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Category Archives: message of the Bible

IF GOD’S WORD CAN BE TRUSTED, THEN . . . (Part 4)

We’ve been going through the fantastic epistle of Philippians in our church here in South Carolina.  As one member of our preaching team, it was my job several Sundays ago to preach on this letter.  I chose to offer some summary-type considerations.

The first was simply, IF God’s Word can be trusted, then

I.  My prayer life will be revolutionized (1:3-6).  I will learn to pray with JOY for others, pray for our partnerships in the gospel, and pray for God’s continuing & maturing work in the lives of others.  The second truth I found in surveying the book of Philippians was this:  IF God’s Word can be trusted, then

2.  My view of life and death will be revised (1:20-24).   I will say with the Apostle Paul that to live is Christ and to die is gain!

3. My perspective on suffering will be matured (1:29-30).  There we saw in verses 29-30 that 29 it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.  I then said that it is beyond my understanding how some prosperity preachers can insist that it is the believer’s birthright NOT to suffer.  Verse 29 clearly says, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”  Suffering is a GIFT in this text, is it not?  If BELIEVING in Him is a gift, so is SUFFERING!

We move now to the fourth implication of the book of Philippians IF God’s Word can be trusted.  IF God’s Word can be trusted, then . . .

4.  MY SELF-IMAGE WILL BE CHALLENGED (2:1-5).  There we read, 1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus . . .

Paul is quite direct here, isn’t he?  If we have any of these blessings in Christ (encouragement, comfort, sharing in the Spirit, tenderness & compassion), then we will strive to be like-minded and be unified with other believers.  We will seek to do nothing out of selfish ambition.  But we will value others above ourselves, looking on the interests of others.  And we will strive to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus!

Wow!  In a culture which says, LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE NOW, PULL YOUR OWN STRINGS, LOOK OUT FOR #1, God’s Word says, PUT OTHERS FIRST, SEEK UNITY WITH OTHER BELIEVERS, HAVE THE MINDSET OF JESUS CHRIST!

Someone named Deborah Espect wrote a book with the captivating . title, My Self, The Enemy The World Health Organization’s statement at the bottom of the front cover reads: “One million people commit suicide every year.”

Suicide is awful, of course, but when we live for ourselves, when we allow our “self-image” to guide us rather than the Word of God, we are committing spiritual suicide, don’t you think?

Discussion Questions:  (1) How does our culture value self-image above truth?  (2) What steps can the believer in Jesus take to combat this world’s suicidal propaganda?

 

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IF GOD’S WORD CAN BE TRUSTED, THEN MY LIFE . . . (part 1)

. . . HAS TO CHANGE!

We’ve been going through the letter to the Philippians in our church and, as one member of our preaching team, I preached yesterday on how my life has to change IF Philippians can be trusted.  If you wish, you can listen to the message in a few days here on this blog, or follow my entries for the next little while as I go over some of the life changes that must happen in my life IF I can trust the book of Philippians.

The first truth that jumped out at me from the pages of the book of Philippians was this:

I.  My prayer life will be revolutionized (1:3-6)  This passage in Philippians says, “3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Three specific truths grabbed me by the spiritual throat in this text:

(a) I will pray for others with JOY (v. 4)

(b) I will focus on partnerships (v. 5).

(c) I will pray for His continuing work in others (v. 6).

I really need to hear each of those truths.  Many times I fail to pray for others.  When I do, it’s not always with JOY!  I need to think about how we believers partner with each other for the work of the kingdom.  And I’m lousy at consistently praying for God’s continuing work in others.  If prayer is more than simply talking to myself, if prayer is communicating with almighty GOD, then my prayers can be part of the process of others maturing in Christ. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Discussion Questions:  (1) How might you put into practice those three aspects of prayer:  praying for others with joy, praying for partnerships, and praying for God’s continuing work in others?  (2) What verse or verses in the book of Philippians have challenged you to cooperate with God’s good work in your life?  (please share those verses as you comment).

 

 

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“THEY’RE ALL DRIVING TANKS!”

I understand that an American woman lived in England for several years and then recently returned to the States.  She looked around at the traffic and the cars and said, “My goodness!  They’re all driving TANKS!”

Today’s SUV’s do look like tanks.  Consider the Hummer, for example.

I recently talked with a car dealer (not my favorite thing to do.  It ranks just below jumping into a pit of rattlesnakes while getting a root canal) who specializes in Hummers.  He said their most popular — and most pricey model — is the military Hummer.  “They all look military to me,” I said.

