Tag Archives: Bible

Thy Kingdom Come

Kingdom of God

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment.  Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize.  We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or  we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.”  Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

 God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat.  God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

 But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve.  (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

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Give Generously

“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously….”(Romans 12:8)

Generosity plays an important part in bringing glory to God. When describing the generosity of the Macedonian churches, Paul said, “They gave beyond their ability…. entirely on their own.” Our motivation for giving should always be out of a pure heart of love for the recipient and a desire for God to receive the glory, never for us to receive recognition. Jesus condemned hypocrites for giving to be noticed. Paul promised the Corinthians that their generosity would result in praise and thanksgiving to God.  Many would assert that the church cannot be faulted for not giving and it is true that Christians do give generously. This is a great testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; however, we are often guilty of failing to exercise good stewardship in our giving. I am specifically referring here to giving offerings and not to tithes.

We need to be discerning about the ministries that we give to. One of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits. This gift is not some natural or humanly developed gift or intuition. The gift of discernment involves a revelation from God of the motivating spirit associated with a person or behavior; whether it is holy or evil, demonic or divine, worldly, carnal or Christ-like. We should not be swayed by mass marketing appeals and impassioned sales pitches. We should be led by the Spirit of God in our giving. We in the western church especially need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to insure that our gifts really do benefit those who are needy.

The church needs to be the instrument of true charity to a needy world. There is a burgeoning movement in the church promoting “social justice.”  Unfortunately, many proponents of this movement are masquerading compassion to hide a socialist re-distribution agenda. To these leftists, charity must be dispensed by a behemoth government because they believe that people must be compelled to give through taxation. This is not a biblical approach to charity. Jesus never said, “give to Caesar in order to care for the poor.” No, He commands us to give directly to the poor. True compassion can only be dispensed by free people who give willingly. Each one, as he purposes in his heart, let him give; not of grief, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 9:7)

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THE EXAMPLE OF RUTH

The Book of Ruth has often been described as an allegory pointing to the redemptive relationship between Christ and His church, with Boaz the kinsman redeemer representing Christ and Ruth representing His church. An additional allegory exists in the story. Ruth the Gentile represents the Gentile church while Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law, represents natural born Israel under the old covenant. It is noteworthy that the adoption of Ruth by Boaz occurs during the harvest and the celebration of Pentecost that is also associated with the birth of the Now Testament Church.

In the account, Naomi, her husband and two sons are refugees from a famine in Bethlehem who have settled in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies and her two sons marry Moabite women one of them being Ruth. Subsequently, Naomi’s sons also die leaving her fruitless and in exile. This situation adequately portrays the spiritual condition of natural born Jews today. They are exiled (even today there are more Jews in New York City than in Israel) without a spiritual husband and without spiritual descendants. They are dead in their sins and trespasses and, having rejected their Messiah they are without a sacrifice to atone for them. God has even taken away their temple so that they cannot perform the Old Covenant sacrifices. Naomi claims that, “the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”[1]  and, “The lord has testified against me.”[2]

Naomi attempts to persuade her daughters-in-law to leave her and go back to their own people. At first, they refuse, but Orpah eventually concedes. Ruth begs Naomi to allow her to stay and makes the famous statement, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.” [3] Ruth thus recognizes that she has no natural right of access into the Kingdom of God and that it is she that must be adopted.

The Gentile church should adopt the attitude of Ruth. We must understand that we are not natural branches and that we have been grafted into the Vine who is vastly different from us. We must understand that the bride will not be complete without the natural branches. We must recognize that the Jews as a people, at least a great many of them, are predestined to eventually heed the call of the Spirit and accept their Messiah. Romans chapter 9 makes it clear that the natural branches were rejected or cut off because of their unbelief. In their pride they stumbled over the Stone and thought that they could earn salvation by their own righteousness. So, they were cut off and left barren like Naomi.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Judea) at the beginning of the Barley harvest. Their return coincided with the celebration of the Feast of First Fruits that occurred on Abib 16 or two days after the Passover. It is interesting to note that Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and rose on the first day of the week or the Feast of First Fruits. The barley harvest is also a symbol of God’s harvest of the Jews. Ruth goes out to the fields to glean and meets Boaz the lord of that field. He shows her favor and she returns to Naomi full of his praises. Naomi encourages Ruth to go to Boaz’ threshing floor and to lie with him, which she does. They fall in love (perhaps this threshing floor in Bethlehem was to be the place of Christ’s manger centuries later). Boaz promises to redeem Ruth under the customary Hebrew laws of kinship. He sends Ruth back to Naomi with six measures of barley, exhorting her not to go back to her mother-in-law empty handed.[4] This act is symbolic of the gentiles bringing in the harvest of the Jews. This exhortation is to the Gentile church.

