Christianity 201

November 10, 2016

When Jesus Meets Skeptical Minds . . .


by Clarke Dixon

“Get over your skepticism and just have faith.” This might be what we would have expected Jesus to say to the Sadducees regarding their disbelief. They had come to him with an intellectual challenge to the prevalent Jewish belief that the dead would someday be raised to life. They were very conservative in their thinking, preferring the scriptures handed down from Moses, and not paying attention to the revolutionary “wishful thinking” of the later prophets and writers. Moses, they figured, did not have much to say about a resurrection of the dead. So an intellectual challenge is issued to Jesus. What does Jesus say? “Get over your skepticism and just have faith”? Actually, no. Since this might be something we are tempted to say today to someone who demonstrates a skepticism toward Jesus, we should really pay attention to what he does say.

Before we do, let us recognize that skepticism is a necessary and important gift. We all ought to be skeptics. In fact we all tend to be. For example, if I were to tell you that you can fly and that all you need to do is run down the middle of the street shouting “I can fly! I can fly!” would you? Of course not. Why not? Because you are a skeptical person and your skepticism has kept you from doing something foolish. Skepticism often keeps us safe from physical harm, not to mention from delusion and the potential for intellectual harm. A skeptical mind is a gift.

So what does Jesus say instead?

24 Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?” Mark 12:24 (NRSV)

According to Jesus, the Sadducees do not have a skepticism problem, they have a knowledge problem. Specifically, they do not know the scriptures or the power of God. This gives us some important insight as to why people reject Jesus today. A skeptical mind may not be the problem. Let’s take a closer look.

The Sadducees do not know the scriptures. As the Sadducees revere the writings from Moses more than any other, Jesus asks them to consider what God said to Moses at the burning bush where God first revealed Himself to Moses:

26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mark 12:26-27 (NRSV)

God did not say “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before they turned back to dust,” but rather “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” that is, “I still am. . . “ So they have not disappeared never to be seen again as the Sadducees assume. Jesus is telling the Sadducees that with their assumptions in place they are not doing a very good job of reading the scriptures. This kind of thing can be said today. There are people who have rejected Jesus because they have not handled the scriptures very well.

Consider, as one example, a common objection I hear to Christianity: “Where did Cain’s wife come from?” A good question, but when you know the scriptures, the wrong question. Consider what we learn from Genesis:

  • Chapters 1 and 2 – God created everything including humanity which he marked out for a special relationship.
  • Chapter 3 – Humanity sinned, breaking that relationship.
  • Chapters 4 through 11 – Though God would have been right to, He has not shut the door on humanity.
  • Chapter 12 – God has a plan to bless humanity and it will be worked through a special people.
  • Chapters 13 through 50 – Hang on, this plan may take a while, but God is involved along the way!

Through Genesis God has communicated exactly the things we need to know. As the Bible says about itself elsewhere, the scriptures “are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2nd Timothy 3:15 NRSV). To expect God to tell us everything and to expect Genesis to read like some super-sized cosmic Twitter feed is to not know the scriptures.

Additionally, many have rejected Jesus without knowing much at all about Him. Many think they have rejected Jesus when they have rejected a caricature of Jesus. This is not skepticism, but a lack of knowledge, specifically, knowledge of the scriptures. When we encounter deep skepticism toward Christianity, a skeptical mind may not be the root problem, but rather a lack of knowing the scriptures.

The Sadducees do not know the power of God. They are stuck in the rut of “we have seen people die and turn to dust.” They do not know the amazing things God can do with dust. Their minds are not open to the activity and potential activity of God the Creator. Again, the problem is not with skepticism, but with knowledge. There are people today who reject Jesus, not because they have skeptical minds, but because they don’t know the power of God; Virgin birth? Impossible! The resurrection of the dead? Can’t happen! A genuine record of revelation? How could we ever trust it hasn’t changed? But if God, Who created everything from nothing, exists, then then these things are possible. Consider the love of God and these things become more than mere possibilities. Keep in mind that no one has ever given good evidence that God does not exist. And of course miracles are a matter of history, not science. When we encounter deep skepticism toward Christianity, a skeptical mind may not be the root problem, but rather a lack of knowing, or being open to, the power of God.

