, a large meteor sparkled across the sky. Then another. I saw probably eight in total that night, many of them large with long, dazzling trails. It was breathtaking.  It was the middle of the night and I was probably the only person watching this display.

“Well,” I smirked to myself, “be careful what you wish for.” I had asked for a sign, and this was about as “sign-ish” as it gets. What more did I want? Yet I wasn’t convinced. Even as my heart raced witnessing the grandeur before me I wrote it off as just a storm and an unexpected meteor shower. I refused to believe that there was anything more to this than a random cloud and some dust entering the earth’s atmosphere.

“I realized then that there was no sign that God could give me.  If this wouldn’t suffice, nothing would. I wasn’t open to it. Had I walked out on the balcony to see “HI JENNIFER, IT’S ME, GOD!” written across the sky I would have been impressed but ultimately written it off as a practical joke. If Jesus himself materialized to shake my hand and greet me I’d write it off as a hallucination. Because, in my mind, there was a natural explanation for everything, so therefore anything supernatural was impossible.”[ii]

Jesus perceptively said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.”  John 4:48

But God does send signs.  Mahatma Gandhi once perceptively noted, “Mankind is notoriously too dense to read the signs that God sends”.

In that He was right.  The greatest sign ever given is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And yet the skeptic then and now disbelieves.  God gave the Israelites sign after sign in the wilderness on the way to the holy land, and yet they rebelled and did not believe.  And God let that whole Generation wander in the wilderness for 40 years for their disbelief.

When you say you need a sign, usually it means, no sign will do.  Let me tell you, in my lifetime I have witnessed a multitude of miracles, signs, and answers to prayer that the average skeptic would write off as just a coincidence.  The reason the world is disbelieving, is because they wish to disbelieve.

#1 Some people demand an explanation.

“Greeks seek after wisdom.”

Those seeking after a sign say, “show God to me.”  Those seeking after wisdom say, “explain God to me!”  They demand scientific, documented, indisputable proof.  They are looking for a naturalistic explanation

You can explain how creation can’t happen without a creator.  You can explain that something cannot come from nothing, that life cannot come from non-life, and that complexity cannot come from simplicity.

But they would rather believe that kissing frogs may evolve into princesses… if you give them millions and millions of years; that life will eventually crawl out of toxic primordial slime if there’s a chance in hell… that once upon a time great big bangs created entire universes instead the chaos that explosions create today.

Why do bicycles and Beethoven and root beer not pop into being from nothing? Why is it only universes that can come into being from nothing?  Nothing is the absence of all things: no matter, no energy, no substance, no potential.  For something to come into being, it has to at least have the potential to do so.

Listen, there are rational arguments, explanations and good science behind what we believe.  Can you prove that there is a God using science?  Of course not.  Would you weigh a hen with a tape measure or ruler?  Of course not!  A tape measure is the wrong tool for the job.  Not everything in life has a scientific explanation.  You can’t measure love or even explain it scientifically.  It is the wrong tool for the job.  You can’t measure or explain why we dream.  The same holds true for personality, humor, thought life, and spirituality.  Science is one way to measure the world around us, but it is not the only way we measure the world around us.

So how do we respond to a culture steeped in disbelief?  How should we respond to skepticism?  First of all, we should give solid reasons why we believe.  That is imperative.  But second, we must realize that our Gospel is not naturalistic, it is supernatural!  Faith requires the intervention of God!

The Message of the Gospel

In response to disbelief, we preach Jesus!  Faith in Jesus Christ is one of those factors that science can’t measure, explain or explain away!  Our job is to present the good news of the Gospel so simply, so clearly and so honestly that every person who hears it, understands that he or she must respond to the Spirit of God and believe, or they are eternally lost.  I find two guidelines in these verses for dealing with disbelief.

#1 We preach without sophistry

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Here is our first guideline: Christ expects us to preach the gospel without using what this verse calls, “the wisdom of words.”  The wisdom of words is a figure of speech which refers to the rationalistic methods and impressive sounding arguments that the Greeks used in their debates to try to convince others of their views.

They loved to wax eloquent and try to explain the world with educated sounding reasoning.  In their world as in ours, the man with the golden tongue and eloquent speech gained the largest following.

#2 We preach with simplicity

23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Our simple message is that God sent His only Son Jesus to the earth in the form of a man.  He lived a sinless life, and was crucified and died in our place for our sins.  On the third day He rose from the dead.  This is the Gospel that leads to eternal life if you believe it.

We are not to dazzle people with our brilliance, nor baffle them with our baloney.  We are to preach a simple message, so simple that even a 5th grader could understand it.

