Wrong as Gandhi was in rejecting Christ as God’s Son, he simply anticipated our society’s attitude. We want Jesus...BUT...on our terms. For example, we expect anyone we want to be saved shall be—even if they don’t want to be. We expect those who embrace lifestyles that Scripture says will never inherit God’s Kingdom, I Corinthians 5:9-13, Galatians 5:16-21 as examples, to inherit it even if they have no intention of repenting—and we dare God not to save them.
That entire attitude is spiritual suicide! Jesus is a WHOLE PERSON, each part perfect and, in unison with other perfect parts, the PERFECT PERSON. He will not be fractured into compartments competing with each other. And won’t be divided by sinful humanity into their fragmented personalities.
If we won’t accept him as He revealed himself, he won’t accept us at ALL. Jesus honors those who honor him. Who seize the opportunity to be saved and tenaciously serve him. But it will always be on his terms, never on ours. And, unless we oblige his terms, we’ll die in our sins. And he won’t feel guilty sending us to Hell. And he won’t take responsibility for the decisions we made that put us there. End Part III
Becoming a Christian isn’t demanding. We believe in Christ, repent of our ego-driven life, confess his Deity and are baptized. BEING a Christian differs from Becoming a Christian. It’s harder since it’s a lifetime project, re-enacted daily. Which is particularly difficult in a culture of depraved morality and superficial spirituality. Where proclaiming Christ isn’t welcomed but proclaiming every other religious leader is. Where all behavior is permitted except that which God honors—and especially acceptable in our culture is the sexual deviation God expressly forbade and condemned.
Our very culture swells with egotism, and every new Doctor of something makes our head swim more contentedly in self-assurance. We’ve been fortunate enough to re-create much of the daily life in the ancient world. Not satisfied with that, the unconverted want to create what society should be now. In flagrant arrogance, they dare tell God what Heaven must be.
Reduce all this to its basic idea, and it means people want a Christ of Convenience; who’s sympathetic but harmless; helpful but dependent on our interpretation to make him real.
It’s what Gandhi wanted for India: Christian missionaries to cure the lepers—the untouchables; and to help sewer-cleaners—the lowest class of touchables. But not to preach Christ as God’s Son, or Christ crucified to forgive sin or Christ resurrected from the dead! By the way...Gandhi’s view was offered to Jesus by Satan in the wilderness temptations: “all this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” In other words, Jesus, you be the nice guy and help people, while I dictate what they believe. But at that, Satan offered Jesus a compromise, which he never offered anyone else.
In turn, Jesus bullwhipped Satan’s lie into shreds.
The missionaries went to India and performed prodigies of humanitarian works. And they preached Christ as God’s Son, started churches and Bible colleges and Christian homes and hospitals, et al. Proving that Gandhi had no understanding of spiritual truth. For the person of Christ, the mission of Christ, the message of Christ and the benevolence of Christ are all indivisible factors of Christ, the God-Man. Who holds all authority over heaven and earth, leaving NONE for any other religious leader. End Part II
People interpret taking one’s cross and following Jesus in at least two ways. One, like a man who walked across America, pulling a wooden-wheeled cross on his shoulders. Two, more than one man has been put on the cross on Good Friday: sometimes held by ropes, sometimes by having stainless steel nails driven through wrists and ankles.
Both methods express believers’ faith, but neither correctly understands what “take up your cross and follow me” means. Combining Matthew 11:12 and 16:24 explains the meaning. We honor Christ’s claim on our life; obey Christ’s will in our life; and remain steadfastly committed to Christ’s teaching on any subject, no matter how many refuse to hear, believe or accept it. Even if they harm us for proclaiming it.
God demands forceful Christians of strong convictions. Only then will disciples resist the temptation to compromise God’s word to keep peace with those resisting God. It’s certain
that a weak Jesus could never overthrow a strong Satan. In fact, by his exorcisms of demons, Jesus applied maximum spiritual force against Satan’s stronghold over demoniacs. This was particularly evident in his cleansing of Legion Mark 5:1-20. In addition, as Jesus noted about John the Baptist, only a powerful personality could have expressed his influence over Israel.
