Christians – Don’t waste your life!

Pastor David Platt preaching on Paul’s reevaluation in Philippians 3

  •  If we want our lives to count we must treasure Christ above everything else this world has to offer.

The many treasures of a wasted life (these are all good things, but, these good things were the ones keeping Paul from Jesus. Paul said it is possible to be and do all these things and yet come to the end of your life and to be written above it „wasted”)

  1. Family heritage
  2. Social status
  3. Biblical knowledge
  4. Religious activity (zeal)
  5. A moral lifestyle

but there is one thing in life that counts and that is the surpassing  greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. The only treasure of the life that counts is Christ.

sermon starts at the 6:00 minute.

You have one life and you have one shot to make your life count for His glory on the landscape of human history.

  • We trust in Christ to provide everything we need

What do we gain by gaining Christ?

  1. His righteousness covers our sin
  2. His power guarantees our resurrection
  3. His satisfaction transcends our suffering
  4. God delights in showing His greatness through those who radically trust in Him

The Life that Counts:

  1. They treasure Christ
  2. They trust Christ
  3. They pursue Christ with obsessive passion

The question we ask, „Is why follow hard after Christ?”

A holy dissatisfaction with comfortable christianity which is dangerous. Paul, the planter of most of the New Testament churches states that he has so much more to do in pursuit of God and that is where our own christianity should stand today.

We need a fresh understanding of the degree to which Christ has followed hard after us.

Reclame

Honoring the Biblical Call to Motherhood

In honor of all mothers, who are celebrated in European countries today, the 8th of March, we are posting this article today:
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Read the entire article here- http://www.desiringgod.org

In this message, John Piper directs a word of honor and encouragement to mothers from 1 Timothy 3 and he also recounts the impact his mother, Ruth Piper, had on his own calling:

2 Timothy 3:14-15

But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [mark those words] 15 and how from childhood [this signals to us who it was that taught him these things] you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

1. From Whom Did Timothy Learn the Word?

want you to see two things. First, who is Paul talking about in verse 14 when he says, “. . . knowing from whom you leaned it”? He is talking about Eunice and Lois, Timothy’s mother and grandmother. There are three clues that lead us to this conclusion. First, Paul refers (in v. 15) to this learning as happening “from childhood.” Second, we see in 2 Timothy 1:5 these words, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” So Paul has already connected Timothy’s faith with what he got from his mother and grandmother.

The third clue is the answer to the question why Paul did not refer to Timothy’s father. The answer is found in Acts 16:1 where Luke tells us about how Paul chose Timothy in the first place as missionary partner. “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.” So Timothy is the product of a home with a believing mother and an unbelieving father. That’s why Paul did not say that Timothy learned the scriptures from his father. He didn’t. His father didn’t believe them. But his mother and grandmother did. That is who Paul is referring to in 2 Timothy 3:14.

2. Remembering the Character of Your Godly Mother Is a Great Incentive to Holding Fast the Scriptures She Taught You

Now the second thing to see in this verse is that remembering the character of your godly mother is a great incentive to holding fast to the scriptures she taught you. Let’s read it again so you can see this. Verse 14: “But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed”—that is, don’t give up your faith, don’t give up the scriptures, don’t give up your salvation. Then comes these crucial words referring back to Eunice and Lois: “knowing from whom you learned it.”

In other words, Timothy, one of the ways—not the only way—one of the ways to strengthen your faith and persevere through hard times and not give up on the scriptures is to remember who introduced you to word of God and the way of salvation. Remember your mother, and your grandmother.

So let’s make very clear: the apostle of Jesus Christ in this text bestows on motherhood and grandmotherhood a great honor. You have a calling that can become the long-remembered ground of faith, not just for your children—mark this—but for the untold numbers who will be affected by your children. And that’s in addition to all the other thousands of ripple effects of faith in your life.

and here’s a couple of memories Piper had of his mother:

God’s honor was paramount for my mother. I wrote:

“I never got spanked for makin’ mess in my pants,
but I did for skippin’ church;
which goes to show mama cared more about keeping; God’s name
and my soul clean
than she did her own hands.”

she took right and wrong very seriously and held me accountable to the highest standards so that I knew in all the conflict I mattered a lot to my mother. I wrote:

And I seldom felt worse than when mama cried:
I got a speedin’ ticket one night
and mama wept like I’d shot somebody.
All the way to the station at midnight she cried
and made me pay it off right then and there.
One thing was for sure:
I mattered a lot to mama.

What I owe my mother for my soul and my love to Christ and my role as a husband and father and pastor is incalculable.

Read the entire article here- http://www.desiringgod.org
By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Christmas: The Dawn of Death’s Destruction

via Churchleaders.com Photo credit www.sodahead.com

The Apostle Paul wrote, “O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Anyone grieving the death of someone they love deeply will say that “sting” hardly begins to describe the pain.

And Christmas often heightens this pain. Certain decorations recall hands we will never hold again. Gatherings make visible precious absences. Sweet voices now stilled echo in our memories as we sing or share stories.

But this is not a bad thing. Christmas is actually a very good time for grief. Because sorrow has a way of disbursing fantasy nonsense and pointing us to what the birth of Jesus was all about: death’s destruction (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The sting Paul is talking about is not grief. He knows “sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27). He is talking about something far worse: condemnation.

“The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56) because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And physical death hardly begins to describe this death. Like all of us, Paul would have preferred to not die physically (2 Corinthians 5:4). But he knew he would (2 Timothy 4:6). The death Paul spent his life trying to save people from was spiritual death.

Paul’s main concern was the “wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8) people would experience if they stood before the “judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10) still in their sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-20). He believed the worst possible thing a human being can experience is to be “accursed and cut off from Christ” (Romans 9:2). He believed Jesus, who said,

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

This is the main issue in life. We must be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20) and have our sentence of hell cancelled (Colossians 2:14). And the only way to do that is to receive the free gift of God, which is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through his Son, Jesus (Romans 6:23).

That’s why Jesus came. His whole purpose for being born was to die,

That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

But not just to die. Jesus was born to be raised from the dead (Revelation 1:18). He is the Resurrection and the Life and whoever believes in him “though he die yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it was the dawn of death’s destruction. It made possible the fast-approaching time when,

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)

If you’re feeling grief this Christmas, then know that what you’re experiencing is very much a part of Christmas. Jesus came to deal with your grief. Hear with fresh ears the angel’s gospel: Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). And if sin is removed, death’s days are numbered and your numbered tears (Psalm 56:8) will be wiped away.

May the Resurrection and the Life infuse your Christmas grief with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

How did the Bible become the Bible? Carl Trueman & G. K. Beale

carl-truemanCarl Trueman: The history of the production of the Canon is a long and complicated one. And it really doesn’t come to a close until the 16th century, with the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, when canonical issues really become somewhat acute, somewhere in the middle of the 16th century. Now that can be a very disturbing thought to people. (Thinking) Oh wow, so we didn’t have a Bible ‘til the middle of the 16th century? Well, no. The story is less disturbing than that when you look at the details. I think, by the middle of the second century, if you look at the writings of the apostolic fathers, or the writings of the Greek apologists, you already have functionally in place, the vast majority of the books of the New Testament- the canon. Canon formation is generally, christians are concerned about the formation of the New Testament. I mean, they’re really interested, how did the church decide that these New Testament works were part of the New Testament and not just early christian writings that weren’t inspired. I think, by the middle of the second century, (aprox 150 A.D.) you can make a good case for saying the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), most of the letters of Paul are already in place, as authoritative in the church. And the debates tend to be about the smaller epistles. I’d want to say (they are) not lesser material, because it’s all divinely inspired. But, in terms of constructing a coherent Gospel theology, the shorter epistles make less contribution to that overall theology.

G. K. Beale:

One of the criteria among the church fathers was apostleship, apostolicity. If you can demonstrate that in a book, it should be seen as included in the canon. But, then some will say, „But, wait a minute. How about Luke? He wasn’t an apostle.” And the author of Hebrews, we don’t know who that was, though the early church, some held it was Paul.  But it’s been pretty well concluded that we don’t know who that was. Some have even contended that even the Book of Revelation is not the John the apostle. Those who weren’t apostles were a part of the apostolic circles. Take Luke. Luke was a traveling companion with Paul. And so, those in the apostolic circle are considered New Testament prophets. We know Ephesians 2:20 talks about „the church is founded on the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus, Himself, being the cornerstone…” And so, we know there were a group of prophets attached, or in some way associated with the apostolic circle. So, all of these writings that can be traced back to the apostolic circle become canonical. They are the legal representatives of Christ, now that He’s left the earth. You might remember when Christ said, „He who receives you, receives Me. He who receives your word, receives My word”.

The idea of apostleship, they were like lawyers.  The lawyer in court represents the defendant. And so, the lawyer’s words are the defendant’s words. The apostles’ words are Christ’s words. This is really laid out nice in a book by Herman Ridderboss, called ‘Redemptive History and The New Testament Scriptures – Biblical and Theological Studies’.

Was there an official council that settled this, even beyond second century?

Carl Trueman:

In the 4th century, at the Council of Constantinople. The role of the church becomes acute because one of the things that is debated in the 16th century is why do people believe the canon? Is it because the church says these books are canonical, or is it because the books are in and of themselves canonical? And it’s a division, really, between Catholics and Protestants, that to an extent persists to this day.

I think, the Protestant response that I agree with is that the church recognized those books that were inspired. The church didn’t make them inspired, the church didn’t make them canonical, the church came to recognize them as canonical. One of the things, though, I think we need to do as individual christians is to understand how that dynamic works out in our own lives. When I was converted from a non-christian background,the first Sunday I go along to church, why do I take the canon of the Bible as the canon? Well, I did it that Sunday because the church told me. I was in a church and this was the canon, as far as the church saying it’s so. Over a period of time though, as the Bible was consistently preached and applied to me by ministers, and as I read it for myself, I saw the beauty and the coherence and the power of those books, which impresses itself on the individual. So, I think, as Protestants, it’s worth acknowledging that often, early in our pilgrimage we believe the Bible because the church tells us so. But, on the bases of that we move on ultimately to believe the Bible because the Bible itself is self authenticating. You don’t need an external authority to authenticate the Bible.

G. K. Beale:

Another way to put it is: Did the church create the canon or did the canon create the church? The canon created the church, the church recognized it. There’s a nice book that argues well with this. Because of the flurry of some scholars saying that a lot of the apocryphal Gospel really should have been in the canon and that it was really just a political power move that they weren’t in it. The book is The Heresy of Orthodoxy and its authors are Andreas Köstenberger and  Walter Kruger.

Here’s a little more on this second book from Amazon:

Beginning with Walter Bauer in 1934, the denial of clear orthodoxy in early Christianity has shaped and largely defined modern New Testament criticism, recently given new life through the work of spokesmen like Bart Ehrman. Spreading from academia into mainstream media, the suggestion that diversity of doctrine in the early church led to many competing orthodoxies is indicative of today’s postmodern relativism. Authors Köstenberger and Kruger engage Ehrman and others in this polemic against a dogged adherence to popular ideals of diversity.

Köstenberger and Kruger’s accessible and careful scholarship not only counters the „Bauer Thesis” using its own terms, but also engages overlooked evidence from the New Testament. Their conclusions are drawn from analysis of the evidence of unity in the New Testament, the formation and closing of the canon, and the methodology and integrity of the recording and distribution of religious texts within the early church.

VIDEO by DESERT SPRINGS CHURCH

Liar, Lunatic or Lord – Did God Really Say…?

SEE FULL VIDEO + TRANSCRIPT HERE – 

Cover of "Fundamentalism and the Word of ...

Cover of Fundamentalism and the Word of God

John Piper:

God made me see it. I believe, I couldn’t believe the Bible is untrue if I tried, because I’m just taken by Him. That’s my biggest reason (for believing the Bible).

You can’t persuade anybody with that, so up above those layers are the layers of experience, of encounter withe the text. And, I think that at one level, the Bible, as C. S. Lewis said: „You believe in it as you believe in the sun not only because you see it, but you see everything else by it.” I asked my professor in Germany one time, „Why do you believe the Bible?” And he said, „Because it makes sense out of the world for me”. And I think that is right. You don’t take every sentence and relate it to every part of the world. You just… year after year, after year, you live in the book and you deal with the world and it brings coherence to evil, and good, and to sorrow, and to loss.

There is one other level I would mention. liar, lunatic, Lord argument in the Gospels works for me. And Paul, liar, lunatic, or faithful apostle. Because I think I know Paul better than I know anybody in the Bible. Luke wrote most quantitatively, but he’s writing narrative. The apostle Paul you know, if you read his 13 letters hundreds of time, you know this man. Either he’s stupid, I mean insane, or liar, or a very wise, deep, credible, thoughtful person. So, when I put Paul up against any liberal scholar in any German university that I ever met, they don’t even come close. So, I have frankly never been tested very much by the devil, or whoever, to say, „This wise liberal offering his arguments…” and I read Paul and I say, „I don’t think so!” This man (Paul) is extraordinary, he’s smart, he’s rational, he’s been in the 3rd, 7th heaven evidently, and he’s careful about what he’s saying”. So, that whole argument: Liar, lunatic, Lord, works for me with Jesus and it works powerfully for Paul.

And, once you’ve got Paul speaking, self authenticating, irresistible, worldview shaping truth, then, as you move out from Jesus and Paul, the others just start to shine with confirming evidences

Why are you married? After 43 years, how do you endure losses? I mean, really, where does your strength come from? „You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Free from pornography, and free from divorce, free from depressions that just undo you. How do you find your way into marriage over and over, and out of depression, and away from the internet. How does that happen? It happens by the power of this incredible book.

2 recommended books on Scripture:

  1. Scripture in Truth by D.A.Carson and Nichols
  2. Fundamentalism and the word of God by J. I. Packer

Al Mohler:

The problem is with how few of our confessional statements are clear on this. So, one of our evangelical liabilities is that too much has been assumed under our article (statements) of Scripture, without specifying language, with inerrancy being one of those necessary attributes of Scripture to be affirmed.

You do find people today, some lamentably, who are trying to claim that you can still use the word, while basically eviscerating it, emptying it of meaning, so you have historical denials. In particular, you have that a text- and the Chicago Statement is very clear. Our affirmations of denials are actually patterned after the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, which was itself patterned after previous statements in which there were not only affirmations, but clear denials. So, when you look to that statement, you’ll see the assertion of what that statement means, and you have clear denials. One of the affirmations is Scripture has different forms of literature. But, the denial is that you can legitimately dehistoricize an historical text. So, in other words, everything Scripture reveals, including a historical claim is true. Well, you find some people saying, „Well, you can affirm the truthfulness of the text, without the historicity of the events. You can’t do that. You have people who are now using genre criticism, various forms to say: This is a type of literature, the lamentable argument is, this is the type of text to which the issue of inerrancy doesn’t apply. In other words, „I don’t like it”. But, what they mean is (that the text) it’s not making a truth claim. That’s ridiculous, but you find these kinds of nuances going on.

You also find very clear points of friction. So, for ex.: Do we have to believe in the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis? That puts us over and against a dominant intellectual system, that establishes what is called credibility in the secular academy. Those evangelicals that feel intellectually accountable to that are trying to say, „There has to be some other way then of dealing with Genesis 1-11. And that’s where you have, now, the ultimate friction point which is coming for instance with the historical Adam, and an historical fall. And now, you’re finding people who are trying to say, „Okay, There is no historical claim in Genesis 1-3, but I still believe in an historical Adam, because I’m just gonna pull him out of the air and plop him down. I still believe in a historical Adam, I’m not gonna root it in the historical text, but, I need him because Paul believed in him.

And then you have people who are on websites today, someone like Peter Enns, who used to teach at an institution which required inerrancy, who no longer teaches there, who says, „Clearly, Paul did believe in inerrancy, but Paul was wrong.” So now, not only do you have the denial of inerrancy and the historicity of Genesis 1-3, but, you have Paul now in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 being said (about): Well, now inerrancy for him means he was speaking truthfully, as inspired by God, but limited to the worldview that was accessible and available to him at the time. That is not what Jesus believed about Scripture.

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

God deserves ultimate glory because he is the Creator – Bruce Ware (Essential Reading)

glory of GodPhoto credit unknown

God is exclusively God and incomparably God who deserves ultimate glory because he is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. God, as Creator, is independent of all that he has made, whereas we, his creatures, are dependent upon him for everything, and therefore we cannot take credit for anything we have.

Bruce Ware at Mars Hill Church Seattle last week:

Isaiah 46:5 To whom would you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me that we would be alike?

Isaiah 46:9-10 „Remember the former things long past, for I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, „My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

My, isn’t it clear that the God of the Bible wants us to know He alone is God and there is no one that is like Him. He alone is deserving of ultimate praise and honor and glory. Now, why is that the case? Why should we be a people who want with all of our hearts, to give to God the glory that alone belongs to Him? And there are many answers in the Bible, but, I picked 3 that I think are very central reasons for understanding the greatness of the glory of God, the exclusivity of His glory, that far surpasses any glory that we would give to anything else or anyone else. Three reasons in particular the Bible upholds.

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God is exclusively God and incomparably God who deserves ultimate glory because:

1. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth

Isaiah 40:21-26

21Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

My, what an amazing passage that highlights the supremacy of God, and puts an emphasis here on God as Creator. There are 2 things I’d like us to see in relation to God as Creator, that helps us understand why He alone deserves ultimate praise and honor and glory.

  1. God, as Creator, is then independent  of everything that He has made, while we, the creatures are dependent upon Him for everything. God’s independent of everything He has made: It’s so very clear, because God is eternal and existed prior to the universe, that the universe is not necessary for God to be God. He was God, just fine- thank you- before the universe. So when He creates the universe, that does not indicate that somehow God receives something He needs , because He didn’t need the universe to be God prior. In fact, God is self existent, nothing brings him into existence. He is His own basis for existing eternally, and He is self sufficient. That doctrine affirms of God that God possesses within Himself, intrinsically  and eternally everything that is qualitatively good and He does so in infinite measure. Anything that you thing that is qualitatively good, any perfection, any attribute we might think of, that is a good thing, things like righteousness and holiness, wisdom and knowledge, power and goodness, these are possessed within God intrinsically. Nobody gives anything to God that He doesn’t already possess, because He is the possessor of everything that is good. And He possesses it eternally. So, then, when He creates the world, this is not then a world that He needs. He doesn’t need the world He made. But, rather is creating a world that displays  in physical, visible form certain aspects of His own character. It is His wisdom, His knowledge, His power, His beauty put on display in creation in a physical, visible form. This is why the heavens declare the glory, not of the heavens, cause they don’t account for why they are there, rather the heavens declare the glory of God. Why? Because it’s God’s wisdom, God’s beauty, God’s power manifest in the created order. So, God does not depend on the creation He has made. He existed as God, fully, prior to creation, is independent of that created order…
  2. It is also then true, the other side of the coin is this: That the creature, we included in that,  are dependent upon Him for everything. The way Paul puts it in Acts 17:25 „God is not served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all people life, and breath, and all things.” Well, my goodness, if He gives all things to us, how much are we dependent upon Him for? All things! For life and breath, I mean, every breath you have taken just while sitting here, everyone, no exception, is a gift of God to you. He grants us breath by which we live. He grants us everything that we have. THEREFORE, WE CANNOT TAKE CREDIT FOR ANYTHING WE HAVE!

I oftentimes think that we have really missed the mark here in our evangelical subculture, in helping us understand the basis for our humility before God when we point only to the cross of Christ. And of course, it is right to point to the cross of Christ, as a basis for our humility, I mean what can we do to get rid of our own sin? And the answer is nothing. Christ must do that for us and therefore we are humbled before Him, accepting the gift that we could not make happen on our own. And that’s altogether true, but more fundamental than God as a Redeemer is God as Creator, where our very life and every quality that we have is given to us by our Creator. So Paul will ask the question, for example, in 1 Corinthians 4:7 „What do you have that you’ve not received?” It’s a rhetorical question, but what would the answer be- ‘What do you have that you have not received? Nothing’. In other words, anything and everything we have is giftWe’ve received it, we haven’t earned it, we don’t have any right to it. It’s been given to us. And so, Paul goes on to say, „So if you’ve received it, why do you boast as if you’ve not received it?” Exactly! Right?

So, humility before God is very important, dependence upon Him, understanding  He is the one that is the source of every good thing that there is. Everything that is qualitatively good is in God and in nowhere else. No place else. No one else. So, God alone deserves ultimate glory.

God deserves ultimate glory because he is the Creator

This clip is excerpted from the sermon „The Incomparable Glory of God,” the second part of our sermon series Best Sermon Ever. It was preached by Dr. Bruce Ware out of Isaiah 40–45 at Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue and released on August 18. VIDEO by Mars Hill Church Watch the full sermon here: http://jesus.to/1cTmYRw Check out the full Best Sermon Ever series here: http://marshill.com/bestsermonever

Sin: The Dreadful Deformity of Our Soul

by John Piper Read the entire article here at – Desiring God

5PIPER12xx.jpgSomething terrible and profound happened to all humans when Adam sinned. All except Jesus, that is, “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Something came into the world that had not been there before — something very powerful and very deadly in everyone of us.

But it was not exactly a “thing.” Yet it was more than the bad things we do. Sin and sinning are not the same. We do sinful things because there is this something in us called “sin.” It is a dreadful and deadly deformity of every one of us.

Consider these amazing statements from the Bible about who you are before and after conversion to Christ.

“All are under sin” (Romans 3:9). “I am sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). “You were onceslaves of sin” (Romans 6:17, 20). In other words, before the power of grace through Christ entered our lives, we were not just tempted by sin, we were ruled by it. Under it. Slaves to it.

So sin was not just what we did. It was the master that governed what we did. It was like a king over a territory. “Sin reigned” (Romans 5:21).

Sin is not just the bad deed and not just the bad desire, it is the doer and the desirer. So when Paul says he often does what he doesn’t want to do, he exclaims, “So it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:16–17). Sin is not just the bad deed or desire. It is the dreadfully deep, powerful doer of the deed and the desire.

