You Think but Do You Know for Sure?

 

 by

GH Herrin

 

Unlike all other religions, the Christian faith leaves no doubt as to whether you are going to Heaven or not. The religions of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Roman Catholicism hinge on doing good works to enter into Heaven.  Muslims believe that their good works are weighed against their bad works on the scales of Allah.  Roman Catholics believe that yes, Jesus had to die for their sins but they must be baptized, belong to a Roman Catholic church, hold to the working of the sacraments, and demonstrate good works as proof that they are saved to go to Heaven.

Any religion that is based on works or some combination of works and faith is in essence a dead end path. Biblical Christianity holds to a one-time event as the key activity that gets the believer to Heaven.  That event began with Justification – Jesus of Nazareth dying on the cross for mankind as a substitutionary atonement for sins. The second component of that event is repenting of sins and putting your faith in what Jesus did for you by taking the punishment that you deserve for your sins.

We talk to a lot of people who when asked if they think they are going to Heaven say, “I hope so, but don’t know for sure”. Let’s face it, life is way too short to not know for sure where you are going.  If your faith does not provide you certain knowledge of salvation, then, what good is it?

Merely believing that there is a God, is not enough, though. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Head knowledge is not sufficient. The natural order of God’s creation affirms that there is a creator, God.

The Bible provides a certain hope that salvation is found in no other being but the Messiah, Jesus.

Look at Acts 4:12 for example,

Paul writes, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Once cannot merely believe in God. One must believe on Him, and on His Son, Jesus who died as the only means to provide your forgiveness for the sins that you have committed.

“And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).

This is a sure faith, not one that is in doubt. But it is not dependent on your good works or anything that you have done.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephes. 2:8-9).

All you must do is repent and believe.

 

 

 

 

 

Where there was Wretchedness now there is Righteousness

 

by

GF Herrin

If God, through His spirit, has called you to Him and you have repented from your sins, put your faith in Jesus Christ and been born again, then you are in essence a new man or woman.

Paul writes, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

The Bible clearly says that when Jesus of Nazareth died as a substitutionary atonement for your sins He took the rap that you and I deserve.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

What also needs to be stressed, too, is that while He viewed you previously as a fallen sinner separated from Him, now the God of the universe views you a person clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

No matter what your past or whether you were a Jew or Gentile, if you are a believer, Jesus, your Lord,  has given you His righteousness.  “that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also” (Rom. 4:11). This word “imputed” means that you have been given Christ’s righteousness. Where previously you were dead in your sins and covered in the filthy rags of your sin and unrighteousness (Isa. 64:6), now, you are positionally clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  Where previously there was wretchedness, now there is righteousness!  That means that you can come to God , the Father, boldly in prayer and you are seen as clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Indeed, since God is holy and righteousness, sin and unrighteousness are an abomination to Him. He cannot allow you into Heaven and into His presence if you are dead in your sins.  If you try to enter into the kingdom by any way except by Jesus’ sacrifice or your sins, you will not be accepted.

Jesus tells a Wedding banquet parable that illustrates this point.

So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.  But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matt. 22:10-13).

So, no giving of tithes, no perfect church attendance, no praying 5 times a day toward Mecca, speaking in tongues, or doing good works will make you acceptable to God.  Only by the shed blood of Jesus and being clothed in His Righteousness will get you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eye on the End Times – September Signs

 

 by

GF Herrin

A lot has already been written in regard to possible signs appearing in the skies in September of this year.

As Christians  we are called to be ready for the Lord’s return.  From an early age as a Christian I have watched expectantly for the Rapture and the Messiah, Jesus’ Coming.  In my teens, I was heavily influenced by Hal Lindsay’s writings.  Clearly, we are called to be watchmen and to long for His appearance.

The Lord Jesus said, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them” (Luke 12:37).

We may not know what the signs of September 23rd (Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets) may portend.  Could it be the Rapture, the beginning of the 7 year Tribulation, or a coming war involving Israel? Or nothing at all? It is all speculative at this point.  But just as the Magi (Matt. 2:1-12), Simeon (Luke 2:25-32), and Anna (Luke 2:36-38) had information pointing to the Messiah’s first coming, it is reasonable to believe that there is information that we believers today may have to alert us to His soon return.

So, when I heard about the possible new way of looking at Revelation chapter 12, I was fascinated and excited.  There are various references that Christian brethren have on the internet that point to the signs in September as being a possible astronomical fulfillment of Revelation 12.

 

So, I would advise you to be discerning in pondering the meaning of these observations that many brethren have made. We are not to use stars, planets, the moon or sun to plan our day to day lives (that is Astrology). However, the Word does say that feasts (such as Rosh Hashanah and Passover) and signs in the heavens are indicators of Christ’s coming.  Please ask the Lord what these signs in the heavens mean and how you should prioritize your work for Him accordingly.

