The Way of Christ Ministries

Pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

A Youth Ministers Guide to Anxiety and Depression

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Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

If I were to ask 100 different Christians what they thought was the most important part of Christianity I would undoubtable get many different answers.  Some would say it is Faith, others study of the Bible, or Prayer.  Even others would say the Holy Spirit, or service in the church.  I am of the persuasion that while all of these are important, they are merely manifestations that come out of the most important aspect of your belief in Christ.

*******************Read the Passage Mark 12:28-31********************

In Mark 12:28-33 Jesus is asked this very question.  Jesus said that the first thing we should have is a directed love towards God.  We should be careful, that we don’t misunderstand this word love.  It is not a general kind of love.  It is not like when we say, “Oh I just love that dress, or I love this new car!”  It is not even like a when we say that we should “love all mankind”.

Jesus didn’t say that the most important commandment is to love God and to second, love animals.  Had he said that then we could take away that he was talking about a general kind of love, where we should express love for everything, love people, love animals, love the planet, love everything.  But “love” in itself is not the main topic Jesus is speaking of.

Even when he goes on to say that the second commandment is like it, to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Instead he is still stressing the importance of the first command.  Jesus is saying the main point is to LOVE GOD!  The second is like it because it is still loving God, man was made in the image of God.

1 John 4:20 says that if a man says he loves God and hates his brother, then he is a liar!

James 3:9-10 says, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessings and cursing.  My brethren this ought not so to be.”

This love Jesus is speaking of is not a blanket that we throw over our shoulders and sing warm little campfire songs for.  It is a more specific kind of love.  It is even more specific than a love for a spouse, or a child.  Instead it is a living love directed explicitly at God above all other things, places, or persons.

You see, God is Love (1 John 4.8 ”He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”).  So then whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

How do we then love God?  Jesus tells us this also.  We love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.  We demonstrate this with our love for one another.  This is all simple words and easy to say, but how do we put this in action?

Our natural state as fallen creatures is not to love God, but rather to regard him with suspicion and resist his authority.  Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to enter heaven you must be born again.  You have to know that you are fallen and in danger of judgement, and in danger of eternal separation from God.  Matthew 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

But also as apostle Paul told us in the Colossians 1:20-22, that even though we were enemies with God, he had mercy on us and provided a sacrifice for our sins, in Jesus’ blood, to that we could be reconciled to God the Father.  So we were once alienated from God because of our evil nature.  But God Himself made a way for us to be with him.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deuteronomy 30.6)

God himself gave us the way to love him, buy wiping out our record of sin.  By this I mean past, present, and future… This gives us the ability to love God with a pure heart and in good conscience, having a sincere faith.  Jesus has set us free, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Tutus 1.15)

God knows that we cannot love him of ourselves.  He provided the way through Jesus Christ.  Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer in our sin and bondage.

Psalms  22: 14-16 records a portion of his suffering, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within Me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; you have brought Me to the dust of death.  For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation if the wicked has enclosed Me.  They pierced My hands and My feet;”

So knowing these things we desire to please him.  The question is not “What would Jesus do”, but “What would please Him?”  We put Him first in all things.  The psalmist said “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73.25)

We love the Lord with our all in all; as a result of salvation through Jesus.  This is the starting point, without this relationship with Jesus, we cannot love God.  The love of Jesus must be the key feature in our lives.

We love the Lord by eliminating competing loves.  Loving God must become the key feature in our lives.  Don’t compartmentalize God into on little piece of your life. 

Each one of us have 168 hours in a week.  In that week the average Christian devotes 7 hours in Church, Sunday School, and a small group devotion or study.  During each week if you sleep 8 hours a day, every day then you spend another 56 hours in sleep.  That leaves 105 hours that are spent in eating, school, work, shopping, social events, or other leisure activities.  The question is how much of that 105 hours is spent demonstrating an active love for God?(Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, 4/25/2017)

This isn’t just a temporary fasting. Not just a time where we skip a meal or that we don’t eat red meat for few weeks.  It is not even a deprivation of sleep from an all-night prayer meeting, or a week of revival.  It is instead a way of living for God. 

In fact the Lord said in Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and hot hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone were to ask your best friend, or your wife, or husband, or your children, “Tell me one thing about so-in-so…” and they could say, “That you really love God.”  Shouldn’t your life SHOW others that you truly love God!

This is a conscious choice.  We purpose ourselves for his service (Romans 12:11 says that we should be passionate in spirit, serving the Lord).  We do everything in life as if we are performing it whole heartedly for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  In short we live “all out” for Him.  We hold nothing back from Him.  We are fully dedicated to His purposes.  We have to be wholehearted in our devotion to Him.  We are not ashamed of Him. 

Do you know that God knows that we are not perfect?  Do you know that he knows that sometimes, even on the way to church some of us have terrible arguments in the car?  Then we put on a smile and walk in the church like we just love everybody.  Then as soon as we walk out and start the car, our argument picks right back up from where it was.  Do you know that is wrong?  Sure we do.

