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Discipleship

The Bible’s Surprise

THY-WORD-IS-TRUTH

While reading from a book entitled Devotional Doctrine by Aaron Armstrong, from the Gospel Project, I read about something that brought me back to an experience in my life as a young boy. I wanted to give credit to Aaron Armstrong for returning me to the following experience.

When I received my first Bible as a young boy I was very excited, not because I wanted to read it, but I wanted people to know I had one. My assumptions when I first began to read it were probably like most people. I assumed it would be a list of commands and moral platitudes that probably didn’t have much relevance to my day to day activities, especially to a young 8 or 9 year-old boy who had recently been baptized. I will openly admit it was very hard to read, much less understand. I found it much easier to just not attempt to read it and therefore, I laid it down and never picked it up again.

Then when I reached maturity and began reading my Bible again, I found moral proverbs and commands that made sense to me. But to my surprise I found something else too. I found a story of the world that made sense, a story of hope for broken people living in a broken world. Not only that, but I found it in a book I could understand. This is a book that rang true unlike any other book I had read.

After years of pretending to be a Christian, I realized at the age of 37 that I was not a Christian at all. I had only been playing the game. When I was faced with the reality of my lostness, I had to make it right as quickly as I could. With that thought in mind, I reached out to my pastor to explain my situation and that I wanted Jesus in my heart. As a great pastor that he was we got on our knees and I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart. Much to my surprise again, the calmness of God’s Holy Spirit opened my heart to allow Jesus to come in and take up His residence.

I believe I’m not the first person to have this experience. I remember early in my ministry when I was green behind the ears and doing some door to door visitation and evangelism. One man I encountered just couldn’t seem to get past the idea that the Bible really was God’s Word. Thanks again to Aaron Armstrong for stating the situation so plainly and nearly describing exactly this man’s case:

  • It was written by human beings. (True.)
  • Human beings are imperfect. (True again.)
  • Anything we’re involved with is going to be imperfect. (Yep.)
  • Therefore, the Bible must contain errors, which means it can’t be God’s Word. (False.)

 

So, here’s the question that presents itself: Why does true plus true plus true equal false? And the answer is really quite simple. It fails to take into account one more very vital truth: God’s involvement in writing the Scriptures, or what we as Christians refer to call inerrancy.

It is my opinion then that because God inspired the writing of Scriptures, He protected it from error by the human writers He inspired to write them in the first place. From the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XII, it is important to point out that every word they wrote was free from error, without a shred of falsehood or deceit to be found in it in any way. It was God’s supernatural involvement in its writing that protected the Scriptures from error. Every word is true! What the Bible says about everything is true.

Suffice it to say, God wants us to understand His Word. Let me say it this way: the Bible can be understood with many of the same basic principles of interpretation we use when we read any other book. We intuitively pay attention to context clues, verb tenses, and the literary forms in the text we’re reading.

I will agree that some parts are still hard to understand. Even I continue to struggle with some passages. The problem is that we are simply trying to comprehend the infinite God with finite minds. But since God wants us to know His Word, He helps us understand it. Today, the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures in our hearts and minds (John 14:15-18; 16:7-15).

The man I was witnessing to still couldn’t see how God gives us the desire to be transformed by the truth of His Word. Before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, I really didn’t understand it either. Aaron so eloquently put it this way: “The idea that God’s Word, the Bible, is true is a struggle for many to believe. But if the Scriptures contain the good news we say it does, let’s never be afraid to call it what it is. God’s Word is true, not because any human being declared it to be so but because God is trustworthy. And because He is trustworthy, we can trust the Word He inspired and helps us to understand (see Matt. 5:18; John 10:35; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). And as we trust the Word and move forward in sharing the message God has given, we can have confidence that many will come to know and believe.”

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Hear the Word of the Lord!

Listening to God

I often hear people ask, “How do I know the Lord is speaking to me?” One of the greatest benefits to being a child of God is being able to hear God speak to us personally. There is no possibility of hearing God speak directly to us without a saving relationship with Him. Notice that I said being a child of God. There is no personal relationship with God without knowing Him as our heavenly Father. And that relationship is only possible through a personal relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

When you receive a phone call from a friend, how do know if its not a friend or family member playing a joke on you? Very simply it’s because you know them. You know them because you’ve spent time with them. You know how they talk or you know their mannerisms. You know the expressions they use, the tone of their voice, their inflection. It all comes with knowing them over the years. That’s the way it is with God, You know Him by His character, His nature, His interests, His joys and His hurts. You know Him by the way He interacts with your life. God is always inviting you to know more than just His voice. In fact, He invites you to know Him. What an opportunity to be close to God!

I’m reminded of the opportunity the prophet Elijah had in his encounter with God. It happened to be the lowest time in his life. In the book of 1 Kings 19:9 Elijah had come to a cave and decided to hide there and the word of the Lord came to him and He said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Exhausted and feeling sad, he replied to the Lord in verse 10 that he had done his best to obey Him and said,“the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Elijah was ready to call it quits and the Lord gave him a command that blew him away! He said in verse 11, “. . . Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” As he obeyed what the Lord told him, the Lord was passing by. But before Elijah could step out of the cave a horrific wind hit the side of the mountain shattering the rocks. The Lord wasn’t in the wind or even the fire that rained from heaven after that. I’m sure Elijah wondered what would happen next, a volcanic explosion!

