Christianity 201

November 3, 2016

The Bible’s Proper Place

by Clarke Dixon

Imagine this scenario: The teenagers of our church have grown up into their twenties and have left town to attend colleges and universities elsewhere. Meanwhile society has shifted and governments have changed so that there is now a hostile climate for Christianity. In fact, officials have stormed our church service, rounded us all up and sent us to prison. We learn that we are all to be executed. We also learn that while things are not as bad for our youth away in other towns, things are not good there either. We can send a letter to them. What would you write?

This is not unlike what we have in the book of 2nd Timothy where Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting execution. He has the opportunity to send a letter to a young pastor in Ephesus named Timothy. What does he write?

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:10 – 17 (NRSV)

Let us summarize: “Timothy, you will be surrounded by bad people, but as for you, be good, keeping the scriptures central.” This is just as important a message for us in our day. In fact we can consider how “be good, keeping God’s revelation front and centre” is proper for us as individuals, families, churches, and as a nation.

For individuals – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

When Paul speaks of “the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” in verse 15, we may immediately think of salvation in terms of what it means for us when we die. The Scriptures do instruct us on such things as they help us see our need for, and God’s provision of, grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. But salvation is a two-sided coin. On the one side we may think of the destination, eternity with God. On the other we can consider the journey, life with God now. The Scriptures also instruct us for the salvation journey as the Holy Spirit transforms us step by step along the way. This second side of the salvation coin, the journey, is in mind when Paul goes on to say that

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work

So as individuals, be good, keeping God’s revelation central!

For families – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

It is sometimes said that faith is a private and personal thing. This is actually a ridiculous statement for how can it be? As I respond to the call to be good, keeping God’s Word central, how can my family be unaffected? As God transforms individuals, He also transforms the experience of those in relationship with those individuals. There is a direct impact on my family and friends when I seek to be good, keeping the wisdom of the Bible central in things like avoiding drunkenness, alcoholism, gambling, adultery, pornography, and the like. There is also a direct impact when I seek to be good like Jesus, as I read about him in the Bible, learning to bear a cross, learning how to love and forgive, and the like. There is a direct impact on my family, friends, and even enemies, when my life evidences the fruit of the Spirit:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)

The Holy Spirit uses scripture to awaken in us a greater desire for such fruit than the kind of fruit Adam and Eve went after. It is good for families, indeed all relationships, to be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

For churches – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

Ask what makes for a good church and you can get a wide variety of responses like good parking, good facility, great speaking, great music, great programming and so on. You can build a great organization without ever cracking open a Bible. However, to form a good people you will need to open the Bible. The Church is not an organization that happens to made up of people, it is a people who happen to get organized. Though not very organized sometimes! To have a great church, we will want to be good, keeping the Bible central.

For our nation – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

What makes Canada great? Some people will say that it is our multiculturalism. However, are we really all that multicultural? There are things that appear to be acceptable, or even promoted in some other cultures that we would think barbaric here. Even the most ardent proponent of multiculturalism in Canada has their limits. So we are not as multicultural as we think we are, for there is a sense of Canadian culture, of limits in what is not acceptable. Where do we get this from? Though we are moving away from it, our culture still owes a great debt to Christian ethics. The Bible has given us a good foundation on which to build a nation. We should not be surprised by this as we are told the Bible is useful for “training in righteousness” (verse 16). Consider, for example, how the opening chapters of the Bible teach us about the dignity of every human being. Those who who would push us to become a fully secular state have difficulty accounting for why, objectively, we ought to value every person. This is just one example of many.

I am a secularist in the sense that I do not think a person should ever be compelled to be a Christian to be a Canadian. Nor should a non-believer be forced to pray a believer’s prayer. However, I also see how Biblical values have served our nation well. We are a nation that enjoys a bit of multiculturalism and a bit of secularism. We can appreciate that. But our nation has also been marinating in Christianity for a long time. So as a nation we can appreciate what Paul tells Timothy; be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

What Paul knew to be good in a time of crisis is good for all time including our time. Don’t be like the rest when the rest have lost their way. Be good, keeping the Scriptures central, sticking close to Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And remember, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit. We also have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for when we fall on the journey and need to get back on our feet, dust off our Bibles, and start again.


