Monday, December 27, 2010

Submission to Authority Part 5: Social Matters

Employers over Employees – Ephesians 6:5-8 / Colossians 3:22-25 / 1 Timothy 6:1-2 / Titus 2:9-10 / 1 Peter 2:18-20. If you’re going to be a Christian employee you must see yourself as working for Jesus Christ. The goal is to please God with what you do. In most cases these are voluntary associations, and we don’t have to stay in them. They are not like slavery but the principle of submission applies. What if you’re the boss? Ephesians 6:9: God says we are in this together. Don’t go around threatening people. Everywhere there is a command to submit there is a command to be righteous in our dealings (Colossians 4:1).

1 Corinthians 7:21-24 – Paul is not advocating slavery; he is saying that slavery is no barrier to being a Christian. Paul would like slaves to be free, but if they aren’t they can still serve God well. Physical freedom is an implication of the gospel. When Christianity is planted into the hearts of people, emancipation will eventually happen. Titus 2:9-11 – even slaves can wear the garments of grace, and be adorned by the beauty of the gospel. 1 Timothy 1:10 – this includes the kidnappers of free men, the stealers of the slaves of other men, and slave traders. The New Testament doesn’t seem to directly rail against the institution of slavery. It does speak against it, but it does not condone a societal revolution that would have turned to violence in the midst of the original spread of the gospel. Christianity does clearly teach principles that undermine it, and did end it, as is the case wherever Christianity is developed (cf. Matthew 7:12 / Philemon).

Philippians 2:5-13 – Think about Jesus and His relationship with the Father, and you will realize that the essence of spirituality is submission. Man’s nature is not submission but rebellion. Even in the Garden of Eden there really was only one thing to submit to and they wouldn’t do it. We have to learn to be submissive. Let us learn from Christ. Jesus was totally submitted to the Father (Luke 22:42 / John 5:19). His destiny included investment by submission; so does ours.

Jesus submitted (vs.5) – Matthew 23:12 / James 4:10.

• To God as a son (vs.6) – Jesus 1st act of redemption was submission; without it there is no salvation. The Gospel started by the submission of Christ, it comes to us when we submit to God. John 5:17-19, 14:10 – He was still God but He did the Father’s will. In the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4 / Luke 4), Satan presented “alternatives”, but Jesus stayed in submission.
• To men as a servant (vs.7) – He had to be born as a baby, cleaned and fed, with all the mundane aspects of being human. He grew in stature, but still had to endure the waiting period before His ministry. Hebrews 5:8 / Matthew 20:25-28 – He was a servant leader.
• To death as a sacrifice (vs.8) – Matthew 10:28, 26:39 / Hebrews 2:10-15. He would be resurrected (Acts 2:23-33) but He submitted to the wrath of God (Isaiah 53:6-12).

Therefore…

• The Father has exalted Him (vs.9) – He was already the creator and sustainer (John 1:3 / Colossians 1:15-18 / Hebrews 1:2-3), yet now His name is magnified.
• Everyone will submit to Him (vs.10) – Matthew 28:18 / Ephesians 1:21-23 / 1 Peter 3:22.
• The Father is glorified in Him (vs.11) – 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Jesus sought God the Father’s glory just as the Holy Spirit seeks to glorify Christ (John 16:13-16).

Most people don’t want to do something “beneath their dignity”, but to submit to Deity is true dignity no matter what the world says. How miserable would Jesus have been if He had argued with the Father all the time instead of submitting to His will? The submission of Jesus wasn’t just talk; His submission took action. Therefore, because of Christ, as we learn submission we experience His power (vs.12-13).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Submission to Authority Part 4: Church Matters

1 Corinthians 11:3-12 – God has established principles of authority, order, and accountability. In the relationship between the Father and the Son; Christ is not inferior, it is a functional subordination (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28). In no case is inferiority implied with any of the examples of submission mentioned in Scripture. The head covering is a cultural matter, but the principle of submission is universal. How does this apply to us today, since in our culture head coverings are not indicators that women are submitting to male headship? Women can demonstrate submission by their attitudes, by taking on their husband’s name, by wearing a wedding ring, and by dressing in ways that are feminine and not masculine (does not mean no pants, men wore “dresses” in Deuteronomy 22:5 times).

What about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35? Clearly, from all Paul says, there are times and places in which a woman may speak and others in which she may not. 1 Timothy 2:12 makes it clear what the key is. A woman is not permitted a pastoral or governmental position over men in a New Testament church. There is no question but that a woman may be every bit as spiritual and spiritually gifted as any man. That is not the point. A submitted woman will find many opportunities to exercise her gifts (Titus 2:4 / 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15).

In vs.11-12, Paul says that women and men are to maintain their gender roles in interdependent ways. Although the woman was made on behalf of the man, apart from women there will be no more men. Paul is reminding everyone that their gender roles are God given. Men should hold their authority under God, and women are to submit to men under God. No one is to regard themselves as autonomous. Women may pray and prophesy in the church setting, and they do not have to physically cover their heads. They must be in subjection to the authority of their husbands, and cannot assume a teaching or governing role over men in the church.

Church Leaders over Church Members – Hebrews 13:17 / 1 Corinthians 16:15-16 / 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 / 1 Peter 5:5. How much authority does the pastor have over you? The practical answer is however much you grant him. God only holds the pastor responsible for warning, rebuking, teaching, sounding a clear message, and doing the things that he can do. He doesn’t hold him responsible for making you do what you have to do.

When submission to one authority conflicts with submission to another, we are obliged to submit to the highest authority. The Bible teaches that Christians should relinquish our relationships if it becomes necessary to do so in order to put God first (Luke 14:20, 24). Looking for instances where you don’t have to be submissive might mean you are looking for a way out of being submitted (Example: Child being told she can’t ride her bike to the playground, so she walks instead). In such a case, lots of rules must be set down to cover every conceivable situation. However, if we are submissive, you only need a few guiding principles. True submission is undermined by stereotypical submission, defined by very precise rules and practices rather than a matter of the heart.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 – if two Christian parties can’t agree between themselves, instead of going to the secular court system, they ought to submit to the church and its due process, and then be willing to abide by their decision. Certainly there are times we have to appeal to or appear in court, to answer a charge or to testify in a criminal matter, or when we need legal clarification of different kinds of agreements. Those possibilities having been stated, the gospel truth is that submitting to God means that we also have to submit to one another.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, December 13, 2010

Submission to Authority Part 3: Family Matters

Parents over Children – Proverbs 6:20-21, 15:5 / Ephesians 6:1-3 / Colossians 3:20. You may be in your 20’s now, but you should still honor and be interested in your parent’s opinions. They know who you are and what you need and what you’re about. Did you inherit infallible wisdom along with your emancipation? Parents have a responsibility as well – Ephesians 6:4 / Colossians 3:21. Some parents abuse their authority while other parents abdicate their authority: but that doesn’t mean that that no parent should have authority over their children.

Husbands over Wives – Ephesians 5:22-24 / Colossians 3:18 / 1 Peter 3:1-6. Husbands have a responsibility as well – Ephesians 5:25 / Colossians 3:19 / 1 Peter 3:7. Christ showed us submission and love perfectly, and it is the pattern for marriage. We submit ourselves to God and to one another by submitting to our God given roles. For the woman the question isn’t, “Is he worthy?” the question is “Are you willing?” For the man the question isn’t “Is she submitted?” but “Am I serving?” The man must serve his wife even when she isn’t submitted, and the wife must submit to the man even when he isn’t serving. The opposite of this is when both man and woman are both just looking to say no to each other. She is looking for excuses not to submit, and he is looking to avoid giving himself completely to her service. They don’t respect each other, they don’t respect their God given roles, and they don’t actually respect God’s Word. That isn’t a marriage where Christ is the center and you are a couple at war with the devil; that is a miserable existence where Christ is only a figurehead and you at war with each other.

