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A Faith that Obeys Podcast
25 minutes | a month ago
063 – Awesome QuietTimes
How would you like to take your prayer life and Bible Study to a higher level than you have ever experienced before? How would you like to feel like your time with God was deeper, more intimate, more vibrant, and authentic? That would be awesome, right? Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash In this lesson, you are going to learn two blow-away secrets that will absolutely change the way you pray and the results you experience! Let’s go! All good relationships are based on two things; time together and communication. Our relationship with God is no exception. If we want a rich, real relationship with God, then, we spend quality time with Him by reading His Word and Praying. These two specific activities can be a pretty good barometer of how well we are doing spiritually. When someone is not spending time with God in Prayer and Bible Study, they are neglecting the most important relationship a human being can have. To have a great relationship with God, we need to have great QuietTimes! What is a QuietTime? As always, let’s begin by defining our terms. What is a QuietTime? As the name suggests, it is a time which is quiet. There are no noises to distract us, there are no electronic devices incessantly beeping, there are no other people around and the environment is somewhat protected from interruption. It is a time we spend alone, communicating with God in prayer and allowing Him to communicate with us through his word and through the thoughts and ideas which stir our hearts and our imaginations during these times. Communication flows in two directions; to God and from God. Our communication to God is done through our prayers. We tell Him what is on our heart. We share our hopes, our dreams and our hardships with Him. We let Him know what is going on with us and we offer up adoration, gratitude and requests for ourselves and for others. Basically, we lay our hearts bare before the Creator of the Universe in the hope He will hear us and respond favorably. And, God does respond. God’s Communication to Us God communicates to us in a variety of ways. During our time alone with him, He communicates with us through His word and those random thoughts which come to mind… that quiet still voice we all have in our head and heart. At other times, God may use another person to tell us something we need to hear.. Perhaps He may provide an experience, dramatic or mundane, which makes us pause and reflect. So, God uses four channels of communication as He is working with us: The Word, A person, An experience and that little voice in our head and heart. Which one would you place at the top of the list as the most trusted and reliable? Obviously, The Word! We don’t completely ignore advice we receive from another person, an experience or our inner voice. We take all of these into account; carefully weighting everything in the light of Scripture. Everything must be filtered through that lens. We must never depend solely on our little inner voice! And an experience is not reliable because your interpretation of the experience is just as good as mine. The two interpretations can differ wildly. People’s advice, opinions and teachings are just that…. their opinion and their teaching, not necessarily what God desires. You must make the final evaluation and your conclusions must be in harmony with the scriptures. So, having a quality time with God is based, primarily on that special alone time where we meet with God in His Word and in prayer; time together and communication. What is Prayer? So, what is prayer? What are we doing when we pray? Let’s turn to some scriptures to help us define this term. Exodus 19:17“Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.” Back in the day, the people “met” with God. He appeared to them in a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of smoke by day. This is probably where the term “Holy smokes” originated! Here’s what King David had to say about meeting with God. Psalm 42:2“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” In prayer, we are literally meeting with God! That is amazing! A lowly human being can speak to the creator of the universe. And guess what? God wants us to do this! Remember? “Ask, Seek and Knock.” Matthew 7:9. And, “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven,” Matthew 6:9. And how about Luke 18:1 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Without question, God wants to hear from us. Come to think of it, what loving Father would not want to hear from his kids? What is Bible Study? If prayer is how we communicate with God, what is the other half of the activity? What is “Bible Study?” Just that… a study of the Bible. But what is study? Let’s turn to our old friend Daniel Webster and his amazing 1828 dictionary. Listen to this. “Study is the literal setting of the mind and thoughts upon a subject for the purpose of learning what was not known before. Study gives strength to the mind, conversations and grace. When we study, we give attention to and meditation on an issue. To study is to fix the mind closely upon a subject, to muse; to dwell upon in thought and endeavor diligently. Studying is done by reading or examining something for the purpose of learning and understanding. It is to consider something attentively and examine it closely.” So if we couple this with “Bible Study” it imparts to us greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom regarding God’s nature and the nature of his creation… including ourselves. So, a QuietTime is composed of two deliberate and distinct disciplines; prayer and Bible Study. Our QuietTime is literally a time we meet with God and without question, it will be the most important meeting you will have on any given day! No other meeting can possibly compare to meeting with the creator of the Universe. But there is one little problem with this kind of meeting. We can get super distracted very quickly. Let me explain. Destroying Distractions All of those random thoughts tend to make us feel burdened. It feels like they pull us totally off the track. But the feeling of pressure does not come from an overwhelming sense of all the things we have to do. Listen carefully! The pressure we feel, comes from an overwhelming sense of trying to remember everything! A thought pops into our head… which may be very valuable to us… we don’t want to forget it… and… the pressure’s on! The First Secret Here’s the first secret to having an amazing time with God. What would happen if we took some paper and a pen into our meeting with the Lord? It’s obviously a pretty important meeting, right? If your boss called you into a meeting, what would you do? How would you prepare? Well, you’d probably take a pen, some paper for taking notes, right? When we take that note pad and pen with us into our meeting with God we have just armed ourselves with an incredibly powerful tool. Every time a random thought comes into your head, jot it down and tell God “Thank you for reminding me. I will take care of that for you!” All of a sudden, random thoughts become reminders from God. By taking notes like this, we literally begin building a divinely inspired to-do list of sorts! Instead of struggling to remember stuff, we write it down. God knows your schedule before you do and reminds you of all the cool things he wants you to accomplish today. You respectfully jot it down and thank God for the reminder. This one little action does something amazing. I earns you the right and ability to forget about it. You no longer need to worry about trying to remember all the things you have on your mind. Once you commit a thought to paper, the pressure is gone! This is an absolutely liberating life hack. And after all, isn’t that what prayer is all about; God giving you information and reminding you to do things he is concerned about, probably more that you are? I cannot tell you how absolutely liberating it is to have a note pad and pen next to me while I am on my knees praying. All of those seeming crazy random thoughts are processed down into a wonderful task list making my relationship with God even more personal, real and vibrant. Try it! It will set you free! The Second Secret Obviously, the best time to do this activity is in the morning. Let’s get our day started on the right foot; meet with God and get our marching orders for the day. So, does the Bible say anything about having a QuietTime in the morning? Yep, in a huge way. And this is our Second Secret! Wait until you hear this! Now, before we get there, let me pave the path with a Biblical concept which will be important to this part of the lesson. I want to talk about an interesting Biblical principle called, “foreshadowing.” What is Foreshadowing? Foreshadow means “to have a warning or indication of a future event.” The Bible is full of these things. Here’s an example. The Foreshadow of Baptism1 Peter 3:17-22Talking about Jesus, Peter writes, “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also…” So, God saved some people in the days of Noah when the Ark was being built. The Bible says, “In it,” meaning the Ark, “only a few people were saved.” What happened? People were saved. By what? By the Ark. Yes, but also by the water. What did the Ark do? It saved the people who obeyed God and got in it from the deadly waters of the flood. Peter identifies the water of the flood as a “foreshadow.” He says, “This water symbolizes baptism.” Which water? The water of the flood. Is baptism a symbol of the flood? No, the flood is a pre-symbol or a foreshadow of baptism. What did the water of the flood do? It wiped out all human life but it also did something quite amazing of which it foreshadows even more, it wiped away the sin of the world! What happens during Baptism? God wipes away sin. Why does He do this? Because we have heard the Gospel and made that final decision to obey it by being baptized. We are saved when we obey just as the people who obeyed Noah were saved. Noah’s flood illustrates what would come in the future. The Foreshadow of the ChurchHere’s another one. I recently heard this one from my Pastor friend, Tom. In the Garden, God gives Adam an amazing and wonderful gift, a beautiful wife! How did he do this? He put the man into a deep sleep, opened his side, removed something, closed the wound and woke Adam to experience his wonderful new bride. In the New Testament, God puts Christ into a deep sleep (Death}, opens his side, removes something and wakes him up three days later to experience his amazing bride, the church! The Old Testament was rigid like bone, The Law; The New Testament is put into effect with Water and Blood. Cool! Ok, now that we understand what foreshadowing is, here’s the foreshadowing that relates to the subject of QuietTimes… our daily time with God. This is a long passage but there is a huge pay off… wait for it! The Foreshadow of the MannaExodus 16:11-21“The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’ That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.” So, here’s what was happening. Each morning everyone gathered as much food as he needed for the day. When the sun grew hot, this “Food from God” melted away. It was no longer available. If you tried to hoard it, it would rot by the next morning. As the KJV says, “It stinkith.” These then were the rules you had to follow if you were hungry: 1 – God provided the food in the morning. 2 – The food from God had to be collected daily. 3 – Manna had to be collected before the sun grew hot. 4 – The food was spoiled and unusable if it was held over until the next day. Now, flash forward and watch this closely as Jesus makes a stunning claim… Jesus is the Foreshadowed MannaJohn 6:30-38“So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life.’” (Wow, Jesus just identified himself as manna!) If Jesus is the manna we should probably assume the pattern for enjoying it is the same: 1 – God provides the food in the morning. 2 – It should be collected daily, if you are hungry. 3 – We must collect this food in the morning before the sun grows hot. 4 – Don’t try to be sustained the second day by yesterday’s food. So, our second secret, in taking our time with God to the next level, is found in the time of day we meet with God. Without question, the Bible specifically and in no uncertain terms, claims there is a best time for this activity. Let me show you even more! The Reasons for a Morning QuietTime Why should we have a QuietTime in the morning? Here are seven solid reasons. 1 – Because that’s when Jesus did it.Mark 1:35-38 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” 2 – “First Fruits!” These were an essential part of worshiping God in the Old Testament. When you collected your harvest, you gave God the very first part of it. Since many things in the Old Testament foreshadow the realities of the New Testament, compare the Old Testament first fruits as “worship of God” to your daily worship of God. Give God the first part of your day. Give God the best part of your day. Now, don’t tell me you are not a morning person. You’ll see why in a moment. Here’s a passage regarding “First Fruits.” Proverb 3:9Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. This scripture teach us to enter the land with first fruits, not leftovers. Your time with the Lord is like entering holy ground. Don’t squeeze it in to your day. Make it a priority! 3 – Morning is God’s time to examine you!Job 7:17-18“What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? 4 – David set an example for us. Morning is when David laid his requests to God and God listened. Psalm 5:3“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 88:13“But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” Psalm 143:8“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 90:5You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning–though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. Like I said, don’t tell me you are not a morning person. The Bible says you are! Everything is fresh and new in the morning. The Bible says, “Men are like grass.” it is dried by evening. If we are honest with ourselves, we know this to be true. How you feel when you get home from work? When do you get tired? There is a difference between being sleepy and being tired. Most folks sleep at night. Regardless of when we sleep, after sleep we are refreshed. That is the purpose of sleep! Don’t confuse the sleepy eyed feeling of the morning with being tired. Get that first cup of coffee, if you need it, and get your day going with God. If you still don’t think you are a morning person, perhaps there is another issue you have not considered. Maybe there is nothing that really excites you about getting out of bed in the morning. If that’s the case, this lesson is exactly what you needed. You need to stoke your relationship with God and boost it to a level you have never done before! If meeting with the Creator of the Universe, one on one, in the morning does not excite you, nothing will. Folks, Jesus rose from the dead but you can’t get out of bed? Something is wrong! Sometimes it’s just that we are not desperate… we don’t see our need for help! Here’s a guy who clearly understood his need and wanted to do anything to gain victory…. Psalm 119:147“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope on your word.” If you are not currently a “morning person,” it can change. Your relationship with God is renewed every morning. 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.” And of course, let’s make sure we are not confusing plain ol’ laziness with the struggle to keep our eyes open in the morning. Make the effort to push through. Start going to bed earlier. 5 – The fifth reason for having a morning QuietTime is that it forces us to deny ourselves. Think about this one. Could saying, “I’m not a morning person.” just be another way of saying, “I don’t want to deny myself.” Luke 9:23“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” One of the greatest struggles in following Christ is the struggle to deny ourselves. Yet, if we truly want to be a disciple of Jesus, it is an absolute requirement that we put Him first, regardless of how we feel. 6 – Morning is God’s time to teach you. Isaiah 50:4The LORD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. 7 – Make seeking God your first priority. Don’t let distractions… well, er… distract you. Matthew 6:33“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So there you have it, seven sound reasons to have a QuietTime in the morning and two amazing secrets designed to take your QuietTimes to the next level. Let’s give God the priority He should have by meeting with Him the first thing every morning and let’s make sure we are taking notes when we pray. Try these things, even for a couple of days and see what happens. You will never be sorry or have an ounce of regret that you took even some small action which might bring you closer to God. I have a feeling He is always looking forward to blessing a Faith that Obeys! https://youtu.be/jQuSJa1x5GA Behind the scenes in the studio. Enjoy! Dana Haynes Join the discussion here. Listen Now – Podcast 063 – Awesome QuietTimes!