Follow Clarke Dixon at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon or on Twitter

March 16, 2016

The Gospel of John and the Religion Salesman

•••by Clarke Dixon

(read this on Clarke’s blog at this link)

How do we know that John, the writer of the Gospel of John, is not a “religion salesman?” People in sales have a very important function but we all have experience of someone who has tried very hard to sell us something we do not need, or something that does not even work. How do we know that John isn’t that kind of salesman? How do we know he is not trying to sell us on some new fabricated-from-thin-air religion? After all, there is a plethora of books and blogs written by “Jesus experts” who would tell us that indeed Christianity and the Jesus of Christianity is a human invention.

John’s sales pitch starts early. The Gospel of John begins with what is probably the most startling introduction in all of literature:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4,14)

John 1The startling nature of these verses may be lost on the Christian reader who has come to love these words and the Lord they point to. But imagine you are one of the early readers of this book, you have heard something about Jesus and have picked up John’s Gospel in order to be introduced more fully to him. John tells us that you start, not with the birth of Jesus, but long before, in fact before Creation. Right from the get go you may well find all this to be blasphemous if you are Jewish, or utter foolishness if you are not. As you read John’s Gospel the claims John makes about Jesus, what he said and did, do not get any less extraordinary. There is no doubt that John is seeking to introduce us to someone who is extraordinary. In fact he is introducing us to God the Son who is risen from the dead. But why should we buy it? Why should we believe John? How do we know he is genuine in his testimony about Jesus and not some religion salesman selling a bogus product?

Those of us who are Christian will appeal to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of Scripture. God is not going to reveal Himself in Jesus to one generation only for the memory of Jesus to be distorted for the generations to come. But even those of us who are not Christian have good reason to weigh carefully the words of John before trashing him as a mere salesman of religion. Take, for example, these words of John:

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

There is so much theology presented in this verse that we often fail to notice a simple truth: “we have seen his glory.” We, as in, “I, John, have seen personally and am an eyewitness to the things I am writing,” and we, as in, “I am not the only one, there are other eyewitnesses that you can check what I am saying with.” This is eyewitness testimony. Further, the final words of the book:

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them . . . This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:20-25)

These reinforce that the writer was someone who was right in the middle of the life and ministry of Jesus, someone seeing and hearing all that is going on, someone who was close to Jesus. This friend of Jesus is identified in early Christian records as being John the apostle, the same John that wrote the following:

1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

While the Christian can appeal to the work of the Holy Spirit, both in the writing and the reading of Scripture, we can also appeal to historical documents. The Biblical Gospels were not written long after the events they describe by people far from them in time and place as many people erroneously believe. Two of them were written by men who rubbed shoulders constantly with eyewitnesses, Mark being a companion to Peter, and Luke often being a companion of, and mixing in many of the same circles as, Paul. The other two Gospels were written by eyewitnesses themselves, Matthew Levi the tax collector, and John the “beloved disciple.” Though taking different perspectives and emphasizing different things, all four agree as to who Jesus is. But did these men make up a new religion to sell to anyone who would hear?

It has been said (I think by J. Warner Wallace) that people who tell lies, who engage in fraudulent activity, are doing so in order to get a) money, b) sex, or c) power. The Gospel writers were not getting rich, but getting into danger. Being Christ followers the Gospel writers would have kept to the strict sexual ethics they record Jesus as affirming, so sex would not be a motivating factor. As for power, persecution was more the norm. These were men willing to die for the truth of what they were sharing about Jesus. These men were willing to pick up a cross and follow. No salesman trying to sell a product he knows is bogus will do that.

Who would you rather listen to? The “Jesus experts” of our day, the people who 2000 years after the events would like you to buy their books? Or John, who was right in the middle of the events he relates, who was an intimate friend of Jesus whom he describes, who devoted his life and was willing to give his life for the truth he was sharing? Who is the religion salesman here really?