One preacher tells the story of a Seminary course in homiletics (preaching). During that semester, each of the students was required to preach a sermon to the rest of the class. When it was his turn, everything was perfect:  Clear biblical points, great illustrations, fantastic humor.  When he received his evaluation, he was stunned by what his professor said, “You can’t convince people that you are wonderful and that Jesus is wonderful in the same sermon.”[iii]

Little more than a century ago, the British Isles were blessed with one of the best communicators of all the time, the great Charles Spurgeon.  A prominent scientist went to hear him. Following the sermon, his assistant asked him, “Well? What did you think of him?”  Still awed by the message, he answered, “Oh, Spurgeon! I haven’t been thinking about him. I’ve been occupied thinking about Spurgeon’s Jesus!”

Oh, that I could like that, so that when the sermons end, people would say, “I can’t tell you much about the preacher. I was too preoccupied with thinking about Jesus.”  I don’t want you to leave here saying, “What a preacher! What a preacher!” Instead, I’d like you to leave saying, “What a Savior! What a Savior!”

Only when the simple Gospel changes people by the power of God will we ever penetrate a disbelieving world.

[i] http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-how-many-acres-burn-2017-eagle-creek/

[ii] http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2009/08/asking-god-for-sign/

[iii] https://www.redletterchristians.org/what-a-saviour/

The Power of Confession

Why is it so hard to admit it when you are wrong? 

Many of us have a difficult time facing the facts, but according to a new book, it’s not all our fault after all!  Blame it on your brain!  Psychologist Elliot Aronson says our brains work hard to make us think we are doing the right thing, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Psychologists refer to this as cognitive dissonance – which is the brains attempt at self justification.  We know that it is wrong, and we condemn it in others, but to compensate, so we can live with ourselves, we minimize or dismiss the problem that we have.

For example: You think of yourself as an honest person, but you cheated on your last exam. You can either: #1 Admit that cheating is wrong and that maybe you’re not as honest as you thought, (but that would be harsh). Or, #2 you can apply cognitive dissonance and justify the cheating by saying that a lot of other students were doing it too, so it really just leveled the playing field.

Another example:  You think of yourself as a fairly competent and smart individual, but when your work is reviewed by your colleagues, they point out several errors. (Ouch) You can either:  #1 Acknowledge the mistakes and reevaluate your work. (You could, but that would make you look bad) Or, #2 Apply cognitive dissonance and accuse your colleagues of jealously, of not being on the same academic level as you, or bias.  Mistakes were made (But Not by Me).

To further complicate the issue, your brain is hard wired to reinterpret your memories in order to paint you in the best possible light.  While we all firmly believe our memories are accurate, and that misinterpreting our memories would never happen to us, studies have shown that “memories are distorted in a self-enhancing direction in all sorts of ways.” [i]

People remember voting in elections they didn’t vote in; they remember giving more to charity than they really did; they remember that their children walked and talked at an earlier age than they did.  They also remember catching a bigger fish and shooting a bigger deer than they really did.

If you’ve ever been sure that you remembered an episode of your past correctly only to later find evidence that your version of events couldn’t possibly have been true, you know how disturbing it is when you realize your memory isn’t as reliable as you once thought.

For example, some say, “I’m not really an alcoholic; I rarely drink more than I should.  I don’t have that big a problem with my temper; I’ve got it under control most of the time.  So I cheated once; I don’t make a habit of it.  Ok, so I lied, you can trust me!  I don’t have a problem admitting when I’m wrong; in fact I can’t remember the last time I was wrong!”

When asked, “What is the wrong with the world? G.K. Chesterton perceptively replied, “I am.”

If I choose to minimize, dismiss, or justify my problems, there is no hope that I will ever overcome them.  My ability to grow spiritually is directly proportional to my ability to objectively self evaluate my sins … or should I say, my wiliness to let the Holy Spirit reveal my sins.

And that leads us to today’s topic about the Power of Confession; it is essential to admit it when you are wrong if you are ever to overcome your sins.

Confession Conquers Self Deception

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

Notice that the word “sin” is in the singular.  (If we say we have no sin –  i.e. that we are not sinners). The reason it is in the singular is because it is not talking about our behavior, instead it is talking about our nature or who are we on the inside.

In preparation for this chapter I read numerous articles by psychologists on confession and cognitive dissonance.  Every one of those articles suggested that the reason we don’t like to admit fault is because we like to think we are really good people on the inside and that it goes against our nature to admit that we are anything else but nice, kind, good, innocent people.

This verse calls that “self deception.”  If you think you are a ‘good’ person, you have fooled yourself.  My Bible says that I was born in sin (Psalm 51:5).  That it is my nature to sin (Ephesians 2:3).  That the very best that I can do on my own is stained like a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6).

Why should I believe that I am a sinner by nature?  Because if true, it is arrogant in the extreme to believe that my sinful nature could ever be reformed with a self help book, or rehabilitated in some kind of behavioral unit, or improved if I only try hard enough.  The reality is that all of us are deeply broken and that brokenness first and foremost greatly affects our relationship with God and then bleeds into every area of our life and community.

Instead I must strip away the deception and confess that I am a sinner who is unable to help myself, and that I need a savior to save and transform me.  That is the power of confession.