9 minutes | a month ago
062 – The Grammar of the Plan
Editor’s Note: This is the audio from the second lesson about The Biblical Plan of Salvation . You may view the entire video series by starting HERE. Ben White via UnSplash.com Thanks so much for taking the next step. You obviously have a desire to learn more about this important topic. As we begin, I wanted to say that the things we will look at are really challenging. I know because I have felt some pretty strong feelings as I learned the things you’re about to learn. Please understand that I am submitting these ideas to you with the utmost love and respect. I hope you will feel like that comes through as I make my case. In the last video, we talked about a Biblical Plan of Salvation. I said that this plan was hidden in the Bible, and in plain sight. I said, even the most learned scholars miss it and, even explained why they miss it… they do not have the heart of a child. I’m about to show you that Biblical plan of salvation, but before we begin, let’s lock down some of the basic Bible grammar used to define the plan. You probably know most of this but let’s take a minute to lock it down carefully. This way, there will be no confusion or disagreement about terms and definitions. Bible Names for Bible Things Let’s take a look at this phrase, “God’s Plan of Salvation.” First, let’s be clear. This is God’s plan, not man’s plan. Man did not create the plan and man can not change the plan. The plan was clearly established in the Bible 2000 years ago and is the same today as it was in the first century. What is a plan? Well, Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Plan,” as a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. So our plan will contain some sort of ordered actions aimed at achieving the goal, which God has laid before us, salvation. The Biblical plan of salvation may be depicted like a series of stair steps. Now, I need to stop right here and make sure we understand something important. These steps I am describing are not actions we take in order to be saved but they are observable, verifiable things that happen with us as we move through the plan. We are not talking about some kind of “works salvation” here. You’ll understand this clearly as we move forward. Ok, this brings us to our next term… salvation. What is “Salvation?” Salvation is a good religious word. What is salvation? Turning to Mr. Webster once again, we see that salvation means, deliverance from sin and its consequences. There is another phrase, common in the religious world, called “Born Again.” This phrase is another way to say saved or sins have been forgiven. So, born again, equals saved. There is no difference between these two phrases. Here’s another important point about salvation… there is no gray area. Someone is either lost or saved. We are either in the light or in the darkness. We are never kinda saved or a little saved or sort of born again. Here is something which is a little humorous. Have you ever heard of someone referring to themselves as a “Born Again Christian?” Did you know there is no such thing as a “Born Again Christian?” Those are redundant terms! That would be like saying, I am a white Caucasian! What other kind of Caucasian is there? Any one who is “Born Again” is a Christian. What is a “Christian?” Here’s the next term: Christian. A Christian is someone who is in a saved state. And the Bible teaches only Christians are saved. People who are not saved are not yet Christians but they are certainly eligible to become Christians. This is an incredibly important definition to understand. The meaning of this word, Christian, has become a extremely blurred in our religious and non-religious worlds. Many people refer to themselves as Christian even though they have never had a “Salvation Experience.” People who simply believe in Jesus often call themselves Christian. Since they are not Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish, they are Christian, at least, that’s the box they check on those forms they give us from time to time at the DMV or emergency room. In this series, “A Faith that Obeys,” we will reserve the word “Christian” exclusively for people who are in a saved state. It is possible to believe in Jesus but never make a commitment to Him. We will call these people “believers” in order to establish a distinction. What is “Sin?” What is sin? Sin is defined as a transgression against God and His law or commands. Sin is that spiritual thing that separates us from God and makes us feel guilty. A huge part, but certainly not the only part, of a right relationship with God, is that God promises two things to every true follower of Jesus; one, our sins are forgiven and two, we will go to Heaven when we die. These two things are absolutely sure for every true Christian the hope of Heaven and the forgiveness of sins. When our sins are forgiven, they are removed or wiped away, by God. He is the only one with the power to forgive sin. As we progress in our studies, we want to hunt for the exact point in time when that event occurs… the forgiveness of sins. At the point in time when this occurs, we would say that we are now saved. This is another really important term. What is “Saved?” What does saved mean? The same thing as salvation. Saved means, saved from our sins and it’s consequences. Saved means we have received that free gift of eternal life. This is exactly what happens every time someone is saved. So, saved is another really important term on which we must absolutely agree. One is not in a saved state if their sins have never been forgiven. Let’s apply a little logic to this matter and tighten down our definition. If someone’s sins have never been forgiven, they are not saved. This means they are not yet a Christian no matter how far along in their spiritual journey they may be. If sins have been forgiven, that person would be saved and we could call them a Christian. We should also conclude everyone who is going to Heaven has had their sins forgiven and no one in Heaven will still have their sins intact. They have been removed forever. This is a super basic Christian doctrine. Without the forgiveness of sins, there is no life and we simply can not call someone who’s sin is still intact – saved. It would make no sense. So if we made up a little equation to illustrate the point, we would see that: Christian = Saved = Sins Forgiven These mean the same thing. There is no such thing as an unsaved Christian or a Christian who has never received the forgiveness of their sins. This is why we use the term, “believer” for folks who may love Jesus but have never obeyed the Gospel. Some people illustrate sin as a great wall that separates man from God. The Great Wall of Sin If that wall is never knocked down by God, man would have no access to Him. At the exact point in time when God destroys this barrier, we begin our saved relationship with Him. This term saved is what this entire series is about. At what point on our spiritual journey are we saved? And what does saved really mean? As we progress through these lessons, it will become clear; there is a very specific time and place salvation occurs. This is our goal. To clearly identify that point in time. Try to determine that point in time, in your life, when you were saved… if you believe you have been saved. In order to help you pinpoint that moment in time, I have prepared a brief survey you can download and print. After you complete the survey, you should file it away for future reference. It will become very important at the end of these lessons. Click the link below to download a copy of the survey. Download the Survey Click the link to download your copy of the survey. I have made this a printable survey so you can know it is completely confidential and the website is collecting no information. Well, now that we have our grammar established, let’s talk about the plan of salvation as it is generally presented in modern Christianity. We’ll do that next, but don’t jump ahead until you get your copy to the survey and fill it out. Enjoy! Dana Haynes Join the discussion here. Listen Now – Podcast 062 – The Grammar of The Plan
18 minutes | 2 months ago
061 – Why Study the Bible?
When someone first hears about The Biblical Plan of Salvation they often express shock because they never knew there was anything different from what they had been taught and they think all of Christendom teaches the same thing. I tell them, “Yes. People really need to study the Bible in order to become a Christian!” Photo by Ben White via Unsplash And when they hear this, it is not uncommon for them to go back to their denominational pastor and ask, “Do I really need to study the Bible to be saved?” “No, of course not.” Comes the reply. “That’s ridiculous. Look no further than the 3000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. Do you think they studied the Bible? No, there was no time. They simply heard Peter’s sermon and accepted Christ!” Now, this reasoning sounds good but let’s think it through. You Might Not Need to Study the Bible if… If you have never heard of Jesus, it is true; the simple Gospel message can be accepted and obeyed.But given our current religious climate it would be highly unlikely. Let me explain. Three thousand people did indeed become Christians on the day of Pentecost and it is unlikely that any of them opened a scroll to study it. Even the Apostle Paul, by the time Romans was written could say, “Faith comes from hearing the word…” Romans 10:17. So what’s changed? Why would studying the Bible to become a Christian be so important today? A Lot Has Changed in 2000 Years! Unlike the day of Pentecost, Christianity has been here for 2000 years and has had ample time to become incredibly perverted. Grab a phone book… if you can still find one… and look up “Churches” in the Yellow Pages. Under that category, you will find a huge number of different sub-headings for all the various denominations and within those denominational divisions a plethora of divided churches. They all teach slightly, and sometimes vastly, different things. That’s why they became divided. The goal and purpose of solid Bible study is to address and correct the denominational aberrations and bias which have been introduced over the last two millennia and bring spiritual thinking and reasoning back under the authority of scripture; since it is the source of our faith. It is, after all, our founder’s book. This may sound really strange but based on my experience, the first battle I face teaching my religious friends, will be their acceptance of the authority of scripture. One would think this situation would be reversed. A religious person should, by nature, accept the authority of scripture and a person without any formal religion would be less ready to accept scriptural authority. But this is not the case. The Problem with Traditions Religious folks often carry decades of denominational teaching and traditions which must be carefully and gently addressed. This is done by exposing current beliefs to the light of scripture and carefully reasoning out incongruences. Even this process can be difficult because of our natural inclination to reject new ideas. We can sure get stuck in our ways, can’t we? Couple this attitude with a general apathy toward “matters spiritual” and we create a real dilemma. So, from the outset, we must establish that the Bible is the authority and we must listen to and obey it’s teachings above anything we have previously learned. Most believers typically depend on their pastor or priest to tell them what the Bible says. A church service is the extent of their spiritual diet for the week. They rarely check things out for themselves. Most people naturally distrust anyone claiming to offer the word of God who is outside their current circle of religious experience; even if that person is asking them to read the same Bible they claim to follow. New ideas are treated with suspicion. Now, healthy suspicion can be a good thing, but we should never be completely closed to learning new truth when it comes directly and clearly from the scriptures, right? If we claim to follow the Bible, why not read the Bible? There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of, if you are trusting God to show you the truth. Ahh… but learning new truth can be painful! When we sit down and carefully listen to and consider new ideas, process them in our heart, then take a humble, honest look at what scriptures really teach about a cherished tradition, we are pretty much guaranteed to bump into some inconsistencies. When this happens, a small warning light pops up on some security panel in our brain, and we get a bit defensive. Why? Because we just saw something in the scripture which is completely inconsistent with what we believe, value and teach. Let me walk you through my scenario as an example. What the Bible Says vs. What I Want it to Say Here is a simple clear verse in the Bible. It is Jesus himself speaking. Matthew 23:9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. This Biblical verse is not difficult to understand. The context of the verse does not change even if you go back and read both before and after the verse. It stands alone as a simple clear command of Christ. I spent a good bit of time in the Catholic Church where it was a common and accepted practice to call my priest, “Father.” In fact, I liked the practice. I saw my priest as a “fatherly” figure. I loved and respected him as my religious leader. I trusted him. The term “father,” for me, carried a fondness and respect for him and it felt good. I saw nothing wrong with this. Not only did it feel nurturing, it seemed harmless. I called him, “Father” out of love, respect and reverence for God. Then someone showed me Matthew 23:9, “Do not call any man father.” Wow, what a bombshell. The Bible said one thing but my Catholic training told me another thing. How in the world could I possibly reconcile this discrepancy. It was simple. With a wave of the hand I dismissed issue completely. Or, should I say, “I dismissed the Bible completely?” What else could I do. A very cherished part of my religious experience was just challenged by a Bible thumping bigot, bent on destroying the religious practices I had come to know, love and adore. I felt the conflict but dismissed it easily. I did not listen nor did I want to. I was doing what I believed was right for me. It was all very natural and very easy. But what really just happened? I thought I was rejecting the messenger but I was really rejecting the scripture. Do you see that? The Bible clearly and simply states that we are to call no man “father.” I was unwilling to accept this command and even listen! And therein lies the key to the entire problem of studying the Bible with a religious person. Tradition is Lord! They will not listen. How to become an awesome listener. Listening opens the door to new growth but to get there, a bunch of old growth needs to be cleared away and that can be a painful experience. When I see something in the Scriptures which correct one of my deeply held and cherished religious beliefs, by definition, it means I have been wrong about something. Nobody likes to be wrong! It’s embarrassing. It condemns me. Things I have said or taught previously may need to be corrected. That can add additional embarrassment. Now we’re getting to the root issue. This is an issue of pride! The killer thing about pride is it prevents us from listening. We hear, but we do not listen. If you have never heard my podcast on this topic, I hope you will do that. It was Podcast 004 – An Awesome Gift. https://www.afaiththatobeys.org/blog/an-awesome-gift/ In that podcast, I talk about how vitally important it is to not only listen well, but stop and consider “how” we are listening. It is so important that we always keep this ability under close scrutiny. Are we listening carefully? In my example above, I was not listening carefully and easily rejected the message. I was acting like most people act. I was apathetic and unconcerned and an unconcerned person will never grow very much. Our Supreme Source of Religious Authority The Bible is the word of God. The Bible is the supreme source of religious authority. When we approach the cross and begin our search for salvation, it is to the Bible we must turn, not to a person or our traditions. A person may guide us… but our focus must be on the Word of God and it must become the authority for all the spiritual decisions we make. Listen to these verses from John 1. They build a framework for a very important concept. John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… Think about this. Listen carefully. John says, “The Word became flesh.” That’s Jesus. But I thought the Bible is the Word of God. It is. If Jesus is the word of God and the Bible is the Word of God, then our relationship with Him is only as deep as our Bible study! Let that one sink in. We cannot claim to know Christ and not know His word. Jesus is the word of God! When someone tells me they love Jesus but don’t read or study the word, I really have to question that claim. If we love Christ, we spend time with Christ. We meet with him every day in the pages of scripture. This is how someone has a real relationship with God. How to spend time with Christ Relationships are based on two things, time together and communication. When we spend time in the Word and prayer, we spend time with Christ. If Jesus is the word of God, then we know Jesus as well as we know the word! We cannot claim a relationship with Christ if we spend no time with him. Bible study is an activity all Christians should practice and enjoy. If you love the Lord, Bible study should be something you want for yourself. It is a critical foundational practice you will enjoy as a life long pursuit. It goes way, way beyond the initial salvation experience. Where is your heart for God if you are not seeking him with every fiber of your being…? Where is your heart? When a non-christian expresses an interest in Christ, I know the first order of business will be to build a respect and a trust for the word of God in their heart. This is not done through clever words or presentation, it must be done by the word itself; which convinces an individual of its importance. Listen to Isaiah. Isaiah 55:10-11As the rain and the snowcome down from heaven,and do not return to itwithout watering the earthand making it bud and flourish,so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desireand achieve the purpose for which I sent it. It is the Word which has the power to change the heart and the eternity. You know, in one respect, it is not my job is not to teach the truth. My job is to point people to the Bible which teaches them the truth. Faith is produced by hearing “the word,” not hearing my words. Remember? Romans 10:17“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” So, because of the current religious environment we live in, it is so absolutely vital that we have a deep conviction that the Bible must be held up as the supreme authority and all of our religious practices must be scrutinized by it alone. The consequences of not comparing our previous religious experiences to the scriptures can be disastrous. Did you know it is possible to believe the Gospel in vain? It all has to do with how we handle the Word of God. 1 Corinthians 15:2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. The Word is Supreme. 