Sunday, July 22, 2018

Christ Through the Bible- The Book of Acts

Text: This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.  Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

As were learned in our study of the Gospel of Luke that the Book of Acts of the Apostles was a sequel to Luke’s gospel.  The central message of the entire New Testament is the message of the resurrection.  Luke records not only the resurrection of Jesus in his gospel but continues with the forty-days following the resurrection, and the message of Peter on the Day of Pentecost.

The message of Peter on the Day of Pentecost was about the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As a witness to the resurrection, Peter spoke of the fulfillment of the prophecy in his sermon saying,

Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.  Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

The central message of the early church was the mystery of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the hope we have for our own resurrection from the dead.  The message of the resurrection from the dead is the central message of the Apostles.  Not only is the power of the gospel to set people utterly free from the destructive power of sin and fill their lives with all the fullness of God it gives us the promise of life after death. The message of the resurrection shows the power of God to complete the work on the cross to conquer sin and death.  As much as the cross has been the central theme for believers throughout the ages, without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless.

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. I Cor. 15:17

The resurrection is proof of Christ’s victory over sin and our hope of total redemption of soul, body, and spirit.  The Apostles wanted believers to have more than a knowledge of the resurrection; they wanted the experience of the resurrection in the daily walk of life.  In the words of Paul who want to “know Him and the power of His resurrection.  Paul wanted more than a head knowledge he wanted the experience of being raised from the dead in trespasses and sin to a new life in Christ Jesus.

The power of the resurrection is the power of transformed lives from dead to sin and live unto Christ.  Anyone who reads the New Testament cannot help but notice the central place the resurrection of Jesus plays in all the books.  The Acts of the Apostles is the witness of the early church to the actual resurrection of Jesus.  The Pauline letters are a theology of the resurrection. The book of Hebrews, the letters of Peter and John and even the book of Revelation all of which testify to the importance of the resurrection each differently.  If you removed the message of the resurrection for the New Testament, it makes little or no sense.  The message of the resurrection is essential to the gospel and is the driving force of Christian theology.  If the message of the resurrection is removed, then Christianity is no different from any other religion.

The resurrection is so important to the early church because it was a vindication of the life of Jesus and His ministry.  Peter says they were witnesses.  It was central to their faith.  They heard the message of the kingdom of God and were convinced that message was true, and they were willing to give their lives for the truth of that message because Jesus was raised from the dead and they were witnesses to that fact.

Physical death is a reality that everyone faces. It is a defining moment in everyone’s life.  It is the end of life as we know it.  Jesus’ own death was no different, and it appeared to contradict all that he proclaimed.  He was condemned by the Jewish religious leaders as someone who had blasphemed God and led the people astray.  He was executed by the Roman authorities to appease the Jewish leaders.  His death was a humiliation to the disciple who did not understand why he had to suffer and die if He were the Messiah.  This same scandalous death would be used against the early church by those who denied Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  He must have been cursed by God to have died in such a horrible manner.

It was the resurrection that allowed the disciples to move forward.  It was the resurrection that showed the vindication of Jesus’ life and ministry.  It was the resurrection that convinced the early church that God had not abandoned Jesus.  In the words of Thomas, “My Lord and My God” shows the power of the resurrection to change doubt to belief, despair to hope, and death to life.

Looking at the life and message of Jesus Christ, His primary purpose was to “be about My Father’s business.”  That business was to bring salvation to the lost.  To open the door between God and man. To become the advocate of our salvation. To rule over the power of sin and death.  If the death of Christ ended at the tomb, then Satan’s kingdom was more powerful than God’s Anointed One.  If Jesus was to set up a kingdom of power and glory and He was dead, how was this going to happen?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead reaffirmed the faith the disciples had in Jesus.  By raising Him from the dead, God demonstrated in a compelling way that the kingdom of God was more powerful than the kingdom of Satan.  He became the “first-born from the dead.” Col. 1:18

The resurrection was essential to the early church because of the power of the Holy Spirit.

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:11

Even if you did not know the earthly Jesus or was an eye-witness to the risen LORD, they could experience the power of God’s Spirit, which the resurrected Jesus gave to those who believed in Him.  The Spirit confirmed what they believed: that God had raised Jesus from the dead. It was from the Holy Spirit that the assurance of their own resurrection from the dead would take place.  Without the resurrection, there would be no Spirit, and without the Spirit, there was no assurance of the resurrection.