Confession Results in Forgiveness

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

In this verse the word “sins” is in the plural.  This is talking about the many sins that we commit because we have failed to live up to God’s standards.  These could be sins against our fellow man, or they can be sins only against God.  Any time you discover that you have failed to live up to God’s standards, as plainly stated in God’s Word, you should confess your sins.

Now what does the word “confession” mean.  The word confession in the Greek language is homologeo (ὁμολογέω) – coming from two words homo or homogenous meaning “the same” and logos meaning “the truth.”   It means to say the same thing God says about your sin.  It means to concede to the truth, to agree with the facts, to admit ones guilt, to declare freely, and say the same thing about your sin that God says about it.  It is to take personal responsibility for your own failures.

Here is how you can make a bad confession – some people call it an apology (which simply means that you are defending your actions):

“Look, I’m sorry, OK?”

“I’m sorry; I didn’t realize you were so sensitive.”

“I’m sorry your feelings got hurt.”

If I have offended you, I apologize.”

“I’m sorry, but it really wasn’t all my fault.”

“I apologize, but if so and so hadn’t gotten involved, I would never have done that.”

Regardless of what form self-justification takes, that justification is designed to minimize your responsibility for the mistake or failure.  However pure your intentions, this kind of apology is missing something pretty imperative: An actual apology.

Now let me tell you what a good confession looks like:

SEVEN “A’s” OF A GOOD CONFESSION[ii]

  1. Address all those involved. The scope of confession of fault should specifically reach those you have offended.
  2. Avoid saying “if I have offended you,” “but it’s not all my fault,” or “perhaps I was wrong.” Give an unqualified apology.
  3. Admit specifically what you own up to if you want to be believable.
  4. Acknowledge the hurt you caused. If you aren’t sure how you have hurt someone, you can ask, “have I understood how I hurt you?” or directly, “please tell me how I have hurt you.”
  5. Accept the consequences of your actions. If you broke something, accept responsibility and fix it.  If you have taken something, return it.
  6. Alter your behavior. Explain how you intend to act in the future to avoid this problem.  You may even want to write it down.
  7. Ask for forgiveness, and allow others time to process. Sometimes the people you have hurt are not ready to forgive that very second.

Now we’ve been talking about confessing our faults to one another.  The very act of telling another person of the wrong you have done helps to make you more deeply sorry for having done it.  That’s powerful.  But this verse is really about confessing your faults to God.

You can confess your faults to people all day long and still have them held against you!  If you want divine forgiveness, you need to seek it from God.  That’s when the transformation begins; true confession to High Priest Jesus results in forgiveness, cleansing and a clear conscience.  And that is a powerful step to real transformation.

Confession Makes us Rightly Related to God

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:10

While verse 8 warned us about the deception of claiming that we are born a sweet, good, innocent person with at clean slate at the core instead of a sinful nature, verse 10 is warning about the deception of claiming that we have achieved such a level of wonderfulness that we have are living a sinless, perfect life.

The danger here is twofold – #1 we make God out to be a liar – since God calls us sinful – He must be lying, and #2 His Word is not in us – that is talking about minimizing the standards of God’s word to such a degree, that that our misdeeds are not, nor have ever been sin.  It is about bringing God’s holy standards down to a low and finally achievable level.

Don’t waste your time pretending that you are better than you really are.  You know the old saying, “When you pretend you are perfect it only irritates those of us who really are!”  (NOT!)

The most successful people at overcoming their sins are extremely hard on themselves because they realize that God is holy, and that we should be holy as God is holy.

Confession has little to do with the flood of confessional disclosures that characterize our age on tell-all TV talk shows and social networking sites.  There is even an iPhone app for confession!  In this time of Internet connectivity, amid the din of over-sharing, we mistake spasms of self-revelation for honesty. Our inner voice is not so easily found and cannot be parsed into 10-second bursts or 140 character tweets.

Confession demands something for which there is no substitute: that we be honest with ourselves.  Confession strips away the veil that we often cast over our actions.  This kind of confession demands self-reflection and change.

We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. You may be true or false, the choice is yours. You may wear one mask now and now another later, and never, if you hide well enough, appear with your own true face. But you cannot make these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and if you lie to yourself and to others, then you cannot expect to find truth whenever you incidentally want to know it. If you have chosen the way of prevarication don’t be surprised if truth eludes you when you need it!

When confession becomes a practice, a daily reevaluation of one’s actions — an art — its power grows, instilling a new sense of confidence, a vision of what life truly can be.  Confession is a treasured attitude. It is the cornerstone of the intentional life, not merely a clearing out of the debris that which is bad or wrong in us, but a realignment of what is best for us, an intention to live a better life.[iii]

[i] http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/02/18/owning-up-to-mistakes/

[ii]   Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande – http://storage.cloversites.com/friedensevangelicalchurch/documents/Session%204%20-%20Resolving%20Everyday%20Conflict.pdf

[iii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-wilkes/what-is-confession-and-why-is-it-good-for-you_b_1414795.html

Getting to the Root of My Problems

Slide1           The companion booklet to this message series (available on Amazon) is titled, “Change me.”  I want you to read the sub-title; Notice what it says… “When you really want to change.”  Here’s what is interesting about that sub-title; sometimes we don’t actually WANT to change!

