‘Is Jesus God?’

Jesus Christ Son of God

I was perusing through some old issues of The Restitution Herald which has been the primary publication of the Church of God General Conference, McDonough, Georgia, for over 100 years. One of the articles that caught my eye was dated February 19, 1952, and titled, “Is Jesus God?” It was written by Harold Doan (1924-1983) from a radio message he presented on station WAIT, Chicago. Doan, an Oregon Bible College graduate who was pastor of a church in Chicago, went on to become editor of The Restitution Herald three years later as well as Executive Secretary of the General Conference for many years.

Since one of the important truths the Bible teaches concerns the nature of Jesus Christ, I am taking the opportunity to share this article. God’s Word never changes and this includes the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. Although the article goes back 66 years, Brother Doan’s message is just as true and inspiring now as it was then:

Is Jesus God? Our answer is “No, Jesus is not God but he is the only begotten Son of God.” We could stop right here, but, because this answer is not in agreement with popular theology, we must go on to explain from God’s Word why Jesus cannot be called God.

God is one. “The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). God said, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God….I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” (Isa. 44:6, 24). There are no mathematical miracles connected with these texts. The God of Israel was and is one God, who alone created all things, who alone is the Father of all.

This God, whom we serve, is immortal. Paul said of him, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God” (1 Tim. 1:17). God is immortal, yet we read that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). If Jesus were God, “invisible” could he have been seen of Cephas, five hundred brethren, James, and later by Paul himself, even after his resurrection? Could he have died for our sins if he were “immortal…the only wise God”? If immortal God could die, then hope of immortality is in vain and Paul was wrong when he promised, “When this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory,” (1 Cor. 15:54). If Jesus is God, then God is not immortal or Jesus did not die for our sins. Jesus is not God. He is God’s only begotten Son, born of the virgin Mary, Son of God and Son of Man, able to die for us. “God so loved the world, that he gave [himself? No!] his only begotten Son,” (John 3:16).

It has been said that the only way God could do away with sin was to die for it himself. Where does Scripture teach this? It does not! The Bible clearly teaches that God condemned man to die for his own sins. At the same time, God made provision for a seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), to eventually stamp out sin. He also made provision for a blood substitute for sin. Eventually, he provided a substitute for man in his own Son, one of his own blood, but never did God even so much as imply that he himself would or should die for the sin of man.

harold-doan_circa-1955.jpg

Jesus was limited in knowledge. God is not limited. Jesus once said, concerning the date of his second coming, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father,” (Mark 13:32). Jesus said, “No man knows when I will come again. The angels do not know. Even I [the Son] do not know. Only the Father knows.” Was Jesus the Father or the Son? Did he know or did he not know? Could he both know and not know at the same time? How much more reasonable and Scriptural to acknowledge that God in heaven knows all things, and that his Son on the earth was limited, at least in this matter, in knowledge! God knows all; Jesus did not know one fact, the date of his return. Jesus is not God!

1 Timothy 2:5 is a verse extremely important to the Protestant church in that it shows that believers have only one access to the throne of God and that is through Jesus Christ. The verse reads, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There is one God, and one mediator, or go-between, between God and men, Jesus. Now I learned in the first grade that one and one is two. Paul probably learned that outstanding fact at some time in his life also. There are three parties mentioned in this verse. There is God. There is the human race. There is the man between the two, reconciling them, even Jesus Christ. Could Christ be God and also the mediator between God and men? Paul said, Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one,” (gal. 3:20). If Jesus and God were literally one, Jesus could not be mediator between himself and man. The very work Christ is now performing, interceding for man before God, makes it impossible that he himself be God. Jesus is not God; he is the Son of God, mediator between God and men.

