I hope that title caught your attention. In all honesty, I can probably say that my church is not as large as yours is. However, this title is a little funny look at the way we sometimes compare ourselves to one another. We often get caught up on how big a church is. Many like to boast that they go to such and such church, “You know the big one on the corner of such and such“. With so no lack of pride we will tell of the great sanctuary and the stain glass windows. Or maybe we will point out the multiple classrooms, the coffee shop or the bookstore. There is nothing wrong with this. Unless we put our measure of success upon how big our church is. Different size churches can have great success in their place in God’s plan. The apostle Paul wrote, “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:5).
In truth most churches in the world have less than 100 people on their rolls. The bulk of churches of the world are small to medium congregations that vary from 5-250 active members (I specify active because active members are the only ones who contribute to the mission of the church – don’t fool yourself). The major growths in Christianity around the world are brought from small churches that grow into medium churches or who plant other small churches. These churches are different in their purpose and design than larger churches. They have their own positive and negative attributes.
Small churches (less than 100) have high levels of member commitment. The members are also more consistent in their tithes and offerings, and volunteer work. They have less of a staff and therefore dedicate more of their budget to missionary work. They will likely have a bi-vocational pastor, and because of their small size, he will be easily available to the membership. The membership is likely to be aware of the burden on the clergy and are more likely to assist the pastor with his duties and donate food and clothing to him and his family to ease his financial burdens. There is a genuine care in the membership for one another. Evidence of this is that these churches are likely to have a food closet that is open to any members of the local church. Membership in these churches are generally aligned from family and close friendships, and an occasionally new comer who was invited to attend and then joined the church.
Their Achilles heel of an older small church is that they are likely to have a good portion of their budget tied up in building maintenance. They are also likely to have most of their membership in being 65 or older. They are also likely to have no children. As a general rule their membership is not seeking to increase membership. If this is the case for a small church, then they are a dead church. Unless a change is brought in their evangelism they will no longer exist. For the majority of small churches who are active in evangelism, they will soon grow either in church planting other churches and missionary work, or they will increase in size and take other responsibilities and outreached in the community.
Medium sized churches of congregations of 101-250 active members are more likely to open their buildings up for use to outside organizations that serve a service to the community. Those may be the scouts, a food bank, a day care center, a meeting place for AA or NA meetings and such. They are likely to have a free library available to members instead of a bookstore or a coffee shop. Their main interests are likely to see the membership grow through discipleship classes, small group studies, consistent Wednesday evening Bible studies, Tuesday evening prayer meetings and these things. They will have active committees to care for different needs of the church, its membership, and the outreach programs. They are likely to have a lively children’s ministry, and may even have a certified school for certain age ranges.
As you can see there is a great service that the small and medium churches perform to the growth of Christianity, missions, and in service to the community. So if you’re in a small church, don’t sweat it. Enjoy the fellowship, get involved with the mission, and share the name of Jesus!
There are those who try to discredit Christmas as a Christian holiday because some aspects of the modern celebration are imported from pagan holidays that existed prior to Christianity. Even the Puritans had the celebration of Christmas outlawed for several years. The reason was because they thought that the Christmas celebration borrowed to much from pagan religions and was therefore no longer Christian. They considered that this made it ungodly to celebrate Christmas, for fear that they would be guilty of actually be worshiping a false god. That is a strawman argument.
Cultures all over the world and in different time periods have always had an impact on other cultures when they came into contact. Even the dominant cultures have been affected by those of whom they have conquered and absorbed customs and even beliefs. Rome was undoubtedly influenced by the many cultures that it met with, including the Christian culture. In return, ancient Rome has had a great impact on the whole world. This impact has reached all the way into modern societies, and with it has come it’s version of Christianity. As the Roman Empire flourished it affected, art, architecture, language, and even legal systems and military strategies. With this came the other influences that came from the pagan societies that impacted ancient Rome. The catalyst for this particular season of joy is the winter solstice.
The winter solstice was celebrated by many ancient cultures including the Celts, Romans, and Druids. They would celebrate winter solstice (or the shortest day of the year) in December. With this celebration and Christmas being adopted during the same timeframe we will see many similarities between the pagan traditions of Rome and that of Christmas.
The winter solstice was extremely important to the agricultural life of the pagan. This solstice marked the end of the long harvest season and gave a momentary rest from the harvest labors and the planting season ahead. It also marked the onset of winter. Long hard days surviving the isolation and scarcity of food and interaction lay ahead. The celebration was a chance to celebrate and enjoy the company of family and friends and wish them well through the winter. The Roman celebration was referred to as Saturnalia.
Saturnalia was dedicated to the Roman god Saturn. Saturn is like the Greek god Cronus. The Roman and Greek gods have been so interlaced that many confuse them for being the same gods. This is an example of the cultural influences that occurred over time. This festival’s influence is still felt throughout the modern world. While the Winter solstice is generally the 22 of December, the Roman’s celebration was originally on the 17th of December.
Saturnalia was the most popular festival in Rome and lasted for seven days. It was originally celebrated for one day and was eventually extended to seven days. With the extension of the celebration, we can see how this is like our Christmas to New Year celebration in the United States. All work and businesses were suspended, and slaves were temporarily free during this time. In fact, the roles of master and slave were temporarily reversed. Slaves were allowed to order their masters around, within reason of course. The end of the festival culminated with the giving of a gift, presents like candles, fruit, or statuettes were primary gifts. The gift was usually given from one person to another, and were meant as a means of obtaining favor from the god Saturn
Another cultural influence on Christmas came from the Roman honoring of Saturn with mistletoe. To appease Saturn, they would perform fertility rites beneath branches of mistletoe. Other pagan cultures used mistletoe as a sacred plant and associated it with a stay of hostilities or a truce, much like we see the use of a white flag. Enemies would meet under a mistletoe as a sign of truce. Along with that the Romans would exchange wreaths made of holy as a sign of good luck and well wishes. Ornaments in the forms of idols also decorated the exterior of the Roman homes during this celebration. This custom was also seen in the Germanic areas where they would decorate trees in honor of Odin during the winter solstice. This custom of ornaments and lights on the Christmas tree was undoubtedly adopted from their influence.