 

Revelation 12 Signs in the Heaven

https://youtu.be/dWnNI5Nv4EM

 

Discover Ministries

“It would behoove the church to wake up! The bridegroom is coming soon!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA6JcY-ikec

 

 

The Supernatural Power of Prayer

by

GF Herrin

Prayer is sometimes misunderstood in the Christian life. It is not merely a time to bring your requests to God. It is a time of communion with the Lord that enables the believer to connect with Him.  It is true that the Lord Jesus taught us how to pray when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).  But, true prayer that transforms the believer occurs when the sinner comes to a realization of his or her inadequacies and limitations and understands his total dependence on God in his life.

I had recently become overwhelmed by issues I was faced with in my day to day walk.  Job issues, family issues, and my ability to deal with them left me despondent and burdened. I was walking in my limited human strength instead of God’s strength.  But I finally came to a realization that I was not able to handle anything without His help.  The Lord brought to my mind some key texts in His word that put life in perspective for me.

If you feel overwhelmed and burdened by life’s struggles and feel that you alone must deal with your responsibilities, please remember that you are a created being whose existence is totally dependent on God’s creative work:

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7).

Remember that you did not start your life. God created you. In other words, you are a created being who is limited in your ability. You may feel that the world will spiral out of control if you don’t get your job, daily chores, errands, or other things that you deem important done today. But keep in mind, that unless the rapture occurs while you are alive, someday your life on earth will end and the world will go on without you.

Also, remember that you need to dedicate some time daily to ask for help and connect with the Lord. After all, even the Lord Jesus spent time praying daily putting the day’s events into the Father’s hands.

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Notice from Mark’s text that Jesus was alone. You need to be in some place where you are not distracted so that you can pray and hear the Lord’s voice in your heart or connect with Him spiritually in peace. Also, remember to confess any sins to the Lord.  Do not be afraid to bring your confession to the Lord Jesus because He is your advocate and high priest who is willing and able to forgive you.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:10-11).

So, when we come in prayer and turn away from our sins and turn to Jesus our burden is lightened.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

 

We become refreshed and the Holy Spirit invigorates us and gives us supernatural peace.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, (Acts 3:19).

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,  And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12).

Time of refreshing come to our souls when we connect with the Lord in prayer. Like living water, the spirit fills us with His strength and supernaturally refreshes us and nourishes us, enabling to withstand the challenges of the day. Commune with the Lord today so that you can be filled with joy and live for Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus’ Resurrection: Real Not Fake

by

GF Herrin

The certainty of Jesus’ Resurrection is paramount to the Christian faith. Recent skeptic/philosopher’s attempts to explain away the greatest miracle ever by saying the resurrection must have been a spiritual, existential,  or hallucinatory experience that the disciples all went through.

False scholars such as Rudolf Bultmann, who suggests that the resurrection of Christ was invented by His disciples or Bart Ehrmann,who casts doubts on the Gospel accounts, try to make people doubt the literalness of Jesus’ rising from the dead.

Some lines of thoughts from skeptics go this way:
It is highly improbable for a miracle to occur.
Since it is highly improbable that miracles occur, they probably do not.
Since miracles do not occur, the Resurrection of Christ did not occur either.

This line of thinking completely throws away the rare occurrences when miracles actually DO occur.
Since some skeptic theologians cannot believe in supernatural events, they must explain away the Resurrection as some kind of spiritual awakening or a hallucination that the disciples must have experienced.
However, we know from the written accounts of the New Testaments that Jesus’ resurrection was not a dream or apparition.  It was a physical, real resurrection in Christ’s glorified body.

Paul writes, “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 buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:3-7).

The fact that 500 people saw Christ in His resurrected body at once dispels any possibility of the sighting being some kind of hallucination. After all, how could 500 people experience the same hallucination at the same time?

Luke attests to the fact that Christ, in His Resurrection was not a ghost or spirit, but was physically real.

“’Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence”(Luke 24: -39 – 43).

Jesus could not have eaten food if He had only been a spirit\.  Therefore, He must have been physically resurrected.  The New Testament text shows Jesus’ Resurrection was real not fake. The 12 disciples and the others who saw Christ were unique in that they alone knew whether or not Christ had appeared to them after His death on the cross. That they were willing to die painful and horrible deaths for proclaiming the Resurrected Christ speaks to the truth of the event.  It was physical, and personal and it showed that His sacrifice for our sins was accepted by God the Father and we can take comfort in knowing we who believe in Him will be resurrected one day, too.

 

Convicted or Offended?

 

 by GF Herrin

    The more that I experience life and the more people that I talk to people about faith, the more I realize that there are two basic types of people in this world:  Those who become convicted and feel guilt for the sins that they have committed during their life journey, and those who are offended if you dare to suggest that they are sinners in need of redemption from God.  Whether it be a pedestrian who shouts, “I don’t want that “sh–”, when you try to hand him a Gospel tract or a young man in a Bus station who listens carefully when you kindly tell him the Gospel, the difference is clear.

