A Matter of Interpretation?

Bible says

A young mother had been too busy to visit her elderly neighbor, who was ill. She said to her small son, “Johnny, run over and see how ‘old Mrs. Smith’ is.” Within a few minutes, the boy was back. “She says it’s none of your business how old she is.” (1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, Michael Hodgin)

Johnny must have interpreted his mother to say one thing but she meant it another way. This sort of thing happens all the time, doesn’t it? We say something to someone but they interpret it another way. Usually, it results in confusion and, sometimes, strife.

It is no different when Christians have opposing views on the Scriptures. I remember oftentimes discussing a specific Bible verse with someone and the person will say, “It depends on how you interpret it.” In other words, that person is saying it doesn’t really matter what the truth is but what you think about it that counts. But will that kind of attitude bring us any closer to the true meaning of a Bible passage? And won’t that just bring confusion and, perhaps, strife over it?

Yes, we can agree to disagree just for the sake of maintaining love, civility and mutual respect. But there can only be one truth and, therefore, one faith for building the kind of unity taught in God’s Word (Ephesians 4:1-6). In fact, wasn’t this the goal of the early church leaders? The Apostle Paul said to the church of Ephesus:

…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ… (Ephesians 4:13-16).

Whenever we study the Bible, and want to come up with the truth of a word or passage, we need to be very careful not to let our own bias or personal preferences interfere with the meaning. What we want to believe about a certain teaching or subject and what it is actually saying has to be closely considered whenever we search the Scriptures. There is such a thing as “interpretive bias,” as author, Michael Hodgin, has illustrated:

Whenever we interpret Scripture, we tend to lean toward our own bias. We need to recognize the reality of such biases that we all have. I like the story I read in Sunday Sermons about the driver of a tour bus in Nashville, Tennessee. The driver was pointing out the sights of the Civil War Battle of Nashville. He said, “Right over here a small group of Confederate soldiers held off a whole Yankee brigade.” A little farther along he said, “Over there a young Confederate boy, all by himself, fought off a Yankee platoon.” This went on and on until finally, a member of the tour group asked, “Didn’t the Yankees win anything in the battle of Nashville?” The bus driver replied, “Not while I’m the driver of this bus, they didn’t.” (ibid.)

It is imperative that any student of the Bible not allow outside influences to distort the actual meaning of Scripture. What you’ve always been taught by your parents, or your church’s creed, or your Sunday School teacher, or college professor, or even your preacher or priest has to be weighed against what you are reading and studying for yourself. It may just be that what you are discovering through your own studies may not agree with the traditional views others have given you. Remember what it says in Second Peter 1:19 through 21. Scripture must interpret itself.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible that I’ve used as a guideline for interpreting Scripture is Second Timothy 2:15, where the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (King James Version, KJV). The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) puts this verse in context with verses 14 and 16 and states the text this way:

(14) Remind [the people] of these facts and [solemnly] charge them in the presence of the Lord to avoid petty controversy over words, which does no good but upsets and undermines the faith of the hearers. (15) Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. (16) But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. (vss. 14-16)

I cannot over emphasize the need to study God’s Word on your own and see if you come up with same conclusions as others. This is what the Berean Christians were commended for. In Acts 17:10-12 it says,

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

As I’ve pointed out, when studying God’s inspired Word, one must approach it diligently and allow it to speak for itself. This includes going to the original languages in which it was written (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic), understanding the culture, customs, and history of the time, and taking everything into context what was written. It’s also advisable that you use Bible translations which come closer to the original text rather than paraphrases which are basically modernized versions of what translators think it says. Commentaries are okay to an extent but I believe you must still be somewhat objective with a little bit of skepticism added in until you can see proof of what is being asserted.

All of this might sound too overwhelming for some. But you don’t have to have a degree in Theology or a be an expert in linguistics to understand God’s Word. There a many more resources to consult now that we have access to computers and other technology tools in addition to books. And be assured. God has revealed his Word in such a way that even the most simple-minded person can read it and absorb it into one’s life. In Psalm 119:130 it says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Through Christ, God wants us to know his truth so that we can apply it for our spiritual growth as we serve him and prepare for his Kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-8).