The family unit has roles that were designed by God. If we don’t submit to God’s design, we don’t submit to God, and the devil will not be resisted (James 4:7). It’s not about ability it’s about authority. That authority is established upon the priority of God in our lives. It isn’t about talent it’s about team. It isn’t about intelligence it’s about order. If everyone is out of order, all your energy goes to getting everyone in line first, and the leader cannot even see if the decisions are right, he is just trying to get things in order first. Conversely, when everyone is in line and things go wrong, then he can see what needs to be changed. Submission is not about inferiority, or about women keeping their mouth shut. It is about glorifying God. When a wife doesn’t submit to her husband she is failing as a disciple of Jesus Christ, not just as a wife. Submission is about honoring Christ, not a husband’s talent, intellect, or decision-making skills.

Women are required to submit to their husbands entirely. That doesn’t mean the man is to rule as a tyrant, or that she has no say. No, the man and the woman should be consulting one another on most everything, but in case of a tie, the man bears the responsibility and accountability for the final decision. This frees the woman; it doesn’t constrain her like a shackle.

The Christian wife may believe that submitting to her husband means she must never speak in a way that seeks to correct him if he is wrong. This is not true. The biblical commands related to discipline in the church apply as much to marriage partners as to anyone else. If all of us are to submit to one another, we must somehow carry out the discipline commands in a way that does not violate the principle of submission. Submission and rebuke are not incompatible. The wife is not to submit to any other man in the same way as she does to her husband.

A woman is not required to submit if her husband asks her to sin. Now this is not simply your definition of it, but a clear biblical case. If it violates the woman’s conscience she should speak up while still submitting. Of course a woman is not required to submit to one who is insane, or when they are being violently abusive, or when they are drunk or drugged up (not just because they got drunk one time, but when they are drunk and would be making an irrational decision, like, “give me the keys”). A woman is not to submit to an adulterous relationship.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, December 06, 2010

Submission to Authority Part 2: State over Citizens

Romans 13:1-7 / Titus 3:1 / 1 Peter 2:13-17

This is a command that applies to all. God ordained the role of governments, families, and authority structures to provide order to society. All human authority is derived from God’s authority. We question that when we think of the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and other evil dictators of world history, but we see examples of God showing that He is sovereign over all leaders, kings and tyrants: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, etc. (Proverbs 21:1). Pilate is a case in point (John 19:9-11 / Acts 4:27-28).

Jesus and His disciples paid their taxes to a pagan Roman government (Matthew 22:17-22), and to a corrupt Jewish religious body. Although our Lord questioned the validity of a particular tax (Matthew 17:24-27), He taught His followers to pay the tax anyway (Romans 13:7).

Romans 13:3-4 – legitimate function of civil authority – reward good / punish evil. When a government becomes so corrupt that it fails to perform its legitimate functions, then people must try to institute a new government peaceably and the church must speak against political corruption, public sin, and tyranny.

Acts 4:18-20, 5:17-29 – When any human authority commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands, Christians must resist at that point, yet still be subject to the punishment – Christians first, citizens second, our primary obedience is to God. One can still be in submission to one’s authority without always blindly obeying every command. In other words, one can submissively disobey. Daniel and his friends demonstrate submissive disobedience for us (Daniel 3:8-25). They would not submit to idolatry, but would submit for the penalty of disobeying the king. Daniel submitted to the authorities over him in Babylon, while at the same time he maintained his submission to God (Daniel 4:1-23).

What if the authority endorses what God condemns? They don’t make me do it, but they promote or allow what is morally evil, for example abortion. Christians can get involved with crisis pregnancy centers, write letters, and petition for change. What about when a government doesn’t enforce laws already on the books that provide protection and justice to others? Clearly, there are times when an authority must be challenged to cease from its ungodly ways. There comes a point where the evil is too great and we must do more, when passive acceptance of an evil perpetrated on another becomes a sin. This doesn’t mean bombing abortion clinics or murdering abortion doctors, but it does mean we should jaywalk and strike an attacker who is trying to mug an old lady. We might need to speed to get a person who was shot to the hospital.

When a ruler of a people is engaged in and promoting wickedness, in some cases we should be praying imprecations. In the Bible an imprecatory prayer is the prayer of a righteous man petitioning God to carry out justice by bringing punishment or destruction upon evildoers, and to let God’s righteousness prevail in a situation (Psalm 10:15, 28:4, 58:6, 69:22-28, 109, 137:9, 139:19-21, etc.). The imprecatory Psalms are not personal vendettas; they were longings for God to vindicate His cause upon the earth, and to judge sin.

When David or any other biblical character prays an imprecation, the matter is left entirely with God. David might have had Saul in mind, yet he refused to take personal revenge, even when he had the opportunity. David may have prayed fiercely, but his actions were gracious and kind. Moses, the “meekest man on earth” (Numbers 12:3) prayed imprecations (Numbers 10:35). The prophet Jeremiah used imprecations (Jeremiah 11:18-23, 18:19-23). There are numerous imprecations in the New Testament also, such as that of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9-10).

If someone who has authority seems to be against us or actually is our enemy, the New Testament teaches that we are to pray for them (Matthew 5:44 / 1 Timothy 2:1-2), do good things to them (Luke 6:27 / Romans 12:20), and forgive them (Mark 11:25 – recall session 5, Luke 23:34, Acts 7:60). In light of this, we can understand that imprecatory prayers are a truth that must be held in tension, and not just for us to filter our anger through, etc. However, this is part of scripture, it is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and there is still a place for imprecation in Christianity, especially upon governments gone bad, totalitarian regimes, human rights violators, etc.. Someone who has learned the power of submission in their lives will be better able to discern what to do in these situations.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, November 29, 2010

Submission to Authority Part 1: Introduction

Christians by nature of their relationship to God through Jesus Christ have agreed to obey His authority. This includes those parties invested with delegated authority on this earth. All authority starts with God, and from the Supreme authority we recognize delegated authority. Authority structures in human relationships are designed by God to accomplish His purposes. All people who claim the name of Christ are to be involved in submitting themselves one to another (Ephesians 5:21), which is the path to blessing (1 Peter 3:8-12).

Many problems in life can be traced back to a misunderstanding of submission to authority. We thought we could do it our way and it messed up our life. Many ruin their relationships and wreck their faith because of rebellious attitudes. Many want to equivocate on the clear teachings of the Bible regarding the nature of submission in relation to obedience. Obedience is about our actions toward authority, while submission is about our attitude toward authority. Christian submission, whether a policeman, parent, or person in charge is around or not, should be from the heart, seeking to please God and knowing that He will reward us.

Submission is required for sanctification – Romans 8:7, 13 – we do not naturally submit to God, but believers we have the ability to submit. Our flesh fights against it, but the Holy Spirit can lead us to victory over our flesh the through the process of submission.

Heaven has an authority structure, with God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, then the archangels and other angels who all submit to those above them. Satan’s kingdom has a hierarchy (Ephesians 6:12), and he and his minions war with God’s children (1 Peter 5:8).

James 4:7 – Submission involves resistance to Satan. Isaiah 14:12-15 – Lack of submission is the reason for the fall of Satan. By not submitting to authority, we are in rebellion (1 Samuel 15:22-23), and this is why so many suffer so needlessly. There is tremendous freedom in submission. We are set free from the anger and bitterness of wrong actions toward us, and free to obey Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

The world teaches us to strive for independence, but biblical submission is concerned with interdependence (Romans 12:4-5 / 1 Corinthians 12:14-27). Submission makes us a servant to others; thus submission is the surrendering of our independence. In submission we place the interests of others above our own personal interests (Romans 15:1-2 / Philippians 2:1-4), which enables us to humble our thirst for recognition.

In the eyes of the world, the greatest is the one who has no one over him. In the kingdom of God, Jesus said that whomever would be the greatest would be the servant of all (Mark 9:33-37, 10:43-44). Being a disciple of Jesus means talking up our cross by denying ourselves (Matthew 10:38-39 / Mark 8:34-35 / Luke 9:23-24 / John 12:24-25). Submission is the attitude which underlies servant leadership. When we subordinate our interests to those of the ones we lead, we die to self. In this way we become models of submission to the church (1 Peter 5:1-7).