We need to pray, and seek the Lord.  You know that as we humble ourselves and understand that we are not perfect, and hey no one else is either, and we realize again that Jesus still loves us.  He forgave us.  You know we can forgive others too.  We can love God by loving those around us.

We can even be so radical in our love for Him… that “We Love Our Neighbors, as we Love Ourselves!” (Mark 12:31) Do you know the best thing you can do for someone else is to let them see you LOVE God with all you have to love Him with?

In Matthew 25:34-40  we read “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me:  I was sick, and ye visited me:  I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have don’t it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

If someone asked that question, if the asked about you… today… if they asked “tell me about so-in-so”; and they were pointing the finger at you… Could who they were asking say, “They really love God”?  Does your life show your love for God?  Does your language show that your love God?  Do your neighbors even know that you know who Jesus is?  If not, maybe you need to make a commitment today. 

Get things right with God today.  Come to the alter of his mercy and tell him.  Lord I have not been living like I love you.  I have not been doing the things that I should, or speaking up for you.  Lord people have no idea that you’re my God or my savior by the way I act, speak, or how I treat other people, not even other believers.  I want to make that right with you today.

Or maybe you’re here and you have never even considered the sacrifice that Jesus made for you; how he poured out his blood to make restitution for your wrong doings.  Maybe you need to come and tell him you believe in Him.  You believe that he sacrificed himself for you, so that you could learn how to truly live in love.

Be Not Weary in Doing Well

“But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” (II Thessalonians 3.13)

Life can get overwhelming sometimes.  We can often overstretch ourselves in trying to be there for everyone in every situation.  Our finances get overtaxed, and our patience gets a little run down.  We sometimes mean to do well, but we just keep hitting barriers.  It seems that the good things we try to do for one another are just taken for granted or even misunderstood.  Sometimes the things we need to do out of love, are just painful.

Paul tells us, relax, and just keep going.  Don’t let yourself get run down or frustrated.  Paul tells us in this chapter of Thessalonians that some of us just turn into busybodies. Work for the Lord should be done to the Lord, and not to men’s eyes.  Don’t be busy trying to please men and seeming to be busy with the work of the Lord, when in actuality you are just busy trying to be a people pleaser.  Remember you are NOT God.  You don’t have the authority to sit in judgement over others.

The best way to help someone is to pray for them.  Lift up their needs before the One who CAN make a difference in their lives, and their lifestyle.  We should always do everything in love, not out of a burdened grudge.  Remember to take time in the Lord for yourself.  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made form man, not man for the Sabbath.

At one time Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the Word and when they returned he asked them, how did it go?  They then replied with all they had said and done.  When they had completed, Jesus told them no go away to a private place and rest.  You see it is necessary for us to take time to rest.  Just as you need sleep at the end of the day you also need to recharge your spirit.  Jesus would often get away and pray in private.

I was reading through my studies and found a card my wife had wrote me.  The card was very nice and encouraging. It did not ask for anything, it just expressed her desire to be with me. Sometimes just a simple encouragement is all we really need to give someone.  The card she wrote me said this;

“All I want is to love you for the rest of my life… to wake up every morning with you by my side, knowing that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to come home to your loving arms.  All I want is to share everything with you… to talk to you about our ideas, our dreams, the little everyday things that make us laugh, and the not-so-little things that we can’t help worrying about.  All I want is to give you my love… as a place you can always come to for acceptance or the simple comfort that silence brings when things left unspoken can still be understood.  All I want is to grow old with you… to watch our live unfold, our dreams, one by one, come true.  All I want is to love you forever. – Love Me”

Every morning my wife and I get up, we start the day with a cup of coffee and some quiet time with one another before we start our daily routines.  I cannot tell you how valuable this time is to me, and how it helps my day.  Then when she gets off to work, I spend time in prayer and in reading my daily bible readings.  I start every morning the same way, no matter what day of the week, if I am working or a day off.  I spend time with my wife and my Jesus, before anything else.  If I did not, I don’t think I could get through the day.

My wife and I talk, text and pray for one another throughout the day.  My Savior and I talk and sing together throughout the day.  These are the things that keep my battery charged.  I look forward to spending time with them every moment of the day. I enjoy having time alone with the Word and to feel the presence of the Spirit of the Lord.  Knowing that Jesus is coming back to take us home is the hope that we should all have, and express.

1st hand knowledge our Lord is why we should not be weary in doing well.  We should always work with the end game in mind.  Just as I look forward to the end of the day when I can have some quiet time with my wife and to the next morning when I can sit with her over coffee.  Just as I know the Lord is right there with us as we pray for our loved ones and our friends, just as we know that the Lord is coming to bring us home.  Just as we know that the Lord is returning soon, we should be motivated to please him, not man.

To many Christians are caught up in trying to be everything the world thinks that they should be.  Instead, be what is pleasing to your Father in Heaven.  Be a child of the Father.  Live with this focus in mind and you will do well.  Do well because it pleases your Heavenly Father, and also take time with Him and let Him know you love Him too.

Advice?

Advice?