The Bible illustrates this difference in types of people early on in the Scripture.  In Genesis chapter 4 we see the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:3 – 13). Cain, because he could not accept God’s discontent with his offering of vegetables or fruit as a tribute to God, got angry at his brother, Abel, whose animal sacrifice was accepted as worthy. So, Cain, instead of swallowing his pride and changing his offering to please God, chose to murder Abel.  He was envious of Abel and got angry instead of changing his behavior to conform to God’s expectations.

Another illustration showing the difference in people comes to us in the parable that the Lord shares in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 18:9 – 14).  Here we see a Pharisee who considers himself righteous and justified by his works (he proudly fasts and pays offerings to the Temple).  He even considers himself better than a simple man who is a tax collector and is at the Temple at the same time as the Pharisee.  However, the tax collector is a man who humbles himself to God and (without even looking up to pray) confesses that he is a “sinner” and asks for mercy.  Jesus makes the point that this contrite man will obtain mercy and forgiveness from God.

The apostle Paul’s dramatic conversion story paints the ultimate illustration of a man who responded to God and saw his need to change and turn his life over to Him.  Paul, before he got saved on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-8), was a Jewish Pharisee who thought he was following God’s will by persecuting, arresting and executing Christians.  When the risen Christ appeared to him, Paul knew he was wrong and had been persecuting Jesus, the God of the Universe by hunting down His church.  He turned away from his sins, got baptized, and became the pre-eminent leader of the Evangelistic movement of the new church and took the Gospel message to the Gentiles.

The Bible is clear.  Many will be offended when told that they need to change their lives and turn themselves away from sin and ask God for forgiveness.  However, there are two types of people: those who are offended by the message to turn away from sin and turn their lives over to Jesus Christ and those who are convicted and feel guilty of their sins and accept Jesus’ offer for a new life that is glorious and adventurous.

Which kind of person are you?

Living for God’s Glory Means Dying to Self

by GF Herrin

If you’re going to do anything for God’s kingdom you will soon realize that the results and even the strength to do it will come from God.  So, to be able to accomplish the things of God you need to decrease in your own human strength and walk in the power that of God.  Your inner human strength must decrease and God’s supernatural power must increase in your life.

This may be a tough concept to accept.  After all, we live in a culture and society that celebrates self and our strength to do anything that we set our mind to do.  Also, we live in a narcissistic society that glorifies “ self”.  Millions of people worldwide snap selfie pictures of themselves and post them on social media.  Some Facebook users update their friends hourly with status updates when they so much as leave the house. Countless people spend thousands of dollars on the latest fashions, or spend staggering  amounts of hours at the gym, or the salon to make themselves look beautiful.  In addition, many ask continuously before committing to a job, task, volunteer event, or other altruistic venture, “what’s in it for me?”

This is not the philosophy that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, lived out or preached.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

Paul encouraged others to follow Christ’s example:

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2 -3).

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Instead of possessing an attitude that focuses on how a venture might benefit us, we should instead have an attitude that asks, “What’s in it for God, or to the Gospel”? Or “how will this task benefit the Kingdom of God or bring Him glory”? When you become a Christian you put aside the claims to yourself. You may undergo a process of mourning or have a tendency to feel sorry for yourself when doing this. Do not embrace these feelings!  They are not from God, but from the enemy (see Matt. 16:23).  I am not telling you dying to self is an easy thing. Indeed, sometimes it is painful spiritually and even bodily. You may be in an unhappy marriage with an unbeliever and are the only one willing to stick with it no matter what. The world around you will say to bail but God’s Word says to stick it out and stay faithful to Him. Letting go of yourself for your physical  and spiritual sustenance, means holding onto Jesus, instead. The Lord may take you through several experiences in which you stop relying on yourself and begin relying on Him for your provisions. It is important to embrace the nature of Christ who loved you so much that He willingly died for your sins.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (1 Cor. 5:14-15).

The Uniqueness of Christ

 

by GF Herrin

Introduction

(A possible scenario in first century Greece)

Before he showed up, Maria had been like many others who lived in the city of Athens. She had grown up in a culture that worshipped many gods. Statues, idols, and altars that honored these gods were abundant throughout the city. Even the name of Athens came from the goddess Athena, daughter of Zeus.[1] The city was immersed in god mythology. Yet, there was one god that no one knew the name of. This unknown god was seemingly a catch all for all the gods that the people might have missed. At least, that is what Maria thought before she heard the stranger speak.

This stranger, Paul, had stood up in the middle of the Areopagus in Athens and had spoken to everyone within ear range about this “unknown god” (Acts 17:22-23). He spoke about this god as if he knew Him personally. This was a strange teaching that Maria had never heard before. She could not say that she ever knew any god personally. She only did what she was told and paid homage to these gods so that things would hopefully go well with her. Yet, despite all of her religious observances, Maria felt an emptiness or void in her life. That very day, she had wondered to herself if she would ever be able to fill that void. Then, Paul showed up and spoke wonderfully of a different kind of god. His teaching on God’s character traits included the following: 1) Personal Nature; 2) Pre-existence; a) Old Testament; b) New Testament 3) Perfection; 4) Passion; 5) Conclusion.