If the resurrection from the dead affected only Jesus, it has little to say in our lives today.  But this is not the message of the New Testament.  Time after time it testifies that the resurrection of Jesus has profound implication for the believers today.  Not only do we have the promise of our bodies being resurrected from the dead, but we can also in this present life we can be changed to the newness of life in Christ Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundational message of the New Testament Christian faith.  Without the resurrection, Christianity is no longer Christianity.  Remove the resurrection, and we are no different than all other religions.  If we do not believe in the resurrection there is no reason for our faith.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we will not rise from the dead.  All the teachings of Jesus are just another wise man telling us how to live.  The very essence of our faith is not only in the teachings of Jesus Christ but his resurrection from the dead.  It is not just faith in His teachings it is faith in God who raised Him from the dead.  Apart from the resurrection, there is no eternal life.

The hope we have as Christians in Jesus Christ is in the resurrection, through God who has overcome the last and greatest enemy—Death.  Without this hope our life is limited to the years we have here on earth, and we are of all people most to be pitied as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. (1Corth. 15:19)

At the beginning of the book of Acts Christ spends forty days showing them that He was indeed risen and alive. We may not have been witnesses to Jesus while He was here on earth, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

Have you experienced the power of the transformed life we can have in Jesus Christ today?  If not, accept His gift of a changed life by believing in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation of your soul.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

American Christians Time Is Running Out

Our church has been studying the book of Revelation for the past several weeks.  This week we looked at the fifth seal.

Revelation 6:9-11 “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, how long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
According to the Open Doors World Watch List over 200 million Christians were persecuted in fifty countries.  The number of Christians being killed each year for their faith in Jesus Christ is on the rise.
Looking at the type of persecution experienced by Christians falls into two categories.  The first is the targeting of those who confess the name of Christ and suffer martyrdom.  Then there is the “polite persecution” by changing the laws to be more “progressive” by taking away a person’s freedom and their right to conscientious objection of what their faith believes to be sin.
We have witnessed those who have lost their business, and their jobs when exercising their freedom of expression or conscience.  Christian-run business have been ruined financially, Christian student groups have been silenced and Christian symbols have been removed from the public square.
Christians are told by the anti-Christian people they are just as moral, if not more moral than Christians.  In countries where Christianity is no longer an influence and the “moral code” allows:
·        The casual killing of those whose lives "aren't worth living."
·        Murdering 56,000,000 unborn babies each year because they are inconvenient, or because they are women to be.
·        The mass murder of 100,000,000 people in the last century.
·        Sexual objectification of women.
·        Human trafficking
·        The use of violence to silence "offensive" speech.
·         A hedonistic ruling class oppressing all who object to its "values."
The reality is that without Jesus Christ in the life of man he becomes a monster.  The cultures where Christianity is being oppressed or banned entirely are the most evil and aggressive “civilizations” the world has ever seen. In Cambodia about 25% of the population was exterminated for the “greater good.”
While in America we still have the protection of the historical documents that this country was founded on-The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we are seeing these protections of liberty and freedom being ignored by our elected leaders.  Our elected leaders are rapidly moving away from the Christian foundations that made America great. 
The issue has been the same since the Garden of Eden it is the belief that man is his own god as opposed to sovereignty of God.  This lie has become universal because we have allowed academia, media, and the political progressives to destroy our freedom and liberty.  The result will be greater persecution of Christians in this country.  We will see the “polite persecution” change to the physical attacks on Christians, just like it is happening right now in Europe and the Middle East.  I believe God has given America time to repent, to turn from our wicked ways and make amends for the injustice our government has brought upon the innocent victims around the world.
John gave us the vision of those who were crying out for retribution on those who took their lives.  They were told that in a “little season” their fellow Christians would also die and then God would bring His wrath down in judgment on the wicked.  We need to heed this warning and prepare for what is coming.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Christ Through the Bible- The Gospel of John

Text:  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20:30-31

John was a prominent Jew in the early church, but he never mentions himself by name in the Gospel. As mentioned before, he only refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus completely transformed John’s life and John shares that within the pages of the text. This makes this Gospel unique regarding Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The Gospel of John was written to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As an eyewitness to the love and power displayed in the miracles and signs of Jesus, John gives us an up-close and personal look at Christ's identity. He shows us that Jesus, though fully God, came in the flesh to distinctly and accurately reveal God, and that Christ is the source of eternal life to all who believe in him.

In our text John has given us the purpose for his writing this gospel:

1.     Jesus performed many signs which are unrecorded in this book.

2.      Those that are recorded are for a definite purpose. 

John gives us a perspective of the life of Jesus that the other gospels do not. In the seven “signs” John records each reveals a specific characteristic of Jesus’ power and person. This morning we will look at the divine nature of Christ through the seven signs He performed during His ministry.
The first is found in chapter 2: 1-11
Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee, and Jesus’ mother was there.  As the wedding celebration took place they soon ran out of wine. Mary the mother of Jesus, tells Him that they have run out of wine.