God is the key and Christ is the model and the means for submission. In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we are to be subject to all authority because God has orchestrated it (Romans 13:1-7). In Ephesians 5, the husband and wife relationship is patterned after the relationship of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:21-33). In Philippians 2, the submission we are to have one to another is to imitate Christ’s submission (Philippians 2:5-13). Peter also makes God the focus of submitting to governmental authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), to workplace authority (1 Peter 2:18-20), and to those who cause them suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:19). Respect for and obedience to authorities is important because it is an expression of God’s authority over us.

The Bible teaches unconditional submission, but not unconditional obedience. Submission would include those times when we don’t agree with those in authority over us or feel that they are wrong. Even though the Bible differentiates between submission and obedience, the only time we are not to obey is when we are told to do something that is in direct contradiction to God’s written Word. That contradiction must be based on fact not feeling. Submission doesn’t mean we can offer no opinion, or that those in authority don’t need our opinion.

Acts 19:13-16 – You can only exercise authority to the extent at that you are under authority. The policeman saying "Stop in the name of the law" says that because he is standing in the place of the law and speaking on behalf of it. To the degree that he speaks for the law, then he can enforce the law and he has authority. When he steps outside of the law, he has lost his authority even though he still says, "Stop in the name of the law." Praying “in Jesus name” is not some magical incantation, it is representative of our being under His authority. It says we come in the name of our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), on the merits of Jesus, not on our own merits. We must pray consistent with His character and His will, which is what in His name means.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Sweetest Sound

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.
(Proverbs 18:22 – ESV)

On our anniversary day, I think back to a time when I came face to face with the reality of my love for my wife. Oh yes, certainly I did love her and I knew it, and I knew that she knew it too. We have a great marriage, and we go through the ups and downs and “all arounds”, and we grow through it all, to the glory of God, we pray.

Now I don’t want to sound all pious about our “picture book” relationship, I want to be real, and to help you with some hope. The truth is that sometimes things don’t work out like we want them to, but the Lord of Life has a way of helping you regain a true focus and rediscover the depth of devotion when the shallow waters of situation come roaring into your mind.

You may be distracted, disappointed, disgruntled, or in despair, but I hope God will help you apply this to your situation. He can turn any situation into a celebration of Him and those good things He allows us, even if only for a season.

You see, we were in church one Sunday, and my wife had a sudden, intense attack of pain, and she couldn’t tell if it was just some muscle thing or something much more serious, because it was near her heart region. She was in incredible agony, and she had that look of “ultimate concern” on her face as tears were streaming down her clothes. The church had the look of horror as we ran her out of the building as fast and as calm as we could.

We rushed her to the emergency room, and they were able to stabilize her quite quickly. Thank the Lord, it didn’t seem serious, but even after several visits to other doctors, no one could ever tell us what actually happened or any root problem there might be. In any event, we were relieved, as was the church when they found out she would be okay.

A few days later, my wife and I were sitting around the house in the morning hours. I was doing some writing at the computer, and she was eating breakfast. Now my wife and I both have these little “noises” we each make, and I won’t go into all of them here, but it can be quite entertaining to say the least. However, sometimes our little “noises” become nauseating to us, ourselves and to each other. Some noises we can “appreciate” more than others, if you know what I mean.

One such noise that was bothering me to no end on this day was that all I could seem to hear from the other room was my wife crunch, crunch, crunching her cereal. Munch, munch, munch, crunch, crunch, crunch, I was about to scream out, I tell you the truth. This was one of those little “noises” that could really get to me, especially when I was in the middle of doing “important work” like writing my sermon.

All of a sudden, it would seem as if God crunched right down on my head and munched right into my heart. It was then I realized that while I had always detested the sound of the crunching of cereal before, to be able to hear it now was sweet music to my ears, for it meant that she was alive, and she was here. I now did more than “appreciate” it; I relished every little noise, every little wonderful sound! Crunch, crunch, crunch – It was her! Munch, munch, munch – My baby was still with me! That munching became the melody of love to my heart.

Now I am a lover of classical music, and I have heard many live orchestras perform many great works of music in my life, but no Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms could have lifted me to such heights as I felt that day.

I hope you find the joy I found…the day I heard the sweetest sound.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, November 22, 2010

True Worship Part 5: Corporate Worship

This is important to God (Ephesians 5:19 / 1 Corinthians 12-14). Revelation 4-5 gives us a taste of heaven, and several marks of a God-centered service.

• A high view of God
• A constant focus upon God
• A distinction between God and man
• A deep fear of God
• A people separated unto God
• Repentance toward God
• Prayers to God
• The exaltation of Christ, as worthy, as the only way, as the glory of God

Corporate worship is obviously about more than music, as we have discussed, but part of corporate worship is that it allows us to proclaim truth to each other in song (Colossians 3:16). Personal worship is performed privately, and is a vital component of the Christian life. It reflects the “me and God” component which the Christian enjoys through the cross of Christ. However, it is not quite so with corporate worship. If you view corporate worship as only a “me and God” experience, you will not only lack the joy which comes from corporate worship, but you will be failing to accomplish one of the purposes of our meeting together, which is to edify one another (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). Since corporate worship allows us to proclaim truth to each other it also allows us to learn truth from one another, with the words and the expressions we give, and the gifts we use. The church is not only taught by the lyrics of the songs, but by the church’s response to these lyrics, it is taught what it looks like to be impacted by truth. If the church fails to utilize such expressions, it has, to some degree, failed to feed its sheep with the teaching that corporate worship should offer.

While private worship is a vital component in the lives of God’s children which allows us to personally express devotion to God, corporate worship is God’s design to give us but a glimpse of what it will be like to be glorified in heaven. One of these things is that the redeemed will be joining together in song (Revelation 4:8, 5:9-12). To see the church congregated together to worship God in song gives us a glimpse of this. It increases in us the hope for future glorification which God has placed in the hearts of his people (Romans 8:24-25). When we envision worshipping God and the only thing which comes into our minds is ourselves, we fail to recognize what we are a part of (1 Peter 2:9).

The purpose of our corporate worship service is for our congregation to worship God. Every church has a liturgy, which refers to the form our public worship takes. That form may involve creeds, organs, bulletins, prayers, electric guitars, videos, and the list goes on and on. The question is not whether or not we have a liturgy, but whether we have a biblical one that includes scriptural elements, rehearses the gospel, builds up the church, and glorifies God. In worship today, there is a tendency toward casualness. The emphasis on feeling God’s closeness in worship may short-circuit our being transformed by a glimpse of the Transcendent One.

Idolatry is alive and well. We must not bow down at the altars of coolness, fame, material success, cutting edge technology, and emotional experience. We can appear to be worshiping God while serving our idols (2 Kings 17:32-41). We err greatly if our focus is on “hitting the right sound/style/song” in our services, rather than consistently and clearly leading our people to worship God in light of the Cross and Resurrection, God’s glory and our gain. Of course, the answer to slick, overproduced, overemotional worship is not shoddy, emotionless worship. Glorifying God by our worship must be our goal, our highest priority (1 Corinthians 10:31), and excellence is part of that. Worship is our highest calling, and it is more than a Saturday night or a Sunday morning or any specific time. Worship is more life than event (Romans 12:1-2).

Psalm 100 is a summary of instructions on how to worship the Lord. Who should worship the Lord? Everyone should (vs.1). How should we worship the Lord? We do it by serving (vs.2a), singing (vs.2b), submitting (vs.3), and sacrificing (vs.4a), both individually (vs.4b), and corporately (vs.4c). Why should we worship the Lord? He is good, loving, and faithful (vs.5).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, November 15, 2010

True Worship Part 4: Old & New

Worship Before the Law – the emphasis was upon an individual relationship to God (Genesis 8:20). The father acted as the priest for his household (Job 1:5). There was no central place of worship prescribed, with the worshipers offering sacrifices on altars which they built (Genesis 12:7-8). Besides the offering of sacrifices, worship in this period was characterized by the expression of thanks to God (Genesis 24:26, 48, 52). There were no fixed times of worship.