In the course of his ministry, Jesus exerted himself to make it clear that he was not God. As Paul said in Philippians 2:6, “Jesus counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,” (R.V.). Never did Jesus try to usurp the place of God nor proclaim to be God. He always made it clear that his words came from God, the power to do his works came from God, and that God was greater than he. “I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I,” John 14:28). If Jesus had claimed to be God, that claim would have been the first accusation thrown at him when he was tried. Such a claim was not mentioned. In fact, the accusers said only of him, “He ought to die, because he made himself [claimed to be] the Son of God,” (John 19:7).

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Mary and said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God,” (John 20:17). Could Jesus have been speaking of himself? We can see no possibility that he was. Later, when Jesus revealed himself to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos and delivered to him the Revelation, Jesus said, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write them upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I write upon him my new name,” (Rev. 3:12).

Four times in this verse, Jesus, who was at God’s right at the time, referred to “my God.” In this verse, Jesus made the additional distinction between himself and God by saying, “I will write upon him my new name.” Not only will the overcomer bear the name of God and the city of God, but in addition he will bear the new name of Christ, whatever that may be. Jesus was careful, even after his ascension to make a distinction between himself and God. He would not let the rich young ruler call him “good” but said, “There is only good and that is God.” When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he first told Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that…thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Then he prayed unto God saying, “I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou has sent me,” (John 11:40-42). Jesus wanted it clearly understood that his power was derived power, coming down from God.

These texts and many more like them lead us to the reasonable conclusion that God is one. He alone created the heavens and earth. He alone has inherent immortality. He is the source of life. Jesus is his Son, flesh and blood, born of a woman, by miraculous, divine conception. Jesus lived as a man; he suffered; he thirsted; he tired; he was tempted; he agonized upon the cross and literally died. He was raised from the dead, by the power of God, ascended into heaven, and now acts as mediator between his Father, God, and the men [and women] he died to save. God is one; Jesus one; these make two, Father and Son, God and mediator. No, Jesus is not God, he is the only begotten Son of God.

Does this fact in any way detract from the glory of God or from the sacrifice of Christ? No, its truth magnifies God in our sight, and also makes Christ more understandable and real. “There is one God; and none other but he,” (Mark 12:32). How this clarifies our thinking and pin points our love. This God loves us. He had a Son, Jesus, who, because he was without sin was acceptable to God as sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe in him. God loved us. His Son loved us. Jesus died for us, and God raised him from the dead to be our Mediator. Believe in God; put your trust in him. Believe in his Son. Accept his sacrifice as your own and put on his name. You can come into the family of God by him!

Here is the hymn, “For God So Loved the World”: https://youtu.be/wexlu379AF4

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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It’s Time to Get Up!

The trumpet sounding

The story is told that Winston Churchill had planned his funeral, which took place at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. He included many of the great hymns of the church and used the eloquent Anglican liturgy. At his direction, a bugler, positioned high in the dome of Saint Paul’s, intoned, after the benediction, the sound of “Taps,” the universal signal that says the day is over.

But then came a dramatic turn: As Churchill instructed, after “Taps” was finished, another bugler, place on the other side of the great dome, play the notes of “Reveille” — “It’s time to get. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.”

That was Churchill’s testimony that at the end of history, the last note will be “Taps”; it will be “Reveille.” (selected)

This story fittingly illustrates the great Resurrection Day when Jesus comes to raise “the dead in Christ” not only to live again but to live in immortality and incorruption in God’s Kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50-58). “Reveille” will be “the sound of the trumpet” along with “a shout, with the voice of the archangel,” when Jesus himself “will descend from heaven,” according to First Thessalonians 4:16. When he comes, it will be “time to get up, time to get up, time to get up in the morning” (Job 19:25-27; Psalm 17:15; 30:5) from the sleep of death to arise in the likeness of Christ as believers behold the brightness of his glory and power (Philipppians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2-3).

This is an important part of God’s plan: to raise all people from the dead, including the righteous at the first resurrection and the unrighteous at the final resurrection (Daniel 12:2-3; John 5:25-29). The Bible says that there will be “a thousand years” between the two resurrections at which time Jesus Christ will reign as King over the nations (Rev. 20:1-15) and the church—those in the first resurrection and believers who are already alive when Christ returns, 1 Thess. 4:16-18 — will be his co-rulers (Rom. 8:11-25). The rest of the dead will be raised at the final resurrection, judged by God, sentenced to eternal death (“the second death”), and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:5-6, 11-15; 21:7-8).