While not always speaking of his own FORCEFUL PERSONALITY, Jesus never failed to express it. One secular author noted that Fremont Older, editor of a 19th century San Francisco paper, had such a powerful personality he could be felt through a concrete wall. John the Baptist had a stronger one that could reduce the wall to rubble. And Jesus had an infinitely stronger personality that would vaporize the wall. No one having influenced history as he has could have been the mistakenly-pictured feminine Jesus of some artists. End Part I
Small ships bringing the earliest settlers to Plymouth and Virginia limited possessions to fundamentals: tools without handles; firearms with powder and shot; treasured furniture; seeds for planting, fish hooks and lines, shoots of fruit trees; the Family Bible; a simple pharmacy for illnesses; basic clothes; chests into which they crammed personal keepsakes. With economy the rule, and survival the intent, they trusted their God-given creative skills to provide other necessaries when they arrived. Colonial Design Book, 19
All of that has lessons for our discipleship. Since Jesus want us living now in the prospect of inhabiting our eternal home, he urges a minimalist approach to life-possessions. As he condemned the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21, who accumulated for a future he didn’t have, he commended the poor widow who had little for daily needs, but instead gave it to God Mark 12:41-44.
We can learn of the dangers to discipleship without making a demon of wealth or a deity of poverty. For example, and a particular curse of American life, accumulating so many possessions we first stuff our houses full, then rent storage space for the rest—because we can’t surrender what we want, see and buy.
For example, filling our schedules with so many events, meetings and activities we find ourselves coming and going—with no time to “smell the roses”, let alone contemplate the Glory of God! As if being busy proves our efficiency, not how undisciplined we are; and having no time for Bible study and worship by being so occupied with making a living. COV-19 has called a halt to some of the frenetic pace. But will it resume once life opens again, or can we have learned to do without what merely keeps us busy, not effective, particularly as we ask, “What have I done for Jesus”?
For example, knowing we need to commit our life to Jesus—and we intend to ...later; or we need more time to think about it; or we have questions that remain unanswered; or we don’t want to confront the hard things the Bible teaches: “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” Acts 24:25. All of that simple procrastination, like Governor Felix or King Agrippa II. Or any of us who think our doubts or reservations will ever bring us closer to God.
Spirit-filled discipleship demands our constant attention to our ultimate life-goal. That keeps our lives focused and our distractions fewer. That means we sacrifice what could be helpful now for what is essential for us to survive judgment and enter Heaven.
The letter apostles and elders sent to Gentiles following the Jerusalem Council upheld Paul and Barnabas’ ministry. Nothing in Mosaic ceremonies or food laws, including circumcision, would be demanded of converts.
While yielding not even an inch in scriptural truth to heretics, the Jerusalem leaders also prohibited Gentile Christians access to behavior endemic to Roman society. Meaning...what Gentiles found acceptable in permissive Roman religions had no welcome in Christianity, particularly the sexual orgies associated with heathen fertility rites.
Which underscores a spiritual truth expressed throughout the Bible: what may be acceptable to unbelievers cannot be tolerated by God’s people. And Christians need to know and defend the differences.
For example, Hamor the Hivite, ruler of Shechem, considered a grace to have his people intermarry with Jacob’s family Genesis 34:8-10. But God considered it a disgrace. Having freed the patriarch from the domination of a heathen father-in-law, he wouldn’t subject him to the corruption of heathen nations.
For example, the heathen Philistines loaded God’s Ark on a new cart pulled by two cows when returning it to Israel I Samuel 6:1-12. But when David assayed to bring the Ark to Jerusalem from Abinadab’s house, he too loaded it on a new cart. That decision cost Uzzah his life II Samuel 6:6-8.
From his first response of anger and fear David turned to RESEARCH: why had the Ark been a source of danger? I Chronicles 15:11-15 reveals that David found the answer in Exodus 25:10-16. What God allowed to ignorant Philistines, he punished Israel for disregarding his Word.
I Corinthians 2:6-16 reveals an important spiritual principle. God has endowed Christians with wisdom denied the unsaved. Beyond even that, God has declared unbelievers unfit and unqualified to judge Holy Spirit-empowered Christians. They inherit wisdom to discern truth from error, acceptable from rejected behavior and values God honors or rejects or abhors. The honor of possessing such wisdom denied our depraved, secularized, materialistic culture, imposes an equal responsibility. We must always, whatever society may demand or desire, view all life, teachings, attitudes and behaviors through truth revealed in scripture. Our enfranchisement in Christ demands we assume that role. The unsaved will instinctively seek an easier way to Christ than self-denial. But believers need to already be living that self-denying discipleship. The unsaved will not consider Jesus essential, but believers need to already be proving he’s irreplaceable.