Worship Under the Law – everything about worship is laid out in minute detail. Nothing is left to the imagination. The Levitical priesthood was instituted (Exodus 28:1). The place of worship was centralized, first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple (Exodus 20:24 / Deuteronomy 12:5, 11). The high priest could enter the holiest place once a year (Leviticus 16). In addition to the daily sacrifices (Exodus 29:38-42), there were five specified offerings: the burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings (Leviticus 1-7). Israel was given a calendar of seven special feasts: Passover, unleavened bread, first fruits, Pentecost, trumpets, Day of Atonement, and tabernacles. Anything God didn’t prescribe was considered strange fire, detestable in God’s sight. When the Jewish Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, the Jewish people were no longer able to carry out Old Testament worship as it was explicitly laid out in Scripture. They no longer had a temple, or the ability to offer blood sacrifice. So they devised a method for instruction and fellowship called the synagogue. The word “synagogue” is not a Hebrew word, it is from a Greek word which means a gathering together.

Worship in New Testament Times – the exact prescription and prohibition was for the OT, but the NT reveals a different pattern of worship. The OT types pointed to Christ, and now we do NOT do those, they have been fulfilled, and so now we worship Christ but in varied forms, no Tabernacle or Temple, no sacrifices, etc., no exact prescription. The NT prescribes liberty (Galatians 5:1), not forms or formulas (Philippians 3:3), but it does give parameters for practice (1 Corinthians 12-14). Every believer in Christ is a priest (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Jesus Christ is the great High Priest (Hebrews 10:21). There is no central earthly place of worship, nor is there an appointed calendar of sacred feasts or religious observances. The sacrifices are “spiritual sacrifices” (Romans 12:1, 15:26 / 2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:13 / Philippians 4:18 / Hebrews 13:15-16). Worship in the present age most closely resembles that which will occur in heaven, and sharply differs from that prescribed by the Law.

New Testament church worship is about freedom of communication, with some measure of spontaneity, and yet there is a structure: the reading and interpretation of the Word, the sharing of words of exhortation and encouragement, praying and singing together, and sharing money to help poor folks and to advance God’s kingdom. Jesus takes the Jewish Passover and transforms it into the central ordinance of the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper which, whenever it is observed, takes us back to Calvary and points us to the finished work of Christ.

New Testament worship leaves us with no New Testament book of Leviticus. Some believers today try and impose the OT regulations of worship on NT believers. We would agree in essence that anything that God doesn’t explicitly prescribe or implicitly command is prohibited. However, all of the New Testament proof texts that some try and use in order to limit worship are not really about formal worship at all, they are about life, because a fundamental thing about worship in the New Testament is that all of life is worship (1 Corinthians 10:31). The emphasis is not on binding the conscience of someone. While it is certainly true that God alone has the right to determine true worship and that He has done so in the Scripture, the NT focus is on the liberty and freedom we have in worship. That is what God has prescribed; worship in spirit and in truth. We do ourselves a great disservice when we think of worship only in stereotyped terms. However, we also would be in error in assuming that spontaneity is spirituality. Having said that, let’s now look at some further principles of NT worship.

Principles of New Testament Worship – The encounter Jesus had with the woman at the well (John 4) gives us clear principles for worship. The Lord led her to the true worship of Himself (vs.19-26). We come to understand that not all worship is acceptable to God (cf. Acts 17:16-31). God is the One who initiates true worship through the person, work, and word of Christ; there are none who naturally seek God from their hearts (cf. Romans 3:10-18). As we discussed earlier, God enables true worship (cf. Romans 8:26, 11:36). God is the appropriate object of worship. Worship must be in spirit; internally real and not outwardly by ritual alone (cf. Philippians 3:3). Worship must be in truth; not just a projection of our sincerity, or a reflection of culture, but firmly based on the truth of God revealed in the Bible (cf. 1 John 4:5-6).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

True Worship Part 3: Application

The Application of Worship – Let’s apply our definition of worship and understanding of our attitudes and actions of worship to certain activities we think of as worship.

Prayer – Prayer should have elements of supplication and petition, but in the context of prayer as worship, we must also include grateful expressions about who God is, His eternal attributes and actions of the past (Philippians 4:6). The Psalms provide wonderful models in this regard. We should set aside time to make prayers focused fundamentally on praise to God, and less on laundry lists for God, because although He does want us to ask Him for our needs (James 4:2), He already knows what we need (Matthew 6:8, 32-33 / cf. our sermon This is How to Pray).

Testimony – many of the Psalms are based upon the experience of the writer. This experience becomes a vehicle which turns the attention to the greatness of his God. God is merciful and kind not only because the Bible tells us so, but because God has been at work in our life. To testify is not to simply revel in our good blessings, but to reveal His character, that is our cause. Yes we should be excited to hear of great stories of God’s hand of help, if not such Psalms and stories wouldn’t be in the Bible at all, but in doing that we must remember the bottom line is about God. It is not, “look what I did” or “look what I can do for God”, and not simply “look what God can do through me” (I was delivered, I am ministering, etc.), but it is “look at God through me” (Matthew 5:16 / cf. our sermon This is How to Testify). Then it becomes worship.

Music / Singing – while the primary dwelling of worship is the heart, the expression of worship is physical. The expression of worship allows us to portray outwardly what is felt inwardly, and the regular mode of this expression is music and singing. The Psalms teach us that the praises of the people were set to music and sung. Music can be used to quiet our hearts and minds and focus them upon God. Yet, in the Pastoral Epistles, we notice that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy or Titus to make sure they have a great praise band! By concentrating on doctrine Paul doesn’t say don’t do music he is saying that all our music should be doctrinal leading to devotional. The content of our songs of worship must be doctrinally rich if they are to be biblically sound. Paul isn’t teaching that music is unimportant, but that focusing on the Bible will help us to focus correctly in worship with music and singing. Colossians 3:16 – Some teach that our music should only be exclusive psalmody, but this is incorrect because that leaves out hymns and spiritual songs and a host of NT truths. We see saints in the book of Revelation singing a new song that has clear references to redemption and NT truth. There is a difference between public and private devotion and music, which we will cover later.

Preaching / Listening – Preaching which is focused on God and directs our attention and affection to Him may prompt true worship. Listening with our minds and hearts is a vitally important part of the process. Preaching that inspires us to live a godly life, and preaching that transforms us by the renewing of our minds leads to worship, although it may not be worship in the immediate moment. A shallow approach to preaching makes it less possible for true worship to take place, because we only rise as high in worship to the same proportion which we have been taken deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way we can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God's self-revelation. Too often preaching merely aims to entertain. Too often we fail to worshipfully listen.

Study – Theology is the study of God; doxology is the worship of God. This is where all theology should end up, in praise to God. Study without praise is pride. Praise without study is shallow. Knowledge without a heart surrendered to God is empty of God’s life. All true worship is a response to the revelation of God in Christ and Scripture, and arises from our reflection on who He is and what He has done. Worship without theology is bound to degenerate into idolatry. That is why Scripture is so important in both public and private devotion. On the other hand, worship is not about a purely academic interest in God. No, the true knowledge of God will always lead us to worship. Good theology should sound like doxology (Ephesians 1:3-14). Doxology is fueled by theology and theology is made more potent by diving into the depths of revealed truth. Certainly by the end of his life the Apostle Paul had come to a higher place, he didn’t stay on that Damascus road.