I don’t know if Mary had been a witness to unrecorded miracles by Christ, but she was confident that He could solve their problem.  Jesus on the other hand asked Mary, “Why are you telling me this? It is not yet time for me to begin my work.” 
Mary ignores what Jesus said and tells the servants, “Do what he tells you.”
There were six large stone water pots there that were used by the Jews in their washing ceremonies. Each one held about 20 or 30 gallons.
Jesus tells the servants, “Fill the water pots with water.” So, they filled them to the top.  Then he said, “Now dip out some water and take it to the man in charge of the feast.”
So, they did what he said.  Then the man in charge tasted it, but the water had become wine. He did not know where the wine had come from, but the servants who brought the water knew. He called the bridegroom and said to him, “People always serve the best wine first. Later, when the guests are drunk, they serve the cheaper wine. But you have saved the best wine until now.”
John records this event as the first miraculous signs Jesus did. He did it in the town of Cana in Galilee. By this he showed his divine greatness, and his followers believed in him.
This “sign” show Jesus as the Master of Quality by effecting instantaneously the change the vine produces over a period of months and the aging of the wine over the period of years to produce the best wine.
The next sign is the healing of the Nobleman’s son. In chapter 4: 46-54 we read the story of the healing Jesus performed.
When he arrived in Galilee, the people there welcomed him. They had been at the Passover festival in Jerusalem and had seen everything he did there.
 Jesus went to visit Cana in Galilee again. Cana is where he had changed the water into wine. One of the king’s important officials lived in the city of Capernaum. This man’s son was sick.  The man heard that Jesus had come from Judea and was now in Galilee. So, he went to Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum and heal his son, who was almost dead. Jesus said to him, “You people must see miraculous signs and wonders before you will believe in me.”
The man was insistent that Jesus go to Capernaum to heal his son before he died.  Jesus tells him to go home that his son is healed.  The man believed Jesus and headed home.  On the way home, a servant meets him and tells him that his son is well.  The man wanted to know what time the fever left him?  The servants said about 1:00 yesterday.
The father knew that one o’clock was the same time that Jesus had said, “Your son will live.” So, the man and everyone in his house believed in Jesus.
That was the second miraculous sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
By healing the Nobleman’s son Jesus is revealed as the Master of Distance.  It was about twenty-miles away from where the man met Jesus and his home in Capernaum. 
The next sign is the healing of the impotent man found in chapter 5:1-9.
Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special Jewish festival. In Jerusalem there is a pool with five covered porches. In Hebrew it is called Bethesda. This pool is near the Sheep Gate.  Many sick people were lying on the porches beside the pool. Some of them were blind, some were crippled, and some were paralyzed.  One of the men lying there had been sick for 38 years.  Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been sick for a very long time. So, he asked him, “Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the water when it starts moving. I try to be the first one into the water. But when I try, someone else always goes in before I can.”
 Then Jesus said, “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well. He picked up his mat and started walking.
We will not get into the problems the man had after being healed because our purpose is to show the character of Jesus in the signs he performed.  Over thirty-eight years this man’s ability to walk was gone!  Yet in an instant, his muscles regain strength to stand and walk.  Time did not matter to Jesus.
I believe most of us know that the longer a disease afflicts a person the more difficult it is to cure.  Jesus in healing this man instantly of his illness of thirty-eight years became the Master of Time.
The next sign performed by Jesus was witnessed by over five thousand people.  This story is found in chapter 6:1-14.
Jesus went across Lake Galilee, but a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he did in healing the sick. Jesus went up on the side of the hill and sat there with his followers.
 Jesus looked up and saw a crowd of people coming toward him. He said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough bread for all these people to eat?” He asked Philip this question to test him. Jesus already knew what he planned to do.
Philip says, “We would all have to work a month to buy enough bread for each person here to have only a little piece!”  Then Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, says, “Here is a boy with five loaves of barley bread and two little fish. But that is not enough for so many people.”
Jesus said, “Tell everyone to sit down.” Jesus took the loaves of bread and gave thanks for them. Then he gave them to the people who were waiting to eat. He did the same with the fish. He gave them as much as they wanted.
They all had plenty to eat. When they finished, Jesus said to his followers, “Gather the pieces of fish and bread that were not eaten. Don’t waste anything.” So they gathered up the pieces that were left. The people had started eating with only five loaves of barley bread. But the followers filled twelve large baskets with the pieces of food that were left.  The people saw this miraculous sign that Jesus did and said, “He must be the Prophet[a] who is coming into the world.
By taking the five loaves of bread and two small fishes five thousand men are fed no counting the women and children making Jesus the Master of Quantity.
The next sign is given to His disciples after the feeding of the five thousand.  This story is found in chapter 6:16-21.
That evening Jesus’ followers went down to the lake.  It was dark now, and Jesus had not yet come back to them. They got into a boat and started going across the lake to Capernaum.  The wind was blowing very hard. The waves on the lake were becoming bigger.  They rowed the boat about three or four miles. Then they saw Jesus. He was walking on the water, coming to the boat. They were afraid.  But he said to them, “Don’t be afraid. It’s me.” When he said this, they were glad to take him into the boat. And then the boat reached the shore at the place they wanted to go.
When Jesus walked on the water He became the Master of Natural Laws.  He showed the disciples He could defy the Laws of Physics.
The next sign is the healing of the blind man.  The story is found in chapter 9:1-12.
Jesus was out walking when He came upon a man who had been blind since the time he was born. The disciple asked Jesus the question “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Whose sin made it happen? Was it his own sin or that of his parents?”  There were those who believed misfortune only came upon people who had committed sin or their parents were being punished for the sin they had committed.
Jesus explains “It was not any sin of this man or his parents that caused him to be blind. He was born blind so that he could be used to show what great things God can do.
The point of this sign was not the healing but the answering of the question, who sinned?  Jesus healed the man but also explained that the man was afflicted to show the glory of God.  This makes Jesus the Master of Misfortune.
This final sign is found in chapter 11.  This is the story of Lazarus.
Lazarus who was sick. So, Mary and Martha sent someone to tell Jesus, “Lord, your dear friend Lazarus is sick.”  When Jesus heard this he said, “The end of this sickness will not be death. No, this sickness is for the glory of God. This has happened to bring glory to the Son of God.”
It was about two days later that Lazarus did die.  Jesus had put off going to the home of Lazarus for a reason.   When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to greet him. But Mary stayed home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask.”
Jesus said, “Your brother will rise and be alive again.”
Martha answered, “I know that he will rise to live again at the time of the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection. I am life. Everyone who believes in me will have life, even if they die. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never really die. Martha, do you believe this?”
 Martha answered, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God. You are the one who was coming to the world.”
As we know Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead.  In this final sign before Christ would die He showed He was the Master of Death.
These seven signs point to those aspects of Jesus ministry in which He demonstrated His control over the factors of life which man is unable to manage.  Quality, distance, time, quantity, natural laws, misfortune and death define man’s struggle against the limitations of life.  John shows us the superiority of Christ over these events in life as proof of the deity of Jesus Christ.  It matters not what the issues are in your life Jesus is the Master of all Circumstances.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Have you accepted the Master of all Circumstances?  Jesus Christ is willing and ready to change the circumstances of your life if you only accept His offer of salvation.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Who Am I?