1 Thessalonians 2:13And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. It is through the word of God, not human words, by which we are Born Again. James 1:18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created. Humbly accepting the Word is what will save you, not just simply asking Jesus to come into your life. James 1:21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. In today’s modern evangelical world, Biblical truth tragically takes a back seat to time tested traditions such as The Sinners Prayer, Praying the Rosary, Putting our hope in our Infant Baptism or asking a Saint for help. These are traditions and traditions can be massive roadblocks on that narrow path to a saving faith. And guess what? This is nothing new! This was a problem in Jesus day just as much as it is in our era. Jesus identified the exact same problem and demolished it. Mark 7:13“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” When we place time honored traditions above the Word of God, Jesus said we “nullify” the Word. That’s like taking a big red marker, opening the Bible and drawing massive red Xs across each page. We blindly slash away at the scripture by following man made practices and traditions. May it never be! Fall in Love with the Scriptures! Someone who wants to become a Christian must develop a deep love and respect for the scriptures. They must learn to feed themselves and grow away from the weekly spoon feedings a once-a-week church service offers. Since the scripture is our sole source of authority on spiritual matters, we must desire to know them well. Sure, it’s fine to have leaders and partners who can offer guidance and direction by pointing us back to the scriptures. That’s what discipling is all about; one person sharpens another person’s faith. But, this is always done using the Word of God. The Scripture remains supreme through that entire process. One of the first things I tell someone who wants to study the Bible is, “Don’t believe anything your priest or pastor tells you. Read it for yourself and study it out from the Word. And Oh, by the way, don’t believe anything I tell you either.” As they recover from their shock, I point them to this scripture. Acts 17:11“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” If the Bereans did not accept what Paul said, do you think you should trust me? No. You must search out the truth for yourself. It is your salvation. It is your relationship with God and it must be pursued through the Scriptures. Some may complain, “You know, the Bible can be hard to understand; what about interpretation?” What interpretation are you talking about, yours or God’s? Do you honestly think God would graciously and mercifully provide the sacrifice for our sins in the life of Jesus Christ… for FREE… then present a book that was so difficult to understand that nobody could figure out the right way to appropriate the gift God provides? That pretty much turns God into the celestial version of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown every time he tries to kick it — then laughing hysterically. Is that the God we serve? No! God has not only lovingly given us a savior, He has given us an instruction manual which, if read with the heart of a child, can be easily understood and followed. If you will permit me to mix metaphors once again, this is not rocket surgery! Therefore, because of the current religious environment we find ourselves in, it is absolutely critical that before we approach the throne of Grace, we make certain we are on the correct road. We must not be on the road of traditions or the road of good intentions… no matter how well trodden it is, even by the so called giants of the traditional church such as Luther, Calvin, Wesley, MacArthur or Graham. Don’t discard what they have brought to the table but weigh carefully everything in the light of Scripture. This is interesting. There is only one person who does not want us to study the Bible and surely, we don’t want to be listening to him, do we? Be a Berean. Then you will develop a faith that obeys. Enjoy! Dana Haynes Join the discussion here. Listen Now – Podcast 061 – Why Study the Bible?
19 minutes | 7 months ago
060 – The Rich Young Ruler is Paul!
Important Note: Don’t miss the first two articles leading up to this one for a much deeper study. Read the first one HERE and read the second one HERE. The Apostle Paul – El Greco In our last two podcasts, we dove into the possibility that the Apostle Paul is the Rich Young Ruler. In this podcast, I want to take what we have discovered so far and apply some analysis and logic. If you are like me, for some reason we have a little blind spot regarding the Apostle Paul. I have always seen Paul’s life as sorta-kinda beginning at the stoning of Stephen. I have never really spent much time considering the glaring fact of his existence prior to his dramatic appearance at Stephen’s death. When we play the timeline of Paul’s life backward, we begin to see his place in a historical context of that day. He did not just poof into existence at the martyrdom of Stephen. He had a life before that time and I think, during that time, we call him The Rich Young Ruler. Let’s review the astonishing similarities which lead us to that conclusion. Incredible Similarities Both Paul and The Rich Young Ruler are men. Both were young at the time we first meet them. Both are Jewish. Both are rulers. Both knew the commandments. Both kept all the commandments from birth. Both claim a faultless and blameless life. Both were zealous for the law. Both were wealthy. Both struggled with covetousness. Both were loved by Christ. Both were told to “come follow me.” It took a direct intervention by God to make it all happen, just as Jesus said it would regarding the Rich Young Ruler, and we see that miraculous event happen to Saul on the road to Damascus. We also have the statement by Jesus that the Rich Young Ruler would be in a position of “last” compared to the Apostles and Paul is the last Apostle appointed by Christ. Saul has a life history. We miss that. Through Paul’s own testimony, we know that he was raised in Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel. His studies led him to his commission as a Pharisee. He was a star pupil! He advanced quicker and better than young men of his own age. He was a super achiever. We know he was in Jerusalem growing up, and we know he was in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s death. Where would he have been between those times? The same place! He would have been completing his studies and fulfilling his new duties as a Pharisee! This means, Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was most certainly aware of the ministry of Christ. He had to be! There is no reason to think that he was somehow sequestered in a back room of the temple writing a blog, or separated from the Jerusalem leadership in a foreign nation—completely unaware of what was happening back in Jerusalem. He was there! Saul was there! Regarding the activities and thinking of the Sadducees and Pharisees about Jesus, we have quite a bit of information. We know Caiaphas, Ananias, Nicodemus, Gamaliel and all the Sanhedrin kept a close watch on Christ’s activities. As a Pharisee, Saul was part of the in crowd. Yet, we never hear Saul mentioned in the Gospels… but then again, we never see Gamaliel mentioned in the Gospels either; and he was a man of great influence during the days of Jesus ministry and into the church era. So Gamaliel was there too. After all, he could not have taught Saul if he was not in Jerusalem in the years prior to Acts 7 where we first meet Saul! What’s a “ruler?” We noted that Luke is the only writer who identifies the rich man as a “ruler.” What kind of ruler would this be? Given all the other facts of the case, we know this had to be a Jewish ruler. It would not have been a gentile ruler. Remember, the Rich Young Man had known from birth and kept all of the commandments. Gentiles don’t do that. Being a ruler means you rule over something. What would RYR rule over? He ruled over Jewish people. Perhaps the young man was a synagogue leader or a junior scribe of some sort. Regardless, he was a Pharisee and as such, he would have been considered a “ruler” living under the authority of the Chief Priests and Elders. In the scriptures, these leaders are often referred to as “rulers and teachers of the law.” Let me provide some examples. Jairus in Mark 5:22 is referred to as a “synagogue ruler.” In Luke 12:11 Jesus told the disciples not to worry about what to say when they are “brought before the synagogue rulers.” In Luke 23:13, Pilate calls together the “Chief Priests and rulers of the people.” And, on the Emmaus Road, Cleopas identifies the Jewish leaders as “rulers.” The point is, Luke identifies the Rich Young Man as a “ruler,” who has a burning question about his future in the Kingdom of God. This Rich Young Ruler approaches Jesus and falls on his knees. I believe this is a sincere effort to humble himself before what he truly believes may be the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus looks at him and loves him. There is no other person in all of scripture of whom it is said, “Jesus loved him.” Why do we have that pronouncement? And why does Jesus make the comparative statement about the apostles who were with him being first and the Rich Young Ruler being last? Why does he say it will take the power of God to change the man? An Apostle’s Call Therein lies another powerful testimony indicating this man may be the Apostle Paul. When Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to give up everything, he added that faith filled statement, “then come follow me.” Remember, that command is never issued to any other person in the Gospels other than an apostle. (There is one possible exception but it was a really just a general call to the man Jesus told to “let the dead bury the dead” in Matthew 8:22.) This is huge! That specific call was only issued to Apostles! This explains why Jesus talks about a “last position” and “only God can make some things happen.” What changed Saul? So, what turned Saul into a murderous monster? If he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, shouldn’t he have a spirit of tolerance and patience imitating the faith of his teacher? Remember, it was Gamaliel who told the Pharisees that they might be fighting God, in Acts 5:33 and following, if they did not let the Christians be. What happened to Saul causing him to tragically lose the ability to imitate his patient and wise teacher? I think it was his encounter with Christ that drove him over the edge of reason. If Paul is the Rich Young Ruler, we might have the historical turning point of his life which lead him down the destructive dark path. Let me explain. The Rich Young Ruler had a burning desire to know the truth and he believed, with all his heart, that Jesus had the answer he was looking for regarding his eternal destiny. He approaches, falls on his knees, asks his question and is given an answer he did not expect or want to hear! Instead of addressing his question, Jesus addressed his sin in a devastatingly painful way. “Sell everything you have and give to the poor.” With this statement, the young man’s world comes crashing down around him. Next, we note his reaction. He does not protest. He does not complain. He is caught red handed. His sin is laid bare before a gathering crowd and the God of the universe. He realizes, in an instant, he has hit an insurmountable wall. His quest comes to a screeching halt and his eyes fill with tears. He is deeply and desperately saddened by Jesus answer. We have no indication of how much time it took The Rich Young Ruler to rise from his prostrate position… he just gets up and “goes away sad.” Unlike the frantic father of Mark 9 who exclaims, “help me overcome my unbelief,” RYR asks for no help and no clarification. The matter is over! There is no recourse… no redress. He just goes away sad. It is a devastating and crushing blow! How not to handle a spiritual challenge So, what do you think happened with this young man next. Do you think he went home to lick his wounds, thought about it real well, repented and returned to Jesus? Do you think he went immediately and actually sold all his stuff? Or, like me, do you think he went home and let a rebuke by the Lord fester and boil until it became a seething pot of bitterness and hatred? For three or more years, he would watch that band of despicable disciples grow their new and dangerous religion, while in his heart, he could see the power of his cherished Jewish leadership slipping away. All the while, his rage and hatred festered and grew. When someone does something to us which causes great injury, we don’t, in our natural self, think very highly of the person who caused the injury. It is not difficult to understand how the sadness of The Rich Young Ruler could morph into deep bitterness, hatred and a seething rage, baking an idea to get even! “Who does he think he is telling me I should get rid of all my stuff?” When we are confronted with our sin, it hurts. Even if it is a trusted friend who confronts us, it is often a bitter pill to swallow. Thankfully, if we trust God enough to consider the possibility that the person could be right, we prayerfully consider it and God grants us repentance. Sometimes, it is quite difficult to detect or hate our own sin and it is not until we really blow it in a major way, injuring someone we care about, that we truly begin to see how wretched we actually are. This is what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus. Whatever filled Saul’s heart with such hatred for Christians, he is brought to his knees, once again, by Jesus, on that dusty Damascus road. He is blinded. He is once again humbled. He is once again crushed. The humiliation of Saul of Tarsus, is the result of direct and prophesied intervention by God to make his repentance possible. It’s exactly what Jesus said would happen. “Some things can only happen with God.” And… this is how the Rich Young Ruler became the Apostle Paul. We may never know for sure. But… Well, this is all a bunch of fine fancy speculation, right? We will never know for sure about all this… at least, not until we get to heaven. But, our little exegetical exercise raises a good question. Why would the Bible not just come out and tell us that the Rich Young Ruler is Paul? Why all the mystery? Why is it hidden? First, there are the practical reasons. Remember, Luke wrote The Gospel of Luke and Acts and he had no qualms about giving us all the dirt on Paul before his conversion. He held nothing back. Remember too, Luke and Paul were very close. They travelled together for years and went through many trials together. Perhaps there was some reason not to expose Paul as the ruler to protect someone else or maybe even Paul himself. Maybe Luke simply did not know. Perhaps Paul asked Luke not to tell the story. Maybe Paul felt embarrassed by it or maybe he just wanted to “not be reminded of his life before Christ.” Those reasons seem pretty lame. In the Gospel of Luke, Luke just identifies the Rich Young Ruler as “a certain ruler.” That’s pretty evasive isn’t it? It almost sounds like Luke knew but deliberately withheld details. Why would he do that? I have an answer which may delight you in a special way. Proverbs 25:2It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;to search out a matter is the glory of kings. I think the connection between these seemingly separate people is hidden by God so that we can experience and enjoy the hunt! There are so many treasures in the Bible waiting to be discovered. Not everything is plain and simple. Remember what Jesus said? Luke 10:21“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’” I don’t know about you, but the little tidbits I discover in scripture sort of make me want to grab the seat of my pants and giggle. I love those little things God has hidden for us to discover. I feel like a little kid opening a present. It’s all done to provoke us to look deeply into God’s word. So, there you have it, my ramblings about why I think The Rich Young Ruler is Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul. But… there is one more thing. This one is just for fun. An Epic Rebuke Do you remember that time in Matthew 23 when Jesus directly takes the Pharisees and Sadducees to task in a scathing rebuke of their hypocritical religious practices? If you are not familiar with it, you should really stop the podcast right now and go read it, seriously. What you are about to hear will captivate your imagination all the more if you have the whole story fresh in your mind. Go read Matthew 23 right now. Make it fresh. Matthew 23 begins with Jesus taking his case to the general public, warning them about their hypocritical religious leaders. He quickly turns the tables to address the leaders themselves and addresses them directly. In verse 13, his epic rebuke begins. Matthew 23:13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” By the way, this was not presented as if Mr. Rogers was speaking, this was a fiery, blazing, powerful rebuke! For 25 more verses, he addresses the Pharisees and teachers of the law, condemning their practices and their oppressive ways. It is a tirade unlike anything else in all of scripture… a monumental, exposing, stinging rebuke. Now, I imagine, in the crowd; is one particular Pharisee, the Pharisee we have been discussing, Saul of Tarsus. It would not be unreasonable to think he was there and because of this, my imagination is ignited once again. As you read through all of Matthew 23, did you notice everything you read is in the plural? Yeah, Jesus addresses the entire group in the plural until… he spots one young man in the crowd and in verse 26 drops out of the plural and jumps into the singular for that one young man he absolutely loves, points his finger directly at him and says… “Blind Pharisee!. First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Jesus tells the Rich Young Pharisee how to fix his life. Not long after, that young injured student of Gamaliel found himself on a mission to Damascus where he would indeed become blind! His entire life is in crescendo as he stops for three days and considers what it all has meant up to this point in time. This time he reasons it all out with humility… “Who does he think he is to tell me to get rid of all my stuff? He’s the Lord! He really is the Lord! I have been so wrong for all these years. God forgive me! Forgive me for all I have done to your saints!” The inside of the cup is clean. God has granted repentance. He now has a faith that can obey and that is exactly what he does. His sight and heart are restored and he goes on to become the second most influential man in the entirety of Christendom. I am convinced Saul of Tarsus is the Rich Young Ruler. I hope I have given you a little food for thought, tickled your imagination and provoked you to deeper study of God’s amazing word. Enjoy! Dana Haynes Join the discussion here. Listen Now – Podcast 060 – The Rich Young Ruler is Paul!