It is no wonder that when Rome took over Christianity and converted their holidays into Christian holidays that they would take the traditions they used to and apply them into the official state religious celebration of Christmas. However, this does not take away from the current or Christian meaning for celebrating Christmas. The pagan meanings and worship of false gods have long lost their meaning and have been overtaken by either Christendom or commercialism. Frankly I am more concerned with the commercialism as this does specifically go against Christian values. However, this does not diminish Christians who celebrate Christmas, nor does it mandate that the holiday be renamed from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” to be inclusive or more historically accurate.
Christians do not lose their Christianity just because the Romans (Catholic Church) have incorporated aspects of pagan traditions into the holiday. Christians actually celebrate the arrival of God in the flesh, the birth of Jesus Christ, his death, burial, and resurrection through out the year, every Sunday. In addition, having a special day to celebrate his birthday is a great remembrance of this miracle event, when God became his own creation. It does not even really matter if it is on his actual birthday. I am sure that God appreciates the time of remembrance and celebration for his amazing gift to mankind. In addition, this gives us a venue to invite pagans and atheist into our homes and churches, our Christian culture. We have an opportunity to let them experience the grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ, God the Son, and to experience the presence of God the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. Christians should celebrate Christmas with all humility and generosity that they can. We need not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who cares if they unsuccessfully tried to discredit our celebration? We celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let them see Jesus!
I am amazed at how many professing Christians get divorced. One study finds that a person who has strong religious beliefs has a risk of divorce that is 14 percent less than those who do not have strong religious beliefs, in the United States. Something that I found interesting is that cohabitating prior to marriage actually increases the chance of divorce by 40 percent.  The numbers of divorced Christians may include the ones who have previously divorced prior to becoming Christians and therefore may have skewed the numbers a bit. In addition, many Americans profess to be Christian but rarely attend weekly church services.
Of these who call themselves Christians and divorce or separated are reported to have these following beliefs, according to Pew Research 
Divorced or Separated Statistics on Beliefs
69% Believe in God with absolute certainty
57% Believe that religion is important to one’s life
32% Attend Church Services at least once a week
61% Pray on a daily basis
25% Participate in prayer groups, Scripture Study groups, or in religious education
34% Consider religion as a source of guidance on what is right and wrong
31% Believe in absolutes of right and wrong
39% Read scripture at least once a week
36% Believe that the scriptures should be taken literally
73% Believe in Heaven
60% Believe in Hell
These are frightening statistics for me as a Pastor. That means that most of the people who call themselves Christians, are not. It also means that most those who are, are confused, and mislead. They are confused and mislead because they have listened to what the world says a Christian is and have not taken the authority of scripture seriously in their lives. God call this foolishness, and it is dangerous. Even at looking at this one statistic of divorce, we can see that worldliness has had a devastating effect on our Christian homes. We see that in these broken families that 69% believe in God and that they believe in Heaven. However, we also see that only 36% believe that scripture can be taken seriously. They have no definite sense of right and wrong morality. They have instead been seduced into the philosophy of situational ethics. This stance takes the position that there are no absolute codes of moral context to ethics, instead decision is made depending upon the context of the situation. So then, it is not wrong to have an abortion if the lady does not feel equipped to raise a child, instead of seeing the unborn baby as an image bearer of God and a special gift given by God to the mother, and understanding that taking of a life is wrong, especially if the life is totally defenseless and cannot speak for itself.
These professing Christians are actually not Christians at all. They do not attend bible study groups, church services, read scripture for themselves. They do not pray, because they do not think that God hears them, will answer, or even cares. All of this is from their own self-imposed ignorance of God. No, they may say that they believe in God, but in practice they do not. This is why their families are in shambles and reeling in divorce.
Now, I have upset some of you. Well, I can only say read on, because this letter is written in love. My heart is broken over the divorce rate of our brothers and sisters in Christ. So then we will look at what God says. In just one area of this debacle. We will deal with the husbands, “so-called”, rights of divorce. You know… “boo hoo, my wife doesn’t do everything I want…” or “I’ve grown bored and need to live life…”, or what ever your spur of the moment, “just because” reason for seeking a divorce from your devoted and loving wife. You see here in this scripture; we see the Pharisees came to ask Jesus about this very issue. Now the Pharisees were the religious elite. They spent years in seminary, they knew the 1st five books by heart. They were the teachers of the law. They sat in on the counsels to determine if a law was broken and if there was a penalty to be paid.
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:3-6)
Do you see that? These fellers thought that they would be slick. They tried to catch Jesus off guard. The know what the actual will of God was. They also knew why Moses allowed Divorce. They knew that the covenant of a man and a woman was to be an example of the covenant between God and man. They knew these things and more that we are not going to discuss right now that concerned marriage. But we will look at the husbands’ responsibilities in the marriage toward his wife and the response that Jesus gave concerning that. They thought that they would be able to accuse him before the Law, because Moses had allowed divorce. So, if he said that is was Lawful then this gave them authority, but if he said that it is not lawful then they would say that he did not honor Moses or the Law, or the prophets.
But instead of Jesus being caught off guard, he went to a time that superseded the Law. This is because his priesthood is superior to the priesthood of Aaron. Aarons priest hood was anchored in the Law. But Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. This priesthood is preceding to the priesthood of Aaron and of the Law of Moses. Jesus, therefore, goes back to the beginning. He can do this because he was there, in the beginning. All things were made by him, and without him was nothing made that was made. Jesus is an eyewitness to the war in heaven and the affairs of the Garden. See, Jesus said, “at the beginning made the male and female.” This means that God purposed the sexes and created them distinctly for a specific reason. This purpose of the man and the woman to unite as one, marriage, would be the very reason why a man was to leave his parents, and woman to leave her home. This is their purpose, not to be single, not to play the field, and most certainly not to have casual sex. But we men are a selfish bunch.
We love to put our own needs and desires above anyone else’s. Why not we are the strong ones, who have to go out and show our dominance in the home and in the workplace. We are the “king of the house”. Husbands are those of us who should no longer need to “sow our oats”. We have put those childish things aside. We should instead show do respect to our wives and a singleness of heart. Even as a Christian we should show do respect to God for who he is and have a singleness of heart towards Christ Jesus who is our bridegroom.
