Persecution… Count On It

Persecution… Count On It

One has only to take a casual look around to understand that, nowadays, Christians are considered as equivalent to the proverbial ‘red-headed stepchild’.

If you are a blood-bought (convicted in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem you from all of your sins), born-again (the Holy Spirit is living in you by your invitation, directing your desires and how you live your life) Christian believer, you are a member of a shrinking minority.

The world… which largely rejects Jesus Christ… hates you.

I know that hate is a pretty strong word, but if you as a Christian are in any type of regular habit of reading the Holy Scriptures, you are already nodding your head in assent with what I just said. The witness of the One that we worship as KING of kings and LORD of lords is all the proof required to know not only that Christian believers are hated by the world, but why they are hated by the world:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18)

Why is it that the world hates Jesus Christ? He said why the world hated Him:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. (John 7:7)

If you are a Christian believer, you are in the world, but you are not of the world. Your allegiance is not to the world: your allegiance is to the One who died on the cross to pay the penalty of eternal death that you earned through your sins so that you might stand blameless before God on the day of judgment. Jesus Christ explains with a lucid clarity why the world acts the way that it does toward His people:

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19)

Linger long over something so precious from the above passage… Jesus Christ has chosen you out of the world!

The KING of kings and the LORD of lords… the Peerless Son of God Almighty… the One possessed of all knowledge, presence and power from eternity past into the present time into eternity future…the One filled with grace and truth… has chosen you.

How did this come to be?

The Psalms give great glory, honor and praise to God. Read how God chose you:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Persecution was nothing new for Jesus Christ. In addition to the opposition of the Jewish religious authorities to His message and ministry, and the rejection of His message and ministry by the very people to whom He was first sent, He would eventually suffer the ultimate persecution… an agonizing death… to pay the penalty for the totality of the sins of humanity for all who would place their faith in Him. As Christian believers, we will not suffer to the extreme that Jesus Christ did, but we will surely face an increasing degree of persecution in these last days. This may range from no persecution at all, to mild degrees of ridicule, disdain and perhaps social ostracism such as the loss of family relationships and friends, to physical violence, to loss of property by seizure, to imprisonment, to torture and martyrdom for those who will not recant their faith in God and in the One that He has sent. We who believe in Jesus Christ will surely encounter persecution, because He said we would:

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. (John 15:20-21)

Jesus Christ explained plainly that if He had not told the people who hated Him why they hated Him, and if He had not done amongst the people who hated Him the various miracles that clearly validated His claim to be the Messiah promised to the Jewish people, then the people who hated Him would not have been guilty of sin against Him:

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason’. (John 15:22-25)

People hate Jesus without reason. People hate Christian believers without reason.

In multiple posts elsewhere throughout this blog, I have stated the case as capably and strongly as I know how that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. His deeds while walking on this earth during the time of His ministry, most notably His eye-witnessed resurrection from the dead after His crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, but also His multiple miracles and the established fact that Holy Scripture in its thousands of prophecies has never once (to the time of this writing) been wrong… then you are not intellectually honest if you deny Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and deny Holy Scripture as the authoritative Word of God that is the last word in all ethical, moral and spiritual matters.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

At the bottom of any fool’s denial of Jesus, God and the Holy Scripture is a pride that says, in effect, “I will not be held accountable to anyone.” You can rationalize all you want… say that the Christian faith is full of errors and inconsistencies, say that the Christian faith is nothing more than a fantastical compilation of fantasies by deluded men from a long time ago, say that people don’t need the Christian faith because they are ‘good people’, say that the Christian faith isn’t rational and doesn’t make sense, say that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Christian faith are just crutches for weak and ineffectual people… you know why you deny Jesus, God and the Holy Scripture.

Because you consciously choose to.

The fool needs to understand that there is going to be a time of reckoning:

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)

The bottom line is this (italic emphasis mine):

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Not much future in being a fool, is there?

Now, all of this having been said, take a serious look at the world around us. Can we really say (with a straight face) that we have achieved a just and equitable world based on our own efforts, leaving God out of the equation? Now I am not saying that if everyone in the world was to turn to God, following His ways and commandments, that we would have a paradise on our hands… in the first place, we are born as sinners and will never live as anything else until we die (so even as redeemed people, we will still commit sin, although it should be less sin), and in the second place, not everyone will turn to God and follow His ways and commandments. Our world would be better, yes, but not a paradise by the most extreme stretch of our imagination.

So in the mess that we find ourselves living in (which, by the way, we have caused due to our sin and rebellion against God and His ways and commandments), those who do choose to live Christian lives by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit WILL be persecuted: this is guaranteed:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)

I am speaking personally now, but I foresee a time in this country, the Unites States of America, when the preaching of God’s Word from the pulpits of Christian churches will be regarded, and prosecuted, as hate speech. Political correctness will graduate to the sewer with the haughty defiance of God’s Word, and of God Himself and the One that He has sent, even in our hallowed halls of worship.