As the proud new owner of a Minicooper convertible (two of which could fit comfortably in the back seat of a Hummer), I agree with the lady’s comment.  If World War III ever took place on our shores, commuters and soccer moms are ready.   We just pray there will be enough gas to go around.

All of this to say that I take great comfort in the following biblical passages,

Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you,”

2 Samuel 22:3 “my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior”

Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

We can try to find our refuge in many other things other than the Lord, can’t we?  But if the eternal God is our refugee, if He is our rock, we can rejoice in His protection.  And that’s a truth that gets me humming all the way to the bank, I mean, the church!

Discussion Questions:  How can you tell what or who your REFUGE is?  If we are constantly under attack in this world (and we are), how does God as our refuge help us?

 

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“Will Only a Few Be Saved?” (Part 3)

This three-part discussion of Luke 13 in which a person asks Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be

Is GOD a tightwad?

saved?” provides a foundation for us to discuss neo-universalism and its charge that Evangelicalism is stingy and holds that God is not generous in salvation.

Rob Bell (and to some extent Brian McLaren) advocate endless opportunities in the after-death state for God to “melt every heart” and win everyone over to salvation.

The Bible indicates that God owes no one salvation.  His greatness (contra Bell) does not depend on His saving many, a few, or none. Let’s look at our Luke 13 one more time:

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

To review:  Jesus does not directly answer this question about “only a few” being saved.  Instead, he launches into an analogy involving a narrow door, a house, and a homeowner.  Jesus begins the story by encouraging His listeners to “make every effort” (the Greek word implies agony) to enter through the narrow door.

It appears that many will try to crash the house (“many will try to enter and will not be able to”) and will be turned away.  The homeowner will at some point get up and close the door, prohibiting any more from entering his house.

But those on the outside do not simply give up and walk away.  They began providing arguments why the door should be re-opened and they be allowed entrance.  They claim to have eaten and drunk with the Lord and to have heard Him teach in their streets.

The homeowner responds to their arguments by saying, “I don’t know you or where you are from.”  The clear implication is that entrance to the house is based on a relationship with the homeowner.  And they had none.

We are then told that He brings the conversation to a screeching halt by saying, “Away from me, all you evildoers!”  This hardly seems consistent with Hebraic hospitality.  But the issue isn’t hospitality, but salvation (remember the original question).

Jesus then describes the outside of that house as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  We pick up the text at this point.

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Let’s summarize and add a few questions for reflection.

Jesus uses the analogy of a house –

1.  there is a narrow door;

2.  effort is required to enter through the narrow door;

3.  there will be many (competition?) who will try to enter & won’t be able to (why not?);

4.  the house’s owner will get up and close the door (which, of course, is his prerogative — he’s the owner!);

5.  YOU will stand outside knocking & pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.” (v. 25)

6.  His response?  “I don’t know you or where you come from.” (v. 25) (= “you are a stranger to me — why should I trust you?”);

7.  YOU seek to identify yourselves:  “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” (v. 26).

8.  His reply:  “I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me, all you evildoers!” (v. 27)

9.  CONCLUSION:  “There will be weeping there . . .”

What do we know from Scripture THAT WE LIKE?

1.  He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance!

2.  Jesus did not come primarily to condemn, but to save.  He came on a RESCUE mission!  Judgment is God’s “strange work.”

3.  The Lord’s arm is not short that it cannot save.  There is no INABILITY in the Lord that prevents most or ALL being saved!

4.  He wants His house FILLED!

5.  He does not delight in the death of the wicked!

6.  He has declared that people from every tribe, people, tongue and nation will be at the throne worshipping!

What do we know WE MAY NOT LIKE from Scripture?

1.  God is thrice-holy and is allergic to sin!

2.  He WILL judge!

3.  Hell is a real place!

4.  Not all will believe!

5.  Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers.

6.  Death ENDS all opportunities to be saved.

7.  We have an OBLIGATION to get the gospel OUT!

Discussion Questions:  Which of the above considerations need more attention by Evangelicals in light of the challenge of neo-universalism?  How might solid exegetical preaching help in providing answers to some of these questions?

 

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“Will Only a Few Be Saved?” (Part 1)

One of the arguments used by the neo-universalists (such as Rob Bell, Thomas Talbott, Philip Gulley,

CarltonPearson, etc.) is that the traditional gospel is STINGY, representing a God who is NOT generous and does NOT want all to be saved.  Evangelicals, it is charged, are guilty of holding to a fewness doctrine in which only a limited number will be redeemed.