26 minutes | 7 months ago
059 – The Resume of Paul
Paul with Agrippa – Vasily Surikov – Circa 1875 In our last Podcast, we talked about the secrets in a resume. Because the Bible contains so much information about certain people, it is pretty easy to metaphorically build a resume for a Biblical character. This exercise can reveal things we may have never really considered. Let’s look at the Apostle Paul. There is a lot written about him personally. Paul is Amazing The Apostle Paul is probably the most amazing disciple in the entire New Testament. Not only does he go from being the number one persecutor of the church to the number one promoter of the church, he goes on to pen three quarters of the the New Testament scripture. He is the author of no less than 13 letters to various people and churches. Paul was pretty prolific! So too were others who accompanied him such John Mark; who goes on to write the Gospel of Mark, and Luke, a physician. Luke is the writer of both the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke. Both these men were close associates of Paul and accompanied him on many of his missionary journeys. Beginning with Luke’s writings, let’s gather information about Paul’s life with which we can build a handsome and respectable resume for Paul. First Contact The first time we ever meet Paul is at the end of Acts 7. It’a not a great first meeting. It occurs during the stoning of Stephen where Paul was still known as the Pharisee, Saul. We join the assault just after the crowd has been whipped into a frenzy by the preaching of Stephen. Acts 7:57 – 8:1“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” A Young Man In terms of church history, theologians tell us the stoning of Stephen happened about 35 AD. This would put it roughly three years after the birth of the church. This passage tells us, Saul was still a young man. He has some type of authority because he is “giving approval” to the stoning of Stephen and the murderers are laying their clothes at the feet of this “young man” as he stands back giving approval. Saul is obviously filled with a deep hatred and bitter contempt for this new religion. It’s difficult to imagine a hatred so intense and so evil that it compels someone to actually participate in an organized effort to kill, murder and destroy a people who’s entire motivation is love. Have you ever wondered what drove Saul to this breaking point? Why was he compelled to do such a thing? The Good News is, the next time we meet Saul, he has a little “come to Jesus” moment! On a dusty Damascus road, Jesus appears to him in brilliant light and knocks some sense into him. In fact, Jesus knocks the Saul out of him so far, he changes his name to Paul… and the rest is history! Paul’s Conversion Three Times Luke tells the story of Saul’s conversion in the book of Acts, three times. Let’s glean some details about Paul’s life from each of these then move on to discovering some other nuggets about Paul from the epistles. Our first conversion story is told in Acts 9. Acts 9:1-2Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Saul, apparently has so much clout with the leaders back in Jerusalem, he could ask for, and receive, certain letters of passage. We assume these letters provided the necessary authority; empowering Saul to enter Damascus and collect any wayward Jew who professed Christ and either kill the individual or take them back as a prisoner for questioning or punishment. During Saul’s encounter with Jesus, he is struck blind. He is told to wait in Damascus. Next, God uses a disciple named Ananias to reach out to Saul. His initial hesitancy is understandable. Acts 9:13-14“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” Ananias heard “many reports” about the problems Saul created with his basically “unchecked authority” to do whatever he wanted. How did he get so much power at such a young age? Paul actually tells us in Acts 22. This happens when Luke re-tells Paul’s conversion story for the second time. This time, it is Paul himself speaking to a bunch of angry Jews back in Jerusalem. Acts 22:1-5“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. A Split with Gamaliel In this account, we gain some new bullet points for Paul’s resume. He is a Jew. He was born in Tarsus. He was actually brought up in Jerusalem and was blessed to be taught by one of the most prominent Rabbi’s in all of Jewish history named Gamaliel. According to John McArthur, Gamaliel was so loved and respected, some fondly called him, “The Beauty of the Law.” Paul wasn’t just trained in the Law… he was “thoroughly trained” or as the NASB says, “strictly trained.” He was so zealous for God, he persecuted the church and attacked the followers of Christ because he saw them as blasphemers. Now, there is something very interesting about Saul’s attitude regarding the Christians which stands in stark contrast from that of Gamaliel. From other scriptures, we know Gamaliel was a “centrist” and maybe even an appeaser regarding the Church. After the Apostles are arrested in Acts 5, he crafts wise counsel, preventing serious persecution. Strangely, Saul does not imitate the patient character traits of his teacher. Despite being trained by Gamaliel, Saul seems to have missed imitating Gamaliel’s patient heart. Something must have happened to Saul to drive him over the edge of reason to possess such a radically differing view than this sage advisor regarding the Church! What happened to Saul to make him so bitter and so angry? Zealous and Agressive In Acts 22, we also learn that Saul was “zealous for the law.” This word “zealous” is an interesting word. In those days, there existed, in Israel, a pseudo-political group called “The Zealots.” They were a radical bunch of Jews who were basically… terrorists to Rome. Paul’s choice of the word “zealous,” might give us a little additional insight into the depth of his hatred for the church since most people, of his day, would associate this word with that radical group. He absolutely hated Christians. We read the final account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 26. He is explaining the miraculous event to King Agrippa. Acts 26:4-5“The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.” Once again, we see Paul places great importance on the fact that he has lived the strictest life in Judaism, even from childhood. His life in the Jewish faith eventually leads him to achieve the rank of Pharisee. A Pharisee was one of Israel’s highest religious and political leaders who ruled over the people. Apparently, Saul’s power was strongly centered in Jerusalem. He continues… Acts 26:9-11“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” Paul was convinced, by his interpretation of the Bible, that he must oppose the name of Christ. Beginning in Jerusalem, the seat of his power, he “votes” to begin his campaign of punishment and death. He travels great distances and goes from Synagogue to Synagogue in this campaign. He says he was “obsessed.” His mission even carried him to foreign cities. A Jewish Crusade What we learn from these three conversion stories is intense. We are basically looking at a Jewish version of the Crusades. If people were unwilling to change their religious views they were killed! And, it all began when an angry mob laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. As we move away from the three conversion stories in the Book of Acts, other rich tidbits await discovery in the rest of Acts and the Epistles. Let’s organize these revelations into categories as opposed to chronological appearance as we work our way toward Philemon. Deeper Heritage Here are some things we learn about Paul’s heritage. Paul was born a Roman Citizen. We discover this in… Acts 22:27-28“The commander went to Paul and asked,
19 minutes | 7 months ago
058 – The Secrets in a Resume
If you were asked to boil down the Gospel message into just one word, what would that word be? Most people would probably say, “The heart of the Gospel is love!” In fact, the word love and its derivatives is one of the most used words in the entire Bible. And, there is no greater persons in whom we see love demonstrated than Jesus Christ and God the Father. Jesus laid down his life for us well before we ever knew him, and “God is love,” according to the apostle John. Having someone to love and being loved are two of mankind’s greatest needs and God graciously provides His love for us on us in a variety of ways. And of course, love is a two way street. Loving Christ If you are a disciple of Christ, you have returned the love God gives by obeying his commands and dedicating your life to the cause of Christ. Christians love Christ! When we look through the Gospels we find many other people who loved Jesus too. Mary and Martha come to mind; Mary Magdalene for sure. When we look for the people Jesus loved, we might recall the intensely emotional event at Lazarus’ tomb. Everyone saw his love for Lazarus because, “Jesus wept.” The Bible says, “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus.” We also have the humorous veiled references John makes about himself in his Gospel as “the one whom Jesus loved.” We also have abundant societal references to Christ’s love. “Jesus loves the little children,” as the song goes. And of course let’s not forget, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Without question, Jesus has a heart of love. But, did you know there is only one specific individual in the entire Bible where it explicitly says, “Jesus loved him?” Who’s that and how would you like to be that guy? Only one individual… in all of scripture… is singled out as being the specific object of Christ’s love! Do you know who that was? It’s not Lazarus! Introducing the Rich Young Ruler This is one of my favorite characters in all the Bible – The Rich Young Ruler. So, why does the Bible say in Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him?” The answer is found in this young man’s resume. You know, there’s a lot of information in a resume. So, let’s do a little review of this fellows’. We meet this guy in no less than three Gospels and as it turns out, there are a ton of interesting facts established which eventually point to a stunning revelation. By the end of this podcast, I think you will agree, this is a most impressive resume indeed. The story of The Rich Young Ruler appears in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. God evidently wants us to notice this guy. Let’s read about him from the Mark 10 account. Mark 10:17-23As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” A Tragic Beginning? What a seemingly sad story; a man runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees. His heart is obviously burning with a question. It’s the same question you and I should probably ask if we could meet with Jesus for just one minute. “Lord, will I get to go to Heaven?” Truth be told, there is absolutely no other question which is more important to every human heart. Everyone, from the depths of their soul, wants to know if they will be “OK” when everything is over and the final curtain falls. We all long to know that someday, somehow, everything will be all right and we will be counted worthy of heaven. All other questions we might want to ask the Son of God, pale in comparison to this one vital question. This question speaks to the entire purpose of the Bible, the entire purpose of the Christian faith and the very reason for Christ’s sojourn to the earth. He loves us and wants all men to be saved. Let’s look at the other accounts of this man’s quest and glean some facts about his character and credentials.We see this fellow running to Jesus and falling on his knees. Why would he be running? Why would he fall on his knees? I think this speaks about the content of the young man’s heart. He was excited. He was eager. He was expectant. He was urgent. By falling on his knees we get the sense that he understands who Jesus might be. He seems to understand; this iterate preacher possesses power from God that heretofore has never been seen in Israel. Now, I have heard some commentators suggest that this “falling on the knees” is a bit of mockery or a flair for dramatics. I don’t buy that. I believe this is a sincere, hungry, heartfelt outreach to, what this man perceived as an incredibly important religious figure. In fact, I think this guy may have been motivated by some discovery he has made from the scriptures. He may have just concluded that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah! This would certainly explain the dramatic entrance. Building Our Resume Here are the facts we have at hand. Our Matthew 19 scripture initially calls this person a man and says that he “came up to Jesus.” In verse 22, it provides a bit more detail and calls him “a young man.” Mark tells us he is a “man” and he “falls on his knees.” Luke offers greater detail when the good Doctor tells us he is “a certain ruler.” When we harmonize all three gospel accounts, we come up with the title by which this excited young man is most well know and most aptly describes him, “The Rich Young Ruler.” So, the facts are… he is young. He is a male. We know he is a ruler of some sort. We know he has a question for Jesus and we surmise it is something which is burning in his heart because of the way he approaches Jesus. In all three accounts, the question is the same. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a religious question. It appears as if this young man thinks his salvation is based on good works. The object of his desire is the hope of heaven. What more does this tell us about the young man? Well, he’s religious. He has his mind set on spiritual matters. He seeks an answer to this religious question from a person he perhaps sees as a pretty important authority in Palestine. Why not go to the temple and ask the priests or the teachers of the law? Maybe he did, but it is now in front of Jesus where he poses the same question. By this, we know he holds Jesus in high regard involving spiritual and eternal matters; at least as high as the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. He recognized Jesus’ credentials. He calls him “Good teacher.” Jesus response seems enigmatic. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone!” You don’t always get what you want! Wow! Not really a very direct answer to your burning question, right? I’ll bet that hurt. How would you feel if you walked up to your favorite religious leader, asked a sincere question and was immediately corrected about something you said? That’s exactly what just happened – how embarrassing. This guy is still on his knees with a crowd surrounding him and he is corrected by the man he came to for help. I suspect Jesus quickly replied so as not to leave him hanging too long. Mark and Luke say: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” These are Jewish commandments. This confirms our suspensions that this is a young Jewish man. And not just any ol’ Jewish fellow; he is a really good Jew! Now, even though Jesus had never met him before, he said, “You know the commandments.” Isn’t that interesting? Mark 10:20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Impeccable Credentials This is a bold and confident statement! He never neglected a commandment? This young man was a dedicated, serious, God fearing, God obeying young man who must have been raised in a pretty solid household. This is not just a young street urchin sliding up to Jesus to get an autograph or a selfie with the savior. This is a young man who has, up to this moment, dedicated his life to obeying the Old Testament, to the best of his ability. He is what we might call, “a serious seeker.” At this point, don’t you think Jesus should just say, “Awesome, you have done well. You believe in me so you are good to go!” Well, that’s not what happens. Next comes that stunning statement made about no other individual in the the entire Bible. “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Right here, I imagine a long pensive pause as Jesus looks through this young man’s eyes and into his soul, preparing to deliver what will be a devastating response. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Going Away Sad Because we know what happens next, we know how appropriate, poignant and piercing this command is. It is aimed directly at the idols of this man’s life. This response directly addresses some very specific sin; our friend is exposed as a covetous sinner! He loves his money and his stuff! Mark 10:22“At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus knew exactly which buttons to push. He knew exactly what was keeping this man from his heart
19 minutes | 9 months ago
057 – The Great Commission – The Promise!