Christians...let us stand firm in repeating to our society what Jesus taught, however unwelcomed or unwanted they find his message. Let us remember, since Jesus has ALL authority, “no other religious leader has ANY.” Therefore, any teaching or practice that disregards him or disagrees with him must be condemned, not tolerated. Only the Person of Jesus, the Nature of Jesus, the Purpose of Jesus, the Message of Jesus, the Eternality of Jesus and the Singularity of Jesus will Remain after all of God’s enemies have been sent to Hell with Satan and his demons. Amen. Fini
By being God’s elect people of God’s elect FAITH, Christians invariably engender conflict from unbelievers: one group or another, for one reason or another, but always from somebody, because Gospel teaching always offends someone or some group.
For example, in Pisidian Antioch, for being too popular Acts 13:43-45. In Iconium, for causing division among the populace Acts 14:4-5. In Lystra, for refusing to accept adulation Acts 14:11-18. In Philippi, for being an illegal religion upsetting Roman customs Acts 16:20-21. In Thessalonica, for causing a riot Acts 17:5-9. In Corinth, for being heretics defying Jewish Law Acts 18:12-13—repeated in Ephesus Acts 19:8-10. More ominously in Ephesus, for causing economic turmoil in profitable business enterprises Acts 19:23-27. (And these are just selections from Paul’s missionary trips.)
If 1st century Christianity stirred equal opposition in opponents and joy in believers, why would 21st century Christians expect to be exempt from the same bifurcation? Especially as Christians face the opposition of liberals who want Islam accepted as an equal of Christianity. As the homosexual lobby, with cultural tolerance on its side, demands Bible-Christians accept it as an alternative –lifestyle.
It can never be, in either case. UNLESS, against God’s declared will, we want a church with no sharp distinction between the saved and unsaved. Where equilibrium between each occurs: the saved too strong to adopt the behavior of the unsaved, but too weak in witness to challenge them to repent and be baptized. Unless, against God’s declared command, we want the church of Christ to be what the Jewish synagogue had become in Ephesus. It existed as an isolated monotheistic faith in a heathen culture. Untainted by heathenism, true; but, shamefully, unwounded by efforts to evangelize the heathen. It accommodated, not opposed, its culture.
Closing thought on this point. After his brutal stoning in Lystra—the result being death had God not reversed the results—Paul “got up and went back into the city” Acts 14:20. Then, after further preaching in Derbe, Paul and Barnabas returned through the cities where all manner of hostility had been experienced. As an encouragement to the Christians in each place, he stressed, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22, I Thessalonians 3:4.
To give the Christians help in remaining faithful through all their sorrows in Christ, they appointed elders—likely Christian men mature in Moses, and understanding the problems that brought Hebrews—to bolster new Christians through the difficulties their new faith imposed.
Shall we in America, Christians, expect to gain with minimum effort, and against push-over opponents, what it cost Jesus his blood to provide, and Christians through the ages theirs to continue? Will not Jesus, who shed his blood to Found his Faith, and many Christians in history, who shed theirs to Defend it, be ashamed of us if we hardly break a sweat to proclaim it?
End, Part VIII
One reason preachers won’t discuss controversial subjects is the conviction that it offends people. And if offended, they won’t return to services. And if they don’t return, how can they be taught? Point of fact, then: when will we address issues that could offend people?
As always, Jesus serves as our model. If he had ignored tough issues, made no controversial claims or feared hurting people’s feelings, we wouldn’t have Matthew 13:4, 19; for who would want to hear that he allowed Satan to snatch God’s word from his life—just because he had no interest in God? Think of the many obituaries who would be offended. We wouldn’t have Matthew 16:24; for who wants to let Jesus, first thing and foremost, assassinate our ego in order to be his disciple? We wouldn’t have John 8:58-59; for when claiming to be God in the Flesh, the Jews, “picked up stones to stone him”...and he saved himself only by “slipping away from the temple grounds.”
