Christianity 201

October 8, 2018

Verses to Memorize

As you get older it gets increasingly difficult to memorize verses of scripture. However, recently, I decided to memorize the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, which began haphazardly trying to remember who gets what!

Sheila Wray-Gregoire is a Canadian author and blogger who writes about marriage, family life and parenting and probably counts women among the sizeable majority of her audience. Her blog is called, To Love Honor and Vacuum. She wrote and posted this in 2011.


…I wrote a post complaining that we are “dumbing down” church and school, and don’t require kids to learn mastery of anything anymore. I asked what we could do about it.

And I decided maybe it was time I did something, rather than just complain. And so I’ve put together this list of the 50 verses I think are most important to memorize. I know many families want to memorize verses together, but they don’t know where to start. Here you go. One a week for a year. Even if this is all you ever memorize, you will have God’s word in your heart for the most important verses, I think, in the Bible. I’m going to type the list with the verses first, and then at the end include a list of just the references, if you want those to just copy and paste.

Why not make little memory verse cards out of 3×5 cards, and keep them at the dinner table? Then every night you can go over this week’s verse. By the end of the year, you’ll have all of these memorized!

I chose these because they’re a cross-section of doctrine, promises, and comfort. You may want to add others, or to substitute. Feel free. Consider this a starting point, not anything definitive. I hope you you find it useful! All verses are from the NIV.

God

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 40:28
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Salvation

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8,9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Assurance

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Isaiah 40:30-31
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Christian Life

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 37:4,5
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this.

Proverbs 3:5,7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Luke 16:13
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

1 John 4:7,8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

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

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Philippians 4:6,7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Scripture

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Confession/Temptation

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.

Mission

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Bigger challenges:

If you want to memorize whole chapters, here are my top 5:

Isaiah 53
Psalm 23
1 Corinthians 13
John 15
Psalm 139

These chapters are all important; I have left them out of the top 50 verses because I couldn’t choose just one or two verses from any of them. The whole thing is great. So if you’re up for a family challenge, memorize all of one of them!

Look at it this way: if you spend one year memorizing the fifty verses, and the next year reviewing those fifty and memorizing a chapter, and then go back to those fifty verses again to make sure you have them down, and then the next year go back and do a different chapter, and so on, over the course of ten years you’ll have 50 verses and 5 chapters so committed to memory there is no way anyone could ever forget it.

And I think knowing fewer verses, but knowing them inside and out, is sometimes more beneficial in the long run than trying to make yourself learn a verse a day or something.

So print this out and use it with your family!

Happy memorizing!

April 7, 2018

Choosing to Set our Focus on Things Above

This is our fifth visit with Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings. He doesn’t write frequently, but often deals with the issue of spiritual growth.

A Gift for Our Spiritual Formation

Almost everyone enjoys gift giving. We enjoy giving gifts, but we really enjoy receiving gifts.

When we give a gift we give it with the intention that the gift is used. If we give a gift of chocolate we want the person to eat the chocolate. If we give a gift of clothes we want those clothes to be worn. If we give a gift of toys we want those toys to be played with in imaginative ways.

God has given us a great gift to be used for our spiritual formation in Jesus Christ. That gift is the Bible. Christians believe that God has preserved the Holy Scriptures over the years to help guide us in following Jesus.

Since the Bible is a gift that God has given to us, it is a gift that He expects us to use. God will speak to us by the Holy Spirit through the words recorded in Scripture.

If we are interested in spiritual formation and following Jesus, then it is essential we spend time with the Bible.

The book of Colossians is a book of the Bible that God has used over the years to speak to my heart.  One of my favorite passages is Colossians 3:1-4:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (ESV)

Our salvation and transformation begins and ends with God. It began with God’s promise to bless all the nations of the world through Abraham and his descendant; it continued through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus (the promised descendant of Abraham); and ends when Jesus returns and makes all things new.

Without God’s initiative, without God’s promise, and without Christ’s faithfulness we would have no life, no purpose, and no hope. Our redemption and restoration are bound up in the actions of our loving heavenly Father.

With that being said, we still have a great responsibility when it comes to our spiritual formation.  We do not become like Jesus by accident.

Paul wrote in Colossians that there is a choice we must make. The choice we are to make is to set our minds on the things that are above.

To set our minds requires an act of the will.  We have the choice about what to focus our minds on, and if we  don’t choose to set our minds on the things of God, then our minds will be set on other things: sports, money, pleasure, politics.

What must we do if we are going to set our minds on the things that are above?

I believe there are at least three steps we need to take in order to set our minds on heavenly things.

  1. We must change what we feed our mind. This is a two part process. The first part of the process is to acknowledge the ways we are being distracted. I recently had to to do this when I realized that the political podcasts I was listening to were influencing the direction of the my thoughts, which were flowing out into my sermons. We need to be aware of what is influencing our thoughts, and whether that influence is positive or negative. The second part of the process is to fill our minds the truth. This means we intentionally use the gift of Scriptures to set the course of our thoughts. If we are not replacing our old negative thoughts with new positive thoughts then our minds will go back to the old ways of thinking.
  2. We must be guided by the Spirit. The best way for us to be guided by the Spirit is to practice spiritual disciplines. We need to make room for the Spirit to speak into our lives. This includes Bible study and reading (both private and group), prayer, fasting, generosity, service, hospitality, and even simplicity (living a simple life). It is crucial that we intentionally make room for the Spirit to guide our lives.
  3. We must speak about what God is doing. It is crucial that we don’t keep all that God is doing in our lives to ourselves. We need to share our experiences with God with other people. By sharing our stories we become better aware of the truth God is teaching us and the direction He wants us to go. By sharing we allow other people to discover what God is doing and open their hearts to God working in their lives.

God took the initiative to save us from sin and death.

To be good stewards of God’s initiative and His generosity we need to be intentional in our spiritual formation. This requires us to be intentional in setting our minds on the things of heaven, so our hearts and minds are focused one following Jesus. We do that by using the gift of Scripture to set the direction of our minds.

