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OCTOBER 2003

 

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  • Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

  • 2Timothy 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

  • 2Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Shame or embarrassment can be a powerful motivator. It can motivate us to keep the law, to pay our bills, file our tax returns and to generally adhere to the accepted standards of our society. We simply don’t want the embarrassment of having our behavior pointed out publicly as wrong. However, it can motivate us in the wrong way as well. We call this peer pressure when it applies to teenagers but adults are often affected by peer pressure as well. Teenagers can be embarrassed by their parents because they think they are “different” and “don’t understand” younger people. Teenagers and adults can be embarrassed by wearing clothing that is not “in” or acceptable in their circles. Embarrassment makes us act funny and sometimes we say things that later we wish we hadn’t said in order to avoid being embarrassed.

Are we embarrassed by the Gospel of Christ? It seems to me that we need to be aware of the culture and background of our listeners so that we don’t present the Gospel in an offensive way but we need to remember that the Gospel is offensive. Some terms like sin are not popular. It can seem hypocritical to dwell excessively on particular sins in preaching the Gospel since we have “all sinned“ (Romans 3:23), but we do need to call sin what it is. The idea of eternal conscious punishment in Hades and the lake of fire for the Christ rejecter who dies is not easy to preach. It often offends our listeners. Are we ashamed of these terms? Are we ashamed of the Man who is God and Who was willing to die in our place. He came in humility as a carpenter rather than in regal glory as a king. He lived in poverty rather than in the plush palaces of the rich. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Are we among those who presently hide our faces from Him (Isaiah 53:3)? Are we ashamed when people refer to the Bible and when His name is mentioned reverently in public? Are we ashamed of those like Paul who boldly testify to the truth that Christ is the Savior of sinners?

I am not sure whether the following story is true or not but I like the point that it makes. A little girl was ashamed of her mother because of scars that affected the way she looked until she found out that her mother had been burned saving her from a fire. Then she took pride in the way her mother looked because the wounds were the evidence of her mother’s love and of how precious she was to her mother. If we are ashamed of the Gospel or of the testimony of our Lord or of His prisoners, maybe we have never had our hearts truly touched by the love of the Lord shown to us by dying for our sins and saving us from eternal burnings.

Romans 5:8 reminds us God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Surely if He was not ashamed of us, even though we are defiled and defective because of sin, we should not be ashamed of the One took our place and died so that we might live.

Week of October 5, 2003

  • John 8:23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.

  • John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

The Gospel is black and white. We are either saved or lost. We are either believers in Christ or unbelievers. In the Bible there is only one way to the Father and thus to heaven and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6). One of the reasons that He is the only way is because He is the only One Who was born a man Who was also God. He was not just a good man though He was a good man. He was not just a worker of miracles though He worked miracles. He was not just One who expressed love and compassion though He did express love and compassion. He was not just a superb teacher though He was a superb teacher. None of these attributes could be said of the Lord if He was not God. He claimed to be the “I AM” that revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). His old testament name Jehovah means “I AM” or the ever existing One. He reveals Himself to John this way on the isle of Patmos in the book of Revelation when He says in Revelation 1:8, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

If the Lord Jesus is not God, then He didn’t know who He was and He has lied. If He has not taught the truth then He has not been compassionate and loving because He has given people false hope and has caused them to die for a lie. If He was not God, then He was not good (see Mark 10:18). Today there are people who claim to be Christians who do not accept this fundamental truth. There are major religions who claim to be worshipping the same God that we who trust in Christ worship but God says, “If ye believe not that I AM, ye shall die in your sins.” You will note that the he in the above verse was added for clarity and it actually confuses. It also seems obvious that one who dies in His sins is not “in Christ” (see Romans 16:7). In order to worship the “might One” who created the universe, we must agree that His Son Jesus Christ is the “I AM” of the old testament. We must believe that Lord Jesus is “God manifest (appearing) in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).

This is a bold statement “If ye believe not that I AM, ye shall die in your sins”. If we don’t believe that the Lord Jesus was God then we don’t believe in Him. If we don’t believe in Him, we have rejected the only way to heaven. This is not an issue on which the Lord will be “understanding”. If Jesus was not God, He was not a good man and He died for His own sins (lies) and not for ours.

However, HE WAS GOD. The Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). My Savior not only said He was God but proved Himself to be God by His miracles and resurrection. My Savior has the power and authority on earth to forgive sins and to assure us of a home in heaven that we do not deserve. My Savior, the One who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8), makes promises he has the power and authority to keep.