The Bible paints a picture of theology and doxology together, deep roots in the soil of the scriptures matched with the fervent fruit of fired up worship. We need to see both, not one to the exclusion of the other, and unfortunately, some who have deep roots in theology don’t express the outgrowth of that enough in their corporate worship or lifestyle. Also, some Christians think going deep means exploring the depths of their own feelings, and therefore "God" becomes a projection of their best thoughts, and they practice idolatry without realizing it. The problem is when we don’t progress beyond those feelings and then we go searching for that feeling as the tell tale sign if we are worshipping correctly or deeply or not. We fail to dig deeper into things we may at first have a hard time understanding because they don’t give us a feeling yet. We become satisfied with feeling what we think is “fullness”, but the better we understand God from the scripture the better we are able to worship. It doesn’t mean the better we will worship but the deeper our thoughts of God become, the higher our worship of God can become. We stand in awe of God, and then our affections are stirred, not vice versa.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, November 01, 2010

True Worship Part 2: Attitudes & Actions

The Attitudes of Worship – Three main sets of Greek and Hebrew words that are rendered as the word “worship” in the Bible give us a picture of the attitudes of worship.

Humility – The most frequent pair of words used for worship in the Old and New Testaments represent the act of bowing oneself in submission. The outward posture reflected an inner attitude of humility and respect, a high view of God and a humbling opinion of self. Thus, true worship views God in His perfection and man in his imperfection.

Reverence – Another pair of words used in both the Greek and the Hebrew is that of fearing God. It is not so much terror as it is wonder and awe at the greatness of God. Humility focuses inward on our finiteness and sinfulness in the light of His infinity and perfection. Reverence focuses outwardly upon the awesome majesty of God. Irreverence is contrary to worship.

Service – The third pair of words employed for worship in the Bible emphasize the idea of labor. In the Old Testament this service was most often priestly service. In the New Testament we are all priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9), and service involves the entire congregation of believers. Worship and service must be integrated, if it is to be true worship (Luke 4:8).

The Actions of Worship – The contexts in which these words for worship are used give us an understanding about the actions of worship.

Response – biblically speaking, we do not worship to get God to act, we worship because God has acted. Yet the worshiper is not merely an observer of redemptive history, but he has been included in this story, and has been personally impacted by the act of redemption is his own life. Romans 11:36 – Worship is from God (Romans 3:21-24 / 1 John 4:19), through God (Philippians 3:3), and unto God (John 4:23). Apart from God’s revelation of Himself and of how man can approach Him in worship, man could never worship God in a way pleasing to Him.

Adoration – since worship is fundamentally a response, what is the nature of this response? It is that of adoration and praise which God rightfully expects of His creatures. When most people think of “worship” this is what they are thinking of, and indeed, the ascribing of worth to God, the enjoyment of giving glory to His holy being, and all the things surrounding this are a crucial part of what worship is. We thank Him for His acts and praise Him for His attributes. Perhaps the best way to see this is in book of Psalms, which gives us the patterns for adoration. Even those who reject Jesus in this life will wind up worshipping Him (Philippians 2:9-11).

Sacrifice – Central in the worship of the Tabernacle and in the Temple was the practice of sacrifice. When Abraham worshiped God in Genesis 22, the offering was termed worship. The presentation of the first-fruits was also regarded as an act of worship (Deuteronomy 26:10). When the wise men came to worship the baby Jesus, they came with gifts to give. David spoke of worship that costs something (1 Chronicles 21:24). In the New Testament the idea of sacrifice is still prominent in worship, but since Jesus is our sacrifice, and no bulls or goats are needed, it is the sacrifice of self which is essential (Romans 12:1). The book of Hebrews adds to this the sacrifice of praise, of doing good things, and of sharing (Hebrews 13:15, 16).

Proclamation – proclamation is a vital part of worship. Israel was not to worship God in secret, but was supposed to be a “light to the Gentiles.” When Abraham worshiped, he built an altar and “called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 12:8, 21:33). In the New Testament, the church has been created by God as a display of the wisdom of God to all the true and false systems of religion and the powers that are behind them (Ephesians 3:10). In the Lord’s Supper all believers proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26). We are not just spectators watching what God has done and is doing, we are participants in the divine drama, being observed by both those in heaven and those on the earth (Ephesians 3:8-10 / 1 Peter 1:12).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

True Worship Part 1: What & Why

Christian Worship is the response of born again believers to the revelation of God. It is based upon the work, the worth, and the word of God. It is achieved through the activity of God. It is directed to God. True worship is to ascribe worth to the one true God, to reflect upon the value, beauty, and character of God, who is truly there and who is truly worthy. It is expressed by the heart in humility, by the mind in captivity, by the lips in praise, and by the life in service. The thing we have to be careful about when “doing” theology or worship is that we can love thinking about God more than we actually love God, or that we can love loving God more than we actually do love God. True worship is concerned with doctrine, devotion, and demonstration. It is worshipping the right God, in the right way, and with the right heart. It is a lifetime pursuit and an eternal destiny.

False worship is to attribute worth to something which is not real, or to something which is not worthy, be they false gods or things not necessarily associated with god, but are idolatry nonetheless, such as worship of self, or money, and on and on we could go. Aberrant or deviant worship is to worship the right God but in the wrong way, or to worship the right God in the right way but with the wrong heart. Sincerity in worship is not necessarily the same thing as worship in spirit and truth, which God is looking for (John 4:23-24).

We should search the Scriptures on the subject of worship because worship is important to God, and because of the consequences of false worship. Cain’s sacrifice was rejected by God because it was false worship (Genesis 4:3-5). 3000 people died in one day because of the false worship of the golden calf fashioned by Aaron (Exodus 32). Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, were destroyed because any worship God doesn’t prescribe is detestable in His sight (Leviticus 10:1-3). The kingdom of Israel was divided because of the idolatry of the nation (1 Kings 11:31-33, 12:26-33). Israel made an idol out of something that God himself had instituted for their deliverance (Numbers 21:4-9 / 2 Kings 18:4). The fall of Jerusalem was directly attributable to apostasy and false worship (Jeremiah 16:11-13). Paul wrote that God was justified in condemning man because he worshiped in error (Romans 1:25). Satan fell from heaven because he sought worship for himself, and seeks those who will worship him (cf. Matthew 4:9).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 18, 2010

What is the Gospel? Part 5: What are we saved from?

Colossians 1:13-14

Looking at Romans from 1:18-3:23 we see that salvation is from the wrath of God (cf. Isaiah 53:10-12 / Galatians 3:13 / 1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ is the answer to sin, and His death appeases the wrath of God. Many other things presented as “gospel” do not require God to become incarnate, live a sinless life, die on a cross and rise again. Is it necessary for Christ to have been crucified? That is one good criterion for understanding if a message is about the true gospel. Some add Christ into the mix but their messages are just like they would be without Him, motivational talks, moral exhortations, feel good seminars. If you took out the biblical references or even added them it wouldn’t make any difference to the content of the teaching.

What kind of savior do we really need? The bible defines that need. We are saved from God by God. The Law had to be fulfilled by humanity. Only God could save us; only a human being should save us. God can’t die, so the Son of God entered into humanity so that He could die and pay for our sins. Until that broken Law was fulfilled by humanity we were still dead in our sins. We needed a new federal head, a second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45 / Romans 5:12-19). To redeem a people He had to be fully God, so as to give the atonement an infinite value, and He had to be fully man to perfectly satisfy the requirements of God’s Law, thus becoming an acceptable substitute for sinners (1 Timothy 2:5 – the man Christ Jesus) . It is not how many bad things you have done, not how many sins you have committed, but actually how bad sin itself really is. God’s glory was demonstrated at the cross by showing that God’s Law really did require a penalty for transgressions against it (Romans 3:25-26).

The missing ingredient in many gospels or gospel presentations is the fact that we are bound by sin, dead in sin, and slaves to sin. Salvation is from sin and to the Savior. The great problem of humanity is sin, not a lack of knowledge, not a lack of power, but a lack of purity. No amount of power and no amount of knowledge can erase that. Only the blood of Christ can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus can make me whole again. The only way we can have peace with God is if our sins are forgiven, and in Christ they are (Romans 5:1).