Saint Peter puts it like this, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) We should have an understanding that we are the provider and the safety and the strong hold for our wives. We are their protector. We are to protect them from the harm that comes from without the sanctuary that is our marriage. We must realize that we are not put in authority as a husband to rule over them, but to help them. We are not better than they are, we are both heirs of righteousness in Jesus Christ as a couple. We are the one flesh that we were made by God to be. Remember what God said in Genesis? “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This is the cause… to cleave to his wife and become one flesh. Shall a man divorce his own hand? Or shall a man remove his own eye for “just because”? This word cleave means to hold fast to or to cling to. The husband is to hold on to his wife and not let go.
“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.. “ (Ephesians 5:28-31) Ok wait a minute. This is a deep concept here. You hear what the saint says here? He said the same thing I just did. No healthy, in his right mind, man hates his own flesh. It is in our DNA to protect ourselves from harm. It is our instinct to protect ourselves from harm. That is why we have that little chemical that flows through our veins and muscles that gives us the emergency burst of energy we need for a “flight or fight” response to danger. This is saying that we husbands are of one flesh with our wives and that we should treat a threat against our marriage in the same manner as we would a threat to our own body. We should fight unto death or take our wife and flee. Especially where sexual sins are concerned, we should flee and not allow ourselves to be tempted.
Before we move on out of this chapter in Ephesians, you better get your bible out! Paul compares the marriage of a husband and wife to the relationship of the Church and Christ. Even as Christ is to present his bride spotless before God the Father, so are to present you wife spotless before Christ. What? You say? You don’t believe me? Listen to Jesus’ very own words on divorce, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32) What a shameful mess we are in today that divorce is so vast in the church. Husband! Present you wife and your marriage as a sweet smelling incense before the throne of the Lamb.
The least of the Apostles, who was born out of season says that we should honor our wives out of love. Listen to what he wrote the church of Ephesus and Colossae.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (Colossians 3:19)
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)
Wow, Paul says that a husband should not only love his wife but to love her sacrificially. This is not a sexual love. It is not even a “feeling” of “being-in-love”, no sir this is a mentally committed love that chooses to put the wife’s needs above his own selfish desires. This is the love that God gives us. This is the love that God expects from us towards him. This is how he expects the husband to demonstrate his love for God, in that he should love his wife in the same manner. This is the love you wife deserves, and it is the love that you deserve to give her. That is why the Apostle Paul also tells us, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) Husband pay close attention, he says first love you wife, then the wife should show you do reverence. Not the other way around. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. (1 Corinthians 7:3)
How do we do this? Well, we must keep in mind that God gave us our wife as a help-mate. The husband and the wife are a team. We are to share intimacy in all levels of our lives. We should know that we have been given to one another as a blessing from God. This life is hard and has all kinds of trials and distractions. There are many hardships, and the heart of man is a lonely place. That is why we have been given a wife. To share in these moments of traveling from hilltops to valleys. To support one another and encourage one another in the hard times, to cry with in the times of heartbreak, and to rejoice with in times of joy. This is the relationship that God lives with us, through our wives. God gives us wisdom in this.
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)
We would do well to remember that this world has perverted the institution of marriage, and the sanctity of the wedding bed. God gave us this gift of one wife. We should consider it an honorable institution and one worth fighting for. There are great rewards in marriage and there are terrible consequences to walking away from it, once we have taken a covenant vow before God.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
So is it lawful for a man to put his wife away for any reason (just because)? According to man, it may be done. However, according to God, No it is unlawful.
Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” We can learn something from this simple advice given by the Apostle to the Gentiles. The wherefore concerns what he has just spoke about. What has he just spoke about?
Well in the previous chapters he talked about how we should be living out our daily lives as believers in Christ Jesus. In chapter one he commended the faithful witness of the Christians in Thessalonica. He called them examples of righteousness to Macedonia and Achaia. He praised them for their fervent spreading of the gospel throughout the region. He recognized the changes in their lives, turning from idols to believing on the Lord’s deliverance of them from the wrath to come. In the second chapter; Paul reinforces the witness that thy have learned by example from him and his party and how they love the hearts of the Thessalonians and desire to be with them again. Paul expresses his love for them and their love of him and Christ in him. He encourages them and say that they share the same hope, “For what is out hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (v.19)
In the fourth chapter Paul tells them as you have learned from us how to walk in faith, continue in this so that you will increase the pleasure you give to God in your love and obedience. He reminds them that walking in the spirit is walking in sanctification. Those who are called of God are not called to uncleanness, but to holiness. We who love God cannot continue in the sins that we used to walk in. We should have a different attitude. We should actually despise our old lifestyle, wanting nothing to do with it. Instead we should seek to become more knowledgeable about the Lord, his Kingdom, and his will. Then he answers some questions about the rapture and the resurrection. This is important to the advice his gives us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
We do not have to fear the times that we live in. All of these things are given to us as a sign. A sign that the Lord’s return is imminent. Just as persecutions were on the rise in ancient Rome against followers of the Way so are the prevalent today. Today we have another 100 year event. It seems the past few years we have had a 100 year event, of some sort, every year. This 100 year event for 2020 is the pandemic; COVID-19. This event has attacked every part of society in every part of the globe and will undoubtedly change the way many things are done in the future. The way we interact with one another will be different. The way that foreign government interact and support one another. Even the sovereignty of nations will be changed. Individual freedoms will be forever effected. Powers of local, state, and federal governments will be increased. Universality of mankind will grow in acceptance, doing away with many boundaries we previously had.
This virus is already affecting all of those things and more. We are losing family members. Some are questioning God. Some are flat out angry with God, and have chosen to reject him. Others have renewed their faith. Some who have stopped praying and seeking God decades ago are now seeking him out. This same dynamic plays out in the family circle. Many families are being drawn together. Forgiving one another for offences long forgotten. Parent spending time with their children. Children once starved for attention from their parents are now being filled up with love. However; with these things we see unfolding. The changes in the governments, religious acceptance, the move toward universal-ism and far more set the stage for the events which must unfold. With these things, and the very upfront reality of death. Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us to comfort ourselves and one another.