Now, let’s look at… possibly… the most neglected statement of The Great Commission. After Jesus issues his four crisp commands, comes the magnificent and stunning conclusion. Let’s read the entirety of The Great Commission again… it’s been a while since we’ve heard it. Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” The Greatest Promise Ever Made Jesus concludes his commission with an amazing and wonderful promise… “And surely I am with you always until the very end of the age.” There are no words to adequately describe the implications and impact of these final words. Jesus’ promise permeates through the rest of the New Testament. For the last two millennia, The Promise has changed millions of hearts and lives and will continue to do so until the very end of time. Majestic and marvelous, The Promise secures a Christian’s future in the eternal Kingdom of God. It is a promise of comfort and a bond of sonship. It is intimate and loving. It is truly beyond earthly comprehension. Jesus promises to be with us always, until the very end of the age. The Promise was Predicted And, by the way, this is exactly what he said he would do, way back in John 14. This came at the time of The Last Supper, as he shares his heart with the apostles he loves. Let’s listen in…. John 14:15-31 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” Wow! What an awesome and wonderful position we are in. The God of the Universe, the Lord of Lords, King of King’s, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, The Alpha and Omega, the Light and the Life of Men, the Word Incarnate, that Carpenter of Galilee will voluntarily come to me and live in me for the purposes of his will. That’s wild! It’s blow away! The Promise has a Predication Now notice, in both John 14 and The Great Commission, all of this wonder is predicated on a very specific response to Jesus’ teaching and invitation. The only appropriate response to his conditional call is… obedience. John 14 compels soft hearted people to ask, “How do we do this, Lord? What should we obey?” By Matthew 28:18, he tells them! The Promise follows and, is only available to, those who obey The Great Commission. The Promise is Awesome! The Promise of The Great Commission is, beyond words, truly amazing in its blessings. The God of the Universe comes and makes his home in us. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus indwells us! This all happens at a point in time after our sins have been wiped away by God! The Holy Spirit will not indwell a house which has not been swept clean. It happens because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He died on the cross and rose from the grave so we can be freed from sin and death. Because of what He has done, we can live with God in Heaven for all eternity. Our response to this is not a legalistic or man made response, it is in humble obedience to all that he commands and it comes from a heart filled with deep gratitude and love for Christ. Without objection or argument, we obey all he has taught us. Our love for Christ and our gratitude for what He has accomplished on our behalf drives us forward. It compels us to honor, respect, adore and cherish Jesus as our Lord with every fiber of our being. We lay down our lives before His throne. We fall on our knees before His majesty. We dedicate our lives to His service. We desire to know Him in deeper more intimate ways by reading His word and pursuing our relationship with Him in prayer to the Father, that we may know him better. The Promise has an Impact When we are so converted, we crave things spiritual and our minds become squarely set on heavenly things. Love is an action, not just an emotion. Therefore, a disciple of Jesus possesses a “go anywhere, do anything” mentality and heart. We are humble and eager to learn anything new. We are willing to change quickly when we learn we have been wrong. This of course implies we are in relationships which lovingly challenge our thinking. We have this heart because we so clearly recognize how lost and depraved we actually were without Christ. We truly understand how deceived and empty our lives were prior to discovering this “life to the full,” which is only found in Christ! A relationship with Christ results in overwhelming feelings of boundless joy, incomprehensible peace and deep contentment. This is why we talk about Christ. We love sharing this Good News with our brothers and sisters who have experienced the same thing we have and with those who have not yet discovered it. The Promise is Why Accountability is Vital “I will be with you always,” is the last thing Jesus tells his disciples, and it is within this context we consider what we talked about in our last podcast, “accountability.” We have our commission. We have our marching orders. We are to take the Gospel to the world. We are to go, make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey everything we have been taught. So, how does Jesus amazing promise to be with us always relate to accountability in our evangelistic efforts. Think this through! When you have a group of people absolutely stoked about their relationship with God, they should be eager to do anything which “fans into flames” those feelings. If church leadership can provide just a little bit of structure and a little bit of guidance, I would be all for it. Provide me just a little bit of direction in the form of some common goals, shared with my fellow workers, and I will stay focused and busy while I toil with my team to reach those goals. The God of the universe lives in me. Don’t tell me to sit around doing nothing! The Promise Demands a Plan When church leadership provides no common evangelistic goals, direction and a way to measure success, members will most likely drift and wander aimlessly throughout their spiritual lives, rarely seeing the victory of bringing another soul to Christ and experiencing the shear joy of teaching another person all that they have learned. Without common goals, direction and a modicum of accountability, not only will church members drift… frankly, most will leave. Is it not strange that every successful business understands and employs accountability among its members but the church shudders at the thought of asking its team to be accountable for a far more important purpose. Our efforts impact people for an eternity. No company’s products or services can make that claim. Our evangelistic goals, organizational plans and accountability should put the greatest corporate programs to shame. Consider Israel. They always had goals. The Lord constantly set before them the task of advancing into new territory. For them it happened through their various wars. Take these military campaigns as a foreshadowing of our battle to save souls. While we no longer conquer physical territory with swords of iron, we conquer spiritual territory with The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And, without question…. it is a battle, the battle for souls! The Promise Moves us Forward Jesus magnificent promise to be with us always means that we will take on his continuing mission to keep moving forward by preaching and teaching the Gospel. A well trained mission team doesn’t reject accountability, we embrace it because it helps us do what we want to do to an even greater degree by employing Godly organization. The very fact that Jesus is in us drives us forward as a team, on the quest to spread his message. How can we measure the effectiveness of a plan if there are no clearly defined attainable goals… no specific target and no evaluation of the activity? We must have an evangelistic plan with clearly defined and clearly stated goals and objectives. When these are communicated to the troops, they have the ability to see their victories! Thin
13 minutes | a year ago
056 – The Great Commission – Teach
The fourth command of The Great Commission is, in its complete sentence form, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In my mind, this is the most amazing part of the Great Commission. It is absolutely brilliant. In adding this fourth command to the other three commands of The Great Commission, Jesus has just insured that the Biblical Plan of Salvation will continue on throughout all generations. Let’s break it down and see what else we can discover. Discovery The first word is, “teach.” This means sending information, passing knowledge, communicating enlightenment. It’s a drawing toward knowledge and wisdom. Now, carefully notice. The apostles were not told to “teach the people everything.” They were told, “Teach them to ‘obey’ everything.” This is interesting. Jesus introduces obedience. Obedience is a response and it is always intrinsically linked to a command. Without a command, there is nothing to obey. This is why we say, “The Great Commission must be obeyed.” There are a series of commands contained in it. As a result, obedience becomes a critical part of the salvation experience because, the scriptures elsewhere teach us that we can not have a relationship with God, if we are unwilling to obey him. More about that in a moment. Now, obviously… the things Jesus is commanding us to obey extend way beyond the first three commands of The Great Commission. He said, “Teach them to obey everything, I have commanded you.” Obey Everything? That’s a mighty tall order, wouldn’t you say. What was he talking about? “Love your enemies?” “Love your neighbor as yourself?” “Seek first the Kingdom?” “Give?” Yes, yes, yes and yes. But, in the context of The Great Commission, we must ask, “What has he just taught the apostles to obey?” Well… the first three commands! Go, make and baptize! When Jesus says, “Teach them to obey everything,” that by definition, includes everything he has just finished saying. And, they should teach it exactly the same way he taught them. No one has ever been given a license or the authority to change anything in the Biblical Plan of Salvation. Have you ever played the game “Telephone?” It’s a fun game, even for adults. The game is played by getting 15 or 20 other people together. The leader whispers a fairly complex sentence into the first person’s ear. The first person then whispers it into the second person’s ear and the message gets passed on from mouth to ear for twenty generations. It can be quite hilarious when we hear the final presentation of the original sentence. Things can really change and get messed up! When a message gets passed down from generation to generation people have a tendency to change things. But this process can’t happen with The Great Commission because we have the instructions… the original message… clearly presented in the New Testament. Ongoing… without alteration The apostles would have taught their followers everything, exactly as Jesus taught them. They taught their students the four crisp commands to Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and Teach them to obey everything. Nothing changed. Now, think about the second generation of made disciples. What would they teach the third generation? The third generation is taught to Go, Make, Baptize and Teach. There is absolutely no change. The commands are exactly the same. So, what would the third generation teach to the fourth generation? Exactly the same things… without alteration! This process is handed down from generation to generation and, if we are in a church which practices the Biblical Plan of Salvation, this is exactly what we would be doing today. If a disciple is taught, and called to obey, all four commands of The Great Commission, they would be making other disciples, exactly the same way. A disciple makes disciples. I’ve said it before, there is no other kind of disciple. There is no such thing as a disciple who does not make disciples. We must be about the Father’s business, just as Jesus was about the Father’s business. Consider this challenging passage. 1 John 2:3-6 “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” Wow! Can I honestly say this is how I live my life? What a challenging verse! If we are not walking in obedience to the Lord’s commands, we do not know him. That’s a real slap in the face! But then, John follows up his first challenging statement with an even harder hitting second statement. If someone claims to know God but does not do what he commands, John says, “he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” How’s that for a warm fuzzy sermon? Folks, we must walk as Jesus did. That’s what The Great Commission insures and this is why earlier, I said we can not have a relationship with God if we are disobedient. Why this command is amazing The thing that makes this fourth command of The Great Commission, the most amazing command to me, is the way it brings the other three commands together, wraps it into a nice little package and then sets it up as eternally repeating loop. If we are in the loop, our walk should never change… and yet, it has. Who really teaches this? Who really obeys this? Who takes The Great Commission seriously and practices it to the best of their ability every single day. Who has set their heart on seeking and saving the lost by using the pattern of The Great Commission as opposed to some other well meaning man made plan such as the Sinner’s Prayer? When was the last time anyone asked you, “Who are you teaching?” Is there any accountability, whatsoever, for these things in the church you attend? What’s happened to in the church today? Many churches know The Great Commission well, but tragically teach it as a goal or an ideal, they don’t really practice it or hold their members accountable for it. We sacrifice active commitment to Christ’s commands for a warm fussy feeling which expects nothing and sure doesn’t ask for it. What would happen if someone stepped up to the plate in your church and said, “Hey, you know what? We are not making disciples the way they did in the first century. We need to repent and start doing it like the Bible says.” In my experience, there is nothing like a team of mission minded disciples doing the work of the master; saving souls for an eternity of bliss in the Kingdom of God. This is why we are saved, to carry out the master’s business of making disciples. The “A” Word The one important ingredient, vital to make all of this happen, is the one ingredient most people reject. And without it, the entire process falls flat. What is this ingredient? Accountability! If we are actively involved in the mission of making disciples, you can bet we will be talking about it with one another. We should expect to see church programs and activities designed to support our efforts. And most certainly, church leadership would be interested in the results and create ways to monitor it. Look at this scripture, it’s… Ephesians 4:11-13 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… And it goes on… God gave us leaders to prepare us for works of service which build up the church, both spiritually and numerically. The church is meant to grow, not stay stagnant. And leaders lead! They provide direction and guidance. They give us our marching orders, so to speak. Of course, this is where the friction begins regarding accountability. Worldly Focus or Kingdom Focus? No one naturally likes to be told what to do. No one naturally wants to be accountable for their actions… or lack of action. The thought of joining a church which would hold me accountable for evangelism seems distasteful somehow. Who wants to be annoyed by someone asking them how many people they reached out to on any given day or week? Is that how a church should work? Couldn’t some people be offended? Couldn’t some zealous leader get a little bossy about it and try to take control over my efforts? Yes! Absolutely, and it could really be a problem… if… we are thinking naturally. If we are thinking “in the flesh.” Remember, as a converted disciple of Jesus, we don’t feel like we have to do anything. We feel like we “get” to so something for the Lord. We see the evangelistic efforts of our church as a divine effort and our own efforts as a contribution to the whole. We are not uncomfortable when someone asks us about our evangelism, if we have a healthy and vibrant walk with the Lord. Remember. Evangelism is a very good indication of how a person is doing spiritually. I stop talking about God and inviting people to learn about Him, if I am not doing well. When our hearts and minds are not on heavenly things, we tend get off track and begin thinking about the things of this world, not the things of the Kingdom. This is the thinking of the natural man, not the spiritual man; and this is why accountability in evangelism becomes burdensome. This is a very real problem, for both the shepherd and the sheep. Leaders need to possess a loving kindness which takes into account the fact that not every sheep will be doing awesome all the time. Likewise, the sheep need to be patient with the failings of the leaders. They will never be perfect 100% of the time in the way they take care of the flock. There will be times they make mistakes. So, is there a way both the led and the leadership can share in a win-win experience? I think so. In fact, I think the answer is staring us in the fac
14 minutes | a year ago
055 – The Great Commission – Baptize!