 

October 21, 2017

Living in the World or Living in the Word?

Ps 119.18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me.

Today we’re featuring the writing of Smith Wigglesworth. Yes, that was his name; a name well known to people in the Assemblies of God or Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, but best known in Britain where he was a Pentecostal evangelist. He died in 1947, but he was a prolific writer and his work continues in print in a long list of books. Many people claimed miraculous healing through his ministry.  In 2013, we did an entry on him in our quotations series which you can find at this link. The following is the March 17 entry in Smith Wigglesworth Devotional (Whitaker House). It’s a shorter entry as we were on a tight deadline today.

Life in the Word

Psalm 18.30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.

Scripture reading: Psalm 119:9-28

In the days when the number of disciples began to multiply, there arose a situation in which the Twelve had to make a definite decision not to occupy themselves with serving tables, but to give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.  How important it is for all of God’s ministers to be continually in prayer and constantly feeding on the Scriptures of Truth. I often offer a reward to anyone who can catch me anywhere without my Bible or my New Testament.

None of you can be strong in God unless you are diligently and constantly listening to what God has to say to you through His Word. You cannot know the power and the nature of God unless you partake of his inbreathed Word. Read it in the morning, in the evening, and at every opportunity you get. After every meal, instead of indulging in unprofitable conversation around the table, read a chapter from the Word, and then have a season of prayer. I endeavour to make a point of doing this no matter where or with whom I am staying.

The psalmist said that he had hidden God’s Word in his heart so that he might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). You will find that the more of God’s Word you hide in your heart, the easier it is to live a holy life. He also testified that God’s Word had given him life (v. 50). As you receive God’s Word, your whole physical being will be given life, and you will be made strong. As you receive with meekness the Word (James 1:21), you will find faith springing up within. You will have life through the Word.

Thought for Today: I find nothing in the Bible but holiness, and nothing in the world but worldliness. Therefore, if I live in the world, I will become worldly; on the other hand, if I live in the Bible, I will become holy.

September 22, 2017

Basing Decision-Making on a Carnal Mind’s Senses

The title I used today — the author’s (below) was equally long — was the best way I could wrap my head around the insight from today’s writer. We’re paying a return visit to the blog of Justin Petrick Ministries. Click the title below to read at source.

What Does it Really Mean to Walk by Faith and Not by Sight?

What does it mean to “walk by faith and not by sight,” as instructed in 2 Corinthians 5:7? This is one of the main words of wisdom or instruction you hear one giving to another, when an individual doesn’t know what to do. But is the meaning of this verse really in the context of walking blindly as so commonly believed? No, it is not.

A more accurate translation of this verse is to walk by faith, and not by what is seen, or what appears to be.  It means to not be guided by this natural realm, or what you see and experience on this earth.  Specifically, it means to not make decisions based on a carnal mind, or by using your 5 senses.  There is a big difference in not allowing yourself to be guided by this earthly realm, and to walk blindly.

When we focus on the things of this world, we will desire this world and we will pursue what it has to offer. This relationship is discussed in Romans 7 when it speaks of carnality and the law of the mind.  It is natural for us to be guided by our carnal mind, or by what is seen.  On the other hand, God does not expect us to walk blindly in this world.  We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), we have access to the direction of the Holy Spirit who is intimately connected to us in this earthly realm that He guides our steps (Proverbs 16:9). God is so intimately connected to you that He desires to direct your steps.  To me, that is not walking blindly.  We can feel like were walking blindly when we are distracted from God’s presence, and we don’t hear His still small voice among the loud circumstances of everyday life.

But was does it mean to walk by faith? Just like God instructs us not to make decisions based on what we see, when we walk in faith, it is also speaking of our decision-making process. Let us look at the definition of faith in Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV): Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Most people believe faith is believing in what is not seen.  Although true, it is only half the definition in that they leave out the substance of hope.  Substance means something that you can tangibly see, or measure objectively. In other words, when one has faith, it can be observed. How can faith be observed?  It can be observed through making decisions with the confident expectation of God’s goodness.  This is how faith manifests in everyday life, when you make decisions with a confident expectation that God’s Word will do what it promises you. You will make decisions that are grounded in the peace and love of Christ. It is the opposite of making decisions based on fear, stress, anxiety, and worry, or through not believing God will do what He says in His Word.

Therefore, when we walk by faith and not by sight, it is meaning that we are living life making decisions with a confident expectation that God will do what He has promised in His Word.  We make decisions in life knowing that God is faithful, that we are loved, and that we are saved, healed, delivered prospered, protected, preserved, and made whole.  It means that we won’t make decisions based on fear, but in the security that God has everything under compete control.

So, do you walk by faith and not by sight?  Do you make decisions based on God’s faithfulness, or are decisions made with the motivation of fear and worry?

1 John 4:18 (KJV): There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

 

November 16, 2014

You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Sermon is About You

The Voice – II Cor. 3:18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

The Amplified Bible – II Cor. 3:18 And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

 

Have you ever been in church and the pastor is preaching and after awhile it occurs to you that the whole sermon seems to be directed at one particular person’s situation? It’s almost embarrassing. It’s like everyone knows the minister is referring to Dan or Shirley or Marg or Jason, so why doesn’t he just go all the way and use their names?

But then, mysteriously, you’re drawn into a long conversation with Dan, Shirley, Marg or Jason a few weeks later, and you get the distinct impression that the sermon hasn’t changed a thing in their life; that whatever it was that made it so blatant to you and everyone else that it was about them, seems to have misfired or otherwise not taken root.

I suppose there are a number of possibilities here, of which three are:

  • They were tuned out for most of the sermon; not paying attention
  • The pastor’s remarks registered, but they assumed it applied to someone else, never considering it might be them to whom the sermon was most directly speaking
  • The application and needed next steps registered, but were eventually dismissed or forgotten
  • perhaps the cost of change or the price of obedience was simply too high

The Bible tells us we’re not simply to be hearers of the word, but doers of the word; but sometimes we mess up the hearing part which cancels out the rest.

James 1:22-24 (The Message) Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like

Imagine not knowing what you look like.