I felt I should share this rant with the entire world and not just a few friends. I understand why Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am."  If He were living in our culture today there would be many things people would say He was. 

I am having a hard time keeping up with all the various classification I have been placed in by those who disagree with me.  It started out that I was a bigot, then I progressed to a racist, somewhere along the line I because a homophobic, then I was a xenophobic, some thought I was hateful and unloving, others put me with the conspiracy theorist, and now I find out I am a Nazi.  

I have been misclassified by a former President of the United States who said, “And it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Is it any wonder that I am frustrated?  People keep changing who they think I am.  I need to set the record straight.  It is very tempting to dismiss this as a fluke, or a misunderstanding of who I am.  To allow someone to classify me as something I am not would be an act of willful indifference on my part to those who do not know me just to ignore these “classifications.” The truth is that I along with many others like myself have become the target of those who can only use name calling as their intellectual argument.  They do not take the time to get to know who we are indeed.

So as my grandpa would say, “Let me give you the straight of this story.”

First, I am not a bigot. Even though I will express my opinion, I will never regard or treat someone with hatred or intolerance.  I believe everyone has the right to express themselves without me calling them names or showing hatred and bigotry of those who disagree with me. 

There are those who believe that name calling is a tool to be used to manipulate and influence public opinion to conform to their ideas.  It has been said if you repeat a lie often enough people will accept it as the truth.

Next, I am not a racist.  Just because I believe that our government has the sovereign right to allow only certain people into our country based on our immigration laws does not make me a racist.  Just because I believe those who break the law by sneaking into this country should be deported does not make me a racist.  I love my grandchildren who have Mexican heritage, who have Nicaraguan heritage and have white European ancestry.  The same with my nieces and nephews who have Korean, and Nicaraguan heritage.  Race is not an issue.