When listening to advice, we need to ask ourselves these 6 questions:

  • Is the advice biblical?
  • Is the advice factual in foundation?
  • Is the advice necessary?
  • Is the advice teachable?
  • Does the advice acknowledge the imperfection of the individual giving the advice?
  • Is the advice given in love?

“Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”- Job 5.27

This is the summation of the end of a long string of advice that Eliphaz gave to Job, when he was trying to encourage him.  He came from a false assumption that Job was being punished for sin, or disobeying God.  His advice was to confess, repent and beg for mercy.  He told Job that God would surely deliver him out of his troubles if he would repent.

Sometimes people offer advice, meaning well, they do however not have a proper understanding of God or you, or your situation.  Sometimes the advice is sought out, and sometimes it comes unsolicited.  Whenever we receive advice or move to give advice, we should really examine our motivations and intent.  First we need to make sure that the advice in biblical.

Advice received or given should always come from the Word of God.  It should be plain and straight forward, and in context with biblical doctrine.  We should always test everything against the scriptures, whether it is a sermon, Sunday school, or even advice.  Even advice from a church elder of Pastor needs to be tried by the Scriptures.  This means that you have to have a foundation in place, prior to your trials or testing.  In order to know if the advice is biblical you need to have a familiarity and understanding of scriptures.  You need to have a daily walk with the Lord.  Daily prayer is a necessity to hear the Spirit of the Lord.

Daily reading and study helps to develop a foundation of faith. How can you say you believe in the Bible if you do not know what it says?  In reading the scriptures we see examples of people who have gone through trials, and had to make decisions.  We see how those who sought God’s counsel and searched the scriptures have been rewarded.  We also see how those who did not seek God’s counsel and acted on the poor advice of others failed to overcome their trials or made poor life decisions.

While I was in the army they taught me what is called the problem solving process.  It goes something like this. (1) Identify the problem, (2) Gather information, (3) Decide on a course of action, (4) Implement the course of action, and (5) Evaluate the course of action.  In simple terms it would mean to gather the facts.  Make sure what the problem actually is.

For instance, if there is a problem with a relationship between two individuals you would first have to determine what the root of the problem is in the relationship.  The problem could be one of selfishness, pride, jealousy, or some other sin.  It could also be that there is only a problem of perception on one or both sides of the relationship.  If someone have been wronged in the past, they are likely to be on the watch for certain types of behavior that indicate that they may be harmed again.  Getting the facts straight may be exhaustive, but it is necessary to develop possible courses of action.

When developing courses of action, one needs to take the time to consider all the options available.  This is not only when giving advice, but when receiving.  Seeking the scriptures, and advice from a Pastor or others who have actually been through a similar experience can show you different avenues.  Seeing the different ways this trial or problem can be approached can be invaluable in later deciding on the way to handle the situation.  In seeing how others have handled similar situations you will be able to further identify pitfalls and successes.  Prayer, and possibly fasting, should be a part of this process.

The scripture say we should seek the Lord first.  Before making a decision we should take to time to ensure that the advice is necessary.  Based on the facts and scriptures, does this advice actually require action?  Sometimes we receive advice on things that are not actually necessary to change.  Sometimes, things will resolve themselves through natural processes.  Sometimes in the process of the before mentioned considerations, the situation will reveal that the advice is bad.  If considering to open your mouth, maybe you should evaluate your own reasons for offering advice.

Often times we give our opinions as advice.  We assume to know more than we do about a situation.  We think that we know better than someone else.  We call that “giving out two cents”.  Other times we have a genuine empathy for someone going through a difficult time, and inadvertently offer insensitive advice.  An example would be when someone has lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and we tell them, “God has a plan”.  Yes, he does have a plan, but as a friend, it is probably best just to be there.  Let them know that they have support and be silent, hold them while the morn. Grief is a natural part of the healing process, and you are not there so you can feel better, but to allow them to go through the grief process with someone there to help them pass through the fire.

Something else to consider is if there is a teachable lesson in the advice.  Is there a life lesson that is revealed in either the advice or the omission of the advice?  When considering the advice someone gives you look if this is something that is going to have a good positive change in your life.  If you are planning to give the advice, look to see if the advice you give is going to have a good impact.  Is the advice teaching and edifying? Does it teach a truth about God?  When teaching a truth about God, again refer back to scriptures.  Does it teach a biblical truth?  Is it a lesson that can then be passed on to someone else for their benefit?

Mentioned earlier is the person perspective.  Consider the advice, whether it is given with the understanding that it is not infallible.  Scriptures can be misquoted, and pulled out of context.  Our own personal perspectives and twist our view of proper avenues.  Sometimes advice, like that from an advice column, is purposely given with an end result in mind.  The actual intent of the advice is to control the outcome.  An example would be a young girl who, got pregnant and went to seek advice on how to best deal with the unexpected pregnancy.  Questions like, “How will I get medical treatment?’; “How will I afford to raise a baby?”; “How can I ever expect to have a life again?”; “How do I tell my parents?” Would not receive the same advice from a Pastor, or a woman’s shelter as they would at a company who’s primary business is performing abortions.  This brings us to the final question.