We know the times and the seasons in which we live. This have been told to us before. Jesus himself told us of the signs that would show as his return grew closer. He told us those things so that we could take comfort in them. When we see these things happen, we know that he already told us and that it is part of his plan. These things have to take place in order to save as many as possible and to spare them from the wrath to come.
For us, the follower of the Way, we have supreme knowledge and comfort. We know, that everyone has an appointment with death. As far as death is concerned, we know that we are just passing through this world. We are not to cling to things of this world. We know that the things of this world are temporal. That means that everything of this physical world fades away, it is temporary. Things rust, mold, decay, turn to dust, and even dust disappears eventually. Scripture says that the life of a man is like a vapor. It is here one moment and then gone. For us who believe in Christ, we have a more complete knowledge in knowing these things. We know that there is life after death.
We know that we do not fade away or become a part of the cosmos and loose who we were. Instead, we have a new life. We know or true life is spiritual, not the flesh. We know that God has made a way in Jesus Christ for us to live this eternal life in his presence without fear, without death. We know that our sorrow will be taken away, and that God himself will wipe away our tears. We can believe this because Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he conquered death and arose from the dead. He is alive, and because he is alive, we who believe have been grafted into his life eternal.
This guidance, given by the Spirit through, Paul says that we should take comfort in what he has just said, and as we take comfort, we are to encourage one another. What he just said is that Christ is eternal. Christ is returning. We know this because of the signs all around us. We then walk in the light of Christ. So we can take comfort in these things that are unfolding around us. This comforting is a two-fold process.
We take comfort in the Lord and then this gives us the ability to comfort others. What is our comfort? We know that we dwell in him. We are his children. 1 John 4 says that we who know God know that God loves us; for God is love. He manifested this love in Jesus Christ; that we might live through him. We are able to love one another because the love of God is in us. We also know that his Spirit is in us because without the Spirit, no man can confess Christ. With this comfort in our hearts we know that God loves us and that he is faithful. We can then encourage one another in these odd days of fear, sickness, and death.
We can comfort one another by doing what we are called to do. Remember Paul complemented the Thessalonians in walking upright before man and the Lord. This example of godliness they lived encouraging him and the whole region about Thessaloniki. People were being saved and believers were being encouraged by the life that they lived. Lives of holiness and dedication to Jesus Christ.
We see that walking in the Spirit through living a sanctified life encourages others around us. We can give hope to others in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can teach one another of the faithfulness of God in his Word and in the testimony of our own lives in him. We can also pray for one another. Pray without whole hearts. Pray aloud. Pray boldly. Pray in faith and in hope. The Lord says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (it means a whole lot- have great influence). Guess what, you who have believe on the name of Jesus, you have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptizedevery one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38 (King James Version)
Baptism, a tradition in our common faith, that a number of us do without full knowledge of how important this act is. Quite often, we are baptized at a young age before we know the importance and the meaning of the act of baptism. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing, plenty of people in the Bible as we will discuss we simply told be baptized and so they got baptized. Though as you mature in your faith, it becomes important to understand just how import this symbolic act is.
The act of Baptism was so important to God, that Christ Himself got baptized and is one of 8 events that is recorded in each of the gospels (the others being: call of the first disciples, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, the agony at Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal of Christ, Peter’s denial of Christ, Christ before Pilot, then the death, burial, and resurrection). You can read the story in John 1:29-34, Luke 3:21-22, Matthew 3:13-17, and Mark 1:1-11. Mark 1:1-8 reads as this:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. (KJV)
And Matthew 3:13-17 gives us a better completion of the story:
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (KJV)
Christ felt it to be so important to be baptized that He led the way with His own example. Then God, the Father said He was well pleased with His Son for the act of righteousness and faithfulness. So, if God almighty humbles Himself to be baptized, that should speak to the level of levity that this act has.
So, what is the big deal??? Well, Paul writes on that subject in Romans 6:4-11:
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (KJV)
It is the marking of our new life as believer’s. Used to be the circumcision, but now our mark which also serves as an outward symbol and metaphor for the death, and resurrection of Christ. To show the world that we are no longer who we used to be. That from that day forward we are Christians, followers of Christ renewed by the Spirit of God. The act of being fully submerged is the dying to our former selves as Christ died on the cross to take away our sins, and then the reemergence from the water a parallel to the resurrection of Christ in that a promise was fulfilled and our sins are no more. When we are baptized it is our symbol of dedication and a public testimony that Christ has begun this work of Salvation in us that will be completed on Christ’s return (Phil 1:6).
It marks the beginning of the relationship that you have with God. Like getting a friend request on Facebook or other social media, God has sent the request to everyone. And when you repent and accept Jesus as Lord, and Savior, that is you accepting the friend request. But, what makes a friend special on Facebook? It is the one you tag in everything, and the one that you talk about how proud you are to know them! Think of baptism as your first tagging of God in your life! That is the first moment that you acknowledge and profess Him before all of man! That is what is so important about baptism. What is the point of accepting Christ if you are ashamed of Him? There is no point, baptism is merely the completion of your old life and marks the beginning of your new one.
We can see this in the life of Paul, formerly known as Saul. In Acts 9, we read of Saul’s redemptive encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, but his new life did not begin until he was baptized by Ananias (Acts 9:10-19). After his baptism Saul became one of the greatest apostles of Christ and went on to author the majority of the New Testament. Another great way to think about it is this: A brother in Christ once told me about this riddle. There are 7 birds on the wire, and all 7 decide to fly away. How many flew away? The answer might surprise you, but the answer is 0. None flew away, all 7 are still sitting on the wire. Just because you decide to do something, does not mean you have actually done it. This is the same with repentance and acceptance of Christ. If you never take the first step of Baptism, then have you truly dedicated your life to God?