Those who’ve accepted Jesus Christ, of course, will be saved through him and, therefore, not be judged to eternal death (Roman 6:23; 1 John 5:11-12). Rather, they will receive eternal life when Jesus comes again (John 3:16). As Christians, our aim is to live Spirit-filled lives for serving him, and abstain from the sins of the world so that we can be ready when Jesus comes again (Rom. 6:12-17; 1 Peter 2:11-12; 2 Pet. 3:10-13).

Believers put their faith in the promise that Jesus will come to wake up the faithful who’ve fallen asleep in death. We serve and follow him because we don’t doubt the words of the two angels who spoke to the disciples while watching Jesus ascend to heaven after he was resurrected: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:11). The resurrection of Jesus provides believers with hope that they, too, will be resurrected to immortality as he was (John 11:25-26).

As we look for Christ to appear, we are comforted in times of grief and strengthened in times of loss (1 Thess. 4:13-14, 18; Titus 2:13; 1 Cor. 15:50-58). We can truly endure and prosper as we see beyond this present life to the life to come. When that wonderful Day commences, and it’s time to get up, all that we’ve longed for according to God’s Word, will be something we won’t want to miss!

Here is Joy in the Morning by the Mar Thoma Church Choir Singapore: http://youtu.be/2K5zKmfUeTc

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Judging: Seeing the Bigger Picture

black dot

An economist was asked to talk to a group of business people about the recession. She tacked up a big sheet of white paper. Then she made a black spot on the paper with her pencil and asked a man in the front row what he saw. The man replied promptly, “A black spot.”
The speaker asked every person the same question, and each replied, “A black spot.”
With calm and deliberate emphasis the speaker said, “Yes, there is a little black spot, but none of you mentioned the big sheet of white paper. And that’s my speech.” (Bits & Pieces)

I find it interesting that we can spot the small things in most situations but miss the bigger picture. One little dent in a car stands out like a sore thumb but you don’t appreciate that the rest of the car is in great shape. Of all the beautiful pictures hanging properly on a wall, it’s the crooked one that you notice the most. And, if I may speak metaphorically, the human tendency is to make a mountain out of a molehill when there are bigger (and more important) fish to fry.

The same pattern can apply to human relationships. It’s easy to see one flaw in a person’s character but overlook all of their good qualities. One mistake, whether great or small, can ruin someone’s reputation even though that person was held in high esteem by many. From then on, all that people can see in that individual is the “black spot” and not the “big sheet of white.”

What everyone seems to overlook is that we all have a black spot on our papers. It’s just that we can’t always see it in ourselves. But others can. Although that spot is clearly apparent to other people—even if it’s only one little flaw—you cannot spot it in yourself. And yet, you can certainly find the black spot in others. Ironical, isn’t it?

Jesus points to this irony in his Sermon on the Mount when he addresses the subject of judging others. He says,

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5, New American Standard Bible, NASB; also, Luke 6:37-45)

We note, first of all, that the word “judge” is in the context of pronouncing condemnation upon others while not taking into consideration your own faults. You may known of someone who criticizes others while trying to build up themselves. Jesus doesn’t want his followers to have this kind of attitude. It’s easy to see the speck in another person’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye. We’d like to remove their speck but ignore our own log. Jesus wants us to correct ourselves, first, before passing judgment upon others lest God judge us. Besides, we’re all going to be judged someday, whether we’re rewarded for doing good or punished for doing evil (Daniel 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Rev. 20:6, 11-15). Since God is the ultimate Judge, we leave all matters up to him to decide, trusting in his mercy (Matt. 5:7) and forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15).