People do this everyday however. The middle aged man steps into his souped up sports car, turns the music on the sound system up high, and believes he is still 18. He starts flirting with his assistant at work and with the receptionist at the dentist’s office, and forgets he’s graying; that he has a wife and kids.

He needs a mirror.

The woman who goes out to lunch to with four friends and then spontaneously offers to pick the tab for everyone’s meal before they embark on an afternoon of shopping, slapping down the credit card at store after store, forgetting that the bank has already canceled her other credit card because of too many missed payments, and her income prospects for the foreseeable future are rather dim.

She needs a mirror.

We all need a mirror. An accurate one. One that doesn’t distort the truth. The clearest, most focused mirror is God’s word. It shows us what right living looks like. It tells us where we’ve messed up. What we can do to get back on track. What it will take for us to stay on track. You can read more about this four-fold purpose of scripture by clicking here.

Sometimes the sermon is about you. It’s like there’s no one else there.

…Now then, imagine the same scenario, but it’s more like a bad dream. The pastor preaches a similar sermon, but everyone turns around stares directly at you. But weeks later your life is unchanged.

What would your excuse be?

October 21, 2014

Chewing on the Word

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:43 pm
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Jim ThornberFirst of all, it’s not a reference to Ezra eating the scrolls, but if you guessed that, give yourself five extra points!

Today’s reading is from Jim Thornber whose writing we have shared here several times. For four years, Jim was an Assemblies of God minister who was also a monk. Seriously! Check out his story here and here. To read this at source, click the title below.

Gnawing On God

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” —  Joshua 1:8

I like the word “meditation.” Although some Christians are truly scared to meditate – thinking it is something done by cultic Eastern religions while forgetting that Judaism and Christianity ARE Eastern religions! – Scripture is full of injunctions to meditate upon the Word and Law of God.

The word for “meditation” in this passage comes from the Hebrew haghah, meaning to murmur, to mutter, to sigh, to moan, to roar, to meditate, to muse, to speak, to whisper. The word also describes the low moaning sound of a dove (Isa. 38:14) or the “growl” of a lion (Isaiah 31:4). Eugene Peterson uses the analogy of a dog gnawing on a bone, getting everything it can out of it.

This got me wondering: what is my heart gnawing on? What causes me to moan and growl, to be so totally consumed with God that I’m unaware of any thing else? If people could listen to my thoughts, would they hear me murmuring and musing about God and His goodness? Would they hear me whispering to God the joy and wonder I sense in His ever-present love? Or, would people hear me doubting my place in His Church, struggling with my pride and my desires and wrestling to place my wants into the realms of His eternal agenda?  Depending on when a person tuned in, I know they’d hear a little bit of both.

I want my heart to murmur, sigh, growl, moan and utter the goodness and glory of God. I want to be lost in my consumption of God and unaware of anything but Him. But in reality, I spend too much time thinking about my self and my place, or perceived lack of a place, in the Kingdom. In say I want to consider Him but I end up thinking mostly of my self.

However, meditation is not thinking, which is where I go wrong. Meditation means I’m gnawing on the truths of God. It means I’m taking into my spirit the very nourishment that God knows I need in order to grow into a healthy man. Meditation is the simple act of putting my mind and spirit into the hand of God and allowing Him to take me where He needs me to be. Thinking, on the other hand, is me taking God where I think God and I need to be. See the difference?

I want to wrap my thoughts and prayers around God the way a lion wraps its paws around a piece of meat, savoring and tasting its life-giving goodness. I want to meditate upon God and reap all possible benefits from the encounter. I wonder if this is why the Psalmist encourages us to “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8)? Could this be one of the reasons Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53)? How else could we take into our spirits the nourishment needed for the eternal journey?

Today I purpose to gnaw on the goodness and faithfulness of God. What about you? What’s on your plate?

 


Related: 4 Previous posts by Jim Thornber at Christianity 201.

May 18, 2014

The Word of God is Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:17 pm
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Ezekiel 2:1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

Ezekiel 3:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

We begin our look at this most unique text with the Reformation Study Bible:

Moses had said that God would put His word into the mouths of the prophets (Deut. 18:18), and here that is seen in a graphic way. What food is to the body, so the word of God would be for Ezekiel’s ministry.

The Dictionary of Bible themes states that in some instances, a scroll may represent the word of God (as here) or in others, the revelation of God’s purposes (as Revelation).

Whether the words of lament mentioned here aligns fully with what we would call the canon of scripture, we know that the words came from God and are therefore equal to scripture. It’s hard to imagine Ezekiel’s reaction when being told to eat the scroll.

Today we see two very different extremes in our approach to God’s word, which exists in our time in the form we call the Bible. On the one hand, many of us have a rather casual relationship with the multiple copies of the scripture in our homes. Each year hundreds of Bibles are forgotten and end up in the lost and found box at churches. I have to confess, in the Christian bookstore where I spend some of my week, there are stacks of Bibles with the ones on the bottom lying on the floor, something that would be an abomination in some circles.

On the other hand, there is bibliolatry, where the Bible is elevated to a status it was never intended to hold. For evangelicals, the buck stops at “the word of God alone” (sola scriptura) but we should never reach the point where the phrase, “The Bible says…” supplants the phrase, “Jesus is Lord.” The Bible’s words should never overshadow the One to whom the words refer.

Nate Whitley writes:

The Lord spoke to Ezekiel to eat the scroll. But not only was Ezekiel to eat the scroll, he was to fill his belly with it. Ezekiel didn’t just fill his belly with the scroll, but he also tasted it (Ezekiel 3:1-3). The scroll tasted of honey. Ezekiel enjoyed what he ate. John ate the scroll as well, even though it tasted like honey it was bitter to his stomach (Revelation 10:10). Not everything that tastes good will make you feel good.

Ezekiel and John didn’t just eat part of the scroll. They ate the whole scroll. Partaking of the Word of God is not a buffet picking and choosing what you would like to eat and leaving the rest for others to fight over. You and I are to eat the whole book. From Genesis to Revelation. From creation to consummation. Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little (Isaiah 28:10). The Christian is to fill their belly with the Word of God.