Yet Paul does not excuse himself. “Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). Which means that this dreadful, deep, destructive power is who we are apart from Christ. It is not like a virus in me. It is a profound defect of me. The dreadful nature of sin is not just that itindwells me but that it defines me. It is me.

Know this about yourself. Don’t be naïve. Don’t be ignorant of your very nature. How will you worship your Redeemer, if you do not know what he has done for you? How will you pursue righteousness, if you do not know the deepest obstacle?

“Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And when he died, all those who are his died with him and — united to him. “We have been united with him in a death like his” (Romans 6:5). This is what happens through faith in Christ, expressed in baptism.

“Our old self was crucified . . . that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6;Galatians 2:20). That dreadful, desire-producing, deed-producing, me-defining power died when I died with Christ.

––

What then shall we do? “You must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). In Jesus Christ! “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are . . .under grace” (Romans 6:14). Once “under sin” as king. Now “under grace” as king — “so that, as sin reigned, . . . grace also might reign” (Romans 5:21).

“Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are . . . under grace” (Romans 6:14). “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (Romans 6:22). And it was God himself who freed you. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart” (Romans 6:17).

It was God who dealt with sin in the death of Christ. It was God who put the monster sin to death. It was God who freed you from sin’s dominion. It is God who reigns over you. And it will be God who daily, through your faith, goes on putting the crucified monster to death (Colossians 3:5). “By the Spirit” you put sin to death (Romans 8:13). We are powerless in ourselves. God is the great sin-destroyer.

Worship him. And in his once-for-all victory over this dreadful deformity of our souls (Hebrews 9:26), do not let the defeated foe reign in your body (Romans 6:12). “Exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). God has worked a great victory over a great enemy. Live in it.

From Resurrection to Pentecost – Acts chapter 1

Dr. George O. Wood:

  • The book of Acts is the acts of God in human history and in the Church.
  • The apostles who are dealt with are Peter, in the first twelve chapters, and Paul, in the last sixteen chapters. There‘s an interfacing of those two apostles in chapter 15
  • The whole book is the Acts of the Holy Spirit

We want to note some things about Acts as we begin. That is, its placement.

I. First of all, in the canon of Scripture.

It is in a very strategic spot. Have you ever considered what it would be like to not have the Book of Acts at all in the New Testament? It would be very confusing, to say the least, to conclude the Gospel of John, which talks about Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him, and once done with John and with the Gospels, then all of a sudden we open to the next page, which is, ―Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, to the church at Rome.‖ If we had nothing between John and the letter to the Romans, we might legitimately ask, ―Who is this person called Paul?‖ and ―How did the gospel get to Rome?‖ and ―Who are these people who are not Jewish?‖ For the Book of Acts chronicles the thirty years, from the ascension of Jesus until about 63 A.D., with the imprisonment of the apostle Paul in Rome. The whole movement of the Book of Acts gives us an understanding of what happened in the growth of the Church in that time. How we have the ministry of a person like Paul, and how the Church not only has expanded geographically but has got from Jerusalem far away to Rome. But also how it has expanded culturally. Moving from an all-Jewish base to a largely Gentile-base. And without this important historical work, the fifth book of the New Testament, the Book of Acts, we would be in the dark about these things. The Book of Acts, therefore, covers the span of approximately thirty years of time.

Who in the Early Church, in that birth date of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, could have envisioned what the next thirty years would hold for the Church? But it held a powerful time of expansion. Who is the author of this book? You will never find him named, of course. As you read through the Gospels, you will never find any of the Gospel authors named. It‘s striking that Matthew does not name himself, Mark does not name himself, Luke does not name himself, and John does not name himself when they write their Gospels. Nor does Luke again name himself when he writes his second volume. I think that is so significant, because if I were writing a Gospel or a history of the Early Church—and remember that this Book of Acts was the only history of the Church written for three centuries, the next history after it was one written by Eusebius, third century A.D.—if I were writing a book of such powerful persuasion, I would probably want my name attached to it. If, for nothing else, the royalties. Then secondly, the recognition.

Why are the Gospel writers then silent? Why is Luke silent about giving his name? I think there are probably two reasons and they are important for instructing us in some matters in the Church world today. One reason is that the story which they tell is not their personal story, it is not their biography, and it is not their property, therefore. It is the story that belongs to the whole Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not fitting that they superimpose their name or their degree or their talent over what belongs to the Lord and to His people. So, fittingly, they represent it, not as their singular story, but as that which belongs to all of God‘s people.

Then I think another reason why they do not name themselves is that there is that infusion of humility which the Lord had inbred in them, that there was to be an honoring of the Lord God and a receding of the claim of the human personality for recognition and the like. So they quietly fade into the background so that they might tell his-story, which is the right hyphenation of history, isn‘t it? History should be, from the Christian perspective, ―His-story.‖ God‘s story of activity in our lives and on the planet earth.

We look at the placement of this book in the canon, the authorship behind it, the dating of the book, just briefly. If we relied on internal evidence we‘d be brought to the conclusion that it was written shortly after the events described in chapter 28 come to an end. Why would the Book of Acts end with an imprisonment if that wasn‘t all the history that had happened up to that time? If Luke had been writing in 70 or 80 or 90 A.D., it would be very strange that he would end his history with an imprisonment that happened around 63 A.D., unless he intended to write a third volume. So it‘s probable that he writes somewhat contemporaneously to the events that end the book.

And that‘s an important point to note. One of the debates in biblical scholarship has to do with the dating of the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Those who tend to operate from a liberal persuasion always select late dates, because they want a late date like 70 or 80 or 90 to say that what we have in the New Testament is the gathering of myth and it took time for the Church to collect its stories and all the biblical writers were really editors. They were not real writers. Furthermore, Luke, for example, like the other Gospel writers, does not give us an account of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. If Luke wrote Luke-Acts prior to 70 A.D., then what is written about the Olivet Discourse, on the Lord‘s lips, was really prophecy. But if Luke–Acts and the other Gospels were written after 70 A.D., then their statements about the destruction of Jerusalem and the words of Jesus may be subject to a claim that they put words in Jesus‘ mouth. So it is always interesting to look at the internal evidence itself for what the books are saying about the time of their authorship. It implicitly, seemingly in this book, would lead to the conclusion that it was written somewhat contemporaneously with the events that the book ends with.

One other thing, by way of introduction, should be noted and that is the title of the book. We call it ―The Acts of the Apostles.‖ And that, of course, does not occur in the original text. It is the title given by an editor, an early editor, to sort of differentiate it from all the other books. That‘s a good title. The Acts. There are some people in the body of Christ, some evangelicals, who suggest to us that we cannot derive any doctrinal position if it is formulated in the Book of Acts, because doctrinal positions can only be formulated from clear expository or didactic teaching such as in the Gospels or in letters, doctrinal letters, which we see in the Epistles; therefore, that you cannot make doctrine out of experience that is recorded in Acts.

I want to focus, therefore, on the word ―Acts‖ for just a moment. In that, we learn Christian truth by not only hearing it taught. We learn Christian truth by seeing it demonstrated. Truths is just as valid in its demonstration or its modeling as it is when it is being taught Point A, Point B, Point C and Point D. I have learned more truths about the Christian life personally, and I think you may have too, by watching other people live the Christian life; than maybe I have learned through simply reading a treatise on the Christian life.

I learn more, for example, about humility by watching humble people than by reading the latest book on humility. So don‘t let anyone say to you ―The Book of Acts is an interesting book. But it doesn‘t lead us to any doctrinal formulation.‖ As we get into this book, we will see that the acts of God in human history and in the Church in themselves become patterns from which we derive doctrinal perspectives and understandings of experiences that are valid and necessary for the believer today.

―The Acts of the Apostles‖: That‘s a misnomer, because there aren‘t many apostles that Acts really deals with. We‘re not told anything about what Thomas did, about what Matthew did. We‘re really only told one or two things about what John did. And what did Judas the son of James do? Or Bartholomew or Andrew? Their stories are not told in the Book of Acts. So, in reality, it isn‘t the Acts of the Apostles. The apostles who are dealt with are Peter, in the first twelve chapters, and Paul, in the last sixteen chapters. There‘s an interfacing of those two apostles in chapter 15. It really focuses on two of the apostles. In a certain respect, as someone has suggested, it really isn‘t the Acts of the Apostles anyway. The whole book is the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Maybe that title should be where the stress belongs. That same Holy Spirit is alive in the Church today. Even though the Apostles are gone from us, the Holy Spirit is at work.

Let‘s look at some of the verses.
Verse 1, ―In my former book, Theophilus…‖ That, of course, is Luke‘s reference back to volume one, to the Gospel of Luke itself, which had been dedicated to this person named Theophilus. You can say that so quickly that you might slur it and get ―the awfulest‖ out of that, but it is Theophilus. Theo, the Greek word for ―God‖ and philus coming from ―friend of God‖ or ―lover of God.‖ Some have postulated that this was Luke‘s patron, the one who was the benefactor that provided the financial support necessary for the author to have the two years of research time that he needed in order to write his manuscript. That‘s sheer conjuncture. No one knows for sure.

Others have suggested that Theophilus is a person who is very interested in the Christian faith. He has a Greek name, suggesting that he is non-Jewish and Luke is writing to persuade him, inform him accurately of all these things.
Others have suggested that Theophilus simply is a representative man for all who will be a friend of God whom this book is addressed to.

source of photo – http://visualunit.me/

When you look at the fact that both Luke and Acts are addressed to the same person, you realize that what you‘ve got here is one book in two volumes. Therefore, Luke himself, by sheer weight of words, becomes the one who writes more New Testament Scripture than any other writer. Word for word, Luke outproduces Paul. Take all the words of Paul and add them together and stack them against all the words of Luke, and Luke writes more Scripture than does anyone else in the New Testament.

Luke is not writing by what we might call ―dictation inspiration.‖ That is, he is not sitting at his desk and saying, ―Ok, Lord, what comes next? Would You repeat the last sentence? I didn‘t get that.‖ He says, in the first volume, in the first four verses, that his method of writing was to consult written sources and to interview eyewitnesses, himself not being an eyewitness. And, on the basis of research, he had inquired as to the accuracy of what was reported to him so that he might set it down in an orderly way. So what the Lord is saying about inspiration, through the writing of Luke, is that the process of the making of Scripture is not some hocus-pocus kind of a thing, where there is a voice that materializes in a room and begins mechanically dictating to a writer. But that the Lord, in breathing the Scripture into being, works through the unique individual and human aspects of the writer and, what the Holy Spirit does in promoting or causing that person to write, is to guarantee the accuracy and authenticity and power of what the author is recording. So the Scripture is, in Luke‘s case, both the product of his human inquiry, superimposed over the direct activity of the Holy Spirit causing him to want to write, causing him to select the right things, to report, and causing those things to be reported accurately and also causing them to be written in such a way that they bring spiritual life to people.

How many of you have ever read dull history? Real history that absolutely rocked you to sleep. I would make a case that inspiration not only carries its Scripture definition of being out-breathed by God, but inspiration, by its very necessity must also be inspiring so that what is written here wakes us up, jabs us, gets us spiritually alive. Part of the inspiration that Luke is writing with has that character to it.

So he‘s picking up where he had left off in Luke 24, as he opens. He said, ―In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach till the day He was taken up to heaven‖ (Acts 1:1). Does it strike you that in the phrase ―all that Jesus began to do and teach‖ Luke summarizes his Gospel, volume one—which begins earlier than the other Gospels historically with the annunciation of the angel to Mary and genealogically it goes all the way back to Adam? Matthew only goes to Abraham. Luke tried to push back our border of knowledge about Jesus to as early as he could. He takes us from that annunciation all the way through the ascension in Luke 24. At the beginning of Acts, he summarizes all that epoch of time, saying this is all that Jesus began to do and teach. The inference of that phrase ―Jesus began to do and teach,‖ in relationship to the Gospel, is a statement that Luke is making that Jesus is not through teaching or doing. That‘s the great thing he‘s saying to the Church right off the bat. ―If you think Jesus is history, if you think Jesus is past tense, you‘ve got another thing to consider. Because this same Jesus who has ascended now into heaven is continuing to do and to teach.‖

I immediately am drawn to that aspect. In fact, it‘s the same kind of theme that Mark begins his Gospel with, where he says in an unfinished sentence of verse 1 of chapter 1, ―The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.‖ Inferring that everything he writes is only the initiation, the beginning of what Jesus is doing. Whenever we breathe deeply in the New Testament Spirit, we‘re breathing in the air of a risen living Christ, who is among His people. Not a dead historical figure whose work is over, but a living spiritual reality whose work is just getting started.

I like that. ―Until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, His passion, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days.‖ Jesus‘ public ministry is sandwiched between two epochs of forty days. The first epoch of forty days, He is totally alone and He is in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. The last forty days after the resurrection, He is again alone, but with His disciples. He is not with the crowds. He is not appearing to unbelievers. He is ratifying His work to those who have trusted in Him.

What do you think Jesus would be doing in those forty days? I would have liked to have known a lot of things in those forty days, had I had a chance to ask Jesus some questions. I would have liked to have known what the nature of the Trinity is like. I would like for that to be clearly explained to me. If any of you could clearly explain it to everyone‘s satisfaction in the world, then you need to write a book.

And I would like to know the relationship between predestination and free-will. I would have asked Jesus that in those forty days, because I‘m getting asked questions like that by my college aged son and his roommate and that has engrossed them ever since their days at Newport Christian High School, the proper relationship between those two things.

I‘d also have liked some kind of description of angelic order and the rankings of the seraphs, cherubims, and angels. What it‘s like to be a common angel. The order and, if you get a chance for promotion and those kinds of things. It would be interesting to know.

I would like to know a little bit about what happens to the spirit when the body dies. I know we go to be with the Lord even while we‘re putting the body in the ground. But how can I have an existence yet waiting for my body to be resurrected? I know that all of that is going to happen, but I‘d like to understand that a little bit better.

I would also like the Lord, maybe, to have shown us some slides of what heaven is like. Surely, He had the capacity to make slides! You don‘t think the laws of photography were unknown to the Lord, do you? He is the Creator of all things. He could have brought down maybe a few pictures, He could have left some of those behind—they could have financed His Church for a long time, by the way. Jesus had all kinds of fundraising methods that He neglected to employ to make sure His Church stayed well and healthy.

But I‘d like to have known that. I would like to know some esoteric secrets—hidden things. The reason I bring this up is that there has always been in Christianity something called Gnosticism. I referred to that a couple weeks ago when I preached on the ―kingdom now theology.‖ Gnosticism was a church heresy beginning at the end of the first century, extending all the way through the early centuries, that is based upon a Greek word: gnosis—knowledge. The gnostics came along and said, ―Here we have the external word, but if you come into our group, we‘re going to give you a hidden interpretation of Scripture. We‘re going to take you into dreams and revelations. You get in our group and you‘re no longer going have the milk for babes. You‘re going to get into the real meat and you‘re going to understand orders and rankings of angels.‖ They had all kinds of marvelous mysteries they were expounding. There is always that subtle danger in the body of Christ that we might want to leave the plain things of Scripture and get into things that are not plain readings of Scripture and get into esoteric ―truth‖ or Gnostic ―truth.‖ We‘re trying to know and identify with and live in mysteries that aren‘t any of our business to know and they can‘t be known because they‘ve never been objectively revealed in the Bible.

It‘s interesting that Jesus, in those forty days, did not take those forty days as a platform for giving the disciples new teaching which they had not been given during the three years of His earthly ministry. What He‘s doing in those forty days is restating the basic premise of His early ministry, His three-year ministry. That basic premise had to do with the kingdom of God. If you look at what Jesus is teaching in the Gospels, the focus of what He is saying is always on the kingdom of God. The parables deal, in massive quantities, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, with the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, basically defined by Jesus as both now and it is then. It is now in the heart. It is not seen. It is not political. It is not external. It must be received and grow secretly as seed in the soil and it has different levels of growth and responsiveness. But the kingdom then, when the Lord returns, will be one which is political and external and for all. But for right now, the kingdom is within you. And He was reinforcing that message of the kingdom and those days and illustrating why, as the king, He needed to lay down His life in Jerusalem and die for His people.

So He reinforces and reinterprets what He has done in those three years of His ministry, speaking about the kingdom of God. In addition to a doctrinal theme—the kingdom of God—Jesus is also talking about a person. ―Don‘t leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.‖ Jesus here was saying to the disciples, ―In addition to knowing what I‘ve taught you, I‘m going to give you a gift.‖ The gift is also referred to here as a baptism. A baptism or immersion with the Holy Spirit.

Immediately, we get into a doctrinal question. Were the disciples at this point saved? Had they made a statement of saving faith in Jesus? And if they were saved, did they not already have the Holy Spirit? The answer to those questions is, ―Yes, the Gospel witness makes it clear that they had passed from death into life, beginning with the confession at Caesarea Philippi, when Peter said, ̳You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.‘ That is the basis upon which the Christian faith rests.‖

Following the resurrection of Jesus Christ in John 20:22, Jesus breathed into them and said, ―Receive the Spirit.‖ In that act of breathing, Jesus recreated the drama of the Garden of Eden, when He took the lifeless form of mortal man and breathed into him air, life. Jesus now, after the resurrection, says, ―I‘m the new Adam, the second Adam and I have a new life order. Not just biological life, like I gave to Adam, but I now have resurrection life to breathe into you.‖ So He breathed into them and they received the Spirit. The air, the wind, the reviving power of God in the personality of the Spirit.

We draw the conclusion from this that anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and His power and His resurrection from the dead is a receiver of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit indwells every born-again Christian. I say this as a Pentecostal preacher who teaches that there is a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit beyond conversion—a baptism in the Spirit beyond conversion. Jesus, here in Acts 1:5, is not talking about the conversion experience. They‘ve already had that in John 20, when He‘s breathed upon them and ratified to them the benefits of resurrection life. But He‘s saying now, ―There is yet a subsequent experience in which you, My disciples, who have believed in Me, are going to get saturated with the Spirit.‖ We‘ll look at this more as we come to those passages in the Book of Acts.

Jesus was very concerned that His disciples not try to go out and do things in their own power. If a group of us had been present on that occasion, when Jesus ascended into heaven, we might legitimately say, ―Now that He‘s gone, what are we going to do?‖ We might have a planning committee. And I would suggest we develop a statement of mission. Then we develop a statement of objectives. Then we develop our strategies. Then we prioritize the strategies ad infinitum.‖ We go at this from a method system. We do good process management and get to the conclusion that we have to go to the entire world, so guys, we‘ve got to figure all this out.

I‘m not against appropriate planning and the like, but I am deeply committed to the fact that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world to do a lot of leapfrogging. There are times when I‘m connecting point A, point B, point C and D in my logical and methodical manner, and it‘s the Holy Spirit‘s intention to absolutely leapfrog over BCDEF to get all the way from A to G in one fell swoop. He‘s going for it. There are times we simply have to realize that the Holy Spirit is what He says He is. He is air or wind and He can come in with a great gust and suddenly lift us further than we ever dreamed. We must not always think of spiritual growth as something which is like biological growth—steady and progressive. Spiritual growth is that. We add line to line and precept to precept. But there are also occasions when, seemingly spiritually, we just go from here and all of a sudden we have a powerful encounter with God and we‘re all the way over here. Thirty minutes maybe have gone by, but we‘ve had a tremendous transformation.

Jesus says to His Church, ―You need this Holy Spirit because the mission I‘m giving to you is too big for you to do with your own thinking, no matter how bright you are. You‘ve got to rely on a power that is stronger than your own.‖ The Church has to rely upon the person of God to do the work of God. If it doesn‘t, it‘s stagnant in the water.

So you‘ll receive the Holy Spirit, a promise not just made to them, but I believe a promise we‘ll see as we go through Acts, made to all of us. Don‘t leave Jerusalem. Don‘t get busy doing things until you‘ve got this power and this baptism. So everything‘s wrapped up. Forty days go by. He‘s talked to them about His program, the kingdom of God, and the person, the Holy Spirit. They just have one loose end when it‘s all done. The loose end is this: Jesus, where is the kingdom? They‘re still hung up on this. ―We believe You‘re the king, the Messiah. It‘s going to now be in our hearts. But when are You going to give this kingdom to Israel?‖ They lived in a culture which had differing perspectives of when the kingdom was going to come.