Have you ever said, “I’ll never do that again!” only to repeat the same mistake a few days later?  Have you ever vowed to stop sinning, only to do it again just hours or even minutes later?  Mark Twain once wrote, “To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.”

“I’m never going to smoke again…” and suddenly you have this indescribable urge to have cigarette, or drink, or gamble, or whatever.  What IS it with us humans? Why do we act so contrary to our own self-interests … and so often?

Our problem isn’t lack of information. Bookstores are stocked with countless books about how to eat less and exercise more; dozens of experts advise us to save and invest our money; wise friends warn us to stay away from troublesome lovers. We have plenty of information on getting rid of clutter, managing time, overcoming addiction, managing our finances, and becoming a better person. But all this information doesn’t appear to really change us. We know what we should do but we still don’t do it.

In fact, all too often we do just the opposite of what we know is good for us! We overeat and under-exercise; we spend every last nickel; we fall in love with and marry the wrong person – again. We buy useless stuff we don’t need nor afford, we procrastinate and fritter away time, neglect our bodies, drink to excess, are overcome with anger, distress, depression and anxiety. If anyone else treated us the way we treat ourselves, we’d be outraged![i]

Paul summarized our problem in Romans 7:15, “The things that I want to do, I fail to do, and instead I do the things that I hate myself for doing.”  (paraphrase).

So why do we do the things we do?  What are the root causes of my sins?  If we don’t address the real reasons behind our sin, we will only treat it superficially, adjusting our behavior, not our hearts. God doesn’t want mere behavioral adjustment; he wants affectionate obedience!  Nor will mere attempts at behavioral change really change our deepest motivations.

Many of our sins can be traced back to a deep erroneous belief or a serious fallaciousSlide2 lie. These false promises of acceptance, approval, satisfaction, worth, beauty, and significance have deceived us. If we are to discover true freedom we need the ability to expose those lies. Cultivate a habit of looking beneath your sin to expose the lie underneath it. Once we understand why we sin, we can replace those false promises and the truth that will set us free.[ii]  The Psalmist put it this way:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

Slide3

You have probably seen this phenomena in the forest somewhere.  A tree falls down flat on the ground.  But instead of dying, it sprouts branches that turn into three or four or five trees.  It doesn’t do any good to cut off those shoots.  If you want to kill the tree, you have to pull it out by the roots!  This morning I want to review four root causes of sin, so that you can begin to remove the root and not the shoot.

Slide4#1.  Bad Company – 1 Cor 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad companions corrupt good morals.”

As a root problem, this one is a little different than the others because this one can also be a symptom of a deeper problem.  The truth here is that you often end up imitating the kind of people that you hang around with.  Or (the deeper problem) you hang around those people because you are like them already.  Friendships are critical to faith.  Be careful who you associate with.

If you want to be a successful Christian, hang around other good Christians.  If you want to stay sober, stay away from drunks.  If you have a problem with gossip, don’t hang around the gossip circle.  If you struggle with depression, keep away from people who drag you down.

But please be wary of the danger of blaming the people around you for the way you behave.  Don’t play the blame game, you know the one where you blame your job, your wife, your dog, your mother-in-law, your neighbor six doors down, the media, the government, the receptionist at your doctor’s office, the culture, God, millennials, your lack of education, your medication, the devil, or the dressmaker who measured you wrong as though somehow everyone else is responsible for the problems that you have.

Slide5

If you are hanging around bad company, it’s your problem.  Walk away.

Slide6#2.  Unbelief or Ignorance – Eph 4:17-19

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer live as the rest of the Gentiles live, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

There are two things that Paul is saying in these verses.  #1 Pagans live their lives based on unbelief, ignorance of God’s Word and blindness to spiritual things.  Because they have never been saved and transformed by Jesus they often see nothing wrong with sin, in fact they celebrate it.  Without God, they think nothing is wrong with getting drunk, getting high, becoming transgender, or indulging in lust… and the list goes on.

But they are paying a terrible price for their ignorance and unbelief.  Is it any surprise that transgenders have a suicide rate of 40 percent or that Homosexuals are 3 times as prone to suicide?[iii][iv]  Does it surprise you that Alcohol abuse is involved in over a quarter of suicides?  You cannot sin and get away with it.  You cannot rationalize or justify your sin and get away with it.

What is the answer to the Pagan problem of overindulgence in sin?  You must be born again!  You must submit your life to Jesus.

The second thing that Paul is saying in these verses is to Christians:  #2 Christians are not to live like pagans.  We are not to live in ignorance or unbelief.  There is no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant of sin.  The Bible clearly lists numerous hazardous sins that we are told to avoid.  We are not to justify them nor celebrate them.