We wouldn’t have John 5:24-27. For he claimed to personally be the VOICE of God calling all the dead alive on the Last Day. How offensive that was to Moses, and how much more offensive to every religious leader since? We wouldn’t have John 14:6; for in answer to Thomas’ request that Jesus reveal the way he would go, he replied, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Understand that his men understood that he used the Greek equivalent of Exodus 3:14—he IS the Jehovah God, the “I Am Who I Am!” Not content to make that revolutionary claim, he then added, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” How irritating to world religious leaders who claim THEY offer the way to whatever future life their adherents enjoy. Think of it: everyone ever to live must have Jesus Christ’s approval before he can enter God’s Presence. Even those who thought they determined who would be lost or saved. And on and on!
Now...expect Jesus to be fair in judging everyone who hasn’t heard of him. But do not expect Jesus to change what he said about being the sole Judge of all mankind and the SOLE PERSON to determine the eternal fate of every mortal ever to live.
Alexander Hamilton knew that paper money needed silver or gold backing it, supporting it, giving it stability—or it would be worthless. The spiritual life originated by the ONE GOD must necessarily have ONE ALL-Powerful, ALL-Authority figure in charge of it in history and judging all humanity by HIS standards at the end. And Jesus Christ is that ONE.
The darkest days of the American Revolution “tried men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote in his Crisis papers. Christians can truly say, “These are the days that try the courage of preachers.” Since Jesus preached what needed to be said, trusting the Holy Spirit to relate it to listeners, will preachers proclaim the gospel faithfully, trusting the same Spirit to relate it to listeners? End Part VII
Acts 15 offers a perfect example of AUTHORITY in context when determining a scripture passage. The Jerusalem Council established the procedure many meetings have since followed, especially when sensitive issues are involved. This writer remembers the time he as a member of a board attended such a meeting.
First, an open meeting of all concerned parties occurred—lay, eldership and apostles. The only opinion recorded was that of the circumcision group, because their assumption, loudly vocalized, summarized the occasion of the Council. We can be sure, however, that Paul and Barnabas also took the floor in defense of Gentile freedom from Jewish rules.
Second, given the prejudice of Jewish conservatives, we can’t be too surprised that “much discussion” occurred in the executive session. It included strong opinions reflecting opposing views. We would expect apostles in attendance to side with Paul and Barnabas while some elders sided with the Judaizing faction.
Three, and here the issue of Authority became critical, Simon Peter, the apostolic origin of Gentile evangelism, minus any reference to circumcision—see Acts 10:44-48—addressed the executive session. His stirring summation couldn’t be misunderstood: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Note the pronouns we and they—all equally saved by grace through faith in Christ.
Four, Peter’s declaration, backed by apostolic integrity, and by an eye-witness account of Cornelius’ baptism based on faith in Christ, silenced arguments and established the NORM of Gentile evangelism. They then presented that decision to the whole church in open meeting.
Five, only then did Barnabas and Paul take the floor with spellbinding stories of God’s indisputable evidence of success in Gentile evangelism, including “miraculous signs and wonders”, minus any reference to circumcision.
Six, the excitement hardly diminished when elder James rose to make the definitive statement. (The apostles likely wanted the “chairman” of the elders to articulate the unanimity between Spirit-baptized apostles and Spirit-filled lay leaders.)
Seven, not only did James align the elders with the apostles, but he distanced all of them from the heretics 15:24. That’s the application of the entire context. Scripture determined the apostolic/elder decision. The principle outlined in 15:22-29 remains relevant to our day in resolving spiritual issues. When: questions rise about the acceptability of beliefs and behaviors; or disputes come and disagreements threaten to divide God’s people, side with, support fully, follow carefully, adhere completely—ONLY with apostolic teaching.
A truth Paul demanded in forceful language Galatians 1:6-9. And if we say we can’t agree on God’s Word, we’ll never agree on human opinions. End Part VI
While most people believe in God, many instinctively want to be their own deity, particularly when relating to life beyond death. They expect God to validate whatever decision they make.
WILL NEVER HAPPEN!
In the same third storey mistake, a minister said Christians have misquoted the Bible when condemning homosexuality. Look at that criticism through the principle of CONTEXT and you’ll see third storey faith at work.
Textual integrity demands admission that God destroyed the cities because they surrendered to homosexuality. 19:4-5 defined their passion. Lot’s effort to pacify their lust led only to their heated rejection of him. Some 600 years later Moses received God’s continued denunciation Leviticus 18:22. Over 300 years after that the tribe of Benjamin had so thoroughly been corrupted by the practice that God ordered war waged against them by the eleven tribes Judges 19:11-20:45.