In the Great Commission given to us in Mark 16:15-17 we are commanded to go all over the world and preach the gospel and “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16, KJV). We are actually commanded to believe and be baptized! The book of Acts contains another great example, in Acts 8:26-39 we have the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Now, eunuch was a man that was devoted to purity of not only himself but of generally a lady he protected or some position that he held. In other words, they were men of righteousness and were beyond reproach. In this story, we can tell he clearly believed the word of God, he just did not quite understand it. Phillip was directed to go and preach to this Eunuch that he might understand the word of God. The eunuch, having it been placed on his heart, was full of conviction and asked Phillip to baptize him then and there on the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere. That is how important baptism should be to us as believers!
The act of baptism should so important to us that when we confess our belief in Christ that we should straightway seek to act on that belief and be baptized! Even Christ did not begin His ministry until He was baptized! If nothing else is gained out of this, then remember that the Lord, your God, decided it was so important to Him that we should be baptized when we come to Him that He set the example and began His earthly ministry by being baptized. Now, yes Christ had performed miracles and even preached before then, but He did not set out to complete His Father’s work until after being baptized.
All of that to say this, baptism; is it important to your belief? Yes, we are all called to be baptized. If you are still having doubts about this whole Jesus is Lord talk, then I would encourage you to check out the other posts on this site and really read into the Bible for yourself and put to test the things you read in it! God is still in the miracle business, let the next one He works be in the transforming of your life! Repent of your sins, believe in your heart, and confess that Jesus is Lord and follow it up with baptism, and be saved! A future without worry of what comes after death is just a prayer away! If you have questions, please feel free to email us at email@example.com . God Bless You, and have a Wonderfully Blessed Day!
It is Good Friday! A day that Christians around the world hold holy and dear, a day that we remember the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the day of our dear Savior’s death, but we call it ‘Good’ Friday… how could anyone call the day of someone’s death good unless they were talking of a merciless dictator like Hitler or Stalin? Christ is recognized by the world as being the first real equal rights activist, and one of the first nonviolence practitioners (Funny they forget He took a whip to people, John 2:15), as well as model for most philosophers and philanthropists to follow, so how can we call the death of this overall respected and trusted being to be a good day? This is a day where our Lord suffered through the worst punishment the human body could take, and is described here:
Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews. Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes. The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.
At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.
The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.
After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed. (Dr. C. Truman Davis, 2018)
But that was not the only thing Christ endured before finally dying! Christ carried the cross to Mount Calvary a staggering 650-yard journey with a 75 lbs. weight affixed to His back. Pushing his muscles beyond the point of failure, Christ is recorded to have stumbled 3 times before the Centurion loses his patience and orders a denizen to help Christ with the weight. How can any of this be considered good? How? Even further the death on the cross is regarded as one of the cruelest forms by which to die. Not only are there nails in your wrists and feet, but you are slowly suffocating. To which to breathe you must pull by the nails in your wrists and push yourself up by the nail in your feet, causing even more pain just to breathe and live a little longer. So, again, I ask how can any of this be good? Let me remind you of the prophecy from Isaiah found in Isaiah 53:
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12, KJV)
This is where we begin to see why it is a Good Friday, as Christ was put through all of this to bear our iniquities. But let us read in Romans 5 to get the full picture.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11, KJV)
Christ died for us, while were enemies of Him! And we were justified by His blood. By His death, we were forgiven. Christ presented Himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of our sins! By this we have JOY in knowing that our sins are no more and we no longer have to fear the day of judgement or what comes after death for those who believe. This is why it is Good Friday! Because a good thing has been done, the remission of sins by the shedding of His blood. No one else could fill the sacrifice as God alone could.
If you are in a stage of doubt as to believing that Christ died for you, because you are a good person, we have to remember that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), and that where sin is God cannot be (1 John 1:5), and to be without God is death (Romans 2:1-11). Here is the good news, Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to this world to die for our sins because He loved us and all you have to do is believe that He is who He is (John 3:16-17, 1 John 1:9). To accept this free gift of salvation all you have to do is believe in your heart and confess it with your mouth (Romans 10:9-11)! I would encourage you not to wait, because tomorrow is never promised, and there is no better time than the present to begin your walk with God than now (2 Cor. 6:2). This means so much more than just a religion, it begins a relationship with God almighty (1 John 1:3-4). If you have any questions or are interested in finding a good church to be a part of, reach out to us via our contact link or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org ! God Bless you, go in peace!
The Prayer of Intercession is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. This prayer is an intimate conversation between Christ and the Father on our behalf that we may know His heart and how much He cares and loves for us. Beyond anything else, save His crucifixion, this prayer shows how much Christ truly felt our emotions, of love, longing, loss, heartache, and joy. Through this, we can see that He truly experienced the human condition. While He certainly holds true to His divinity, He also remains humble and makes requests for us, who He counts as a part of Him.
Following the Last Supper, and a whole lot of divine revelations to His disciples they begin to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along this walk Christ begins to pray in the middle of the night. His prayer is said aloud for His disciples to hear and that they may be filled with the same spirit that He has in these final moments. As a soldier and his unit preparing for combat, He says this prayer to fill His team with confidence in the things to come. It is His last battle cry, His rally to arms. Though, it was not for combat, it was for love and the work of the ministry. Let’s read this powerful prayer. John 17 holds the entirety.
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:1-5, KJV)
This first part of this prayer is Christ acknowledging His Father’s will that He has fulfilled already and asking for the strength to bring it to completion that He (Christ) may glorify His Father even more. He even says that God has given eternal life, and that eternal life is found in the truth that God is God alone who sent Jesus (who is God, the Son ref. John 1:1-4, Rev. 1:8). It is simple, and plain, yet profound and a centerpiece to our faith. To call yourself Christian is to believe in the fact that Christ is both the Son of God and God, himself. Carrying on in verse 6:
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:6-8, KJV)
These verses are Christ acknowledging His Father’s will. He says that His disciples were chosen by the Father and that everything that He taught and said was His Father’s will. Christ says that everything that was given to Him, He turned and gave it to His disciples. Like a band of brothers, He kept no secret from those He loved most, all the words and lessons that God had, He gave them to His friends, disciples, and his most trusted followers that they might be fully equipped for the work of the ministry after He left. Now, He gets personal starting in verse 9.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:9-12, KJV)
Here we see Christ begin praying specifically for His apostles. Because they are special to Him, He says those that are given to Him, as our most treasured friends are, so were these men to Him. God grants friendship, kinship to be the bonds by which we learn how to love one another and it was something that He felt Himself. Christ asks that God keeps His friends, as in keep them in His will that they may be one in the spirit of God and fellowship. Jesus knows the hard times that are going to ensue following this prayer and He wants them to be kept together despite what they would do (Judas’ betrayal and suicide, Peter’s denial, the general cowardice in the face of controversy). Christ wants them to hear this also, because He knows that it is important that they hear how He prays for them that they might know how to pray for one another. We get to go even deeper with what comes next in verse 13.