Perhaps why few read the Bible in its entirety is that their belly is already filled. They have acquired a taste for “other things” (Mark 4:19). They will sit and eat at the table of social media, sports, television and not have enough room in their belly to partake of divine delicacies.

Larry Thompson writes:

Eat And Speak

God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll, then go speak to Israel. The imagery here is that Ezekiel is to fill himself up with God’s word, his message, and then go tell it to Israel. So, he would hear and absorb God’s message (eat), then go preach this sad word to his people. Ezekiel obeyed and ate the scroll.

Even though the message was a sad one to hear, it was good to Ezekiel. He said it was sweet as honey to his mouth. How could that be? I had to deliver some sad messages this week, and none of them were sweet to me. But this message was God’s word, so it was sweet. God’s word should always be good to us, even when it convicts us of sin. Psalm 19:7-11 speaks of the sweetness of God’s word:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant, warned; in keeping them is great reward.

December 15, 2013

My Words Will Not Pass Away

heaven_and_earthJesus’ statement:

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.”

appears in all three synoptic gospels, in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33.

Often at this point we will look at how different translations render a passage, but in this case the translation is uniform from the KJV all the way to (more or less) The Message. When the original text doesn’t afford any translation latitude, we can be sure the clarity of the text doesn’t leave room for any deviation from taking it at face value.

Matthew Henry writes:

The word of Christ is more sure and lasting than heaven and earth.

Hath he spoken? And shall he not do it? We may build with more assurance upon the word of Christ than we can upon the pillars of heaven, or the strong foundations of the earth; for, when they shall be made to tremble and totter, and shall be no more, the word of Christ shall remain, and be in full force, power, and virtue. See 1 Pet. 1:24, 25.

The reference in question is:

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than the word of Christ; so it is expressed, Luke 16:17.

It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned. (NLT)

Compare Isa. 54:10.

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you.

The accomplishment of these prophecies might seem to be delayed, and intervening events might seem to disagree with them, but do not think that therefore the word of Christ is fallen to the ground, for that shall never pass away: though it be not fulfilled, either in the time or in the way that we have prescribed; yet, in God’s time, which is the best time, and in God’s way, which is the best way, it shall certainly be fulfilled. Every word of Christ is very pure, and therefore very sure.

His commentary on the parallel passage in Mark is very short, but on the Luke passage there is this amplification:

Heaven and earth shall pass away sooner than any word of mine: nay, they certainly shall pass away, but my words shall not; whether they take hold or no, they will take effect, and not one of them fall to the ground,”

I love the line “whether they take hold or no, they will take effect.”

He concludes the Luke portion of the commentary with this verse from I Sam. 3:19:

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

When I thought of ‘none of his words falling to the ground,’ I couldn’t help but be reminded of this passage from Isaiah 55:11:

[S]o is my word that comes from my mouth;
        it does not return to me empty.
        Instead, it does what I want,
        and accomplishes what I intend. (CEB)

So when is God speaking? Is this a reference to the audible voice of God, as was heard at Jesus’ baptism? (“This is my Son in whom I well pleased.”) No, this is a reference to the Word of God spoken primarily, at the time this was written, by the prophets.

Acts 3:21 states:

…whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

Today we have those words recorded in the collection of writings we call the Bible.

Does God speak similarly through prophets who are living today? The answer to that question depends on the doctrinal framework that you or your church holds to, and we’ll have to save that question for another day!

In the meantime, we know that the “my words” which “will not pass away” include the truth of Scripture.

(Unless indicated, passages cited are NIV.)

November 14, 2013

System Status Check

NLT – II Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. As you test yourselves, I hope you will recognize that we have not failed the test of apostolic authority.

The Message – II Cor. 13:5-9 Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. I hope the test won’t show that we have failed. But if it comes to that, we’d rather the test showed our failure than yours. We’re rooting for the truth to win out in you. We couldn’t possibly do otherwise.

CEB – Jude 1:3 Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you concerning the salvation we share. Instead, I must write to urge you to fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people. Godless people have slipped in among you…

NASB – Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to thesaints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…

Every once in awhile, I believe Christ-followers need to perform a system check. We need to run a diagnostic of all our closely-held doctrines. We need to test our faith against the Bible and against what the church has historically held as orthodox theology.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this stems from a study of one of the ‘marginal’ groups which is sometimes thought of as ‘Christian.’ While this group has a number of tenets that would easily identify them if I listed them here, the one that struck me as most disturbing was the idea of new light. Their head office is constantly releasing new documents which the faithful are required to study and learn. Shockingly, each new document potentially supersedes all that have come before it.

This creates a number of problems, not the least of which is: If you hold to their beliefs and then new light revises that teaching and you do not change as the teaching changes, you can be considered apostate for believing things that were perfectly acceptable just days before.

Another interesting point I heard was this: If a person did not have access to this group’s teachings and simply read their Bible, is there anything they would read in the Bible that would point them toward the same conclusions as this group? Of course the answer is a definite no. The Bible does not lead one toward such doctrinal positions.

Interestingly enough, all this happened a day after another conversation concerning another group which bases much of its teachings on prophetic words from its members. This is far less authoritarian, since anyone who is part of the group can issue forth words which become as binding as core doctrines; and it’s a more Charismatic-flavored version of the other, which is more formal.

But many of the spoken prophecies do not line up with scripture. So the person who told me about this group said he is constantly asking, “Where’s that in the Bible?” “Where’s that in the Bible?” “Where’s that in the Bible.”

The difference is that the first group bases their updates on revisions to their interpretation of the Bible, whereas the second group doesn’t even try to confirm prophetic words with scripture.

That’s why Paul in today’s opening verse, urges the Corinthians to check him out, to engage critical thinking, to verify his words against external standards.

We need to always be doing the same.

ESV- Matt. 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (emphasis added)


C201 is always looking for both submissions and suggestions for sources of material. Use the submissions page in the margin.