Next Boaz goes to the town gates, where the elders meet, in order to redeem Naomi and Ruth in accord with the Hebrew laws for kinsman­-redeemer. Naomi’s closest relative declines to redeem her because he does not want Ruth, as he is already married. So Boaz agrees to redeem Naomi and her property and to take Ruth as his bride. The elders of the village pronounce a great blessing upon Boaz and Ruth:

“May Ihe Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah”.[5]

Ruth bears a son to Boaz. Her son was the grandfather of David and stood in the lineage of Jesus. This prophetically pointed to the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ. The response of the women in the village is interesting. They tell Naomi:

 “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and is better to you than seven sons has given him birth.”[6]

The women of the village report that “Naomi has a son[7] and they name him Obed, which means: “a worker, a servant; one who perfectly does the will of him who sends him.” It is interesting that Ruth’s child is equated as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and is seen as the one who will renew Naomi’s life and sustain her in her old age. In the allegory, we can see the prophetic allusion that the gentile church, adopted by Christ and in union with Him will bring forth a child, in this case a people, who will be seen as the fruit of the previously barren Jew and be known as the perfect servant. These redeemed ones will be Christ’s end time army that will walk in holiness, humility and power. They will fulfill the call of the bride. Christ, as Boaz redeems both Jew and Gentile, but it is the child of the gentile that helps to sustain the Jew in her old age. It is the fruit of the gentile womb, filled with the Spirit of Christ that will be seen as fulfilling the call of God’s people to be a blessing to the whole earth. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s plan foreshadowed and typified in the Book of Ruth, to re-graft the natural branches back into the Vine.

We must come to understand that the natural branches had the manifest presence of God revealed to them. Our modem, materialistic, rationalistic culture hinders us gentiles in relating to God. The Hebrew spiritual, mystical culture was an outgrowth of their knowledge of God. Jesus is the complete revelation of God and we cannot completely understand Him or the things He did apart from the culture and traditions of the ancient Jewish people. Other than the life of Christ the greatest volume of revelation about God and His character and nature occurs in the Old Testament. If the revelation found in the Old Testament is minimized the result is a failure to completely know God to the extent that He has chosen to reveal Himself. To properly understand that revelation, we must properly understand the culture of the Old Testament Jew. God revealed Himself to them in a way that they would understand. Our understanding of scripture can be greatly enhanced by a study of their culture. A study and practice of the biblical feasts helps us to do so as well.


[1] Ruth 1:13, NIV.

[2] Ruth 1:21 NIV.

[3] Ruth I:l6, NIV

[4] Ruth 3:17, NIV.

[5] Ruth 4:11-12, NIV.

[6] Ruth 4:14-15, NIV.

[7] Ruth 4:17, NIV.

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True Worship

“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. And those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Your ways, O King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your righteousnesses were made known. And after these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened in Heaven.” (Revelation 15:2-5 MKJV)

This is true worship. Worship opens the way into the holy of holies, the place where we meet God. Worship begins with praise, thanks and adoration. To be passionate for God, one must be able to express emotion. We should worship because it comes from the heart. It must be more than just an act of the will. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt. 15:8) David was passionate. He danced before God. His wife, Michal mocked him and was judged for it; she remained barren as a sign of her spiritual barrenness. The symbolism is obvious; there will be no fruit without passion. The Holy Spirit is restoring intimacy to our worship; there is a God orchestrated shift to songs like the Psalms directed to God as opposed to songs about Him as though He were not in our midst.  Real passion for God should create new songs. New expressions of love and adoration are fresh bread to our spirits. We glorify God by enjoying Him. We should seek Him hedonistically like a thirsty deer seeks a stream, for the joy of knowing Him. Selfish interest for this kind of pleasure is a gift from God.Bow down

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Thy Kingdom Come

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment.  Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize.  We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or  we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.”  Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat.  God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve.  (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

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God Has a Plan for World Peace!