Persecution is coming. Be ready. Confess Jesus Christ as LORD, placing your faith, hope, trust, confidence and strength in Him, read and live His Holy Scripture every day, and pray without ceasing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, above all, this from Jesus Christ…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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Judging Others

Judging Others

One of the thorniest argument points a professing Christian believer will encounter from a non-believer is that oftentimes when a Christian believer states a position taken from Holy Scripture, the non-believer will shoot back with “You’re judging others… and what right do you have to do that, anyway??”.

Let’s take a step back.

Here is a passage that touches on this argument point of judgment by Christians:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

The Apostle Paul, the foremost Christian evangelist and church planter that there has ever been, puts forward 2 critical positions; Christian believers need to take note of these:

  1. Per v. 12a, Christian believers are not responsible for the judgment (any judgment) of those who are unsaved (that is, those who have not professed belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and who have not put their trust in Him alone for salvation and eternal life). Per v. 13a, God Himself will judge them in a coming day.
  2. Per v12b, Christian believers are responsible for judging other Christian believers who are indulging in known sin within the confines of the church body, with the sole objective of exercising Godly discipline, per v. 13b, even up to expelling the offender from the church body until the offender has been corrected.

Holy Scripture has always refuted, and will always refute, all claims that it contradicts itself, but a non-believer may seize upon the following to insist with a single broad-brush stroke that Christians must not ever judge anyone for anything:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7:1)

If this objection is raised to a Christian believer by a non-believer when discussing judgment, it is proper for the Christian believer to state that, in that passage, Jesus Christ was speaking about having a proper understanding of motives. Christian believers are not to judge anyone’s motives, because we are not competent for that type of judgment; only God is:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

However, as we have already seen, the word of God is equally clear that Christian believers are to judge known sin in the church for 2 compelling reasons:

  1. To maintain the reputation of the church for holiness.
  2. To restore the offender to fellowship within the church body, and most critically, to restore the offender to fellowship with God.

The Apostle Paul goes on to provide a powerful illustration of the scope of judgment that Christian believers are to be entrusted with:

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (1 Corinthians 6:1-3)

We seem to have some weighty responsibility in the judgment area; it is intriguing to understand from 1 Corinthians 6:3a that Christian believers will ‘…judge angels’! How can this be?

God’s children may be given a position that is higher than that of the angels. We are not only created in God’s image, but we are redeemed by Jesus Christ… neither of these things are true of the angels.

With regard to being created in God’s image:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

With regard to being redeemed by Jesus Christ:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (Luke 1:68)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7)

Neither being created in the image of God, nor being redeemed by Jesus Christ apply to the angels; additionally, the angels are in the service of the children of God (meaning those who are to inherit eternal life):

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; (Psalm 91:11)

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. (Hebrews 2:16)

According to Strong’s NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the word ‘judge’ from 1 Corinthians 6:3a means this (from the Greek word ‘krino’, #3212):

“… to decide, consider, as preferring one thing over another or determining the correctness of a matter; by extension: to judge, to pass judgment on, condemn in a legal sense: …”

This definition very strongly implies that we may have some degree of authority over the holy angels, as they have no sin in the sense of having to be condemned for that.

1 Corinthians 6:3a may mean that Christian believers in heaven may take a part in the judgment of fallen angels.

Jesus Christ has been exalted over all of the angels:

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:19-23)

so it is reasonable that those in Him, and made in His likeness:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

will share in His authority over the angels:

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; (2 Timothy 2:12)

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

Brothers and sisters in Christ… do you have an appreciation of how precious and special we are to Him? We are not only created in His image, we have been redeemed for salvation and eternal life by His atoning blood sacrifice on the cross, not to mention our being given (as God has apportioned before the world ever was) appropriate authority to judge those inside the church body, and even angels!

Before our heads get too swelled to fit where they should… let us take a sober lesson from the time when Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles out into all Israel. He gave them sweeping authority to preach the Good News, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse lepers and to drive out evil spirits from the possessed. When they came back to Jesus after having been sent out in power, elated with what they had been able to do, note very carefully what Jesus said to them (italic emphasis mine):

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

Let us be humble as we walk with our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, understanding who we are and who He is, appreciating what He has called us and empowered us to be able to do, all to the glory of God the Father Almighty!

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Common Sense Apologetics

Common Sense Apologetics

What is apologetics, anyway?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as:

The branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity.

Countless books have been written in attempts to defend and prove Christianity. Despite this massive avalanche of writing, recent research by the Pew Research Center is cited as follows (as of May 12th, 2015):

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center.
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To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.