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

October 2, 2013

The Sufficiency of Scripture

EPSON scanner image

After several days of writing original pieces here at C201, I went back to mining the internet for interesting topics and articles, only to strike gold. Rebecca Writes is the blog of Rebecca Stark, and one of the features on her blog is the Theological Term of the Week. So far, she’s covered about 270 such entries, going back to 2007. I encourage you to use this resource again and again. Remember that theological terms are not necessarily Biblical terms; the entries in a theological dictionary won’t always occur in your concordance, in fact the majority won’t.

After reading many recent ones, and trying to choose a sample, I ended up going to one of the older ones, on the sufficiency of scripture, and then one of the newest, on the mortification of sin. Honestly, there are so many good articles at this blog that we might do this again sometime.


sufficiency of scripture
The principle that the words of scripture contain everything we need to know from God in order for us to be saved and to be perfectly obedient to him.
  • From scripture:

    …from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ( 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ESV)

  • From The London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 6:

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture, to which nothing is to be added at any time, either by new revelation of the Spirit, or by the traditions of men.

  •  From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:

    The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication. This reminds us that the focus of our search for God’s will ought to be on Scripture, rather than on seeking guidance through prayer for changed circumstances or altered feelings or direct guidance from the Holy Spirit apart from Scripture….

    The discovery of this great truth could bring tremendous joy and peace to the lives of thousands of Christians who, spending countless hours seeking God’s will outside of Scripture, are often uncertain about whether they have found it. In fact, many Christians today have very little confidence in their ability to discover God’s will with any degree of certainty. Thus there is little striving to do God’s will (for who can know it?) and little growth in holiness before God.

    The opposite ought to be true. Christians who are convinced of the sufficiency of Scripture should begin eagerly to seek and find God’s will in Scripture. They should be eagerly and regularly growing in obedience to God, knowing great freedom and peace in the Christian life.

Learn more

  1. GotQuestions.org: “What is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture? What does it mean that the Bible is sufficient?”
  2. Scott McClareThe Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture
  3. Tim ChalliesThe Bible’s Sufficiency
  4. Mark Thompson: The Sufficiency of Scripture
  5. David G. Peterson: The Sufficiency of Scripture
  6. Mark Dever: God Told Me” and the Sufficiency of Scripture
  7. John MacArthur: The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1 (mp3); The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2 (mp3)
Related terms:

mortification (of sin)

A way of life in which a Christian takes an active role in “crushing sin from their lives … rooting it out, and depriving it of its influence”;1 a Christian’s active role in battling sinful habits in the power of the Spirit.

    • From scripture:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away:anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11 ESV)

[Mortification] is, then, the work of the Spirit. For, —

(1.) He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. The taking away of the stony heart, — that is, the stubborn, proud, rebellious, unbelieving heart, — is in general the work of mortification that we treat of. Now this is still promised to be done by the Spirit, Ezek. 11:19, 36:26, “I will give my Spirit, and take away the stony heart;” and by the Spirit of God is this work wrought when all means fail, Isa. 57:17-18.

(2.) We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ: “Without Christ we can do nothing,” John 15:5. All communications of supplies and relief, in the beginnings, increasings, actings of any grace whatever, from him, are by the Spirit, by whom he alone works in and upon believers. From him we have our mortification: “He is exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto us,” Acts 5:31; and of our repentance our mortification is non small portion. How doth he do it? Having “received the promise of the Holy Ghost,” he sends him abroad for that end, the Spirit, as Tertullian speaks, “Vicariam navare operam,” to do the works that he had to accomplish in us.

Learn more:

  1. Got Questions.org: What is mortification of sin?
  2. Sinclair Ferguson: The Practice of Mortification
  3. J. Ligon Duncan: Putting Sin to Death
  4. John Owen :  The Mortification of Sin in Believers
  5. Christopher Love: The Mortification of Sin
  6. Octavius Winslow: The Believer’s Obligation to Mortify Sin
  7. John MacArthur: The Mortification of Sin (pdf)

Related terms:

June 11, 2013

The Righteousness We Don’t Earn

Chad Hendley is in student ministry and blogs at A Servant Named Chad. This article is packed with different insights and takeaways. For today’s post title I chose to look at the difference between the righteousness we work for versus the righteousness imputed to us through Christ’s atonement. Chad’s post title emphasized the atonement as fulfilling the righteousness that the teachers of the law in the First Testament knew to be God’s unchanging requirement; he called it Not A Dot Shall Pass Away. You’re encouraged to read C201 posts at their original source.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17 ESV)

The Jewish religious leaders of the day had made a strict set of rules and traditions beyond the Law of God given to them by Moses. They kind of put a fence around the Law saying you can do this, this, and this, but not this, this, and this. The problem with this was that it had taken all the heart work out of their religion. While all the Laws were strict and hard to follow, it made it easy to follow God in a sense because it boiled down the whole thing to a list of do’s and don’ts. It completely ignored the greatest commandment of “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It just became, “Do all these things right, and you’re fine.” Isaiah prophesies of this saying:

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:13-14 ESV)

Isaiah prophesied of time when the fear and awe and love of God were replaced by heartless obedience to commandments of men.

Because Jesus did not hold to the strict traditions of these religious leaders, and because he just upset a lot of leaders due to their jealousy, he was accused of throwing out or causing people to disobey the Law. Jesus makes a point here to expressly say, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”

It is helpful to recognize that Christ fulfilled the Law in 2 different ways.

Christ perfectly upheld the Law. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV) He perfectly completed the Law living without sin. The only person in history to do so. By no means did he come to do away with it, for he himself is the only one to perfectly complete it.

Christ himself was the very fulfillment of all the Law pointed to. Much more than that, he himself was the fulfillment of the Law, that is all that Law pointed to. Remember? The sacrificial system that was set up, where, when you sinned, sacrifice must be made to atone for your sin reminding you that God is just and that sin must be punished? Christ fulfilled the Law in that he himself completed once and for all what the Law was pointing to.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:11-18 ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18 ESV)

To emphasize how permanent the Law and word of God is, he explicitly indicates that they will remain until the end of time as we know it. An iota referred the smallest letter of Hebrew alphabet that resembled an apostrophe. The dot refers to small marks in the written Hebrew language that helped distinguish some letters from others. Jesus is saying that not even a single letter, nor even a single stroke of a letter shall pass away from the Word of God, much less the its propositions and content.