Some use the world’s methods of marketing to “sell” the gospel, being more concerned with numbers than with presenting the true gospel. Some water it down so there is no call for repentance from sin. This may produce large numbers of “converts,” but very few genuine believers. The message isn’t healing, helping needs or even simply that Jesus is the Messiah; it is the cross and the resurrection. We do not change it, modify it, grow it, shrink it or do anything to make it better. Our task is simply to take it the way it has been given to us and to believe in its power to affect lives. The fact that so many try to make the gospel into something else shows the nature of it as a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:18-24, 2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 11, 2010

What is the Gospel? Part 4: What is justification?

Luke 18:9-14

It is being declared righteous before God based on the merits of Christ. Often overlooked is the fact that when the Pharisee prayed he was thanking God. He was not saying how great he was by himself. He knew he was not able to do good works on his own, but felt that this infused righteousness he worked with justified him. God does indeed develop righteousness in everyone to whom He imputes righteousness, but we never achieve perfection in this life (Philippians 3:4-19). Works are the fruit, not the root of justification (Ephesians 2:10). This is the great danger, the teaching that the imparted righteousness whereby we can indeed do good works is the grounds of our justification, instead of the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account.

For some to justify means to make righteous rather than to declare righteous (cf. our sermon A Nail Pierces the Darkness). The Roman Catholic Church talks of grace and being saved by the merits of Christ alone. However, they teach that we receive the grace of God, and the merits of Christ, and are made righteous based on our participating in the sacraments of the church. Yet the Bible is clear that the gospel which saves the soul (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) does not include sacraments such as water baptism (1 Corinthians 1:17).

Also the Roman Catholic version of Communion (Eucharist) is turned into a righteous act on the part of the participant in which they maintain or continue their saving relationship with God. They believe that the real physical presence of Jesus is in the bread and wine and that it is the continuing sacrifice of Christ over and over to assist the participant in the continued removal of personal sin. The Bible is clear that this cannot be the case (Hebrews 9:24-28). The Bible clearly teaches that we receive the grace of God by faith alone, and not faith in any work, including a sacrament (John 5:24 / Romans 3:20-24 / Galatians 2:16 / Ephesians 2:8-9).

The difference is the difference between a saving faith that relies on an external atonement for sin and a misplaced faith that relies in an internal abatement of sin. We should be thankful that we have been given a measure of freedom from the power of sin in this life, but we must be careful to never equate this with our righteous standing before God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 04, 2010

What is the Gospel? Part 3: Why do both Jesus’ Life and Death matter?

Matthew 3:13-15

In order for sinful human beings to have eternal life, the guilt and penalty of sin must be removed. Jesus does this not only by dying the death we justly deserve but by living the life we should have lived. If Jesus simply needed to impute the righteousness of God from His essence, there would have been no need for him to live for 33 years. However, in order to become a perfect high priest and lamb without blemish, Jesus not only had to die for us but He had to live for us. It is clear that the Scriptures speak of God’s people not only being justified by His death (Romans 3:25, 4:25, 5:9) but also as being saved by His life or obedience (Romans 5:10, 19). On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His life. That’s the Gospel.

Hebrews 4:14-15, 5:7-10 – this does not mean that Jesus was merely sinless in His essence as the second Person in the Trinity, but that He overcame temptations as a man. He revered and obeyed God. It says He was made perfect. Now if only His essence were needed for our righteousness there would be no need for Jesus to be made perfect since He already was. What this is speaking of is the same thing Jesus meant when speaking to John the Baptist. He was made perfect as a man (fulfilling all righteousness) so that He could become the source of salvation. Jesus was not lacking in any godly quality, but in the full experience of having lived a perfect human life. Jesus obeyed the Father in everything without sin (John 8:29). The lifelong perfect obedience of Jesus (Hebrews 5:8, 7:26-28) provides the basis for eternal salvation (Hebrews 2:10-18, 10:14).

Matthew 5:17 – Jesus did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus does for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Romans 3:20). Romans 8:3-4 – the problem is not with the Law, but that it was weakened by the flesh and therefore could not do what it intended (i.e. do this and live, Deuteronomy 8:1, etc.). Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin but without that weakness so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be met (fulfilled) in us.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is the Gospel? Part 2: How does God accomplish the Gospel?

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

We see the main thing here in this text, imputation (see also Isaiah 53) – both sin to Christ and righteousness to us. This is the ministry and message of reconciliation. Everybody has a sin problem (Romans 3:23) and we’re given the responsibility to proclaim the cure. That’s the main reason we are left on earth after we are born again, because fellowship with God, fellowship with each other, and triumph over sin will all be complete in heaven. There is one thing we do here that we cannot do in heaven and that is the ministry of reconciliation.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin – this means that God the Father punished Jesus as if He were the sinner, not that He was now actually a sinner. Jesus was our substitute. We see a type of this in Leviticus 16; Jesus became the “scapegoat”. The scapegoat wasn’t guilty, but the priest symbolically laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. Jesus was without sin, but sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it, and then God punished Him, though the fact is He never committed any of it. Christ was made sin in the sense that our sins were accounted to Him. God treated Him as if He was guilty but He wasn’t. You were guilty, but God poured His wrath on the innocent Christ who was in our place as our substitute (Isaiah 53:10). The passage in Isaiah 53:6-7 is directly applied to Christ by Philip in Acts 8:32 (cf. John 1:29).

So that in him we might become the righteousness of God – this means God accredits the righteousness of Christ to our account. God rewards us as if we are the righteous, not that we are actually righteous. We see imputed righteousness also in Luke 22:37 (what was written about ME) where Jesus connects Isaiah 53 (see vs.11) with Himself (cf. Jeremiah 23:6).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is the Gospel? Part 1: The Basic Facts


The gospel message is the good news of salvation, the word of truth offered to mankind by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ; most especially the message of the cross. We naturally think that the gospel starts with people, but the Bible reveals that the Gospel starts with God. Those that don’t know God place people first and believe that individual insight into our own selves is more important than God. This leads to pluralism, in other words, choose your own path and it is okay, because the frame of reference is people centered instead of God centered. This is against the Biblical Christian faith, as revealed by Jesus Christ, who said that there was only one way to be justified before God, and that was through Him (John 14:6). Peter said that Jesus was the only way men might be saved (Acts 4:12). Paul told Timothy that there was only one mediator between God and man, that being Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

We either believe what Jesus said about Himself and the kingdom of God, and its exclusivity, or we have to invent some other way, which inevitably leads to pluralism (many paths), universalism (all people are saved), pantheism (all is God), or panentheism (everything has God in it). All these things are invalidated by the testimony of the Bible, which Jesus validated as the words of God (recall session 2, “A Biblical Foundation”). So, it is either Jesus or something else, you cannot have both, although many claim a Jesus that is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Jesus said He was God. This is why the Jewish leaders were trying to kill Him in the first place, because He was asserting that He was the Son of God. To the Jewish mind of the day it was clear that Jesus was saying He was equal with God (John 5:18, 10:24-33). Jesus said to them that if they did not believe He was who He said He was that they would die in their sins, i.e., they were not going to heaven, but would be damned (John 8:24).

Think of it this way: all roads do indeed lead to God, but only one road leads to God justifying you, and all the other roads lead to God judging you. If you are in Christ God has already judged your sins, He punished Jesus in your place, but if not, then you will be punished for your own sins with your own soul, and you cannot pay for sins against God.

What are the basic facts of the Gospel? – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 gives us the gospel in a nutshell – Christ died for our sins, was buried, and He rose again on the third day. We see that it was Jesus, the Messiah, who is the Christ, the Son of God, and the perfect One, who had to die for our sins. We’ll develop the significance of that as we go on from here. We also see that the resurrection is central to the gospel message (cf. Acts 17:31 / Romans 8:34-39 / 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 / 2 Timothy 2:8-11 / 1 Peter 1:3-9, etc.). Paul goes on to develop this in the rest of the chapter (cf. our sermon Where are your Easter Eggs?)

