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Why Shouldn’t the World Think Us WEIRD? (A Study of I Peter 1:8-9) Part 2

My friend Frank and I are now going through I Peter. This is our read-the-same-chapter-every-day-for-a-week online Bible study which I’ve described here. We’re making great progress going through the epistles of the New Testament. But the following passage from I Peter really got me thinking:

Please forgive my underlining and bolding and changing colors, but these two verses kind of hit me between the eyes. And they help me not to be so surprised when the world looks at me funny and thinks I need medication or a lengthy stay in a mental hospital. Let’s continue our study of these two verses:

I. We Love What We Do Not See!

In Part 1 we saw that believers presently do not see the Lord — but OTHERS have seen Him! And have testified (at the cost of their lives) of that fact. We looked briefly at I John 1 and noticed the empirical language John uses about having seen the Lord Jesus.

Let’s notice a second truth in this text and it is that —

II. We Believe in Him! (v. 8)

Following up on Peter’s “even though” (and his second statement that we do not see Him) — he says that we believe in Him. Our world has been deceived into thinking that only the visible deserves our trust and allegiance. And that is simply not the case. Everyday we exercise faith in things we do not see, like stepping onto an elevator or eating food prepared by a teenager we hardly know!

Belief is a big deal in the Bible! But BELIEF in the Bible is not gullibility! The evidentiary basis of the Christian faith is real. And we are not fools for BELIEVING in Him! (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in I Peter 1

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Believing in What One Cannot See)

Empiricism is “the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense experience.” “What our senses do not acknowledge isn’t real,” today’s rationalistic unbeliever says. But there is so much more that doesn’t meet the eye! And our faith is not blind belief. It is based on historical (and empirical) evidences of God’s existence and love!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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A Theological Check-Up: Do You Really Believe? Part 4: God

This series of posts is asking the question not WHAT we believe or WHY we believe, but IF we believe what we say we do. Jesus-followers say they believe in God, but do they really? The great temptation is to believe in my concept of God, who I want God to be, rather than the One He has revealed Himself to be.

A.W. Tozer put it well when he said, “A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils. A high view of God is the solution to ten thousand temporal problems.” The great challenge for the Christian is to be a student of the Word, to learn what God has said about Himself in His Word, and to respond in love and obedience.

Today’s Challenge: Pick a section of Scripture, perhaps one of the Psalms, and write out everything you learn about God’s character from that passage. And don’t forget to worship God for Who He is.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2020 in belief

 

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A Theological Check-Up: Do You Really Believe? Part 2: Truth

The late Paul Little wrote several key books for my young Christian life, including How to Give Away Your Faith and Know What and Why You Believe. My question for my readers — and myself — is: Do I really believe what I say I believe? Or am I, like the runaway missionary Jonah, just mouthing orthodox statements unsubstantiated by my personal life?

Do I believe in TRUTH? When the Lord Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me,” (Jn. 14:6), do I believe Him? Is He my source of truth? Do I affirm all that the Bible affirms? Do I submit my daily decisions, my carefully-thought-out priorities, to the principles of God’s Word? Do I really believe that God has spoken in the Old and New Testaments without stuttering?

IF I believe in TRUTH, I will affirm that it can be known and it has the power to set me free! Free from my self-deception, free from being squeezed into this world’s mold, free from the ever-changing circumstances of life which can erode one’s faith like a levy gradually washed away by a hurricane.

Part of the TRUTH that Christians must affirm is the existence and reality of the devil. Yes, you read that right! He is not the skinny guy wearing red leotards carrying a pitchfork. He is a formidable foe who is an expert at masquerading as an angel of light — and he hates you and me! He wants to gobble us up!

Jesus says to Israel’s religious leaders in John 8- “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” There is a professional LIAR who denies God’s Word and wants us to do the same. But we belong to the One who is TRUTH!

Today’s Challenge: In our world of conflicting opinions, take the time to share one indisputable TRUTH with someone today. It may be the simple fact that God loves them. But purpose before God to share that TRUTH. Today. Deal?

