Monday, December 24, 2012

Proving the Resurrection

Proving the Resurrection

After reading another article by a Christian apologist trying to prove with words the reality of the resurrection of Christ Jesus, I could not refrain from doing my part, once again, to warn God’s people not to trust in such vain words.  Wise faith, Paul said, is in the power of God, not in the persuasive eloquence of men (1Cor. 2:4-5).  

I know that the resurrection of Christ Jesus took place, and how we thank God for that blessed resurrection!  But Christian apologists’ arguments for the resurrection almost always fall flat because their arguments point no one to the only thing in the universe which actually proves that the resurrection was real.  Let me use a statement from a recent article in which one Christian minister was trying to talk people into believing in the resurrection.  After a lengthy discussion, he wrote, "The most persuasive evidence for the resurrection is the transformed lives of the disciples."  That is not the case.  It was not their transformed lives, but the thing that transformed them which is the proof of Jesus’ resurrection.  To the Sanhedrin, Peter said of Jesus, "We are His witnesses, and so is the holy spirit, which God gives to all who obey Him."  Now, Peter and the rest of the apostles are long dead, but the holy Spirit is still here, still available to all who obey God and believe in His Son.  Peter and the rest of the apostles were wonderful witnesses to their generation, but the holy Spirit they possessed in their souls is still here!  It is God’s testimony to every generation of His Son.

It is virtually always the case that when they set about to convince people of the resurrection of Christ, Christian ministers fail to acknowledge “the witness God gave of His Son".  I am convinced that, in most cases, they do not mention God’s holy witness because they have not yet received it.  If instead of sermonizing about the resurrection, those ministers would simply humble themselves to receive “the witness that God gave of His Son”, they could leave off the unconvincing talk about empty tombs and ancient literary references, and become witnesses themselves, through the power of the holy spirit – which was God’s original intent when He sent His Spirit.  Those with the baptism of the Spirit are God’s witnesses of his Son, and there cannot be, in each succeeding generation, any better testimony to Christ than the Spirit living and testifying, in power and purity, that Christ Jesus is alive.

The article I recently read correctly quoted Paul as saying that without the resurrection, there was no hope, and no saving faith.  But the truth which impelled Paul to make such a statement is that the resurrection of Christ accomplished something unprecedented and revolutionary, for it resulted in the outpouring of God’s kind of life, His eternal, holy kind of life, on the day of Pentecost, about fifty days after Jesus' crucifixion.  Peter said it best in his first sermon after being “born again” on the day of Pentecost, when God’s life was causing Peter and Jesus’ other followers to stagger like drunk men and to speak of God’s glory in languages they had not learned (Acts 2:22-4, 32-33):

“Men of Israel!  Listen to these words!  Jesus the Nazarene, a man from God, was attested to you by miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst, as you yourselves certainly know.  You took this man, who was turned over to you by the fixed purpose and foreknowledge of God, and killed him with wicked hands, nailing him to a cross, but God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, for it was not possible for him to be held by it. . . .  This Jesus, God has raised up, of which we all are witnesses.  So then, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the holy spirit, he has shed forth this, which you yourselves now see and hear.”
Without the power of God in your life, not only are you not a witness of Christ, but you do not really know whether Jesus was resurrected or not.  How can you know that Christ is resurrected without receiving God’s witness of it?  Men can declare it, but men can lie.  God, who cannot lie, offers His own testimony: the baptism of the holy Spirit.  You may believe in the resurrection strongly; you may be educated enough to make a good case for it; you may even be willing to die for that belief.  But you cannot know the resurrection really took place until you participate in it by the Spirit.  Only those who have received what Jesus died and rose for know, for sure, that it ever really happened.  As Paul said, “No man can say [and know that he is telling the truth] that Jesus is Lord except by the holy ghost” (1Cor 12:3).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

“Hate Speech”