Jesus, later equating the duration of his own words with the duration of the Law says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35 ESV)

So if there is one thing you may be certain of, it is that the word of the Lord endures forever. What does this mean for us?

It means that the word of God is trustworthy and true. In the New Testament, time and time again, Jesus and the authors point out instances where something happened in order “that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” They are indicating here that the scriptures are totally true and therefore must be fulfilled. That is exactly what Jesus is saying here. “The Law and Prophets will not pass away until all is accomplished.” The assumption here is that scripture is without error; therefore, we may be certain that all it says will be and must be accomplished. The fulfillment of all that is written then verifies the completeness of truth of the scriptures.

This, in turn, means that scripture MUST be the ultimate authority in our lives. Everyone has an ultimate authority. What’s yours? For many people it’s self. “I am my own ultimate authority. I am the only one I am responsible for, and I decide what’s best.” For other people it’s the culture. “Society defines what is right and wrong, so I’ll do whatever society and the culture says is ok.” For some people it’s science and reason. “I only believe what I can learn scientifically.” But there are a few problems with these: 1. You are a single individual with limited knowledge and understanding, and with a tiny view of the world limited by your experience which gives you little authority to determine for yourself what’s right and wrong. 2. Society is ever changing thus is no solid base on which to form a worldview. Does what’s right and wrong change? It shouldn’t. 3. Science is not a broad enough in scope to rests one’s life on. Science tells us nothing of right and wrong or love or purpose or emotion. It is a tool, but not a foundation.

And if scripture is the one true ultimate authority, we must submit our lives to it. Many people choose not to give Christianity serious consideration, because deep down they are scared of what they shall find. They know that if they dig and find that it is true, there is no option but to surrender one’s whole self to Christ. The worse sin that we often find, is those who claim to believe, but have not totally surrendered, still playing with the world. You have not dug deep enough either. YOU CANNOT  TRULY BELIEVE THIS AND LIVE AN UNCHANGED LIFE. When you come near the person of Christ you will find that there is no middle ground. It’s all either all in or nothing. We are to have child-like faith, but this is not a faith for children.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 ESV)

Jesus makes another practical conclusion as well from the fact that God’s word shall never pass away. This is the responsibility not just to obey but also teach others to obey his word. This is not a hard principle right? If God’s word is true and the ultimate authority for our lives and shall never pass away, if they are the measure by which our reward shall be doled out, if they are the works which reveal the fruit of God’s work in our lives, and the means by which we can honor him, then we must definitely be careful to be obedient to it and to be careful in teaching others to do the same. It only makes sense right? If God takes it so seriously as to say it shall never pass away, we should take his commands just as seriously right? For his name sake and for his glory.

Whoever loves him less and thus obeys him less shall be lesser in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever loves him more and thus obeys him more shall be greater in the kingdom of heaven. Note here Jesus is talking about believers, for both attain to the kingdom of heaven, but Jesus says some shall be called greater than others. It is a matter of reward, not a matter of salvation.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)

God or no God, heaven or hell, is determined by the saving work of the Holy Spirit and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but there will be varying levels of reward in heaven. The Apostle John, also the author the Revelation text we just read, said “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” (2 John 1:8 ESV) But be careful of your heart here. Our obedience must not be fueled by this desire to be great in heaven, for that is pride, but for those who humble themselves and seek to honor him, Jesus says, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20 ESV)

Jesus stresses the importance of the Law and the word of God, the importance of keeping and teaching the word of God to others, then he drops the doozy! Unless your goodness is better than the most religious, rule-keeping person you know, then you won’t get into the kingdom of heaven. At one point, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” One of the commands is to tithe. To give a tenth of all that you receive from the Lord. So you know what these guys did? They tithed, they gave a tenth of the herbs they received to cook with. They did everything right! How in the world can my righteous be better than that of the most strict religious person I know???

Because, through faith in Christ, God gives us a righteousness that is not our own. Our righteousness must not just be a little better than the scribes and the Pharisees, our righteousness must be that of Jesus Christ! The Pharisees tried it, and it didn’t work. They worked and worked and worked trying to be perfect on the outside when Jesus told them they were dead on the inside. YOU CAN’T DO IT! You cannot work your way to heaven. If you could do that you wouldn’t need Jesus! Remember…King David? Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

~Chad Hendley


Practical Christian Living:  Looking for books that are suitable for giving to non-Christian friends, neighbors, fellow-students, co-workers or relatives? Check out the blog Books for Evangelism to familiarize yourself with resources that do more than preach to the choir.

June 6, 2013

Use Your Bible

The scriptures today appear as links, and I really hope you’ll take the time to read each one; especially since the theme today is about using your Bible to the fullest.  This is from the website Unlocking The Bible where it appeared under the title 14 Ways to Use the Bible.

The Bible is wonderful because it gives us a knowledge of God, of men, of the universe, and of redemption.

No other book can be compared to it in this respect, but it not only informs us about these important truths, it also tells us what we are to do with it.

We have within the Bible itself instruction as to our attitude toward it.

In it we are exhorted to:

1. Read it.Nehemiah 8:8. And may I suggest that it be read slowly, carefully, prayerfully, in large portions, repeatedly, reverently and with a willing spirit to follow its precepts.

2. Believe it.Romans 10:8. Because it is the Word of faith. It has been given to increase our faith in God and His working in the Universe.

3. Receive it.James 1:21. Here it is the engrafted word that is to be received as the soil received the seed, or the tree receives the graft. Taking the Word of God in our heart life, allowing it to grow and bear its own fruit in motives and actions.

4. Taste it.Proverbs 19:10. For it is the good Word of God. Some seem to be afraid of the Bible for fear it will require them to do something they do not wish to do. Be not afraid; it is good and right in all its requirements.