Is the advice given in love? 1 Corinthians 16.15 says that all things should be done with love.  Love should be the primary motivation for everything we do.  When someone gives you advice, or when you give advice make sure that the reason is that you love them.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  Advice given out of spite, fear, envy, or anger should always be ignored.  We should never in anger curse one another, and that includes in giving bad advice.  In the same measure we should never listen to advice in anger.  Cool down, go through your mourning process, seek the Lord.  Study the scriptures now, so that you will have a firm foundation to discern trials, and the advice that comes while your in them.  Scripture tells us, to seek wisdom, pray for wisdom both before and during trials. Pray always.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – You Cannot Believe in Just Half the Gospel and Be Saved.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – You Cannot Believe in Just Half the Gospel and Be Saved.

This letter of Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul.  It is believed that the letter was written around 55 AD.  The letter deals with spiritual and moral issues that had arose in the church since Paul’s preaching there in 50 AD.  The main emphasis on this of Chapter 15 verses 12-20 deals with the Athenian philosophers of the Epicurean and Stoic beliefs concerning death and the resurrection, and their influence on the church.

The Epicurean believed that when one dies, they simply no longer exist.  The Stoic believe that when we die, our soul is absorbed into the soul of the universe, there in no individual conscience.  These two philosophies originated between 341-313 BC. These two philosophies are still very prevalent in today’s one world philosophy.

They are portrayed in popular writings and movies like Star Trek and Star Wars.  Among the other thoughts in these philosophies are man’s oneness with the energy of the universe, the end justifies the means, and that everything that happens to a man is a cause and effect relationship, man has no real will of his own, or Kharma. For this selection in Corinthians we are concerned with the beliefs of what happens after one dies and the resurrection beliefs in modern churches.

There are many Christians today that don’t believe that a body can be resurrected out of the grave.  They make silly arguments about the condition of the body, the decay, or it the person was mutilated or burned to death.  This becomes their basis to say that the physical body cannot be raised.  The dead will not come out of the grave.

In 2006 a poll released by the Scripps Howard News Service and posed on the Ohio University Survey Research Center website stated that only 65% of professing “Born Again” Christians believe in the physical resurrection of Christ.

A more recent poll released in 2014, by Thomas D. Williams, PH.D., showed that 3 out of 4 Americans believe in some sort of life after death, but only 37% believe in a bodily resurrection from the dead.  This is from Americans who have some sort of “religious affiliation”. What seems to be an odd trend is that those with higher educations are more likely to believe in life after death of some sort.

The frightening aspect is that those who call themselves “Followers of Christ”, and “Born Again” in increasing numbers do not believe in the resurrection of the body, and do not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead.  Christians are rejecting one of the fundamental beliefs of their own religion because of improper discipleship and ignorance of the full gospel. For an answer to this heresy we turn to Paul’s writings to the Corinthians.

Paul tells us that it is necessary to believe in the resurrection of the body.  You have to believe in the whole gospel or none of it.  The resurrection is not just a fable made up to give us a false since of security.

Let us begin at verse 12 in 1st Corinthians chapter 15.

V12. Now it Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is not resurrection of the dead?

Paul is saying here that this is essential to the gospel.  Remember he is speaking to believers.  Paul says if you have believed on Jesus, that you have then been baptized as an outward showing of your faith, then how can you deny the resurrection?  This is inconceivable to Paul.

Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

I can hear Paul saying, don’t you remember what we preached to you?  Don’t you remember how we told you that even the Apostle Thomas had his doubts because he did not see what the others saw?  Don’t you remember how we testified to you that Jesus appeared again to the disciples and told Thomas, and I quote;

“Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.  Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27)

So this is what we preach, that Christ died and is risen again, because you cannot be saved unless you believe that He is risen.  This being so, if you confess that Christ is risen, then how can you not believe there is a resurrection of the dead?  The Greeks looked at themselves as very logical and philosophical people, Paul appeals to this reasoning they were so proud of.  It is illogical to say you believe that Jesus rose from the dead so you could have eternal life, but don’t believe you will be resurrected.

V13. But if there is not resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

Here Paul starts his logical argument.  He says, “OK. Let’s say that there is not resurrection of the dead.”  Let us say that a dead body cannot rise from the grave.  Let’s forget about the story of Lazarus, and how Jesus raised him from the dead.  If when a man dies he simply ceases to exist, or he is absorbed into the cosmos, then it is impossible for Jesus to have risen from the grave.  If this is what you believe concerning death, then you cannot believe that Jesus arose, it is not logical.  Even though there were other examples that we have been told about.  The scriptures tell us about a resurrection and a judgment to come.

Let’s forget about how Psalm 19:9-10 prophesies about Jesus and says, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.  For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

Let’s even forget how the scriptures of Daniel tell us in 12:2 about a general resurrection of the body where it is written, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

If there is no resurrection of the dead…. Then Christ did not rise either…. That is the first argument.  If you don’t believe in the dead rising from the grave, then you cannot believe that Jesus rose from the grave.  Why….?  Because Christ, while being the Son of God, was also human.  He died and was as dead as any other human.  Yes he was sinless, a sacrifice.  Stay with me now, in order for a sacrifice of death to be complete, something has to die in it’s place.  You see, Jesus was, “dead as a doornail.” As we say in south-east Texas.