Holy Bible

This plan is outlined in a book. God is sending His Son to rule the earth and there will be peace on earth. Thus it was announced at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” [Luke 2:14] “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9:6] “He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

God’s Son came to earth as a man. He lived a life without sin. He never hurt a soul. In fact, He healed many who were sick and even raised some that were dead. He comforted the poor and the oppressed. He gave hope to all. He willingly offered His life as a sacrifice for sin, that all mankind might be restored to right relationship with God their Creator.

Yes, it was humankind, in their sin and rebellion that chose to alienate themselves from God and the life that is in Him. And it is sin that causes war. It was sin and hatred that led a group of fanatics to kill thousands of innocent victims on Sept. 11, 2001. Unfortunately, those fanatics are not alone. There are thousands, if not millions of Muslims around the globe who share the same unjustified hatred (they will not be able to stand before God, Allah and justify themselves) and they are organized into terrorist groups which are dedicated to repeating the sinful acts witnessed by the world on 9/11.

A unilateral decision not to fight did not prevent a madman like Hitler from murdering millions of innocents. In fact, those who sought to appease only prolonged and exacerbated the problem. It ended up costing the lives of thousands of brave young Americans who willingly died that people in foreign lands might live free from oppression.

Sin causes violence and war. The world is full of people who choose to steal, murder and rape. Could you imagine what would happen if we all chose to no longer fight such people and did away with all policemen?  As a man attacks you to rape you, do you think that he would stop if you told him that you were peaceful and didn’t want to hurt him?  Thank God, that there are police around to prevent such things and to imprison such people so that they won’t be able to hurt others.

In this age, God offers man the opportunity to reconcile with Him through the sacrifice of His own Son. We all have rebelled against Him; we’ve all sinned. God grants us free will, that we might choose to love Him and our fellow man. Without such freedom, there can be no love. So, in this age humankind is free to sin and there will be wars until the Prince of Peace comes to stop all wars. Until that day, we will need police and armies lest we all fall victim to the Hitlers and Husseins.

Jesus will return to earth one day to establish His government. That is why He taught His disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…” That is why the political powers of His day wanted Him dead. Unfortunately, He will have to destroy those who will violently oppose Him, though He offers the only real hope for everlasting peace. That is why He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” [Matthew 10:34] Peace was His mission, but He, knowing the sin that dwells in humans, knew that peace would not come without a struggle. Peace only comes after war destroys those who do not want peace! People will never stop fighting until the only righteous King comes to rule! “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” [Revelation 19:11-16]

“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” [Revelation 11:15]

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God is Not a Respecter of Persons

If you fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” But if you do not commit adultery, yet if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law. So speak and do as those who shall be judged by the Law of liberty. For he who has shown no mercy shall have judgment without mercy, and mercy exults over judgment.” (Jas 2:8-13)

Partiality in the way we treat people reveals a fear of man as opposed to a fear of God. The Pharisees were respecters of men. They accused Jesus of eating with sinners while Jesus said that He came to save sinners. He came to save those who recognize their need of a savior, not the self-righteous.

The root of favoritism is selfish motives. God does not show favoritism. “For there is no respect of faces with God.” (Rom 2:11) After a vision, Peter understood that God shows no favorites. (Acts 10:34-35) God judges all by the same standard. He judged the Jews in Old Testament for their disobedience. (2Chron 7:19-22) He will judge those who disobey Him today. God does not change. In the Book of Hebrews we are warned that their chastisement was an example to us. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb 10:26-27)

In speaking of our relations with our fellow man, Jesus said that to love our neighbor sums up half the law. He also said that if we break part of the law, then we are guilty of breaking all of the law. We can’t say that we love God and hate our neighbor. Showing favoritism is judging by outward appearance. There is an account in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 7:36-50) where Simon the Pharisee judges a prostitute. Jesus recognized that she had sinned. But, He forgave her because of her faith. He told her to go in peace. It is implied that she should quit sinning, being at peace with God.