To this date (May 17th, 2015), on this blog, I have published 100 posts aimed at a goal of proving and defending Christianity. Thousands of writers far more gifted than I will ever dream of being have consumed entire careers on proving and defending Christianity. Yet, the number of people in the United States who describe themselves as Christians is dropping, for the lack of a better term, relentlessly. I have come to a conclusion:

You will never win anyone who is not a Christian to Christianity by argument.

Believe me, I have tried on many occasions to do this, and I have never… on any of those occasions… been able to do so.

Christians have a mandate… the “Great Commission” (italic emphasis mine):

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.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

How can those who are Christian do this, especially in an era when Christianity is becoming, to more and more people, irrelevant?

There is a way. I call it Common Sense Apologetics.

1) Live your Christianity.

If you are a Christian believer, then live like you are a Christian believer. This is nothing more than garden-variety common sense: if a person who is not a Christian observes you not living like a Christian, why would that person believe anything that you told them about Christianity? Your life is the best (or worst) apologetic that there is.

2) Tell people what Christ has done for you, not what Christ can do for them.

Story-telling has been an integral part of the human experience, and people, generally speaking, love a good story. If you are a Christian believer, humble yourself and tell your story.

3) Serve others rather than your own interests.

Humble people that serve others are noticed, because service in humility to others is 100% at odds with the world that we live in. Generally speaking, people will relate very well to someone who serves them, and who has a genuine interest in them.

4) Love God and love others.

At the time of Jesus, the Hebrew Law consisted of literally hundreds of directives that pious Jews had to rigorously observe to be ‘right’ with God. Jesus reduced all of them to 2:

Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

If a Christian’s life is not characterized by love, that person is not a Christian. Love is the distinguishing hallmark of a true Christian believer.

5) Let go and let God.

Many Christians are consumed with ‘being effective’ in their faith. What it is critical to understand is that Christians are not called to be effective: they are called to be faithful. If there is an increase of any kind to be realized, God will effect that increase through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said (italic emphasis mine):

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

6) Be firm and gentle.
If you are a Christian believer, do not back away from your faith. Stand your ground, rooted in the One that God has sent, and stand on the testimony of the Word of God:

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)

Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. (Romans 14:16)

You have an amazing story to tell! Tell it humbly (italic emphasis mine):

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

7) Wait on the Holy Spirit.

Do not rush headlong into any situation. When a person is emotionally in turmoil (for example, has lost a child or a spouse, is terminally ill, etc.), possibly the worst thing you can do is to throw out a “blanket” Holy Scripture like: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28); it will likely be viewed by the person as very insensitive, and you will have done nothing more than give the person a warped view of your Christian faith.

First, remember that Christians have one (or more) spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit, so that they may be of service to God’s people (italic emphases mine): We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8). Encouraging people in emotional distress, and showing people mercy, are precious gifts from God that will demonstrate to all that you are a true child of your Father in heaven.

Second, remember something critically important: But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. (1 Corinthians 14:3). Before you would say anything to an emotionally devastated person, wait on the prompting of the Holy Spirit… you will be given the words that God wants the person to hear, and God will be glorified, because it will not be you speaking, but God Himself speaking through the Holy Spirit. There are times when just being there for the person, letting them know without words that you care for them and love them, will be enough.

8) Pray.

Prayer is essential to the Christian believer’s life. Great faith can be placed in prayer, as Jesus says (italic emphasis mine):

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:6-8)

How precious is the time invested in prayer! The Christian believer knows, with deep, quiet, thoroughly assured faith, that God knows everything on his/her heart before it is even expressed.

Apologetics for Christianity does not have to be something that only trained theologians can understand! Yet, is what I have written too much, somehow, to keep track of and remember? Is there an even simpler apologetic for the Christian believer? YES… there surely is! Our precious King and Lord Jesus Christ reduced the entire Hebrew Law, and every Christian law and commandment that would follow from it, to this (italic emphasis mine):

Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Oh, the blessed assurance of the Christian believer’s life! God is for us, so who can be against us? Is there any more telling and significant testimony that can be offered for the Christian faith than a Christian believer who exhibits joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding, no matter what the circumstances of his or her life might be, good or bad?

Christian believers can not only rest in the promises of the Christian faith, but extend those same promises to others, because…

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

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A Limited Time Offer…

A Limited Time Offer…

We hear a lot about limited time offers in our thoroughly commercialized world…

“Hurry!! For a limited time only!!! Get yours now!!!!”

It is amazing how easily we have become so readily conditioned to acquiring stuff that we unconsciously react in all the appropriate ways to acquire it… truly, we do not even have to think about what to do: it is a conditioned reflex. Moreover, whatever we want, we want it NOW, and the world has evolved with regard to instant gratification to the point where it is routinely available. The world fairly screams at us, “Why deny yourself? You can have whatever you want right now, be it good, bad or indifferent. After all, it’s all about you!”

Understand that limited time offers come, go and come again, because businesses offering them do whatever they need to do from a business perspective to get people to buy their products. In other words, limited time offers are not really limited in any way, because they will always come back around; they have no expiration date that truly means they will never be seen again. People always have another chance.