How do we know that Jesus was a man?  The scriptures testify to it:

  • Acts 2:22 “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God…”
  • Galatians 4:4 says Jesus was born of a woman
  • 1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is only mediator between God and Man and that HE is the Man Christ Jesus

There are at least 12 other references in the New Testament that describe how Jesus, wept, felt tired, slept, spit, breathed and so on, testifying that he was not some ethereal presence, but a real flesh and blood human being.

V14. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

So in following that thought process, the deeper reality would begin to sink in.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, and Jesus therefor did not rise from the grave, because it is impossible for a man to be raised from the dead.  Then there is no basis for what we preach.

The whole of the apostolic preaching was the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. That was the whole point of the message! Therefore, if you believed our preaching, and it was not based on fact, then you have believed in nothing.  Christianity itself is empty.

There was never a claim that Mohammed rose from the grave.  There was never a claim that Buddha rose from the grave.  In fact neither of them said they were the Son of God.  But Jesus said he was the Son of God.  In fact in Matthew 12:38-40 Jesus says that a sign of Him being the Son of God would be His resurrection.

V15. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up_ if in fact the dead do not rise.

Paul goes farther, he says that if you do not believe in the resurrection of the Dead, and by extension do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and we have testified that we have seen his resurrection… then we are liars, and false witnesses.  You cannot believe anything we say.  If you cannot believe in the simple doctrine we put forward to you, then you cannot believe anything else.

V16. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.

Truth be told, if it is not possible for the dead to rise, then Christ did not rise.  If a man cannot come back from the dead, then Christ could not have come back from the dead either.

V17. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!

Now Paul shows why it is so important to believe in the resurrection of life.  The physical resurrection of Jesus.  IF Jesus is not risen, then Jesus is not alive and with the Father, then you have believed a lie.  So your faith is unfounded, and there is no forgiveness of sins.  You have not mediator for men.  Death is still inescapable.  Now you have a real problem to fear.  You have to enter into eternity within your fallen, unforgiven state.  You will be condemned.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6.32)

V18. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

This means that those who have been martyred for the cause of Christ have died in vain.  Those who believed and have passed on, are lost forever.  This also means all of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs have also died in vain, because they prophesied about Jesus and His resurrection. The prophets of old looked forward to the resurrection. If a man cannot be resurrected, then Jesus could not have been resurrected.  If Jesus was not resurrected and the whole thing was made up.  If it was all made up then you cannot believe in a lie. If it is a lie, then there is no hope for mankind in Jesus. If the resurrection was a lie then so is the rest of the gospel, and all who have died, have died in sin.  That means that the war in Heaven is over and that God lost.  Everyone is doomed.  If Jesus did not accomplish our salvation, then no one can.

V19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

If all this has been a lie, and we have believed in vain, then we are the stupidest people on Earth.  If we live a life to show love toward one another, and selfless sacrifice in gratitude for the hope of life we have in Jesus, and there is no basis for this belief, then we have been fools.  If we have put others first, and been beaten, and tortured, lost our homes, jobs, and even family ties for Christ sake, and it is a lie, then we are the most miserable people on the face of the earth.  It is right for others to call us stupid and mistreat us, because we deserve it.  We have purposely made ourselves a victim.  If the only benefit to believing in Jesus, in this life, is to be a good person, then we have wasted our lives.  Because we don’t believe in Jesus just to live a good life.

  • The scriptures tell us that none is good! (Matthew 19.17)
  • There is none righteous (Romans 3.10)
  • Everyone, altogether has become filthy and can do no good, NO NOT ONE! (Psalm 53.3)

V20. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

How do we know Jesus was resurrected?  We have witnesses; that is how know he was resurrected.

”For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once,…” 1 Cor 15:3-6a. 

Paul tells us, Hey, I myself have seen Him, Peter has seen him, the scriptures testify to God’s plan, and even 500 believers have seen him… All at the same time!  This is not made up, there are too many witnesses.

Jesus himself told us that the sign of His being the Son of God would be “the sign of Jonah”.  How Jonah was in the belly of the whale 3 day, so would the Son of Man be in the ground for 3 days, then he would rise.  This is God’s testimony of Jesus.  This is His Word fulfilled! – Amen

Jesus rose from the dead, he physically came out of the grave!  This is a sign that we are forgiven.  This is God’s signature at the end of the letter! He is saying, “Here is the guarantee!

If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then sin killed him.  If sin killed him then death was not subdued. But… scripture tell us that the resurrection of the dead out of the grave is not only possible, but that it will occur for everyone.  You do not need to believe it is possible for you to be resurrected.  But you do need to believe that Jesus was resurrected in order to avoid being condemned by your own lack of belief, not God’s. Listen to John 5:28-29.

John 5: 28-29 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Therefore, we know that the resurrection of the dead is possible.  Therefore we know that the resurrection of Jesus is not only possible, but that it did occur.  It occurred as a testimony of the forgiveness of sins, and of the resurrection of life.