Slide8

But Christians often live in unbelief?  One of the root causes of sin is unbelief.  James 1:6-7 tells us that if we doubt that God can answer our prayers, we cannot expect to receive deliverance or anything from the Lord.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us to take up the shield of faith in order to quench the fiery temptations of the Evil one.  Faith is the opposite of unbelief.  While Pagans live in unbelief, Christians must not follow their example.

Slide9#3  A Pleasure Driven Heart – James 1:13-14

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

Hebrews 11:25 describes our problem as “loving the pleasures of sin for a season.”  James 4:1-4 traces our problem to our selfish desire for pleasure.  We want what we want to spend it on our own pleasures.

Sin would be very easy to avoid if it weren’t so pleasurable. There isn’t a single sin that doesn’t carry a pleasure (whether it is a worthy pleasure or not). If sin didn’t contain this aspect, it would be very easy to avoid it.

Sin and pleasure have a very troubling relationship. When we first are enticed into a sin, it is the potential pleasure that lures us. As we become more impassioned, we often find that the pleasure which we once received is no longer experienced, or if it is still there, it is weakened and often even disappointing.

The fact is that we love our sin and it is destroying us.  It is not so much that our anger is destroying us, it is that we love to be angry!  It is not so much that laziness is destroying us, it is that we love to be lazy!  It is not so much that our anxiety is destroying us, it is that we love to worry!  We love to gossip! We love to lust!

Slide10

1 John 2:15 challenges us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

We need to pray that God would give us a personal revulsion and disgust for the sins that we commit.  And a desire to please Him instead of pleasing ourselves.  That leads us to our final root of our sins.

Slide11#4 Lack of Love for God – Matthew 22:37-40

In Matthew 22, Jesus explained that there is really only one way to overcome our sin and obey the Law.  This was His solution:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Modern psychology suggests all kinds of ways to modify your behavior, but they fail to get at the root of the problem.  The root is this, you love your pleasures too much, and you don’t love Jesus near enough.  To really change your heart, you must pray, and ask God to give you personal revulsion for sin and a deep and emotional love for the Savior.  Only love is enough to change your heart.  Love for God and love for your neighbor.

Galatians 5 expands on this idea.  3 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

This then is the answer to changing the root problems of your life.  You must seek to love Jesus more than you have ever loved Him before.  You must seek to live a life focused on the Holy Spirit.  Your new passion and love must be Jesus.  If you do not remove love of pleasure and replace it with love of Jesus, you will never find the motivation to change.

Slide12

What is your motive for action? What drives you in your life today? if we misunderstand the root of our problem, we will miss TRUE and COMPLETE healing! It’s like trying to treat cancer with a Band-Aid.  Have you failed to love the lord and your neighbor with all your heart?  Have you failed to live in the spirit and think on spiritual things?  I’m here because I believe that a passionate love for Jesus is the force that will change your life.  Because I believe that the invisible force of internal drive, activated, is the most important thing that will successfully fix the root of the problem in your life.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/why-dont-we-do-the-things_b_409428.html

[ii] https://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/04/know-your-sin/

[iii] http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/07/evidence-the-transgender-suicide-rate-isnt-due-to-discrimination/

[iv] https://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/student-journals/P12_Schaaff.pdf

What’s My Motivation for Change?

Every one of us is a little dysfunctional.  For some of us life sucks.  Many are struggling with deep, dark, demons like depression, anxiety, anger, alcoholism, addiction, gossip, bitterness, lust, or resentment.

We all have some character flaw we inherited from our parents, some bad habit we picked up somewhere in the past, some unhealthy defense mechanism we default to, some faulty belief that is deceiving and degrading us, or some terrible sin we’ve become addicted to which we just can’t shake.

For example, In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.[i]

We are in serious trouble. I feel the turmoil, confusion, and pain of the people I associate with. It touches my heart to see their struggles.  We want to be better.  We want to be free from our sins.  It’s just that we’ve tried and failed so often that we have begun to wonder whether or not there is any hope.  I love this little saying I ran across this week: “You can’t keep dancing with the Devil, and then wonder why you are still in hell!”

Whatever your regret, Christ has the answer.  You’ve tried but you can’t, but with Jesus, you can.  That’s why I’m preaching this series of messages.  That’s why Jesus died!  He came to free you from your sins.  I’m going to take you through a series of steps, which, if you follow them faithfully and sincerely, Jesus will faithfully deliver you.

The very first thing you must do is to do an examination of yourself to determine why you want to change.  At first it may seem like a no brainer.  After all, you’re broken and you want to be fixed.  You are hurt, and you want to be healed.  What more, besides that, do you need to know?