God doesn’t look on outward appearances. He looks upon the heart. Being impartial does not mean that we condone sin in our brother or sister. The word of God judges, not us. But, a word of correction given in love is more loving than condoning sin. Jesus instructs us to get the log out of our own eye and then to take the log out of our brother’s eye. We should continue to love and reach out to the one who is stumbling.

There will be judgment for sin. The Bible warns that it is appointed once for all. We will all be judged by God. (Jas. 4:12) The law of God judges us all. We all have sinned. We must judge ourselves using God’s law as a standard. If we would judge ourselves honestly, we wouldn’t sin. For he who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1Co 11:29-31) Properly discerning the Lord’s body is to understand the nature of the sacrifice for sin which He made for us.

If we are unwilling to extend mercy and forgive, God will not forgive us. (Mt. 18:32-35) Jesus came to save us from sin. The gospel is the “Law of Liberty.” He didn’t die to give us liberty to sin. All will be judged as in Christ or not. How does mercy triumph over judgment? The justice of God must be satisfied. All are guilty of breaking the law. Does God just wink and say forget it? What would happen if He did? The creation could not be restored. It would continue in sin and rebellion. Strife, violence, war, pain and death would continue. The justice of God must be satisfied. He must be true to His nature. The penalty for sin is death. The price for sin is a life. Blood must be shed. (Lev. 17:11; He. 9:22-10:31) There must be a sacrifice for sin. God showed it to Adam. He spelled it out in the Law. Animal sacrifices were only a shadow of the reality to come. The blood of animals won’t satisfy God. (Ps 51) The sacrifices had to be done in God’s temple, indicating they must be fulfilled in God’s dwelling. Jesus prophesied that His temple would be destroyed and raised in three days.

God foreshadowed the sacrifice at Passover. Egypt is the world under the curse of death. The Messiah is the sacrificial lamb. There must be the life of a man for man. Jesus is God’s merciful answer to His justice. John saw Him as God’s perfect sinless lamb. Jesus is the incarnate dwelling or temple of God. The mercy of God triumphed over the justice of God at the cross.

 

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What About Other Religions

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone who asked you if Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God and what about followers of other religions? Jesus said He was the only way to God, “I am the way, the truth and the life…no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If we accept the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts, then as C.S. Lewis once said, we must decide that Jesus is or was either a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord as He claimed. (See John 8:58-59 for a reference where Jesus claimed to be God) The gospels are the most accurate historical documents ever recorded. By standards of manuscript evidence, preservation, and outside corroboration, there is no work of history that can be compared to the Bible. (See McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict or Strobel, The Case For Christ)

It is a fact that Jesus received and accepted worship from His disciples. Peter’s said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter also affirmed in his Pentecost message that Jesus is the only way to God. He said, “There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

In evangelizing, we compete in a culture where pluralism is highly valued. All views are considered to be equally true. The problem with pluralism is that we lose any absolute standards of truth and morality. This thinking has become so pervasive that even many young Christians doubt the truth of Christ’s claim that he is the only way. In our surveys done on the University of Iowa campus, we found that 41% of professing Christians rejected Christ’s exclusive claim. Our culture worships at the altar of tolerance. I once received a solicitation in the mail from Showtime advertising a new show about homosexuals. A theme quotation on their literature proudly boasts, “no limits”. Is this where we’ve come? Knowing the sinful, debased nature of mankind, which is clearly seen by history, that is a scary situation.

Is there absolute truth? Jesus said that He is the truth. As Christians will we stand up for truth? If we are not willing to open our mouth in defense of truth, then we disobey Christ’s great commission. Our secular culture is attempting to force us to shut up. We risk rejection, ridicule and even violence for daring to speak the truth, but there are lives at stake, both in an eternal spiritual as well as in an earthly physical sense.