We also know that there is a day coming when everyone will be called up out of the grave and brought to judgment.  Those who have believed in Jesus will be rewarded.  Those who have not believed, those who were filled with how intellectually important they were, will be brought to face their condemnation.   But there is hope!  There is hope in Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain for the remission of sin.

By God raising Jesus from the dead it means that God was satisfied with the sin offering made by Jesus.  In Romans 4 the scriptures tell us about how Abraham’s faith in God being able to do what He said he would do was enough for God to impute righteousness to Abraham.  Having faith in God to do what he said He would do concerning Jesus, also imputes righteousness to us.

“It shall be imputed to use who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4: 24-25)

 

The resurrection of Jesus is a testimony from God that the sacrifice Jesus made for our sin, is acceptable to God, and that believing in this is how righteousness is imparted to us

Romans 5:8-10 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

The grace of God is that we have eternal life through Jesus Christ, the proof of that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus was resurrected, we will also be resurrected to eternal life.

How do we know that Jesus physically arose?

  • John 20.17 – Jesus tells Mary not to touch him yet because He still has to ascend to the Father.
  • Acts 20.11 – Tells us that Jesus ate with the disciples
  • Luke 24.38-39 – “Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians explaining, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15.20-22)

So I ask you today.  Do you believe that there is life after death? Do you believe that a man can be brought back from the dead?  Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign, that as the scripture records, and even Jesus himself told, that the sign of Jonah would be the only sign given concerning his atonement?

If you do then you need to confess it.

Acknowledge to God and to man, that Jesus was resurrected and that He is the only mediator between the Father and man.

He is because he lives. – Amen

Hebrews 2:1-3 Take Heed!

Hebrews 2:1-3 Take Heed!

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the work spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” (Hebrews 2:1-3NKJV)

This is an earnest plea to reason.  God has spoken to us by His Son.  Jesus is the Son of God and as such has a direct line to the Father, like no other person in heaven or on earth.  He sits beside the Father and all the kingdoms of the earth and all authority has been given Him, by the Father.  The message he has given us is such an important message that we should take extra care to listen to what He said.  Here in Hebrews Paul is saying PAY ATTENTION!  God is doing something in our lives, in the lives of men.  God Himself directly intervened in the lives of everyone here!

Paul warns us, “Hey, if what the angels, and the Son of God Himself told us about EVERY thing we do or say will be held accountable then we need this salvation that is offered.  If even the very motivation of our actions, whether they be good or bad, is recorded for examination in court, then we need an attorney.  You know why, because the same ones who said these things also said that there is none good!  The cost for your salvation was so enormous, how can you not pay attention to the suffering endured.

Paul also gives credence to the fact that we should pray and study earnestly, “lest we drift away”.  There are false teachers that are in the “Church” today that try to tell us that “times have changed” and that the statutes that the Lord established in his Word are no longer relevant.  There are even some pastors who will water down the scriptures and tell you their own private interpretations so that they can justify sin in their own lives.  I know that some of you will not hear the things I am going to say.  But living in sin disrupts your fellowship with God.  Paul said being forgiven is not a license to sin.

If we become superficial in out prayer life, or in out scriptural studies we put ourselves in jeopardy of drifting away from our first love.  Even as Jesus said in the Book of Revelation, “Never the less I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2.4)  Jude also wrote that he found it necessary to encourage us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1.3).

Folks the saints are us, we are the saints, saved by grace and set apart for the kingdom of God.  We are to fight for our faith!  Keep it and hold it close!  Strive with all our hearts!  Now I’m not saying be rude and stiff-necked.  I am saying study and be prepared to have an answer in love, for when you are confronted concerning your faith.  Stay away from TV and radio shows that encourage immoral behavior.  Society itself is drifting away from the One true God, because too many saints are keeping salvation a secret.  We have become, in large, ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  We have conformed to the world. Do the work you are called to do.  Be salt!  Now may peace and mercy and love be multiplied to you.  Amen

Signs of Character

2 Timothy 3.5 states’ “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:” Paul here is saying that these people, who he discussed previously in the chapter (2 Timothy 3.1-4), would consider themselves religious people.  They would say to themselves that they were “Christians” and may even appear to be Christian in outward appearances.  However; they are not true Christians, for they have never experienced the power of God in their lives.  They would have a false religion, a false Christianity. While they said that they were “saved” they would not have the appreciation of salvation demonstrated in their lives.  Going to church once or twice a year, or some may even go every Sunday, but there is no ministry showing in their lives.  No love for the brotherhood of the church.  No compassion for the poor or the widows.

Like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked in Mathew 23:27 when he said “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye ae full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  They are just acting a part and not really living in the Spirit of God.  Jesus further explained the root of the problem in Matthew 15:8 when he said that people draw close to God and worship Him with their lips, but there is no real love there for Him, they worship in vain because they have no substance in believing or honoring God for who He is.  The way they live their private lives is a testimony against them. 