 

Personal Nature

            It has been said that the best way to understand a person is to consider things from his point of view and to “climb in his skin and walk around in it.”[2] Also, in order to communicate with someone most effectively one must talk with that person directly. Christian apologist and writer, Josh McDaniel, uses an analogy of a farmer who is in the process of plowing his field and encounters an ant hill in the middle of it. The farmer, because he cares about ants, tries yelling to them to warn them that unless they move out of the way they will be plowed under. Finally, the farmer realizes that the only way to really reach out to the ants is to become one of them.[3]

In a similar way, God throughout the ages, repeatedly sent his prophets to speak for Him, warning mankind to repent from sin and turn back to Him. Finally, God sent His son to walk among them and to speak for Him (Heb. 1:1-2). It is not enough to understand Jesus as someone who was merely sent to communicate with mankind, though. It is essential to understand that Jesus is the God-man who graciously came from Heaven in order to save His creation.

In considering Paul’s writings, the reader comes to understand Jesus’ eternal nature and His selfless act to leave His rightful place as King in Heaven. Phil. 2:5-8 is a key Christological passage that gives insight into God’s incarnation as a man. From this passage, the reader understands that Christ made a willful decision to empty Himself and to live among the humans He had created. In leaving Heaven, Jesus set an example for others by becoming a bond servant to live a life of selflessness. In a sense, Christ lived out the passage, “Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it” (Matt. 16:25). By losing His life He found it (in the resurrected state) and was glorified and exalted for His faithfulness.

Being fully God and fully human, Christ experienced hunger, pain, fatigue, sickness, disappointment, oppression, vulnerability, and also the fleeting nature of life. He was not content to be distant from mankind either physically or spiritually. Not unlike the farmer who was concerned for the ants’ welfare, Christ was intent on doing everything He could to reach out to them, even if it meant taking the form of an ordinary man and ultimately dying on the cross.

This God in the flesh concept must have been very foreign to first century Gentiles living in Athens and the Roman Empire. The empire’s inundation with gods in the form of inanimate objects must have obscured the idea of a relationship with a personal God. Similarly, today, religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims struggle to understand a God who would humble Himself and take the form of a man. Muslims may believe that God can speak to man through messengers, but they do not believe that God has taken the form of a man. However, Christian pastor and apologist, Erwin Lutzer, writes, “Christianity asserts not only that God has spoken through messengers, but that He Himself became the messenger. The message and the messenger have become the same person.”[4]

It is important to note that Scripture is not ambiguous regarding Christ’s dual nature. There is no debating that He is fully man and fully God. Colossians.1:15 and 2:9 are clear on this point. Colossians 1:15 can be understood to say that if one has seen Jesus, then he has seen God.

 

Colossians 2:9 clearly states that all of the fullness of God dwells in the form of Christ. So, by nature, even though, He is fully man, Jesus still possesses all of the qualities of God.

As God, Christ is perfect and without flaw. But as man He has experienced weakness of the flesh and attacks from the enemy and still resisted the urge to give in to sin. Does this make Him more personal or able to relate to His children? It would seem so. At the very least, a believer today who undergoes tribulation can draw strength in knowing that Jesus did not cave in but kept persevering until the end. These experiences that Christ went through give Him more firsthand knowledge (for want of a better expression) of His follower’s challenges and make Him a powerful and wise “Helper” in any situation that a believer may face. It is reasonable to suggest that these real life experiences make Jesus seem much more personal.

Pre-existence

            There are several Scripture references from both the Old and New Testament that bear witness to Christ’s pre-existence before He came to earth as a baby. They must be examined to truly understand the eternal and unending nature of the Son. These instances show Christ’s interaction with people and His revealing of Himself as God prior to His incarnation. As Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Old Testament

It is very apparent that the pre-incarnate Christ is referenced in several Old Testament passages that refer to the Lord appearing in human form. In Genesis 18:1, when three visitors come to see Abraham and Sarah, Moses writes, “Now the Lord appeared to him” (Abraham). Verse two states, “Three men were standing opposite him”. In verse three, Abraham addresses one of the men as “My Lord”. It seems likely that two of the visitors being referred to are angels and the third man is the pre-incarnate Christ. Abraham singles out the third visitor, calling Him, “my Lord” and apparently realizes that He is talking to God in the flesh. In fact, in chapter 18, Abraham goes on to refer to the third visitor as “Jehovah” nine more times.

In another instance, in Joshua 5 (verses 13-15), the man who appears with a sword is called “my Lord”, receives worship, and instructs Joshua to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. The man refers to himself as “captain of the host of the Lord.” The Lord also instructs Moses to remove his sandals after God has “come down” (Exod. 3:7) from Heaven to speak to Moses in person before delivering His people from the Egyptians. The Lord is referred to initially as “the Angel of the Lord” when He appears before Moses in the burning bush.