Let me tell you about the limited time offer.

Your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your King and Lord, Savior and Messiah

The multiple provisions of this limited time offer are beyond generous:
-You become a child of the KING of kings and the LORD of lords.
-Your sins (past, present and future) are forgiven.
-You are given a peace that is beyond comprehension or understanding.
-You are given a new nature.
-You are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.
-You are freed from a life of bondage to sin.
-You are empowered to live life to the full.
-You inherit eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

The single condition of this limited time offer is absolute:
-The offer expires when you expire.

I cannot begin to tell you how many people discount Jesus Christ, thereby not having a personal relationship with Him: and it breaks my heart. The reason that it breaks my heart is that in order to be saved, it is not enough to say that you believe in Jesus Christ. In Holy Scripture, the book of James says this:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder. (James 2:19)

You must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; it is in that relationship (your complete and abiding trust in His atoning blood sacrifice on the cross that paid your sin debt to Almighty God the Father) that you are saved by grace, through faith:

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

It brings tears to my eyes, and a heavy burden to my heart, when I hear people deny what Jesus Christ has done for them, saying in effect that they are ‘good people’, and that all such ‘good people’ will be admitted to God’s Kingdom, based on their own merit. The witness of Holy Scripture says that there are NO good people, and that NO ONE can do any amount of work to justify their admittance to God’s Kingdom:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Jesus stated the truth:

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone. (Luke 18:18-19)

Jesus Christ is the only way into God’s Kingdom:

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

People often dismiss Holy Scripture (adding insult to injury by not even reading it before dismissing it) saying that it is a fantastical mix of fantasy, mythology and outright lies. I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth. Holy Scripture has approximately 2,500 prophecies recorded within it, approximately 2,000 of which have been fulfilled to date without a single miss. No set of extra-biblical prophecies has ever come anywhere even remotely close to a thus-far perfect track record. As for those who think that one or more of the prophecies yet remaining to be fulfilled will be missed, thus discounting the testimony of Holy Scripture, ever hear of the phrase ‘The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior’? Think about it.

If your heart is hardened, and you cannot bring yourself to bend your knees and confess with your tongue that Jesus Christ is your personal King and Lord, Savior and Messiah, giving Him lordship over your life, I grieve and I weep for you. I grieve and weep for you because you will bend your knees to Jesus Christ, and you will confess that He is LORD, willingly or unwillingly:

It is written: ” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:11-12)

You will either confess Jesus Christ as your personal King and Lord, Savior and Messiah at the Judgment Seat of Christ (a judgment of believers across all of the ages), or you will confess Jesus Christ as King and Lord at the Great White Throne (a judgment of unbelievers across all of the ages). If you appear at the Great White Throne judgment, you will be condemned to an eternity of torment in the lake of fire. Do not be angry with God, because He has not condemned you to that place of eternal separation from Him… you have condemned yourself to that place, because of your unbelief in God’s only Son whom He sent to die so that your sins would be forgiven, and so that you would be pardoned from the lake of fire because when God looked at you on the Day of Judgment, He didn’t see you… He saw His Son Jesus Christ, whose blood has washed away your sins.

I am a watchman on the walls of the very last days of history as we know it… and I give you a very somber warning, if you are a hard-hearted unbeliever:

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

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The Few… The Forgiven… The SAVED

The Few… the Forgiven… the SAVED

Almost everyone has heard the tagline for the US Marines (an awesome group of folks, by the way!): “The Few… the Proud… the MARINES”.

I have one for believing Christians: “The Few… the Forgiven… the SAVED”.

My belief is that Christianity is the one true faith. Because it sounds presumptuous (people will say “What can you mean? What about all of the other faiths out there??”), I am going to state the reason why I have this belief.

His Name is Jesus Christ.

In the last analysis, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead: being raised from the dead is something that no principal representative of any other religion has ever claimed at any time throughout human history.

There is the witness of Holy Scripture (italic emphases mine):

The book of Daniel describes a prophecy given to Daniel by the Archangel Gabriel:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. (Daniel 9:24-26)

Note that Daniel was given this prophecy 500+ years before Christ was born.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke of (before it happened) His death and resurrection from the dead:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matthew 17:22-23)

“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life! (Matthew 20:18-19)

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke to others following His resurrection from the dead:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:5-10)

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.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In the book of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul speaks of how Jesus’ resurrection was eye-witnessed:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It is not necessary to present an overwhelming amount of Holy Scripture to make the point that Christianity is the one true faith. If there is a person other than Jesus Christ who can come forward and prove his or her resurrection from the dead, let them speak. Trust me, it will not happen!

Perhaps the most compelling witness that we have that Christianity is the one true faith is that of the Twelve Apostles left to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ after His ascension into heaven, 11 of them were martyred without recanting their faith in Jesus Christ.