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2020 in truth

 

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A Theological Check-Up: Do You Really Believe? Part 1: Introduction

Paul Little was a great evangelist who wrote several very helpful books. His best known is probably How to Give Away Your Faith. But he also wrote Know What You Believe and Know Why You Believe (the latter was selected by Christianity Today magazine as one of the 50 most influential books of 20th century evangelicalism).

Mr. Little died tragically in a car accident in 1975.

I’m all for knowing WHAT you believe and knowing WHY you believe what you believe. But, it seems to me that a pivotal question is knowing WHETHER or IF you believe. What I mean is, we say we believe that people without Christ are going to hell, but do we really believe it?

So this series of posts will be examining IF we truly believe what we say we believe. Let’s begin with the basic issue of FAITH. Do we “believe” in FAITH?

Now, it’s important to point out that “faith” in the Bible can refer either to our confidence in God or to the content of truth that we affirm (the Christian “faith” as opposed to the Jewish “faith,” etc.). Do you and I believe in the FAITH?

I am not saying that our faith is to be in our faith. That is, when I pray for something I am to trust God to answer my prayer in the way which He deems best. When He doesn’t answer the way I think He should, I need to examine the answer I wanted, instead of losing confidence in Him. Does that make sense?

The one chapter epistle of Jude challenges the believer: Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” We are wrestle on behalf of, fight for THE FAITH.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Would you say you are fighting for THE FAITH, the content of truth God has revealed in His Word, the Christian worldview which we have embraced? Or have you given up the fight, leaning against the ropes in the ring taking body blow after body blow? IF you and I truly have accepted the Christian FAITH, we will contend for the truth God has revealed.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2020 in theology

 

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Time for a Great Commercial: Skeptics Anonymous (reprise)

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Interesting commercial. Why were these people skeptical? What changed their minds? How does this commercial appeal to everyone’s desire to “believe in something”?

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2019 in skepticism

 

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Time to Analyze! Two Prominent Quotes on Personal Salvation! MY RESPONSE …

In a recent post, I gave the following two quotes and asked for your response:What do you think of these two quotes? A.W. Tozer, well-known Christian Missionary Alliance pastor, and Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, seem to agree here.
1. With what parts of their quotes do you agree? Why?
2. With what parts of their quotes do you disagree? Why?

Here’s my response:
I’ve used the Tozer quote many times, especially his emphasis that we need to continually seek the Lord. The Michael Horton quote was new to me.

Just a few thoughts:
1. I certainly agree with Horton that everyone already has a personal relationship with the Lord, either as a condemned criminal awaiting final judgment or as a justified coheir with Christ. But when Christians invite their unsaved friends to confess their sins, repent, and trust in Jesus, aren’t they saying in effect that they will move from the category of an enemy of God to a friend of God? True, the Bible never uses the expression “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” but isn’t that one way, perhaps the simplest way, to express the gospel?
2. I don’t like to criticize Tozer, but he challenges the idea of “accepting” Christ. But isn’t conversion affirming as true the giving of Himself for our sins, the acknowledgement that we were sinners under God’s judgment, that we needed to believe certain truths that we had not believed (“received”) prior to asking Jesus to forgive us? Doesn’t Scripture say, “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him” (Col. 2:6)? We read in John 1 that the world and its inhabitants did not recognize the Lord Jesus, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (v. 12).

There is a believing and a receiving that take place when one hears the gospel. The gospel is that which Paul preached to the Corinthians, “which [they] received and on which [they] have taken [their] stand” ( Cor. 15:1). Hebrews warns us against living the same lives we did before conversion: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,” (Heb. 10:26). Peter writes to those “who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (2 Pe. 1:1).

YOUR THOUGHTS?

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2019 in personal salvation

 

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Why Should We Believe Anything at All? (Part 1)

Friends:
My next trip to speak at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey will be from January 26 to February 4.  While there, I will speak on both Sundays (Jan. 27 and Feb. 3), teach Sunday School on both Sundays, meet with the leaders of the chapel to discuss the issue of deacons, and lead a Saturday Seminar on Feb. 3 on my book DocTALK!  Whew!