For the answer to that, let’s look at the success rate of New Year’s Resolutions.  Is anyone in here still keeping their new year’s resolution?  It turns out that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.[ii]  According to U.S. News, 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[iii]  That number eventually increases to over a 90% failure rate.  The University of Scranton researchers suggest that only 8% of the people actually achieve their goals.[iv]

Why is that?  It turns out that motivation is critical!  Most people fail because they fail to maintain their motivation for a long period of time.  Your motivation will have an exacting, direct impact on your success.  In your booklet on page 6, there is a list of motivations.  Look it over and check all motivations that apply.

I want to overcome my sin because:

  • I am embarrassed or ashamed of how I act.
  • I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
  • I want to stop hurting myself and / or others.
  • I want to be successful.
  • I want to be a better mother / father / husband / wife etc.
  • I don’t believe Christians should act this way.
  • I want to live a holy and pure life.
  • I want to please / glorify God

While some of these may be good motivations, and while we may be motivated by several of them, the reality is that there is one motivation that outshines them all.  There is one motivation, that without it, you might as well join a self help group or go to a secular psychologist, because without this essential value in place you can’t honestly ever expect to fix yourself.  What is that motivation?  Let’s find out.

Today I am going to lead you through three powerful motivations, and show you how you can put them to work for you in changing your life.  Here is the first one.

The Motivation of Fear

the motivation of fear

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

There is much we could discuss here, but I want to focus on one statement, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”

Fear is a great motivator.  We have a tendency to dismiss fear as a weakness, but it’s not that simple. Fear can be incredibly useful.   Fear can be your friend in just the right doses.  There is healthy fear and there is unhealthy fear. Fear can preserve your life from doing stupid stuff. Fear of breaking the law and fear of angering others can prevent you from making stupid choices.

There is one fear that stands out, among all other fears that we ought to nurture, and that is the fear of the Lord.  Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Here’s why.  God knows what you are thinking, even when no one else does.  God knows what you are doing even when no one else is around.

So it is essential that we gain an attitude of respect toward God, which includes a healthy dread of displeasing Him.  So how do you gain a healthy fear of God?  #1 Recognize his presence daily and cultivate his presence.  Spend time in prayer with the Almighty.  #2 Meditate on God’s Word and the majestic greatness of God.  Remind yourself he is all powerful.  #3 Act as though God is with you at all times, because He is.  When you fail, admit that you’ve been caught.  When you are wrong, seek his forgiveness.

2 Corinthians 5:10 gives us another way to cultivate the fear of God.  Recognize that God will one day reprimand your wrongdoings and reward your obedience.  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  If you want to get better, cultivate fear.

The Motivation of LoveThe Motivation of Love

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

The Love of Christ compels us.  Fear motivates, but only in proper doses.  Love also motivates.  It is a higher motivation.  In fact, Jesus said that the number one thing you can do is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Virtually nothing motivates a person more than love.  Being deeply loved gives you strength, loving deeply gives you courage.  When I look at the great men and women in literature, art, music, science and achievement, I notice one defining commonality between all of them –they did what they did because they loved it!  They overcame because Love is motivational.

Love is compelling.  Love is a motivation that will produce lasting change in your life.  You do what you love, and you avoid hurting those you do love.  The love of Christ compels us – verse 15 – so that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us.  If you fall in love with Jesus, You will soon quit living destructively, and begin living for Him!  That’s what love does!  Love compels us to change.

Above all things, cultivate your love for Jesus.  Remind yourself daily how much you love Jesus and want to serve Him.  Tell Jesus that you’ll serve him and obey him and do anything He says.  Love intensely, and love will change your life.

The Highest MotivationTo Glorify God

1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The highest motivation of all is the Glory of God.  If you are only trying to get better because of you, your motivation will be limited to what you can do.  But if you want Divine transformation, you must have your motivation right!  You must decide to live a pure life because it pleases God.  You must want to overcome sin because it displeases God.  You must decide right now that the purpose of your entire life, and every action of your life is for the highest reason ever: to glorify God!

What does it mean “to glorify God?”  Glorifying God means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honor by bowing before him because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshipped.

Notice the implications of this:  Vs 19 “You are a temple.”  “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.”  In order to do things for God’s glory, in order to experience real life change, you must understand that God made your body as a temple – that means that your body was made for God to inhabit – the Holy Spirit lives in you, and you were made to worship , so you should cultivate worship as part of your daily routine.

The second implication is in verse 19 and 20- “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”  In order to truly change, you must recognize who your master and owner is.  Christian, God owns you!  You don’t have rights over your own thoughts, your own time, your own actions; God owns you so that you have a duty to obey him!  So take a moment right now to adjust your motivation so that your only purpose in existence is Jesus.

We want to change, but change is so hard!

Have you ever switched from junk foods to healthful foods and felt sick to your stomach? Or stopped smoking and nearly chewed your fingers off?  Have you cut back on watching television, spending or gambling and noticed how your former compatriots in those activities tried to nudge you back into doing those things?  You need the right kind of motivation to effect real change!