Their language and attitude would be a big indicator of their spiritual walk. These are the signs listed in 2 Timothy: covetousness, boasters, proud, disobedient to parents, unthankful, without natural affection, incontinent, fierce, despisers of good, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, and unholy.  Now there is a time period where change has to happen, where the mind has to be renewed, and the Spirit of the Lord chastises and reproves.  So we dare not put ourselves in place of God and judge any man.  For who knows the hearts of men, except God.  Paul is just warning us, that there are those who are out there and we should be aware.

Paul warns us from these people, even if they call themselves Christians, TURN AWAY from them.  Do not associate with them, they are false brethren.   The issue with these people who profess to be Christians and do not live a Christian lifestyle is that they will cause divisions and draw away others from the central focus of Christ.  We do not live GOOD lives to gain salvation from Christ, rather we do “good” because we are being changed from the inside outward, from the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in the true believer.  It is the Spirit of God that enables us to love one another.

Contrary to what Paul described as signs of false believers, if we walk in the Spirit and it dwells within us then there are certain things that should be evident in our lives.  These signs are referred to as fruits of the Spirit.  We find these things should be evident in our lives if we are walking in the Spirit of God, who comes to dwell within us once we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  We should see love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  With believers whom we see these signs, we should have fellowship.  But above all, pray for one another.

Survey of Jude

Survey of Jude

Jude is especially important to the modern Christian as it pertains to the dangers that we face as the end times draw near. Jude expressed a severe opposition of the Roman Church’s idea of Docetism.  Docetism is a heretical doctrine that denies the real humanity of Christ.  Of importance is the urgency of Jude in proclaiming that the original doctrines of the Apostles are being perverted by false teachers that have already infiltrated the church.  Jude further warns that the great apostasy prophesied, for a sign of the end of times, has already begun. Jude warns us that we must contend for our faith!

Key Verse

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3 (KJV)

Authorship

The letter itself designates the author as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,” (v1).  During the time of writing, the name Jude (Judas) was very popular. There is Judas Maccabaeus who was one of the heroes of postexilic Judaism; Judas the son of James (disciple); Judas Iscariot (disciple and traitor); Judas the Galilean (acts 5:37); Judas of Damascus (Acts 9:11); Judas called Barsabbas (Acts 15:22); and Jude the brother of James.  In 230 AD Clement believed the author to be Jude, the brother of Jesus.  Jerome in AD 392 also wrote that the author was indeed Jude, the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus in writings for the early Catholic Church.  It is safe to assume that the author is the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of James mentioned in Matthew 13:55. (Acts 15)

Historical Settings

Jude is closely related to the book of 2 Peter, as allot of the contents are the same.  It appears that either 2 Peter was used as a source for some of Jude or vice versa.  The book of Jude is believed to have been written between 60 and 80 A.D.

Major Themes

Jude first exposes false teachers in the church v5-16, then denounces their spirituality and describes their character v8-16. The author also gives examples from Israel’s and mankind’s past on how the Lord deals with rebellion and immorality. The examples used show how a few false teachers and nay-sayers lead many into judgement from the Lord. (Gen 19:24; Duet 29:23-29) Jude then exhorts believers to living holy lives in true faith and prayer in the Holy Ghost. v17-23.  In his benediction Jude reassures the believers that they are safe in their salvation through Jesus.

Doctrine

The main point of doctrine in Jude is that all revelation has been given, there is no other doctrine of salvation, other then what has already been delivered by the Apostles.  They should guard their faith against anyone who tries to change what they already know to be true.  Note every believer is equipped or mature enough in their faith to deal with false teachers.  In order to protect the flock, false teachers should be guarded against, identified, and confronted. True believers are preserved, yet if we do not want to stumble then we need to firmly rely on Jesus and walk correctly not for salvation, but to avoid chastisement and to express our love and gratitude towards our savior.

Short Outline

I.  Introduction (Jude1-4)

II. False Faith (Jude 5-9)

  1. Examples
    1. Israel (v5)
    2. Fallen Angels (v6)

3.  Sodom and Gamorrah (v7)

4.  Cain, Balaam, Korah (v11)

      3. Character of False Teachers (v8-10)

4.  Results of False Faith (v12,16,19)

III. True Faith (Jude 20-25)

  1. How to contend for the faith (v20,21)
  2. How to respond to false teachers and their followers (v22,23)
  3. Encouragement (v24,25)

 

 

References

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 12. New York: Abingdon, 1982. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 2. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008. Print. Ephesians-Revelations.

Survey of Genesis

Survey of Genesis

Genesis means “origin”, and as such is a fitting name for the book.  It is the history of all humanity.  Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch.  This portion of scripture covers the beginning of creation, sin, civilization, and Israel.  Genesis is comprised of a series of short stories that cover a time period prior to Adam to the death of Joshua in Egypt.