There are actually several appearances of the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament that are likely manifestations of the pre-incarnate Christ. This Angel is referred to as “Lord” in several passages including: Genesis 16:7, 22:11; Judges 6:11-23, 13:3-22; Zechariah 3:1-2. What is especially significant about the passage in Judges 13:8 is that the Angel of the Lord refers to His name as “wonderful”, which is the same word used in Isaiah 9:6, which prophetically says regarding Jesus’ name, “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God”. In an amazing example of the consistency and integrity of Scripture, the Angel of the Lord reveals His name to Manoah and it is the very same name used to describe the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The Angel of the Lord’s appearances are only found in the text of the Old Testament Scriptures, prior to the Incarnation. This makes perfect sense, considering Christ’s ultimate identity was not as Angel but as the Redeemer of mankind. Christian apologist and author, Ron Rhodes, reasons, “There is no other way to explain the Angel’s complete inactivity among human beings in New Testament times unless he is recognized as continuing his activity as God-incarnate – that is, Jesus Christ.”[5] In other words, having revealed Himself to mankind as God in the flesh, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ (formerly known as the Angel of the Lord) is now known to everyone by His human name.

New Testament

There are several passages in the New Testament that point to the pre-existence or eternal nature of Christ. Perhaps the best known passages were written by the Apostle John who describes Jesus’ incarnation when he states, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Paul’s Christological passages also point to the pre-existence or eternal nature of Christ. One passage, Colossians 1:16-17, gives evidence to Christ’s presence at the beginning of creation. Verse 16 says, “All things have been created through and for Him”. Verse 17 says, regarding Christ, “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” So, not only was Christ present at creation, everything was created by Him and through Him. Logically, then, Christ could not have been a created being if He was the creator in the beginning.[6]

Another passage that attests to Christ’s pre-existence, is Ephesians 1:4, which states that Christ’s work in choosing His adopted children began even before the world was created. This verse implies that Christ had foreknowledge of all events to come throughout all time. Again, this foreknowledge implies His pre-existence. If Christ chose His followers ahead of time, He must have existed before the events in time took place.

Philippians 2:6 also points to Christ’s pre-existent nature prior to His mission on Earth. Christ “existed in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6) before being born to Mary. Christ’s pre-existence begs the question, how can one pre-exist before He is born on earth? Being fully God, Christ’s existence is not confined by space or time. He can appear anywhere and anyplace He chooses. It could be suggested that time is almost like a tapestry that is laid out for the eternal Christ to place Himself. After all, He is the creator of time itself, and as such, is also its master.

Unlike Christ, who stated “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58), no other major leader of another religion has claimed to have pre-existed before he was incarnated. Of course, classical Hinduism holds to the belief that a soul will be reincarnated over and over into different manifestations depending on how virtuous the human owner has been.[7] However, Hinduism does not have a pre-existent God-man who was known to have appeared physically over thousands of years and later came to be born of a woman. Hinduism also does not have a leader who died on the cross, was physically resurrected and appeared to five hundred observers at once (1 Cor. 15:6).

Perfection

            Another characteristic that distinguishes Jesus Christ from other gods or leaders of world religions, is His perfection. Neither Buddha, nor Mohammed claimed to be sinless. Practicing Muslims observe the Five Pillars and Five Duties of faith in order to live what many consider to be a good life.[8] Buddhists teach their followers to practice the Four Noble Truths and to follow the “Middle Way” which teaches the avoidance of extremes.[9] Both religions are clearly works based, and one’s enlightenment, or entry into Paradise is dependent on how moral a life the follower lives.

The Christian’s reward or eternal destination, on the other hand is solely dependent on the finished work on the cross carried out by the Lord Jesus Christ. One must make a conscious turn away from sin, put his faith in Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior and be born again to be reconciled to God. In essence, though, the forgiveness of one’s sins is solely dependent on the sinless perfect sacrifice that Jesus made for the believer. Salvation is not dependent on works but faith in Christ as the only way to Heaven.

The whole concept of the payment for sin originates from the sacrificial rites of the Jews during the Temple period and earlier. Abel presented a slain lamb before God as an offering (Gen. 4:4) and the Lord accepted it. Cain, on the other hand, presented fruit from his labor (Gen. 4:3, 5) and the offering was rejected. So, it is with any attempted payment for sins by works of mankind. In order for Him to be the Lamb of God (John 1:31), the propitiation for mankind’s sins, Christ Himself had to be perfect: sinless and without blemish (Exod. 12:5).

            Ephesians 1:7 describes the result of Christ’s sinless blood sacrifice for mankind. Redemption is dependent on God’s gracious offering of His Son for the forgiveness of sins. 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes the justification that takes place. In essence, Christ’s perfect sinless nature is deposited to the forgiven sinner’s account. Christ’s perfect righteousness is exchanged for the believer’s ugly sinful condition. Jesus became sin on the cross and paid the penalty due. As a result, the believer is no longer viewed by God as condemned, but instead has a positional relationship of righteousness, having benefited from Christ’s payment for his sin debt.