There is something else here which Jesus does not say, but which is implied.

The Sadducees do not know the thrill of a Jesus revolution. The Sadducees do not know the power of God to make the dead live, but they do know the power of Rome to make the living dead. They like the Status quo of Roman power, in fact a revolution could threaten their own power. And here is another reason people reject Jesus; they are not ready for a revolution. A God honouring, Jesus following, Spirit filled life is revolutionary. Anyone can sin. It takes courage to be righteous. Anyone can follow the crowd along a broad path. It takes courage to think different and stay on a narrow path. Anyone can live the status quo. It takes decisiveness to make a change. While most parents hope and pray their teenagers are not rebellious, I hope and pray that mine are. Jesus loving teenagers are the most rebellious and courageous teenagers out there today. When we encounter a deep skepticism toward Christianity, a skeptical mind may not be the root of the problem, but fear of a revolution.

In not knowing the scriptures, the power of God, and the thrill of a revolution,

The Sadducees also miss out on knowing the love of God. The resurrection of the dead will not just be a display of the power of God in fulfillment of the promises of scripture. It will also be a display of the amazing love of God. We do not want anyone to miss out on that love so we will want to always be ready to point people to Jesus. When we encounter skepticism our role is not to tell people to stop thinking and just have faith. Our role is to help people know the scriptures, the power of God, and the necessity and thrill of the revolution, and so to point them to the love of God.

Clarke Dixon is a pastor with Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. Read today’s entry at source at this link.

November 16, 2011

Knowing The Principles Governing Physical Healing

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I came across a most unusual blog today, New Genesis Resurrection Ministries.  In terms of looking for daily material here, I kept wanting to click away, but I was driven back several times to reconsider what was really being said.  Since most of my C201 readers have their discernment meters plugged in, I thought I would just toss this out there, and let you read and comment.  This piece was titled, And He Healed Them All, and is a subsection to a larger piece, Lies in the Face of Truth. (If you’ve got some time, you might prefer to click the link and read the whole piece, the graphics and images are rather interesting, too.)

Matthew 8:16 …They brought unto him many that were possessed with devils : and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:.

The records show Jesus healing everyone brought to him for healing; that’s what he asks us to do. We’re used to traveling in cars at 60 miles per hour. At the equator the earth rotates at 1040.4 miles per hour. If the force of gravity didn’t hold us down, everything including we would go careening off the earth into outer space. If you want to go off into outer space however, an “escape earth velocity” of 24, 000 miles per hour speed is required. With gravity in place you wont see people go careening off into space anytime soon unless by deliberate effort to do so which requires you to know the facts. The records state that Jesus healed all that came to him for healing; you do not see men doing that today because they neither know the requisite facts, nor have the will to meet those requirements.

You want to go into outer space, you have to know the rules; you want to do the works of Jesus you have to know them too. In play also is a spiritual force much like the natural force of gravity holding things down. The force of Spiritual wickedness in high places in the churches won’t even allow men to even consider this as a possibility with them. So virile is this force, it will not even allow men to even consider this possibility. In fact they become overcome with this irrational petulance and impatience with anyone who would dare suggest this. In point of fact this is impossible for men to do this, and that’s exactly why God so blithely commands that we do all that which Jesus did, and even greater works to show to the world his sons manifested in men by a line of new knowledge renewing their minds, and affecting this transformation. It is not in the interest of spiritual wickedness in high places to allow this, or even discuss this a possibility. Though it is only a theory, if you even question the “reality” of evolution today, you are considered the flaming village idiot; even though God says: nothing shall be impossible with you, if you consider the works of Jesus as possible with you, you suffer the same fate as a village idiot.

You just can’t go flying off the earth into outer space unless you plan to; you can’t do the works of Jesus to which we are called unless you plan to. The force of spiritual wickedness in high places at work against you doing such works is so virile, it will not even allow you to consider the possibility of doing Jesus’ works, never mind the greater works prescribed for us to do.

(Ezekiel 34:8-15) As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd , neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds , hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds ; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out . 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered ; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down , saith the Lord GOD.