Having said this, it’s also important to note that Jesus is not necessarily saying that we should not discern between what is right or wrong. We need to be able to judge between what is true and what it is false (Matt. 7:15-23; Galatians 1:9); what is just and what is unjust (Leviticus 19:15; Psalm 82:2; Jude 3-4, 11-16); what is good and what is evil (Isaiah 5:18-23; Rom. 12:9). In this way, the church offers discipline when necessary so as to address serious problems (Philippians 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11), and to provide the opportunity to save those who are on the road to eternal destruction (James 5:19-20; Jude 23). Christians are admonished to correct one another through the use of scriptures and Christlike love while, at the same time, considering their own temptations and sins (Ezekiel 18:27-28; Galatians 6:1-5; Ephesians 4:15; Philippians 2:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The fact is, looking only at the black spot diverts our attention to the entire sheet of paper. Getting the bigger picture helps to put the black spot in better perspective. The same is true as we judge the actions of others. It’s said that in judging others, it’s always wise to see with the heart as well as with the eyes. Perhaps this is wise because there is more to see with the heart than merely with the eyes. Besides, God is always searching the heart, even our own! (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10; Rom. 8:27)

Here is Hillsong presenting, “From the Inside Out”: http://youtu.be/SZ-fghqc8Oo

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Question of Curiosity

curiosity

I was curious to know what has been said or written about curiosity. I inquired online and also searched my library. One of the first thoughts that came to mind was the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought it back.” Wikipedia explained that it is “a proverb used to warn against being too inquisitive lest one comes to harm.”

Evidently, no one knows exactly where this proverb came from. Yet, there have been various variations ever since the British playwright, Ben Jonson, included it in his 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour.

But the earliest known printed reference to the actual phrase occurred in The Washington Post on March 4, 1916 with the headline, Curiosity Killed the Cat. It was an article about a cat named Blackie who lived with his owner, Miss Mable Godfrey, on the fifth floor of an apartment house. One afternoon, while Miss Godfrey was out, Blackie “skipped into the grate fireplace in a rear room” which he’d done many times before. But this one particular time, he decided to climb up the flue to the chimney—presumably curious to see what was up there.

After he perched himself on a screen that separated the apartment flue from the main chimney, Blackie started crying for assistance to help him down. This went on until the next day, when someone in the building could hear the cat. The fire department, police department, and every other department was called in to help rescue the cat, but to no avail.

Finally, the cat ended up falling all the way down the chimney to the first floor where he was discovered. Sadly, Blackie’s back was injured in the fall. Ten minutes later after he was retrieved, the unfortunate feline died. So, curiosity DID kill the cat. (ibid.)

By the way, it’s not really known what is meant, “satisfaction brought it back.” Some have thought that since cats are supposed to have nine lives, their curiosity won’t be satisfied until they come back again to investigate the matter some more.

While curiosity does have its price, it’s also believed that it is a sign of intellect for humans. British author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) said, “Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” We don’t doubt this statement. In fact, if you find that your are a most curious sort of person, then you are in good company with some of the most intellectual persons.

For example, someone famous said, “I have no special gift. I am only passionately curious.” Do you know who said this? Give yourself an “A” for intellectual excellence if you said, Albert Einstein. If you are likewise a “passionately curious” person, you may be another Einstein!

In reality, however, there seems to be two sides to the proverbial coin when it comes to curiosity. One side includes the fact that curiosity can kill like it did the cat. Or it can provide intellectual enlightenment like Einstein possessed. There’s a proverb that says, “Enough curiosity may enable you to learn; too much of it can get you into trouble.”

Idle curiosity is the kind that can lead to trouble. The Bible gives many examples of this sort of curiosity. Adam and Eve come immediately to mind. God said they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden lest they die (Genesis 2:16-17). But curiosity got the best of Eve when she saw that the tree was “…good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,” (Gen. 3:6-7). She was convinced that if she ate that luscious forbidden fruit that she could not die but “…be like God, knowing good and evil,” (vss. 4-5). So, she ate the fruit and gave some to her husband and he ate it, too.