I am not sure when it exactly happened but somewhere along the line, I because a homophobic.  I do not have a contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred or antipathy, based on irrational fear, of people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Just because I may be critical of their lifestyle does not mean I am hostile or violent towards them based on their sexual orientations any more than I am those who choose adultery, incest, fornication or child abuse.  I believe these lifestyles are not conducive to good family life.  I know people in every one of these chosen lifestyles, but I do not hate them or wish them harm or want to destroy their livelihood.  I only hope they felt the same towards me.  Those I know in each of these categories I have treated with respect even though I do not condone or approve of their lifestyle.

Of all the names I have been called xenophobic may be the closest to being accurate.  I do have a fear and distrust of Islam. I am very suspicious of the activities of Muslims, and I do have a desire to eliminate their terrorist activities.  I am critical of Islam because it seeks world domination at the cost of my freedom and liberty.  Islam has declared it aims to destroy America, this makes me suspect of all Muslims.  I may be wrong in what I believe about the Islamic agenda, but I can only base this belief on what I see happening in Europe and the Middle-East.

The latest classification is calling me a Nazi.   Donny Deutsch who is Jewish and should understand that there were men who fought in World War II to free the world from the Nazis and free Jewish prisoners from the death camps, went as far as condemning the close to 63,000,000 voters of Donald Trump this way: “If you vote for Trump, then you, the voter, you, not Donald Trump, are standing at the border, like Nazis going you here, you here.”

Mr. Deutsch may have a hatred for President Trump but to classify Trump voters as Nazis is an insult to the veterans who fought to free the Jewish people from the death camps that voted for President Trump. It is an insult to those have never forgotten what happened to the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis and have agreed with the Jewish people “Never Again.”  It is easy for me to understand why the Jewish people are having a hard time being liked around the world.  When statements like this are made by prominent Jewish people, this does not go over well.  To be accused of being a murder and condoning genocide because I voted for someone who he does not like, does not speak well of him or his people.  Maybe he has forgotten how much President Trump has helped the nation of Israel?  Which if I am not mistaken are Jewish people. Perhaps he has forgotten the number of evangelical Christians who are major supporters of Israel?  I have never advocated the genocide of any race and especially the Jewish people.  So, Mr. Deutsch, I am not a Nazi, even though I voted for President Trump.

Finally, yes, I would cling to my guns if I had one, I do, however, cling to my religion.  I am not bitter, I do not have hostility towards people who are not like me.  I am not anti-immigrant, I just do not want illegals coming into my country and destroying our way of life.  I am not anti-trade I am for a free market on a level playing field.  Yes, I am frustrated with all the name-calling by people who have never spoken with me, would not know me if I walked up to them, yet they are free to call me names and question my character. 

Now that I have given you the straight of the story, I hope you understand me a little better.

Christ Through the Bible – The Gospel of Luke

Text:    That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. Luke 1:4

Today we are in the Gospel of Luke.  Luke is only mentioned by name three times in Scripture, and all three references are in Paul’s letters: Colossians 4, 2 Timothy 4, and Philemon 1.
The Gospel of Luke has been called the Gospel of Infancy.   The first chapters held this name because as the only one of four gospels that are in the Bible tells anything about the birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus being announced beforehand.  He writes about the birth, the epiphany, the escape to Egypt and the presentation in the Temple. It also mentions about Jesus aged 12 discussing with Jewish wise men in the Temple. The next chapters tells the same story as three other gospels, with more details, but the meaning is the same.
Luke is the only one of the four Gospels where the writer did not personally know Christ. He had never met Jesus yet as an educated man (Colossians 4:14), he chose to follow Him. His Gospel provides a unique perspective on Jesus' birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Gospel of Luke is the longest of the four and is the only one with a sequel - The Book of Acts. It records the Ascension of Christ, an event only he describes. Luke captures a wide variety of miracles, teachings, and parables which make it the fullest portrait of Jesus' ministry - one-third of Luke's Gospel is unique - differing from the synoptic classification it has received. Luke presents Jesus as the promised Messiah (1:31-35), the Son of God (9:35), the Servant whom God works through (4:16-18), and the Lord who sits at God's right hand exerting His authority and giving the Spirit of God (aka Christ) to those who believe (compare 22:69 to Acts 2:30-36). All aspects of God's Plan for Mankind have been fulfilled or will be fulfilled through Jesus alone (21:5-36; Acts 3:14-26). Luke wrote this to Theophilus, a Gentile and new believer assuring him that God was still at work in the Church founded by Jesus. Luke presents God's grace as revealed in Jesus' ministry on Earth - emphasizing that His Grace is available to Gentiles even with the fact of the promises given to the Israelites. The rejecting Jesus was by Israel was part of God's Plan to 'graft' the Gentiles onto the Kingdom of God.
Here are some interesting facts about Luke:
    Luke was not present with Jesus during His ministry and likely was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection.
     Luke’s attention to detail and eyewitness accounts serve him as a credible historian for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
    Luke’s gospel contains several parables and eyewitness accounts that are only in his gospel, such as a pre-birth account for John the Baptist, the story of the two men who met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, as well as stories of miraculous healing.
    His gospel is the longest of the four gospels and includes the most healing stories, showing his interest in and compassion for the sick.
    His gospel also has the most detailed birth account and a more descriptive death and resurrection account for Jesus.
    The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts total 52 chapters, making Luke the author of 1/3 of the New Testament, just like Paul.
    Luke was a friend and travel companion of Paul.
    He wrote the book of Acts as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke.
     The book of Luke was written to give a reliable and precise record of the history of Jesus Christ's life.
    Luke spelled out his purpose for writing in the first four verses of chapter one.
    A theme that is emphasized in the Gospel of Luke is the humanity of Jesus Christ and his perfection as a human.
    Luke was written to Theophilus, meaning "the one who loves God." Historians are not sure who this Theophilus (mentioned in Luke 1:3) was, although most likely, he was a Roman with an intense interest in the newly forming Christian religion.
    The book is written to the Gentiles as well, and all people everywhere.

