Confronting the Issue of Law and Gospel to Its Face

May 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Posted in Galatians | 2 Comments
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Galatians Chapter 2 references the Jerusalem Council that was documented in Acts 15. The main issue there was whether Christians had to be circumcised in adherence to Judaism before they could truly be considered Christians. Paul was very agitated about this because he had been going all around the country preaching salvation by grace through faith. That is the true Gospel, but the Jews had a hard time with this because of the emphasis which Judaism placed on separation from the gentiles. Furthermore, Peter had eaten with gentiles at Antioch, and then had withdrawn from their company when Jewish elders arrived.

The Judaizers who were trying to dilute the Gospel were “false brethren” motivated by Satan. They wanted to add works to faith. At the Council, Peter, John, and James all came squarely down on the “right side:” Christianity is one Spirit, one Salvation, one Savior, one Body. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

After Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, several years later some of the Reformers would use these “solas” to describe what they believed: “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone); “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone); “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone); “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone); and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory). These doctrines refuted the Roman Catholic tradition of faith-plus-works which was an error similar to that of the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

Paul’s argument used his ministry partner Titus as Exhibit 1. Titus was a gentile, he was uncircumcised, and he was a true Christian

But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Galatians 2:3-4

Galatians 2:6-10 are very uncharacteristic of the Holy Spirit’s writing through Paul. It is a passage which may be contrasted against Ephesians 1 where Paul goes on for 14 verses without a period, because he can’t stop praising God for how great salvation is. In Galatians 2:6-10 his frustration and anger made it so that the translators had to use parentheses because he can hardly stop interrupting himself! And much of this anger and frustration was caused by Peter.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

Galatians 2:11

Peter should have known better.

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Galatians 2:14

He seems to be saying, “You, Peter, are a Jew, and you know better than anyone that the Law can’t be kept in your own strength. How are you going to say we have to make the gentiles keep the Law?”

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

Galatians 2:15

Paul and Peter had been born into families that had trained them since infancy to avoid sin.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 2:16

Those who understand the Gospel have the Truth – freedom in Christ Jesus – which is the only real freedom and the only salvation. No one was ever saved by doing works of the Law. Going all the way back to Abel, who was declared righteous by faith, on to those who participated in the sacrifices of the Old Covenant given through Moses, only those who reached into the future by faith and touched the Cross were saved. It is as if Paul were saying, “We must not now, even if it offends all our sensibilities, lead men to believe that the keeping of the Law is the means of salvation.” Note the “instrumental dative” in the Greek for the word “of” in Galatians 2:16. Even “our” faith (which should be demonstrated by works) is not sufficient. We would fall from grace if not for the faith of Christ.

Grace vs. Works

May 5, 2014 at 9:29 am | Posted in Galatians | 1 Comment
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Galatians is a book which addresses the issue of grace versus works.

Grace = Liberty
Works = Bondage

Grace = Cooperation
Works = Competition

Grace = God gets the glory
Works = Man gets the glory

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 1:1-5

This is an exceptionally terse greeting for Paul, in the form of a short doxology, but it is very important – especially Verse 5: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” That is not a “throwaway line,” because God’s glory is key to the true Gospel.

Of all the major world religions, Christianity stands alone as the only one that acknowledges the truth that sinners can not merit God’s favor through good works. True Christians are going to Heaven, but not on their own own merit. They are going to Heaven on the merits of Another: Jesus Christ the Righteous.

The enemies of the Gospel in Galatia were the Judaizers. They opposed the Gospel and Paul by: perverting, reverting, and deserting. They were trying to pervert the true Gospel by mixing in works-based requirements along with grace and faith. They were trying to revert back to what they believed was the Old Covenant system. They were deserting Christ Himself in favor of false teachers. Judaism and Christianity can’t be mixed. Grace and works can’t be mixed. Liberty and legalism can’t be mixed.

The Apostle Paul distinguished himself from the false teachers as he sought to please Christ, not men.