As we continue our mini-series about The Great Commission, we now examine the third command, Baptize. So, just how do we cover this topic after coming off of a forty lesson, in-depth series, about water baptism? Can there possibly be anything new to discuss regarding this topic? I think so. And I think you’re going to be surprised when you see this one! Let me explain. A Quick Review We have already established, baptism as the third command of The Great Commission and at the risk of belaboring the point, I will once again, for the benefit of newcomers, remind us; since it is a command, it is not optional on our part. It must be obeyed by both the baptizer and the one being baptized. In other words, as a person who makes disciples, I have no choice in the matter. I must baptize my student. That is cast in stone and I do not have the right, ability, or authority to change it. That’s what Jesus told us to do. Likewise, the student has no choice in the matter, if they want to be a disciple of this particular Master, Jesus. I’m sorry but it’s just not optional. As we have stated many times, baptism can not be a work of human effort because it is a command of Christ. Just like the first two commands of The Great Commission, this third command, the command to baptize, can be expressed as a complete sentence. The sentence contains a subject, the plural form of that “implied you,” meaning “you all” specifically “you apostles.” The verb is “baptize.” The direct object of the sentence, “them,” is the “who” to baptize. So, the complete sentence would be, “You baptize them.” If you are from the south, that would be, “Y’all baptize ‘em.” The Narrow Road Now, here is where things get interesting. I’m gonna bet this is probably something you have never heard before. We understand who was to do the baptizing. It was initially done by the Apostles who taught others to do it and so on. We understand what baptism is, an immersion in water. But, when Jesus adds that little direct object, “them,” something with significant ramifications occurs. Let’s walk through this carefully. “Them,” refers to the disciples the apostles were making. Remember? The process the apostles were told to follow was, “Go, make disciples.” So, before Jesus issues the command to baptize “them,” he has already defined the class of people “them” refers to. The apostles were told to baptize the disciples they make. Think about what this means! Jesus extremely narrows the field of candidates who are eligible for baptism. This is stunning. The only person who is a candidate for water baptism is a person who is becoming a disciple. Jesus is very specific about this “who!” “Baptize them,” refers only to the disciples the apostles are making! This becomes extremely exclusive and defines the guardrails of the narrow road. Maybe we need to go back and think a bit deeper about the definition of a disciple from our last podcast. What is a disciple? A disciple is a student or a learner. They are someone who allows themselves to be trained by a discipler. They are becoming like Christ. A disciple is someone who has begun sincerely seeking God, someone who is devoted to reading their bible and praying. These are some of the characteristics we would expect to see in a person who is committed to Christ. A disciple is not someone who simply believes in Jesus and is making no effort to pursue a relationship with him. In today’s churches, anyone can be baptized, even an infant who has no knowledge of God. The qualification for adult baptism in most churches is simply belief in Christ, no serious commitment required. After all, we wouldn’t want to scare you away by making you think you were committing life-long, effort filled obligation to the goals and operations of our church. Most churches try to keep the entrance requirements pretty low. This is vastly different from first century Christianity. Dangerous Decisions In the first century, people heard the gospel preached, and they made a decision to follow Christ’s teachings no matter where it might lead them. In some cases, it would lead to their persecution and death. This was not a hidden secret. The general public was aware of Christian persecution. So, you can bet that subject came up at some level, before anyone made a decision to become a Christian. I want us to think about that for a moment. In the first century, the consequences of your decision to become a Christian was dramatically different than it is today. It was not a decision made lightly. It could mean a death sentence. When you were in the process of becoming a disciple, you knew there was a cost to count. What would you do if persecution broke out? Would you stick with Christ or would you abandon him to save your own skin? Becoming a Christian in the first century could be a dangerous decision. Not much has really changed. Today, the barrier to entry is low because it seems like there is not much persecution, right? But, not much has changed. The road is still narrow and the gate is still small. When someone wants to truly obey the Gospel today, the pressure is on. The vast majority of people who decide to follow the Biblical Plan of Salvation must abandon not only their sin but their erroneous beliefs. This can really stir up trouble in a family which has gone to the same church for generations. I have watched countless people, on the verge of Biblical obedience, get shot down by family members. I have personally witnessed friends and family accused of being seduced by a cult. I have personally been persecuted by family members for my stance regarding my faith and all of this happens in a country where we have religious freedom. What really matters is “Lordship.” I say all of this to help us understand; a disciple is something vastly different from someone who simply believes in Jesus and wants him as their best friend. Discipleship implies Lordship. When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” that means we become his slave and He becomes our master. In today’s religious world, lots of people make Jesus savior but very, very few make Him Lord. Perhaps this issue of “Lordship” speaks more clearly to the issue of who and who is not a disciple. Remember this from Romans? Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The commitment of Lordship is a matter of salvation. This is something which must be understood before baptism. When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we completely surrender our lives to the will of God and take on His mission as our new life’s mission and that mission is The Great Commission! Without a Lord, we can not have a savior. Count the Cost Before You Commit First century converts understood these costs and we should too. In our next lesson series, we will discuss, in great depth, what it really takes to become a disciple today. This is important because there is a level of seriousness and commitment missing from our modern message. This becomes so clear when we look at the attrition rate of the modern church. I have been told by my denominational minister friends that over 90% of the people who make a decision to join the church, wind up leaving shortly after they make their commitment. I think this is because they are never taught what their responsibilities and commitments will be before they join. They are never given an opportunity to “count the cost” of membership. I would rather have someone be scared off by a commitment to Christ before they make that serious decision to say “Yes” to Jesus… then leave the church. Listen to this. It’s from 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” Persecution is alive and well. No matter the era, man is in love with his sin and exposing his sin brings wrath. Timothy tells us, if you want to live the kind of life which brings honor to God, you will be persecuted. You will be mocked, insulted, abused and maligned. It may not happen quickly but it will happen. The world hates the light and a true Christian is a beacon of light which challenges the sinful heart. This is the life of a disciple and I think people should know what they are getting into before they make the decision to be baptized. Jesus command from The Great Commission was to baptize the disciples which the apostles had just made. You see it happening first, on the Day of Pentecost. This pattern continues through the rest of the New Testament. When a person was ready to give up their old life and stop living for themselves and their own desires, they were immediately baptized by the person teaching them. There was not a moment’s hesitation. There was no delay. You did not wait for a conveniently scheduled bi-annual baptism service. There were no “baptism classes.” These are the things we discover when we consider that little direct object, “who.” The effect of this limiting direct object, the “who” of baptism, forces us to evaluate the behavior of a person who is requesting baptism. It makes us ask, “Is this person acting like a disciple?” “Have I honestly prepared them for what could potentially come from their decision?” If our answer is, “No,” should we then baptize that individual? Probably not. Then there is also the issue of their repentance. A Modern Day Example Let’s say you have just met a young man and he expresses an interest in becoming a Christian. He has heard the message, believes it, is eager to follow Jesus and wants to be baptized. Would you, as an expert and careful kingdom builder, baptize him if he refused to stop doing drugs? Would you baptize him if he refused to stop sleeping with his girlfriend? Would you baptize him if he just refused to read his bible for himself and commit to contributing to his own
13 minutes | a year ago
054 – The Great Commission – Make Disciples
Make Disciples is the second command. The second command of The Great Commission is to “Make Disciples.” It should probably go without saying that this seemingly small command is absolutely loaded with potential! Let’s get started. Here is the complete command in context. “Make disciples of all nations.” Short sentence, right? English 101 The verb is “make.” The direct object… or what to make… is “disciples.” Make disciples. But we’re missing a subject. A complete sentence must have a noun which makes up the subject of the sentence. And believe it or not, “Make disciples,” is technically a complete sentence. So, where’s the noun? What is the subject of the sentence? Think back to 7th grade English. Remember, this was a fun one. The subject is the implied, “You.” If we were going to say the complete and full sentence it would be, “You make disciples.” The purpose of the sentence is an imperative. It is a command. The plural “you,” Jesus is referring to, are the remaining eleven disciples… the apostles. It is to them exclusively he is saying, “You make.” We have no indication there is anyone else present. The commands are given to a very select group of men; the men he has been training for the last three years. The men who have walked closely with him daily. So, “You make,” would be the command in its simplest form. Let’s talk about this part of the full sentence before we get to the “what…” of the sentence. The definition of “make” Jesus command is directed to the apostles and he tells them to “make” something. Making something implies effort, it requires an activity. Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, offers over 60 definitions for the word, “make.” Here are just a few. To compel; to constrain. To create; to cause to exist; to form from nothing. To bring into any state or condition; to constitute. The word “make” means the act of creating something new which did not previously exist. It also implies a deliberate effort is activated toward that goal. In order for this to happen, the person performing the effort must have a goal in mind and we should understand they have some sort of motivation to achieve the goal for which they are producing the effort. There is some driving force behind their desire to be productive. This little word, “make.” It is packed full of activity. When we couple it with the first command, from our last podcast, to “go,” it becomes even more active. Remember, we are still talking about evangelism. A disciple is a “maker,” just as God is a maker. A disciple of Jesus does not sit in a lofty cathedral or busy themselves with mundane activities of the church. A disciple of Jesus is laser focused on a process of production. It’s the number one priority of their day. And exactly what does the disciple of Jesus produce? A Disciple Makes Disciples A disciple of Jesus produces other disciples of Jesus. Our sentence is, “You, make disciples.” “Disciples,” is the direct object… the “what” of the making. This speaks to the end result of the process, right? It clarifies and gives purpose to the rest of the things we already know. The Apostles were told to, “Go.” They were told to “make.” And the things they are told to make are, other disciples. There is nothing confusing here. The is nothing ambiguous. Jesus commands are clear and straight forward. The final part of the “make” command comes in the form of a little prepositional phrase which tells us where to go and make. We go to “all nations.” This defines the target audience of our efforts. We are to make disciples of all nations! In essence, there is no limit to the process. Even as new nations are formed, those need to hear the Gospel message as well. And by the way, if we are to go to all nations, that kind of destroys the idea of racism and prejudice in the church, doesn’t it ? The point of this lesson is to tightly focus on this word “make,” the second command of The Great Commission. It is a process very few people are involved with today. For the average person who calls themselves a Christian, they are content to go to church on Sunday, pay their respects to God for about an hour and then live any way they want for the rest of the week. They relegate the task of “making,” to a pastor, evangelist, a marketing department or anybody else. The deliberate activity of evangelizing the world is not something they really want to be involved in, and even if they do bring a friend to church, they would still hand off the conversion process to a worship team or some other church leader. This is not how a true disciple of Christ operates. Your mission… reach and teach. A disciple of Christ is deeply devoted to the activity for which the Master has redeemed him. He is about the Master’s business of making disciples. A disciple of Jesus has the ability to reach and teach… at least on some basic level. Think about it. If God did not intend for you to further His kingdom here on earth, why would he leave you here after you became a Christian? Because Jesus told us (by extension) to “make disciples” in the proclamation of The Great Commission, we understand without confusion, the purpose of a disciple is to make other disciples . This is why we say, “There is no other kind of disciple than one who makes disciples.” If a person is not about the business of making other disciples, then they can not call them-self a disciple. But, what is a disciple? What is a disciple? In our next series, we will dive deeply into this subject in a lesson about “Discipleship.” For now, let’s just define the basic term. Once again, here’s what Webster says. DISCIPLE, noun [Latin , to learn.] A learner; a scholar; one who receives or professes to receive instruction from another; as the disciples of Plato. A follower; an adherent to the doctrines of another. Hence the constant attendants of Christ were called his disciples; and hence all Christians are called his disciples, as they profess to learn and receive his doctrines and precepts. So, a disciple is a student or a learner… but this word carries a much deeper meaning than a person simply sits in a classroom, doe isn’t it? A disciple is a close associate of the teacher. We might say, “They ‘walk’ with the teacher.” They spend time with the teacher and become very familiar with the teacher’s ways. When someone is that connected to a mentor, they tend to become “like” the teacher. They don’t just learn bits of information or clever ideas. They begin to “imitate” the teacher. In our modern world, I think the word “apprentice” comes close to how we might understand the word “disciple,” but it still lacks a certain depth and closeness in the relationship. In college, I had many professors and sat in many classes but, I was a disciple of my photography teacher. He took the class out of the class room and into nature. He spent time hanging out with us. He had us over for cookouts and dinners. He introduced us to the beautiful works of art, he and others produced. In many ways, we were profoundly changed by his keen efforts to immerse us in the art of photography. We didn’t just learn the mechanics of photography. We learned the heart of the art. Still today, I find myself thinking about things the way I learned to think back then. I find myself using phrases we used in our common group speak. I even find myself using mannerisms my teacher possessed. Rugged Individualism? You know, we all think we are such independent individuals. We all think we arrived at the spot we are in by our clever abilities and astute thinking. But the truth is, we are all just composites of the people we have met and have allowed to influence our lives. Our parents, our grand parents, our brothers and sisters, close friends and teachers have all contributed to who we are. That laugh you laugh…. who do you know that laughs like that? Where did you pick up that “thing you do” when you’re washing the dishes? Who showed you how to tie your shoe? Why are you not patient with your kids? Where did you learn that? You see, you are not the rugged, independent individual you think you are. You are a mixture of influences. When you meet a disciple of Jesus and they ask you to meet the Master, understand this. They are under the influence of that master. They have been taught to act like the Master. They have the same heart, mind and Spirit of the Master. They are calling you to become like them, to potentially change anything in your character which your former masters have left behind which is not like Christ. This can be a painful experience. Making disciples is not easy. That’s right. The process of making disciples almost always produces conflict. Man’s tendency is to crave the things of this world. A disciple’s tendency is to shun the things of this world. The two are always in conflict. It is not an easy task to make a disciple and it is not an easy task to be made a disciple. It takes effort from the teacher and great humility from the student. This stands in stark contrast to the easy methods of conversion offered in modern Christianity. Today, all you need to do is raise your hand in a church service and you’re good to go. The work of making disciples requires that people are introduced to Jesus, understand who he is and what he has done for us. It requires that we allow the Bible to be the prime source of our knowledge and training, not a man made book of membership rules. In making a disciple, we help a person understand what life was like for the first century disciples and explain how they should be our role models. The standard is the Bible, not traditions. We often spend a good bit of time cleaning up old traditional views about religion by pointing people to the Biblical patterns. Sometimes there is conflict! But, when a pe
24 minutes | a year ago
053 – The Great Commission – Go!