            In considering Christ’s sinless perfection one cannot help but wonder if it were possible that He could have sinned. Being God, who is perfectly righteous and holy in nature, could Christ have been tempted while he walked the earth and given in to temptation? There are various views on this subject among scholars. On the one hand, there is the view of peccability which holds to the belief that Christ being fully man as well as being fully God could have sinned. On the other hand, there is the view of impeccability which says that Christ could not have sinned. Whether He sinned or not is not in question since both viewpoints hold to Christ’s unblemished perfection. Those of the impeccable view believe that the divine nature of Christ would have made it impossible for Christ to sin, though.[10]

John Walvoord, scholar, author, and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, presents a careful examination of both viewpoints. He states that unlike an average human, the divine Christ would have only been subject to temptation from outside sources (Satan) and not from within Himself.[11] Did He undergo temptation? Yes, the Bible is clear that He did. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a highpriestwhocannotsympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in allthings as we are, yet withoutsin.” This passage suggests that Christ’s undergoing temptation actually helps Him to sympathize with the experiences and weaknesses of believers.

A specific temptation experience of Christ is described in Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:13, and Luke 4:2. It is clear from these passages that Christ is tempted directly by Satan in the wilderness yet does not sin. Yet, perhaps His greatest moments of temptation, Walvoord suggests, are in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary.[12] Imagine a perfect, holy and righteous man undergoing the judgment for sins that He never committed. Imagine the separation from the Father that He likely felt. Would He have been tempted to not undergo His hour of tribulation? It seems reasonable to say yes.

That Christ would be tempted does not mean He was capable of sin. Walvoord uses an analogy of a row boat attacking a battleship. Just because the row boat can attack the battleship does not mean that it can be successful in defeating it.[13] Logically, because of Christ’s human nature He had a vulnerability to be tempted by sin. However, His divine nature would always prevent Him from sinning. Walvoord writes, “If it is unthinkable that God could sin in eternity past, it must also be true that it is impossible for God to sin in the person of Christ incarnate. The nature of His person forbids susceptibility to sin.”[14] Indeed, His is the nature of perfection.

Passion

            To suggest that Christ came into the world to merely be a good teacher, man, prophet or inspirational leader is the ultimate insult to Him. Without a doubt, teaching, being virtuous, prophesying and inspiring others was achieved by Him. However, His main purpose was to come to die as a payment for sin and reconcile men and women to God. As Paul writes, “It is a trustworthystatement, deservingfullacceptance, that ChristJesuscame into the world to savesinners, among whom I amforemost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). This verse affirms that Christ knew all about His purpose in the world and embraced His mission. The common misconception among unbelievers is that Christ was a victim who deserves pity for being crucified. Yes, He was an innocent victim, of course. However, Christ in His foreknowledge knew the incredible results of His sacrifice for mankind’s sins on the cross. As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joysetbefore Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has satdown at the righthand of the throne of God.”

Another misconception or de-emphasized point regarding Christ’s sacrifice for sins is the absolute passion that He must have felt in regard to His work. In regard to Christ, Paul writes, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Christ, who was willing to be scourged, mocked, spat on, and brutally hung from a tree must have been passionate in His desire to bring redemption to sinners. This passion and love are in turn felt by His graciously forgiven children. Paul, in a heartfelt, yet simple statement says, “The life which I nowlive in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gaveHimself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Christ was passionate for not only the blatant sinners (who understood their condition), but he was also passionate for all of the legalists of the day. Many of the Jews who filled the city of Jerusalem in Christ’s first advent and today have believed themselves to be good people who have tried to follow the Law. They were and still are trying to live moral lives in hope that they will be good enough to get to Heaven. Christ came to set them free from all of the legalistic bondage that leaves their hearts unchanged. Although many Jews have not recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the offer for forgiveness from Christ is a strong one: “He made you alivetogether with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decreesagainst us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Coll. 2:13-14).

Passion is good, but so is reason. Systematic reasoning such as Greek philosophy is actually valuable in evaluating the logic and value of arguments with respect to what is valid. For example, many views of the Greek philosopher, Plato, are consistent with Christian ideas and are actually helpful in defending Christianity. Some of the beliefs that Plato had include: Moral absolutes, Immortality (spiritually), A Life beyond this one, The inborn capacity for reasoning, and Proofs for God.[15] However, several Platonic views are inconsistent with Christian beliefs including: Belief in a finite God, Reincarnation, Humanism, and Anthropological dualism.[16]

Another figure who is often portrayed as being a deep thinker is Confucius, who lived in China in the mid 400s BC. Confucius was an educated man who did not fall in line with the ritual ancestral worship of his time. He wrote the book, I Ching, which was used for spiritual direction based on divination with casting sticks and line patterns that matched up with commentary or advice. Confucius taught an ethical system that he thought would help society. However, it was not based on the belief in a single God.[17]

The portrayals of philosophers such as Plato and Confucius draw many to think that they possessed an incredible power for wisdom and sound decision making. However, they were still simply men and did not possess any definitive answers for the life that lies beyond the grave. God has a different viewpoint of the wisdom of the world. Paul writes regarding the worldly wise, “For the wisdom of thisworld is foolishnessbeforeGod. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Cor. 3:19).

