Tag Results

by Ray Peters

FUNDAMENTALS

The title of this piece is inescapable.  Whether in athletics (or writing articles!) there are fundamentals that must be followed to keep things from descending into a chaotic mess.  People inevitably try to forgo the fundamentals, and sometimes succeed, but normally these successes are short lived, requiring a return to the fundamentals to avoid turning triumph into failure.

Christianity also has fundamentals; principles to which we must adhere in order to make sense of, and stay true to, the Word of God.  It really doesn’t matter how a person “feels” about the truths of Scripture; what is important is that a person follows the fundamentals contained therein.

There are four such fundamental truths found in 1 Corinthians 15.  Truths that cannot be changed or ignored if one is to remain true to one’s self and to God.

Read the following inspired words of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:1-6.  “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (ESV).

The four fundamental truths are “Christ died for our sins…, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…, and that he appeared…”  These are what followers of Jesus must believe to be given the name or title of Christian.  If one of these four fundamentals are compromised, then the doubter’s claim to be Christian comes into serious question.

Let’s begin with the first of these fundamentals.  “Christ died for our sins.”  According to Paul, Jesus dying on the cross was based on the Old Testament teaching.  The most prominent passage he is referring to is Isaiah 53.  This chapter pinpoints a person who would die for the sins of the Jewish nation and for the entire population if they would believe the truth.

Isaiah 53:4-6 illuminates this truth clearly.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This one person, Jesus Christ, came to fulfill this age old promise, not only to Israel, but also to the Gentile.  Paul brings this to the memory of his audience when he states that Christ died for our sins.  Our sin made a separation between us and God and there was no human way for us to bridge that separation.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The second and third fundamentals go together, “he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”  Here Paul again states that these truths also were stated many years before, in the books of the prophets or Old Testament.

We could go all the way to the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis to begin to find this but these next two verses serve us very well.  Psalm 16:10; “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”  And Isaiah 53:10 when the prophet writes; “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his day.”

Throughout the history of Israel and the Scriptures, there has always been the expectation of a Savior, an Anointed One who would save His people from their enemies and their sins.  Also in the history of Israel, the animal sacrifices performed as part of the Law were a pre-figuring of this truth; the truth that Jesus ultimately fulfilled.

Jesus Resurrection - FundamentalsThe final fundamental is “that he appeared.”  This references the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being placed dead in a tomb.  This is where the faith of Christians is far different from any other religion in the world or history.  God became man, to suffer and be tempted as a man, then proved Himself God, by rising from the dead, as no mere man could.

At the end of each Gospel (and the beginning of Acts) we see a resurrected Jesus speaking to His disciples and the people.  If Jesus had only appeared to Cephas or Peter and the twelve, we would be right in being suspect if he ever did rise from the dead.  But Jesus appeared to over 500 at one time!  And in 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul humbly, yet joyfully writes: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Science will likely never prove that Jesus lived, or died, or rose again.  But our God is not science.  Science is always changing and God changes not.  History can teach us great truths such as the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  And if God is God (and He is) then why does it seem so unlikely that He could send His Son into a world that He created, to appear to His creation as a man, in order to redeem man from the mess he had made for himself?

God did all this and so much more.  He proved Himself over and over again with the next to last great thing; Jesus rising from the dead.  The last great action will be soon to come; the second coming of Jesus Christ for His church, to take His bride presenting her before His Father before entering into paradise for eternity.

This is great news and it is called the gospel.  The fundamental truths which one must believe to enter heaven are clear and simple.  Take a look at these truths again and then look closer at Jesus.  God has not lied to us, but rather came to us in the person of Jesus Christ so that we might be reconciled to Him.  Don’t put off what can be done today, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

THE LAW CAN’T HELP YOU!

What good is the law if it cannot help a person? The law referenced here, are the 10 Commandments and in keeping them, one might enter heaven. It might help if we insert a text of Scripture here to clarify any possible confusion.