My two Sunday school lessons will be on Ephesians 2.  But I want to focus on the two messages I will give on Sunday morning.  Both will be entitled —

Some preliminary points must be acknowledged:
1. We already believe many things. We all have a way of looking at life, at the world, at God.
2. The validity of what we believe does not depend on our sincerity. We can be sincerely wrong.
3. A belief is only as valid as the evidence for that belief.
4. “Belief” is a word that can mean a variety of things. It can be simply an opinion (“I believe the Yankees will win the World Series this next year!”). Or it can be a matter of life or death (“I believe we should cut the RED wire!”).
5. There are consequences to our beliefs.

Let’s think this morning about our authority for what we believe.  Typically, when it comes to religious beliefs (those having to do with God), there are four possible authorities upon which people rely.  They are:  REASON, EXPERIENCE, ECCLESIASTICAL TRADITION, or REVELATION.

REASON says I will believe only what makes sense to me, what seems “rational.”  But we believe many things that can’t be scientifically “proven.”  REASON alone is not enough.

EXPERIENCE shouldn’t be one’s final authority, for experiences are often unreliable and prone to deception.

ECCLESIASTICAL TRADITION for many Christians is their final authority.  “I believe what my church believes!”  But what if one’s church is wrong?

SUPERNATURAL REVELATION!  The Bible alone is God’s Word and should be our final authority in what we believe!

In our next post, we will continue our discussion about our final authority, the Word of God, the Bible. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2019 in doctrine

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 1 Introductory Matters

Theology, the study of God and the things of God, has been my life.  I have taught it and fought it (in its aberrant forms) for over forty years.  I’ve been privileged to work with hundreds of eager students dying to know what terms like “the hypostatic union”, “impeccability”, “ex nihilo”, and “interpolation” really mean.  I’ve written “papers” (which is academic speak for a scholarly presentation on a theological topic in front of other theologians who are conferencing somewhere) and published a bunch of books (some even by real publishers) which attempt to make the doctrines of the Bible understandable and some which challenge contemporary hereticks (the original spelling of that word).

But, in a real sense, I’ve never asked, “What was Jesus’ theology?  What did He believe and teach?”  [Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting that we do a kind of red-letter-approach to theology — that is, that only Jesus’ words are authoritative.  No.  All Scripture is inspired by God.  He delegated authority to the Apostles.  I’m only experimenting with the question “What theological declarations did the Lord Jesus make?”]

I’d like to think that what I’ve taught over those four decades is consistent with what Jesus taught, but I’ve never stopped to carefully ask the question, “What did He believe?” These posts will be my attempt at precisely that question.  And I’m going to do something strange.  I’m going to take the ten categories of systematic theology (such as Prolegomena, Bibliology, Ecclesiology, etc.) and comment on some of what the Lord Jesus said about each of those divisions of theology.

I know.  I know.  Systematic theology is a modern category.  Well, not entirely.  If systematic theology refers to the logical ordering of the data of Scripture, I’m not sure we can simply wash our hands of it and dismiss it as a “Western” approach to truth.  [Biblical theology, in my opinion, is looking at the same data of Scripture from a chronological perspective — how are doctrines progressively revealed throughout biblical history?  I don’t see either approach as superior to the other.  Just different.]

So, I hope you’ll stay with me for these posts.  I promise there won’t be more than a dozen of them.  And I promise I’ll try to be practical and clear in presenting the theology of Jesus as I find it in the Word.  Let’s begin!

The first category in a systematic theology approach is the area known as prolegomena.  This word literally means “the things you talk about before . . .”  In other words, before we talk about the doctrine of sin or the doctrine of final things, we need to discuss some preliminary or introductory matters.  And there are a lot of questions that a good prolegomena will cover.  Such as, what is faith?  What does it mean to”believe”?  Can we trust our human reason?  What the relationship between theology and philosophy? What are our sources of belief?  Are all doctrines first level issues?  That is, are there essentials which all Christians everywhere must believe and are there also distinctives on which genuine believers can differ (yet no side be guilty of heresy)?