Even though the many teachers or leaders of various religions are looked upon as wise, they did not demonstrate the passion that Christ possessed. Who among these religious leaders felt so passionate about his followers that he was willing to live a sinless guiltless life only to die an excruciating death for them? Christianity is unique in its view that blood atonement (since Jews do not presently carry out the sacrificial rites of the Torah) alone pays for redemption. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been savedthroughfaith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

How should believers react to the passionate gift of Christ’s redemption? In a non-Pauline passage, Peter, emphasizing that the blood sacrifice of Christ should not be taken lightly, warns believers that they should be “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishablethings like silverorgold from your futileway of lifeinherited from your forefathers, but with preciousblood, as of a lambunblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Similarly, Paul writes, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). Clearly, from these passages the message can be understood that believers should be just as passionate in their reaction to Christ’s redemption for their sins as the Lord was in carrying out His work on the cross to justify them.

Conclusion

Maria considered carefully the words of the Apostle Paul. As he spoke she considered the many unique characteristics of this “unknown god”. Unlike the gods she had seen statues or likenesses of this God seemed personal. As Paul spoke she felt as if this God was intimately familiar with her life. Indeed, the words Paul spoke concerning this God, struck a chord when he said that all of mankind was placed carefully in time and place so “that they would seekGod, ifperhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from eachone of us” (Acts 17:27). Even now, Maria had the feeling that her thoughts earlier in the day had been preparing herself for the message that Paul spoke to her.

Maria also felt drawn to this God who was willing to leave His heavenly abode and lower Himself to become a simple, humble, and poor man. After all, she had seen rich people in her city that had such high opinions of themselves that they looked down upon her as if she were common trash. Yet, this God, who was supremely rich and powerful, seemed contrite in spirit and very approachable and intimate. Paul’s intimate knowledge of God was something that Maria could not ever conceive of having.

Also, one of the major differences with this God was that everyone seemed to be invited to listen to Paul speak as he reached out to those around him. She had met Jews before and many of them seemed legalistic and unapproachable. This Jes seemed different in that he did not avoid associating with the Gentiles around him. As a matter of fact, Paul seemed to welcome questions from these people and seemed open to women listening to him speak, also. Paul spoke to everyone in the same way, emphasizing that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Paul also emphasized the differences between His God and the ones found in Athens, saying that all religions except Christianity involved men and women performing works or following the Law to earn their way to Heaven. Paul emphasized God’s gracious gift of Christ dying for mankind’s sins and how He wanted a personal relationship with everyone. Furthermore, he stressed that Christ was God in the flesh who had come to reconcile man to Him. Paul also stressed that Christ knew from the beginning of time who would be adopted into His family. He stressed that Christ’s blood sacrifice had been successful and this was proven by the fact that He had been physically resurrected and appeared to many afterward.

Then, Paul emphasized that these things he spoke of were “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26). Paul shouted, “God has chosen the foolishthings of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weakthings of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Cor. 3:19). He also said, unlike many things that were for sale in Athens, this salvation was free and that today if she heard His voice she should repent and be saved. Maria stepped forward and in her mind made a conscious effort to turn away from sin, ask God for forgiveness, and invite Jesus to be the Lord and savior of her life. Then, suddenly she experienced incredible joy and life began anew.

FOOTNOTES

[1]Kenneth C. Davis, Don’t Know Much About Mythology (New York: Harper Collins), 204.

[2]Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rev. ed.(New York: Harper Collins, 1999), 33.

[3] Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 296.

[4]Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ Among Other Gods (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 99.

[5]Ron Rhodes, Christ Before The Manger (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 87.

[6]John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 24-25

[7]Michael A. Harbin, To Serve Other Gods (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994), 104.

[8]Ibid., 173.

[9] Ibid., 123, 128.

[10]Walvoord, 145.

[11]Ibid., 146.

[12]Ibid., 149.

[13]Ibid., 147.

[14]Ibid., 151.

[15]Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 594-595.

[16]Ibid., 595.

[17]Harbin, 148-149

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davis, Kenneth C. Don’t Know Much about Mythology.New York: Harper Collins.

Geisler, Norman LBaker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999.

Harbin, Michael A. To Serve Other Gods.Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Rev. ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1999.

Lutzer, Erwin W. Christ Among Other Gods.Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

Rhodes, Ron. Christ before the Manger. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992.

Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969.

 

Jesus’ Atonement for Sins – in View from the Beginning

 By GF Herrin

As part of my 2016 reading plan, Monday is my day to read from the Book of Genesis. I am amazed at how many key Bible verses come at the beginning of the book. The concept of sacrificial atonement in particular is actually presented early in the book. Thus, the foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah and God-Man, Jesus Christ begins early in the book.

In chapter 3, Adam and Eve commit the Original Sin by choosing to eat fruit from the forbidden tree (Gen. 3:6). Now, you may ask, “Why was eating fruit from the tree such a big deal?” Well, this act was a willful decision by Adam and Eve to not believe that God knew what was best for their lives. Instead, they believed that they knew what was best for them and acted on that thought accordingly. Humankind has been making similar decisions ever since.