Paul the apostle wrote in Galatians 2:16, “…a person is not justified by work of the law…” He writes about the same thing to the church at Rome “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20, ESV).

The law is unable to help us, the Ten Commandments are there to let us know when we sin. Sin is defined as missing the mark, as an archer would have their arrow fall short of their target. It can also be defined as rebellion toward God, which began in Genesis chapter three when Adam and Eve went against God and chose their demise.

Jesus, in talking with the rich young man who asked Him, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16, ESV) The rest of the conversation goes like this: “And He said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:17-22).

As you read this exchange between the rich young man and the Lord Jesus, it is apparent that the young man is “doing” things to keep the law that each Jewish man would keep. On the outside, by keeping the Jewish Law he was doing what he was taught and how he thought best to get to heaven.

Jesus’ response of selling all his goods and giving it to those in real need, did him in. The young man showed his true colors by showing that what he was counting on for eternal life was “doing” things to please God. It was as if he was attempting to do more good things than bad things to be accepted by God.

The bottom line is that you cannot earn eternal life by what you “do” but it is what you believe. John 3:16 shows us very clearly that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that, whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” But Jesus gets more specific in John 6:29 about what the work of God is, “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Emphasis mine)

Jesus says nothing about the law getting you in good with His Father and heaven but it is an issue of the heart. It is all about “belief” or “faith.”

Paul the apostle has one of the strongest statements to this issue of “doing” verses “being” and how one receives eternal life. In Romans 1:16-17 the apostle writes some of the most famous and important of the New Testament; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Emphasis mine)

To enter the kingdom of heaven or eternal life is not a result of works but of faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. And how that is done is clearly outlined in Romans 10:9-10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

So those who “keep” the law or try to be good by good works apart from Christ cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The law can’t help you in this case but only by trusting Christ or by faith in Him.

It comes down to one way to get to God and that is through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The shortest way from point A to point B is a straight line; Jesus is the straight line. Are you tired of trying to keep the law or “doing things” to earn God’s favor?

Let us make it easy, you cannot do enough to earn God’s favor but you can receive His favor through believing in His Son. Take the straight path through Jesus to enter heaven. Don’t delay do it today!

Serious Inquiry Needed

As we roll full ahead into this election cycle, it’s good to rate these candidates not only on their stands on important issues, but also on their character, their integrity (or lack thereof!). No one is, or can be, perfect. Only One holds that position and he never ran for political office. Look at yourself honestly; are you perfect? I know I am not and that is one of my weaknesses; if we are human, then by definition, we are imperfect.

So in our selection of a political candidate we must examine many factors to make the most informed decision possible. When it comes to knowing the only perfect human and His name is Jesus Christ, we must also make a serious inquiry to who He was and is and what He said about Himself and what others wrote about Him. God is not afraid of our questions about Him, in fact He welcomes them.

Where we stumble however, is when we make inquiries about ourselves. Either we are our own worst critic or we seriously overlook our flaws.

Maybe there is a serious issue that we are facing again that we did not expect to, but the first time we prayed about it and He answered. This time we could just go on and not seek the Lord’s favor or answer, but then again we could inquire again of God and see what He would accomplish.

In his Morning and Evening devotional, Charles Spurgeon wrote this for the morning of February 9, it is somewhat lengthy but well worth the read and reflection.

“And David inquired of the LORD” – (2 Samuel 5:23).