And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:13-19, KJV)
This is one of my favorite parts of His prayer, here this is where Christ prays for their protection, but not as we might pray for one another’s protection. See, I normally hear in prayers, and have prayed myself before, that God keep people from danger, or from death, but Christ does not. More rather Christ says that He prays aloud (these things I speak in the world) that they may have JOY despite the hate that this world shows them. He even goes as far as to say, do not take them from the world, instead keep satan away from them and sanctify them in Your Word that they might be filled with joy and strength. That is just beautiful! He knows this world will turn against them and so instead of trying to keep them out of it, He prays that they be filled with joy because they are doing what is right and when the world hates on them it is because they are doing what is right! The only protective thing He asks is that Satan be kept away from them. And that is who we truly fight against in this world, not people, but Satan and his many schemes and deceptions. Now, let us see what Christ prayed for us! Beginning in verse 20:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, KJV)
All right, now we are getting into why the prayer of Intercession is so important for us! Here we see Christ change from just His present disciples, and begins to pray for all those who would believe by the accounts, testimonies, and witness bore by His apostles, and that is everyone else who ever became a Christian, i.e. YOU and ME! Christ prays for our salvation here, prays that all those who should believe in the testimony of other disciples that we would be made one with God! And this is to honor and glorify God, because the world will see when we begin to act as believers and our lives change, as they should, that there is no denying that we are followers of Christ. As we talked about yesterday, that the world should know we are Christians by our love! Because as He said that “the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them” (John 17:23, KJV), that is what we are to embody as a unified body of believers. It does not matter what you think of another believer, because you cannot claim to love God and hate your brother (1 John 4:7-21). This is so important as a believer, it is beyond an imperative, that it is so important that God, Jesus, made certain to make it not only His final command before dying, but also prayed for it that we may know just how important it is to Him.
In closing, Christ turns back to His praying for His disciples that are with Him beginning in verse 24:
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24-26, KJV).
In closing for His prayer, He returns His focus on His disciples. He prays that they would be able to truly bear witness to the glory of God that they may have a full understanding that God is who He says He is. And lastly, that they may have the same love that the Father has for the Son. Again, it is a beautiful picture of how real Jesus was. He had friends that He wanted to know just how awesome His Dad was, and He would stop at nothing to prove to not only them that God loved them and was all powerful, but He did not want to rest until the entire world has heard this! Shortly after this prayer Christ and His apostles arrive in the Garden Gethsemane where Christ begins to pray for strength to fulfill His Father’s will by going to the death of the cross. But all of that, and more we will cover tomorrow.
Maundy Thursday, what does that even mean? I, like most of you, have grown up knowing about Maundy Thursday, but never what does that really mean. So, let us dig in. Grab your Bible and a good bit of spare time we are here to dig in deep to the Word to be enlightened about this special day in our faith.
We are going to be covering 3 things today and another tomorrow, all about and just covering what happened on Maundy Thursday and just how important and vital it is to know! Though, first off what is this word Maundy? The word itself just is not in our normal vernacular. The word comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ where we get mandatory from, and it means commandment! So, Commandment Thursday. Now that has a different ring to it, but what commandment has/was given to us this day that this day if forever remembered as Commandment (Maundy) Thursday? We will cover this shortly, today we are here to discuss the Last Supper, Christ’s revelation of omnipotence, and the Commandment of Christ.
The Last Supper as we know it, is a symbol of Christian unity in our time. But to Christ it was something different altogether, this last meal was His opportunity to impart His last few lessons before departing this Earth to accomplish His Father’s will (though not a permanent leave of absence). Often times, we place great importance on someone’s last words or moments before they pass, and with Christ we should make no exception. This last night and meal are filled with lessons and doctrine, so much so, that we are covering even more of this tomorrow! Alright, enough delay, have your Bible handy? Good, turn to John 13:1, Luke 22:13-20)
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1)
And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:13-20)
And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:2-17)
With a complete reading of the Last Supper, we see some important things done. First, the creation of Communion, the act of partaking of the body and blood of Christ (symbolized through bread and wine) in remembrance of what Christ was about to do. It is important to note, that this was done with only those who were truly followers of Christ (with the exception of Judas who was already taken by satan’s scheme). To partake of this tradition, legacy, and remembrance, you have to believe and have nothing left between you and God (1 Cor 11:23-34). You are not to partake if you are not already at peace or one with God. You must have confessed your sins to Him and cleared your plate of all things, for this Communion is a pure symbol between Christ and you. To accept the gift of the new testament, you have to have confessed to the truth and accepted the gift of Salvation. Though that is not our focus, what He does after is.
In John 13:2-17, we see another lesson entirely. One of leading through servitude and a reminder that we still will sin and must remember to constantly ‘wipe our feet’ as it were. Christ lowers Himself (once again) to be the lowest of people and clean the apostles’ feet. This was traditionally done by the lowest in social standings of household or group. Yet, Christ not wanting to waste the opportunity to teach in His last moments cleans their feet and tells them that as long as we are in this world, we will become dirty, and we need to constantly turn to Him in confession and repentance. This way we might become clean again. Additionally, we see this wonderful lesson of servitude, that as a follower of Christ we ought to see ourselves as the least of us and serve others. There is no greater way to reach to others and show them just how God loves them than by being the literal hands and feet of God and serving them! Getting down on your knees and helping someone with their uncleanliness.