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Galatians 1:13-14

Paul’s conversion teaches us these truths:

1. God saves egregious sinners.
2. Salvation happens instantly.
3. Salvation results in a real change.
4. There will be an outward change, but it is always the result of an inward change.
5. Salvation is for a purpose:
a. The purpose of glorifying God
b. The purpose of helping others

And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…

Jeremiah 45:5

What motivates you to serve God? Your own good? Or God’s glory?

Put It On and Pack It On

December 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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When you think of the Apostles who comes to mind? Paul? Peter? James? John? Which one of these was the “greatest” Apostle?

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

I Corinthians 15:9

We sometimes think of Paul as the greatest of the Apostles, but he thought of himself as the least. He didn’t even think he deserved the name “Apostle.” Before Jesus saved him, he had been a relentless bounty hunter of Christians.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

I Corinthians 15:10

God intervened in his life, and this intervention was what made the difference. Paul, on his own, would never have turned to Christ. He attributed his changed life solely to the grace of God, even though he sounds a little like Popeye the Sailor when we read, “I am what I am.” He recognized that he owed everything to God, and that he was no more and no less than what God had made him. God’s grace motivated Paul to outwork all the other Apostles, but God got all the credit and glory for it.

Becoming a Christian is not a pass to get out of hard work. Christian men, especially, ought to be the hardest workers in the world. God created men to work, and work is not sinful. It was sin that brought a curse upon work.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 3:17-19

Sin took the joy out of hard work, but in the Gospel we find redemption, and we remember that God made us to work hard, so we can work hard and find joy and fulfillment in it once again because we are in Christ – we have been made right with God.

I want to look at a few principles that remind us – as Christian men – how we are supposed to think about work:

I. Put It On

When a man goes into battle, what should he wear? Armor.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Ephesians 6:10

Don’t be a spiritual wimp. Get in the battle.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Ephesians 6:11

The armor of spiritual warfare is God’s armor – that He’s provided for us. Our enemy is not an army of Godless sinners. He is not the person who has wronged you, and he is certainly not the person you were close to when he let you down. No, this is a spiritual war, and our spiritual enemy is Satan.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13 (emphasis added)

“Take unto you” the armor. Put it on. Get in the battle and give it everything you’ve got.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:14-17

The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness and the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace and the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation are all defensive weapons. We need to think about the Gospel and our salvation every day. But the sword of the spirit is an offensive weapon. Here is where we get our “payback” against the devil for attacking us, but we had better be reading the Bible and doing what it says more than once or twice a week. We had better be practicing with our swords and not going around without them.

II. Pack It On

As men, we can never have too much spiritual ammunition, and we must not whine and say it’s too heavy or too hard to carry.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

II Timothy 2:15

As a Christian man I am called to be a workman that will not get outworked. I am called to force some Bible knowledge into my head – to “pack it on.”

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:18

I must not be lazy, packing on a bunch of indulgent, childish junk. I must not be “packing it on” with with video games and gadgets and a bunch of time-sucking hobbies. I need to be emptying the garbage out of my life so that I can pack on the Holy Spirit – so that I can be filled with Him. I can’t be filled with garbage or vanity and the Spirit at the same time. A real man isn’t afraid to say no childishness, nor to say yes to the Lord.

Next time we will learn to “pass it on” and “pour it on.”

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Application)

January 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 4 Comments
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Eutychus was the young man in Acts Chapter 20 who literally fell out of church. This is not a lesson about staying away from window ledges at the local church where you attend, but there are some practical applications to be learned about the dangers that await us if we ever fall into the trap of becoming unfaithful in our church attendance.

1. If you fall out of church, you will fall into ignorance.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:41-42 (emphasis added)

“Stedfastly” means doing something regularly. If possible, Christians should attend church every week – hopefully three times per week if that is how often the church you belong to has services. “Doctrine” means a systematic study of God’s Word: “Bible study.” You can study the Bible on your own – and you should – but God’s plan is for believers to meet together for the reading and teaching of his Word. People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. When the flow of water was cut off from a city in Bible times, the inhabitants would get thirsty, dirty, and sick. Eventually they would die. The Bible talks about the washing of water by the Word.