From their sin of disobedience is the curse that we have suffered ever since—sin, suffering, and death. Only through Jesus Christ can we ever have the hope of overcoming the curse of sin and living eternally at the appointed time God has set in the age to come (1 Corinthians 15:22-28, 42-58; Revelation 22:1-5).

Other Biblical examples of idle curiosity include,

  • The men of Beth-shemesh curious to see inside the ark of the covenant – 1 Samuel 6:19
  • Herod curious to see Christ perform a miracle – Luke 23:8
  • The Levite looked with indifferent curiosity upon the man who was suffering – Luke 10:32
  • The Jews who were curious to see Lazarus who had been raised from the dead – John 12:9
  • The Athenians who were curious to learn something new – Acts 17:21

Those who were critical of Jesus such as the Pharisees and scribes showed curiosity about Jesus but most of them were not sincerely looking for knowledge of the truth. These “hypocrites,” as Jesus called them, were merely looking for some way to test him, hoping to find something in which to accuse him (Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 2:18).

The opposite of idle curiosity is productive curiosity: the sincere desire to want to know and learn and thereby grow and mature. This the healthy, wholesome side of curiosity that causes us to ask questions toward making new discoveries, and improving our lives. Christians who are curious are seeking something that will provide inspiration and instruction for serving Christ.

Curiosity for followers of Christ takes the form of three actions: (1) Ask; (2) Seek; and (3) Knock. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you,” (Matt. 7:7; also Luke 11:9). Each one is a continuous act: Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. While this is an encouragement to pray, it can also be applied as we ask soul-searching questions, seek the honest truth, and knock on the door of any opportunity that leads to a better understanding of God’s Word in our lives. This is what the church at Berea was commended for (Acts 17:11). Jesus promises that God our Father will bring many blessings if we consistently and persistently pursue these actions with passionate curiosity, of course (Matt. 7:8-11; Luke 11:10-13)!

Here is the worship song, “Seek the LORD While He May be Found,” (Isaiah 55:6-9) by Esther Mui: http://youtu.be/V2asZ15Xkdk

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Value of Vision

vision

There was a cartoon that showed two Eskimos fishing through holes in the ice. One has dropped his fishing line into a typical round hole about the size of a manhole cover. The other man dropped his line in the water too, but the hole is so immense that it seemed to reach beyond the horizon, in the shape of a whale!

You can say both fishermen had vision. But one of them had a bigger vision than the other. He could envision landing something that few would ever dare try. He wasn’t satisfied with a little ol’ fish. He wanted to catch a whale!

Persons with vision can see beyond what is common. Their eyes are not content to merely look at the here and now. Instead, their eyes gaze upon the horizon to see into the future.

The visionaries of the world are known to make great strides for improving the lives of many. One person I have recently read about is the late businessman Akio Morita (Lived: Jan. 26, 1921 – Oct. 03, 1999). In 1946, just after World War 2 ended, Morita and Masaru Ibuka started a company called Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering in a bombed out department store. They set out to make Japan’s first tape recorder. Even though it was the size of a suitcase, and the recording tape was of poor quality, this was the beginning of what would lead to bigger and better things in the coming years.

It was in 1955 that Morita’s company made the world’s first portable transistor radio. Two years later, his company came up with the first transistor that would fit into a pocket. At the time, Bulova, an American company known for manufacturing watches and clocks, placed a huge order for the radios. The catch, however, was that Bulova would sell the radios under their own name. Even though his business partner was willing to accept Bulova’s offer, Morita declined. He had bigger plans than simply making a sizable profit.