Through the events of this night Christ makes it undeniably clear to them that He is God and the Son of God. First Christ identifies His betrayer (John 13:18-20), then He tells of Peter’s denials to come (John 13:34-35), but the most important revelation comes after these. Those first two are just Him revealing that He is omniscient (all knowing) and that He sees into the future. Then He lays down the truth of how to get to heaven (though He has before Luke 9:23). In John 14:1-11.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. (John 14:1-11)
Here, Christ lays it bare before His disciples. He told them, this is the way it is, nothing is hidden from you anymore. In Him have they seen the Father, and through Him they would join the Father in heaven and inherit the Earth. Amidst the confusion and panic of the prophesies that He is spewing out about His most trusted followers, He lets them know, that there is a great deliverance for them in faith. He even says that they should go on to do greater things than He has (referring to the work of the ministry). Jesus just lays out the whole picture for His disciples fully knowing that these were amongst His last words before the time of His death.
Next, the Commandment of Christ. After all of this, let us see what commandment Christ has given to us that this day should be known as Commandment Thursday. John 13:34-35 reads “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Now, keep in mind that Christ has already given them and all who heard the commandment that we should love our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves, so why is this different? Here He says to love one another as He has loved them! And that is with His life! His entire Earthly life was to bring redemption to mankind despite our sins, despite our fallacies, and despite the rejection by His own people. He tells us that we should love in a way that the world would know us by our love! That is radical in our day and age. Most of the world will easily tell you that Christians are bigoted, close-minded, intolerant, and hateful people. The truth is that most of us who call ourselves by His name, do not show the same love that God did for us.
John 15:13 says this: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The God of all creation (John 1:1-4) just said that there was no greater form of love than sacrificing yourselves for those you love! Now, He is not asking for martyrs, He is asking that we sacrifice our pride, and our livelihoods to serve Him and one another. He says we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14-15). Again, right before this saying He repeats the command that we are to love as He loved (John 15:9-10). After that, He goes on reaffirming His divinity by the rites of His Father. No other commandments are given until His ascendance into Heaven where we are left with the great commission. In other words, Christ’s dying wish is that we would love so dramatically that the world would not be able to deny His presence in our lives. There is an old hymn that says “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love” and I challenge you to make that so for your life. If we are truly followers of Christ then we ought to love like it. This does not mean compromising our values or bending over backwards for the world, but more rather as Christ did, teaching, and preaching the truth through servitude and humbleness.
In this letter the author
skillfully outlined how the bible cannot be trusted. If you look at the evidence they put forward
then it would be easy to convince yourself that there is no reason to put any
trust in the bible, or any of its translators or scribes for that matter.
This is not necessarily a
direct response to this article, but rather it did get me thinking how many
young Christians are attacked with such half-truths and then told that they don’t
have a leg to stand on. Indeed this article goes so far as to start the article
in such a manner as to silence ignorant Christians from the very first few
The author uses phrases
like, “They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians…”. In addition the article states that “clergy
invoke a book they seem to have never read and words they don’t understand”. The only true thing the author reveals is
ignorance of what Christianity is all about.
That is probably our fault. We do
know that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian, is in fact a disciple of
Christ as required in scripture. Despite
the stereo types we have been granted by modern day Nero’s we do have some real
assurances that the Word of God is in fact just that.
Here is the thing. Most critics do not have an issue with the
original scriptures being divinely inspired by God. The reason is that none of
these original text have survived. What
most arguments center on is the accuracy of the text we have received. Here is the fundamental Christian view of
scripture. If God divinely inspired the writers
of the Bible, then he (God) also can preserve it. We have been given warnings
from God, not to alter his revelation of himself to us.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command
you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God
which I command you. Deuteronomy 4.2
Numerous times the
different authors of the Bible asserted that they received direct guidance from
God on their writings.
– the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him… “saying”
–(Jeremiah) “the word of the Lord came…. “saying”
1.1 – The Revelation of Jesus Christ … which God gave unto him (John)
Throughout the bible the
authors warn of the dangers of altering the text of the scriptures.
Moses the 1st
author warns against adding or taking away from the Words of God.
What thing soever I command you, observe to do
it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it (Deuteronomy 12.32)
The Apostle John gives a
clear warning with a consequence on adding or taking away from the words of the
For I testify unto every man that heareth the
words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God
shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man
shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take
away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the
things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
This statement tells us:
Not to add to
the prophecy or you will receive the judgement of God
Not to take away
from the prophecy or the Lord will take away you part in the book of life, and
the holy city, and from the blessings that are written in this prophecy
tells us that there is no further revelation to be accepted, because God is not
sending anymore revelation.
Even in the middle of the
Bible God commands us:
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto
them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove
thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30.5-6)
Solomon reminds us that
the word is:
There is a
consequence for changing the Word
reveal you as a liar
The importance of these warnings and
reverence of the word of God is demonstrated in archeological findings. The Isaiah text (700 B.C.) when compared to
the copied text of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (200 B.C.) are almost identical
with only punctuations added. So the
idea that original texts are necessary to get direct inspiration from God is
foolish. God has preserved his message
Mathew 5:18 – reminds us that not one jot or tittle will be removed until
the law is completely fulfilled.
Some proofs of accuracy
in prophesy Recorded in history:
Babylon ruled over Judah
Babylon’s Gates Open for Cyrus
Between 701 and 681 B.C.
Hundreds of years after prophecy
Babylon permanently overthrown
Between 701 and 681 B.C.
Hundreds of years after prophecy
Babylon Reduced to Swampland
Between 701 and 681 B.C.
539 B.C. and Archology confirmed in 1800s
Hundreds of years after prophecy
Jews survive Babylonian Rule
From 626 and 586 B.C.
Add to this over 300
prophecies fulfilled in the birth, death, resurrection, and ascending of Jesus
Christ to the throne room of God.
How can we know what we
received is accurate? Jewish tradition takes place after the fall to Babylon
and Assyria. The scribes located the books of the Law and began making
copies. This custom of copying the text
was a show of extreme respect and detailed scribing of the Word of God. Scott
Manning published an article in March 17, 2017 that gives the following
requirements for copying the Old Testament by Jewish Scribes.[i]
requirements for scribes:
They could only use clean animal skins, both to write
on, and even to bind manuscripts.