What do liberal minded authors want you to know about Jesus? All manner of quite diverse theories, but what they hold in common is that you do not need to care about Jesus. What does John want you to know about Jesus? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) John wants you to know that Jesus cares about you.

(All references are taken from the NRSV. All emphasis are mine)

 

February 10, 2016

Can We Really Trust the Gospels?

Today we welcome back friend and regular contributor Clarke Dixon after several weeks away. From what he told me once before, he’s as happy to be back crafting sermons as we are to read them here. Click the title below to read at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

The Gospels. How Do We Know They Are True?

How do we know any of it is true? Why bother reading the Bible? In our church family we are encouraging the reading of the Gospels over the season of Lent. We will be reading all of the Gospel of Mark, all of the Gospel of John, and parts of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. (A reading schedule is available at calvarybaptistcobourg.com). Why bother committing to such reading? How do we know the stories about Jesus and his teachings in these Gospels are not just fairy tales made up by the disciples?

So how do we know? Consider John 15:26,27:

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27 ESV)

These two verses point us to two answers.

First, we have the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. In verse 26 Jesus says that “the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” This inner testimony from the Holy Spirit can come rather like an intuition but it can also come along as strong feelings, like sorrow and regret or of joy and belonging. This is not just testimony that indeed there is a God, this is testimony that the God Who is wants to have a relationship with us:

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:14-16)

This testimony of the Holy Spirit is to the reality and love of Jesus, but also to the truth of the scriptures.

Jesus was real to me long before I knew there was any evidence for the truth of Christianity which brings us to the second way we know the Gospels are true. We have the historical record, we have the testimony of eyewitnesses: “you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (v.27) Keep in mind that here Jesus is speaking specifically to the disciples, that they are to become eyewitnesses of the facts about who Jesus is, what he said, what he did, how he died, and how he was raised to life again. Because of the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit we do not need evidence to believe, but when something is true we can and should expect the evidence to point in that same direction. We have this evidence through the disciples who were eyewitnesses. We have their genuine testimony preserved for us in the Gospels.

2 Timothy 3:16 points out an interesting fact about the works that make up the Bible:

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Saying that scripture is inspired by God is different than saying scripture is written by God. God is to scripture what the flute player is to music. The music that comes from the flute will be according to the desires of the flutist, but the flutist very much wants to use the flute. There is no scripture without God, and it is exactly as he has planned it to be. Yet there is no scripture without some very genuine flesh-and-blood people involved also. While the testimony of the Holy Spirit may convince us of the truths of scripture as we read, the fact that flesh and blood humans were involved as eyewitnesses points us to some evidence quite outside ourselves.

There are a few things for us to note:

  • The Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or people intimately connected with the eyewitnesses of Jesus. It is interesting and instructive that we do not have just one Gospel written by one person, or even one written by Jesus. Instead we have multiple witnesses. This is not one person attempting to get a new religion going as we often see in cults. Instead the early Christian movement is many people responding to what they saw in and through Jesus. Experiencing the risen Jesus caused many people to recognize the gravity of all the facts around Him. The Gospels were written to get those facts down. This makes better sense than the theory that someone or a group of people tried to turn Jesus into something greater than he actually was.
  • The Gospels preserve the eyewitness accounts of genuine eyewitnesses. Slight discrepancies between the Gospels on minor matters can be a source of stress for those who see the inerrancy of scripture as meaning that God should inspire out and iron out every such thing. However, these slight discrepancies do point to the genuine nature of the Gospels as coming from eyewitnesses to genuine events. The inerrancy of scripture means that the Bible is exactly the way it needs to be do reveal to us exactly what God wants to reveal. That there might be differences, take for example the manner in which the death of Judas occurred, makes no difference to God’s revelation of fundamental truths. That the accounts are not exactly the same demonstrate that the accounts are genuine for it is human nature to remember the important bits of what we experience with greater clarity than the details.
  • The Gospels were written quite closely to the events they describe as a means to preserve the eyewitness accounts. If the Gospels were written even one hundred years following the events they describe and there was not already a coherent Christian movement you might be able to make a case for them being written in an effort to help create yet another new man-made religion. But they are dated much earlier to the events they describe, some scholars putting them as close as within thirty to forty years after. This would put them at about the time people realized they had better start writing things down before the eyewitnesses all passed away. They were written at a time all the facts could still be checked. And they were written after the movement had already gained steam. They were written to preserve, not fabricate.