It is likely that I will be able to cover only one or two issues in each of these sections.  Regarding prolegomena, I want to emphasize that the Lord Jesus never expressed merely an opinion.  What He “believed” was the truth.  “Believe”, as a verb, can have a variety of meanings.  It can express a hope (“I believe it won’t rain today.”).  It can refer to a conviction, a settled truth (“I believe in God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth . . .”).  [How the Lord Jesus used the word “believe” throughout the gospel of John is a fascinating study].  As God manifest in the flesh, Jesus never expressed a subjective viewpoint open to correction or refutation.  He declared the truth as only the Way, the Truth, and the Life could do!

He was not a “man of his times,” a dismissive description by liberals of Jesus as holding to out-dated ideas of God’s justice.  His beliefs were not formed by error-prone traditions or fallible schools of thought.  As the Word, He came to fully explain the Father and He was, literally, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

And for Jesus belief was of first level importance.  Everything in life depended on what one believed.  He stated, for example, in John 8:24- “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”  The last thing a person wants to do is die in their sins, right?

Belief was so important to the Lord Jesus that He let His friend Lazarus die.  In John 11 we read Jesus saying, “’Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (vv. 14-15).  Jesus was glad that He was not there so His friend could die so that the disciples could believe?!  In His conversation with Martha, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (vv. 25-26).  As the stone is being removed from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha says, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (v. 39).  Jesus’ response is:  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v. 40).

As they take away the stone, we read that “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’” (vv. 41-42).

The conclusion of this amazing account is that “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.” (vv. 45-47).  His opponents are alarmed and query, “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (vv. 47-48).

Belief was of paramount importance to the Lord Jesus.  It was not just a matter of life or death.  It was a matter of eternal life or eternal death.

Take a Bible you don’t mind marking up and read through the gospel of John.  Highlight or underline every reference to “believe” or “faith” in that book.  Share one of your conclusions in the Comment section below. (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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Back to the Basics! Introductory Matters #3 Belief!

We are thinking through some of the introductory issues in the Christian faith. Getting back to the basics means we need to review, periodically, the fundamentals of Christianity as we live in this world and want to serve Jesus.

While it is true that everyone lives by some kind of faith (see our previous post about stepping into an elevator), the Good News about Jesus is that we are to exercise faith in Him.

But for many “belief” or “faith” is just another way of saying “this is what I think” or “this is my opinion.” Belief in the Bible is much more than having a correct opinion. It involves aligning oneself with the reality of God and His truth!

The gospel of John has often been called the gospel of belief. Here are a few points which John makes in the fourth gospel about belief:

1. The goal of John the Baptist’s life was that all might believe in Jesus (1:7).
2. Being condemned or not condemned rests on belief or unbelief . . . in Jesus! (3:18).
3. While belief needs to be supported by evidence, it is possible to demand more evidence that one needs to believe (4:48).
4. We can’t work our way to God — The work God wants from us is belief in Jesus! (6:29).
5. Not believing Jesus’ claim to His own identify (the Son of God) means dying in one’s sins (8:24).
6. Believing in Jesus is so important that Jesus allowed one of His friends to die so He could raise him from the dead! (11:15).
7. Jesus demands the same belief in Himself as in God the Father! (14:1).
8. It is a sin not to believe in Jesus (16:9).
9. We can — and should — pray that others will believe in Jesus (17:20).

There is much more about BELIEF in the gospel of John. And I would recommend that you take a Bible you don’t mind marking up (preferably one of your own!) and highlight each use of “belief” or “believe” by John.

I heard one preacher say, “When I share the gospel, I worry about what people will think of me. And I worry what they will think of Jesus. But mostly, I worry about what they will think of me.”

Are you worried what people will think of you?  Use your influence today to challenge someone to believe in Jesus.  There is nothing more important than that!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2018 in belief

 

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