Welcome to A Faith that Obeys where we are rethinking the traditional plan of salvation. This traditional plan, which is also called the Modern Plan, is a fairly new invention and has tragically replaced the Biblical Plan of Salvation. When we study the Bible and see how people were “Born Again” in the first century, then compare that to how people become Christians today, there are some stark differences. Things have changed. Our goal is to identify the Biblical "steps to salvation” and support you in your efforts to learn what God desires in order to correctly follow them so you may have full assurance that you are walking on the correct path in your relationship with God. Our series about biblical obedience in water baptism is now complete but obedience does not begin or end with that event. There are other things to consider. As we begin this next phase of our studies, I suspect you are about to hear something you have never heard before and it may be a little shocking. Let’s dive in! The Four Crisp Commands of The Great Commission There are four crisp commands contained in The Great Commission. They provide the final marching orders for the eleven apostles given by Jesus at the time of his ascension into heaven, over 2000 years ago. These commands are clear, unambiguous, simple, yet potent. They embody the culmination of Jesus’ entire earthly ministry. They are designed to launch and propel a movement destined to last for generations to come. Let’s read this amazing mandate. It’s found in… Matthew 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.’” For many Christians, this is a familiar passage of scripture. It is held in high regard and often enthusiastically preached from the pulpit. But, are we really following the commands? Are we really obeying everything Jesus asked us to do? Let’s look carefully at each of these directives. The first command is to “Go.” The First Command - Go! When we consider this first command, it is direct and straight forward. The disciples were to get out of Jerusalem, to proactively move into the rest of the world. “Go,” means, “Don’t stay here!” It is the beginning of the mission, the beginning of the church era, the beginning of a movement still active today. But, why should they go? Just the simple act of leaving Jerusalem would be worthless without the next command; the impetus for the going. The next command is, “Make Disciples.” When the disciples got up and went, they took the message about the Kingdom of God to the entire world. This is the reason they should “go.” The reason for the going The purpose of The Great Commission was to insure the Gospel would advance after Jesus earthly ministry was complete. The cool part of The Great Commission is Jesus’ fourth command. He told the disciples to teach everyone they meet, “everything” he taught them; which includes all the commands of The Great Commission! Very clever! Jesus’ plan is for one man to teach another man everything, just as he taught his disciples. Every disciple of Christ treasures and holds, as paramount, these same four basic commands. Disciples are prepared to pass them on to people they meet and teach. Now, there are a few issues raised by the Great Commission which I think are worthy of discussion. First, are these actually four commands? Why not call them suggestions? Should we really take Jesus final words with such terminal seriousness that they should be called commands? What happens if I refuse to obey those commands? Is it serious? Second, there is a promise at the end of The Great Commission. Jesus promises to “be with me always, until the very end of the age.
11 minutes | a year ago
052 – Baptism Series Conclusion
The Cherry on Top! Wow! It’s hard to believe but we are finally finished with our long series on baptism. I wanted to take some time to reflect and review what we have learned and speak a little bit about the series in general. If you recall, we began this extremely detailed series of lessons about Christian water baptism, way back in “Podcast 012 - The Proponents.” In that podcast we identified two groups involved in the argument about whether or not water baptism is a necessary part of the conversion process. This is a really old and sometimes contentious debate. My goal was to approach this topic from a different perspective offering a paradigm shift which, I think, is long overdue. A Paradigm Shift on the Baptism Argument My argument is pretty simple. Baptism is a command of God and we must obey God’s commands… if we want to be his child. Isn’t that what “Jesus is Lord,” means? If we will not have a Lord, can we have a savior?. We must obey what Jesus has asked us to do in The Great Commission. And, water baptism is part of the Great Commission. Christ’s commission presents the only marching orders left by the master for furthering the Gospel. There is no other plan. If we refuse to obey the commands of that plan then we cannot be a part of the plan. Jesus gave these instructions at the time of his ascension, and over the course of two millennia, these commands have not changed. They were eventually passed down to you and me. The disciples were told, one person should teach another person this exact plan and no one, no church, no council, no prophet and no apostle has ever been authorized to change it. If you will not allow the person teaching you the plan, to baptize you; you prevent them from performing their assigned responsibilities and thus reject this Biblical Plan of Salvation. Replacing the Biblical Plan In my experience, most people who are introduced to Jesus for the very first time, reject the simple and clearly stated commands of the Great Commission, not because they have a willfully stubborn heart, but because they have only been taught an alternative plan. I call this the “Modern Plan of Salvation” or the “Traditional Plan of Salvation.” This modern plan promotes unscriptural methods of conversion, like “The Sinner’s Prayer,” which tells people, they may be saved without obeying the Great Commission. Baptism is a part of the “Modern Plan,” but it is tacked on as a post conversion act of obedience. It’s completely out of order. This is not the Biblical Plan and is wholly ineffective for conversion. For centuries, this debate has sadly raged around the issue of baptism itself instead of what baptism is, the only appropriate and prescribed response to the instructions of the master. Much of this debate has been influenced by the erroneous conclusions drawn from the teachings of Martin Luther. Out of his reformation came that famous phrase, “Sola Fide,” which means “Faith Alone.” Luther Misunderstood Adherents to Luther’s teachings claim that we are saved by “faith alone” and any human actions associated with the goal of salvation should be rejected. By and large, their claim is true. However, they label Jesus’ command of baptism as one of those works of human effort and as such, deny its role in conversion. How can water baptism be a command of God and a human work at the same time? That makes no sense. Luther valued obedience to the Gospel highly. He even references his own obedience in baptism in some of his writings. Soon, we will review his writings to better understand his position. Luther desperately tried to separate himself from the “works/merit system” of the Catholic Church, but did not include water baptism in the category of those types of works. When we pull all of this together, we discover there are three legs on the stool of salvation, grace, faith and obedience. Anabaptists and Catholics Agreed Another important aspect of this old debate is rev...
8 minutes | a year ago
051 – The Example of Naaman
Welcome to A Faith that Obeys Podcast. This is the last scripture in our lengthy series about baptism and, it is quite a scripture. This story is found in the Old Testament, so you might wonder how an Old Testament scripture could be related to a New Testament baptism. Surprisingly, this scripture is very popular for the pro-baptism proponent and is used to prove that water baptism is connected to the washing away of sin. Let’s read it and see what we can discover. 2 Kings 5:1-14 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.” As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. A Foreshadow of Baptism Well, I don’t really suppose there is much to discuss here. It is pretty obvious that Naaman washes himself and the leprosy goes away. This appears to be a foreshadowing of what will happen in baptism and it seems, on the surface, like a pretty good scripture to use in support of the claim that baptism washes away sin. I can certainly understand the “foreshadowing” nature of the claim but, I also see some problems. First, Naaman was not baptized in the common sense. He has nobody helping into and out of the water. He was told to do this to himself. He is not immersed just once, he is immersed seven times! That’s inconsistent with the New Testament pattern. Yet we are left with the fact that Naaman is cleansed of his leprosy when he is washed. So, is this scripture a good scripture us use in order to demonstrate that New Testament baptism washes away sin? Maybe, but not for the commonly used reasons. When I hear someone using this scripture as a pro-baptism scripture while pointing to the water and how it washed away Naaman’s “sin.” I get a little uneasy. When I hear this line of thinking it reminds me of the problem inherent in this entire de...
12 minutes | a year ago
050 – What Baptism Did You Receive?
In our last Podcast, we met Apollos, an amazing preacher of Christ who had not quite obeyed the Gospel until Priscilla and Aquila were able to identify a doctrinal error which they heard when Apollos preached in the Synagogue at Ephesus. Paul was not with Priscilla and Aquila when this happened. But eventually, he arrives back at Ephesus and apparently, soon after his arrival, we are graced with another fascinating conversion story. It’s in Acts 19. Acts 19:1-7 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. So, Paul meets some “disciples.” At first, we might assume these are disciples of Christ but as we read further, we come to understand that, like Apollos, these are actually disciples of John the Baptist, who knew only the baptism of John. They state that explicitly. What Baptism Did You Receive? Now, this whole event begs the question, “Why does Paul make this radical jump in the discussion from “What Spirit did you receive?” to, “Then what baptism did you receive?” And, why did he ask this initial question to begin with; it feels a little out of the blue! Let’s think this through. How can we reconcile these two questions? What in the world was Paul thinking? First, it would be super weird if Paul met these men and just blurts out, “Did you hear about the Holy Spirit?” There obviously had to have been some other conversations; you know, things like “Hello, how are you?” “Have you heard about Jesus?” “Oh, you’re disciples. How’s the church at Ephesus doing, I am on my way there now?” “What, you don’t know about the church?” …things like that. Naturally, as Paul got to know these disciples, he concludes he is not speaking to people who know the completed doctrines of Christ. Something is missing which is what eventually provokes him to ask the first question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” He is not asking this question for no good reason. And what is the good reason? Paul is trying to determine if these people are true Christians. What is the point? At this point in our story, Paul connects the reception of the Holy Spirit with belief. He does not ask them if they received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized. Many anti-baptism proponents consider this a very important issue. They point to Paul’s question as proof that receiving the Holy Spirit is only associated with belief, not baptism. Unfortunately, they stop reading right there. Paul has a follow-up question which is inextricably linked to the first. When Paul hears their initial response, “We don’t know about a Holy Spirit,” a flag goes up! If they do not know there is a Holy Spirit, then they can’t possibly have the Holy Spirit. This means they are not saved and their sins have never been forgiven by God. But Paul does not immediately act on this hunch. He needs more concrete evidence. Beginning with the word “then,” he connects his second question to the first, thus connecting baptism with receiving the Holy Spirit. “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism.” They replied. The Full Gospel Includes Water Baptism Now, Paul understands clearly, “These are disciples of John who have never heard the full Gospel,” and he goes on to complete it for them. He presents the rest of the story and they respond appropriately by being baptized. ...