According to the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, motivation is the most significant predictor of success.  Dr. Ericsson found that experts in many walks of life, whether sport, music, chess, dance, or business, had put in the most hours at their craft. He coined the phrase, “It takes 10 years and 10,000 hours to become an expert.”  In other words, the most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others.  Finding the motivation to change means maintaining your efforts consistently when it would be easy to give up.[v]

The most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others. Why is the relationship between motivation and success so robust? Because high motivation will ensure you keep going when everyone else quits.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

What’s my motivation for wanting to change?  Fear of failure is a good place to start.  Love for God is life changing.  And giving yourself up t to live for Jesus and the glory of God will take you where you need to go.

Change is HardIn closing let me give you the three Ds of motivation:  The first D stands for direction. Before you can change, you must first consider the direction you should go in your life.  In our case the direction is downward to the knees to please God.  The second D represents decision.  Once you know the direction, you must choose to head in that direction.  Choose this day, whom you will serve!  The third D stands for dedication. Once you’ve made your decision, you must dedicate yourself to it.

  • Yes! I want to live my life for the glory of God!  Dear Jesus, I am all yours!

 

[i] http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/how-our-society-breeds-anxiety-depression-and-dysfunction

[ii] http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

[iii] http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

[iv] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#c3806bb596b2

[v] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201201/personal-growth-motivation-the-drive-change

Just HOW do you know?

Slide3Have you ever heard God’s voice speaking to you?

The Blaze commissioned a poll to ask about any intriguing interactions people have with a higher power. “At least one in 10 people will say God has spoken to them, if you ask them bluntly.” Additionally, the Pew Foundation found that nearly a quarter of Americans say they have been given a direct revelation from God.[i]

And I often hear Christians toss around phrases like “God told me,” or “The Lord spoke to me,” or “God led me.” And I must admit, there are abundant cases where people claim to have heard God speak to them, some from people who are reputable Christians.

For example, there are the widely reported stories of Muslims who claim to have had visions of Jesus. In these visions Jesus speaks to them. After these visions, these Muslims, even fanatical terrorists, even Iman’s, men women and children have been converting to Christ and dedicating their lives to Jesus despite persecution, discrimination and threats of death.[ii] How can you argue with that?

On the other hand, we find that even in Scripture the occurrence of God audibly speaking to individuals is extremely rare. So what are we to think about the voices in our head? Is it God speaking? Is it the devil? Are they just my own thoughts? Or am I crazy?

If you are talking about divine revelation, let’s just settle the issue right now, there is no more Scripture being written. The age of the Apostles and prophets on which the church was founded is past (Ephesians 2:20). In Paul’s day, the Apostle said in 1 Corinthians 13 that soon “prophecies would end,” and they did. The last words of the book of Revelation warn us not to add to Scriptures.

Let me be clear; nothing that you hear today from any living man or woman is equal to the Divine Revelation of Scripture. No new revelation is being given. No new Scriptures are being written. If you hear of a prophecy, discount it. If you hear of a new word from God, avoid it. If you feel God is speaking to you, check that message against God’s Word. God will not show anything to you that contradicts what the Bible says. Divine Revelation is complete. It is finished.

However, and this is an important however, Christianity is built on the concept that the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God. He not only witnesses with our spirit, but he leads us and guides us. At regular intervals, the New Testament tells us that God calls us and that if you hear His voice, you should respond to Him. A person who claims to be a Christian and has not experienced the reality of Jesus dealing with his heart, is a Christian in name only. Our faith is based on the direct interaction of God with the believer.

The difference between divine revelation and the guiding of the Holy Spirit however is significant. None of the guidance that you receive can be called revelation. And every time you think you hear the Spirit speaking, the Bible calls us to test those spirits to see whether or not they are from God. How do you test them? It’s not that difficult, (Isaiah 8:20) “To the law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word it is because there is no light in them.”

Our primary topic today is, “how can you have unshakable confidence in God?” The answer is relatively simple: Trust God’s Word. The Objective Basis of our faith is The Word of God. The Bible tells me so. But our secondary topic is, “what about my personal or private revelations?” Our answer to topic #2 is this: see topic #1. If you think you hear his voice it must line up with the Word of God.

An important Reminder 12-15Slide4 - Copy

Be established in the truth

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

After reading this, it sounds like Peter had a drum that he kept on beating. If you were in Peter’s church, you might have heard this question, “What’s Peter preaching on today?” The same thing he preached yesterday! “And what is he going to preach on tomorrow?” The same thing he preached yesterday. He just kept coming back to the same old topic.

In verse 12

He promised to remind us of it always

He noted that we presently were established in it

In verse 13

He promised to remind us of it as long as he lived

Verse 15

Even after he died, he wanted to leave a reminder of it!

new-1So what was this important reminder? It is fairly simple: That they would be established in The Truth! He didn’t want them chasing some new teaching or new revelation or new fangled seminar, the drum Peter beat over and over and over again was this: Be established in the truth. Hold up the truth and the truth will hold you up! God’s Word is Truth! Trust it!