First of all, I reject the notion that God is under obligation to save any!  Nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of God’s obligation to rescue any of us from our sins.  Jesus’ rescue mission flowed out of LOVE, not DEBT.  Bell argues that God’s very greatness is dependent on His melting every human heart.  He writes, “How great is God? Great enough to achieve what God sets out to do, or kind of great, medium great, great most of the time, but in this, the fate of billions of people, not totally great. Sort of great. A little great.” (Love Wins, 97-98).

Did Jesus ever face this question of whether FEW or MANY (or ALL) will be saved?  If so, what did HE say?

We read in Luke 13:

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Several observations are in order as we look at this biblical text.

1.  This specific question, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” was directly asked of the Lord Jesus.  Are we really interested in hearing His answer?

2.  The question is asked by “someone.”  We are not given any more specifics than that.  We are not told that it is a trap by the religious leaders.  “Someone” asks Him this most critical of all questions:  “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

3.  It sounds very much like the questioner is a believer in Jesus, for they seem to expect Him to be able to answer the question!  And the way the question is worded sounds like the assumption is that “only a few people” are going to be saved.

4.  We are told that “Jesus said to them . . .”  Apparently, He used this question as an opportunity to continue His teaching ministry to the people of the towns and villages He was traveling through as He was making His way to Jerusalem.

5.  To a simple, although profound, question (“Are only a few people going to be saved?”) which could have been answered with a straightforward “yes” or “no,” Jesus’ answer is neither.  He launches into a personal appeal to those listening to His answer.  Jesus does not deal in hypotheticals.  Instead, He issues a personal challenge to those listening to Him to make sure they are going to be saved: 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” 

6.  As is so often His way, Jesus immediately employs a figure of speech, a metaphor, to communicate His answer.  He discusses a door and a house and a homeowner.  One point might be that the house of salvation does not belong to us!  It belongs to Someone else who has every right to set the conditions for welcoming people into His home.

7.  And Jesus says that the door to that house is a “narrow door.”  Why would the door to salvation be narrow?  Doesn’t God want His house filled (refs?)?  Why isn’t the entrance into salvation a wide, rapid, moving sidewalk that will accompany any who want to step onto it?

8.  Note that Jesus’ challenge is “Make every effort to enter . . .”  It sounds as if getting into salvation’s house is difficult (see issue of rich man & “with man this is impossible”– who then can be saved?).  Perhaps those efforts to enter are difficult because of the “many” that “will try to enter and will not be able to.”  What in the world would keep people who want to enter that house from not being able to?!  This part of Jesus’ answers sounds like He is saying there will be FEW who will get into that house because MANY are trying to get in but won’t be able to!

9.  If Jesus’ answer stopped at this point, it would be very discouraging.  He appears to be saying that the most important matter is to make sure you are making every effort you can to get through that narrow door because many are trying to enter and aren’t able to.  (TO BE CONTINUED)

Discussion Questions:  How can we show from the Scriptures that Jesus’ expression “Make every effort” does not mean that we are saved by our good works or by our best efforts? Before we consider the rest of this text, do you get the impression that salvation is hard or easy?  That it is intended for the MANY or the FEW?

 

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NO DAYS LEFT! Why Harold Camping Should Return Everybody’s Money and Retire!

According to Harold Camping, octogenarian Family Radio station owner and self-taught Bible scholar, the 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus should have happened by now. If you’re reading this, you’re either not one of the elect, or somehow Jesus overlooked you in the rapture, OR Harold Camping was wrong again!

I believe he was wrong again. And he should do at least three things before the day is out:

1.  He should apologize to the Christian family for embarrassing the name of Christ with his arrogant, gnostic, ridiculous calculation that, even though Jesus said we couldn’t know the exact date of His Second Coming, he was sure he knew.  Perhaps he needs to read up on failed predictions by our Seventh-Day Adventist friends, Edgar Whisenant in his Eighty-Eight Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988, and one particularly troubling example from South Korea.  In 1992, Lee Jang Rim, the head of one of some 200 Protestant churches in that country, announced that the rapture would take place on October 28, 1992.  Based on a vision of a sixteen-year-old boy, twenty thousand Korean fundamentalists in South Korea, Los Angeles, and New York City took the prediction seriously.  Hundreds quit their jobs, many left their families, some women unfortunately even had abortions (presumably to make their own raptures easier).  Rim’s church bought costly ads in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.  They urged readers to get ready for the rapture and to refuse to have 666 imprinted in bar code on their foreheads or right hands.