“When David made this inquiry he had just fought the Philistines, and gained a signal victory. The Philistines came up in great hosts, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without inquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, ‘I shall be victorious again; I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Wherefore should I tarry to seek at the Lord’s hands?’ Not so, David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He inquired, ‘Shall I go up against them?’ He waited until God’s sign was given. Learn from David to take no step without God. Christian, if thou wouldst know the path of duty, take God for thy compass; if thou wouldst steer thy ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped, if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid, if we would leave to His sovereign will to choose and to command. The Puritan said, ‘As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he’ll cut his own fingers;’ this is a great truth. Said another old divine, ‘He that goes before the cloud of God’s providence goes on a fool’s errand;’ and so he does. We must mark God’s providence leading us; and if providence tarries, tarry till providence comes. He, who goes before providence, will be very glad to run back again. ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go,’ is God’s express promise to His people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to Him, and say, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ Leave not they chamber this morning without inquiring of the Lord.” (Morning and Evening: A Devotional Classic for Daily Encouragement, Hendrickson Publishers, 2010, p. 80)

Spurgeon is right; before we do we anything, we ought to make an effort to inquire or ask the Lord what He would have us to do. Which candidate to vote for, what job to take, how much to give to help the widow or orphan or person in need, wisdom for the day or whatever you need to inquire of the Lord, then it is a good idea to do it.

When we come to Him in all seriousness of inquiry He will answer us. The key here: are we prepared through repenting of our sins and are we willing to wait and listen for Him? We have a knack for jumping ship prior to finding out the direction of the ship. Let us wait for the Lord for He will give renewed strength and direction for each decision and day. “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Serious inquiry is definitely needed in this world in which we live. To have the most instructive inquiry is for one to go to God and get His mind. Try it and it will be worth it.

RADICAL CHRISTIANITY

RADICAL CHRISTIANITY

The primary season is about to officially kick off here in the United States, inaugurated by the Republican Party debate this month.  Remember, it is still more than a year until the actual Presidential election.  One of the topics is sure to be radical Islam, a term that has been tossed around and denied by different sections of the populace.

As one listens to talking heads throw around the term “radical” like parade candy, one can be forgiven for suspecting they do so in order to make the message of mainstream Islam appear more tolerable.

When one talks about being “radical,” negative images come to mind and the issue denigrates into assertions that every religion has its “radicals.”

And they would be right, except for the negative characterization.  For one to find what is radical in Christianity, a good place to begin is in the gospel of Matthew, Ch. 5.  Here we find what is called the beatitudes; really they can be called the characteristics of Jesus.  If one is to follow the example of the most perfect person of their respective religion then you have to look to the best example.

For Islam one would look to the person and nature of Muhammad, just as you would look to Jesus and His nature to fathom the ideal within Christianity.

Jesus spoke to His disciples and the crowds in the Sermon on the Mount; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, ESV).  This is likely not what the crowd was expecting to hear, immediately after seeing the mighty miracles done by Jesus.  They may have been expecting a crash course on how He healed all the people and how they too could draw huge crowds around them.

But no, Jesus taught them to completely depend on God for all things in their life.  Wait, what?  Totally deny yourself, is that what radical following of Jesus is?  In short, yes.  “When you lose, you win; that’s the way it is with Him,” (Thanks Rez Band for those lyrics!).

Jesus said it of Himself in John 5:19; “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He see the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”  And later on in the same chapter Jesus says this; “I can do nothing on My own.  As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30, ESV).

Jesus was completely focused on the Father’s will for Himself.  If one would read the Christian Scriptures of the New Testament, they will find that Jesus never did any wrong/sin, and as a worthy and pure sacrifice, would die in our place so that the person who believed in Him would have eternal life.

So radical Christianity is not taking vengeance upon those who you consider your enemy, but following Jesus and focusing upon His perfect life.  And when someone slaps you on the right cheek then turn to him the other also (That’s also from Jesus).

In coming to faith in Jesus and believing in His name, we have the peace of God and peace with God.  Vengeance is not for us to take because we are flawed human beings. We are to trust God because He is faithful and perfect in all He does.

How should a Christian look upon Islam?  Just as Jesus did:

I
Sincerely
Love
All
Muslims.

THE WORK OF GOD FOR SALVATION

All religions, save one, require the work of man to gain entry to paradise, eternity or heaven.  That one exception is Christianity.  Other religions feature man working his way to god while the central theme of Christianity is God coming to man, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Why would God do such a thing?  He was motivated by love.  John 3:16 shows this love very clearly: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

As Jesus ministered here on earth for a short three-and-a-half years, He showed and taught God’s love over and over again.  He was not forcing His love on anyone but He clearly communicated it unceasingly.