Bold face lies cover minister’s dereliction to duty. Either you read it, or let someone tell you what they think Jesus said, but all said and done, you have to make the judgment call as to whether what you read or hear are lies in the face of the truth. To successfully do so you are not without adequate resources. The spirit of truth is promised by God to lead us into all truth. As you evaluate the information, some of these lies are so bold faced that little help is required to point them out. They were clumsily concocted to cover man’s remissive conduct, in the performance of his duties to carry on the ministry of reconciliation left to him by Jesus, in his absence. If the pattern of a building is in error, and you coming lately to the scene go to build on it, or add to it; though you may not be responsible for the error, when you contribute to it the consequence of the error that you now contribute to is something you wont be able to avoid.

In the book of Job God asks: can man benefit God or hurt God by rendering help, or directing violence to his fellow-man? The resounding answer returns as no! We can neither benefit or hurt God by aid or violence directed to our fellow-man. The whole point of rendering aid to our fellow-man, is that the power God which is what Christ is, be revealed in the delivery of such aid in a way that is beyond the scope of what is possible with man, yet at the hand of man. Done this way it points to the works of God in man making him manifestly the sons of God; it is upon this rock that Jesus said he would build his church; but it is no longer, so because the foundations have shifted to man without the evident power of God, within the range of man’s capabilities. The hidden mystery in performing the impossible works of the ministry of reconciliation was ordained for our glory before the foundation of the world, and to reveal the glory of God is what we have chosen to set aside to honor man instead.

Jesus could have visited and healed Lazarus, but he waited till he was dead, buried and was rotting before he came to raise him from the dead. This he did, so that men would see the glory of God’s power. He raised up Pharaoh and the empire of Egypt to show to the world his power in directing the affairs of nations. It is this same power that we seek to conceal when we insist on doing the ministry of reconciliation in the capacity of men, according to the measure of men, which are so many lies in the face of the truth. The many missing signs that should follow the preaching of the gospel bear witness of these many lies that still fly in the face of the truth; each of those missing sign represent a lie tin the face of the truth. It is true that God said we are gods because we are his children, and that truth cannot be altered, but that doesn’t stop us from flying in the face of the truth and deny what God himself says of us. It is for that reason that God says that the foundations of the earth are out of alignment. We may sing ‘the church has one foundation, it’s Jesus Christ our Lord’, but it is no longer on that foundation that we build; what Jesus does are impossible things, but what we do are things that not even men who profess faith can do.

There were other means to secure wine at the wedding, feed the multitude or so many other things that Jesus did, but if we really want the world to see the power of God, and see the glory of God, then we must consider obeying the truth, instead of spreading more lies in the face of the truth.

Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and 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.

May 6, 2011

Proof Texting the Celebration of a Terrorist’s Death

Stuart James at Credo House (Reclaiming the Mind blog) posted this, as apparently Facebook and Twitter were counting the Bible verses people were using to either justify or condemn the celebration following Osama Bin Laden’s death.  His was a top ten list

Top ten most quoted bible verses on social media following the death of Osama bin Laden:
1. Proverbs 24:17 “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”

2. Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will make PERFECT the things that concern me”(KJV). (NIV: “The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.”)

3. Proverbs 21:15 “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Rick Warren started this one):

4. Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

5. Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

6. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

7. Proverbs 11:10 “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”

8. Proverbs 24:18 ” … or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” (The popularity of this verse is due to it finishing the sentence begun by the #1 most popular verse.)

9. Proverbs 24:1 “Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company;” (probably an effort to quote Proverbs 24:17)

10. Proverbs 28:5 “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

…but the list continues at this Christianity Today post with 14 more verses, though you’re fine just to stay with the ones listed here.   Personally, I think this was a good time not to weigh in on the discussion either way, but to practice the silence that Proverbs teaches is the hallmark of wisdom.

…I know some of you are thinking that this is more the kind of thing I would post at Thinking out Loud, but I believe that those of us who desire spiritual maturity — and to reflect spiritual maturity — should be very careful when it comes to polarized debate or polarizing reactions to current events.

Knowing God, and knowing the character of God means that there is no conflict between verse #1 and verse #7 or between verse #3 and verse #5.  It means living in the complexity of the tension that exists between two conditions, not a simple either/or type of response.