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Biblical Foundation Part 5: The Bible is Believable


The Bible isn’t something we can try and prove using the “scientific method”. Historical events aren’t observable, measurable and repeatable. Although Isaac Newton may have used the scientific method to prove that gravity exists, we cannot use the scientific method to prove that Isaac Newton discovered gravity itself. So if you actually had a problem with the Bible because you can’t apply the scientific method, you have got a problem with history itself.

If something is written, you must use evidence as the witness to its truth. The only way you can question it is if you don’t have corroboration or there is internal inconsistency. There is no credible claim of any internal inconsistency and we have multiple streams of corroboration. We have three different languages used in scripture; Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. We have three different continents that scripture was written on; Asia, Africa and Europe. We have over 40 authors who contributed to the writing of scripture, most of whom never met one another because they wrote over a period of some 1600 hundred years.

Based on the evidentiary method, not the scientific method, we conclude, as some have summarized, that the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses. They report to us supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecy and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.

Jesus and the Old Testament – Jesus said the OT was about Him (Luke 24:27 / John 5:39). He quotes from every section: the Pentateuch, the Wisdom Literature, the Poetry, the Prophets (both major and minor), and the Historical material.

When dealing with the people of His day, whether it was with the disciples or religious rulers, Jesus constantly referred to the OT: (Matthew 12:3, 21:16 (citing Psalm 8:2), and 22:31).

Jesus confirmed many of the historical accounts in the OT, such as the destruction of Sodom and the death of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:29, 32), the murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Luke 11:51), the calling of Moses (Mark 12:26), the manna given in the wilderness (John 6:31-51), the judgment upon Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 11:21), and many others.

Jesus also authenticated some of the passages that are most disputed today. Many modern scholars do not believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the OT, but Jesus did (see Matthew 19:8-9 / Mark 12:29-31 / John 7:19). Some modern scholars also assume the existence of more than one writer of Isaiah, but Jesus believed in only one. In Luke 4:17-21, He cites Isaiah 61:1-2 (the so-called second Isaiah), while in Matthew 15:7-9, He refers to the first part of Isaiah’s work (Isaiah 6:9). The account of Daniel is rejected today by many, but the Lord Jesus believed him to be a prophet (Matthew 24:15). The account of Adam and Eve often is ridiculed today as legend, but Jesus believed the story to be true (Matthew 19:1-6). Likewise, the narrative of Noah and the great flood not only is authenticated by Jesus (Matthew 24:37), it also is used as an example of His second coming. The account of Jonah and the “whale” is used by Jesus as a sign of His resurrection (Matthew 12:39ff).

Jesus used the OT authoritatively – Matthew 4:1-10 – The devil actually uses Scripture to tempt Jesus (Psalm 91:11-12), but Jesus quotes right back to him: (Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, 6:13). Jesus believed in the OT.

Jesus and the New Testament – John 16:12-13 – Some talk as if only the words of Jesus are needed and the words of the Apostles are not necessary, as if the words of Jesus are somehow against the words given by the Holy Spirit to the other biblical writers. Jesus himself dismisses with this idea, Christ said that the Spirit would not only bring all the teachings of Jesus to their remembrance, but that He would also bring new truth and revelation to the Apostles upon His death. The epistles do not confuse the teachings of Christ, they magnify them. Paul declared that “we have the mind of Christ” in accordance with Jesus’ own words (1 Corinthians 2:16). If we want to truly be “red letter Christians” then we ought to pay attention to what those red letters of Jesus have to say about the authority of the apostolic writings. Jesus believed in the NT.

Jesus and KJV only – 1 Peter 1:24-25 (Isaiah 40:8) / Psalm 119:160 – God’s Word endures in some form believers will be able to access from generation to generation. It is not that every single word will be preserved in a certain form, but every concept, principle, law, doctrine.

In Matthew 5:18, when Jesus uses the phrase – “iota or dot (jot and tittle)” this does not mean that we will always be able to point to a single copy and say that every period and paragraph is written exactly the same as in the original. A letter perfect form of God’s Word could not be identified with certainty even in Jesus time. Multiple copies already existed, and variations included whole words. Jesus quoted freely from the handmade copies of the Greek version of the OT known as the Septuagint.

Scripture is Trustworthy – we can trust the Bible even if we don’t have the original documents.

The Abundance of Existing Manuscripts – the New Testament is by far the most preserved text of the ancient world, both in terms of the number of existing manuscripts and the time difference between the earliest manuscripts we have and the originals they represent.

The Insignificance of Most Variants – There are many good reasons for a rock solid confidence that 98-99% (not an abstract number) is the same as the original, and even then, it is not that 98-99% percent of the original text exists; it is that more than 100 % exists. We have all the originals say; in that 1-2% that is different, scholars try and find what is likely not original and discard it. It is never mere conjecture. This confidence in the text is shared by people of many theological positions, across conservative/liberal lines, denominational lines, etc.

The Preservation of Primary Doctrines – no major doctrine of the Christian faith is affected in any significant way by any viable textual variant. Those few places where we are not sure never encroach on any issue of major significance, they are doubts on how to spell a few names, word order, differences in style, or confusion concerning synonyms.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, September 06, 2010

A Biblical Foundation Part 4: Scripture is Stronger than Experience

2 Peter 1:16-19

Think about all that Peter had experienced and what he is saying about the Word of God.

• He lived with Jesus for 3 years
• He saw Jesus perform miracles
• He saw Jesus transfigured into a glorious state, and Moses and Elijah
• He heard God the Father’s audible voice
• Peter had performed miracles himself
• He had preached the Pentecost sermon, relating it all to scripture
• The Word is as sure as any of that, it is a confirmation of Christ (cf. Luke 16:22-31)
• We would be wise to get it down in us until Jesus rises up out of us

The common objection – Now look at vs.20-21 – You can't just say, “Well, men wrote it, therefore it must be flawed”, because if the claim of the Bible itself is true, God can get men to write what He wants them to. It is not self-refuting to claim that men wrote the very words of God and that it is inerrant.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Biblical Foundation Part 3: Scripture is Powerful

Hebrews 4:12

In this verse there are two action verbs, in the present tense, which means they are this continuously, as regarding the Word of God. The first verb talks of what the Word is and the second speaks of what the Word does.

The first verb is living – the Word has the life and power of God in it. The Word of God brings the convicting power of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Two other words give us a description of this living.

Active – full of energy, powerful. It is effective (Isaiah 55:9-11). Its effectiveness may not be immediately evident to us, but as we mature we will understand it is always so, we will see it being effective in changing lives and also in hardening hearts. It will be a surgeon or an executioner, as we see while progressing through Hebrews 4:11-16. It will perform surgery and bring new life, or it will be the death sentence to the rebel. The Word of God either heals or it hardens, and it never fails to do its intended work.

Sharper – comparative, not just sharp but sharper. In other words, it is not only effective it is precise. It not only gets the job done, it gets it done exactly right. It goes as deep as it needs to, it hits the root. This is what the word of God is; it is living, and therefore effective and precise, and that is why it is able to discern all things.

The second verb is piercing – to penetrate – two applications are given to describe it.

• The first is division – to separate – soul and spirit (spiritual matters), joints and marrow (physical matters). In other words, as written at the time these things would be impossibly hard to divide but that is how penetrating God’s Word is, it can and will find out the problem right at the root, no matter how deep it is buried, no matter how many layers it has to separate. Like soul and spirit, the immaterial parts of man, things we cannot get a hold of, God’s Word can. Back when this was written, bone marrow transplants weren’t available back then. But God’s Word penetrated as deep as that. The point is that the Word of God lays bare our problem; it exposes it for what it is. It gets to the bottom of it.

• The second is discerning – judging – not condemning but ascertaining what is really going on. It is able to see what needs to be done. It gives a critique. The Word gets to the bottom of things and passes judgment on what it finds. A prosecutor presents the facts of the case, but the judge determines what is right and wrong; the Word of God does both. Thoughts and intents, both the feelings of desire and the imaginations of the mind. As we faithfully use the Scriptures we will be trained to discern the wrong ways of thinking that have become fortresses for sin in our lives so that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed. This is the surgical power of God’s Word. This is what the Word of God does. We cannot take it for granted. The Word of God identifies the sickness and because it is alive it can give new life. It can change the heart.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Biblical Foundation Part 2: Scripture is Clear

2 Peter 3:15-18

Scripture is Clear – perspicuity of scripture – clear & understandable.