But, instead in the still silence, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. He knew it was the Lord. He got up and stood at the opening of the cave and hid his face with his coat. At the end of verse 13 the voice of the Lord came to Elijah again and asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah responded the same as he had earlier and God gave him instructions in verses 15 -18 that he wasn’t the only one refusing to worship idols. There were 7,000 others who had not left God to follow Baal.

Notice that God whispered. To hear someone whisper, you need to be near him or her. Whispering doesn’t work very well if you’re speaking to someone who’s standing on the other side of the room. You see, God doesn’t want a long distance relationship; He wants a close, intimate one.

What you need to keep in mind is that God speaks in many different voices and if we have that close intimate relationship with Him, we know when it’s God speaking to us. The best way to hear God is to spend time reading His word, the Bible.

Do you have that kind of relationship with God? Do you want to have that intimate relationship with Him? You can and I can show you how. Just leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to tell you how.

Two Different Christs?

DiscipleshipBanner“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14)

A fellow student I worked with while attending Bible college was deep into evangelism and enjoyed sharing Christ regularly and at any opportunity that presented itself. Oftentimes he was quick to share with me the experience he had in sharing Christ with someone on the streets. It could have been the night before or a couple of days prior. Now, I enjoy sharing Christ also and love to hear testimonies about how someone came to know Jesus. However, my friend seemed to think it was rewarding to sort of brag about having led someone to Christ. I can understand his desire to share his evangelistic moments.

I have often wondered how many people have actually progressed from accepting Christ to discipleship. There is a misconception that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as our Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord, as long as we want to!

I believe this misconception has sprung up naturally from a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says about Christian discipleship and obedience. It is found in nearly all full gospel literature.

I think the following is a fair statement of what I was taught in my early Christian experience and it certainly needs a lot of modifying and a great many qualifiers to save us from being in error:

“We are saved by accepting Christs as our Saviour;

We are sanctified by accepting Christ as our Lord;

We may do the first without doing the second!”

The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in scripture. Peter makes it plain that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.”

It is a tragedy that we hear, “Come to Jesus!” Then later we hear, “Take Jesus as Lord!” The fact that we hear this everywhere does not make it right. To urge men and women to believe in two Christs is bad teaching for no one can take either or one without the other. We’re not saved by believing in an office nor in a work.

I have heard well-meaning workers say, “Come and believe on the finished work.” That work is not going to save you. The Bible does not tell us to believe in an office or a work, but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Person who has done that work and holds those offices.

Peter’s emphasis is on obedience among the scattered and persecuted Christians of his day.

The important thing to me here is that Peter speaks of his fellow Christians as “obedient children.” He did not command them to be obedient. On the contrary, he is assuming that they are believers, and therefore they are also obedient. So, as obedient children, they would do what is necessary.

I submit that obedience is taught throughout the entire Bible and that true obedience is one of the toughest requirements of the Christian life. Apart from obedience, there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility.

If God had made us humans to be mere machines we would not have the power of self-determination. But since He made us in His own image and made us to be moral creatures, He has given us that power of self-determination.

We do not have the right of self-determination because God has given us only the power to choose evil. Seeing that God is a holy God and we are moral creatures having the power but not the right to choose evil, no man has any right to lie.

Oh, we have the power to lie but no man has the right to lie. We have the power to steal—I could go out and get myself a better coat than the one I own. I could slip out through a side door and get away with the coat. I have that power, but I do not have that right!

More to the point, we only have the right to be good—we never have the right to be bad because God is good. We only have the right to be holy; we never have the right to be unholy. If we are unholy we are using a right that is not ours. Adam and Eve had no moral right to eat of that tree of good and evil, but they took it and usurped the right that was not theirs.

So how can we insist and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ can be our Saviour without being our Lord? How can we continue to teach that we can be saved without any thought of obedience to our Sovereign Lord?

Suppose I were to slip into a hospital and tell the staff, I need a blood transfusion or perhaps an X-ray of my gall bladder. After they have ministered to me and given me their services, do I just slip out of the hospital again with a cheery “Goodbye”—as though I owe them nothing and it was kind of them to help me in my time of need?

Now, that may sound like a grotesque concept to you, but it does pretty well draw the picture of those who have been taught that they can use Jesus as a Saviour in their time of need without owning Him as Sovereign and Lord and without owing Him obedience and allegiance.

The Bible never in any way gives us such a concept of salvation. Nowhere are we ever led to believe that we can use Jesus as a Saviour and not own Him as our Lord. He is the Lord and as the Lord He saves us, because He has all the offices of Saviour and Christ and High Priest and Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption! He is all of these things and all of these are embodied in Him as Christ the Lord.

My friend, we are not allowed to come to Jesus Christ as shrewd, clever operators saying, “We will take this and this, but we won’t take that!” We don’t come to Him as one buying furniture for a house and declare, “I will take this table, but I don’t want that chair,” as though we are wanting one Christ over a different Christ.

Absolutely not! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ! To the world—a Christ who does not need our apologies, one Christ over another Christ, one Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all!

Therefore, one who accepts Jesus as Saviour must also accept Him as Lord!