    Luke's Gospel gives particular emphasis to prayer, miracles, and angels as well. Women are given an essential place in Luke's writings.
    Only Luke records something about Jesus’ youth as a 12-year-old and His human growth, thus strengthening the argument that Luke intends to portray Jesus as a normal and real man. In Matthew, there are 31 verses on Jesus’ birth, but the whole description lends to evidence of His kingly status. In Mark and John, there is no record of His birth or childhood.
“And the little child grew and became strong, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” -Luke 2:4
One area Luke shows the humanity of Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed.
In this prayer, the Lord’s insight of His death on the cross and the horror of its reality resulted in a traumatic human experience. The certainty and finality of everything were nearly impossible to bear as a man. This was the point of no return. Any logical alternatives at this point were gone. His prayer, the Father’s will and ‘the cup’ merged.
Jesus’ fear and shock are explicitly described, in a way quite unlike Jewish and Christian stories of martyrdom. The sufferer here is not stoic, nor superman strength. He is a man in the fullest sense, tempted and tried, but not understood at all by his closest friends, who even went to sleep during his agony.

Although here the synoptic Gospels are similar, only Luke mentions an angel strengthening Jesus, His being in agony, praying more earnestly, and sweat becoming like great drops of blood.
“And an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” -Luke 22:43-44
It’s easy to forget that Jesus was a man in all of this. When He was arrested, every gospel mentions that Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave, but only Luke says that Christ healed him. There was no righteous gloating or secret satisfaction that at least they got a little taste of their own medicine. He healed him! What did those arresting Him think?
The manner of the healing is also moving. It wasn’t barked out as a disinterested and slightly annoyed royal command. I can’t imagine the tension, rage, confusion, and chaos of that scene. I don’t think Peter took off that ear like a fencer with an expert flick of the wrist. Evidently, he was swinging for the head to cut into. And right in the middle of that scene was Jesus, the Son of Man who had not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Luke 9:56). Jesus rendered His healing power by human touch, not by merely speaking it forth. Although the healing was undoubtedly a divine miracle, it was performed with the warmth and affection that only the human touch communicates.
Only in Luke’s account does the Lord here, as He does in so many other places in this Gospel, refer to Himself as the Son of Man.
Matthew’s version emphasizes Christ’s Kingly status and authority in verse 53. In Mark’s record, Jesus is hardly visible in the arrest scene. His submission to the fulfillment of the Scriptures and his silence toward those arresting Him and leading Him away are seen in verses 49 and 53. John’s account strongly emphasizes Christ’s divinity in verses 4-6, 8, 9, and 11. “Knowing all the things” shows His omniscience; “I am” is His claim of absolute deity.
“Jesus answered and said, Let them go this far. And touching his ear, He healed him.” –Luke 22:51
“Or do you think that I cannot beseech My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than twelve legions of angels?” –Matt. 26:53
“But may the Scriptures be fulfilled.” -Mark 14:49