Authorship

Genesis is commonly referred to as the first book of Moses.  Moses is accepted as the author of the five books of the Pentateuch.  There are several scriptural references in both the old and the new testaments that refer to Moses as the author even though the book itself is anonymous in origin.  It is believed that Moses wrote the book drawing on oral traditions and historic writings of his time, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Major Themes

The book of Genesis can be divided into two general parts.  The first portion describes the early history of mankind and his relationship with God.  The second portion gives specific examples of individuals whom God chose to reveal himself to.  Both sections show the divine grace God has shown to man both as individuals called and as a whole as His creation.  Genesis shows how God has always had a plan for mankind and that man was created with a specific purpose for God.

Doctrine

Important theological themes of the book of Genesis include the following doctrines:

  • A living, personal God
  • Man being made in the image of God
  • The fall of Mankind and Original Sin
  • The anticipation of the redeemer
  • The covenant promises with Israel

The reoccurring pattern in shown in Genesis is one of (1) Sin; (2) Judgement; (3) Grace of God; and (4) the consequences of sin.  Of importance to note is that God always provides mercy and grace even in judgement.

People

Genesis covers a long time period in history and begins with the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind.  Then moves through the stories of Cain and Able, Noah, and on up to the patriarchs of Israel.  These include Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the covenants God made with them to secure a people devoted to Yahweh.  Genesis warns us of the dangers of sexual immorality and the evilness that can lurk in men’s hearts. Genesis concludes with the provisions God made for the growth of Israel from a tribe to a nation under Joseph and the Egyptians.

Short Outline

  1. The Beginnings (1-11)
  2. The Story of Abraham (12-25)
  • The Story of Isaac (25:19-26;35)
  1. The Story of Jacob (27:1-37:1
  2. The Story of Joseph (37-50)

References

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

Longman, Tremper. “The Book of Genesis.” Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. N. pag. Print.

A New Year : Keep Your Focus!

Philippians 3:13-15

I remember when I was in the Basic Non-Commissioned Officer’s Coarse while stationed in the U.S. Army, at Hawaii. We had a 12 Mile forced march that we had to complete under 3 hours. Now this doesn’t seem to difficult at first mention. Especially if you consider that we were all Infantry soldiers, and this was a small distance for us. We got up early, as usual, and drew our weapons, and load bearing equipment. Now the load bearing equipment is what we wear that allows us to carry a bayonet, ammunition, and water on our person. This equipment with the Kevlar helmet on average is about 35 lbs. Then we add on our weapon and ruck sack (backpack).

The recommended weight allowance for an Infantry soldier is 60 lbs in total. However, as a leader we are expected to go farther, carry more and do it faster. So I was required to carry a 95 lbs rucksack. Now you begin to see, that even seasoned soldiers can be put to the test with such requirements, and as Sgt and a Infantry Squad Leader, I was very seasoned. The walk I will tell you is not hard, the pace is not hard. The weight, although common, is a burden.

12 miles can get to feeling very long, and 3 hours, gets to feel like forever, and yet doesn’t seem long enough time. Your mind can start to talk to you. But by keeping the end in mind, you step-by-step get through the hills and the valleys along the way to the finish line. Your heart sometimes feels like its will burst, the breeze sometimes feels like God is cheering you on. Focus is what gets you through. You walk, and you focus on the goal. You focus on your pace. You focus on your distance left to go.

Philippians tells us that Paul kept his focus. He focused on the goal. He said I forget those things which are behind, and I reach forward to the things that are before. Paul pressed toward the mark. He kept Jesus in front of his eyes the whole way! Throughout Paul’s ministry he was beaten, stoned, hungered, homeless, betrayed, thrown in prison, mocked, ridiculed, and attempts were made on his life ; all for Christ’s sake.

Paul was called by Jesus Christ, just as you are. The scriptures tell us that Paul focused on one thing, “Christ Crucified”. We must remember that in all things that Jesus was crucified for us, and for all those around us. We must keep in mind that Jesus was not only Crucified and was buried, but that He arose from the grave. The resurrection of Christ is our sign of acceptance. In Romans chapter 6 the scriptures tell us that we shall also be resurrected in the likeness of his resurrection! Brothers and sisters, death has no hold on us! We do not need to fear what man can do to us. He cannot touch our soul!

We can rest in the knowledge of what the Lord has brought us through this past year, and let it be an encouragement that He will see us through this year also. Yes there are some things that will happen that we may not understand or that we wont want to go through. Right about now, you’re going to expect me to say that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle, but I’m not going to say that. I will say that He said he will always be with you, even until the end of the age. I will remind you that He told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage”, more than once. I will remind you that the scriptures tell us that we should encourage one another, and that we should pray for one another, and that we should love one another. I will remind you that Jesus’ intercedes on your behalf!

I do know that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it. I have the utmost expectations for this New Year, that it will be better than the last. Not because of who is president, but because my God is the God who appoints the kings of the earth. I know that even though there is going to be persecution, that the Lord’s message will be spread as a result. I do know that the Lord has stirred up the Spirit in Christians all over the world, and that He is soon to return. So I encourage you, when your rucksack gets too heavy, or when your feet are sore and want to stop, or when your weapon is to hard to raise, to keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. If you share anything this year about your faith, share Christ Crucified. Share the hope that is within you. Let someone know what you know… the Truth. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, and have a great new year!