As we consider the truth of the Gospels, we should not be surprised by efforts to discredit the Gospels and the eyewitnesses that stand behind them. If it is true that Jesus rose from the dead, then it is also true that he died that our sins might be forgiven. And if it is true that he died that our sins can be forgiven, then it is also true that we have a sin problem in the first place. Therein lies the problem for many people. It is not just about confessing interesting facts from history. It is rather confessing a fact about ourselves; we have a sin-against-our-Creator problem and we need help.

Some people are interested in Jesus the way an hobbyist might be interested in airplanes or cars. I can tell you many interesting (to me) facts about airplanes and motorcycles, but they do not change my life one bit. Facts about Jesus, however, are life changing. I remember not wanting to wear glasses and so I refused to admit that I needed them. In grade six I needed to squint to see what was written on the blackboard. By grade eight it seemed I needed to squint to be able to see that there was a blackboard. When I first wore my glasses I felt embarrassed and worried about the names I might be called. But I also saw clearly for the first time in years and wondered why I had waited so long. Those who may be embarrassed at the thought of becoming a Christian, once they do so will wonder they didn’t do so earlier. That I need glasses is a life-changing fact, and the glasses themselves have been life changing. Sin is a life changing fact and Jesus Himself is life-changing.

So as we read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, how do we know they are true? And how do we know that the Good News, the Gospel itself is true? We know it by the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds, and by the compelling testimony of credible witnesses in history. And how can I know I am loved and forgiven by God? The evidence of God’s love is in Jesus, His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit and the eyewitness accounts stand as witnesses to that love.

Next week we will be looking more closely at the Gospel of Mark.

September 16, 2015

August 12, 2012

Hank Hanegraaff Answers Your Questions

(NIRV) I Peter 3:15 But make sure in your hearts that Christ is Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect.

Not everybody agrees with Hank, and Hank doesn’t agree with everybody. So that makes a rather perfect symmetry. But he does his job well, as an author, as host of the Bible Answer Man radio show,  as President of Christian Research Institute,  and considered one of the foremost conservative Evangelical Christian apologists. 

May 23, 2012

Always Ready to Give a Defense

Moving along in the Christian pilgrimage may mean different things to different people. To some it might be:

  • spending more time in God’s presence; more effective and disciplined in prayer; growing in faith; an ever increasing awareness of being loved by God and knowing His ways

while for other people it might be:

  • going deeper into God’s word; developing a mastery of scripture; being able to provide answers to new believers and skeptics alike.

Most people would suggest that the former is the “higher” aim, but to cling to that goal at the expense of Bible study can be folly, especially when friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers ask us questions that we can’t answer, or our answers seem to them as though we are dodging the question, or are intellectually less than satisfying.

My contention is that you can’t have a deeper life without also being active in developing a deeper apologetic; that heart knowledge can’t develop entirely in an absence of head knowledge; that both Spirit and Word need to be involved in spiritual formation.

So I was glad to see this at Eric Bryant’s blog, pertaining to a series at Gateway Church.  I encourage you to read this at source, and then bookmark the site in your browser so you can connect with forthcoming messages in this series. There’s also a link to the sermon audio, but I wanted the outline (below) to be preserved here for a greater number of readers.  The question is:

How Do You Know The Bible Isn’t Propaganda?