How should we respond to the person who raises the objection about other religions? First, we must realize that the intellectual argument is, more often than not, a “smoke screen” used to hide true objections, which usually have more to do with sin than truth. But, we have to clear away the smoke to get the person to state their true objections. We begin by making it clear that Jesus is unique. He is God in the flesh forever. (John 1:14) Buddha never made that claim. The avatars of Hinduism were only temporary mythical reincarnations of deity. Jesus is the only person to be permanently resurrected from the dead, He is alive!

All other religions are a man made system of man working his way to God. Christ is God reaching out to man. The cross is a stumbling block to those who would earn eternal life by their own works. It humbles the proud.

What about those who have never heard of Jesus? The patriarchs never heard the name of Jesus and yet The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, teaches us that they were justified by faith, looking forward to the cross. (Romans 4:3) Anyone truly searching for the truth will find the gospel and be led to God. Creation itself points to God. “The unseen qualities of God, His eternal power and divine nature, have been seen, being clearly understood by what has been made so that man is without excuse.” (Ro 1:20) There are numerous accounts of people who never had heard of Jesus, but who found Christ because they were searching. Samuel Morris is only one example. Read his biography.

Has the gospel been preached to the whole world?  According to Colossians 1:6 it has! All one need do is look at creation. Look at the heavens. They declare the glory of God! (Ps. 19:1)

Curiously one can discover remnants of the redemption story in ancient languages, which may be proof that the gospel was understood but rejected.

I believe that people today who have not heard the name of Jesus are judged on the same basis as the patriarchs. Though Job never heard the name of Jesus, he clearly understood that his creator was his redeemer and that his creator would be God in the flesh. (See Job 19:25-27) The Bible teaches that the righteous are justified by faith. What is that faith in? It is that your creator is your redeemer. To be saved, you must believe that you need a redeemer; that you are separated from God by your sin. You must believe that God offers Himself as a sacrifice for your sin. You must repent of sin and turn to God for salvation.

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True Intimacy

I believe that spiritual reality precedes and causes physical reality. The natural things speak of the invisible. God teaches us that nature, physical reality, reveals His nature (Ro. 1:20). God created the natural, physical realm to reflect the spiritual realm. He established marriage in order to reflect the intimacy He intends for the believer and Himself. Someone once said, “Marriage is not finding the person with whom you can live, but finding that person with whom you cannot live without.” That should be our attitude not just about our earthly spouse, but our groom in heaven. Unfortunately, many have had bad experience with marriage. Often, the reason for this is a lack of relationship or intimacy with God.

The Bible teaches that the individual believer is married to Christ. In Romans chapter 7 Paul uses the illustration from marriage to show how we should no longer be in bondage to sin because when we are born again we are married to Christ. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law [bondage to sin] through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”(Ro. 7:4) You can only die to sin through intimacy with Christ.

The Song of Songs written by Solomon is a story of marital intimacy between Christ and His bride. You can contrast the Song of Songs with Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote both. One is the greatest love song ever written the other deals with vain endeavors, running after God versus running after things. One is a book for the heart before and more than the mind, for lovers rather than intellectuals, those who want intimacy versus those who want knowledge.

The Song of Songs records the wooing and wedding of a shepherd girl to King Solomon. There are three players in this drama. Metaphorically, the Shulamite woman is the individual believer. The King is Christ and the daughters of Jerusalem, or virgins, are the other believers, the church/ Israel. It recounts a journey of intimacy that corresponds to the walk of many believers as we grow in relationship. It begins with the initial stirring of holy passion and immature attempts to run with God. This often leads to disillusionment and frustration in a desperate search for God. As we seek after Him, He draws us away and restores us with His transforming love.

The Shulamite woman begins: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is more delightful than wine…. Draw me away with you!”  (Song of Songs 1:2, 4) This is the kiss of marital intimacy not just brotherly love. Paul prayed that believers would know Christ intimately: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” (Eph 1:17-18) He is not talking about knowing Christ in the sense of intellectually knowing about Him. He is talking about knowing Him as a bride knows her husband; an intimate relationship.