After Adam and Eve sin, they try to hide their nakedness by wearing coverings made of fig leaves (Gen. 3:7). God in turn provides them clothes made of tunics of skin (Gen. 3:21) sewn from animal sacrifices made to atone for their sins.

In chapter 4, Cain and Abel bring sin offerings to the Lord. Cain offers crops grown in the fields which are refused (Gen. 4:3). Abel offers animal sacrifices (Gen. 4:4) which are accepted. The idea, then, is presented early on in the Old Testament narrative that sin causes death (spiritual – see Gen. 2:17) and physical (animals must be killed to make a blood offering to atone for the sin committed). So begins a very important typology which ultimately points to the coming of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who came to die for mankind’s sins (John 1:35-36).

We also see in chapter 3 the earliest messianic prophecy in the Bible, which foretells of this ultimate sacrifice for sins that Jesus made for us on the cross and the strife and animosity that will be present between God’s children and the Enemy, the Devil: And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen. 3:15).

Ultimately, Jesus’ sacrifice for sins on the cross and victory over death crushed the head of the enemy even though he had attempted to bruise his heel in crucifixion. Barton Payne writes, “Christ rendered Satan powerless, broke the fear of death in which he held mankind (Heb. 2:14-15), and by His passion and particularly at His ascension, cast him down from Heaven (John 12:31;Rev. 12:9-10); (in this age), the church crushes him under foot (Rom. 16:20); in the millennium , Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:1-3); and after its expiration, he will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10)” (J. Barton Payne, The Encyclopedia of Biblical prophecy, 158).

The Importance of Biblical Inerrancy and its Relationship to the Resurrection

 

 By GF Herrin

Shortly after moving to Charlotte, my wife, daughters and I joined a small Lutheran church (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). We had enjoyed the worship style, knew some folks who belonged there, and liked its close proximity to where we lived. In the new members class, though, after reading several passages from a King James Version of the Old Testament, the pastor lost me. He said, “remember that this is the Hebrew Bible and we can’t necessarily assume accounts like Jonah and the whale and other passages are literally true.” I struggle to recall what I said to the pastor in response, but the gist of the experience is that I instantly responded in a negative way, bringing up the points that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and central to our faith.

The Inerrancy of God’s word is a central point of the Christian faith. The reason it has been questioned in recent years is because there are teachers or so called scholars such as Bart Ehrman, John Shelby Spong, or Rudolf Bultmann whose teachings have been clouded by either anti-supernaturalist beliefs or   (in Spong’s case) a pro homosexual agenda . These teachers have long possessed a view that not the Bible is not literally true yet they have claimed to be Christians. But this begs the question that if you throw out part of the Bible as not true which part do you keep? If you doubt the authenticity of the Scriptures and discount the fact that the vast majority of the 12 apostles died for their faith in the Resurrection of Christ, how can you be assured that Christ from the dead? And if you can’t believe that Christ rose from the dead how can you believe that your sins were paid for on the Cross by Him?

One of the Books I am reading early in my 2016 Bible reading plan is the Book of Romans. In Romans, Paul writes of the importance of understanding the physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ :

“Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. “ (Romans 1:3-4)

Notice that Paul emphasizes that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the fact that He was resurrected from the dead. This is an important point to understand. Jesus’ life, ministry, and sacrifice on the cross were declared as worthy by the occurrence of His physical resurrection. Think of this incredible event. Even after the soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear to confirm His death (John 19:34), Even after His lifeless body was laid in a clean linen cloth (Matt. 27:59). Even after Christ’s body was laid in the tomb (Matt. 27:60). Even after a large stone was rolled in front of his tomb which was also sealed (Matt. 27:60 & 66), Christ was resurrected! God the Father accepted God the son’s payment for sins with His life and the Resurrection of Christ is evidence of that.

 

So how should we born again believers in Jesus live in response to the Death and Resurrection of Christ?

Paul writes,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:16-18).

 

We should not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ but should be encouraged by it. The death and resurrection of Christ reveals God’s righteousness. Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrates that only a sinless sacrifice could buy each of us sinners grace and forgiveness. Nothing else would do! No animal sacrifices, no good works, no tithes or monetary offerings will pay the huge sin debt each of us would has to atone for. Jesus’ horrible death on the cross demonstrates that it was necessary to buy us our freedom. If it wasn’t necessary, why else would He have died for us?

 

Also, we need to make a concerted effort every day to live in righteousness. Paul mentions that our unrighteousness behavior actually suppresses the truth. So, if we are careless in living and sinning then those acts suppress God’s truth of a changes life. Not only is unrighteousness a demonstration of the unsaved condition of people, it is a bad witness for the forgiven sinner. So, if you are struggling with a besetting sin, remember that another reason to stay away from that addiction or habit is to make sure you demonstrate God’s truth by keeping away from that sin. Glorify the Lord in living righteously!