Morita envisioned that his company would provide electronic products under its own name. By the time Morita was approached by Bulova, the company had already changed the original name to one that is now recognize as a household brand—Sony. Morita lists the top nine principles of advice from his book, Made in Japan, says writer and business man, Murat Aktihanoglu. One of those principles, “trust your vision,” is illustrated by the Bulova incident:

When he started Sony, he had vowed that they would not be Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) for other companies. So he refused the order despite everyone around him thinking he was crazy. Bulova told him nobody knew Sony’s name but with Bulova’s name on the radios, they would be sold like hotcakes. Morita-san said: “I am now taking the first step for the next fifty years of my company. Fifty years from now I promise you that our name will be just as famous as your company name is today.” http://muratak.com/2010/05/04/top-9-business-advice-from-sonys-founder-akio-morita/

Morita_Akio

Akio Morita

Morita’s vision saw his company rise to become one of the biggest success stories in the business world. Thanks to his visionary leadership, there are many “firsts” produced by the company he co-founded:

  • The first AM transistor radio
  • The first pocket-sized transistor radio
  • The first two-band transistor radio
  • The first FM transistor radio
  • The first all-transistor television set
  • The first home-use VCR
  • The first 8 mm video camera

Morita proved that in business those with vision and foresight can catch a whale. And the same is true as we serve Christ. We don’t seek the small rewards of this life, but the great big one that includes the life to come in the Kingdom Age. We look beyond the horizon with a hope that is greater than what this present world has to offer—eternal life.

As God’s church, we have a vision that keeps us strong and faithful as we anticipate that Glorious Age. Without that vision, we fail. We fail to grow, to succeed, to enjoy the abundant life Jesus wants us to have. Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10, New American Standard Bible, NASB). The thief’s vision is small; set on worldly things that produce destruction. On the other hand, Jesus is not only offering life, but the abundant life—something bigger than we can even imagine yet hope to attain.

It’s vision that brings stability and strength and satisfaction because it keeps us focused on higher standards. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Without a vision the people lose restraint; but happy is the one who follows instruction,” (New American Bible Revised Edition, NAB). In Bible times, when prophets sought the Word of the Lord, their vision provided the people with blessings in which to look forward. But if the prophets misled the people with false visions not based on God’s revelation, all control was lost as well as any hope for their future. (Examples: 1 Samuel 3:1ff; Psalm 74:9).

The Apostle Paul wrote about the value of vision when he testified concerning his commitment to proclaim the Gospel to anyone who would listen. Paul’s vision was based on the belief that all the world needed to know Christ and the Good News of his Kingdom. He was willing to become all things to all people if that’s what it took to fulfill the vision he literally saw on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:1-29; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Galatians 1:11-2:21).

Paul’s vision of proclaiming the Gospel was based on his faith in God’s Word—the kind of faith Abraham had. Jesus noted how Abraham was a visionary of the day Jesus would appear. He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad,” (John 8:56, NASB). Abraham saw a brighter and better day when one of his own, Jesus the Christ, will rule and reign on the earth in the Kingdom. Those in Christ who have the kind of vision that faithful Abraham had will also inherit the Kingdom (Galatians 3:26-29).

If we keep our eyes on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14), we can look for no higher calling. Our vision becomes more valuable the more we pursue that prize. Only through Christ can our vision be clear as we seek first his kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33). How do you envision your service in the Lord and what you seek to accomplish through him?

Here is an old Irish hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” by Selah: http://youtu.be/_4FFZ2KEB24

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Slaves of Christ

Slave of Christ

Human slavery is normally an abhorrent practice. Slaves are deprived of human rights. A slave is owned by someone else, a.k.a., a master. Thus, a slave has no say over the way he or she is treated. Masters may choose to abuse their slaves or treat them with respect. Members of slave families may be separated and sold upon the will of their master. A person can become “enslaved from the time of birth, capture, or purchase.” Slavery is forced labor. While the master may provide for the basic necessities of a slave, a slave does not receive remuneration, per se. The master can buy or sell a slave to anyone. A slave is considered “property” of the master. As such, the most common form of slavery in some places of the world today is human trafficking defined as, “the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.” (Wikipedia)

While slavery paints an ugly picture of a system that prohibits human freedom, it may appear strange to say that those who’ve chosen Christ have chosen to be his slaves (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:24; 1 Pet. 2:16). And it may sound even more strange to say that when one becomes a slave of Christ, one is actually free (Romans 6:15-23). This irony leads to some questions: How is this possible? Why would one choose to be a slave of Christ? What are the benefits of being his slave? Let’s consider each one of these questions for they are crucial to our understanding of what it truly means to be a slave of Christ.