2. If you fall out of church, you will fall into isolation.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42 (emphasis added)

Another main function of the local church in edifying believers is fellowship. In the Book of Acts the early Christian church “broke bread” – they ate together. They also observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed together. You can certainly eat alone, and you can pray alone, but God designed the local church so that believers could meet together. One of the reasons that God designed it this way is so that we can comfort one another in trials, temptations, and troubles. The local church is also designed for accountability.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

People in general might ask you, “How was the game?” or “How’s your job?” but in church hopefully someone is asking you, “How’s your walk with the Lord?” God created a desire in us to want to be together with others. It is not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

More than just being together, things really get accomplished when people come together in “one accord.” Christians should be unified – of one mind in Christ. The Apostle Paul was on a journey – a missionary journey – and the church at Troas didn’t hinder him. They could have said, “You need to stay here, you’re focusing too much energy on missions. We’ve got disputes that need to be settled.” Instead, they supported him, fed him, gave him a place to sleep, and helped him on his way.

3. If you fall out of church, you will fall into impotence.

[Disclaimer: Despite the vulgar connotation brought to mind by the ubiquitous pharmaceutical commercials on television these days, “impotence” is not a dirty word. “Impotent” is the opposite of “potent.” When something is powerful, we say, “Whew, that is some potent stuff!”]

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

The Holy Spirit used Luke to write this portion of Scripture, and Luke was a medical doctor, so when Luke writes that “Eutychus was taken up dead” we may safely assume that he was actually dead, and that the Holy Ghost used the Apostle Paul to bring him back to life. Then they went back upstairs to continue having church. These were some powerful – some empowered – believers. There are some charismatic churches today which would say it’s okay if you fall asleep in church, fall down, and get hurt. They have modern-day apostles on standby, just waiting for the opportunity to heal you, but my advice is to stay awake in church. (As much coffee as folks drink at church these days, I don’t see how anyone could fall asleep anyway.)

Babies are not very powerful when they’re first born. They need help just to eat and wash. Someone has to take care of them. They have to be taught how to walk and talk and read and write, but eventually they learn how to feed themselves and and take care of themselves. You can be a Christian and not be faithful to church, but why would you not want to be involved in helping new believers survive and grow in the Lord? Where do you give your tithe? How do you know those who labor among you in the Lord, and obey those who have the rule over you? Some people “attend” church by watching church services on television or listening on the radio or internet, but a TV doesn’t pray with you when you have a death in the family. A radio doesn’t come visit you when you’re sick in the hospital.

A common objection to faithful church participation is the hypocrisy of current church members, but, if you feel like your local church if full of hypocrites, don’t let that stop you from coming – they always have room for one more! Besides, there are hypocrites present when you go to work, school, and the grocery store, and I doubt that stops you from going to those places.

Eutychus made a mistake when he fell out of church literally, but he didn’t make the mistake of falling out of church figuratively. He was injured when he fell, but, because he was living in the center of God’s will, his mistake wasn’t ultimately fatal. The local church is there to strengthen, build up, edify the believers, and to get unified so that evangelists and missionaries can be sent forth.

Don’t fall into ignorance, isolation, or impotence by falling out of church. You might be considered an outcast by some if you become actively involved in the local church to the point where you have less time to participate in all the vain and frivolous amusements of this world, but God will in no wise cast out His children.

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Narrative)

January 11, 2013 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 6 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Man Who Fell Out of Church

God’s people were being called outcasts.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

One of the promises God made to the people of Israel was that one day their “congregation” would be established: their organized meetings for worship, and the business of church government.

Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

Jeremiah 30:20

They were a people who had been punished, persecuted, and enslaved. They had become addicted to sin, and they had fallen out of the habit of going to church – of meeting together in a congregation. You may know someone right now who has gotten out of the habit of going to church, or you may be tottering on the edge of faithful church attendance yourself, about to fall out of church. You may have gone through a period in your life when you did in fact “fall out of church.”