14 minutes | a year ago
049 – The Conversion of Apollos
The next conversions in the book of Acts are the conversions of Cornelius, Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. All three of these were discussed in previous podcasts. Let’s quickly mention them and then move on to the next full blown narrative which deserves full discussion, the conversion of Apollos. A Quick Review As a reminder, we are in the middle of the last section of our study about baptism and unlike the anti-baptism arguments which rarely use scriptures that mention baptism, we are focused almost solely on scriptures which use that word. It is difficult to craft a good argument if we avoid the very scriptures which mention the word we are trying to explain. Our first quick review is the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. We studied this conversion story, in great detail, back in Podcast 031 - Pagans with Spirit. Please go back to that podcast or blog post where the issue of baptism is dealt with thoroughly. The next conversion in the book of Acts is the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16. There is not much to say about this conversion other than to note that baptism is involved but infants are not. After this, in the same chapter, we read about the conversion of the Philippian Jailer. This is another major conversion story and we dealt with this in Podcast 017 - Anti Baptism Scriptures Part 3. Please review the details of that conversion in that blog post or podcast. The Conversion of Apollos Now, we come to the conversion of Apollos. There are two very distinct and separate parts to this story. Let’s dive in. Acts 18:24-28 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. Analysis of the story. This is quite a story. Apollos is probably a Grecian Jew; the name gives that away. He was very intelligent and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. These of course, would have been the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament. At some point in time, Apollos learned about Jesus. He had been given enough information about Christ to come to a belief that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Apparently, this fired him up enough to begin speaking to people about his discovery. But how do you think that happened? What might have happened to bring Apollos to a point where he became a preacher of Christ? I suspect the case of Apollos is not an unusual case. John the Baptist preached for quite a while in Judea and the surrounding area. We know he had a pretty good following. All of the people who followed John believed the Christ was eminent and were baptized by John in preparation for that event. Many of these folks would have been around when John declared Jesus as the Christ, “the one who’s sandals he was not worthy to untie.” Some of those same people left John and began following Jesus. But, not everyone who was a part of John’s ministry was able to stick around and see the complete fulfillment as Christ suffered, died and was resurrected. Apollos may have been one of these transients who did not know the rest of the story. In essence, these people got all fired up and went off half cocked! John proclaimed the Messiah had arrived and that is exactly what they continued doing after they left Judea but before the conclusion of Jesus ministry.. Eventually they would learn the rest of the story.
25 minutes | a year ago
048 – The Conversion of Saul
The Conversion of Saul - Aelbert Cuyp - Cicra 1646 As we move forward in the Book of Acts, the next conversion we encounter is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. For a time, Saul was the number one persecutor of the church; then God has a little impromptu meeting with him on a dusty Damascus road. As a result, Saul becomes the number one supporter of the church and goes on to write three quarters of the New Testament as the Apostle Paul! If there is any conversion crafted to convince us that even the worst of sinners can repent and become a follower of Jesus, the conversion of Saul should stand as a colossal encouragement. It is possible for anyone to become a Christian. Saul's Conversion Cubed The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, from a Biblical perspective, is unique, in that we hear the story of his conversion presented three times. This is helpful when we knit all three of these stories together in order to get a complete composite of the entire event. We can’t read all three rehearsals, that would take too long. Acts 9 is the most complete presentation of the three so we will focus on that, then add anything missing using the other two accounts. For reference, let me show you where all three of these stories are located in the Bible. The first time we learn of Saul’s conversion is in Acts Chapter 9, Verses 1-23. In this narrative, Luke, the writer of Acts, tells the story from a third person perspective. He reports things which happened to Paul. Luke spent years with Paul on the various missionary journeys so undoubtedly, he would have been very well acquainted with Paul’s story. Next, in the book of Acts again, Luke retells the story but this time, it is from Paul’s perspective. Paul is telling the story to other people. This happens in Acts 22 after an aggressive mob is stirred to action in Jerusalem. Paul is arrested but permitted to address the crowd. In this Acts 22 version of the story, Paul recounts almost the entire event of his conversion again but, with some critical variations. Saul’s third and final conversion story is reported in Acts 26:12-23. During this presentation of his conversion, Paul is, once again, under arrest and is being extradited, eventually to Rome, but has a brief audience with a curious king named, Agrippa. Paul is given complete freedom to speak whatever he wants to Agrippa so he uses his conversion story as a springboard for presenting the Gospel. This version also includes some minor additions to the story which we will review as well. This is a fun lesson which I use often to help people see the Biblical Plan of Salvation. So, not only are we studying this out together, I wanted to show you how to lead this lesson in the hope you might use it and find it effective. I always begin by saying, “Let’s play a little game!” Let's Start a Quest We are on a quest. Our goal is to discover the exact instant Saul’s sins are forgiven by God. That particular point in time marks the exact moment a person is Born Again, right? Remember, one can not be a Christian unless they have received the forgiveness of sins — so using this event, the forgiveness of sins, we can determine conclusively when and where conversion happens. Let’s keep our eyes open for that event as we begin. Acts 9:1-22 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
14 minutes | a year ago
047 – Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch
Baptism of the Eunuch - Rembrandt - Circa 1626 Simon the Sorcerer stands as a classic example of a person who fails to truly convert because of the unrepentant pride and arrogance in his heart. Immediately after we witness the washout of Simon, we discover the determination of the Ethiopian Eunuch. God serves up a picture perfect example of how a humble, hungry heart accepts the word of God and obeys it. These two conversion stories stand in immediate succession and in stark contrast. Here’s what happened. After Philip the Deacon finishes his work in Samaria he is called by an Angel of the Lord and told to head south and find a road which winds through the desert connecting Jerusalem to Gaza. This was a pretty good distance from where he had been working but off he goes in obedience to the angel’s command. Acts 8:26-31 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Why Such Great Detail about One Man? Why do we have so much detail about who this man was, where he was from and what he was doing? For some reason, God thought it important to make sure these tidbits of information made it into the Bible. Sometimes, I think we read a passage of Scripture, like this one, and skim over it far too quickly. When we don’t spend some time contemplating the details, the story becomes fixed or wooden. Ask some questions and the scripture comes alive! Did you notice that the man was not going to Jerusalem, he was leaving? He had been to Jerusalem to worship. Does this mean he is a Jew? Not necessarily! Why did he go? Was it a Passover or some other special feast? Is he alone? Would that be safe? Philip is invited to sit with him. Did you know a chariot had seats? I didn’t. What was the day like? Was it hot? Was it cold? What is the attitude of this man? He is quite powerful. Why would he have a complete stranger join him in his chariot? He must have been impressed with Philip’s knowledge of word of God. He seems to be pretty humble. The point of all this is to say, there is so much more to a story than what we read in our Zondervan. These are real people with real lives which extend quite a distance in both directions: both before and after we glimpse one shining moment God chose for us to see. Let’s use our imaginations and a little logic as we process all of this. There are riches to be found when we dig the mines of scripture. The South Jerusalem Truck Stop Apparently, almost before he even arrives at the desert road (probably just south of Jerusalem) Philip meets this eunuch from Ethiopia. As it turns out, this man is an important official in the Ethiopian government. He is the treasurer to the Queen and is now on his way home from worshiping in Jerusalem. He is in a chariot. It seems likely to me that he was not alone. He was probably part of a larger entourage. Just think about it. It would be unlikely for such and important official to make a long journey alone. This type of journey was a serious undertaking. Considering the individual, this trip was probably well financed. He would have been well supplied both going to Jerusalem and returning home. What about the security of this man. He travelled a long distance with valuable goods. A chariot alone could not hold all the supplies for a trip of this nature. So,
22 minutes | a year ago
046 – Baptism of Simon the Sorcerer
Peter's Conflict with Simon MagusAvanzino Nucci 1620 In our last seven lessons, we studied a variety of scriptures speaking specifically about baptism; scriptures which present an accurate doctrinal picture of the purpose, practice and execution of this Biblical command. These scriptures are rich in information and fairly direct in their presentation and claims. Now, let’s begin looking at a number of scriptures which again, directly mention and use the word baptism, but this time, our revelations unfold in narratives. These are Biblical stories where baptisms occur. We begin with the baptism of Simon the Sorcerer. Acts 8:9-25 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.” This is quite a story! When we first meet Simon, he is in Samaria and in business for himself… literally. He is an arrogant, blustering carnival barker, charlatan; amazing people with what many people suspect was sleight of hand magic and grand illusions. Simon is the David Copperfield of his time… albeit sans the Copperfield class! Some people speculate that since Simon was doing such great and amazing things, he may have had some kind of demonic power. All this is to say… “Simon ain’t a great guy.” At the top of his sin list are greed and self promotion. One day, Philip, one of the first church deacons, shows up in Samaria and preaches the good news about Jesus. How do we know this is Philip the Deacon and not Philip the Apostle and why is that even important? We know this is Philip the Deacon because of what we learn in Acts 8:1-5. A great persecution had broken out against the church after the stoning of Stephen. It was a tumultuous time and caused the church to scatter far and wide. Acts 8:1-5 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed ...
20 minutes | a year ago
045 – Baptism in John 3
Jesus and Nicodemus by Crijn Hendricksz, Circa 1640 The Pro-Baptism proponents often point to a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus as one of their favorite proof texts supporting the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. I have to admit, I have not been completely comfortable with this conclusion, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why until now. After carefully researching this issue for this podcast, I am now confident this passage is not about baptism. By the end of this podcast, I suspect even the most ardent supporter of this view will change their mind too. Here are a couple of thoughts, just to whet your appetite. First of all, the conversation happens long before Christian baptism ever exists and second, Jesus’ commands are directed specifically to Nicodemus. Let’s see if we can dissect the details and uncover the truth. Nicodemus Meets Jesus John 3:1-12 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is Born Again.’” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be Born Again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony I have spoken to you about earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? Who is Nicodemus? Nicodemus is a Pharisee. He is a religious leader for the Jewish people. We are first introduced to him here, in John 3. Later we meet him again in John 7, where he defends Jesus before some furious Pharisees. Next, we meet him again when he and Joseph of Arimathaea recover the body of Jesus from the cross and bury him in Joseph’s tomb. It is probably safe to say; most people believe Nicodemus is a pretty decent guy. He always seems to be trying to do the right thing. In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at “night.” There is a lot of discussion about why Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Was this a top secret mission? Was Nicodemus uncomfortable? Did he want to avoid detection and do, whatever he was trying to do, without anyone seeing him? No one knows for sure but if we drop all the cloak and dagger, we might get another perspective, more consistent with his character. The Bible says it was night. This means it was the end of the day. Nicodemus probably just got off work! He doesn't come to Jesus in any official capacity. He’s not hiding from his co-workers down at the temple and he’s not on some secret mission. He’s just a curious man with a passion for truth! Work is finished, he’s on his way home, he just drops in… no big deal. There is no indication of him watching over his shoulder, no hushed tones… in fact, he begins his visit with a sort of comfortable and kind recognition of Jesus’ ministry. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Those are friendly, kind words! Those are not the words of a cranky, critical, Pharisee! The Pharisees were, after all,
11 minutes | a year ago
044 – Baptism in Mark 16
Mark 16 links salvation to baptism. I love the Gospel of Mark. It is penned by John Mark who was the cousin of Barnabas and a sometimes traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. Historians speculate that John Mark was probably more associated with Peter than Paul and as a young man, would have been very close to him back in Jerusalem. For this reason, most of the information in the Gospel of Mark is probably gleaned from the stories Peter told. Three Important Claims As Mark’s Gospel closes out in chapter 16, there are some statements made which two different religious movements claim as important proof texts for their doctrines. The Charismatic Movement points to the disciples being told they will be able to do miracles and the pro-baptism groups point to Jesus comments about baptism. Both groups bump into a road block when they turn to these scriptures because scholars do not believe this portion of Mark was ever in the original texts. They believe it was added later. Using this claim, their detractors dismiss any doctrinal conclusions which may spring from this neighborhood by diminishing the validity of this section of scripture. Take a look at your Bible and notice that Mark 16:9-20 has a seemingly ominous warning… “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20.” If we are having a discussion about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit or water baptism and someone wants question the authenticity of this passage of scripture, there is really no point in using it in the debate. In fact, it is probably better to just drop it and move on. So, that’s what we are going to do here at A Faith that Obeys. Let’s not add this particular scripture to our growing collection of scriptures which demonstrate the Biblical requirement of baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of e ternal life. We will not use it! But, you really should at least be familiar with the arguments… so let’s dive in. Mark 16:14-20"Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." Getting the Context As always, let’s make sure we are getting things in proper context. Who is Jesus talking to? The eleven disciples, exclusively. He is not talking to you and me at this point in time. He is speaking only to the Apostles. What is he doing? This seems familiar! He is presenting The Great Commission! This passage of scripture is a retelling of Jesus' final commands to the Apostles which would place this event just 10 days before Peter’s Pentecost sermon. It is super important to understand exactly what this event is, namely, a parallel presentation of The Great Commission. If we have any questions about it in Mark, we may get a more complete picture from the same account in Matthew, right? In verse 15, Jesus tells the Apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Yep! This is very familiar. Let’s compare it to the same passage in Matthew. 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,
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