Mark 7:20-23. Among the wickedness Jesus proscribed he included sexual immorality. Third storey at work, advocates of sodomy incorrectly claim that not particularizing homosexuality means Jesus didn’t condemn it. Are we to think that, while Jesus inspired Abraham and Moses to denounce the practice, he didn’t KNOW it was a sin—especially when the term he used includes ALL sexual immorality? Indeed, he didn’t denounce pederasty, bestiality or incest, but does anyone want to exclude them from God’s judgment?
Romans 1:18-32. No question but that the apostle’s indictment damns homosexuality and lesbianism. And...to the criticism that Paul was only an apostle, Paul was instead SPECIFICALLY an APOSTLE, entrusted with Christ’s message to the Gentiles. Any effort to diminish his role in distinguishing righteousness from wickedness is third storey nonsense.
I Corinthians 6:9-10. Paul told the Corinthians that “neither adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders...will inherit the kingdom of God.” Then, adding a number of other sins, including greed, drunkenness, slander and swindlers, he said, “and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” verse 11.
Note carefully and pay attention to context. THAT--all those sins, including homosexuality (all the rest can’t be sins and homosexuality an acceptable sexual lifestyle), had been their condition, but by repentance and baptism they had been forgiven. Which, in the context, means that homosexuality, like all other sins, is forgivable if repented. And, in conversion, the attraction of homosexuality is broken.
You can always find someone to tell you what you want to hear. False prophets existed in Israel side-by-side with Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah. And they all had followings. Not because they were honest with people and true to God, but because they said what people wanted to hear. The every heresy Paul forecast would mark the Last Days II Timothy 3:1-9.
Beware of any preacher who tells you what you want rather than what you need to hear. End Part V
The question this Part endeavors to answer is: how has it happened that some preachers, the very people who should believe and defend God’s teaching about homosexuality, have instead become its advocates?
Well...consider two reasons. One, revisionists exist in every discipline. Not content with reliable historical accounts, they demand a more positive twist on their past. Revisionists also plague Biblical truth, higher critics and the Jesus Seminar being the most infamous. The latter claims the Four Gospels are a faulty record of second and third century authors who made a triumphant Christ from a failed Jesus of Nazareth. This writer has specifically disproved their charge in his multi-volumned series of books called Their Own Best Defense.
Two, the second reason for the defense of homosexuality in some churches is the personalization of faith—an unexpected result of the church-growth movement. The basic premise of the movement was the elimination of unnecessary obstacles to reaching people for Christ. Which sounded fine at the time, and still resonates with many. However, the outcome has been the elimination of Bible subjects considered too tough for the unsaved to accept: such as self-denial, Christ’s singularity and...the purity Jesus demands of his people.
Another unexpected result was the re-definition of what constitutes Faith in God’s Word. Historically three levels of faith have existed. The first IS: God says it; that settles it. One slogan is half-way to that position. It says, God says it. I believe it. That settles it. However, the middle phrase isn’t necessary. If God says something, THAT settles it, whether or not we believe it. The second basis of faith IS: God has provided sufficient evidence in his Bible to convince fair-minded people that they can have absolute faith in it.
Both of these positions are bedrock foundations of apologetics. But some leaders feel they’re too demanding. Which has led to the third stage, which IS: we’re free to filter anything the Bible says through our personal experience and belief-systems. In other words, it means only what we think or want it to mean.
In Bible interpretation it’s called, “letting your theology determine your interpretation.” Which one writer said should decide one’s interpretation of Acts 2:38. That mistaken view has been furthered by lay-led Bible studies which ask each participant, “What does this verse/text mean to you?” Once we discard context in Bible teaching—which alone determines what it means to us—no limit exists to what any scripture DOES or DOESN’T mean to us. For we interpret Bible teaching by our personal philosophy, theology or opinion.
Thus, because someone in our family embraces a homosexual lifestyle, we don’t want it criticized. Or because a friend’s offspring embraces it, we want no preaching against it.
Point of fact, however. No application of scripture texts is possible until we determine its meaning in the historical context. New Testament writers could quote Old Testament scripture out of context because the Holy Spirit saw meaning in them obvious only with his guidance. But Bible students have no commensurate qualification for the same privilege. We can make applications agreeable with the original meaning, but none in contradiction of it.
God won’t change a SINGLE FACT he’s recorded and revealed however much we overvalue our many personal opinions. More to come. End Part IV