” Whom do you seek? They answered Him, Jesus the Nazarene. He said to them, I am. And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. When therefore He said to them, I am, they drew back and fell to the ground.” -John 18:4-6
The Lord only spoke seven sentences on the cross. Three of the things He said were out of His care for man. While He was dying, He was concerned, not for Himself, but for His fellow man- for their forgiveness, salvation, and relationships after His departure.
Only Luke records Jesus’ prayer to the Father for His murderers’ forgiveness in verse 34 and His conversation with the robber resulting in his salvation in verses 40-43.
“And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” –Luke 23:34
“And He said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” –Luke 23:43
If you want to know what a man is, look at his beginning and end. From the manger to the cross, the two defining and most significant moments in Jesus’ life, Luke furnishes a touching and compelling testimony.
Some may struggle with the fact Christ was both human and divine.  How do you reconcile the perfect humanity of Christ with His absolute deity? In answering that question let us say that our limited knowledge of spiritual things does not enable us to understand all the mysteries of God fully, but this need not interfere with our wholehearted acceptance of both doctrines - the humanity and the deity of Christ. There is one excellent Scripture passage from the writings of Paul that will help us understand Christ's humanity and His deity. It is Philippians 2:5-8, and states, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" This passage makes it understandable that Christ voluntarily took this humanity upon Himself, and that specific functions of deity were held in abeyance by Him so that by His humanity He might accomplish a particularly important purpose--the salvation of lost humanity.
Does it make any difference that our Savior is a man? Yes, it makes a vast difference. Hebrews 4:15-16 state,
"For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
The Lord Jesus can sympathize with us in all our trials because He has had similar experiences to ours. He can rejoice with us and weep with us. He can enter our experiences.
A little girl came home from school one day and told her mother, "I just love Mary more than anybody else." And her mother asked her, "And why do you love her the most?" The child replied, "Because she cries with me when I cay." It was true empathy that drew this child to her friend. And it is empathy that brings us to the Son of God who is also Son of Man. Let us thank God that Jesus Christ is a man as well as God. No other Person could meet the needs of poor lost humanity. Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh.  He came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.  Have you accepted this gift of life?  No matter your condition in life, Jesus understands and is willing to help change your life if you only receive His gift of salvation.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Christians Have Forgotten How To Hate

Doing some research on another subject, I ran across this verse, and there was a part that jumped out at me that I guess I have never given it much thought.  So, I am sharing with you the thoughts that came to my mind.  You may choose to disagree, but in the end, I believe you will see my point.
For everything, there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3).
There is a crisis of sin and immorality in America’s churches that call themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Across our land, many professing Christians are practicing sinful lifestyles that are little different than those of unbelievers. Sins of adultery, fornication, drunkenness, drug abuse are rampant among those to claim to be followers of Jesus. The reason this is happening is because we have forgotten how to hate.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise to learn that there is little preaching on the hatred of sin from today’s pulpits. And those churches who do voice their opposition against such lifestyles, rarely do anything to hold Christians accountable for their behavior. Without a doubt, sin seems to flourish among many professing believers and perhaps that is why the church has been so powerless and ineffectual in America.
Let’s face a vital fact right up front, persons who profess to be Christians, yet practice a continued lifestyle of sin and immorality, are not Christians. The Bible makes it crystal clear that persons who practice lifestyles of “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries,” and so forth, will NOT inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). It doesn’t matter whether they claim Jesus as their Lord or not. Persons who live like this are not right with God. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21).
With the world in such chaos and evil abounding all around us, I am choosing to write about why we as Christians have forgotten how to hate sin and evil.  From our earliest days in Sunday school, we have been taught to “turn the other cheek” “love those who despitefully use you,” pray for our enemies and then the catch-all phrase, “love everybody in the world.” 
Sometimes it is hard for people to separate the person from the sin or harmful ideology that causes individuals to carry out cowardly acts of violence.  Evil abounds all around us, and as Christians, we have a hard time accepting the exhortation from God’s Word to hate evil.  I agree, that there is a loss of love and that the hated evil has inspired and created a world that is cruel and unkind. However, we have come to the place where our teachings of “love” has blinded our eyes to the evil that is all around us.  We have allowed ourselves to be convinced “love” and tolerance for evil are the same thing.  God hates every form of immorality and evil because it separates Him from man’s fellowship.  The writer of Proverbs states that “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil.”  There is nowhere in the scriptures we are commanded to tolerate evil because it shows our love for those who are the perpetrators.  The LORD forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery, but he condemned her sin and told her to “go and sin no more.”
Hatred is a valid God-given emotion and is appropriate when directed at evil.  All too often as Christians we place a greater emphasis on a “God of Love” and fail to realize that He is also a “God of Hate.”  The very thing that separates man from God is a sin, and sin is evil.  As Christians, we tip-toe around sin because we do not want to offend the guilty.  We may say we love the sinner but hate the sin but end up tolerating the sin because we cannot make the separation between the two.  To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of cooperation.  We can continue to “turn the other cheek,” close our eyes to the evil that is being committed and justify our actions by claiming “love,” and in the end find ourselves mocking God. 
There are times that we are not to separate the sin from the sinner.  The consequence of an individual’s actions often demands justice for the innocent. The consequence of sin is death, and sometimes the consequence of evil actions is the same.  I know that we are taught that an “eye for an eye” is no longer the way we should fight evil and sin.  The Law “eye for an eye’ was an act of revenge, our hatred for sin and evil is not revenge but the preservation of justice and righteousness. 
We cannot silence our voices against evil and sin because we don’t want to offend the sinner.  We cannot cover evil and sin with a blanket of love.  When violence reaches the point of ending a person’s life, there remains the consequence of that action.  Yes, forgiveness for the act can be obtained from both God and man, but the consequence of the action does not change.  There is a line that when crossed society cannot tolerate under any circumstances.  Martin Luther King said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
I have heard all the arguments renouncing hate. Hatred is evil. It is the cause of all wars. It consumes the soul of those who hates. Silly arguments after all. Hatred is only evil when it is directed at the good and at the innocent. It is positively Godly when it is directed at sin and immoral actions of the sinner, motivating us to fight and eradicate the sin before it spreads.
Evil will continue to abound because:
    We stopped hating sin. 
    We have tolerated sin for so long that we no longer see its evil effects on our society.  It has become acceptable to remain silent about the murder of unborn children because we honor the “right” of choice and do not want to offend those who murder the child and those who give consent to perform the act. 