In Acts Chapter 20 we find the true historical account of a meeting of the early church.

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:7

These events occurred a place called Troas. The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He was trying to make it there for the celebration of Pentecost, and it was a very important missionary journey. He was planning to depart on the “morrow” – the next day – and this was the last time he was going to see these friends – these fellow-servants of Jesus. There were things he had to tell them.

They met together on the first day of the week – “the Lord’s Day” – which was their custom, although certainly Sundays were not the only days they met, worshiped, or ministered.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Colossians 2:16

Acts 20:7 says they broke bread – which probably means they observed the Lord’s Supper – and had fellowship. Then the Apostle Paul preached until midnight. I have been in some long church services, but preaching until midnight..?! Paul knew he was going to be leaving, and he had a lot to say.

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

Acts 20:8-9

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/firespeakseutychus.jpg?w=291

A young man named Eutychus came to church to hear the Apostle Paul preach. They were meeting up on the third floor of a building, and he sat in the window, fell asleep, fell out of the window, and died! Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit put some stories in the Bible for a a little comic relief? Like Balaam’s talking donkey or Samson tying together the tails of 300 foxes, we can’t help but laugh even though something serious is happening. Even funnier is the meaning of Eutychus’s name: “Eutychus” meant “fortunate” or lucky.”

I have heard this passage of Scripture preached on before in church, and the theme was the folly of falling asleep in church, but I don’t think we should be too hard on Eutychus. First of all it was late. There is a good chance that Eutychus was a slave or a servant, and he would have been tired from working all day. That may even be the reason why this meeting took place at night – the first Christians were not able to skip work on Sundays like many of us can. Eutychus did make it to church. Additionally, if the weather was warm, it would have been very stuffy up there in the third loft. It’s not like they could turn on the A.C. Furthermore, verse 8 says there were many lights burning in the upper chamber, which would have produced fumes, and would have burned up much of the oxygen. Have you ever tried to stay awake and alert in an extremely stuffy room? This may be why Eutychus was sitting by the window, but, if so, it certainly backfired on him! So, for whatever reason, Eutychus ended up being “the man who fell out of church” – literally.

It is very important for Christians to attend church faithfully, and to be involved in church ministry activities. God doesn’t “need” me at church – but He knows I need to be there. The Church is the body of Christ. As Christians, we are the body and He is the head. It is incongruous for someone to love the Head, but hate the body. The Church is also the bride of Christ, and, likewise, it makes little sense to love a person, but hate that person’s spouse. When you become a Christian you become part of the capital “C” Church – the universal Church consisting of all born-again believers everywhere – but it is crucial for you to be a part of a local body of believers, too.

The main purpose of the local church is the edification of the saints.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

The Lord uses the local church to help believers to grow and to get stronger. If you are trying to decide on a local church to join right now, pray about it. Search the Scriptures. Listen to the Holy Spirit. God wants you to be attending and serving somewhere.

Next time, we will look at some of the dangers and consequences of falling out of church.

Innocent Bystanders

August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 2 Comments
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And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Acts 22:17-21

The Apostle Paul was almost killed in a riot, but he was rescued by Roman centurions and allowed to address the crowd. Not only did Paul see Jesus alive, but Jesus spoke to him and told him what to do. Paul wanted to go back there very badly, and he even tried to talk Jesus out of sending him somewhere else, stating that when Stephen, the martyr, was killed, Paul had been a bystander. Paul called himself a bystander, but he did not consider himself to be an innocent bystander.

By doing nothing – just safeguarding the coats of those who stoned Stephen – Paul had consented to his death. The Apostle Paul knew that he was guilty, and he did not pretend that just standing by and watching absolves one from sin or guilt. Now that he had been born again, and had been appointed as God’s missionary to the gentiles, he was saying, in effect, “I can’t go where You want me to go, Lord, and I can’t do the things You want me to do, because I have to go back and make amends for my sins. I have to make up for what I did in the past.” Paul never wanted to go back to the role of a “bystander.”