Here’s Amy Grant singing, “Thy Word”: http://youtu.be/M_3Ad3Q4Rrk

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Fallacy of Humanism

humanism

Have you ever heard of a building literally making someone sick? It happened one time in 1996 when a mother, Randi Armstrong, and her two daughters moved from California to Staten Island. According to the New York Times, Randi and the girls started mysteriously suffering from recurring itching, fatigue, headaches, and cold and flu symptoms. They spent days at a time in bed, missing school, and work. Randi spoke to the landlord and her doctor but no one could help her identify the cause of the problem.

Suffering for months, one day she saw a television news program describing maladies caused by a noxious mold called Stachy-botrys atra (pronounced stock-e-BAH-trus AH-tra) that grows in dark, warm, moist conditions. It had become a problem in some buildings on Staten Island because of the borough’s high water table. A library and a day-care center had been closed because of the mold. Instantly, Randi recognized the streaky patches of black, slimy mold on some of the walls and ceilings of her apartment. As quickly as she could, she moved out of the apartment. (Craig Brian Larson & Leadership Journal)

Sick buildings make a person physically ill. And in the same sense, when people make their abode with human philosophies and worldviews that are spiritually harmful then they, too, will suffer the consequences. This points to the fallacy of modern secular humanism.

What is “humanism”? It’s said to be…

…a term widely used within the church to describe the prevailing philosophy of today—the world’s mold that Christians have to resist deliberately. But what, specifically, is “humanism”? Probably its clearest definition and most aggressive repudiation of Christianity appears in the Humanist Manifesto II [Sept. 2, 1973], which contains the following basic tenets:

  • We believe that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species.
  • Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.
  • We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stem from human need and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life. Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that human kind possesses. There is not substitute; neither faith nor passion suffices in itself.
  • No deity will save us; we must save ourselves. (as cited in 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Michael P. Green, ed.)

This manifesto is one of three that have been published by prominent humanists for the past 85 years. Humanist Manifesto I was first published in 1933, at the time John Dewey and others organized the American Humanist Association, AHA. The tenets of the first manifesto essentially advocated socialism over capitalism.

In 2003, Humanist Manifesto III was published in The Humanist. Although it did not include the various tenets of the first two manifestos, it was printed in paragraphs containing words that did not directly oppose Christian beliefs like the second one. However, it still advocates a humanistic philosophy that is contrary to a belief in anything supernatural (i.e., God’s existence and that he is our Creator). (LINK: http://www.icr.org/article/evolving-humanist-manifestos/ )

When you think about it, humanism is basically the worship of humanity rather than worship of the one, true God. It denies God and the teachings in God’s Word. It believes that humanity is the solution to the world’s problems, and not God. Humanism couldn’t be more wrong.

Humanism is a sick building. It extols “the creature” rather than “the Creator” just like the Apostle Paul stated to the Roman Church:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. 1:18-25, New American Standard Bible, NASB)

Evidence of God’s is everywhere, just as the Apostle Paul points out. But well-educated philosophers who profess to be wise turn out to be fools because they deny their own Creator. They are like the fool described in two Psalms (NASB):

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”
They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;
There is no one who does good. (Psalm 53:1)

The fallacy of humanism is that humanists believe it can succeed. The truth is, however, it will never bring lasting joy or prosperity or security and peace and especially love. Humanism travels on a one-way street going the wrong way. It goes against the flow of God’s moral character since it denies him. Humanism asserts its own “moral value” which is really “immoral” since it is without the One who establishes true moral value.

In essence, humanism is a “sick building” built on a weak foundation of sand rather than the solid rock of Christ’s highest standards (Matthew 7:24-27). Those who promote socialism, materialism, cultism, hedonism, and many other kinds of ism’s breed the spiritual sickness and diseases the lead to disappointment, disillusionment, and disaster. The Apostle Paul goes on to list these “sicknesses” and their results:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:26-32, NASB)

Have you ever noticed how those with a bent toward humanism tend to give their “hearty approval” for the very things God does not approve of? You might be watching a TV show and hear someone endorse something that is not according to God’s moral standards even though that person likes to make it look most popular and acceptable. But what they want you to accept leads to the sickness of a “depraved mind to do those things which are not proper….” When you observe the ills of this world, you can always trace it to the humanistic frame of mind, attributed to this problem called SIN.