Today we began a series called “How Do You Know?” John Burke shared insights in response to the question: “How do you know the Bible isn’t propaganda?” Here is some of what he shared:

“Smart people vehemently attack the Bible; and incredibly smart people who were once atheists or agnostics have become convinced it’s of Divine origin. Our society is filled with references to the Bible, but has the authority of the Bible been dethroned for good? Or in fact, is the reason it’s the most widely translated, widely read, widely quoted book of history because there is something Divine about it? How do you know?

God claims to have revealed Himself through Scripture.

In Genesis 12, 4000 years ago,: The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’

No other sacred scriptures speak to all people’s of all cultures, but this God says he’s creating this nation, the Jewish Nation out of 2 people, for the express purpose of blessing the whole earth. How? In two ways: This nation would preserve His Words—and He gave explicit instructions for a class of people (the scribes) who did nothing but this, and through this nation God would come in the form of a man to reveal Himself and restore all willing humans to right relationship with their Creator.

1. The Bible has been amazingly well preserved

  • We don’t possess the original autograph copy of any ancient work, but the more copies we have, the science of textual criticism can determine its accuracy. We posses 24,000 copies of the New Testament—more than any other work of history (the second closest is the Iliad with 643 copies).
  • Bruce Metzger, New Testament Scholar says of the 20,000 lines of the N.T., 40 are in doubt. 40 out of 20,000 sentences. This means 99.5% of the New Testament you read textual critics are confident was what original authors wrote.
  • What about the Old Testament? Prior to 1947, the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew OT (Masoretic Text) had been copied in 916 A.D, but in 1948, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found parts of 38 of the 39 books of the Old Testament dating from 300 B.C. to 150 B.C. (so all Messianic prophecies predated Jesus).
  • So the big question, how much copy error had crept in over 1000’s of years? Notre Dame professor Eugene Ulrich, who did an Oxford series on the Dead Sea Scrolls said, ‘The scrolls have shown that our traditional Bible has been amazingly accurately preserved for over 2,000 years.”
  • The nation of Israel didn’t play the phone game. All the laws and classes of scribes and lawyers were created for the very purpose of preserving what they believed to be God’s word, revealed through the prophets.

2. God’s been foretelling what he’s doing in real, verifiable history.

A study of the top 10 psychics predictions over a 3-year period found that 98% of their predictions were totally incorrect! Humans just aren’t real good at predicting how history will unfold. But God is!

God alone lives unbridled by time. God alone can proclaim what is to come, and remarkably incorporate our choice into his eternal plan. God says to Moses 3500 years ago, here’s how you’ll know: ‘The LORD said to [Moses]…. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him… You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken’. – Deuteronomy 18:17-22 (1500 B.C.)

The 66 books of the Bible, written over a 1500 year period by 40+ prophets, contain over 1,800 individual predictions concerning over 700 separate subjects.

From 1000 to 400 BC, God sent prophets telling specifically of this Messiah who would bless all nations. Copies of all these books were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls which predated Jesus. Here are some of the prophecies:

  • The Messiah will be God’s Son and all nations will be his inheritance. (Psalm 2:7-8, 1000 B.C.)
  • All his bones will be out of joint as villains pierce his hands and feet and divide his clothes (Psalm 22:14-18, 1000 B.C.)
  • He will be born a child, live near Galilee, be called Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:1-7, 780 B.C.)
  • He will not only restore Israel, but bring salvation to all the nations (Isaiah 49:5-6, 780 B.C.)
  • He will be so disfigured, no one will recognize him (Isaiah 52:14, 780 B.C.)
  • He will bring Good News to the poor, give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free (Isaiah 61:1-2, 780 B.C.)
  • He will suffer and die to pay for our sins, he will be buried, but will rise again to see the light of life and bring many children to God (Isaiah 53, 780 B.C.)
  • He who existed from eternity past will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, 750 B.C.)
  • A messenger will come before him (John the Baptist) then the Lord will come to His temple in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1, 470 B.C.)

These are just 9 of 61 prophecies foretelling Jesus’ coming. Without God’s miraculous intervention, how else could you get 40 writers to pre-write accurate history before it happens?