  • Essenes – It‘s interesting that the culture of their day was exactly like the culture of our day. If you look at camps in Christianity today, there‘s no difference in those camps and the camps in Judaism at this time in the writing of the Book of Acts. There were those who were called the Essenes. There were those who, in relation to the kingdom of God, said, ―The world is so messed up, we can‘t do anything about it. We‘re not even going to try. We‘re going to go out into the desert, found our own community, get our own act together and get holy and cleaned up. If we get holy enough and purified enough someday, the teacher of righteousness may come, and if He comes, He‘ll come to us. And to ―you know where‖ with the rest of the world.‖ That group is represented in the Church today by those who quote the verse ―Come out from among them and be ye separate.‖

―Touch not the unclean thing.‖ They‘re in a sense saying, ―We want to live in our own closed quarters. Don‘t make us have contact with anybody. We‘re the holy club. When Jesus comes back to earth, He‘s going to come to our church and our pastor and our denomination, us three and no more, praise God. The kingdom of God is washed up with the world. It‘s all headed for the wastebasket, but we‘re the righteous ones, the Essenes. The kingdom isn‘t coming to those people out there. It‘s waiting for us.‖

  • Zealots – Then there were the zealots who said, ―None of this. God Himself delays the kingdom to see if we‘re serious about it. So let‘s get involved. We‘ve got to show good faith in the Lord. So let‘s get involved in politics and let‘s show the Messiah that we mean business. Let‘s kick out Rome. Let‘s take over the government. Let‘s dominate society. Let‘s have the kingdom here and now. And to do this, if we need to, let‘s use force.‖ They were called the zealots. They said, ―The kingdom can‘t come until the Lord sees we‘re serious about bringing the kingdom. Then, when we get everything ready for Him, we can roll out the red carpet and say, ―Even so, come.‖
  • Sadducees – Then there were the Sadducees, what we would call the liberal wing of the church, who said, ―All this stuff about a kingdom! It ain‘t never gonna come, folks! This is the best of all possible worlds. And everybody‘s got to have a religious system, because people need religion. So since they need religion, let‘s provide the institutions, let‘s make a good living off of religion, but let‘s not take things too seriously, let‘s forget this stuff about miracles and angels and revealed truth and stuff like this. Let‘s just say whatever goes, goes. Let‘s keep the system going and keep the pious few gullible and help use the revenues to found the great enterprises we‘re involved in.‖ Then there were the Pharisees, with whom Jesus mostly identified, who said, ―We must do the best we can in the midst of this wicked, perverse generation. Lets live, not separated from society but let‘s maintain an inner code that‘s different.‖ They extended that to, ―Let‘s also maintain an outer code of dress that separates us.‖

But they were all, in one way or another, looking for the kingdom. So the disciples coming out of that matrix said, ―Lord, what about the kingdom? When is Your kingdom going to come? Are You going to restore Israel now?‖ Jesus didn‘t say to them, ―Don‘t you know yet that the millennium is never going to happen, all of those promises with Israel are all over. They‘re all in the past. I‘ve aggregated them and there‘s a whole new covenant in effect. Jerusalem will never become the world capital and the temple will never be rebuilt and the antichrist is never going to come and the Messiah will never sit on the throne of Jerusalem—all that stuff is relegated to the past. Don‘t you know that yet? I‘m going to have to stay with you guys forty more days and get your theology straightened out!‖

He doesn‘t answer them that way. He just says to them, ―It‘s not for you to know the chronos or the kairos—the times or the seasons.‖ Those are two Greek words—synonyms. Chronos is the word from which we get ―chronology,‖ some of what you‘re doing when you look at your watch. You‘re watching ―chronology‖—time—go by. It‘s not for you to know the length of time or the kairos—the season of time—the appropriate time, the right time, the quality of time. It‘s not for you to know quantity of time or quality of time. But it‘s instead for you to do something else. It‘s time for you to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.

  1. Power. I hear, at various times, preachers point out that the basic word underlying ―power‖ here is the word dunamis, from which we derive the word ―dynamite.‖ The only problem with dynamite is that it blows people up. I‘m not sure that what Jesus is promising here is a TNT experience. What He is promising is that He is going to do, in regard to our potential, two things. All of us have potential which we have not tapped. It‘s just native potential, native ability. Power involves the capacity to reach your potential. That‘s one dimension to it.
  2. The second dimension is this: that there is potential in you that you don‘t see, that only God Himself sees. And the power of the Holy Spirit is to cause you to walk in that second level of potential that is even beyond the potential you have as a native human being. I think that‘s fabulous! God‘s not all done making me yet. There are times when I get so frustrated with what I‘m doing, and my lack of ability and my inadequacy, that I need a good shot in the arm like this that says, ―God has not given up on producing potential in my life that is there, both in the natural man and the spiritual man, that is beyond the capacity that I can see personally.‖ He wants to give us that dunamis of the Holy Spirit so that we might be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

You look at the task of the Early Church. I‘ve made this comparison before, but if you took the then known number of people in the world, you‘d get the magnitude of the task that they faced. There were approximately four million people in Palestine at the time. In Jerusalem and Judea, about four million. About the amount of people that are in Israel today. One hundred and twenty people for the four million. Or one believer for every thirty-three thousand people. Since there are roughly a hundred and ten thousand people in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, that would amount up to about four believers to reach those two towns. There were approximately two hundred and fifty million people in the then Roman world, which means there was one believer for every 1.2 million people. If I were looking at those odds as a statistician, wow!

One of the evidences for Christianity is that the Church is here after twenty centuries. And that the Church of Jesus Christ penetrated the world. And that it grew from a small little group of a hundred and twenty and had a powerful effect. In fact, within thirty years, it was so powerful that it could not be numbered. After a while, even the Book of Acts gave up counting. In fact, after the Day of Pentecost, the Church could never again fit in a single room. You know that we will never again be in a single room until we‘re in that great banquet hall in the kingdom to come. At one time, the Church from all centuries and ethnic groups and backgrounds is going to gather and, all at one time, bring in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. That‘s the next time we‘ll all be in one room. Acts 1 and 2 is the last time the Church was in a single room. It‘s going to explode beyond that. It‘s going to have a ministry.

Let no one look at the size of a challenge and say it can‘t be done. One of the real tendencies we have as Christians, and I think this is especially true for us in Orange County, is that we‘re all seeking close personal relationships, because we live in such an impersonal world and we‘re separated from our extended families, many of us. We often say of the church, ―I sure hope the church doesn‘t grow much because I don‘t like big churches.‖ I know what people mean when they say that. It‘s a pain to be lost in a crowd and not know anybody. But yet, if the church is going to be true to its mission of extending the gospel to every single human being, growth is part and parcel with what God has to do. It means we‘ve got to get ourselves in a growth modality or a growth pattern or growth mentality where, instead of wanting things to stay small so we can be comfortable, we want the kingdom to expand so we can have more responsibility. Do you want to be more comfortable or do you want more responsibility? That will, to a great degree, determine how mature you are as a believer. Immature believers want to be comfortable. They don‘t want to have to do anything. In a comfortable church, you know everybody‘s name. In a growing church, you‘ll never know everybody‘s name—there‘s too much going on. In a comfortable church, everybody has a job and there are plenty of people who don‘t have to do anything. In a church that‘s growing, there‘s always going to be a need for more and more workers to be involved, because we‘re in a responsibility mode of our spiritual life and behavior. Be my witnesses. ―After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes. And a cloud hid him from their sight‖ (Acts 1:9). That‘s better than any blast-off at Cape Canaveral. I‘d like to have seen it.

Here is something that absolutely defies all the laws of physics. Without engines, the Lord blasts off. Then you have to ask the question, where did He go? How did He survive in the ionosphere when He got up to thirty thousand feet? What was going on? Did He have to fly through the planets? How far did He go? Is the dwelling place of God somewhere out there in the universe? The edge of the universe is supposed to be ten billion light years out there. Which means that if you travel 186,282 miles per second for ten billion years, you‘re going to get there. But even when you get there, there may be more out there and you still haven‘t stepped out of time and space. So when it says, ―Jesus ascended into heaven,‖ heaven must not simply be the blue sky. Heaven must be outside the created order and it doesn‘t take ten billion light years to get there. Just like it doesn‘t take ten billion light years for our prayers to reach God. But stepping outside of time and space in a dimension no telescope has yet probed, Jesus goes from earth to heaven! If you‘re not into the miraculous, Christianity is not for you. There‘s just too much happening here. One of the things we know about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the change that was produced in the disciples‘ life is that they were eyewitnesses to all this. They were eyewitnesses to the Resurrection. They were eyewitnesses to the living Christ who presented Himself with infallible proofs. And they were eyewitnesses to His ascension. A common person without that experience would not have believed any of that stuff. But they were credible people who saw it and bore witness to it.

One other note about the ascension I would like to point out. It‘s from observation of having been in the Holy Land a number of times. The Mount of Olives is one of my very favorite places. It was obviously one of Jesus‘ favorite places. He loved to pray at the base of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. He taught on the Mount of Olives one of His great discourses, the Olivet Discourse, directly facing the Temple Mount. He walked over the Mount of Olives to Bethany, day in and day out, the last week. And He ascended from the Mount of Olives.

Even in Jesus‘ day, the Mount of Olives, like today, is a burial ground. In Judaism, if you want to be buried, it‘s the spot. My first choice would be to be buried on the Mount of Olives. I don‘t know how you‘d get me in there—Muslims on one side and the Jewish people on the other side. I don‘t think there‘s a Christian cemetery there. But there are graves on the Mount of Olives that go back for millenniums. Not just centuries—millenniums! On that spot, the Mount of Olives, which is littered with burial stones—the whole mountainside is covered with burial stones; in that place of death, Jesus becomes the one human being that, instead of going down into the Mount of Olives, goes up from the Mount of Olives.

The point was not lost on the contemporaries of Jesus‘ days, that here is a person who didn‘t go into the ground but He went up from the ground and He took the symbolic spot of all of Judaism for burial to take place, to make it a place of triumph and ascension. It was a masterstroke and plan. Whoever says the Lord doesn‘t plan things out…He‘s a strategist. He‘s going to take the symbols of death and turn them into symbols of life.

And Zachariah says, ―He‘s going to come back to the Mount of Olives.‖ I‘ll be in heaven and won‘t watch TV then. But I‘d like to see the news reports of all the open graves on the Mount of Olives.

―They looked intently up in the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. [Notice they didn‘t have wings or anything like that. They were just wearing white clothes.] ̳Men of Galilee. Why do you stand here looking into the sky? The same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you‘ve seen him go into heaven‘‖ (Acts 1:10-11). There are some saying, in our day—like there were Gnostics in the apostles‘ day saying—that Jesus is not going to have a literal return to earth. His coming is going to be a coming in the transformed lives of His children. It will be a hidden coming. Here‘s the rebuttal to that point of view, saying that the coming of Jesus will be as visible and as evidently physical as His ascension into heaven.

Jesus enters into heaven and the Church then does some things that we read about in verses 12– 26, that give us the character of the Early Church. I want to spend just a few moments here talking about this pre-Pentecostal, powerful Church. That when a church begins to move in these qualities (there are four qualities that are noted here from in verses 12–26) or when an individual Christian begins to move in these qualities, they open themselves up to a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit.

I. The first quality is obedience.

That is always the mark of mature discipleship and of a vital church. What the disciples did after Jesus ascended was—instead of immediately dispersing and beginning to carry the good news— remember that Jesus said, ―Go back to Jerusalem and wait.‖ So even though they didn‘t understand it and even though they had to be bursting with joy to be able to tell that story to other people, they obeyed and went back.

II. The second thing that they did was meet together in unity.

There was the Twelve who are named. They were joined constantly in prayer along with the women. It‘s not just a male group. The last mention we have of Mary in the Bible was of her in a prayer meeting, and she wasn‘t leading the prayer meeting, either, she wasn‘t being prayed to. That should be noted. She was part of the prayer meeting. And Jesus‘ brothers, who previously in the Gospels are mentioned as being alienated from Him and not believing Him—they‘re there. In fact, the number all together is about one hundred and twenty. Acts 2:1 tells us they were all together in one place. There was tremendous unity. They stayed in that place together for ten days.

I‘d like to put before you the idea that unity takes time. One of the problems we have in the contemporary church is we don‘t have time. I find, in the church, that people only take time, that about 70 or 80 percent of the Church of Jesus Christ today takes time to be together with the Body one hour a week in a structured worship setting, and that is it. I am going to make a flat out statement: As long as the church continues in that pattern, it will never ever have revival. It is absolutely impossible to have revival when you only give one hour a week to being together with God‘s people. It‘ll never happen. It‘ll not happen in a billion centuries. It takes a significant amount of being together, and not just being together socially but being together spiritually, praying together, singing together, hearing God‘s Word together, testifying together. It takes that being together to provide a matrix of that warmth and relationship which becomes the fertile soil in which to place a new believer, a converted believer. Instead of putting a new believer into a community of strangers, the church has to be a living web of deep interpersonal human relationships that have been graced by the Spirit of God.

I will share with you as pastor that I do not know how to change the trend the church is in. We are in a humongously busy culture. Everybody is going every single direction they can go. We‘ve got mobility. We‘ve got financial mobility. We‘ve got homes on wheels. We‘ve got income that often allows people to be able to take time to pursue personal pursuits. There‘s nothing wrong with any of these things by themselves. Except, ultimately, they produce a devastating effect on the church, because people do not have time to be the church.

What would happen if as a pastor I asked everybody in the congregation next year, from July 1 to July 10, to plan their ten vacation days and not doing anything off on your own, but go to get a place and go off together and spend ten days singing, praying, eating, fellowshipping and waiting upon God and hearing God‘s Word. We‘re going to take ten solid days as a church. Once you come, you can‘t leave. You have to be there and the whole church has to go. Not a single person can be left out. If we did that for ten days, you could write the history of this church in block letters a mile high, because it would absolutely explode. You can‘t have that kind of a group experience in the presence of the Holy Spirit and not have something significant happen to alter people‘s relationships with God and with one another forever. As long as the church is fooling around with one structured hour a week, it may gain a little bit of ground, but it‘s not going to dynamically penetrate society. I wish that weren‘t true, but I‘m afraid it is. I‘m frustrated as a pastor with the state of the church in that area.

Unity is essential and it takes time. These guys, they weren‘t independently rich. To my understanding, Peter and the boys were middle-class fishermen. They didn‘t have people just independently supporting them. But these people took time to be together. They were at the beginning of a whole new thing God was doing on the earth and it took time. They forged unity. The Holy Spirit forged unity among them. That‘s critical.

III. Another thing which they did that’s so important is that they got into the Word.

They obeyed the Lord. They had unity. And they got into the Word. We know that they got into the Word because of what they did. Peter, as this meeting is progressing, has been troubled because he‘s been reading Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, two psalms Peter understands to talk about the enemy of the Lord. The innocent one described in those two psalms has an enemy. Jesus is the innocent one and He had an enemy—Judas. Those two psalms eloquently speak of the fate of Judas. They contain phrases (those two psalms do) like ―May his place be deserted and let there be no one to dwell in it.‖ And ―May another take his place of leadership.‖ Peter‘s reading along in those psalms and he says, ―Somebody‘s got to be appointed to his position.‖ There‘s a Scripture that says, ―Let another take his place.‖

So they select a person to replace the fallen Judas. I don‘t want to get into the whole thing of the mystery of Judas. I simply want to note that it was as a result of studying the Scripture that the Early Church made the decision to replace him. Some said the Early Church, right at the beginning, before Pentecost, made a mistake, they didn‘t have the Holy Spirit yet and they do something prematurely. God had saved that twelfth place for the apostle Paul. The Early Church got presumptuous and jumped in.

I say humbug! Because here‘s the Church‘s very first decision after the Lord had ascended into heaven and they were going straight to the Scripture for guidance. If you can‘t get guidance from the Scripture, then what can you trust? I refuse to believe, I can‘t see it even as logical, to believe that in the very first decision the Church reaches after Christ has already risen is blundering into mistakes. I just can‘t buy that. They read the Scripture. They absorbed the Scripture and wanted to be guided by it. This is in real contradistinction with people today who would have said, ―No, let‘s not go to Scripture. Let‘s pray and get a revelation. Who‘s got a revelation? Who‘s got the gift of prophecy as to who‘s supposed to replace Judas?‖

No, it wasn‘t that at all. It was, ―Get in the Word and see if it has any direction.‖ Then they did some very common things. They said, ―There‘s got to be some qualifications for replacement. You had to be with Jesus from the baptism of John until now.‖ That was their qualification to be an apostle. It says there were only two that fit the bill. The two were Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias. So what did they do? They prayed and then they cast lots, or drew straws, and the lot fell to Matthias. Is that spiritual? The twelfth apostle is selected by flipping a coin! That‘s what it was, flipping a coin. Again, they were being scriptural. Proverbs 16:33 says, ―The lot is cast into the lap but the decision is from the Lord.‖ The decision is wholly from the Lord. You flip the coin but God determines which side it‘s going to land on. What had they done? They said, ―We‘ve used all the intelligence we knew how to make criteria for leadership. We had two choices. In the natural, we didn‘t know which choice to make, so we simply left the decision to God. And since Proverbs 16:33 gives us persimmon to cast lots, we cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias.‖ They were trying to be true to Scripture.

One parenthetical thing that doesn‘t relate to any of the three points, but just a sideline that to me is kind of interesting: in verse 13, the last of the eleven apostles that is named is Judas, son of James. In Luke 6, which contains another listing of the apostles, Luke also lists him as Judas, son of James. But Matthew and Mark, in listing the apostles, never refer to this man as Judas, son of James. He‘s known by another name— Thaddaeus. Luke is always the historian of accuracy; he always goes back for the precise. What evidently happened in the Early Church was, as time went along, this Judas number two, called Judas son of James, not Judas Iscariot, got tired of people saying to him, ―You sure have a lousy name.‖ Or, ―Are you related to Judas Iscariot?‖ So he said, ―I‘m tired of that name. From now on, just call me Thaddaeus.‖ So he got a different name. That‘s why the listing of names is different.

You‘ll notice, also, that in Matthew‘s Gospel, Judas went out and hanged himself. Luke tells us that Judas bought a field where he fell headlong, his body burst and of all his intestines spilled out. Those two accounts, Matthew and Acts, are not contradictory, for indeed, in the course of a hanging, there could have been the kind of fall that is described in Luke with his intestines breaking and spilling out.

By the way, the field of blood in Jerusalem is at the western end of the Valley of Hinnom, the Valley of Hell. That is suggestive of the fact that, when we get out of God‘s will, we wind up in hell, the trash dump of Jerusalem.

The Early Church was committed to obedience. It was definitely committed to unity. It was committed to the Word.

IV. Then the fourth quality of a growing dynamic Christian or a growing dynamic church is that it was committed to prayer.

They prayed constantly (verse 14). They all joined constantly in prayer. Verse 24 says, ―Then they prayed.‖ There was a specific prayer. I mentioned this about a year and a half ago, before we began our quarterly prayer meetings in the church. I had had a conversation with the person who had been a spiritual confidant of Billy Graham and a great help for Billy in the prayer ministry. He said, ―If you go into an average church and look at their literature or program, you‘ll find that the church almost never gathers together for prayer. It has everything else on the agenda but prayer.‖ He said, ―God has called me to a ministry to make the main things out of the plain things in Scripture. Prayer is the main thing and it‘s the plain thing.‖

The Christian life and the church cannot be built simply by the implementation of good programs, no matter how well conceived and executed the programs are, some of the programs ought to be executed. It‘s prayer that is the life of the Church. Depending and submission on the Lord for His will and His leadership, being open to a fresh sweep of the Spirit. The Church, at the close of Acts 1, has no idea of the explosion that is in store for it. It is on the edge of a great miracle and doesn‘t even know it at that moment.

I would suggest to you that, anytime in your life or any time the church corporately does the same kind of things that are done in chapter 1, that church or that person is again on the edge of a tremendous explosion and powerful moving of the Lord. But somewhere along the line, there has got to be an unreserved commitment to obey the Lord. There has to be a willingness to commit the time to be together in unity, not just union, but unity. Union is when you tie two cats‘ tails together. You have union but you don‘t have unity. The church of Jesus Christ is often like that. We‘ve got people all together in union and our names are on the membership roll or on the contribution record, but there are differences and sharp feelings and animosity and hidden agendas and turfs to protect and all those kinds of things, which speak of union, but not unity. Somehow, the church has got to get past that, with double and triple doses of forgiveness and reconciliation, and say, ―In Christ we will be united.‖ We‘ll ask the Spirit to unite us, to help us take the time to be united past unity, into a real absorption with God‘s Word and achieve that all in prayer. There‘s no telling what God will do when that combination is fulfilled. (HT)

Day of Pentecost and Spiritual Gifts

We may define spiritual gifts as follows: A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church. This broad definition includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, showing mercy, or administration) and gifts that seem to be more “miraculous” and less related to natural abilities (such as prophecy, healing, or distinguishing between spirits). The reason for this is that when Paul lists spiritual gifts (in Rom. 12:6-8); 1 Cor. 7:7; 12:8-10, 28; and Eph. 4:11) he includes both kinds of gifts. Yet not every natural ability is included here, because Paul is clear that all spiritual gifts must be empowered “by one and the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:11), that they are given”for the common good” (1 Cor.12:7), and that they are all to be used for “edification”(1 Cor. 14:26), or for building up the church. Read more here – (1) What are spiritual gifts?

Grudem: The New Testament lists specific spiritual gifts in six different passages. See table here –1 Corinthians 12:28 , 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Peter 4:11.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

    1. apostle   – (1-8 from 1 Cor. 12:28)
    2. prophet
    3. teacher
    4. miracles
    5. kinds of healing
    6. helps
    7. administration
    8. tongues
    9. word of wisdom   – (9-13 from 1 Cor. 12:8-10)
    10. word of knowledge
    11. faith
    12. distinguishing between spirits
    13. interpretation of tongues
    14. evangelist        –   (14-15 from Ephesians 4:11)
    15. pastor-teacher
    16. serving    –  (16-20 from Romans 12:6-8)
    17. encouraging
    18. contributing
    19. leadership
    20. mercy
    21. marriage     – (21-22 from 1 Cor. 7:7)
    22. celibacy

1 Peter 4:11 whoever speaks (covering several gifts) and whoever renders service (also covering several gifts).

What is obvious is that these lists are all quite different. No one list has all these gifts, and no gift is mentioned on all these lists: in the context of speaking of marriage and celibacy, Paul says, “Each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”

Click here to read more…  (2) How many gifts are there?

Grudem: Paul says that if we have the gift of prophecy, we should use it “in proportion to our faith” (Rom. 12:6), indicating that the gift can be more or less strongly developed in different individuals, or in the same individual over a period of time. This is why Paul can remind Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:14), and can say, “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (2 Tim. 1:6). It was possible for Timothy to allow his gift to weaken, apparently through infrequent use, and Paul reminds him to stir it up by using it and thereby strengthening it. This should not be surprising, for we realize that many gifts increase in strength and effectiveness as they are used, whether evangelism, teaching, encouraging, administration, or faith.

Texts such as these indicate that spiritual gifts may vary in strength. If we think of any gift, whether teaching or evangelism on the one hand, or prophecy or healing on the other, we should realize that within any congregation there will likely be people who are very effective in the use of that gift, perhaps through long use and experience, others who are moderately strong in that gift, and others who probably have the gift but are just beginning to use it. This variation in strength in spiritual gifts depends on a combination of divine and human influence. The divine influence in the sovereign working of the Holy Spirit as he “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). The human influence comes from experience, training, wisdom, and natural ability in the use of that gift. It is usually not possible to know in what proportion the divine and human influences combine at any one time, nor is it really necessary to know, for even the abilities we think to be “natural” are from God (1 Cor. 4:7) and under his sovereign control.