It all started when our first parents disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were humanistic in their depraved minds when they humanly thought that they could be gods themselves rather than obeying the one, true God (Genesis 3:5-6). This led to their sin. And humanity has been suffering ever since.

It took the “second Adam,” Jesus Christ, to give humanity the hope of overcoming sin and the curse we are all under (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus was born to undo what Adam did and provide forgiveness of sin which is available since he died to save us from the penalty of sin, namely, eternal death (Isaiah 53; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:3; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 5:2; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:16). Those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism are able to escape the sickness of humanism and the misery it breeds. Believers find a better “house” to dwell in which they are able to really live through the power of God’s wisdom and grace (Psalm 84).

Here’s Jason Silver with a song from Psalm 84: http://youtu.be/W1_RuGwZEj8

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Taking the Long View

looking ahead

Once upon a time there was a pig who was eating his fill of acorns under an oak tree. Then he started to root around the tree. When warned that his digging would kill the tree, he answered, “Let it die. Who cares as long as there are acorns?”

The pig was short-sighted. And foolish. Had he taken the longer view, he would have realized that killing the tree would eventually end his feast of acorns and he would starve.

Not unlike the pig, there is the human tendency to look only at the moment and not see what’s down the road. The Apostle Peter speaks of such persons as spiritually “blind or shortsighted”:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (2 Pet. 1:5-9 New American Standard Bible, NASB.)

Peter wanted his readers to know how important it is to keep moving forward in the knowledge of Christ by looking forward to the precious promises of the future. Verse 4 states,

For by these [ “everything pertaining to life, and godliness…” vs. 3 ] he has granted to us his precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

The apostle is reminding believers that taking the long view—that is, living for the day when Jesus returns to give all the faithful “the divine nature,” when they are changed to receive immortality like Jesus (1 John 3:2) is far more productive than merely living for what you can get now. In other words, the reason we choose to grow in Christ is not for the “acorns” that can only bring us temporary pleasure for this is “useless” and “unfruitful,” (vs. 8). Instead, we are urged to make sure we take care of the whole “tree” that produces the fruit of salvation in God’s eternal kingdom. For as Peter went on to say, “For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you,” (vs. 11).

The long view means that while we are expecting Christ to return to bring an end to all the misery and difficulties we face in the present, mortal life, we are careful to grow in faith, seek the truth, and serve the Lord out of love and loyalty to him. That’s what Peter’s list of Christian graces is all about: Faith, moral excellence (virtue), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. These are the “qualities” we pursue as we depend upon God’s Spirit through Christ to fill us each day (Galatians 5:22-23).

These qualities are important because if we stop striving to grow in them then we’re only living for this present life. And the sad result will be “the works of the flesh” which will only end in disaster for, “those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” (see Galatians 5:16-21). Living only for the “the works of the flesh” in this present life is a sure-fire way to kill the tree that produces any hope of receiving eternal life in God’s wonderful kingdom.

The long view leads to a better attitude, a better choice, and a better hope for the future. The fact that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, transforms our lives, and gives us something to live for that no one else can give, is why we can enjoy these better things. In addition, by taking the long view, we will not forget how we’ve been saved from our sins through him (2 Pet. 1:9). Like the Apostle Paul, we “press on” toward the goal of a higher, better reward than anything we’ll ever achieve or receive now (Philippians 3:14-16). We never want to be sidetracked with our fill of acorns without taking that longer view.

We can’t take the long view if we don’t give our lives completely over to Jesus and ask him to change us. Here’s a song that speaks to this very truth: http://youtu.be/8m8Ivi4Gu-I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Gabriel’s Horn

Gabriel Appears to Mary

There’s an old Spiritual that was sung by African Americans titled, Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel, that says,

De talles’ tree in Paradise,
De Christian call de tree of life;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem.

Blow your trumpet, Gabriel,
Blow louder, louder;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem.

Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Sing God’s praise both night and day;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem.

https://www.negrospirituals.com/songs/blow_you_trumpet_gabriel.htm

This is just one of many examples that portray the angel Gabriel as blowing a horn. According to Wikipedia,

The earliest known identification of Gabriel as the trumpeter comes in John Wycliffe’s 1382 tract, De Ecclesiæ Dominio. In the year 1455, in Armenian art, there is an illustration in an Armenian manuscript showing Gabriel sounding his trumpet as the dead climb out of their graves. Two centuries later, Gabriel is identified as the trumpeter, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667):

Betwixt these rockie pillars Gabriel sat
Chief of the Angelic guards (IV.545f)…
He ended, and the Son gave signal high
To the bright minister that watch’d, he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps
When God descended, and perhaps once more
To sound at general doom. (XI.72ff).

But is the depiction of Gabriel blowing a horn Biblical? 

In the Bible, Gabriel is the heavenly messenger (angel) who interpreted the prophet Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat (Daniel 8:15-27). Gabriel appeared to Daniel again after the prophet prayed for his people of Israel (Dan. 9:20-27). Gabriel’s message from the LORD had to do with the future of Israel, the nations of the world, and the signs preceding the coming of the Messiah. Jesus directly referred to these “end of the age” prophecies from the Book of Daniel (Old Testament) in connection with his second coming (Matt. 24:1-31; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36).  

In the New Testament, Gabriel’s name is mentioned once again when he appeared to announce the births of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Savior (Luke 1:8-20), and Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).

From these references, Gabriel is called an angel (Luke 1:19, 26) who appeared as a man (Dan. 9:21). Although some traditions speak of Gabriel as an archangel, the Bible never applies this term to him. Neither does the Bible refer to Gabriel as a saint as some Christian traditions assert. “Saints,” in the Bible actually refers to Christians. Dr. Alva Huffer wrote, “A believer becomes a saint, not when he dies, but when he enters into Christ and becomes a Christian. The New Testament refers to all Christians as saints, regardless of their spiritual attainments. (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 13:13; Eph. 1:1; 4:12:Phil. 1:1; 4:21; Col. 1:2, 4, 26; Heb. 13:24; et. al.)” (Systematic Theology, p. 387.)

The name, Gabriel, means “strong or mighty man of God.” As implied in the meaning of being God’s mighty messenger, Gabriel’s chief role was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. This is evidenced in both Daniel’s prophecies and the birth of Jesus. When Gabriel announced that the virgin Mary would give birth to Jesus, he also predicted the return of Jesus when he will reign as King forever in God’s coming Kingdom (Luke 1:32-33). Of course, this includes the resurrection of believers.

It’s probably due to the fact that Gabriel is associated with the announcement of Jesus’ return that the angel is connected with blowing a trumpet. Interestingly, however, the Bible never speaks of Gabriel’s use of a horn at the second coming. There are various references to the sound of a trumpet when Jesus comes again but Gabriel is not mentioned as the trumpeter.

The fact is, Jesus “…will send forth his angels with a great trumpet…” (Matt. 24:31) but no names of angels are specifically given. Likewise, God’s trumpet shall sound along with the voice of the archangel and the Lord’s shout when he descends from heaven to raise the dead in Christ, according to First Thessalonians 4:16. [NOTE: The only reference to an “archangel” in the Bible is Michael the Archangel and he is believed to be the protector and defender of Israel (Jude 9; Rev. 12:5-9, cp. Dan. 10:13, 21).] There are also seven unnamed angels with each one sounding a trumpet in Revelation 8-11 for announcing God’s judgements at the end of the age. And, First Corinthians 15:52 mentions “the last trump” that will sound when the dead in Christ are raised to immortality and incorruption at the return of Christ which echoes the passage in 1 Thess. 4:16. Yet, none of these references state that Gabriel  will blow a trumpet.

We can be encouraged to know, however, that Gabriel’s messages to Daniel the prophet, Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, and Mary the mother of our Lord, all relate to the wonderful promises of God’s Word. Thanks to Gabriel, we can be comforted to know that the Messiah Jesus is the One who will fulfill God’s plan of salvation. Gabriel appeared to give us the hope that can only be found in Christ and the assurance of a Great Day to come. And just think of it: Won’t it be amazing to one day be able to meet Gabriel in person!

Here’s a catchy little tune titled, “The Angel Gabriel”: http://youtu.be/nSq_T3lVOOk

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

 

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‘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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