How do you find unshakable, rock solid faith? The Truth? But we might ask Peter, “How to you know that it is the truth? On what do you base it? Peter’s answer: I’ve seen it for myself.

An eyewitness account 16-18Slide6 - Copy

Not a fable or a myth

16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

Just HOW can we trust that the Bible is true? How can we trust that what the Gospels said about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are really accurate? There have been many people over the centuries who raised these same questions.

Mark Twain once said, “The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals… and upwards of a thousand lies.”

More recently Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion stated, “much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries”

Peter recognized that attacks would come. So he affirmed in verse 16, “we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Myths are fables or fairy stories dreamed up by people to illustrate life or spiritual ideals. Peter was surrounded by the ancient religions of the Romans, Greeks, Persians and Egyptians who concocted all sorts of myths about the exploits of their gods.

new-2Peter makes it perfectly clear that the records the Apostles kept about Jesus birth, life and death were not myth. How could he make that claim? Because Peter himself, and the other Apostles were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Peter was there when Jesus healed the blind man, walked on water, calmed the sea and raised the dead. And Peter was there when Jesus was transfigured before him, and Peter saw a man who was more than a mere man, He was God in all his glory! And Peter heard the Father’s audible voice from the mountain say, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!”

Peter’s point is this: Moses received the commandments from God the Father, face to face on Mount Sinai. And the Apostles also received divine revelation from God the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration! If indeed the New Testament records of Jesus are what they say they are, the inspirited word of God, what does that mean for us?

A Divine confirmation 19-21Slide8

19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

How do you know for sure that you can trust God’s word? We have a powerful, divine, prophetic confirmation of the truth. The word “confirmed” comes from a Greek word root “βάσις basis,” from which we get our word basis, meaning “the underling foundation or support for an idea or truth, the justification or reasoning behind something.”

Just what is the basis of our faith? There are two parts to it. #1 The Old Testament Prophetic Word was recorded. #2 the New Testament fulfillment was observed by eyewitnesses. It is a simple matter to research the many prophecies about Jesus; there are over three hundred of them, each written a thousand years or more in advance. It is also a simple matter to check out the historical documents of the New Testament to see how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies.

So powerful is the idea of fulfilled prophecy to the security of our faith that Peter tells us; once you discover the truth, you would do well to heed it. It is like a bright lamp post driven into the shifting sands of the Middle east that is still shining brightly today. One thing about Christianity; we want you to check out the claims of Christ. We want you to see for yourself that they are true!

This is not a private truth

In our day of relativism, where people all over the world are claiming that their truth is a private matter, where they say things like; “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” Listen, truth is not a private matter. If it is true, it is true for all. It is impossible that two opposite ideas could both be true! If there is truth, it is universal.

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. This means that the Word of God can never mean what it has never meant. If you have a private pet interpretation of a passage, and you are the only one to hold it, chances are, you are wrong. The Word of God has an objective, and universal meaning. That is what we should seek.

new-3The rest of this verse tells us that this also means that no prophet has ever shared his own private prophecy. All true prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit. The Prophets were godly men, expressly chosen for a peculiar work, to write the inspirited, inerrant Word of God! That is why we believe that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts, and has complete authority about every subject recorded in it. God’s Word is Truth!

Just how do you know for sure? Simple, the truth of God’s word came from holy men, moved by the Holy Spirit, confirmed by fulfilled prophecy and that is how we know.

Now I want to close this message by warning you about the “jumping Scripture method” of interpretation. Some people read the Bible, waiting for a verse to Jump out at them and give them guidance. Let me give you an example. A married, church attending woman was also dating another man who also attended her church, and she was in a quandary. She was trying to figure out who to go with. So she prayed about it and, like a faithful Christian began to search the Scriptures. But she didn’t go any place as mundane as Exodus 20, which contains the 10 commandments, (Do not commit adultery) no she read somewhere else hoping for a scripture to jump out at her and give her guidance. Then she ran across Ephesians 4:24 which did just that; it reads, “Put on the NEW man!” And she did. Is that what the verse means? No.

Another man was caught in the same quandary. He had to choose between his wife and his lover. He was reading 1 Corinthians 1:3 which read “Grace to you!” Guess what his girlfriends name was? You guessed it.

Remember, a verse can never mean what it has never meant. If you want to know how to avoid the jumping Scripture method, in order to understand the meaning of a verse, never just read a verse; read an entire paragraph, chapter or book. For no Scripture is of any private interpretation. God will never lead you in a way that is contrary to the plain and simple truth revealed in His Word. If He’s speaking to you, His Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.

[i] http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/16/has-god-ever-spoken-to-you-directly-theblaze-wants-to-know-about-your-most-intensely-religious-experiences/

[ii] http://www1.cbn.com/onlinediscipleship/visions-of-jesus-stir-muslim-hearts