In the gospel of John we read of many amazing things that Jesus did and taught.  In the first 15 verses we see Jesus feed the 5,000 (which is the only miracle told in all four gospels).  Verses 16-21 we find Jesus walking on the water without sinking simultaneously blowing the minds of the apostles!

Then, in a fairly long teaching section, Jesus cuts to the chase for the myriads of people crowding around Him.  It is the day after Jesus fed the 5000 and they haven’t yet been able to find Him, so they form something akin to a posse and track Him down on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus tells them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  Jesus acknowledges their real reason for seeking Him out, but He does not leave it there; He tells them what they really need to hear; “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on Him God the Father has set His seal” (John 6:26-27).

Of course this gets their attention; like all children of God, they desire deep in their heart to gain or earn eternal life.  So they ask Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  They seem more than happy to engage in some grand activity to earn God’s favor for eternal paradise, hoping somehow they can rise to the occasion or do just the right thing.

Jesus responds with something for which they were totally unprepared: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  The work of God for eternal life is not work, but faith.

Man does not earn His way to heaven through work, but simply by believing in Jesus whom God sent to earth out of His heart of love for a stubborn and evil world.  To most of the world, this is unfathomable.

The bottom line is that we do not make the first move toward eternal life or paradise, but rather God does, so we can experience His life while here on earth and for all eternity.

Have you come to the place where you have done the work of God for your salvation?  For faith to take a foothold in your life all one needs to do is believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you will be saved.

It is not rocket science, nor is it work, but it is faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished here upon the earth out of a heart of love, where He made the first move toward you.

God has done the work and we receive the benefits.  So “work” for your salvation by receiving God’s gift of love to you through Jesus Christ.

ACT LIKE MEN

Paul told the church at Corinth “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).  This is a clarion call to take a Biblical stand against that which is against God and His Word.

However, we don’t stand against wrong with angst, but with love.  Paul finished: “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).  This isn’t an admonition for the people of God to become jelly fish, capitulating to whatever siren call rules the day, but rather that they stand upon the Word of God and they plead with those around them to come to the knowledge of the truth, which is found only in the Bible.

In an excellent article calling Christians to spread the gospel, missionary C. T. Studd wrote; HEROISM is the lost chord; the missing note of present-day Christianity! 

With the recent rulings from a court of man’s construction, Christians here in the West are now feeling the opposition of the world that many Christians overseas have felt for decades.

Because of the grace of God and the protections of the Constitution, Christians here in the U. S. have never had to face religious persecution directly; certainly not at the levels commonplace in other parts of the world.

We must approach that which contradicts God’s character and law, with the directive of Paul to the church at Corinth.

To stand upon the Word of God and defend your position, you must first know what the Bible teaches.  You must read for yourself.  Don’t rely solely on the teaching and interpretation of others; discover the Word, and let it speak to you directly through study and prayer.

My grandson takes things apart to see how they work because he is curious.  He isn’t satisfied with the surface view; he needs to understand the inner workings.  Man was made with curiosity at our core.  What better instruction manual than the Bible to understand the inner workings of life?

How do we fix our society today?  By winning one heart at a time.  People are lost and broken and need to be found and fixed.  God is the only one that can find lost people and fix their brokenness.  However, God has charged us to seek out our fellow men for eternal salvation through Christ. We are the ones to “do” the Great Commission so that men and women all over the world may hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

This commission does not come without conflict.  It truly is a life and death struggle, but in that spiritual battle, God is calling for heroes of the faith to fight for the eternal lives of those around us.  Who will answer the call?  Will you answer the call?

May we not shirk our duty to spread the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Pray to the Lord to send laborers into His harvest; but also be prepared to be the one who God chooses to labor in His harvest field.  It is an honor and privilege.  “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).