NO ONE DIES FOR A LIE.

Why do I say ‘the few’? I say ‘the few’ because while all people are God’s creations, not all people are God’s children. Since we understand from the testimony of Holy Scripture presented (in part) above that Jesus is exactly what He claimed that He was… the Only Son of God, proven as such by His resurrection from the dead… perhaps His words regarding who will, and who will not, enter into the Kingdom of heaven will carry the weight they deserve for those who do not believe:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Far too many people sincerely believe that they are ‘good people’, and that by doing good things, they will be seen as righteous by God, and worthy of admittance into the Kingdom of heaven.

There are no people who are good… NONE.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3)

“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:13-18; from Psalms 5:9, 140:3, 59:7-8, 36:1)

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:18-23)

How dare we… before a just, pure, holy and righteous God… claim to be ‘good’! If we claim to be good, Romans 1:18-23 shows us how God views people who claim to be ‘good’; Isaiah 64:6 shows us how God views our ‘good’ deeds (italic emphasis mine):

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Jesus spoke a solemn warning:

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ (Luke 13:22-27)

The narrow door referred to is a life lived in a relationship with the KING of kings and the LORD of lords, who is Jesus Christ… such a person is amongst the few.

Is there anyone who actually believes that he or she can live their life exactly as they please, being in effect their own god, rejecting God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and then expect to be admitted to the Kingdom of heaven? There must be many people who believe exactly that, because they don’t recognize their own evil, they do not believe in any power greater than themselves that they owe accountability to, they do not pray, they do not worship, they make their own rules, and they have their own morality, all of this amounting to their own perception of reality, within which they are the stars.

This is the ‘broad road’ to destruction, spoken of by Jesus:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

If you are following the ‘broad road’ because you will not, by your choice, enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you do so at your extreme peril.

Why do I say ‘the forgiven’? I say ‘the forgiven’ because God in His infinite mercy, even though we were condemned from birth to the lake of fire for eternity because of the sin within us as a result of the fall from grace of Adam and Eve, made a way by which we could be forgiven of the sin within us, and stand justified before Him, no longer condemned. The way is God’s Only Son.

His Name is Jesus Christ.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

In the above passage, the Apostle Paul says that anyone who is in Christ (meaning anyone who believes in the One that God has sent) is… literally… a new creation: the old person with the old nature (that loved the things of this world, and all things sinful) is gone, replaced by the new person with the new nature (that loves the things of God, and all things holy). It is the hallmark of Christianity, unique to Christianity alone, that when one believes in God’s Son Jesus Christ, God in the person of the Holy Spirit lives in that person, enabling that person to follow God’s laws and commandments, thus fulfilling not only the requirements of the Old Testament Law by which men were condemned without any possibility of mercy and pardon, but also sealing that person against the Day of God’s judgment, because when God looks at that person, He does not see that person, but sees His Son Jesus Christ: and that person is acquitted of sin and its eternal punishment in the eyes of God… that person is forgiven.

I know that I have spoken a mouthful. Read it, ponder it, weep over it, accept it, know joy because of it!

Unarguably, the most well-known passage of Holy Scripture sums up the amazing love of God, which I pray can be better understood from understanding what has been said regarding God’s forgiveness above:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Why do I say ‘the saved’? I say ‘the saved’ because of the testimony of John 3:16… people are saved from an eternity in the lake of fire, which is the just punishment for sin, because of the willingness of the Son of God to offer Himself to the cruelest of deaths that we might be pardoned in His Father’s eyes.

But to be saved, we must not treat God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ as some sort of ‘get out of the lake of fire for eternity free’ card. Salvation is free to all who willingly come to a point in their lives where they surrender their lives and their wills to Jesus Christ, that He might reign in their hearts to give them freedom to live for God and to do God’s will, but salvation was not free for the One who earned it for us: He had to shed every last drop of His sacred blood on the cross of Calvary for it.

His Name is Jesus Christ.

Much less well known are the passages following John 3:16, but they are critical to understand that God does not condemn us; His desire is that not a single sinner should be punished: we condemn ourselves:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:17-18)

More than enough has been said. You now know very well what Jesus Christ offers you, if you are not a believer. I am a watchman on the walls. I am telling you that the world as we know it in these days is a dark place, and the only light that is in it is the light that God that God has given in His Son Jesus Christ. However, the seemingly endless patience of God with a stubborn humanity will not go on forever… there will be an end to it. People with hard hearts are spoken of in Holy Scripture:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9)

So… what is it going to be? Will you be the god of your own life, and be condemned for eternity, or will you surrender your life and your will to the One who died for you so that you would live for eternity? It is your choice, but (italic emphasis mine)…

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

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“Give me strength, Lord” … Really??

“Give me strength, Lord” … Really??

How often do Christians declare (many times in exasperation!) the above?