    We have remained silent about the sins of immorality.  Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, child molestation and a host of other sins because we do not want to offend those who have made bad choices in their life but are still very nice people.  We do not see the evil in these actions any longer.
    We do not love the LORD enough to hate the sins He hates.
Many Christians have bought into the liberal thinking that it is wrong to hate period.  Toleration is paramount because “God is Love.”  Hatred of evil implies you have the right to make judgments, and that your belief in the absolutes of right and wrong goes against the Law of Love.  This concept has removed the repugnance of evil.   Christians have been taught only to love and not to hate.   This misplaced love has overshadowed the need to hate sin and all things evil.
Do I believe in forgiveness and redemption?  Yes. I also believe in justice and restitution for wrongs that have been committed.  How often have we witnessed a murderer given more “compassion and love” than their victim or the victim’s family?  Why is it so difficult to show compassion to the victim?  It is irresponsible to make a criminal look like he is the victim and the victim look like a criminal!
If you are not careful, your “love” will be misplaced, and you will overlook the evil that has been committed.  This is contrary to the nature of God.  In the book of Exodus chapter 23, the LORD warned about taking the life of the innocent or the righteous and said He would not acquit the guilty.
Spreading across the world today is a religion and ideology that every Christian should hate, and that is Islam. A belief that justifies the things God hates is an evil religion.  This is a religion in the spirit of antichrist.  A religion that sheds innocent blood kills the righteous, that is a false witness to the truth, speaks lies, sows discord over the earth, is filled with wicked imaginations, and is swift to cause mischief.  All these are things God hates. (I might add this is not the only religion that is doing things God hates. Contrary to the belief of many Christians Judaism is just as guilty along with a some who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Islam is the most openly violent and has threatened all non-believers in Islam.)
Added to this is the violence, rape and terror they bring to every country they enter.  Any woman who does not dress modestly and wear the Muslim headscarf could be considered by some Muslim men to be "fair game." What compounds this problem is in our country rape is notoriously difficult to prosecute and harder to prove. Even after decades of criminal justice reform and dedicated efforts from survivors and advocates, prosecutors are generally reluctant to go after alleged persecutors aggressively, often fearing they won’t win a conviction. Trials can also be traumatic for victims, who frequently face juries biased by cultural assumptions about rape.
Rather than focusing on the criminal, the focus is placed on the victim.  Any time someone defaults to questioning what a victim could have done differently to prevent a crime, he or she is participating, to some degree, in the culture of victim-blaming.  This misplaced emphasis on the victim rather than the injustice that has occurred is part of the society we live in today.  There is the idea that people deserve what happens to them. There’s just a strong need to believe that we all deserve our outcomes and consequences. Christians have been guilty of making statements like, “If she had to been dressed modestly it would not have happened.”  Blaming the victim for the acts of violence is not in the nature of God. If you show more compassion to the criminal than the victim, you are acting against the LORD.  The very nature of God is righteousness which demands justice for the victims.  When you side with evil and sin, you side against the LORD.  You will end up condoning sin by overlooking the actions of those whose commit crimes against humanity.  When you support the evil actions of a person or group of people by claiming to “love them” you are violating the justice God requires from those who are victims of their evil actions.
The Church will continue to lack in power because we have only a form of godliness and lack the real hatred for sin that God requires us to have.  Evil will continue to spread because of the misuse and misplacement of our concept of what it is to love.
Yes, For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3).  Maybe it is time to hate sin and evil and speak out against it every form?
Just some thoughts from a country preacher.