But this leads to an interesting question: how strong does an ability have to be before it can be called a spiritual gift? How much teaching ability does someone need before he or she could be said to have a gift of teaching, for example? Or how effective in evangelism would someone need to be before we would recognize a gift of evangelism? Or how frequently would someone have to see prayers for healing answered before he or she could be said to have a gift of healing?

Matt Chandler – Advance ’13 Conference Message – How Both Faithful & Effective Churches Assume the Gospel

Chandler Advance '13

Matt Chandler speaks to Pastors and leaders at the Advance 13 Conference. Here’s a paragraph from his message:

You see how it fits together, as he (Paul) begins to rebuke them for their immaturity, and how they’re viewing personalities and what he’s trying to teach them here is: There’s a way to build on the foundation that was laid, and the way to build on that is with complete doctrine, with an understanding of who God is, that transforms the life and makes us more and more, and more like Christ. So, here you can have possibly faithful and possibly fruitful … but, I don’t think you can have unfaithful, but fruitful. Where it’s unfaithful, it’s not fruitful. It’s apples stapled to a tree.

……

So much where I landed theologically, that right now I believe is right and good before the Lord, and before God, I believe I could give a resounding defense biblically for almost everywhere I land in regards to doctrine  and what I believe about soteriology and ecclesiology, and all the ‘ologies’. In the end, they were all processes, which means I didn’t get there overnight. Over a period of time, as people lovingly just kind of handed me a book, or opened up the word of God for me, or sent me home to look at a passage, allowed me to wrestle- it was all a process and praise God that He did not put in my life or protected me from so many that I see today: the demand that others join them today, what took them years to arrive upon. We are not to be men and women who are unnecessarily harsh.

from Advance 13 Conference – http://www.advance13.com/
SEE NOTES from ENTIRE MESSAGE below the VIDEO.

How Both Faithful & Effective Churches Assume the Gospel

Notes from message (headings added by me to facilitate easier reading)

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? Forwhen one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

  1. All ministers, regardless of gifting or placement and assignment are first and foremost servants of God– Paul and Apollos were each given a place by God, and what we can infer from the text, you’ve got men who are given different abilities, asked to do different things by God. So, here’s what I have in common with any heralder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re placed in different locations, I’ve been placed in Dallas, Texas by God, for the glory of God, and you’re from all over and you’ve been placed where you’ve been placed, and you’ve probably got different giftings of where we excel and where we don’t, and what I know about all of us is what we all have in common is this: We are all servants of the most high God! And that we are to regard ourselves as such… I look for a brother who knows he’s the servant, not the master. I get nervous when a guy operates in such a way that he puts out the vibe that God should be grateful that God grabbed him. There’s something about guys who lie low and exult Christ. I try desperately to be one of those men. We are all but servants. There aren’t positional servants in the kingdom. We are all with the gifts He has given us, with the assignments He has given us, faithfully serving God (from C.S. Lewis).
  2. All ministers are tools in the hands of God. What I know about preaching and teaching is that I can study and prep, and  wordsmith and worry, and stand up and proclaim and ultimately I can motivate, but only God can transform. I learned early on that I can say, „We need to do this guys. Here’s what the word says, let’s go.” And people would go out into the foyer and they’d sign up , and then 8 weeks later there would be like 10% of the people still left, involved.  I can motivate, but I cannot transform hearts. Only God can transform hearts. We are all but tools in the hands of God. Here’s why that’s important. You and I, brothers and sister, we are simply tools in the Father’s hands, we’re instruments in His hands. So, in the same way that a saw cannot receive the glory for the way the carpenter used it, so the minister does not deserve the credit for how God ultimately used him. I marvel at how God uses men and of how God uses any of us. I mean, that we would be conduits through which the power of God moves, that should blow your mind. Marvel at God’s use of a man and the God in him. We’re all but tools in God’s hands. 
  3. All ministers are fellow workers with one another, given assignments by God that are distinct, for the purposes of God. We all serve the same purpose. He calls us fellow workersWe’ve got a hard time with that in modern day evangelicalism, a lot of us. That we are fellow workers with one another, all working towards the same goal, all moving in the same direction. I wanna constantly lay before the Village Church (Matt’s church), and I wanna lay it before you: When it’s all said and done there’s one name that’s gonna be praised. Just one. I don’t get my day in glory, my reward is to be in the presence of my King with my crowns cast down, only looking up when he allows me. (22:00)

What is that purpose?

Ephesians 4:11-12 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, theevangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ Now we’re turning our attention away from the man and we’re turning it towards the church. In this next section of Scripture we’re going to talk about faithfulness vs. fruitfulness.

(A) Laying a foundation – Look at 1 Corinthians 3 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid afoundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

Where does ministry begin? It is laid on the foundation of Christ Jesus. So, all ministry that is faithful and eventually will be fruitful finds its roots in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And where there is ministry built on something other than that, you’re not dealing with Christian ministry. So, any conversation about fruitfulness is null and void because masses of people coming together to do good, under the banner of „church”, that have not been built on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not fruitful ministry at all, because it fails to be ministry at all. The only foundation that can be laid is the foundation of Jesus Christ, based on the life, death, and resurrection or you cease to be a Christian ministry and you become the rotary club.

I also love church planting, I give it a ton of my energy and time it. There’s something about robust, biblically saturated, Gospel passionate, Jesus centered churches, that the idea of those planting up and springing up in any place really stirs my affections for Jesus Christ. It churns in me a kind of excitement for the Lord’s ability to , and here’s what I know about most church plants: They’re small. But the laying of foundations is fruitful. So, if we follow the apostle Paul’s ministry and we watch him kind of establish these kind of bulkheads of Christian testimony throughout the ancient world, outside of Ephesus and maybe one other, you’re not talking about the megas. You’re just talking about a group of men and women, faithfully loving the Lord, faithfully living out the Gospel and this laying of the foundation is fruitful ministry.

B. Building upon the foundation – But, it doesn’t just stop there. At this point, if you’re laying a foundation on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are actively involved in fruitful ministry. You can throw out all the top 100 growing list, you can throw out all that nonsense and you can just rest in the Bible’s weight, that says, „You’re being faithful.” You’re being faithful, regardless of numerics. This is faithful work. But, the laying of the foundation doesn’t just stop there, so let’s look at what’s next in verse 12: Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—Now, he just threw out a lot of ingredients. Now, he’s got the foundation laid- Church is planted on the foundation of the Gospel, Christ was preached. Christ’s life, His imputed righteousness. His death, His atoning death, His wrath absorbing death on the cross, and His resurrection- price paid in full. It’s preached- people respond. You’ve got now your foundation, now you’re off and running. That was all faithful and fruitful ministry. Now we’re building upon that foundation, and you’ve got several different materials listed here: gold, silver, and precious stones, and then you have your wood, hay, and straw.

I think the best way to understand gold, silver and precious stones is to understand the wood, hay, and straw. These words seem to imply erroneous or imperfect doctrines that won’t stand the test of time, and which tend to lead to evil practices. I am basing that out of Galatians 4:9, where it says, But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians is one of those churches where a foundation was laid and they began to drift here into erroneous and imperfect doctrine, into a bit of foolishness. In fact, he repeatedly calls them that- who has bewitched you, fooled you- are you so foolish as to….? And he’s saying they went back to an imperfect doctrine, an incomplete doctrine that actually began to lead them into sinfulness and licentiousness, if not legalism altogether.

And again, in Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Again, you’ve got empty philosophy and vain deceit. So, you can build on the foundation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.You can build with imperfect doctrines which lead people into licentiousness or legalism. Or you can build with what we see above in the gold, silver, and precious stones, you can preach the full counsel of God, where you’re reliant upon the holy spirit of God, and the word of God to transform and mold the hearts of our people towards holiness and towards Christlikeness. And so, here, you have in this second section, you now have the ability to be either possibly fruitful building upon that foundation, or possibly unfruitful, building upon that foundation. And yet, in the end, numerics don’t tell the story. Rather, maturity does.

You see how it fits together, as he begins to rebuke them for their immaturity, and how they’re viewing personalities and what he’s trying to teach them here is: There’s a way to build on the foundation that was laid, and the way to build on that is with complete doctrine, with an understanding of who God is, that transforms the life and makes us more and more, and more like Christ. So, here you can have possibly faithful and possibly fruitful … but, I don’t think you can have unfaithful, but fruitful. Where it’s unfaithful, it’s not fruitful. It’s apples stapled to a tree.

C. The day of the Lord is coming when what has been built will be revealed – Now look at verse 13. As a pastor, as a man of God, this has me throw myself on the grace of God and on His word, and allows me, if I’m gonna look foolish for planting my feet on the word of God, let me look foolish because of what this next verse says. 1 Corinthians 13:13 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. What this means is I am currently laboring at the Village Church. That is where God has planted me, that is where God has put me. So, I am building on a foundation that I did not lay, I did not plant that church, I was not the one who established it, Christ was clearly preached there early on, I got to come in and build upon that foundation. And I am trying, with all the grace of God to build with gold, silver and precious stones, and the day of the Lord is coming when what has been built will be revealed. Was it built by me, for me, about me? Or did I build with what is true, right, and good?

And since this day is coming, I tend to be able to once again, since I know I have co-laborers out there that I’m gonna disagree with philosophically, and at some level theologically, and I have this promise coming- that I’m gonna rest and just let the Lord judge my brothers, I do not feel the need to police evangelicalism. Now, do I feel a desperate need to protect the men and women that God has given me, to care over as an under-shepherd of Christ? Absolutely. But, am I out sniping evangelicalism? No. I have no need to. God will judge, God will burn it up. We’ll find out. He’s not like, „What am I gonna do about this guy? Will you start a blog for me? Hey, will you harass him via twitter? Take that you heretic.” You cannot believe that that’s what’s playing out in the heavenlies. That day will determine… In Dallas, we have several churches with which I would have strong differences with, in regards to theology, philosophy, and practice. All of them. I would just go crazy. Now, can I tell you what blows my mind? Three of the guys on my staff, I have already prepped my assistant for the emails that are coming. Three of my favorite guys on staff came to know Christ at that church. As a guy who wants to be extremely precise doctrinally that jacks with my head. I don’t like it. Now, how evil does that make me? I mean, doesn’t that make me the older brother in Luke 15?  It does not make me pure before the… „What, you saved this guy there? No sir!” Does that make me counseling God almighty? I’m gonna let God reveal, I’m gonna let God do His work. The day is coming, I just need to keep my hand to the plow and be faithful to my king. The day is coming… the day is coming.

Now, when it comes to this idea of faithful vs. fruitful, here’s what’s really being asked. More so than ever before, everything’s in front of us. So from twitter to the amount of conferences, really, at any given time, anywhere in the world you can go to a conference on anything you want. It doesn’t even matter how niche you wanna be in theology and practice, you can find a conference there. And what we parade out in front of you more often than not is not a guy that pastors a church of 120, and say, „Look, this is what church looks like.” No, here’s what I’ve spoken at other large conferences, „Let me tell you why I’m here because we went from 160 to 10,000.” I’m not here because I was faithful, because if I would have done the same things and shrank us from 160 to 20, no one would tell me, „Hey Chandler, come teach us how to do that. Come teach us how to be faithful and kill a church.”

Don’t put numeric growth above robust truth 

So what we’re talking about here is numerics. And I think, unfortunately, it’s a caricaturization of two ends of a spectrum that’s unfair to both. And so, let me address the caricature like this: If we’re talking about fruitfulness being sheerly numerics, I cannot biblically define it like that. But, that’s the caricature. So, if we’re talking of simply churches that are based on numerics- let’s call that the fruitful stream- how do they assume the Gospel? I think they assume the Gospel in 2 ways: They put numeric growth above robust truth, in order to see converts. And so, they’re not gonna touch things that are divisive, they’re gonna leave big chunks of Scriptures alone, because those Scriptures will offend people. And so, it’s the belief that you can make Christ cool enough for everyone. And that ain’t happening. You cannot give Jesus such a makeover that everyone goes, „Love that dude.” It’s not ever going to… in fact, the more you try to do that, the more the authority, power, and work of Jesus Christ wanes and you see nothing but shriveled up former life. Jesus doesn’t need a makeover, He needs to be boldly proclaimed. And, you assume the Gospel when you think you have to give the Gospel help.

I also think that another place where this kind of fruitful stream assumes the Gospel is (when) they a lack a plan and process for discipleship. See, they answer the fundamental question wrong: What is the purpose of the church? The purpose of the church is converts. No! The purpose of the church is to make disciples, who have been taught to observe all that He commanded. We already read it. Why did He give teachers, why did He give prophets, and evangelists? Why were these things given in Ephesians 4? For the building up of the body into the fulness of Christ, for the works of the kingdom. That’s what we’re to be about- making disciples. And you assume the Gospel when all the Gospel is is a means of conversion and not a means of sanctification and maturity into the fulness of Christ. You load heavy burdens on people when the Gospel is what saves them, but it relies solely on them to sanctify themselves. Now, the Gospel saves and the Gospel sanctifies. And again, this is a characterization, but, way too many of the fruitful stream lacks any process for the evangelism, or shepherding, or care for its members, partners, whatever word we want to use there, in order to grow them into maturity. I had a friend of mine who went to such a church, and they had no pastoral care. They didn’t do funerals, they didn’t do weddings, there was no hospital visits. It was the weekend. This is no real processes for care, no real processes for discipleship and that’s one of the ways.

I’ll save most of my energy for the way the faithful stream assumes the Gospel. The truth is there isn’t a guy in ministry who doesn’t think he is faithful. It’s not like the fruitful guys are saying, „We’re gonna be unfaithful, to see our place grow.” I just don’t really believe that, there’s not a guy in ministry who doesn’t believe he is faithful. Now, in that faithful stream, which I would define as the caricature that all we’re interested in is doctrine and truth. We don’t really care about people, just give me my 5 points and get out of my face. And, if you don’t believe in definitive atonement, you’re probably not a believer. That’s the caricaturization. It’s only doctrine, that’s all it is. There’s no real love for people, it’s just cold, systematic, intellectual assent. That’s one caricaturization.

Lacking  Gospel ambition 

Now, here’s how I believe the faithful stream assumes the Gospel. Here’s something that bothers me. I’m just gonna be straight with you. I find that in many robust theological churches, that there seems to be a lack of Gospel ambition and that there’s a belief that their smallness somehow validates their faithfulness. „You know how faithful I am? We’re running at 80 (people). We were up to 90 and I’m not having it. So, I did 2 years on Leviticus and shrank us back down.” Now you can giggle, but that kind of trash happens all the time. It’s like being small is a trophy. This assumes the Gospel because it lacks the belief  in the Gospel’s ability to penetrate and draw among the masses faithful, obedient converts unto Christ, who grow and are discipled. It lacks even a belief for that. It doesn’t have a market for it. And I can tell you, as a guy whose church grew, had no intention of it growing, I wanted it to grow, had a desire for it to grow. Just unashamedly, I wanted God to save people. I wanted Him to rescue and I wanted Him to do it like I saw Him do it in Ephesus, where it so shook and rearranged the socio economic climate that people rioted. I want that, I still want it for Dallas. When I drive by our Walnut Hill campus and see all those strip clubs, I wonder, what would it be like for the Gospel to fall in such a way that they couldn’t make money anymore? What would it be like for the Gospel to fall in such a way that there weren’t money to be made in the adult bookstores? What would it be like? That’s what happened in Ephesus. I want that! And for guys who lack that Gospel ambition, there are a lot of us who are so theologically precise that can’t dream like that. Well, you know Matt, narrow is the path. Small is the gate. Well, oh yeah, absolutely. But, you can get in a very long single file, you all. And so, I think, brothers in the faithful tribe have a tendency to lack Gospel ambition.

Being unnecessarily harsh 

I think another one in the faithful tribe have a tendency (again this is all caricature) to be unnecessarily harsh. I don’t know where it came from, I tried to track it down, please hear me: There is a wrong way  to be right! There’s a way to be right and doctrinally accurate, that instead of drawing into the beauty of the truth we find in the Scripture, instead, is unnecessarily offensive. Now, the Bible, parts of the Bible, parts of God’s plan for human flourishing is going to offend secular sensibilities. That’s not what I’m talking about. We should never shy away form that type of offense. But, the kind of brazen- offend to offend sakeThat’s just immature, that’s just spiritual immaturity.  It’s not helpful, it’s not helpful in any way, and if you land in the reformed camp, how that can create such brazen violence and arrogance just blows my mind. If there ever should be a doctrine that lays us low is the doctrine that God saved us by His grace alone, through faith alone. If there ever would be one that would have us dealing gently with people, would it not be that when you see brothers, sisters, doctrine and the truth of Scriptures should always be handled with a scalpel and never like a club? Always like a scalpel and never like a club. So much where I landed theologically, that right now I believe is right and good before the Lord, and before God, I believe I could give a resounding defense biblically for almost everywhere I land in regards to doctrine  and what I believe about soteriology and ecclesiology, and all the ‘ologies’. In the end, they were all processes, which means I didn’t get there overnight. Over a period of time, as people lovingly just kind of handed me a book, or opened up the word of God for me, or sent me home to look at a passage, allowed me to wrestle- it was all a process and praise God that He did not put in my life or protected me from so many that I see today: the demand that others join them today, what took them years to arrive upon. We are not to be men and women who are unnecessarily harsh. May we be people of truth. Amen! May we be people of truth. But, there’s a way to do that that’s right, good, loving and compassionate, and there’s a way to do that that shows that you quite don’t understand the Gospel.

Evangelistic laziness

Another way I find the faithful ones assuming the Gospel is there seems to be evangelistic laziness. It’s almost like a functional determinism. That kind of caricature- Well, if God’s gonna save, God’s gonna save. Whatever. Again, it goes back to: Do you really believe that we can be as broken  and as goofy as we are, conduits through which the Holy Spirit of God works, to draw, rescue and save? See, the faithful crowd, I found, so often wants to argue about little niche corners of theology, that they’ve forgotten about the heralding of the Good News to those around them. See, more than I want to be about converting a guy to a particular doctrine that I believe, I want to see a guy come to know and love the Jesus that I so desperately know and love, and then let’s get to work. But, seriously, how many people that would be categorized in this faithful (group) are far more concerned about converting someone to a specific doctrinal persuasion, rather than they are  seeing people come to know and love Jesus Christ in any type of real way.

So whether it’s faithful or fruitful, our tendency is to assume the Gospel, that’s why Paul perpetually preaches the Gospel to people who already know the Gospel. That’s why almost all of Paul’s letters sans 2 Corinthians are going to address the Gospel, teach the Gospel once again to people who already know the Gospel. Have you ever marveled at the fact he is writing a letter to the churches at Ephesus and the first two chapters are nothing but the Gospel? And Romans is nothing but the Gospel. I mean, just writing the Gospel, the Gospel… Before we talk about marriage, before we talk about children, before we talk about church life let’s talk about what Christ has done for you. Because we all have a tendency to drift, we all have a tendency to assume instead of explicitly  make known the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s my appeal. I don’t know how many days you have, I don’t know how many days I have. I’ve pastored long enough to know some of us won’t be here next year. And so, my appeal brothers and sisters is with the days we have left, with the breath we have left, may we proclaim Him and be faithful. And with angst, and with gut wrenching prayer, and belief in the power of the Gospel, we expect and long to see fruit. Fruit in the depth of maturity and fruit in the salvation of those in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our states, and to the ends of the earth. Be faithful, and pray to the God of heaven for more fruit than you can get your mind around. And let’s labor, and scratch, and work, and plead, and beg, and be bothered by it when we don’t see it.

John Piper – On Querying the Biblical Text

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org (photo via julianfreeman.ca)

If the Bible is coherent, then understanding the Bible means grasping how things fit together. Becoming a Biblical theologian means seeing more and more pieces fit together into a glorious mosaic of the divine will. And doing exegesis means querying the text about how its many propositions cohere in the author’s mind.

If we are going to feed our people, we must ever advance in our grasp of biblical truth. And to advance in our grasp of biblical truth we must be troubled by biblical affirmations.

It must bother us that James and Paul don’t seem to jibe. Only when we are troubled and bothered do we think hard. And if we don’t think hard about how biblical affirmations fit together, we will never penetrate to their common root and discover the beauty of unified divine truth. The end result is that our Bible reading will become insipid, we will turn to fascinating „secondary literature,” our sermons will be the lame work of „second-handers,” and the people will go hungry.

„We never think until we have been confronted with a problem,” said John Dewey. He was right. And that is why we will never think hard about biblical truth until we are troubled by its complexity.

Habitually Disturbed

We must form the habit of being systematically disturbed by things that at first glance don’t make sense. Or to put it a different way, we must relentlessly query the text. One of the greatest honors I received while teaching at Bethel was when the teaching assistants in the Bible department gave me a T-shirt which had the initials of Jonathan Edwards on the front and on the back the words: „Asking questions is the key to understanding.”

But there are several strong forces which oppose our relentless and systematic interrogating of biblical texts. One is that it consumes a great deal of time and energy on one small portion of Scripture. We have been schooled [quite erroneously] that there is a direct correlation between reading a lot and gaining insight. But in fact there is no positive correlation at all been quantity of pages read and quality of insight gained. Just the reverse. Except for a few geniuses, insight diminishes as we try to read more and more. Insight or understanding is the product of intensive, headache-producing meditation on two or three verses and how they fit together. This kind of reflection and rumination is provoked by asking questions of the text. And you cannot do it if you hurry. Therefore, we must resist the deceptive urge to carve notches in our bibliographic gun. Take two hours to ask ten questions of Galatians 2:20 and you will gain one hundred times the insight you would have attained by reading 30 pages of the New Testament or any other book. Slow down. Query. Ponder. Chew.