It is possible to be a slave of Christ and to have genuine freedom or liberty because both conditions are one in the same. In other words, if one is not a slave of Christ, one is not really free. And it’s all due to sin.

It all started at the beginning of the human race. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s command to not eat of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-21), we are all born with a sinful nature (Rom. 3:23). Our sinful condition chains us as slaves to sin depriving us of the freedom that only God can provide through Jesus Christ (John 8:36). 

Either we are lost in sin or found through Christ. Lost in sin means we’re separated from God who gives us freedom through his grace or favor (Romans 6:23). And, since sin is separation from the God, we are chained in darkness, depravity, and doom. We are in a sense entangled in our own lusts and desires. In reality, we are never really “free.” (Galatians 5:1)

The chains of sin or “works of the flesh” lead to misery in this life and eternal death when the Day of Judgment comes (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 21:7-8). But because of his marvelous grace, God has provided the way out of sin and into freedom (Eph. 2:8).

It is only through becoming a slave of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that we can experience freedom. Though we do not deserve to enjoy this freedom on account of sin, God extends it to us because he loves us and wants us to have it (John 3:16). We can choose to either be slaves of sin or slaves of Christ. To be a slave of Christ, we need to be redeemed (Eph. 1:7).

Dr. Alva G. Huffer put it this way,

The agora or market place is the scene of redemption. Sinners are slaves to sin. Redemption is the liberation of a slave from bondage by the payment of a price. God as Redeemer purchases the slave of sin from the market place with the redemptive blood of His Son and sets the slave free. The redeemed slave voluntarily becomes the Redeemer’s servant in appreciation of His love. (Systematic Theology, p. 363)

We are set free if we so choose to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. When we become Christ’s through faith (Rom. 10:17), repentance (Acts 3:19), and baptism (Acts 2:38), we are now owned by Christ. He now becomes our Master for life. When he suffered, bled, and died on the cross for our sins, our freedom was purchased and we are owned by him (1 Corinthians 3:23).

This brings us to the why question. Why would one want to be owned by any Master, even by Jesus Christ, if it means that you are giving up your independence? Answer: Because it’s only through him that we become free—not to live any way we want, but to the live the way he wants us to live (Rom. 8:1-4).

When we live the way Christ wants us to live, we are making the right choices that bring harmony in our lives. Serving as his slaves is good because we are doing the will of God (Eph. 6:6). The Apostle Paul exhorted the church, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants,” (Eph. 6:17, The Message, MSG).

Since Jesus sets us free so that we may willingly serve him, we must make sure that we use our freedom for doing what is good. We are under his control and, therefore, we do not abuse freedom by doing what is wrong but for doing what is right as God requires. As the Apostle Peter urged,

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1 Pet. 2:16-17, MSG).

We choose to live according to what our Master wants rather than our own selfish pleasure for we know this is the only way we can deal with the problems we often find ourselves in. Serving sin brings us down; serving Christ our Master brings us up. Jude’s closing prayer was that God through their Master, Jesus Christ, would keep them from falling into sin so they may find lasting peace:

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes. (Jude 24-25, MSG).

Now we arrive at the benefits of being a slave of Christ. I have already shown that being a slave of Christ is what makes us free to live as good citizens (1 Pet. 2:16-17). Civil order and respect for others is better accomplished when we subject ourselves to the One who brings peace in our lives. Those who humbly serve Christ the Master are able to avoid conflicts (James 4:1-10). 