Each column of writing could have no less than
forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
They must verbalize each word aloud while they were
They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies
before writing the word “Jehovah,” every time they wrote it.
There must be a review within thirty days, and if as
many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be
The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted,
and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The
middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original
The documents could be stored only in sacred places
As no document containing God’s Word could be destroyed,
they were stored, or buried, in a genizah – a Hebrew term meaning “hiding
place.” These were usually kept in a synagogue or sometimes in a
Some unique things about
the bible verses other ancient scripts
that God is the author
Over 1500 statements in the text claim divine
Bible’s Internal Unity of Message
40 Different Authors
Written over 1500 years
3 Different Continents
Message from cover to cover: God saves through
Accuracy – some examples
There has never been any archeological evidence
to dispute any historical claim in the scriptures
Moabite Stone found in 1868 documents Moab
rebellion against King Jehoram soon after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 3)
Lachish Letters found in 1930s are documents
found of a communique between two Hebrew commanders concerning the oncoming of
the Babylonians impending invasion under King Nebuchadnezzar
Hezekiah’s tunnel discovered in 1867 recorded in
(2 Samuel 5:6-8)
Accuracy – No other ancient text has as many resources to draw upon to test its
accuracy as the Bible does.
Over 5300 manuscripts fo the New Testament
10,000 Latin Vulgate
Over 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the
No other ancient text has close to the amount of
verifiable copies for comparison of accuracy – including Homer’s Iliad (643
Christ in Archeology
Codex Mediceus 68 II – Roman historian Tacitus
wrote in a major work titled Annals (116-117 A.D.) giving credit to Pontius
Pilate for executing Jesus.
Famous and Memorable Works of Josephus (including
Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities Book 20) – Jewish historian Flavius
Josephus’, (37-100 A.D.), account of the martyrdom of James, identifies James
as “the brother of Jesus who-is-called Messiah” being executed by the high
priest Ananus in 62 A.D.
Tetimonium Flavianum – 15th Century
manuscript contains the testimony of Josephus referring to Jesus as a wise man,
“if one out to call him a man.” It further speaks about his crucifixion, and
resurrection. (authenticity contested – however it is an ancient text that has
Ossuary of East Talpiot a district in Jerusalem
inscribed, “Jacob, son of Joseph, brother of Yeshua” (published in 2002).
These tell us:
Jesus existed as a man
His personal name was Jesus (Greek translation)
He was called Christos (Greek translation)
He had a brother named James
His followers multiplied in both Jew and
Jewish leaders did not approve of him
Pilate decided to execute him
Pilate was the governor of Judea 26-36 A.D.
Other not so
famous people in history
Celsus a philosopher thought Jesus was a majician
Piny the Younger a Roman governor wrote about
worship of Christ as a god.
Suetonius a Roman writer, lawyer and historian, wrote
of riots in 49 A.D. among Jews in Rome thought to be incited by Christians
Mara bar Serapion, a POW held by Rome wrote a
letter describing the wise Jewish king, indicating Jesus as the subject.
Why is this so important?
But these are written, that ye might believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life
through his name. (John 32.31)
We can trust what is written
We can trust that it came from God
We can trust that we have the complete
revelation from God
We know that Jesus Christ is the Son of
We know that we can please God in
obedience through Jesus Christ
We know that we can believe in Jesus
Christ for salvation
We know that this belief in Jesus is all
we need to have life
The 1st chapter of John refers to 2
different reactions to the Light (Word).
Rejection and darkness
Believe and Life
John 1:10-13 says:
Some received Him
Some believed Him
Those who believe were empowered to be the
sons of God
We cannot determine who will believe our report. However; this must not stop our witness. In the Book of Exodus it speaks of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. But; if you take a closer look you will see that God in his mercy revealed Himself to Pharaoh multiple times and gave him many chances. The scripture says that first Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart toward God. God so then with no other recourse left, let Pharaoh have his way. Pharaoh’s disbelief led to his death, and the death of many others. Unfortunately, those who do not believe and have a public forum will lead many to their own death because of unbelief.
The good thing is that those of us who do believe. To us has been given the message of
redemption. This message is ours and
ours alone to deliver it. Angels are not
given so great an honor as to lead others to Christ. If you have ever wondered what God has for
you to do, it is this, love God (Mark 12:30), love your neighbor (Mark 12:31),
and make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).
I was walking through Walmart about 2 days after Christmas, we needed some small food items, so I thought I would just kill some time while Dana Smith shopped. As I was walking I noticed a child and his mother, he was leading her by the hand and pointed to a toy that he wanted.
I thought how strange that this soon after Christmas they should be buying him a toy. Considering this I had to stop and evaluate my own reasons for looking around, when I really did not need anything. Was I too, just looking to consume something else that I did not need?
Then something else hit me. How often do I talk with others about things that I wish I had? How often do I look at someones car, or some other item for sell and say, wow I wish I had that? Maybe I don’t say it out loud, but I still say it in my heart. If so, then am I really believing that I have everything I could possibly need in Christ?
Covetousness can lead us into a form of idolatry. Idolatry is putting making a graven image (man-made) and making it more important than God. I know we all know the pitfall this can be. But let us consider the scripture on our words.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5 KJV
You see our conversation reveals our hearts. Everyone knows this simple truth. If you have conversations with unbelievers or other believers and all you talk about is what you do not have, this is a tell-tale sign that you are not walking in the Spirit. It also tells others that either you are a hypocrite or that the Jesus thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.
We should guard our conversations. Lucky for us this verse shows us how to change our motivations in our heart. It says that we should be content because we know that Jesus said that HE will never leave us, or forsake us. This means that he is always looking out for our best interests. We can have confidence in him that we lack nothing that is needed.
Let our conversations so reflect the satisfaction we have in Christ. Let our mouths speak of the great and wondrous things he has done in creation, and in our very lives. Delivering us through storms, trial, and temptations. He keeps us from evil, sparing our hearts and minds of guilt and anguish. He was the one who sought us out, to deliver us from death, and restore a loving relationship with him. Life and I mean all of life is ours in him.