The Shulamite says, “for your love is more delightful than wine.”; His love is better than the intoxicating wine of carnal pleasures. His love is better than fame, power, money, control, fleshly pleasures, TV, rock stars, houses, boats, games, careers. Solomon had it all: money, power, women, comforts and he said it was all vanity. The love of God is better, but people have forsaken Him and tried to find fulfillment in everything but God. He loves us with abandon and is totally committed to us. Our passion for Him is the fruit of recognizing that dedication and it comes by revelation. You must have your eyes opened; you can, you must ask for it.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  (He 11:6) Saving faith believes that Christ is not only reliable but is desirable. We must have Him whose affectionate love is far better than religious obligation or the wine of earthly experiences and possessions.

The Shulamite says, “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;” She is drawn by the fragrance of His person, His character, not by intellectual knowledge of Him. This speaks symbolically of the graces of His person, the beauty of who He is. “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps 34:8). It recognizes the perfection of all that He does; “Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. He has shown his people the power of his works, … The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever, holy and awesome is his name.”  (Psalm 111)

He is our creator, redeemer, deliverer, provider and healer. How could you not fall in love with such a person? She calls Him King. Knowing Him as Lord is a perquisite to intimacy. The truth of who He is comes by revelation, which is a gift you must seek. The Shulamite says, “your name is ointment poured out, therefore the virgins love you!” Christ’s name, that is His person and character, brings healing. He is called the Balm of Gilead. His compassionate sacrificial love heals the whole person, body, soul and spirit. We all need healing/ salvation. We are a broken image.

She asks Him to draw her away, not just to Him, but away from the other things and people. She recognizes her inability to pursue Him on her own. Our motivation to seek Him is caused by His drawing us to Himself. It takes God to love God. He draws her into His chamber, the intimate place. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God… Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Ps 84:1).

The intimacy that they have produces a rejoicing that affects the other seekers/ virgins. She is not the only one in His quest. Our affection for God will have an effect on others. How do we develop this intimate relationship? We must ask Him to draw us to Him. His word says, “you have not because you do not ask” and, “seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened” We need to hunger to be with Him; for His manifest presence. We must hunger like David: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  We must practice the spiritual disciplines that will cause that intimacy to grow. Praise and thanksgiving are two disciplines that will draw us close to God. That is one reason why it is so important that we be committed to a worshipping body of believers. Delight is incomplete until it is expressed in words and actions. Unfortunately we express affection as if it were an obligation. Expressing praise and adoration to God is not an obligation but a blessing

Intimacy must precede ministry. There is a Divine order of ministry: We must minister to God before we can minister to others. He brings us to a place of intimacy in order to put His life and power in us that we may be like Him and freely extend that love to others. He doesn’t draw us away so that we can hang up a do not disturb sign. The heart of God is love; He wants more children; He wants intimate relationship with more people. He says freely you’ve received, therefore freely give. You can’t do one before the other. We must be drawn away from things to Him before we can minister to Him and for Him.

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Suffering

Why does God allow suffering? Suffering is common to man. You can’t positively confess your way out of suffering. Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble…”

How do we respond to the question of suffering? I believe that the person who raises that objection may not always be looking for an answer, but they may be seeking compassion. Perhaps our first response should be to ask, “Have you experienced suffering?”, rather than to launch into a theological dissertation. One thing that we must realize is that God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is perfectly capable of defending Himself.

How do we respond to the suffering of others? We must avoid the tendency to judge or blame. Job’s friends accused him of hidden sin. But, Job was a “blameless” man according to Job 1:1-3, 23. Understand that God called him “blameless” because he was justified by faith just like Abraham. (See Job 19:25-27 for his faith statement) You can be sure that Job was not without sin (see Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:23). But his suffering was not the result of a specific sin as his friends assumed. His friends started out good by coming to comfort him and by not saying anything for a week (see Job 2:11, 13). But, then they began to blame Job. Of course there is sin in our lives, but is suffering always the direct result of individual sin? Not always.