Another reason it is hard to spend hours probing for the roots of coherence is that it is fundamentally unfashionable today to systematize and seek for harmony and unity. This noble quest has fallen on hard times because so much artificial harmony has been discovered by impatient and nervous Bible defenders. But if God’s mind is truly coherent and not confused, then exegesis must aim to see the coherence of biblical revelation and the profound unity of divine truth. Unless we are to dabble forever on the surface of things (content to turn up „tensions” and „difficulties”) then we must resist the atomistic (and basically anti-intellectual) fashions in the contemporary theological establishment. There is far too much debunking of past failures and far too little construction going on.

A third force that opposes the effort to ask the Bible questions is this: Asking questions is the same as posing problems, and we have been discouraged all our lives from finding problems in God’s Holy Book.

Rightfully Respecting God’s Word

It is impossible to respect the Bible too highly, but it is very possible to respect it wrongly. If we do not ask seriously how differing texts fit together, then we are either superhuman (and glance all truth at a glance) or indifferent (and don’t care about seeing more truth). But I don’t see how anyone who is indifferent or superhuman can have a proper respect for the Bible. Therefore reverence for God’s Word demands that we ask questions and pose problems and that we believe there are answers and solutions which will reward our labor with „treasures new and old” (Matt. 13:52).

We must train our people that it is not irreverent to see difficulties in the biblical text and to think hard about how they can be resolved.

I do not accuse my 6-year-old son, Benjamin, of irreverence when he cannot make sense out of a Bible verse and asks me about it. He is just learning to read. But have our abilities to read been perfected? Can any of us at one reading grasp the logic of a paragraph and see how every part relates to all the others and how they all fit together to make a unified point? How much less the thought of an entire epistle, the New Testament, the Bible! If we care about truth, we must relentlessly query the text and form the habit of being bothered by things we read.

Reading for Reverence

This is just the opposite of irreverence. It is what we do if we crave the mind of Christ. Nothing sends us deeper into the counsels of God than seeing apparent theological discrepancies in the Bible and pondering them day and night until they fit into an emerging system of unified truth. For example, a year ago I struggled for days with how Paul could say on the one hand, „Have no anxiety about anything” (Phil. 4:6), but on the other hand say (with apparent impunity) that his „anxiety for all the churches” was a daily pressure on him (2 Cor. 11:28). How could he say, „Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16), and „Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15)? How would he say to give thanks „always and for everything” (Eph. 5:20) and then admit, „I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Rom. (9:2)?

More recently I have asked, What does it mean that Jesus said in Matthew 5:39 to turn the other cheek when struck, but said in Matthew 10:23, „When they persecute you in one town, flee. . .”? When do you flee and when do endure hardship and turn the other cheek? I have also been pondering in what sense it is true that God is „slow to anger” (Ex. 34:6) and in what sense „His wrath is quickly kindled” (Ps. 2:11).

There are hundreds and hundreds of such seeming discrepancies in the Holy Scripture, and we dishonor the text not to see them and think them through. God is not a God of confusion. His tongue is not forked. There are profound and wonderful resolutions to all problems. He has called us to an eternity of discovery so that every morning for ages to come we might break forth in new songs of praise.

In 2 Timothy 2:7 Paul gave us a command and a promise. He commanded, „Think over what I say.” And he promised, „God will give you understanding in everything.”

How do the command and promise fit together? The little „for” (gar) gives the answer. „Think . . . because God will reward you with understanding.”

The promise is not made to all. It is made to those who think. And we do not think until we are confronted with a problem. Therefore, brothers, let us query the text.

Voddie Baucham – Last sentence in the Book of Romans

Romans – 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– 27 to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

As we come to the end of this letter, Paul does not disappoint. It has been said that “orthodoxy always leads to orthopraxy”. In other words „right believing” will lead us to our right behaving, eventually. If we don’t believe rightly, we won’t behave rightly. But, it is also true, perhaps even more true that orthodoxy always leads to doxology. Doxology, or praise. When you know God rightly, you cannot help but worship God. And, it is quite ironic that there are those in our day, and those in our culture, who pit our knowledge of God, over and against our worship of God, as though we have to choose one or the other. As if we can only be heady Christians who know a lot about God, or we can be spiritual Christians who experience a lot with God. That is a false dichotomy. Nothing could be further from the truth. You cannot fully worship what you do not know.

You will never worship God rightly, unless you know God rightly. And here’s the beauty of it, because the knowledge of God is inexhaustible, we have an eternity growing in our appreciation for and worship of the almighty God. You cannot exhaust the knowledge of God. You cannot exhaust an understanding of what He’s done , and who He is, and because of that, you cannot and will not stop growing in your doxology, your praise. As Paul has walked through this, his magnum opus, the Book of Romans, and as he has dug more deeply than anywhere else in the New Testament, into this doctrine of our justification, it is only fitting, that as he comes to the end, he leaves us with this parting statement. If I had to give a title to this ending statement, it would be „Praise God for the Gospel!” That’s basically where Paul finishes.

I couldn’t help it, as I read through this passage and worked through this passage, through all of the implications here in this passage, I couldn’t help but just see the stark contrast between what we understand as worship and what Paul does here as worship. Because again, culturally, we’ve come to this place, where we believe that worship is purely experiential. That worship is about our experience with God. It is not about knowing God rightly. It is about encountering God passionately. If you read the lyrics of much of what we call worship music today, what you will find is that it is by and large not about God at all, but about our experience of God. About the way God makes me feel about me.

And so, when we gather, our desire is to bring ourselves to this cathartic experience of overwhelming ecstasy in how much God loves me. And how central I am in the grand scheme of things. We gather to make much of „me”, when what Paul does here, at the end of the Book of Romans is not to pause and talk about his experience, with these great truths. But, basically, to pause and say, „Before I go, let me remind you to praise God for the Gospel.”

In the text above, basically what you can do- there’s a bunch of propositional phrases and subordinate clauses in that sentence, and basically, what you can do is take all those propositions and all those clauses away and here’s what you get: „Now to Him”. Stop there. Cause, who is qualifying the Him? Stope there, and then it picks up in verse 27. You have another phrase there: To the only wise God. Go right after that, because that goes to describing this „Him”. So, if you put a line right after „the only wise God”, and you put a line right after „Him”, then, you’ve just connected those two. Here’s what you find: Now to Him be glory, forever more, through Jesus Christ. Amen. That’s his statement. The rest of this sort of explains the why and how there’s glory to Him, through Jesus Christ forevermore.

So, as we plow through this statement, let’s not actually lose sight of what Paul is doing here: Praising God for the Gospel. First of all, because the Gospel magnifies God. „Now to Him,” God is being magnified here. „To Him be glory, forever more, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Why through Jesus Christ? Because the gospel is the good news about what God has done in Jesus Christ. And that magnifies God. The Gospel magnifies God. That is why we worship God, that is why we thank God for the Gospel. That is why understanding the Gospel leads you to the right worship of God.

What is the Gospel?

Notice, first of all what Paul says here about God. He says that God is able, he goes on to say that God is eternal. Then, if you go down and look at verse 26, the last part of that, „according to the command of the eternal God.” So, God’s able, God’s eternal. He also says that God is singular, and that God is wise. So we see here a picture of God as able, as eternal, as singular, and as wise. So, God is magnified here, even in the words that Paul chooses to use to describe God. So, as he comes to this point of praise, as he comes to this point of worship, what he says is: If you’ve been listening and following all the way through the book of Romans, I’ve pointed you to God, by explaining to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I’ve explained to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we’ve seen that God is able. We’ve seen that God is eternal, so this is not an afterthought. We’ve seen that God is singular, there is no other God. And we see that God is wise. You couldn’t have figured this out on your own. But, beyond that, the Gospel itself magnifies this powerful, eternal, singular, wise God. If we understand the Gospel rightly.

What the Gospel is not

For the most part, we do not understand the Gospel rightly. We basically make 4 mistakes when we talk about the Gospel. And, this is what you and I encounter, when people say ‘the Gospel’. And why is it important here? Because Paul says „Praise God for the Gospel”. And, f you don’t know what the Gospel is, you are praising God for the law, and you are praising God for yourself. May it never be! Here is what the Gospel is not:

  1. Mistake #1 – We see the Gospel as (just) the plan of salvation – You ask the average Christian in our culture what is the Gospel, and they will not give you an announcement about what God has done, they will give you steps by which you get saved. Here is the danger in that: When you see the Gospel just as the plan of salvation, your understanding of the Gospel is truncated. So you are saved by the Gospel, but you are sanctified and you are kept by something other than the Gospel, if the Gospel is just the plan of salvation. Look at verse 25 again „now to Him who is able to strengthen you, according to my Gospel..” He doesn’t say „save you” according to my Gospel. If you read the Book, you know that God is able to save you according to His Gospel. It is the power of God to save.. (Romans 1:16). But, he says here that God is able to strengthen you, or to establish you. God is able to keep you, to make you firm, by the Gospel. The Gospel is not just how we get in, the Gospel is not just the plan of salvation. That’s a truncated view and it robs God of worship. Because, when we view the Gospel as just the means by which we are saved, and not the means by which we are also sanctified and kept, then we believe God does the initial work, and we do the rest. That’s a problem. (14)
  2. Mistake #2 – We see the Gospel as (just) the great commandment- there are those who boil down the Gospel, basically to the commandment, „Love God, love people.” There are thousands of churches out there whose statement is „We’re so and so church” and we’re about loving God and loving people. And, what it’s supposed to be is this sort of encapsulation of the Gospel. There’s a slight problem. That’s actually not an encapsulation of the Gospel. It’s an encapsulation of the law. That „Love God, love people,” it actually comes from Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39, where they ask: Jesus, what’s the greatest commandment, and they want to see which scholar He’s going to align Himself with. „What’s the greatest commandment?” There, Jesus says, „The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” By the way, that’s a summary of the first 4 commandments. So, „Jesus, what’s your greatest commandment?” His response, „I think 1 through 4.” And then He says, „And the second one is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the summary of commandments 5-10. „Jesus, what’s the greatest commandment?” „I’m gonna have to say 1-4, followed closely by 5-10.” ‘Love God, and love your neighbor is not a summary of the Gospel, it’s a summary of the law. It is bondage, but, it is only the Gospel that frees us to love God, and love our neighbor. It’s the Gospel that empowers us to do that. If you replace the Gospel with ‘Love God, love people,’ you have actually replaced the Gospel with the law. There is no salvation in the law. By the works of salvation shall no flesh be justified. That’s not the Gospel.
  3. Mistake #3 – We see the Gospel (just) as the great commission. In other words, when Jesus says to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe whatsoever I commanded you (Matthew 28:16-20) there are those who say, „That’s the Gospel”. That ‘the whatsoever I commanded you’, that’s the Gospel. That is another instance of replacing Gospel with law, by telling everybody to go out and obey everything that Jesus commanded. The Gospel is not all the moral teachings of Jesus.
  4. Mistake #4 – We see the Gospel (just) as personal testimony- There are many evangelism training methods, that teach you to go out and share the Gospel with people. And, what they mean by that is ‘share your story’ with people. You know how ironic that is? The Gospel is Christ’s story. (18)

Praise God for the Gospel!

by needanewstartcom

The Gospel magnifies God

The Gospel is an announcement, it is news. It is God centered news. It is an announcement of what God has done. It is Christ centered news. It is an announcement of what God has done in Christ. It is cross centered news. It is an announcement of what God has done, in Christ, through the cross, to save sinners. The Gospel is grace centered news. The Gospel is an announcement of what God has done, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, through His cross, through His active and passive obedience, laying down His life, on the behalf of sinners, who are saved by the sheer grace of God, as that death is applied to them. And the Gospel is eschatological news. It is news for the now, and the hereafter. It has implications for every aspect of our lives.

  1. Implications for how we love God, and love people.
  2. Implications for how we carry out the Great Commission.
  3. Implications for how we understand, let alone tell our story
  4. Implications for all those things

The Gospel is an announcement of news. You are not the Gospel. The Gospel is not your story. The Gospel is not something that happens in you. The Gospel is something that has happened outside of you.

The Gospel displays God’s power

Not only does the Gospel magnify God, but the Gospel displays God’s power. Verse 25 „Now to Him who is able”. God is able- you could spend the rest of your life unpacking that one, right there. But, what has Paul been writing about? By the way, there is in this last sentence, a recapitulation of the major points that Paul has been making. It’s glorious when you see it. Paul goes bak here- „Now to Him, who is able to strengthen you..” In Ephesians 3, there is a doxology in the middle of the letter, that sounds just like this. Ephesians 3:20-21 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Jude 1:24 24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. And it goes back to this in Romans 1:4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  and Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 

This is not just our justification. You go to Romans 8 and it’s the whole golden thread. This Gospel is not just how God gets us justified, but it’s how He gets us adopted, and sanctified, and glorified. All of it, right there in that chapter. And it is the Gospel, by which that is accomplished. In Romans 1:11 Paul says, „ I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.” What is the spiritual gift to strengthen them? The Gospel. The Gospel displays the power of God.

We see the power of God here. The power to save us, the power to strengthen and sanctify us, and the power to secure us. Paul says, „Praise God for the Gospel, because the Gospel doesn’t just magnify God, but it displays His power. God’s power saves. God’s power strengthens. God’s power keeps. Isn’t it interesting that here in this doxology, Paul doesn’t say, „Now, in light of what I have given you, hold on tight and work real hard. By the way, he’s not against holding on tight, and he’s not against working real hard. But, you have to understand that your holding on tight, and your working real hard is not what keeps you. It is a byproduct of the only thing that keeps you, which is the Gospel. (29)

The Gospel unfolds God’s providence

„according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but now has been disclosed through the prophetic writings, and has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith. What does he recap here? Salvation history. Paul, the Jew, the Benjamite, was anticipating the fulfillment of of the promises that God made to his forefather Abraham, and is now seeing the conversion of the Gentile world, the very fulfillment of the promises that he’s longing for, and beyond that, he gets to walk the ground and watch it happen first hand. So, when he says, „Praise God for the Gospel, he cannot help but recount salvation history, and what it is that God has done. We see this also throughout the letter, that which is revealed or manifested. That goes back to 1:17 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith, and 3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. Paul’s pointing back to it, here in his doxology. „Praise God!” But, not just praise God because I feel warm and fuzzy about God right now. Praise God because of the things I told you earlier. Praise God because of what I said in chapters 1,2,3,4,5. Praise God for all of these things I have just unfolded for you. Praise God for that which was present even in the writings of the prophets, but is only now being fully understood. Praise God for His timing in His bringing these things about in His fullness of time. Romans 1:2  the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Again, Paul is not just praising God because he’s finished writing, he’s praising God and he’s pointing back to what he’s written, much of it in the first chapter. Again, this is a bookend. WE PREACH THE GOSPEL, and THAT’S WHAT MAKES THEM OBEDIENT SONS OF GOD, because it unfolds God’s providence before us. How can you hear the Gospel and not pause in awe of the unfolding providence of God?

John Piper – Lust is as Powerful as Drunkenness

photo via charleston.thedigitel.com

From SoundCloud Ask Pastor John:

Pastor John, in a previous podcast, you expressed how important deep and rich theology is in the fight against porn addiction and lust. (That was the theme in podcast #18), and I want to revisit this and look more closely at how Christian men can serve each other. What would you say to a man, who has friends committed to helping him win, in the battle against lust and porn addiction?

Piper:

I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about Paul’s text in 1 Corinthians 9, where it says he pummels his own body. The word is literally ‘gives his body a black eye’. He says, „I don’t box beating the air, in other words, I know where to land my punches. And he’s talking about the sins in his life that need to be punched out, that need to be put to death. And so, he’s talking about a kind of self denial, and a kind of self opposition, that stands up and pokes himself, and I think he’s just extending Jesus’s words, where he says, „If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.” Well, that’s a pretty good punch, you know, to the eye, taking your eye out. And, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Now, we know that’s not meant to be literal, because he says, „If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out. Well, you’ve got your left eye left over, and you can see the naked woman just as well with your left eye, as your right eye. So, we know that the literal tearing out of the right eye wouldn’t solve the problem. He means, ‘Be as vigilant and as forceful in your opposition of sin as you need to be, in order to kill it in your life.

Noe, here’s my new wondering. Why, why does lust, with seeing- I am thinking mainly men, but not just men.. Why does seeing have such a force, to draw us to click on pornography, or to linger over some bathing suit issue of Sports Illustrated, or to linger over some ad for a movie. What is it about us? And, as I’ve tried to analyze my own body, over the years, I’ve got this phrase, that I use: psychoerotic euphoria. I made that up. Psychoerotic euphoria. What I mean is, I don’t know what it is, or where it is, somewhere localized in the body- it can get localized, but it isn’t localized usually.

But, it’s just like power, in your body, that makes you so pleased by the erotic, by the visual, that you are moving toward it visually with such force, that it starts to nullify moral conviction, and puts you out of touch with all the arguments you had before to be pure, and moves you into behavior that, then, later you are going to disapprove of. What in the world is that like? And my answer is: It’s like drunkenness.

If you go into a bar, supposing, I’m just making this up. Suppose you go to a bar with a buddy, „We’re gonna witness for Jesus tonight,” at the bar. And you’re just sitting there, and this guy that you’re with starts drinking. Then he drinks too much and he gets drunk. And you say, „Well, this is obviously not working, we’ll never win anybody for Jesus. We just disobeyed Jesus by getting drunk, so we’re gonna go out of here,” and he grabs his arm, and, „We’re leaving.” And he’s the one who drove tonight. And so, he wants to drive, and go down and watch a movie downtown, while he’s drunk. And you say, „You’re not driving, I’m not gonna let you drive. I’m driving, I’m gonna drive this car. You bend his arm behind his back and throw him in the back seat, and grab his key, and since he’s your friend, he doesn’t hit you. And you drive him home and you throw him in bed. That’s a lot of manhandling, for a drunken guy. Is that right? Should we do that? And, I think most people would say, „Yeah! Yeah, you should do that. I mean, he was drunk, he was gonna kill himself.”

And, my question is: Is there something like that, that we should do for each other? If this psychoerotic euphoria is as powerful as drunkenness, and I think it is, do we need people in our lives to break our arm? Not just… Paul says, „I pummel my own body..” I’m saying, „You should pummel me.” You know, we often talk about accountability relationships. And a lot of people get all bent out of shape about legalism, and „You’re supposed to love Jesus from your heart, and you should not have to be constrained.” Look! If you’re drunk, and you’re about to kill yourself, you better be glad somebody’s in your life, to throw you in the back seat of a car, and later on, when you wake up, you be glad they did. And then, you can pray yourself into some kind of appropriate stance, where you obey freely from your heart.

But, this lust thing is much more like drunkenness, than it is like anything else, and so we may need this kind of personal accountability, where we have some kind of connection, some kind of special number on our cell phone, some way to push a button and say, „Knock me out, if you have to, in the next half hour, because I’m about to lose it because of this psychoerotic euphoria, that’s come over me like drunkenness. So, I’m just throwing that out there to guys. I’m saying: Compare it in your life, analyze your own soul, to see whether the sheer physical, erotic, psycho nature of this power is enough like drunkenness, where you would put a thing in your life like „drive this home”.

Yeah, I can see how this would apply to a brother, stumbling in sin in our presence, so much of pornography and lust however, is a private struggle in the darkness of isolation. How does this principle work out there?

Piper:I’m saying, when Hebrews 3:13 says, „Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief.” You would extend that out and say, „Perhaps, throw one another in a cold shower, every now and then, so that there won’t be an acted out heart of an inebriated psychoerotic drunkenness in a person’s life. If a guy is fighting a losing battle, and most of the guys, or gals, know who they are. „I know I’m supposed to fight this, I’m supposed to win this, but, I’m regularly losing this battle.” If they know that, they need to say that to their small group. And then, one idea would be, „I’m gonna put your number at the top of my favorites on my iPhone. It will take one punch, and I want you to give my number a special ringer on your phone.” And, the only time he ever hits that number is when he needs me to intervene. And so, you get on the phone, and you say, „Stand up, go outside in the snow.” Or, I’m coming over right now.” You just have it worked out, just the way you would if he were an alcoholic, and he would say, „You know, I’m just moving towards this bottle on my wall. I don’t know what it is. I want you to come smash my bottle for me.” I mean, it’s that weird,

Why else would Jesus say things like, „Cut your eye out.” I mean, that’s just wild. Oh, if someone says, „Oh, putting a special number on the phone, that’s wild.” Really? (As wild as) Take a screwdriver and poke it in your face? That’s not wild? So, I’m saying, When Hebrew 3:13 says, „But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief.” You would extend that out and say, „Perhaps, throw one another in a cold shower, so that there won’t be an acted out heart of inebriated psychoerotic drunkenness person’s life.

Saved and without works = a refugee in heaven

judgement seat of ChristRomans 8:15-17 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,“Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Chuck Missler: „..if indeed we share in his sufferings” – There is a hint hereI like to alarm people here by saying, „Most Christians, when they get to heaven, will be disappointed.” That gets everybody a little bit uptight, because we’ve all been taught, „Gee, if you’re saved, you’ll reign with Christ.” It doesn’t say that. If you’re saved, you have the opportunity to inherit and be a joint heir .. there’s a rewards issue and that’s a subject of another study.

Paul does a strange thing in 1 Corinthians 9:27-
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave
so that after I have preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

What does Paul mean by that? What’s he afraid of? You read his letters, he’s paranoid, he’s frightened. What’s he frightened of? Losing his salvation? Heavens, no! He wrote the book on eternal security, it’s called Romans 8. What was Paul afraid of? Not losing his salvation. He’s talking about the judgment seat.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. „we must all”, he’s talking about the saved people here, he’s  not talking about the unbelievers, he’s talking about believers here. THERE IS A JUDGMENT SEAT COMING, the first thing after the rapture, I believe. How’s that going to be handled? That’s explained in Paul’s first letter in 1 Corinthians chapter 3- the judgment seat of Christ, sometimes called the BEMA Judgment seat.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Gold, silver and precious stones are inflammable, and they will endure. Wood, hay, straw is flammable and will be consumed. Notice that the work is being judged here, not the man. It will be revealed by fire, this is not talking about the fire of hell, it’s a medium here to evaluate the works. Then it goes on to explain that if what has been built survives, he shall receive a reward. I suspect they will be all over the map, little ones, big ones, there’s gonna be all kinds, there’s 5 crowns. If when burned the builder will suffer loss, it will be just like a refugee, it’s like you’ve been in one of these hurricanes, your house is gone, but you’re alive, but that’s all. You’re saved. Don’t confuse this judgment with having anything to do with your salvation. It has to do with your rewards.