What it does NOT mean

1. All scripture is equally clear and easily understood as to its precise meaning
2. Interpretation, explanation, and exposition by a Bible teacher are never necessary
3. Believers will agree universally on every point

What it DOES mean

1. Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person to live by, yet deep enough for the most intellectual and diligent readers
2. Obscurity is the fault of our finite and sinful minds, not a problem with the Bible
3. Interpreters must use ordinary means

We cannot ask the Holy Spirit to replace our intellectual engagement with the text. We need to learn it and believe it (cf. Philippians 3:15-16 / John 7:17). Whenever we depart from the plain and simple meaning of Scripture, interpreted using normal means, we are headed for trouble.

When looking at texts, we can understand them to apply to Christians universally, such as Matthew 28:19-20 (go therefore and teach all nations), or to someone or something specifically, such as Matthew 10:5-6 (do not go to anyone but the Jews, a command for the disciples only and for that particular time period only, overruled by the Great Commission), or principally, such as Philippians 2:3-4 (Paul was speaking to a particular church but the principle of Christlike behavior applies to us) or not at all, as with 2 Timothy 4:13 (Paul tells Timothy to bring his papers, which we are obviously not to do). Texts meant specifically may also apply principally, so sometimes texts that aren’t teaching on a particular subject may still give us a principle to follow and apply to other matters.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Biblical Foundation Part 1: Scripture is Sufficient

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Paul told Timothy about the difficult days that he will face (3:1-9). Timothy will not have Paul personally present to lead and guide him (4:6-9). So what would Timothy have to guide him? Timothy would have the teaching Paul gave him, and the life which underscored that teaching (3:10-13). Timothy would have the grounding in Scripture that his believing grandmother and mother had given him from infancy (3:14-15). And that, Paul insists, would be sufficient to make him wise. He needed to lead the church and find others who would follow his lead and teach others (2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2. 7, 15; 4:1-2).

Then, in vs.16-17 Paul speaks of all Scripture. Now some might say that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul was referring only to the OT, but that isn’t true, because most of the scriptures were already complete. Peter brings the OT and NT together by saying that words of the Apostles were also authoritative (2 Peter 3:2), specifically referring to Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Paul uses the term he used earlier in 1 Timothy 5:18, where he quotes Luke 10:7 (Deuteronomy 25:4), so the gospels are included. Timothy would have had access to these writings (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul is saying that the Word of God, including the Old Testament retrospectively and the New Testament prospectively, including his own writing (1 Thessalonians 2:13) represents the very words of God, and thus tells us everything we need to understand in order to know and serve God (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4).

All scripture is God breathed so even the narrative portion are for our use (cf. Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:1-5), although the way we are to use them depends on certain factors. For example, what about those seemingly endless genealogies in the OT books, what are they there for? To the Hebrews, their history and the names of their ancestors represented the salvation of God in their midst. The remembrance and rehearsal of their collective story was a constant reminder of God's promise to Abraham. To remember their past, in an important sense, was to realize that God was in their present, and was part of their future.

Coming out of the Babylonian exile, the reading of these names and the rehearsal of the national history marked the truth that God was still faithful to the covenant made with Abraham. This same emphasis is clear in the NT usages of genealogies. To continue to rehearse the history, and to show Christ as the culmination of it, was to argue that not only was God continuing to fulfill the divine promise made to Abraham, but moreover that God's promise was completed in the person and work of Christ.

So we can see that those lists are very important, but we don’t need to try and derive some deeper meaning from them. What the Bible doesn’t teach, and teaches against, is looking for esoteric things and clues like Bible codes. These are not mysteries to unlock they are mysteries that are now revealed. We do not need some other book as the “key” to provide a spiritualized meaning to an already clear text. God gave us scripture to reveal Himself, His works, and His plan and we are not supposed to go wandering off into myths and looking for secret knowledge (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-4, 4:7, 6:3-5, 11, 20 / 2 Timothy 2:16,23, 3:5, 7-8 / Titus 1:14, 3:9).

Here is the point: in essence, spiritually speaking, if the apostles didn’t teach it you don’t need it, and you definitely don’t want it (1 Corinthians 4:6 / Galatians 1:8-9 / 1 John 4:5-6). Since Paul says that Scripture thoroughly equips we can unequivocally conclude that another revelation can only be inferior.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, August 09, 2010

Focus on Jesus, not on Peter

He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
(Matthew 14:29 – ESV)

You will hear some say, “If your faith is focused on Jesus then you too can walk on water”. However, the focus of the passage from Matthew 14:22-33 is on the fact that Jesus can and did walk on water, showing that He is Lord over creation. By God’s power we can do great things, but to take this passage and make it about us is to miss the point. People say focus on Jesus not on the storm, but I also say focus on Jesus not on Peter. Do not focus on what Peter could have done, or what you think we can do, focus on Jesus and what He is doing and has done. That is the focus of this passage, not on our faith giving us water walking ability but our faith in a water walking God. It is not that Jesus gives us the power to save ourselves; it is that Jesus is the power to save us, and He does save us. That is the essence of the gospel message.

This was the second time Jesus calmed a storm before the disciples (Matthew 8:23-27). This event was immediately after feeding the 5000, but now it was the 4th watch, between 3-6 am: it was stormy, they were tired and they thought they saw a ghost!

He walked on water to show that He was Lord over creation and the Divine Messiah. Moses parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14) – Jesus can just walk across it. Joshua parted the Jordan (Joshua 3:14-17). Elijah parted the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8). Elisha also parted the Jordan (2 Kings 2:13-14). This miracle shows us that Jesus is greater than Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha.

Jesus walking on the water was a testimony to His divinity (Job 9:8). The Egyptian hieroglyphic for impossibility is a man walking on waves. God alone can do this. Peter tried and could not (vs.28-30). This was a testimony to Jesus being Lord over creation, not a testimony to our water walking power of faith. The disciples worshiped Jesus in response (vs.32-33).

There was a further miracle. John 6:19-21 – although they had gone about 3½ miles, once Jesus came into the ship it immediately arrived at the land. Only God has this sort of power.

Jesus isn’t calling us to walk on the water; He is calling us to Himself. Our faith must be in Him. Sometimes we can seem to do the impossible, but even when we fail, He did not, has not, will not fail. Our faith, our trust must finally be in Him alone, for only He cannot fail. I’m not trying to be down on you or down on me, I’m trying to be up on Jesus!

I’m not saying don’t attempt great things, I’m saying DO attempt great things, but even if we fail to walk on water, Jesus won’t. Yes, use what God has given you, yes, develop whatever skills you can and use them for the glory of God. Enjoy the good graces that have been bestowed upon you, but the bottom line is you must trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, and trust your life and death and eternity to Him. Walking on water is not our role, it is not some matter of stirring up our faith so that we can, it is about calling on Jesus who did and who can.

Peter asked twice. We say, “God help me to rise above my stormy circumstances”, but then sometimes we need to cry out “Lord, save me from the storm, I can’t do it”. Peter cried out, and the Lord saved him. It is not the strength of our faith, but the power of God that saves us.

You don’t have to walk on water, you just walk by faith, and if you do, the waves may get high and the wind might get strong but you will never sink without being able to call on Christ, who will never leave us nor forsake us. We walk by faith, not by sight, and we walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. This is a spiritual thing; even if physical things turn stormy Jesus is still with us and will deliver us, perhaps not out of the immediate storm, but out of the storms of doubt as to who He really is and what He can really do. Most importantly what He has already done and will do for us if we will believe Him and be saved. Don’t focus on Peter, and don’t focus on yourself, focus on Jesus. He can do the impossible.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©