On October 28, one researcher says, “Riot police, plainclothes officers, and reporters crowded outside Korean churches, flanked by fire engines, ambulances, and searchlights. Believers took the failure of the prophecy calmly, and there were no reported riots.  Only sadness. In December 1992 Rim was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for having bilked $4.4 million from his flock. He had invested the money in bonds that didn’t mature until the following year!”

RECENT INTERVIEW ON CAMPING

2.  Camping needs to immediately retire from the ministry and put himself under the spiritual leadership of a local church and their leadership team.  This will be extremely difficult for him to do, especially in light of his cultic understanding that God has abandoned all local churches and that all Christians should disassociate themselves from local congregations.  But he should repent of his bizarre, unbiblical perspective on the local and universal Body of Christ (which He is presently building).  He should step down from radio ministry, turn the microphone and the good work that Family Radio stations do over to others, and humble himself before the family of God worldwide.

3.  He needs to do everything in his power to return every cent which believers have contributed to his ministry based on his wayward predictions of Christ’s Second Coming.  Here is his response to a caller who suggested he do exactly that on May 22nd, 2011:  RETURN MONEY?

He should spend some of his money to place billboards across the USA to undo some of the damage he has caused.  That billboard might look something like this:

Dr. James White HERE  accuses Camping of sliding further and further away from orthodoxy (apparently Camping advocates annihilationism as well as a kind of modalism, denying the deity of Jesus).

Discussion Questions:  How should we pray for Mr. Camping?  Is there any way that the wider Body of Christ can speak the truth in love to him and seek to bring him spiritual health before he leaves this vale of tears by way of death (or Christ’s Second Coming!)?

 

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TWO DAYS TO GO! HAROLD CAMPING’S PREDICTION OF THE 2ND COMING OF JESUS ON MAY 21, 2011

Harold Camping, eighty-year-old California radio preacher and owner of 55 Family Radio stations across the USA, has predicted that THIS COMING SATURDAY, MAY 21, will be the SECOND COMING OF JESUS.  He believes that he has figured out that date — which upsets a lot of the Mayan predictors of 2012! — from calculating the flood of Noah and then arguing that a thousand years is but a day in God’s sight, so when you add 7000 years to Noah’s flood, you come out with Saturday, May 21st, at 6 pm.  [By the way, I loved the special effects of the movie "2012," but . . . can we talk?  The acting was so bad in that movie -- have you ever wanted everybody in the movie TO DIE?!  I confess, that was how I felt.]

One of my friends here was sharing the gospel at Five Points, an area in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, a few weeks ago.  Camping followers were handing out their judgment-is-coming tracts.  They refused to get into conversations with my friend about how one can be saved.  They simply said, “Read the pamphlet!”

Should we warn people about God’s judgment?  Of course!  Should we do anything we can to explain the gospel to those who do not yet know Christ?  Absolutely.  Should we pull out our slide rulers or calculators or crystal balls and dogmatically predict exactly when God’s judgment is coming?  No.

The Lord Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24: 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  During His incarnation period on earth, Jesus said EVEN HE did not know the day or hour of His Second Coming.  Having ascended to the Father’s right hand, Jesus, of course, knows now when He will return.

Another blogger put it this way:

Harold Camping’s guarantee that Jesus will come back on May 21, 2011 only shows his ignorance of the scripture. He wrongly assumes that Christ’s coming will be 7,000 years after Noah’s flood, something the Bible doesn’t say at at all. So he has no basis for his prediction even if his dating of the flood and its seven thousand year mark are correct. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Mr. Camping’s setting a definite day and hour shows how he rejects Jesus’ clear words and replaces them with his own ideas. Don’t be deceived into believing Jesus won’t come back just because it doesn’t happen on Mr. Camping’s timetable. Whether we go to Jesus after death or he comes for us, he is the judge of everyone whom none can escape (Acts 10:42). He is the Holy one and the Just (Acts 3:14) and those who will not seek him for mercy and bow to his righteous reign now will be in terror when he comes back “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). “This world thinks it’s finished with Jesus Christ when they haven’t even started with him yet.” -Leonard Ravenhill

Discussion Questions:  When May 22nd comes, will you boldly identify yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ — and speak of God’s judgment and mercy?  Let’s not lose this opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with our friends, relatives, and neighbors.

 

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