Jesus repudiated the automatic link between individual sin and suffering (see John 9:1-3). Jesus also pointed out that not all natural disasters are the judgment of God on individual or collective sin (see Luke 13:1-5). It is appropriate to examine ourselves when we are suffering, but we must be careful about making judgments about why others are suffering. Instead, we should show compassion. We should “Weep with those who weep” (Ro. 12:15), feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked and set the captives free.

Why does God allow suffering? This is the most frequently raised objection to the Christian faith. To the unbeliever, its distribution and degree appear to be random and unfair. This is an acute problem for the Christian faith because we believe God is both good and all powerful. The unbeliever, unconsciously volunteering to be a robot, asks, “If God is good and all powerful, why doesn’t He stop suffering?” Of course the answer is, “He did; He died on the cross to stop suffering.” We must never doubt that God is just. There is not a standard of fairness above or outside God. Who defines what is fair? Fairness can only be defined by God. God would be just to destroy us all. Anything we receive from Him is pure mercy.

God allows suffering because He grants us freedom. Suffering was not part of the original created order (Gen 1-2). There will be no suffering when God recreates a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:4). Suffering only entered the world as a result of sin. What God wants from us is love. Love requires freedom. All have freely chosen to break God’s laws. At what point does divine interference negate free will?

All suffering is a result of sin, either directly or indirectly. We can consider three causes of suffering. There is suffering as a result of our own sin.  Job’s kids suffered as a result of their own sin (see Job 1:4-5, 8:4). If we play with fire, we will get burned. “Whatsoever a man sews, that shall he reap.” Drug addiction leads to many problems: Poverty, broken relationships and sickness for starters. Promiscuity leads to broken relationships and further inability to trust and love freely and appropriately. Sometimes God actively judges sin in this life.

There is suffering as a result of others’ sin. War occurs because of greed and lust for power. Violence is perpetrated upon innocent victims because of someone else’s sin. Joseph suffered as a result of his brother’s jealousy.

There is suffering which occurs as a result of living in a fallen world. Thorns and weeds came into being as a result of sin (Gen. 3:18). Farmers, in an effort to grow food pollute the ground with fertilizers and pesticides that put carcinogens in our water. The Bible says that the entire creation is subject to frustration (Ro. 8:20).

How does God respond to our suffering? God works through suffering, He uses it for good. He uses it to draw us to Himself, to Christ. God uses suffering to mature and perfect us. Job was not perfect. His troubles were a test of faith, which began to waiver (see Job 30:20-23). God was rooting out self righteousness in Job (see Job  40:8). Even Jesus “learned obedience from what HE suffered” (He. 5:8) The Bible says, “Whom a father loves, He disciplines.” (He. 12:10) He does it for our good. He is the potter, we are the clay. Can the clay complain to the potter? He disciplines us to make us more fruitful. He “prunes every fruitful branch so that it will bear more fruit.” (John. 15:2)

Smith Wigglesworth once said, “Great faith is the product of great fights, great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come after great trials.” Our temptation might be to respond to God’s pruning by saying, “God, I’m happy please leave me alone.” That would be to want God to love us less. God uses suffering to bring about His good purposes. (Ro. 8:28) God used Joseph’s sufferings to preserve two nations from famine. He used Job’s sufferings to teach us about suffering and redemption.

God more than compensates for our suffering. Joseph was rewarded by being restored to his family. Job was restored. “God blessed the latter days of Job more than the first.” (Job 42:12)

God is involved in our suffering. He suffers with us. Isaiah 53 is the great prophesy of the suffering servant Jesus. It says, “He is a man acquainted with grief.” He is not immune to suffering. He became one of us and suffered more than any of us to the point that He was separated from the one He loved. He was betrayed by His closest friends, falsely accused, tortured and disgraced.

How should we respond to our own suffering? We need to examine ourselves to determine what God is saying. We may not get an answer as to why. God never told Job why He had undergone such suffering. We need to keep the faith, keep our eyes on Christ. The Cross is God’s answer to suffering. Our sin, a result of freedom, put Christ on the cross. On the cross God was reconciling the world unto Himself. He used His suffering and turned it for good. God more than compensates for our suffering. “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” (He. 12:2) He suffered, still suffers with us.

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