Week of October 12, 2003

  • 1Corinthians 9:4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

  • 1Corinthians 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and [as] the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? {wife: or, woman}

  • 1Corinthians 9:6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

  • 1Corinthians 9:12 If others be partakers of [this] power over you, [are] not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

  • 1Corinthians 9:18 What is my reward then? [Verily] that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

Today we hear a lot about our “rights”. We have minority rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, employee’s rights, employer’s rights and the Bill of Rights. I am glad for all of the “rights” that we have in this country but there is one right that we have that I hear very little about. When was the last time that you heard someone talk about their right not to use the rights that are theirs?

Paul had the right or privilege to demand practical support from those he served. He didn’t use that right. Sometimes others supported him but he never demanded it. He would take up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem but not a collection for himself. Didn’t he have the right? Of course he did, but he felt that he could easily abuse the authority given to him by God. Paul understood that there were things that he could do as a Christian with a clear conscience that would confuse a new or weak or immature Christian. He didn’t do those things (Romans 14:21 and 1 Corinthians 8:13). Christ not only had the right but the power to call twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) but He didn’t. He had the power to save Himself from the cross but He didn’t.

There are many places that a Christian has the “right” to not exercise his “rights”. We may have the right to an apology that we do not demand, we may have the right to a style of living that we don’t pursue, we may have the right to go certain places that we do not go, we may the right to spend our hard-earned money on ourselves and we may not do that. We may have the right as an elder to make a decision that we think is best and we may defer to others where no Scriptural principle or doctrine is being violated. Why would anyone give up their rights? We would do that only if we really thought it would please the Lord and advance the spread of the Gospel. If one person were reached and saved for all of eternity because we didn’t exercise use our rights, wouldn’t that make it worth it all? Perhaps this one of the things that the Lord had in mind when he told his disciples that they would have to take up their cross of self-denial and follow Him.

Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 8:35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

Week of October 19, 2003

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

One of the great controversies of our day has to do with the responsibilities of the Christian to the old testament law. The law in these discussions usually means the ten commandments and thus involves keeping the Sabbath. Many people that I talk to are convinced that we must “keep the law” as Christians. My question to them is, “If I don’t try to keep the Sabbath (which is Saturday and not Sunday), can I go to heaven?” People that I have asked that are usually not willing to take a position on the question.

What seems to be misunderstood by most of us is that salvation was by faith and not by works in both the old and the new testament. When people kept the ritual of the law but did not worship the Lord from the heart, the Lord found no pleasure in their sacrifices and rituals (see Isaiah 1:1-20 and Malachi 3:13-18). The law was a means of knowing how to serve God if one loved Him otherwise it was a meaningless ritual. By not keeping these rituals, a person proved that he didn’t love the Lord but keeping them did not prove that a person did love the Lord. In the new testament, we have the same moral standards but different ceremonies and symbols. In the new testament, if we love the Lord we will “walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). We will keep the Lord’s supper and be baptized by immersion to show we are saved. We can do these things and not be saved but those saved by grace through faith will want to do these things out of devotion. They are the ceremonies by which we worship God through the Lord Jesus Christ today.

It is true that the law is associated with judgment and that grace is associated with mercy and life. The moral law of the old testament convicts of sin and the sacrifices that were offered were a picture of Christ who puts away sin. I do not find most people who want to be circumcised and keep the Sabbath keeping the Jewish Feast days to the Lord or making sure that their churches only have descendents of Aaron as their “priests or preachers” as the old testament demanded. No, God has taken Jew and Gentile and has made a “new man” (Ephesians 2:15) which seems to be a title of the church which is His body.

In Acts 15, there was a conference over this matter. Peter says at that time, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we (Jews) shall be saved, even as they (Gentiles) (verses 10-11).

I am thankful that God offers His salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that I don’t have to be burdened with the old testament religious system that the Jews failed so miserably under. I keep the Sabbath teaching by trusting in Christ and thus obtaining rest as in Hebrews 4:3. I recognize that circumcision is a matter of my heart and not a matter of keeping a ceremony (Romans 2:29).

Being saved simply by trusting in the work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ to put away sin and to satisfy God’s righteousness seems to be too simple for most people. But I am a simple person and simplicity is what I need. Why make salvation more difficult than God has made it?

Week of October 26, 2003