5. Eat it.Jeremiah 15:16. This process suggests that we not merely taste but actually live by it, as Jesus said, “Ye shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.

6. Hold it fast.Titus 1:9. It is a faithful word. All its promises are true; all its history is true; and its statements are truth. Therefore we are to rest our faith upon it.

7. Hold it forth.Philippians 2:16. Because it is the Word of Life. All who come under its beneficent rays feel its life giving power.

8. Preach it.2 Timothy 4:2. Here it is called simply the Word. It suggests that we are not to preach any one part of it or any one phase of it, but preach it in its entirety and fullness.

9. Search it.John 5:29. This suggests work and patience. The Greek word carries the idea of “ransack” as the housewife goes through the home at housecleaning time; or “to track” as the hunter laboriously follows the game through the brush, so we are to search for truth and run down the lines of God’s revelations to man.

10. Study it.2 Timothy 2:15. Here is a word that means close application to the Word of God, as the builder minutely studies the plans of the architect before erecting the structure.

11. Meditate on it.Psalm 1:2. This word has much the same meaning as “eat” for it means literally “to chew the cud.” Turning the Word of God over and over in the mind till the sweetness of its truths feed our souls.

12. Compare it.2 Corinthians 2:13. This is not so much what we do with the Scriptures as what the Holy Spirit does with them in our hearts. This is a divine commentary always at hand. Or as John puts it in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

13. Rightly divide it.2 Timothy 2:15. This is not an arbitrary division of subjects but the following of a line of truth from the first place mentioned to the last place mentioned; noticing it in all its relation to other truths and as the word literally means “the cutting of a straight line” of truth in the Bible.

14. Delight in it. Psalm 119:92. Seven times in this Psalm the Psalmist speaks of delighting in God’s word. This should always be the heart ambition and attitude.

“Study it carefully; think of it prayerfully;
Deep in thy heart let its precepts dwell.
Slight not its history; ponder its mystery,
None can e’er prize it too fondly or well.
Accept the glad tidings, the warning, the chidings,
Found in this volume of heavenly lore,
With faith that’s unfailing, and love all prevailing,
Trust in its promise of life evermore.”

*Adapted from portion of W.H. Pike’s beginning remarks in Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament.

Bonus item:

I know that this type of article isn’t typical of what we do here at C201, but as long as we’re doing lists, here’s one that appeared a few days ago the blog Deep Thoughts by Gman under the title Old Versus New.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant
Gifts and Sacrifices for guilt of sin vs. Self-sacrifice by guiltless Christ
Physical Building where One goes to worship vs. Reign of Christ in hearts of believers
Limited promises vs. Limitless promises
External standards vs. Internal Standards
Limited Access to God vs. Unlimited access to God
Legal Cleansing vs. Personal cleansing
Obey the rules vs. Serve the living God
Forgiveness earned vs. Forgiveness freely given
Repeated yearly vs. Completed by Christ’s death.
Human effort vs. God’s grace
Available to some vs. Available to all.

December 7, 2012

Jesus Began With Text

Well Marked Bible

The gospels provide us with a number of snapshots of Jesus teaching in what we would consider informal situations. Most are outdoor. In one he is in a boat. His longest recorded sermon takes place on a plateaued section of land that earns it the title of Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) or Sermon on the Plain (Luke). One is in a location so remote that food for the crowd becomes an issue.

But we don’t see anything of Jesus teaching, as we would say it now, “in church.” Except of course for Luke chapter 4.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

Although the Biblical text doesn’t use ellipsis (or I suppose the plural should be ellipses) we get that dramatic moment when he says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled…”  Then we get the oft-quoted line about a prophet not being honored in his own country (or county, or hometown). And then we get a hint in verse 26 and 27 of more of his message that produces the reaction in verse 28.

My point today is simply that in the only “church” sermon we have from Jesus, he began with text.

‘But;’ you are thinking, ‘That’s how they did it back then; that was the order of service so to speak in that synagogue.’

I’ll grant you that one.

But as someone who tries to prepare these daily devotionals drawing on the best of the Christian blogosphere, I am somewhat grieved by the volume of words produced each day that do not begin with any particular reference to Biblical text.

Some days, I spend upwards of 30-minutes scanning online for something that fits the albeit traditional Bible-based format here; without of course resorting to reblogging the same authors week after week; something I believe they would tire of eventually. (In nearly 1,000 posts; only once have we been asked to remove something.)

Instead, I find all manner of articles; many of which I enjoy; many of which inform me; many of which make it into the link list at Thinking Out Loud, but mostly all of which are inappropriate for what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Did nobody read a verse of scripture which impressed them in a new way or perhaps even for the first time? Did no one find that like “a word fitly spoken in the right time” a scripture verse opened up at a key moment in life held both deep personal meaning and broad general application?  It has been said,

Of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their own sacred writings.

Perhaps we’ve been sufficiently offended by the bibliolatry of fundamentalists, that we’ve marginalized The Good Book somewhat. The general sense you get in the Christian blogosphere is that the traditional examination of scripture is somewhat passé and even a little boring.

I’m not trying to be a dinosaur here. On the ‘exegetical versus topical’ debate, I land clearly in the middle. I love edgy. I love refreshing. I love new forms.

But I clearly believe that most of the things being posted online today simply won’t matter much in five months, let alone five years.

Of course, Jesus had a special anointing on his ministry. Only he could have said the line that literally rocked the house, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

But you and I can do that on a different scale. We can mine the vault that is God’s word, we can examine the various refractions of light in the jewel that is God’s word, we can plot a course on the map and compass that is God’s word; and then we can say to the world, “This was written for you, today.”

For those who aspire to preach, the most powerful and authoritative words in any given church service are these:

“Take your Bible and turn with me to the book of…”


Read more about the transformative power of scripture.

October 17, 2012

50 Verses To Memorize

Sheila Wray-Gregoire is a Canadian author and blogger who writes about marriage, family life and parenting and probably counts women among the sizeable majority of her audience. Her blog is called, To Love Honor and Vacuum. Really. Her name came up in conversation yesterday and that led me to look beyond her recent blog posts for something that would fit here, and I found this one from nearly two years ago.