Jesus is mentioned in history books not included in the Bible. In fact, From non-Christian, extra-biblical sources, we can conclude:

  • A man named Jesus, of the town of Nazareth in Galilee, lived during the reign of Tiberius Caesar.
  • Jesus was a contemporary of John the Baptist, a prophet who attracted a large following among the Jews and was beheaded by Herod.
  • Jesus had a brother named James who became a leader among the Christians and was martyred for his faith in Jesus as Lord, God and Messiah.
  • Jesus was recognized as a wise teacher who accurately predicted future events, lived a virtuous life, challenged the teaching of the respected Jewish religious leaders, and attracted a large following among the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
  • Jesus performed miracles (Jewish Talmud).
  • Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem.
  • His crucifixion was overshadowed by a great darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour.
  • After His death, His disciples continued to proclaim Him as the Messiah, worshipping Him as God, and claiming that He had appeared to them as risen from the dead.
  • The impact of Jesus’ life upon His disciples was so great that within 16 to 80 years after His death, vast numbers of His followers were willing to die for their conviction that Jesus lived, died and rose again on their behalf.

This is not mythology. This is not religion. This is history – God’s story foretold.

The question remains: what are we going to do with the Scriptures?

To the religious leaders who killed him, Jesus said, ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me… How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’

Jesus says the real problem is that we get so caught up in seeking praise from other people that we get distracted from pleasing God.

The Bible is God’s Word, God’s History, God’s Love letter. Do you seek God through the Scriptures?

If you are not sure that you believe, read Luke or John’s eyewitness account and ask God ‘If this is really you, help me have eyes to see.’ If you seek him honestly, watch how he meets you.

If you claim to believe but make no real effort to seek God regularly in his Word, get on reading plan, jump into a small group, and/or ask for others to keep you accountable to do so.”

If you want to watch or listen to the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

…For some, today’s thoughts may seem very basic, very elementary; but they are necessary to be able to field questions from doubters. Of course, a life of love lived in submission to God is also a powerful apologetic, and it’s important that we build our faith and our confidence not exclusively on external proofs, but on an inward reality: “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.”

 

February 25, 2011

Maybe All the Letters Should Be in Red Ink

Red Letter Christians” is a popular term of late. Dan Phillips has a great article at Team Pyro that I want to encourage you to read in its original form. It will take you about 3-4 minutes. Just click here, and then you may skip everything that follows.

Don’t have 3-4 minutes?  Okay, here’s the snapshot:

  • The present trend is to put more stock in Jesus’ words than the words of the Epistles, probably because Jesus’ words are more palatable to certain audiences.
  • Jesus told the apostles to preach and gave them the freedom to draft their own text. At a literal level, they were not reading off the same page.
  • The apostles were promised the Holy Spirit to inspire and supervise their writing.
  • The above point goes deeper, the Spirit would “bear witness” with their spirit, John 16: 12-15 promises they would deliver their message with authority; a message than can be trusted.
  • The promise in John 16 also suggests that the apostles would receive “new things” which Jesus himself had not yet uttered.
  • These things would be “of Him,” in other words, their words would be His words.
  • The apostles knew this and realized the weight of their words. Dan phrases this: “”If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). The apostle, in so many words, equates his writings with a command of Jesus Christ. His writings, Paul says, are (not merely “contain”) the command (not merely general notions) of Jesus.
  • Ephesians 2:20 says that the apostles are laying the foundation with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.  This is God’s design, building for the generations that would follow.
  • Attempts to “segregate” the writings of Paul are negated by Peter’s affirmation of Paul’s writings in II Peter 3:15-16
  • Here are some concluding thoughts from the article:

..You really could make the legitimate argument that the apostles’ words should also equally be red-letter, in that they are the words of Christ conveyed by the Holy Spirit…

and

…In conclusion, I might come full circle and affirm that Christians should focus on the words and teachings of Jesus Christ.

But then I would hasten to say that those words and teachings are found from Matthew to Revelation.

If you’re reading this sentence, it possibly means you skipped the original, so now that you’re appetite is whetted for this discussion, here’s a second chance to just click here.