Sexual sin in the church

Abandoned Desert Church

Today on Desiring God, they are featuring an article written by Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg, who is a speaker, author, and counselor specializing in the area of sexual sin in the church. He is the director of Stone Gate Resources and the author of False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction (1997) and Undefiled: Redemption From Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships (2009). He has been married to his wife Rosemary for 43 years, and they have two adult sons.

Dr. Schaumburg speaks from his decades of experience in counseling sexual sin within churches. Please read the entire article here at Desiring God – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/sexual-sin-is-a-corporate-affair

Two other great links from Desiring God on this subject here:

Dr. Schaumburg:

When we take the gospel seriously we not only correctly understand the nature of sexual immorality, we must become proactive in taking corporate responsibility for the sexual maturity and sexual problems within our local church.

A well-known church received a stern letter in the spring of A.D. 54 when they failed grievously in this understanding and responsibility. As you know, that same letter sent to the Corinthians is written to us.

Imagine opening your email to find this message from a highly respected church leader: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality in your church, and a kind of sexual sin that’s not practiced among unbelievers, a man is cohabitating with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Instead, you should be deeply sorrowful.”

Our response to the existence of sexual sin within the church reveals a lot about our own spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity, as well as those with whom we fellowship.

……….

Privatized spirituality is at the root of privatized sexuality. For the past twenty-two years I have focused on the problems of pornography and adultery within the church in America, and I see sexual sin from a unique perspective. Numerous indicators tell us that it is in our midst. I also know for a fact that there is a kind of sexual sin not tolerated by society tolerated in our churches.

No Excuses

Typically, sexual sin doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve seen it hidden for 5, 10, or 20 years, and even longer. Nobody suddenly falls into a one-night stand or starts looking at pornography in adulthood. There is longevity both in the process of falling into sexual sin, and then you can have years in which the sin is kept a secret from everyone. I would suggest that the first assessment needs to be both personal and corporate by asking ourselves the question: “What have we been doing personally and corporately to address sexual sin in the life of our church?”

Ignorance of the problem because it is hidden from view is no excuse.

We need to ask the question again and again. “How could such a thing happen in the first place?” And here’s the caution: don’t limit your understanding to commonly accepted explanations. Don’t just blame the sexual culture or the easy access through digital devices, nor someone’s sexually promiscuous past. Yes, we live in a different world technologically, but Corinth had all three of those explanations. Wanton sexuality was common. There was easy accessibility to prostitutes in the temple. Sexual immorality was a part of their previous non-Christian lifestyle. I would strongly suggest that there is more to understanding the cause of sexual sin among Christians. And it has to do with all of us.

Sexual sin is not just the problem of the sinner, but of the whole church. Whatever it might say of the guilty one’s faith, it says just as much of the church’s faithfulness. Now we may want to blame sexually disinterested wives and then say, “Men are sexually hardwired.” The problem of sexual dissatisfaction in Christian marriages is important, but it is related to the bigger problem of spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity

The Implications

The implications on the life of the church are huge, for we are responsible for one another spiritually and sexually. We correctly teach, and expect, that the marriage bed be “undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). God designed responsibility has another level that is often neglected. Paul teaches and exhorts couples not to be sexually indifferent. “The husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and likewise the wife to her husband” (see 1 Corinthians 7:3ff). I would suggest that we must address sexual indifference because it directly relates to being spiritually, relationally, and sexually mature.

While sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife is private, sexual immorality and adultery, while done in secret, is a corporate affair. The arrogance of the Corinthians was a huge factor in the existence of sexual sin in their church. They simply didn’t address the problem. The initial appropriate corporate response to sexual sin is to “mourn,” then take action (verse 5:2). When we think of ourselves first, we are less likely to be proactive in dealing with hidden sexual sin. Once it is exposed, typically we overreact.

Accountable

Here’s one of the most important points I have come to learn. The hiddenness of sexual sin does not absolve us of corporate accountability for the sexual sin in our churches.

I believe we are corporately responsible for one another’s spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).

We have a responsibility to oversee one another in spiritual matters. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12–13).

And we have a responsibility to oversee one another in relational matters. “See to it . . . that no one is sexually immoral” (Hebrews 12:15–16).

That’s the bottom line: we’re in this together. The battle against sexual sin and lust is a battle charge given to the whole church community. The writer of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul will never let us abstract sexual sin in the life of one member from the overall health of the local church. We expose sexual sin for what it is, humbly deal with sexual sin when and where it appears, and together shine the light of God’s truth and expose sexual sin, and rejoice in sexual health and wholeness.

READ THE ENTIRE POST HERE – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/sexual-sin-is-a-corporate-affair

Two Biblical Pictures of God’s Purpose in Sin, Unbelief, and Hardening by John Piper

5PIPER12xx.jpgThis is a sermon by John Piper entitled

Did Israel stumble in order that they might fall? 

Romans 11:11–16

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Before we are done I want to talk about 1) how to make Israel jealous of the fact that the people of Christ are inheriting the promises of Abraham, and 2) how the picture of God’s sovereignty in Romans 11 helps you trust in his sometimes very roundabout purposes.

Who Is „They” in the Question: „Did They Stumble in Order That They Might Fall?”

But first let’s look closely at a couple verses: Who is „they” in verse 11? „So I ask, didthey stumble in order that they might fall?” To see who it is, we read the preceding verses:

Romans 11:7-10

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. [That’s a reference to Israel as a whole corporate, ethnic Israel taken as a people who failed to obtain right-standing with God.] The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened. [So „the rest” are treated by Paul as corporate Israel: they failed to obtain a right-standing with God; in stead they were hardened. This is the „stumbling” that Paul wonders about in verse 11: „Did they stumble in order that they might fall?” This generation of Israel stumbled, except for the elect. The people as a whole are lost.]

[Now verse 8:] As it is written, „God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9 And David says, ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them.” [In other words, let them stumble over their bountiful table, and let them be bent down for generations, burdened by the law until the hardening is removed (11:25)] Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”

In other words, the „they” in verse 11 („Did they stumble in order that they might fall?”) is corporate, ethnic Israel as a whole in a condition of ongoing hardness and lostness from generation to generation. As Romans 9:3 said, They are „accursed and cut off from Christ.”

Did Israel Stumble in Order They Might Fall?

So what’s the answer to Paul’s question in verse 11: „So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall?” He answers: „By no means!” I take this to mean; the purpose of God in the stumbling-the hardening-of Israel is not the final abandonment of Israel as a whole. I think that’s the general idea in verse 11: „Did they stumble in order that they might fall [i.e., for the purpose of falling]?” Answer: the stumbling led to lostness and judgment in some generations of Israel, but the final lostness and judgment on the people as a whole was not the purpose of God. That was not the purpose of hardening in (verse 7).

This becomes really clear as we read on in verses 11 and 12. „So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means!” That’s not the purpose of their stumbling. What was? Paul answers in verse 11b, „Rather through their trespass [=their stumbling] salvation has come to the Gentiles. . .” God’s purpose for Israel’s unbelief and hardness and rejection of the Messiah is that salvation might come to the Gentiles.

Two Biblical Pictures of God’s Purpose in Sin, Unbelief, and Hardening

I know that for many, speaking of God’s purpose in sin and unbelief and hardness is difficult. But keep two biblical pictures in your mind:

1) The story of Joseph’s abuse by his brothers, selling him into Egypt, because the point of the story in Genesis 50:20 is: „You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

2) The crucifixion of Jesus, because this was sinful and planned by God for our salvation (Acts 4:27). God is always doing more than one thing. Hardening yes, but Oh, so much more! By means of the hardening and the stumbling and the trespass, God is guiding history in such a way that the Gentile nations would receive salvation.

Jesus’ Teaching on the Rejection of Israel and the Salvation of the Gentiles

Jesus said this several times in his teaching. For example, after the parable of the wicked tenants, where the owner sends his own Son to get the Father’s fruit, and they kill him, Jesus said the upshot is that God will remove these tenants, and „let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (Matthew 21:41). Which Jesus interprets like this: „Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). In other words, Israel’s trespass, in rejecting the Messiah, happened so that God might give the kingdom the heritage of Israel to those who follow him.

Jesus says it again in Matthew 8:11-12. After seeing the faith of the Gentile Centurion, Jesus says to those who followed him, „I tell you, many will come from east and west [that is, Gentiles] and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom [most of Israel] will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” So Israel is hardened, and the Gentiles are coming into the kingdom. Salvation is coming to the nations.

It happened all through the book of Acts. For example, in Antioch of Pisidia the message of Paul and Barnabas was rejected, and the effect was a powerful mission among the Gentiles: „Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. . . . And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:4648; see 18:6; 28:19-20).

What Paul makes clear in Romans 11, that may not be as clear in these other texts, is that the spill over of the Gospel to Gentiles did not just result from Israel’s trespass -as though this took God off guard, and he had no plan in it. Instead there was divine design behind it. Verse 7: It was God who hardened. And it was the hardening the trespass (v. 11b) that brings salvation to the Gentiles. „Through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles.” This is God’s unfathomable wisdom being worked out in history and shown to us in Romans 11.

The Purpose of the Hardening: Salvation to the Gentiles

You can see the purposefulness of it most clearly perhaps in Romans 11:30-32.

Just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [Israel’s] disobedience [that’s the point of verse 11: „through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles”], 31 so they [Israel] too have now been disobedient in order that [purpose!] by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that [here is unmistakable purpose summing up the whole chapter] he may have mercy on all.

So we ask again, verse 11:

Did they stumble in order that they might fall? [Was that the purpose?] By no means! [What then was the purpose?] Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles.

The divine purpose of Israel’s hardening and trespass and rejection was to save a fullness of the Gentiles. There is a merciful purpose in the hardening. He consigned them to disobedience he hardened them that he may have mercy (v. 32).

The Purpose of the Hardening: Israel’s Jealousy and Salvation

God’s ways appear even more unfathomable at the end of verse 11. Was the purpose of their stumbling final rejection? No. The purpose was so that „through their trespass salvation [might] come to the Gentiles.” And then amazingly he adds, „so as to make Israel jealous.” Purpose upon purpose: The hardening and trespass of Israel are designed to bring salvation to the Gentiles. And Salvation to the Gentiles is designed to make Israel jealous. Why? So that Israel will return and lay claim on her Messiah, and become part of Church of Jesus Christ.

The Purpose of the Hardening: The Return of Christ and Resurrection from the Dead

And if we think that’s the end or climax of God’s design in redemptive history (salvation for Gentiles and Israel), verse 12 stuns us again with a further purpose.

Now if their [Israel’s] trespass means riches for the world [which we have seen it does, by God’s design], and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles [which it does, namely, salvation], how much more will their full inclusion mean!

God’s purpose in the trespass of Israel is salvation for the Gentiles. And his purpose for the salvation of the Gentiles is to make Israel jealous, so that she wakens to the greatness of Christ and embraces her Messiah. And then he adds, the purpose of the salvation of all Israel „their full inclusion” is something even greater.

Something glorious follows the full number of the Gentiles and the full number of Israel. Verse 15 says what it is:

For if their [Israel’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

I take this to mean that when God’s mission to the Gentiles is complete and the hardening of Israel is removed, then the Lord will come and the dead will be raised, and we will enter the kingdom with everlasting joy.

Now this is all very weighty and I am sure seems remote to some of you. So let me move toward a close with two applications for your life.

Implications for the Jealousy of Israel Because of the Salvation of the Gentiles

First, consider the implications that God means to make Israel jealous by our Gentile salvation. Verse 11:

Through [Israel’s] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles,
so as to make Israel jealous.

How can we advance this purpose of God?

I think one of the keys is to understand and make much of the fact that the Church the followers of Jesus Christ is the true Israel and that we Gentile Christians will inherit all the promises of Israel by faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We have to see this and make much of this, if our Jewish friends are ever (by grace) going to feel jealousy that we inherit their promises. The whole spirit of our interaction should be like the Father to the elder brother: Come on in to the party. You belong here!

Paul explains the Gentile inheritance of Israel’s promises like this in Ephesians 2:12-1319:

Remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise . . . 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. . . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

By faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, we have become the true Jews (Romans 2:28-29).Galatians 3:7, „Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (seeGalatians 3:16).

In this we should revel! Bethlehem, „the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)! All the covenants, all the promises belong to us and all who will one day trust the Messiah. All the promises of God are yes in Jesus Christ. And we are in Jesus Christ by faith alone. Know your Jewish inheritance and glory in it. That’s what Paul did in verse 13b – 14, „Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” Let’s join Paul in the enjoyment of Jewish promises. When you are with Jewish people this Christmas, say: „I love the descriptions of Christ in your Bible: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his should and his name and shall be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).”

God’s Roundabout Way to Provide Mercy

And the last application I would draw out is that God is sovereign even in the hardening and trespass and failure of whole peoples, and his aim in the end by his own unsearchable wisdom is mercy. None of us deserves to be saved. But God is gathering a people through faith in Christ from all the peoples of the world. And one day mercy will triumph over the Israel’s hardness, and she will come by faith in Christ to her own inheritance.

It may seem to us a very roundabout way to bring mercy to Israel and the nations. But we are not God. He knows what kind of history must take place to reveal the fullness of his wisdom and his mercy against the backdrop of his justice and wrath.

The effect this should have on us, I believe is to keep us faithful and patient, even when it looks as though unbelief has the upper hand. God is in control-unfathomably, unsearchably. And everything will work for mercy to those who trust the Christ.

A study on the Resurrection of Jesus with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew

12 Historical Facts

(Most Critical Scholars Believe These 12 items)

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

What Do Most Scholars Believe?

In The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel (p. 112), Mike Licona said, „[Gary] Habermas has compiled a list of more than 2,200 sources in French, German, and English in which experts have written on the resurrection from 1975 to the present. He has identified minimal facts that are strongly evidenced and which are regarded as historical by a large majority of scholars, including skeptics. We try to come up with the best historical explanation to account for these facts. This is called the Minimal Facts Approach.”

William Lane Craig (sadly, a non-OSASer) does confirm Habermas recorded 1400 scholars (both skeptics and non-skeptics alike) whom 75% agree the tomb was empty and nearly all agree the original disciples truly believed they had seen Jesus alive from the dead bodily, for a vision wouldn’t convince the disciples of resurrection.

Gary Habermas said (2009) on the John Ankerberg Show, „I just did a count recently of what scholars say. First of all you can count guys on one hand of the 2400 sources since 1975 on the resurrection [in] French, German, English…who think apparent death [is true]. When scholars respond they still cite David Strauss. I think we would all like to have that kind of influence in our writings. His critique has been around almost 200 years.” Habermas was referring to Strauss’s argument that Jesus wouldn’t look much like a risen Messiah to the disciples all battered and bruised.

Habermas and Licona co-authored the award winning book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (2004). Historian Paul Maier said the book’s response to naturalistic explanations for the resurrection „are the most comprehensive treatment of the subject anywhere.” Philosopher J. P. Moreland said the book presented what „may be the most thorough defense of historicity of the resurrection.”

Gary said in a 2009 Ankerberg video, „If we start with the cross approximately 30 AD and call that ground zero, 1 Corinthians 15 checks in at about 55 AD whatever the writer, conservative or not conservative, we have 25 years. In ancient historiography this is incredible in a time when the best known biography of Alexander the Great is that of Plutarchalmost 400 years after Plutarch. When we learn about the early Caesars from Tacitus to Suetonius a ‘good gap’ is 100 years; 25 is incredible [for Jesus]. Paul says, ‘I am passing onto you as first importance that which I also received’ (1 Cor. 15.3).” Paul said, „I make known to you brethren the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Cor. 15.1). Gary says, „This earlier preaching may have taken place 51 AD about 21 years after the cross.” But point of fact, Jesus died not in 30 AD, but 33 AD on April Fool’s Day, Friday, April 1 (Gregorian) which I am sure of just +18 years after the cross.

Gary said, „Almost all contemporary scholarship believes Paul received this material (Gal. 1.18) when he went to Jerusalem about 5 years after the cross. Some put it as early as 3 and as late as 8, but he was converted about 2 years after the cross before he went away for 3 years. Paul spent 15 days with Peter. It is safe to say they talked about more than just the weather. Paul said he preached nothing but Christ crucified.” Gary said about James D.G. Dunn, „In his recent book Remembering Jesus that this passage (1 Cor. 15.3ff) wasn’t just taught. It was already stratified. It was already put in this creedal form within months of the crucifixion.”

Gary said (see video), „I did a count recently of people who have written from about 1990 to-date [2009]. 75% of scholars today say that resurrection or ‘something like it occurred.’ Of that 75%, three to one say it is a bodily appearance. Ted Peters had a book that was published by Eerdmans a few years ago, and 20 out of 20 scholars in his book that he edited said ‘bodily resurrection.’ Higher critical scholars who are in the minority will still usually concede the appearance involved sight and was embodied.”

In the summer of 2012, Gary wrote in the Southeastern Theological Review, „by beginning with a ‘lowest common denominator’ version of the facts. If I am correct in holding that this basis is still enough to settle the most pressing historical issues, then it is indeed a crucial contribution to the discussions. We will return below to some ramifications here. Regarding my references to the ‘vast majority’ or ‘virtually all’ scholars who agree, is it possible to identify these phrases in more precise terms? In some contexts, I have identified these expressions more specifically. At least when referencing the most important historical occurrences, I frequently think in terms of a ninety-something percentile head-count. No doubt, this is one of the reasons why the concept has gained some attention.

„My bibliography is presently at about 3400 sources and counting, published originally in French, German, or English. Initially I read and catalogued the majority of these publications, charting the representative authors, positions, topics, and so on, concentrating on both well-known and obscure writers alike, across the entire skeptical to liberal to conservative spectrum. As the number of sources grew, I moved more broadly into this research, trying to keep up with the current state of resurrection research. He said this again at William Lane Craig’s „On Guard” conference, „1 Corinthians is one of six to eight books all accredited critical scholars accept. You can count the exception on two hands, probably one hand. I have 3400 sources in a bibliography from 1975 to the present (2012). When I say you can count the guys on one hand who disagree with this it is not very many. They believe Paul is the best source, and 1 Corinthians is one of the most dependable sources. They allow 1 Corinthians and Galatians. Both are on the accepted list. Bart Ehrman says they are the authentic Pauline epistle. So does most everybody else. Whatever you write, these two books are allowed [indicating Paul’s genuine belief]. Paul is writing a mere [no more than] 25 years later. That is incredible. We have no other founder of a major world religion who has miracles reported of him within a generation.”

„I endeavored to be more than fair to all the positions. In fact, if anything, I erred in the direction of cataloguing the most radical positions, since this was the only classification where I included even those authors who did not have specialized scholarly credentials or peer-reviewed publications. It is this group, too, that often tends to doubt or deny that Jesus ever existed. Yet, given that I counted many sources in this category, this means that my study is skewed in the skeptical direction far more than if I had stayed strictly with my requirement of citing only those with scholarly credentials. Still, I included these positions quite liberally, even when the wide majority of mainline scholars, ‘liberals’ included, rarely even footnoted this material. Of course, this practice would also skew the numbers who proposed naturalistic theories of the resurrection, to which I particularly gravitated.

„The result of all these years of study is a private manuscript of more than 600 pages that simply does little more than line up the scholarly positions and details on these 140 key questions….

„[Mike] Licona begins by listing my three chief Minimal Facts regarding Jesus’ fate: (1) Jesus died due to the process of crucifixion. (2) Very soon afterwards, Jesus’ disciples had experiences that they believed were appearances of the resurrected Jesus. (3) Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus also experienced what he thought was a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Jesus.”

Antony Flew Became a Theist

Easter 3

Shortly after the 2000 debate on the John Ankerberg show with Gary R. Habermas-leading scholar and foremost expert in world on the resurrection of Jesus (videos)-, the leading and most published atheist scholar of the 20th century Antony Flew renounced his atheism. This page recounts that debate. Antony Flew never did give his life to Christ but became a deist (a theist who rejects a personal God). He passed away April 8, 2010. This only goes to the point not whether theism is true or not but which theism, and very rarely does someone give their life to Christ at such an advanced age.

Flew said the reason he became a theist was because of the complexity of the cell. Whereas, I accepted Jesus was, is and always will be God by realizing all things sum up in Christthrough observing the unsatisfied searching of another person. It would take the equivalent of a hundred thousand encyclopedias to explain all the workings of the cell; or all the books in the entire Library of Congress, or all the knowledge we currently have about the universe.

However one may want to define life, it is hard to fathom how non-life can spontaneously turn into the simplest replicating life, let alone how unconscious processes with no mind, will, emotion, conscience, communion and intuition can produce these qualities and attributes for sentient life to exist. Can two rocks banging together for a very long time generate beings with self-consciousness and able to say, „I think, therefore I am.” If it sounds absurd it probably is. The more you think about it, the more ridiculous it seems! The 4 Step Proof for God and Minimal Facts Approach are my foundation for evidence.

Antony Flew’s more important role as a theist, from my perspective, was that he continued to agree the disciples truly believed they saw Jesus alive from the dead. Even when he was an atheist he believed this. Yet the problem remained for his faith: where was this illusive naturalistic explanation that could account for their eyewitness testimony in various group settings? What I think even I am underestimating is how solidly God intends this proof to be for us to hang our hat on as we who are Christians rise off into the sunset in glorious victory!