Are you a bystanding Christian? Do you believe you can’t do anything for the Lord because of what you’ve done in the past? Jesus told Paul to “depart,” to stop being on “stand-by.” Jesus reminded Paul of exactly Who it was Who was sending him. Do you think God doesn’t know about your past? Your sins? Your failures? Do you think He’s making a mistake by calling you to get involved in ministry? To do His work?

Among Christians, there are no “innocent” bystanders. We’re all guilty before the sinless Savior, but our sins are forgiven. Our past is (not “will be“) forgiven. It’s time to stop being a “bystander” and to start departing.

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

II Timothy 1:9

We weren’t called because of what we did or didn’t do before we were saved – or because of any works God thought we might be able to impress Him with afterward. We were called according to His purpose and grace – before the world began.

The Castaways

May 11, 2011 at 9:27 am | Posted in Romans | 2 Comments
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God gave Israel three chances to accept salvation by grace through faith.

1. They fell.

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Romans 11:11 (emphasis added)

2. They were diminished.

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Romans 11:12 (emphasis addded)

3. They were cast away.

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Romans 11:15 (emphasis added)

I remember watching a television show called “Gilligan’s Island,” which was about a group of “castaways.”

Gilligan's Island

These castaways hoped to be rescued from the desert island where they had landed, but they kept trying to accomplish their rescue on their own. Did other people stop taking cruises until Gilligan and his friends could be found? No. God protected them while they were on the island, but He still blessed others while the castaways were hidden – they were kept safe, but secreted away. In a similar way, the gentiles received the opportunity for salvation partly because Israel fell, became diminished, and became castaways.

The idea from Romans 10 that the gentiles were to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy is reiterated in Romans 11:11. As a Christian, is your life provoking anyone to jealousy?

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Romans 11:13-14

Many mistake the teaching of the Holy Spirit through Paul to mean that saved people should sin with the sinners in order to develop a relationship with them that will open the door to present the Gospel. That is not what these Verses are teaching. The Apostle Paul “magnified his office.” He openly proclaimed to the gentiles, while he was among them, that he was an Apostle to them. But he also hoped his fellow-Jews were watching. Some of the gentile customs would have been personally offensive to Paul, but if the Jews could see the lengths he was going to in order to bring them the Gospel, they might become jealous and get interested in the message of the Cross, too.

And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

Romans 11:9

The Jewish “table,” which should have been a place of spiritual nourishment, had become a trap or a snare. The Jewish leaders added to the rituals and the traditions, but they did not add in the nourishment of the Word of God.

Romans 11:16-24 contains the allegory of the olive tree. The gentiles have been “grafted into” God’s tree of salvation, but the gentiles have no grounds for boasting, and they must not forget the importance of Israel in God’s plans.

He Was Beside Himself

February 21, 2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Mark | 7 Comments
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And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

Mark 3:21, emphasis added

This is an expression we still use for people today when we are implying that they are not “in their right mind.” Some of the ancients believed that a person’s psyche could actually leave his body and hover next to the person, inducing a state of madness or lunacy. The friends of Jesus who knew Him before He began His public ministry were concerned that He may have lost His mind, going around performing miracles, preaching, and claiming to be the Messiah. After all, He was only a simple carpenter’s son from Nazareth.

C.S. Lewis is known for positing the so-called “Trilemma:” He wrote that the claims of Jesus Himself were such that no one can marginalize or minimize His ministry or Person by referring to Him as simply a “good teacher.” The life of Jesus and His Words leave us with only three alternatives: He was a liar, He was a lunatic, or He was Lord. The overwhelming evidence (and in fact the incontrovertible Truth) is that He was Lord.

Paul and the Apostles later faced this same accusation.