One of the recent inventions of this perverse generation is the phrase, “hate speech”.  Ostensibly, the people who use that phrase are using it to denounce speech that is prejudiced and malicious, but in reality, it is a tool of manipulation intended to silence good people.  It is used, for the most part, to put pressure on good people not to speak out against evil.  Good people see sin for what it is, and this perverse generation does not want them to say anything about the sin they see.  In short, what is labeled “hate speech” is often a very good thing.
No one on earth has ever spoken “hate speech” as effectively as God has, and He has done it often.  God even goes beyond hatred; He abhors certain things and people – and He fearlessly says so!  Here are a few examples of God’s “hate speech”:

Psalm 11
5.  “The Lord tries the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and him who loves violence.”

Proverbs 6
16.  These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17.  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18. An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19.  A false witness who speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren.

In Amos, God even said He hated the religious acts of His own people because they were living immoral lives:

Amos 5
21.  I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.

And in Leviticus, God let it be known that He abhors the perverted lifestyle called homosexuality:

Leviticus 18
22.  Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.

Those are just a very few examples of what this wicked generation would call God’s “hate speech”.  Do you think He feels such pressure of fools that he will keep His mouth shut?
It is such an obvious truth that it should not need to be said, but the truth is being lost now, so I will say it:  To be “godly”, one must be like God.  No one who is godly disagrees with God; on the contrary, every godly person reflects, through his words and actions, the heart of God.  Therefore, if God speaks in such a way that men would condemn Him for “hate speech”, then a godly person will be condemned by the same people for giving expression to God’s feelings on earth.
The Bible encourages God’s children to endure the persecution and always be a testimony, a living representation, of God’s character.  The Lord spoke through David in Psalm 97:10 and said, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!”  Jesus even taught that we are very blessed when we are cruelly slandered and ostracized by others for daring to be like God in this wicked world (Mt. 5:11).  Here are just a few verses that show that godly people in the Bible were like God with their “hate speech”:

Psalm 101 (David)
3.  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Psalm 119 (David)
104.  Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore, I hate every false way.
113.  I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.
128.  I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.
163.  I hate and abhor lying, but thy law do I love.

Psalm 139 (David)
21.  Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22.  I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies.

Proverbs 8 (Solomon)
13.  The fear of the Lord is to hate evilPride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Proverbs 13 (Solomon)
5.  A righteous man hates lying. . . .

In Jesus’ message to the pastor of the congregation in Ephesus, he reproved him for failing in several areas, but then, Jesus gave him a compliment.  What was that good thing that the pastor was doing?  He was hating something the way Jesus hated it!

Revelation 2
5.  Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen, and repent, and do your first works.  Otherwise, I will come upon you suddenly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
6.  You do have this, however; you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

We can say without any contradiction that if a person wants to be “godly”, then he must express among people on this earth a deep hatred for the following:

  1. wickedness
  2. the love of violence
  3. a proud look
  4. lying
  5. murder
  6. trouble-making
  7. the worship offered to God by hypocrites
  8. homosexual conduct
  9. any wicked thing
  10.   the ways of those who turn away from God
  11.   every false religion
  12.   vain thoughts
  13.   those who hate God
  14.   arrogance

And that is just a small portion of the many scriptures that tell us of what God hates!
In this culture, at this time in history, we need help from God to “overcome evil with good”.  If we do not overcome evil by confessing the good Jesus has given us, then the good that Jesus has given us will certainly be overcome by the evil that is around us.  When that happens, we will begin to feel differently about things, and begin to speak of wickedness as if it is not all that bad.  We will become “inclusive” (another “buzz word” of this perverse generation), and will no longer be persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Jesus said that as the world drew near to the time of the end, love for God would wither among many because sin would become so rampant (Mt. 24:12).  And he wondered aloud, “When the Son returns, will he find any faith in the earth?” (Lk. 18:8).  I pray to God that he grants us the inner strength to continue in faith, reflecting God’s personality, His feelings and thoughts, without fear or partiality until Jesus comes, or until we leave this world and go to him.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Following Jesus to Life