I will cast the first stone at myself… I have many times prayed like this.

If we cared enough to stop and think about it, we would come to the conclusion that the way that we have made this sound is as if God is at fault for whatever it is that we are talking about with Him. You must admit… faulting God is a handy cop-out, isn’t it? It isn’t a bit messy: just blame God, and you are off the hook. How convenient for us!

Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, the true reason that we ask God to give us strength is because we know we do not have any strength in and of ourselves. However, even though we know we do not have any strength in and of ourselves, we compound that problem with being totally unwilling to confess that before God, so as to be in a right state before Him so that we can ask Him for what we truly have need of.

This ‘right state’ is critically important because… what we truly have need of is almost surely not strength so much as it is almost surely repentance.

Let us level-set on the issue of strength. Two seminal concepts evident throughout Holy Scripture are: 1) God possesses all strength, and 2) any strength we have in any measure is given by God Himself.

God’s strength (italic emphases mine):

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you  will guide them to your holy dwelling. (Exodus 15:13)

Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, (Deuteronomy 4:37)

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11)

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, (1 Chronicles 16:28)

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. (1 Chronicles 29:12)

“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. (Nehemiah 1:10)

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

I love you, O Lord, my strength. (Psalm 18:1)

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might. (Psalm 21:13)

Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. (Psalm 29:1)

God’s strength in us (italic emphases mine):

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Psalm 15:2)

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14)

those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10)

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1 Samuel 23:16)

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. (2 Samuel 22:33)

You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet. (2 Samuel 22:40)

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:7)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

The above passages from the Old Testament are not exhaustive, but be assured that strength is mentioned in the New Testament as well; Holy Scripture is a continuum across all of human history, and never contradicts itself across any of its books regarding terms it introduces (italic emphases mine):

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21)

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. (1 Timothy 1:12)

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:17)

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)

We see the evidence that strength is possessed by God, and that strength is given by God. Why, then, do we plead with God for it, and fault Him when we do not receive it?

Something that we must be open to as Christian believers is the possibility that we might be ‘asking amiss’. By this I mean that we are praying to God (which is a very good thing), but we are praying to Him with ulterior motives/wrong intent (which is a very bad thing).

Now I have used the term ‘strength’ as something that we ask for, but it is rarely used in that strict sense alone, meaning that we rarely if ever say things along the lines of ‘God, please give me physical strength in my muscles’. We say things more along the line of ‘God, please give me the strength to get out of this situation’ or ‘God, please give me strength to like this person’.

Using the two examples just mentioned, let’s take a closer look. If we are asking God to give us strength to get out of a situation, are we asking because we have committed a sinful act that has gotten us into the situation in the first place, and have chosen not to confess that sinful act to God, but rather to possibly get Him to pull some strings to get us out of the situation that has come to pass because of that sinful act? If we are asking God to give us strength to like a person, are we asking because we willfully and stubbornly refuse to give that person a fair chance to be considered on their character and merits that we have not yet considered carefully, whom we just want to use because we can get something from them?

If so… we are ‘asking amiss’… with ulterior motives, wrong intent, or both.

Holy Scripture condemns us:

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

Is it all even reasonable that God should consider, never mind grant, our requests? We are pretty good at fooling ourselves, and we even have the audacity to believe that we can fool God, but Holy Scripture indicates otherwise:

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2)

God knows exactly our condition as sinners under the penalty of death:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Holy Scripture is validated in both its capabilities and function:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Note that Holy Scripture is personified as living and active as the Word of God, which in turn is God Himself. Therefore, the Word of God (God Himself) is a Righteous Judge that fairly judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, fairly because nothing is hidden from His sight.

So what needs to be done here? If we do need strength (and God knows whatever we need before we ask Him for it), what is it necessary to do?

Surrender your will to God.

Be willing to surrender the control of your life to God as your LORD and KING.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Confess God’s Only Son Jesus Christ as LORD.

Jesus Christ died a sacrificial death on the cross, shedding every drop of His sacred blood, so that you might be forgiven of your sins before God the Father.

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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

When we confess the Name of Jesus Christ, and invite Him into our lives to be the Lord of our lives… when we stand before God in judgment, God does not see the wretched sinners that we are: He sees the righteousness of His Son in whom we have believed, and He holds us blameless.

Confess your sins to God, repenting of them.

To repent of your sins is to turn away from them in Godly sorrow, and to go in the opposite direction, distaining all occasions of, and all temptations to, sin, which is rebellion against God.

We will not be 100% sinless. What we will do, however, by the power of the Holy Ghost living in us, is to hate sin more, and commit sin less.

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

If you do these things, you will be given all that you have true need of, because you will be in a right relationship with God, praying for the things that God desires: you will be a true child of the Living God, and a co-heir with Jesus Christ of the Kingdom of God.