Last week I wrote a post complaining that we are “dumbing down” church and school, and don’t require kids to learn mastery of anything anymore. I asked what we could do about it.

And I decided maybe it was time I did something, rather than just complain. And so I’ve put together this list of the 50 verses I think are most important to memorize. I know many families want to memorize verses together, but they don’t know where to start. Here you go. One a week for a year. Even if this is all you ever memorize, you will have God’s word in your heart for the most important verses, I think, in the Bible. I’m going to type the list with the verses first, and then at the end include a list of just the references, if you want those to just copy and paste.

Why not make little memory verse cards out of 3×5 cards, and keep them at the dinner table? Then every night you can go over this week’s verse. By the end of the year, you’ll have all of these memorized!

I chose these because they’re a cross-section of doctrine, promises, and comfort. You may want to add others, or to substitute. Feel free. Consider this a starting point, not anything definitive. I hope you you find it useful! All verses are from the NIV.

God

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 40:28
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Salvation

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8,9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Assurance

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Isaiah 40:30-31
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Christian Life

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 37:4,5
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this.

Proverbs 3:5,7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Luke 16:13
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

1 John 4:7,8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

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

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Philippians 4:6,7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Scripture

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Confession/Temptation

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.

Mission

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Bigger challenges:

If you want to memorize whole chapters, here are my top 5:

Isaiah 53
Psalm 23
1 Corinthians 13
John 15
Psalm 139

These chapters are all important; I have left them out of the top 50 verses because I couldn’t choose just one or two verses from any of them. The whole thing is great. So if you’re up for a family challenge, memorize all of one of them!

Look at it this way: if you spend one year memorizing the fifty verses, and the next year reviewing those fifty and memorizing a chapter, and then go back to those fifty verses again to make sure you have them down, and then the next year go back and do a different chapter, and so on, over the course of ten years you’ll have 50 verses and 5 chapters so committed to memory there is no way anyone could ever forget it.

And I think knowing fewer verses, but knowing them inside and out, is sometimes more beneficial in the long run than trying to make yourself learn a verse a day or something.

So print this out and use it with your family!

Happy memorizing!

October 8, 2012

God Gives Us Boundaries

Today we return to our online friends, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at the blog Daily Encouragement, where this appeared last week under the title, The Blessing Of The Ancient Landmarks.

“Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went” (Jeremiah 31:21). “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).

Back in the 90’s we pastored in Taunton, Massachusetts and lived in a parsonage that was only about 15 feet from a major highway, Route 44 which goes from Plymouth, MA to Providence, RI. The heavy traffic and steady stream of strangers who walked in front of our house posed danger to [our daughter] Ester.

The church generously built a fenced deck on the side of the parsonage which gave Ester some “safe territory” for play. I also drew an invisible line from the parsonage driveway to the church entrance where she was allowed to walk without our being present. Ester still refers to the boundary lines and does so with fond memories. The safety zone gave her a sense of security and I believe she remembers it as a visible reminder of our genuine love and concern for her well-being.

It’s interesting to pause a moment and consider the many boundaries we had as children and the many we still have as adults. It’s not uncommon to use a stone to mark the boundary between properties. These landmarks (generally stones in the Biblical period) testify to a great Biblical principle first articulated by Moses in the law in Deuteronomy 19:14.* This law is a practical expression of the eighth commandment which states, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Proverbs 22:28 alludes to this verse but I believe this text has a powerful spiritual application as well. “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” In the entire area of faith and morality God has established what we may call “ancient landmarks” in His Word. These ancient landmarks are primarily found in the Law, but are repeated and elaborated on throughout the entire Bible.

Our spiritual ancestors through the history of the Church have set a pattern for living by seeking to express these ancient landmarks. These landmarks may be our fundamental doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living and standards of holiness or deeply held spiritual convictions.

In ancient Israel landmarks were sacred because all property was a gift from the Lord. A timeless application is that life is a gift from the Lord and He has set forth His landmarks for our good. These landmarks are sacred.

But people have always meddled with these ancient landmarks. They’re tampered with today, moved and even removed in ways that our forefathers would never have imagined. Many are being seduced and deceived by radical, revisionist, blasphemous attempts to reinvent Jesus, reinterpret the Bible and redefine marriage. Would anybody have believed when I was born in 1954 that within the next 50 years homosexual “marriage” would actually be a source of serious debate?

Man has always been tampering with landmarks, moving them one way or another to suit his whims, sometimes removing them altogether. The cultural and intellectual elite purport to know best and so many of the undiscerning masses follow. “Get rid of that ancient landmark”, many shout, “we don’t need it anymore”.

I appreciate this note from a study Bible. “The ‘landmark’ may be a spiritual standard, established by our spiritual forefathers, God-honoring and God-blessed. There is a tendency for each new generation to try to modernize the ways of their fathers and, in view of the universal law of decay, this is more often a mistake.”

I thank God for the ancient landmarks expressed in His Word. Psalm 119 is best known as the longest chapter in the Bible, but it’s also a chapter that constantly reinforces the Psalmist’s love for God’s spiritual landmarks with verses such as, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

May the Lord give us a love for His Word and His landmarks along with a resolve to abide by them even when others seek to move or completely remove them. In fact I expect humankind to keep moving and removing them until the inevitable judgment. But as for me, I’ll leave them alone.

Prayer: Father, there is no limit to all that You have provided for us such as material blessings, physical health, the love of family and unending promises that You have already fulfilled or that are yet to be fulfilled. But You have also set visible and well-defined boundaries that are for our own good.

Temptations to either toe the boundary line or cross over into enemy territory will always be there, but You give us the power to resist and discernment to recognize the alluring deceit of the evil one. Help our eyes and hearts to remain focused on Your innumerable blessings and provisions as we stand against the god of this age who seeks to destroy us.

May we not move the landmark of the faithful to join with the ranks of the faithless. In Your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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