Jesus-Appearing-To-Two-Disciples-On-The-Road-To-Emmaus

Eyewitness Accounts (5)

The foremost contemporary philosophical, atheist scholar of the 20th century, Antony Flew agrees with these 12 facts. These facts are established in eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, presented in the books of the NT and disclosed by some of the original twelve disciples (Matthew, Peter and John). Paul was also an eyewitness though not an original disciple. James, the brother of Jesus, also saw Jesus resurrected who wrote the book of James. Jude, also a brother of Jesus, was an eyewitness who wrote the book of Jude. Very close to the eyewitnesses who traveled with Paul were Luke and Mark. There is one verse in Mark that suggests Mark saw Jesus. Mark had close association with Peter and Barnabas. Mark and Luke wrote the other two gospel accounts. At any rate, no scholars doubts Paul’s genuine eyewitness account of the resurrected Jesus so we can begin with Pauline data.

Dates (5)

 

55 A.D., Paul wrote 1 Cor. 15, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (v.3). This is the standard documentation of the historicity of tradition being kept for an ancient text! “If Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith also vain” (v.14)? Paul is declaring sincerely the reality of his beliefs.

51 A.D., Paul preached at Corinth (his 2nd and later a 3rd missionary journey).

35 A.D., Paul met Peter and James in Jerusalem, just a few short years after the death of Jesus: “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days” (Gal. 1.18). Recall Stephen was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin council of Jews for explaining the faith (Acts 7.59). Barnabas brought Paul to see Peter and James.  What did Paul receive from Peter and James? “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15.5,6). Jesus was seen by at least 11 to 12 different groups in different settings. This is all a fairly tight network!

32 A.D., Paul was converted one and half years after the cross and Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

30 A.D. Jesus died on the cross. – Gary Habermas used this date for ease of reference; but, I have talked with him, and he agrees that it is quite possible Jesus died on April 1st, 33 AD, Friday (Gregorian) – April 3rd (Julian). The evidence for this date would be based on these calculations.

.

Given these dates, this was very early move!

Explanation for the Most Important Proof (5)

Antony Flew lost the debate 15 years prior to Habermas. He has had 15 years to find his better arguments. Flew’s best guess for the conversion of Paul seeing Jesus in Person is that it was either “conversion psychosis disorder” (Jack Kent coined this phrase) and the disciples experienced grief hallucination like when a 3rd person may be seen in the house who had passed away.

Habermas explains for Paul to have a Conversion Disorder (and Paul does not disclose a disorder in his words or conduct) we have multiple problems with the facts:

1. There is nothing in the diagnostic literature about hallucinations. It’s short lived and goes away. The DSM-3 and DSM-4 are the standard diagnostic tools for psychiatry.
2. You would also have to have an auditory hallucination (of hearing!).
3. You would have to have a visual hallucination (of sight!).
4. A great psychosis – often called Messiah Complex. Paul, instead, says what he receives is from God, not from himself.

Characteristics of Conversion Disorder – Does this sound like Paul to you? (5)

(Kaplan)

 

1. Up to 5 to 1 it happens to women.
2. It happens mostly to adolescents.
3. It happens mostly to people of low economic status.
4. It happens to people with low IQ.
5. It happens to military persons in battle.
These are the most common circumstances. Not a single one of them applies to Paul. This adds up to 9 items. Moreover, there is not a speck of evidence Paul ever wanted to convert from Judaism to Christianity.

Grief Hallucination (5)

There is no such thing as Grief Hallucination in the DSM-4, the most standard diagnostic tool for psychiatry…nothing. However, hallucinations do occur in someone who is alone. But in the Bible the various settings were of different group sizes seeing the resurrection of Jesus in different places; men and women; indoors and outdoors; walking, sitting, standing; and an empty tomb. Hallucinations do not come out of despair necessarily, but when you believe something so strongly, you make the image. Studies have shown that such hallucinations are talked out of eventually.

Antony Flew had nothing to say other than he felt there was an “enormous shortage of evidence”. In return, Gary cites 129 facts in 45 sources from various persuasions that agree to the 4 key historical facts (see below). Though there is a great many things we don’t know, what we do know militates these two problems cited by Kent and Flew.

Flew depends on self-declaring his stance for one of these two conditions: conversion disorder or grief hallucination. But given the evidence it is not possible. The burden of the proof lies on him. The visuals seen by the disciples Flew is convinced require no external referent. There is no question the disciples believed there was an external referent in Christ Jesus the 2nd Person of the Godhead. If the disciples are not good candidates for hallucinations and Paul is not a victim of conversion disorder, then there really is no other possibility than God’s divine providence at work in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The 4 Facts 

Though some Scholars focus on up to 20 facts in this half a week of the passion of the Christ, there is a benefit to just examining 4 of the 12 facts, from Friday to Sunday: (1) you can refute the major naturalistic theories with them, (2) you have the best evidences for the resurrection here, and (3) this is being done with a very small kernel of data, not requiring a large list of noise.

FACT 1 – Jesus died by crucifixion (1).
FACT 2 – The disciples had experiences which they believed were the appearances of the risen Lord (5).
FACT 3 – The disciples were transformed (6).
FACT 4 – Paul came to Christ (12).

Physically Touched (Fact 2)

Antony Flew tries to argue for his naturalistic theory by saying that Thomas never actually put his hand in the side of Jesus, “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20.27). However, Thomas did reply, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (v.28) as though he may have done so.

Ignatius in 107 A.D., 10 years after the Gospel of John, says that Thomas did touch Jesus. Be that as it may, there is more to say: “They (the women) came to him, and took hold of his feet” (Matt. 28.9). And Jesus said to Mary Magdalene after she realized that he was not the gardener, “Stop clinging to me” (John 20.17).

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1.1-3) – After the gospel of John and onto the epistles, John says in 1 John, he has seen Jesus with his own eyes, heard with his own ears and touched with his own hands. Another instance is when Jesus is before the disciples in Luke, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having” (Luke 24.39). This is a straightforward account as you can get in His resurrection. It is interesting that Luke says “handle me, and see.” To “see” or to “behold” occurs after doing as Jesus said, to “handle” or “thrust into my side”. In John, he seems not to say that Thomas did touch him, for it is implied. How strange it would be that Jesus would say these words, then not to be touched.

Scholarly Agreement (Fact 2)

Gary Habermas has documented over 100 cases of scholarly work done from 1975 to 2000. His finding is that most scholars believe: (1) something really happened, (2) these were real experiences of the disciples, (3) they believe they saw the risen Jesus, and most importantly, (4) scholars believe the disciples really saw something. At the very least, critic after critic accept Paul’s eyewitness accounts.

Spiritual Body is not Spirit (Fact 2)

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15.44). Since all scholars consider what Paul says to be crucial, first and foremost, his thought should be addressed. The Greek for spirit obviously is pneuma. But the word Paul uses here is pneumatikos soma for “spiritual body.” Paul is clearly saying the is some change here. He is not saying Jesus is a spirit, but there is a physical body.

Resurrection of the Dead (Fact 2)

Paul writes to the Philippians about himself as being “an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3.5). The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection which is widely understood. In Acts 23, Paul was taken by the Romans to prevent him from being killed. And Paul responds with saying: Why are you taking me, I believe in the resurrection of the dead? The Pharisees, agreeing with the resurrection of the dead, don’t have a problem with this statement. But the Sadducees don’t like it, because they don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.

“That if possible I may attain the resurrection (ek exanastasis – the out-resurrection) from the dead” (Phil. 3.11). All Greek scholars translate this passage as the out-resurrection, for that which goes in must come out. Paul here is not concerned here with whether he is saved or not to be resurrected with the saints. He is thinking of the „out-resurrection” – the „first resurrection” (Rev. 20.4-6), connoting the „best” one, to be included in the marriage feast (see Matt. 25.1-13)-the reward given to overcomer believers to reign with Christ for 1000 years.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body (soma), that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (soma)” (Phil. 3.20-21). First there is the body, then it is the body plus something else to fashion a glorious body.

Paul: (1) he is a Pharisee who believes in the physical resurrection, (2) believes in a resurrection from out among the dead (and the „first resurrection” reward), and (3) believes Jesus will change his body (soma) to be like His body (soma).

Antony Flew’s response is that a “spiritual body” is not a body at all since it is immaterial as implied by the word “spiritual.” John Ankerberg responds by asking, If the Bible is a spiritual book, does that mean it is not a physical book? However, this is an ontological question, not a behavioral question.

Phil. 3 is a commentary on 1 Cor. 15. Paul is not leaving any doubt this is a physical body glorified. Any talk about Paul thinking this referring to spirits is not to do Paul’s words justice. If Paul is clear in Phil. 3 this is not some wispy spirit, then we can’t have the problem of saying that this is non-physical because he is telling us what he means by it.

Despair Not Without Hope (Fact 2)

If you go through trial or tribulation, and mourn with hope of the resurrection it makes all the difference in the world. Without this hope it makes the trial unbearable. But if you know where you are going, peace abounds because you know you will be with those that are loved by God. Habermas correctly believes that believers who have gone to rest have not received a spiritual body yet. However, he makes the common mistake of thinking that at the moment of death believers are present with the Lord. To wait for resurrection while still in the good side of Hades (Abraham’s bosom) is timeless unawares until we are raised together which does not violate this verse: “We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5.8). Between Hades and resurrection is timelessness: Abraham’s bosom or Paradise below.

There is no need to be present with the Lord without a spiritual body; moreover, you cannot come to the High Priest naked or with improper attire, that is, to say without a spiritual body which we will receive during the last „set of seven” at the consummation of this age. Not even David a man after God’s own heart is in Heaven yet (Acts 2.34). God desires to receive us to the throne (Rev. 7.9) at the first rapture if we are ready (Matt. 24.40-42, Luke 21.36, Rev. 3.10) before the trumpets (8.7ff) of the Tribulation commence, but if we are not ready we will be raptured together at the last trumpet in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15.50-52). And at the last trumpet, it gives us comfort those who are „alive” and „left” (1 Thess. 4.15-17) shall not precede them who are asleep to meet the Lord in the air. Be comforted in knowing we will ascend together and not separated by hundreds and thousands of years: „Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4.18).

A disembodied state is not present with the Lord. It is the condition of the demons who seek to inhabit and possess bodies. They prefer humans than the swine. Not until resurrection of the body of Christ and saints of old are we present with the Lord. Since no time is seen to have occurred when we are resurrected, then Hades is without time. Thus, any spirit communications with loved ones is purely emotional and imaginary as they are currently resting. Any communications with people you know have passed away is purely imaginary and can sometimes be demonic pretenders.

The Contradiction (Fact 2)

Antony Flew’s belief is that the reasons for the resurrection are valid is because the Jews were looking for the Messiah to come, and it would be equally valid for Christians. The guiding principle appears to be the previously held beliefs of the person which determine the truth of the resurrection. However, there remains the contradiction. If Jesus is saying that what He says is for all people on the planet, then He would be wrong, because Antony Flew says it doesn’t apply to himself. Jesus and the Apostles are right or Antony is right. They cannot both be right. Neither can they both be wrong since none can compare to Jesus. Jesus is God or He is not. Either there are no consequences or Antony Flew is going to Hell to be eternally separated the Creator.

Christians were first non-Christians. If what was good for non-believers to become Christians, which Flew agrees is good for them, then it would be good for him too, since he is also a non-believer. Therefore, it is not good for Flew to remain unsaved, but to his benefit to become a Christian by believing in Christ.

Is there Extra-Biblical Evidence Jesus Died on the Cross? (Fact 1) 

There is data coming in from a variety of angles: 1) medical data, 2) critical data, and 3) extra-Biblical data.

1) Medical Data (Fact 1)

The Journal of American Medical Association, and dozens of other medical associations and articles, stated that death on the cross by crucifixion is death by asphyxiation. Studies by volunteers show a cutoff by about 12 minutes. If you are hanging low for any amount of time, you are not faking it. You’re dead.

The spear on the side of Jesus is confirmed in John as well as two sources outside the Bible. One of them is Roman and the is Christian that they did these things. David Strauss says if Jesus walked off the cross then there would be no Christianity because He would not be raised.

2) Critical and 3) Extra Biblical Data (Fact 1) 

Of the 17 extra-Biblical non-Christian sources, 12 mention the cross and details of Jesus’ death within 100 or 150 years from the life of Jesus in all kinds of details.

“Christus (Christ)…suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (Tacitus, Roman Historian, 55-120 A.D.). Tiberius was the governor.

“Christians…worship a man to this day…who…was crucified on that account…[They] worshipped the crucified sage…” (Lucian, famous Greek Satirist). He called him a crucified sophist.

“Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teachings which he had given” (Mara Bar-Serapion, Syrian Writer). He tells his own son to emulate Jesus who gave his life.

“Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die…His disciples…reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive” (Flavius Josephus, 38-97 A.D.). Though it is disputed, the portion about the cross is believed. He also mentions Tiberius Caesar.

“Jesus…was nailed to a tree” (The Gospel of Truth, a Gnostic Source). 

“On the whole world presented there presented a most fearful darkness…” at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus (Thallus, Samaritan).

“And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar..” at the time of Jesus’ death (Phlegon, 80 A.D.). There was a lunar eclipse April 3, 33 AD (Julian).

Paul’s central teaching was the cross of Christ and His resurrection. The Koran was written six and a half centuries later (7th century), so it is really beside the point. It has two passages: one says Jesus died on the cross, the other says he did not. It’s hard to believe the Koran has much to contribute to what happen six and a half centuries earlier. Even the leading atheist scholar in the world considers the idea that Jesus didn’t die on the cross absurd. He said this “swoon theory is rubbish.”

Jesus Seminars and the Empty Tomb (Fact 1) 

John Dominic Crossan, Co-Chairman of the Jesus Seminars, believes Jesus was buried in an unknown plot. Very few of his colleagues agree with him. There is not a bit of evidence Jesus was burred in an unknown plot. If there was Crossan could have presented it by now.

Antony Flew suggests that the matter of the empty tomb is entirely dependent on the gospel accounts. This is incorrect because in Acts are various creedal passages: “And though they found no cause of death [in him], yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took [him] down from the tree, and laid [him] in a TOMB. But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13.28-30).

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that (hoti) Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was (kai hoti) buried, and that (kai hoti) he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that (kai hoti) he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve” (1 Cor. 15.3-5). Paul uses a long sentence called a triple hoti clause, three “and that” clauses. Paul is clearly onside with believing Jesus was raised from the tomb.

What Evidence Shows Jesus’ Tomb was Empty Days Later? (Fact 1) 

1. Early accounts – Acts 13, 1 Cor. 15.
2. The Jewish book – Toledoth Jesu – refers to Jesus; says his body was removed.
3. Matthew
4. Justyn Martyr
5. Tertullian

These Jews admitted the tomb was empty. Undisputedly, Jerusalem was where Christians began to preach a few days later after Jesus died. If Jesus was still in the tomb, wouldn’t there be a problem of his body still being in the tomb if He was not raised? If the body was there still, then the disciples should have preached in Galilee or Rome, not in Jerusalem. The principle of enemy attestation says what your enemy admits to is probably true. They admitted that Jesus was not in the tomb.

If the Gospels are recorded back upon what occurred 50 years prior, then you don’t pick women as witnesses. In the first century, Jewish law said women could not testify in a court of law. Jewish writings said women are liars. “And their words seemed to them as IDLE TALES, and they believed them not” (Luke 24.11). When the women came back from the tomb, the disciples did not believe them that the tomb was empty. They thought the women were spreading gossip and tales.

„A Very Impressive Piece of Testimony,” Antony Flew Concedes (Fact 1)

In The Case for Christ it is recorded the Guinness Book of Records says the most cases ever one by a lawyer in a row was 400. That lawyer said the case for Christ is the best case he has ever seen and surely would have been his 401th won case in a row. Gary Habermas asks Antony, if he finds no fault with the empty tomb (Antony agreed, „it is very difficult to get around”) then what does that say about alleged hallucinations? Hallucination requires the body be in the tomb to account for at least these 11 different group sightings of Jesus. Antony proposes, it is not possible back then to have the kinds of evidences we have today with video cameras and such. Is the determination of the proof of God really founded on video cameras? Flew did not want to give any examples of group hallucinations, but other atheists at least try to find something, but each of them are shot down in The Historical Jesus and The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas.

Even though most scholars believe Jesus died on the cross, some naturalists claim Jesus didn’t die on the cross (1). Evidence against this: (a) Medical evidence, (b) Paul’s testimony, (c) Extra-Biblical evidence, (d) Gospel writers’ testimony.

Some naturalists say the disciples lied. Antony Flew does not believe this. Flew is at least a testimony that atheism is a lie, since Flew became a deist subsequent to this information discussed here. Naturalists propose the Disciples stole the body and lied about the appearances (2). Evidence against this: (a) Disciples were transformed and (b) They died for what they believed to be true.

Flew believes the eyewitness testimony is genuine but a hallucination, and his colleagues say it is legend. They can’t agree. Naturalists say (3) Jesus’ death and resurrection is all a legend. Evidences against this: (a) Paul writes his testimony early, (b) Other eyewitnesses are cited and still living when he wrote 1 Cor. 15, in addition to the other eyewitness accounts such as John and Matthew who wrote two of the gospels. This in addition to all the writers of the NT agreed in the resurrection. The earliest known biographies of Alexander the Great are not written until 4 centuries until after his death. After that length of time mythology is a factor.

Every naturalistic theory can be shot down handedly. For Antony Flew’s theory to hold true about hallucinations, Paul has to have one kind of disorder, the disciples have another kind of hallucination, and the disciples had to have lied about the tomb all happening simultaneously. Naturalist theories are piling up, but they are getting more and more improbable. The more improbable the theories mount, the more the probable scenario bears truth.

Antony Flew concedes: „I am not responding with a naturalistic account of what happened…I don’t think it is possible to offer any satisfactory naturalistic account…I don’t offer anything to counter the empty tomb evidence.” He does believe that hallucinations are the only possibility. There is no other possibility according to Antony.

What Remains on the Table? Hallucinations (Fact 2)

Hallucinations are rare. They only occur under the following conditions: 1) Bodily depravation, 2) Someone taking drugs. These facts do not fit the descriptions of the disciples. Antony Flew says there were no group hallucinations, but perhaps 10 or 20 people are having their own individual hallucinations though without medical explanation. That’s a lot of individual hallucinations. Antony says in the last 15 years what he has learned is that there has been mass hallucinations seeing Mary at Fatima. But this is inaccurate, because ten thousand people don’t actually see Mary or Jesus, but perhaps something in the clouds („signs in the heavens”), rather than in person the risen Christ.

99.999% of them never say they actually saw Mary or Jesus. But in the case of the disciples in different settings, you have whole groups seeing Jesus as once, not as an illusion, but up close and personal. „An illusion is when you see a real thing and think it is something else. A hallucination is when there is no object referent: no real thing present” (Jack Kent). What those at Fatima are seeing is a mass illusion, not a mass hallucination. The latter is what Antony Flew is proposing for the disciples but it just doesn’t fit. Hallucinations are much more radical than an illusion.

The „Good Self” (Fact 2)

Gary Habermas considers Antony Flew the kindest, most moral and sincere atheist he has ever met, and he so happens to be the leading atheist scholar in the world at the time of their debate. Habermas has long standing, continued correspondence with several atheists and agnostics. Gary has been praying for Antony for over 15 years to give his life to Christ. Could it be that Antony is experiencing delusions with mistaken thoughts about Christ that have separated him from God by using the power of his „good self”? One so good yet still eternally separates himself from the love of the one true God! Could such a thing be possible?

The Road to Damascus (Fact 2)

What happened to Paul to convince him Jesus rose from the dead? He was killing Christians. He was not in the frame of mind to believe. He didn’t want to believe. Paul saw Jesus in Person on the road to Damascus, but the others with him did not see Him on the same road. They heard a voice and saw the light but they didn’t see Jesus. Paul lost his sight after seeing and speaking with Jesus.

Paul says he saw Jesus alive. „Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” (1 Cor. 9.1). „And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15.8). In both cases, Paul is referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read all of Galatians chapter 1. Paul’s position is conclusive.

The facts against Kent’s theory of Paul having conversion disorder are: (1) Conversion disorder would not be convinced by a hallucination that eventually passes. Even if it could, simultaneously Paul would also need: (2) Auditory hallucination, (3) Visual Hallucination, 4) Visions of grandeur of „Messiah Complex” (Paul believed God spoke to him a message for the world common with other believers which was not exalting of himself), but (5) There was no evidence Paul wanted to change, was in the mood to change or why he would want to change. There are not only these logical problems but Biblical problems in proposing such a disorder because it doesn’t mesh with what would be reasonable under these circumstances.

Antony Flew wishes to bypass the whole conversion disorder idea by Kent, and instead wants to raise the issue, again, that Paul saw something, but the others who were present did not on the road to Damascus. He finds this entirely implausible. Yet Paul did said, „And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they did not understand the voice of him that spake to me” (Acts 22.9).

The Conversation is Getting Livid (Fact 2)

„I saw a light…blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to fight against my will” (Acts 26.13-14). „And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man” (Acts 9.7). So, we know the others (1) saw a light, (2) fell down to the ground, and (3) heard a voice. The only thing they did not experience was in seeing Jesus Christ in Person. Plainly they experience an objective effect. And, if Paul is having a conversion disorder, why are these things happening to his companions? Paul gave 3 reasons why he thought this was the physical body of Jesus Christ in Philippians 3.20-21 not a ghostly appearance.

Antony counters by saying just because Paul believed it was true, does not mean it was true. But this idea by Antony is finally relinquished when Habermas recounts what had just been said here about conversion disorder. Flew concedes, „I give up” because the conversion disorder is not plausible. But then, right around again, Antony contends, there was nothing to be seen, so how could it be a physical body of Jesus? Habermas turns it right back upon Antony again about the conversion disorder and that others experienced something also who were on the road to Damascus: „If it wasn’t a conversion disorder and it wasn’t resurrection then what was it?” Antony’s logic is that if the companions couldn’t see it then it couldn’t have been a physical body?