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The Plain Sense of Holy Scripture

The Plain Sense of Holy Scripture

I believe in a (largely) literal interpretation of Holy Scripture.

People have all manner of perceptions regarding Holy Scripture. Some believe all Holy Scripture is to be interpreted literally, some believe that Holy Scripture is a mix of literal interpretation, metaphor, allegory and figures of speech, and some believe that the only proper interpretation of Holy Scripture is its dismissal as old wives’ tales, fantasies and the lore of a bygone era no longer in step with the modern, enlightened age.

There is an overriding principle for the proper interpretation of any genre of Holy Scripture: prayer for the purpose of being given wisdom by God to understand His Word. This is spoken of in Holy Scripture itself:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

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. (Ephesians 1:17)

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

Let us consider this the 1st Hermeneutic Principle.

I would like to continue with a basic, credible principle:

“When the ‘plain sense’ of Holy Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense.”

I maintain this statement is self-explanatory. If something makes sense (in other words, if something ‘clicks’, appealing to your horse sense), there is no valid reason to undertake a search for another meaning. Throughout the ages that Holy Scripture has been in existence, innumerable people have ignored the afore-mentioned basic and credible rule for interpretation, especially when they have an ulterior motive for creating their own interpretation of passages because they don’t care for, or are outright opposed to, their plain and simple meaning… that many passages of Holy Scripture do not require an elevated level of interpretive effort is a plain and simple fact. That the same innumerable number of people decide to impress upon a passage of Holy Scripture their own personal interpretation of its meaning… when that is not required… does not alter the reality of that passage’s plain and simple meaning, when that plain and simple meaning is easily apparent.

I understand that the original writings that comprise the Holy Scriptures as we see them in this day and age are lost to us. The most authoritative source of the Old Testament is the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament traditionally said to have been made at the request of Ptolemy II, king of Egypt (309-247? B.C.), by a body of 72 Jewish scholars in 72 days. The New Testament was authored by multiple persons, but even through a handing down of copies through many scribes, and its interpretation (along with the Old Testament) into the multiple translations that we now possess, the inter-relationships between Old Testament and New Testament (in terms of the Old Testament pointing forward to references in the New Testament, and of the New Testament pointing backward to references in the Old Testament) are uncannily accurate, and prophecies made by the Holy Scriptures that have come to pass (such as the 360+ prophecies in the Old Testament regarding Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God) have been fulfilled in their entirety without a single miss; add to this that archeological finds in the Holy Land and surrounding locales are 100% in agreement with descriptions of them in the Holy Scriptures, and you will understand that the Holy Scriptures are the most accurate writings to come out of the ancient world, which remain viable to this very hour, despite all attempts to discredit them: they can be depended upon to be the truth, because they have never been proven to be false. Don’t let anyone deceive you that the Holy Bible is corrupted, full of inconsistencies and false meanings! Using a proper approach, which is being presented here, rightly divide the Word of God.

I am not a theologian trained in Biblical hermeneutics, which is defined as the science of properly interpreting the various genres of literature found in the Holy Bible. I am simply a person that loves God, believes in and loves the One that He has sent (His Son Jesus Christ), and believes that Holy Scripture is the inspired and faultless Word of God. If you are reading this post to get an academically oriented training in Biblical interpretation that is going to be 100% correct across all the genres of Holy Scripture, you are in the wrong place. However, if you are reading this post because you want a common-sense way in which to interpret Holy Scripture no matter what genre it is written in, you are in the right place.

One of the huge sticking points for people in properly interpreting Holy Scripture is determining just exactly what is ‘proper interpretation’… and there we have people going off in a lot of different directions.

Need I remind you of the basic, credible rule?

When the ‘plain sense’ of Holy Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense.”

Let us consider this the 2nd Hermeneutic Principle.

Let us proceed to examples of Holy Scripture:

Here is a passage from the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christ:

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. (Matthew 5:29a)

Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? Does Jesus really want us to gouge out our right eye if it causes us to sin?

There is a saying:

Text without context is pretext.”

Let us break this down:
1) Text
-The wording adopted by an editor as representing the original words of an author.
2) Context
-The parts of a discourse or writing which precede or follow, and are directly connected with, a given passage or word.
3) Pretext
-That which is put forward to conceal a true purpose or object; an ostensible (or professed and pretended) reason.

If you interpret a passage of text “as is”, which is to say without taking into account and analyzing closely other parts of the text that precede and follow the text being looked at (which can be shown to be connected with that text), then you are declaring your own subjective, and therefore Biblically unsupported, meaning for the text being looked at.

In other words, to properly interpret a primary passage of text, look at the secondary text that surrounds the primary text for connections to that primary text.

Let us consider this the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle.

With regard to Matthew 5:29a…

Applying the 2nd Hermeneutic Principle:
The plain sense of the passage would have us gouging our right eye out. Obviously, we can derive from common sense alone that physical harm to ourselves is not what Jesus meant.