For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

II Corinthians 5:13, emphasis added

If you serve God and proclaim the Gospel in this dark world, where sin and unbelief are the prevailing atmosphere, there are going to be times when your sanity is questioned. This has never stopped the Lord’s true servants. We rest in the knowledge that we are not “beside ourselves.” In fact, we are more sane and in touch with reality when we walk in the Spirit of the Lord than we are at any other time.

And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

Acts 26:24-25, emphasis added

We may not be able to stop people from calling us “mad,” but at least we can make sure that there is “a method to our madness.”

Practical Intentional Evangelism

January 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 10 Comments
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After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

Acts 19:21

The Apostle Paul was taking a love offering to the saints in Jerusalem, but he was purposed in the spirit to head to Rome. The last third of the Book of Acts gives the account of Paul’s resolve to reach Rome with the Gospel. Christians today should have a strong resolve to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we talk to someone about the Gospel we must understand from where our authority comes. When I am witnessing, I am not there on my own authority. Jesus Christ has earned the right for His story to be told.

And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

Acts 8:27-30

When you go to tell someone about Jesus, your authority is His Word. Take your Bible with you.

When it comes to evangelism we also need to understand the principles of the harvest. You may be planting the seed. You may be watering. God may just use you to break up some hard soil. You may be weeding. You may just be checking the crop. Farmers can’t get discouraged that every day isn’t harvest day.

If possible, when you go on an intentional evangelism visit, it is a good idea to go with a Christian partner.

After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

Luke 10:1 (emphasis added)

Going with a partner has practical advantages also. One person may have to deal with children or pets while the other person talks about the Gospel. Especially when visiting inside a person’s home, having a witness can be a safeguard against false claims that might hurt your testimony.

Pray specifically for the person you are witnessing to both before and after (and during if possible) the visit.

The presentation of the Gospel should not be “seeker-sensitive.” It should be “Savior-sensitive.” Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We can’t save anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can truly draw someone to Christ, even though there may be opportunities to share your personal testimony. You will find that many people believe what you believed about God and Jesus, Heaven and hell, before you became a Christian.

Testing Your Testimony

December 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Acts, Bible Studies | 7 Comments
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When Christians speak of “giving their testimony” they are usually referring to telling the story of their conversion experience. There are qualifications for giving a testimony. The most obvious is: In order to give a testimony, you must be born again (John 3:7).

Can you describe when and where your conversion experience happened? I don’t mean the time you were delivered from some addiction or besetting sin. I don’t mean the time you had a breakthrough and resolved a big conflict in one of your personal relationships. I mean the time you realized that you were a lost sinner and you called upon Jesus Christ to save you.

Ideally, you should know your own salvation testimony backward and forward, and you should be able to – in a very encapsulated and brief way – state it clearly.

The Apostle Paul’s personal testimony is given three times in Scripture: Acts 9, 22, 26. In Chapters 22 and 26 he gave his testimony when he had been taken prisoner and was about to be killed.

At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

Acts 26:13-15

Another requirement for giving your testimony should be that you are motivated by the right motivation.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

I Corinthians 13:1-3

“Charity” in these verses is Christian love. It’s what makes your testimony “real.” Otherwise, your testimony can become a “lure,” whereby you try to sell Christianity to people based only on what happened to you.

Let’s look at the first account of the Apostle Paul’s salvation experience.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Acts 9:1-2

Scripture reveals what he was before he was saved, but that is not the main point of the account.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

Acts 9:3

Your testimony should include a description of when you came under conviction for your sins.

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 9:4-5

Your testimony should include your realization of Who Jesus is, and your realization of your need for Him.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Acts 9:6

It should include your account of surrendering to Him, depending on Him, and trusting Him completely for salvation.

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

Acts 9:7-8

And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

Acts 9:20

Your testimony should include the immediate change that happened when you were converted.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Acts 9:21-22

You need to say something about the after-effects of salvation – how the Lord has blessed your life.

Your testimony can be an effective tool in your efforts at personal evangelism.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Proverbs 11:30

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