And as he was setting out on a journey, one ran up to him, and fell on his knees, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” But Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good, except God alone.  You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; Do not murder; Do not steal; Do not bear false witness; Do not defraud; Honor your father and mother.” He answered and said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking intently at him, loved him, and he said to him, “One thing in you is lacking.  Go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, take up the cross, and follow me.” But he was appalled at this statement, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Mark 10:17-22

The wealthy young ruler in the story above had obeyed the commandments of God his entire life, and Jesus loved him for that.  He loved him so much that he invited him to come follow him – if the young man would first sell his many possessions and distribute the money to the poor.  Jesus loved this young man so much that he wanted to heal him of the one thing that was lacking in his soul.  But in order to do that, the young man had to follow Jesus . . . to Pentecost.
Pentecost, the day when Jesus’ followers would receive the kind of life God has, was the point of following Jesus.  That would be the day Jesus’ followers would at last be delivered from their fallen, sinful nature and be given eternal life, God’s life.  The holy Spirit is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”  And if any of Jesus’ disciples quit following him before receiving God’s life on the day of Pentecost, their previous faith in Christ profited them nothing.  In fact, it would have been better for them to have never followed Jesus at all, for “it were better for them not to known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2Pet. 2:21).
Merely selling all his possessions and then giving the money to the poor was not going to perfect that young man’s faith.  He had to follow Jesus all the way to life, not just until Jesus said something to him that made him uncomfortable.  The apostle Paul said that even if you give all your goods to the poor, it will not benefit your soul at all unless you have the love of God, which is brought into the heart by the life of God (1Cor. 13:3; Rom. 5:5).  Jesus knew that.  He knew that what that young man lacked in his soul would not be supplied just by getting rid of earthly possessions; Jesus wanted him to follow him to Pentecost!  The rich young man had to do what Jesus’ other disciples had done; that is, leave all things behind and follow Jesus, but, alas, he was unwilling to do it.
We, too, have to do what Jesus told the young man to do.  We must deny ourselves, leave it all behind, and follow Jesus to Pentecost to be healed.  The young man could not make himself do that, and many others who tried, turned away from Jesus when he taught them just how narrow the road to life was.  Many are still trying to follow Jesus without leaving the world behind, but they will be offended before they reach the goal.  Something Jesus says to them along the way will offend them, and to save face, many of them will turn to religious activities instead of walking with Jesus in the Spirit.  But all the religious works, and all the good deeds, and all the sacrifices men can make will not heal them of their sinful nature.  It is following Jesus to the place he wants us to be that makes us whole.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Everything Else is Just Gravy

Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1Timothy 6:6

The most thankful people on earth are those who are content to be like their heavenly Father.  To be like God is to be “godly”, and as Paul said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  People who are content with godliness see all the other blessings in their lives as extra blessings, not necessities.  They see those blessings as things that they do not need in order to be content but as things for which to be thankful.  To a person content with godliness, every other blessing is “gravy”, as the saying goes.
Jesus said to pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness above all things, and when we do that, he said, God will add to our lives the blessings we need.  A person content with godliness is a person whose contentment does not depend on those other blessings.  He is content with fellowship with God; he is not content because of the kind of home he lives in, or popularity, or the amount of money he has in the bank, or anything else that God may have added to his life.  That is what makes contentment with godliness “great riches”.
If a person’s contentment is based on earthly circumstances, his contentment is short-lived.  Solomon warned his son not to put his trust in uncertain riches because, the wise king said, riches can take wings and fly away.  Solomon knew that if his son’s contentment was based on money, it could happen that his son’s money could “fly away”, taking his son’s contentment with it.  So, Solomon labored to make certain that his children based their contentment on their relationship with God, who never forsakes those who trust in Him.  When the author of Hebrews described Jesus as, “the same yesterday, today, and forever”, he was telling us that if we are content with Jesus, we will be content forever.  And when we are content with being like Jesus, every other blessing he gives us is just gravy.