We must go to the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle.

Applying the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle:

The verse immediately preceding Matthew 5:29a is this:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

The verse immediately following Matthew 5:29a is this:

It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29b)

We need to look in the passages preceding and following Matthew 5:29a for words that have a direct connection to

Matthew 5:29a. In Matthew 5:28, we see ‘lustfully’ and ‘adultery’, and in Matthew 5:29b we see ‘hell’.

We define the words found:
lustfully (root word ‘lust’)
-Unbridled or lawless sexual desire or appetite.
adultery
-Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and any other than the lawful spouse.
hell
-The place or state of punishment of the wicked after death.

In Matthew 5:29a, we look for words that have a direct connection to the words we found in the passages preceding and following, and we see ‘sin’.

We define the word(s) found:
sin
-A transgression of divine law; especially a willful, deliberate transgression.

Adultery (only one of the manifestations of lust) is condemned as sin not only within the Ten Commandments, but within the body of the Mosaic Law, and this condemnation has carried over into Christianity from Judaism, and there is a penalty to be paid for sin that is un-repented of, which is hell.

Because of the context for Matthew 5:29a, we see: 1) that lust and adultery are sin, and 2) that sin was so grevious to Jesus because of its potential for everlasting punishment that He used a powerful figure of speech (to gouge out an eye) to ensure that His hearers understood His meaning: sin is SERIOUS and will be dealt with SEVERELY… therefore, the lesson is to avoid all occasions of sin.

Here is a passage from the discourse between Jesus Christ and Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, speaking of Himself:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

Once again, this sounds pretty grim, like a drumhead court-martial in which the accused has no say in the outcome.

Will anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ be condemned?

With regard to John 3:18…

Applying the 2nd Hermeneutic Principle:
The plain sense of the passage would have us believe that all who do not believe in the Name of God’s one and only Son will be condemned. There is no obvious figure of speech in John 3:18 as there was in Matthew 5:29a, so it appears at this point that Jesus meant exactly what He said.

We must go to the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle.

Applying the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle:

The verse immediately preceding John 3:18 is this:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

The verse immediately following John 3:18 is this:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

We need to look in the passages preceding and following John 3:18 for words that have a direct connection to John :18. In John 3:17, we see ‘believe’ and ‘condemn’, and in John 3:19 we see ‘verdict’.

We define the words found:
believe
-To have confidence in, to trust in, to rely on through faith.
condemn
-To pronounce adverse judgment on; to pronounce to be guilty.
verdict
-A judgment or decision in a matter brought before a court.

In John 3:18, we look for words that have a direct connection to the words we found in the passages preceding and following, and we see ‘believe (believes, believed)’ and ‘condemned’.

We define the word(s) found:
believe, believes, believed
-To have confidence in, to trust in, to rely on through faith.
condemned
-To be sentenced to punishment or doom.

God is the Righteous Judge, able to judge in a righteous manner because He is the standard of perfection. Because of His perfection, He cannot tolerate sin, and by that same perfection manifested in His righteousness, He must punish it. However, He has made a way for all to be forgiven of sin: which is what we see in the preceding passage of John 3:17… God in His mercy has given Jesus Christ, His only Son, so that the world, through Jesus’ once-for-all blood sacrifice, might be saved through its acceptance of that sacrifice. The condemnation (‘verdict’) of those who willfully reject the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is justified: which is what we see in the following passage of John 3:19… if we, who are not the standard of perfection as God is, willfully reject the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have by that rejection made God out to be a liar regarding His own Son.

There are multiple genres (styles of writing) throughout Holy Scripture. I believe that, through application of the 3 Hermeneutic Principles that have been discussed, you can properly and rightly divide (come to a correct understanding) virtually all of God’s Word.

There is only one genre of Holy Scripture that cannot be completely and rightly divided: apocalyptic writing, which is seen in Holy Scripture in the book of Revelation. The style of apocalyptic writing concerns itself with an unveiling/unfolding of things not previously known, and which cannot be known until the time of the actual unveiling/unfolding; it is extremely rich in imagery, which may or may not translate directly into people, places, things, events and timelines, either at the time of the literature’s writing, or in the present and even future times. That the imagery in the book of Revelation was not directly translatable into people, places, things, events and timelines that its author, the Apostle John, knew is evident from his multiple uses of the word ‘like’… John described what he saw in his visions from God as being ‘like’ this or that; he described them as best he could using what he had available to him: his life experiences, his cultural influences, his vocabulary, etc. Since the true meanings behind apocalyptic writings like the book of Revelation will not be fully known until God sees fit to reveal them, such literature is best interpreted in terms of their overall messages to Christian believers which, in the case of Revelation, is to reveal the full identity of God’s Son Jesus Christ, to give warning and hope to believers, and to assure them of the God’s ultimate triumph over evil.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed day!

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