Our relationships will improve if we freely follow our Master’s instructions. Who doesn’t want happier families? Better relationships among fellow workers? Safer communities? When we are slaves of Christ we are free to live the law of Christ and do good to all people (Gal. 5:13-15). The law of Christ our Master is built upon love. First, love God; second, love one another, (Matt. 22:34-40). It is through such love that we strive to do good to others, especially to fellow believers in Christ. The Apostle Paul said,

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10, MSG)

We will benefit from God’s Power or Spirit as we heed our Master. The Spirit-led life in Christ is the way of freedom. When live in the Spirit we will serve him rather than the sinful desires of the flesh. This is Paul’s point:

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. (Gal. 5:16-18, MSG).

Living the life of a true slave in Christ yields the benefits of the Spirit-led life including, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Believers are fully aware that it’s the Spirit-led life that produces the hope of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom when the Master returns to claim his own (Rom. 6:22). Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance,” (NASB).

Here is All Sons and Daughters singing, “I Am Set Free” http://youtu.be/NIlL32QANhA

Good News to YOU!

Pastor Michael

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The Advantages of Experience

 

experienceIt is said that when a person with experience meets a person with money, the person with experience will get the money. And the person with the money will get experience. (Leonard Lauder)

What makes experience so important, anyway? Because the person with experience is more apt to keep from making the mistakes that an inexperienced person will make. And, that’s because the experienced person has already paid the price for making those mistakes he’s already suffered. Therefore, the pain of learning from our mistakes teaches us to not make the same mistakes again and make better choices for achieving success. As they say, “Experience is the best teacher.”

Experience, for example, teaches wisdom. And wisdom comes with age. Job 12:12 declares, “Wisdom is with aged men. With long life is understanding,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When younger, inexperienced persons listen to their more experienced elders, they will be more the wiser. Why? Because they will be able to prevent the kind of problems they would have if they followed the advice of their peers who’ve had little or no experience.

Case in point: When it was time for Rehoboam to reign as Israel’s new king in the place of his father, King Solomon, he was immediately faced with a serious situation that would impact his authority and the future of the nation. He was approached by some disgruntled citizens led by a rebel named Jeroboam. They simply requested to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” Rehoboam said he’d give them his answer in three days.

The young king first consulted the elders who served his father. He wanted to hear their advice on how to respond to these rebellious people. The elders suggested to Rehoboam, “If you will be a servant to this people today, will serve them, grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” But King Rehoboam didn’t heed their counsel. Rather, the king turned to his young peers and asked them what he should do about the matter. They said he should put a heavier yoke on these people than his father did and that he should tell these people, “My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”

When the third day came, Jeroboam and his people came to Rehoboam for his answer. It says, “And the king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him, and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men….” As a result of the king’s foolish decision, the people who supported Jeroboam rose up against the king and the whole nation became divided. In fact, Israel was split into two kingdoms. Jeroboam became the king of the northern kingdom, Israel, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes. And Rehoboam ended up king of the southern kingdom, Judah, consisting of the two remaining tribes. (See 1 Kings 12:1-24; 2 Chronicles 10:1-19.)

Experience provides the path for spiritual growth. The more experience we have, the more maturity we will gain. The Apostle Paul encouraged the church to “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ,” Ephesians 4:13, NASB). As followers of Christ develop spiritual maturity, they will not be easily influenced by deceivers who manipulate them into false teachings and unhappy circumstances. For Paul goes on to say, As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about my every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming,” (v. 14). Paul is pointing out that there is a better, more “grown up” way to experience maturity: “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him, who is the head, even Christ… (v. 15).

When we experience Christ in our lives, by applying his teachings and living according to his truth, we will experience blessings like peace (John 14:27) and joy (John 15:11). But we must keep in mind that experiencing Christ is not a onetime deal the moment you accept him into your life. No, it’s an ongoing, lifetime deal. This is another reason why experience is the best teacher — because he is always there to instruct us. Yes, we can always learn from experience if we’re willing to learn from the Master himself. In fact, experiencing Christ is the best experience you can ever have!

Here is an inspirational hymn, “Living for Jesus,” https://youtu.be/rChnJ15-mj0

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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