Philippians 3 says there is a body. Brilliantly, Habermas responds with the answer: It was not said at Paul’s conversion the companions did not see the body. We are only told what the others saw, not what they didn’t see. Straight logic does not preclude the others from seeing the body just because it is not mentioned that they didn’t see the body of Jesus. A contradiction is „two things cannot both be and not be, same time, same place, same matter”. We only have Paul’s testimony on the road to Damascus, not that of the companions. Antony concedes.

We can thus conclude: (1) Jesus died by crucifixion, (2) The disciples had experiences which they believed were appearances of the risen Jesus, (3) The disciples were transformed, and (4) Paul came to Christ. If this is not a hallucination, then where do we go further with this information?

A Very Small Group of Experiences (Fact 2)

Beyond Paul’s experience was a very small select group of others who had similar experiences seeing the risen Lord (excluding the 500). Because if this, it is too small a sample size to be credible, says Antony. Is it really so small? There is Peter, James, Thomas, the women, and all the others mentioned. What did the disciples see? The women touched Jesus resurrected in Matthew, Mary touched Jesus alone in John, and Thomas was close enough that he could have touched Jesus. Ignatius said he did, and there is no reason to think he did not. Are the candidates good candidates for hallucinations? Or did they actually touch one whom they believed to be Jesus Christ? How many times do you have to touch somebody before they are qualified to occupy time and space?

1) The women touched Jesus, 2) Mary touched Jesus, 3) Thomas is given the opportunity to touch Jesus (Gospel of John), and 4) Paul thought Jesus appeared physically (Phil. 3.21). The two horns of the dilemma remain: the disciples had hallucinations yet Kent agrees Habermas’ facts are accurate. How can you still think it is a hallucination in the Gospels after the testimony of the disciples?

Antony Flew keeps coming back to asking whether there was something to be seen by the disciples or Paul and not about the word „hallucination” or other labels. And so Antony just self-declares, „The evidence is pretty weak,” but does not indicate any such weakness specifically. Where can we go from here? Relatives and outsiders saw Jesus resurrected physically; the empty tomb is a physical scenario; they were with Jesus for three to three, and Jesus said this would haappen and it did. Therefore, the question remains, do you still fall on the hallucination idea or do you give your life to Christ?

Not Noticing Jesus Walking With Them (Fact 2)

Slight changes in the resurrection body of Jesus Christ may make him not noticeable at first, especially not ever expecting his presence there. James, the brother of Jesus, was unbelieving and sarcastic to Jesus, that he should go to Jerusalem and get himself killed then James became a leader of the Jerusalem church. What a transformation! He didn’t believe in Jesus the whole time he was living. Ankerberg asked Antony, what happened to James? Antony confounded said „I don’t know”. Antony responded, Why should he be expected to know what happened to James? Ankerberg said, That is like saying to Habermas in court, You have nothing Habermas, except those 10 witnesses. Antony then says, „I think he has got a lot”. Everyone laughed cordially. Antony conceded that James is doing something that is totally expected given no other choice if he actually saw Jesus resurrected.

Multi-Faceted Accounts and Verification (Fact 2)

Resurrection Evidence: (1) A group of women testify, (2) A woman, Mary Magdalene, testifies, (3) A group of men – the Apostles testify, (4) A lone man James testifies and no longer a skeptic, (5) Paul testifies he has seen Jesus, and (6) Jesus’ tomb was empty. One strand after another of verification! Christians say we have a lot of evidence so we ask atheists, agnostics and other religions, what do you bring to the table? Doesn’t the Burden of the Proof fall on you now? All these aspects is what an historian looks for coming in from different angles such as enemies, believers, skeptics, Jews admitting the tomb was empty, women who were not suppose to be good witnesses seeing resurrected Jesus and grabbing him. This is a lot of data. Christians are Christians because these are these key facts which no viable alternative explanation is given.

Antony Flew recalls his previous idea though turned down because of the gaping contradiction that what a person originally believes very much impacts how one perceives these events. That contradiction was whether Jesus told the truth or not that He is God which would not be dependent on another’s experience, since that person did not create the other. Either the disciples did see the risen Jesus or they didn’t. Previously held beliefs should not dictate the reality of an objective statement or occurrence. Someone who held Jewish beliefs long before in looking for the Messiah does not preclude a person in some remote area of the world who never heard of Jesus from accepting Jesus. Those who do believe in God just by observing the mountains and the stars would accept Jesus if presented the word of God in the 66 books of the Bible.

Jesus Said He is God (Fact 2)

Jack Kent says „Paul never said anywhere in the New Testament that Jesus was God” (The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth). Is that true? Show me where Jesus said He is the Son of God, the Son of Man and God? We actually have Paul saying Jesus is God and Jesus saying He is God. We even have data that predates this in Jesus’ Messianic self-consciousness.

„I kept looking…and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming and he came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him…his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7.13-14). „Son of Man” was the favorite title for Himself. His usage of this title is absolutely taken from Dan. 7.13-14. He virtually quotes this verse before the high priest. Jesus needed a valid reason to die. Why did the Romans want Him to die? „The high priest was questioning him…’Are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed One (the Son of God)? And Jesus said ‘I AM (Ego Eimi) and henceforth you will see the Son of man…coming in the clouds of heaven…” (Mark 14.61-64).

Jesus changes the question about the Son of God to the Son of Man. He is going to come in the clouds and He is going to judge you. The high priest knows right away Jesus is referring to Himself as God as the Son of Man is a claim of deity. „Coming with the clouds” occurs dozens of times in the Scriptures and is always a reference to God. Jesus says, Yes I AM to the Son of God. He is the Son of Man. And He says He is going to come in judgment. At this point the high priest condemned Jesus to death that this was „blasphemy”.

There are the Q sayings which are statements made in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark. The most ardent critics have a hard time disputing these sayings. „No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son and those to whom He (the Son) will reveal them” (Matt. 11.27). „But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13.32). This is the principle of embarrassment. If you are claiming to be the Son of Man, then why are you saying you don’t know when You will return or that you don’t know something?

Paul clearly also claims Jesus is God. „Who being in the very nature God…” (Phil. 2.5-6). „Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2.11). „Christ, who is God overall” (Rom. 9.5). Lord in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, is the translation of Jehovah. Paul calls Jesus Lord repeatedly. „Christ Jesus…who was declared the Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1.3-4). Paul calls Jesus the Christ and that the resurrection proves all these things. The resurrection is God’s approval on who Jesus thought He himself was. Antony agrees, that if Jesus is raised from the dead, this is the best evidence that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, since only God could raise the dead which is the reason Christians believe as we do. Antony doesn’t believe in the resurrection, only that the proof is unshakable. If God raised Jesus, then Jesus can’t be a heretic so what He says about himself must be true.

What is the Thing that Would Convince a Skeptic? (Fact 2)

Nothing would convince a skeptic because his heart is set on the mindless assumption in his subconscious that existence happens all by itself. His selfish self (can’t let go of self) can’t see past that choice and that the choice is wrong because that is the nature of selfishness which stems from the fall of Adam and Eve he prefers to be in.

At what point does a skeptic accept the pile up and pile up an pile up of evidence to be true? Antony says, my experience is I just don’t see people being raised from the dead, so why should I believe this amazing miracle of the resurrection?

This problem is called by philosophers, „antecedent probability.” Is it really possible miracles can happen? This is the single biggest issue, the issue of miracles and the resurrection miracle. There are two approaches to answer this question. First, instead of seeing the resurrection as mount Everest and where we stand with regard to this unscalable mountain, we need to adjust our position, experience, and understanding towards the mountain peak. Our rules need to be adjusted we make for ourselves. To make that adjustment, we need to talk about data for God’s existence such as the 4 Step Proof for God and near death experiences. If God exists, then the playing field rises up all the way to the peak of the mountain. Antony Flew agrees, that if we have some reasons God exists, then the resurrection becomes „enormously more likely.”

If there are miracles at present, this moves the playing field up further as well to open us up to other things and let go of self. There was a double-blind experiment done of 400 cardiac patients. Half were prayed for and the other half were not prayed for. They monitored these patients in 26 categories. The ones that were prayed for were statistically better: „A study of 400 cardiac patients found that in 21 out of 26 categories were better as a result of prayer” (Southern Journal of Medicine). Scientists and the medical community have established this is medically significant.

Antony says the ideal of a miracle is parasitical on the idea of a law of nature, because something (miracles) that are happening all the time is seen in the natural causes, therefore rendering them not miracles. However rare it occurs, it is still happening lots. So this should not change people’s religious or other beliefs. A miracle depends on the idea of natural causes because these seemingly impossible natural causes do exist that human beings can’t understand which does not dissuade their non-miraculousness. However, this does not prevent or disallow God being behind those natural causes and other supernatural influence upon the law of nature. The only justification for a resurrection is because God could do it, but man could not.

Citing examples of near death experiences or prayer studies happening all the time is not to say God is doing it but could be visions manifested from feelings and the loving care from one to another in prayers. Even so this love can be God’s grace and part of His design. There is still the 4 Step Proof for God and that God shows forth miracles in nature, e.g. the timing of the event. To distinguish what should be deemed a miracle and what is not, we should consider what could be from God if it is beyond the realm of our own undertaking. What we did not know before we may consider a miracle, but when we learn of its cause, then we no longer consider it a miracle. But a miracle based on timing does not change. For example, when Jesus fulfilled prophecies we realize these miracles are attainable by the correct antecedent cause. And the greatest antecedent is that it is God’s divine providence He predestinates by foreknowledge (Rom. 8.29) all the causes for eternity. We only lack the details of cause and effects, but we know its source, given the 4 Step Proof for God and various other proofs such as the moral argument and ontological argument.

In a word, NOTHING will convince a skeptic but God Himself, not even the 4 Step Proof or other reasons Habermas has given in agreement with the Word. The reason for this is because the evil spirit is in the non-believer’s spirit, guiding him through overassuming and planted ideas. It is a form of possession and control against his own will (only to an extent). However, God has made us all in His image to be able to be saved by grace from this control of the evil spirit that entered at the fall. This way out of the matrix is to give up and give into Christ, even if we don’t know everything, since we will never know everything. There is no other way to be delivered from this possession. And this is all according to God’s design to respond to the fallen of Satan and man with these contingencies. In fact God says just look at the mountain and the stars, and ask yourself, did you do that? If the answer is No, then you know you have yet to give up and give into the Intelligent Designer, even though you can’t quite understand it all. God sees this as vital humility He can work in that one.

How in your experience can you even make a determination about God if you have even one assumption that is false? That very assumption will forever color a picture that separates one from God so as not to be able to discern correctly God’s existence and corresponding response to His will. Therefore, the only solution is to gather a certain amount of evidences to convince you miracles can happen, accepting it is beyond your ability to understand of how God could do it. No matter how much information you gather along the continuum of knowledge and what is permitted to know at each point there is an allowance for entrance into God’s kingdom. Therefore the problem is not knowledge. The problem is CHOICE. If you can’t find one legitimate excuse that is totally solid then such reasoning cannot be justification for anything. Not even a non-choice is justifiable, because then you would be calling Jesus a liar when He said if you are not for Him, then you are against Him.

Gathering Additional Information at Wal-Mart (Fact 2)

The first way to show miracles can happen is to provide additional data that would corroborate the necessity of opening ourselves up to possibilities we were unwilling to accept before. When two things by all natural means contradict each other, the only possibility is that they don’t actually contradict. They only seem to contradict given one’s limited view of lacking information. For example, if you were in a car accident and your best friend was with you, but he died, and you went to his funeral and saw the medical report, yet the other day you saw what you thought was him in Wal-mart, you just know it can’t be. But as additional information is provided you begin to think otherwise which rises you up the mountain unto resurrection and rapture: your friend approaches you and shows you the scar on his face that caused the death, then you begin to think it is possible that somehow he was resurrected. Your friend says touch him to know that he has been raised. Then you tell others and they see him also. It is no longer just one person saying this happened in a hallucination. Others touch him in various group settings and sizes. We then have no choice to deny this truth. And, because it is so well documented, no one should doubt this truth in generations to come. There is only one case in history where something like this happened and that was the resurrection of Jesus.

The second way to accept miracles and the resurrection is once the data fits a scenario and becomes so overwhelming though beyond my realm of our experience, we have no choice but to accept the truth. We reach a point where we must give up and give into our conscience. No way is Thomas going to go into the Wal-mart to discover Jesus there. Jesus can’t make that choice for Him. So Jesus comes to Thomas and says to him, put your hand in my side to see I have been resurrected. Jesus deals with Thomas according to his ability to understand and does not forsake him for doubting. He comes right up to him and says, believe. Paul killed Christians. James said no way to Jesus that he is not the Son of God. The second way to go after this question of miracles is to see there is enough angles, even though it is not your experience, to leave one no choice but to accept the truth.There can be enough data that overrides our feelings.

„The laws of nature are statistical descriptions of what usually occurs when nature is left to herself” (C. S. Lewis). Statistics can be overridden, certainly in areas where it has not been absolutely determined the cause and effect in nature. We need to be at least open to that. Miracles in relation to prior existing beliefs is certainly a plausible suggestion by Antony Flew, because someone may have more knowledge, while another is lacking in such knowledge. However, this does not change the fact of the event in question. Even if Antony understood how God resurrected Jesus, this does not change the fact that God resurrected Jesus and man cannot resurrect himself. Even then, it would still be a miracle to Antony because though Antony could understand how God did it (which I don’t believe we will ever know), he still can’t figure out the intricacies of the ultimate cause what set off God to do it in His thinking other than to say He created out of His glory. God could reveal the why in His choice to create, but even as saved believers, we cannot know the exact details of God’s mind beneath this glory, for some things are reserved for God alone to know. This is the power the uncreated has over the created.

Antony says all of this about Jesus depends on Mosaic tradition. Certainly, Jesus plugs into this fact of proper cause and effect when God first revealed Himself to Israel. If Jesus were to enter creation, as He did, then it could happen no other way and as righteously as God did it. There first must be the antecedent causations leading up to His arrival and subsequent second coming in the future. God would need to choose a people whom would be willing to listen to Him (Israel was enslaved for 430 years) all the way back to the first God-conscious man even to the choice itself he would make for the tree of life or the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because Jesus plugs into the tradition, it shows the import of it and does not dissuade from its necessity to be brought to the world’s understanding. Hence the Bible is not just 27 books of the NT but also 39 books of the OT. Credibility is achieved by not just 8 authors over 70 years but 40 writers over 1500 years and the biblical record over 6000 years.

Final Evidence for Naturalists – A Foretaste of Resurrection (Fact 2)

The overpowering evidence of the resurrection is one way to convince. The other way is to say this world admits exceptions. Near death experiences are not miracles in and of themselves, but they would be if those experiences are reporting an after-life through various contacts made by God about certain events in the future and those future events came to pass. One would take a whole new look at the resurrection. We are not concerned with the 8 million near death experiences by Americans. We don’t care about the tunnels and the lights, other temporal lobe activity and causes do to lack of oxygen. We are concerned with those cases that can be verified. „When I wrote that book we had only near-death experiences. Now we have post-death experiences.” (Recollections of Death: A Medical Perspective, 1982, Michael Sabom). In Life and Death, his new book, Sabom mentions a women with a brain aneurysm. With 30 doctors present, because the aneurysm was deep in the brain, they had to literally kill the person first to get at it (called „operation standstill”). They cooled her body temperature down to 59 degrees, taking all the blood out of her head, stop her heart and stop her brain. All these were stopped for hours. They repaired the vessel, and she is doing fine today.

After the surgery, she testified that she had risen above her body. She gave 6 points of corroboration. When she heard the saw turn on, she was out of her body and was looking over a doctor’s shoulder. It was at this point they were close to the point of putting her to death. She said she imaged a drill that looked like a pizza cutter, but instead it was a pen with a fine point on the end. The doctor asked her, Where did you get that? She said, You had a socket wrench next to you. The doctor asked, What do you mean a socket wrench? She said, There was this box with all these interchangeable parts. He said, Draw me a picture of the drill and the socket set. She drew them.

Then she described what went on in the operating room. They couldn’t find her artery. They had to go to the other side of her brain. She identified which doctor made the decision and which doctor couldn’t find the artery. She has all these points of memory in being dead for 3 hours.

In another case, a girl who drowned for 19 minutes described what her parents did that night. She reported what her mom did for dinner, the song that was played on the radio, a toy her brother played with and a specific doll her sister played with. After 3 days she was conscious. As soon as she woke, she told the doctor these things she saw that occurred three days earlier.

Though these events are not the acts of Jesus they are a model for resurrection. These after-death experiences don’t show extenuated life after death in heaven or hell, but they are minimalistic life after death: minutes or sometimes hours after cessation of heart or brain waves. If a person is reported to have flat-lined at 3:02 and there is no brain waves by 3:15 as reported in the medical logs then after awaking the patient reports something that occurred after 3:15 even an hour after 3:15, what is the explanation? This would be quite difficult for a naturalist to explain.

Antony was asked if these things open the door for being more than naturalistic? He responded belligerently, „Not really”. This is in keeping with the fact what was said previously, nothing can convince the unregenerate. All reasoning he employs is to justify his previously held beliefs without concern for the truth. These are no outer-body experiences (OBE) according to Antony nor in-body experiences (INBE) of being close to death. However, the experience of the lady from Georgia was post-death by all standards. She shouldn’t be reporting anything! I thought it interesting that Antony used the term, „outer-body” instead after having said he read much of the literature about it, one of his most favorite subjects. His nomenclature showed he was not telling the truth when he said he delved deeply into one his favorite subjects, because he should have used the term „post-death” experience, not „outer-body” since the strongest evidence is there. He appeared to be slothful even apathetic in his response.

What is the naturalistic explanation Antony gives? He believes it was a fraud or misrepresentation, and she could not recover in this way after being put to death for 3 hours. Therefore, he presumes she was not really dead. Yet, it is medical practice to put the person to death for just such cases. She was on a lung machine; the doctors gave her less than 10% chance of living–1 in 10,000 chance of living with all her faculties. She spontaneously awoke a few days later and said to the guy who resuscitated her, You’re the guy that resuscitated me, where is the tall guy without the beard?

This doctor was an agnostic and has since become a theist. Soon after, Antony Few, partly a result of this discussion also became theist though of the deistic flavor by a Creator who doesn’t personally reveal Himself, has no interaction with us, and is completely inaccessible. What love is that? This is the kind of love that reflects the love in Antony’s own heart. Even Brahma the amoral god of Hinduism is more personal than that. One has to ask the obvious question, Why create in the first place if you are going to be an absentee landlord? Seems pointless. If I have a child I want a relationship with him. Deism is a reflection of one’s own impersonal character; projecting onto the Creator his own attributes. The fact that Antony renounced atheism at this late age has to stand for something don’t you think? What does a naturalist do to explain these things happening after-death that did happen and were explained by the patient in vivid detail after they awoke? Antony is entirely confounded and simply says, „This is a new one to me” on what is suppose to be his favorite subject. I think Antony Flew is not coming to God with an honest heart. He is being intellectually dishonest with himself. It seems to me he wants to find a naturalistic explanation yet is unable to access his imagination to fit the data.

Summary of Evidences for a Theistic World View (Fact 2)

1. Good arguments for God’s existence.
2. Evidence for God being the true author of Scripture.
3. Evidence from the Old Testament of God working in time.
4. Jesus doing miracles.
5. Then He rises from the dead.
6. Double-blind experiments on prayer where 21 out of 26 categories the person is statistically better (there are many studies on healing).
7. Documented near death experiences and by all standards, after-death experiences.

Conclusion: The resurrection is not an isolated event but part of the „big picture” theistic world view. The fact that God raised Jesus is extraordinary and one of a kind. It shows Jesus is who he says He is. He’s alive. God is working in other ways too. However, we need to be firm and honest by recognizing, atheists and agnostics have an insincerity about them, an „I don’t care anyway” attitude. Their character and true colors are reflected in their world view.

 

R C Sproul – What Does „Inspiration” Mean in 2 Timothy 3:16

photo via http://www.joeyrodgers.com

R. C. Sproul: In the church, we have a doctrine called INSPIRATION.  And the english translation of 1 Timothy 3:16 uses the term inspiration. But, I think that we must make a distinction  between the use of the term ‘inspiration’ here and the way it’s used theologically in the history of the church. Because, as Dr. B. B. Warfield once pointed out so eloquently, the real meaning of this text here in 2 Timothy 3:16, has to do, not so much with the way in which God communicated His information to us through the human writers, but rather, the emphasis in this text is on the source of that information.

rc sproul 2Paul is using the word theopneust, when he says ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration’. Literally, what this means is God-breathed. And it means, that which God has breathed out, rather than that which God breathes in. Now, you notice I had to pause and breathe. In order for me to speak, I have to have breath in my lungs. And while I’m speaking, if I continue to speak and don’t take a breath while I continue to speak, pretty soon I start squeaking like a mouse and I run out of breath. I have to breathe. Because when I speak, I’m breathing out. And in order to breathe out, I must first breathe in.

Now, the force of what Paul is saying here, is that he is saying that all of Scripture is breathed out from God. When we breathe out we are involved in expiration- not in the sense of dying, but, we expire at death because we breathe out for the last time. We don’t breathe in anymore. But, to breathe out is expiration, whereas to breathe in is inspiration. So, really, if we were getting real technical here, we should translate this phrase that „all Scripture is given by expiration”. Now, so what? What’s the difference between expiration and inspiration here? Again, the point that I’m jealous to make here is that what Paul is saying, when he insists that all Scripture has been breathed out by God is that its ultimate origin is in Him. It is His word. It is His speech. He is the one who is the source of these writings.

And so, when we talk about the doctrine of inspiration, we’re talking about the way in which God superintends the writing of sacred Scripture. That God does not just act and let people respond with their own insight and their own imagination to set forth their view of  what God has done. But, that God is working by the Holy Spirit to superintend that record to make sure that the record that is written is His word.

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