Keeping It Simple… The Gospel isn’t complicated

The Gospel isn’t complicated. It’s easy to understand. Children can grasp it. Still, the good news that God shares with us in the Bible will be rejected by more people than those who will accept it.

People like to complicate

Left to their own devices, many people will complicate any topic. The Israelites took 10 commandments from God and created 613 rules and regulations. Every aspect of life came under the Law of Moses. The prophets came along and added to the mix. Religion was born.

Now there is nothing wrong with having religion. Certainly not. But religion and the Gospel are two different things. Religion dictates what man must do to be acceptable to God. The Gospel is what God did to make man acceptable to Him.

Those 613 laws were boiled down to one statement–

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not parish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus offered a clarifying statement when he said,

I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

He told the people that all of the law was still very much in force, but He was the one who would fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the law, so people who put their trust and faith in Him would be forever accepted into God’s family.

When I was a small child, I received a vaccination for polio. My parents didn’t know anything about the years that went into the development of the vaccine, or the science behind it, but they trusted that it would prevent the dreaded disease.

The law is impossible to follow. Every living human being has broken a commandment. The trouble is, Jesus said if you break one, you’ve broken them all. Breaking a commandment is sin, and the Apostle Paul wrote that

the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23)

So what’s the point? The point is simple– the law, the 10 Commandments, points us to Christ. Jesus did not sin. He paid the full price. That is an amazing statement. He fulfilled all of the requirements so that anyone who believes in Him will be guaranteed heaven. We can’t, He can.

It’s simple, straight forward and easy, at least on the surface. Paul said “all have sinned,” which can be a sticking point for some, who do not believe in sin and do not believe they have committed any transgression worthy of an eternal punishment. But he adds,

the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Those who acknowledge their sinfulness, big or small, and accept the gift of life through faith in Jesus, are welcomed with open arms, no strings attached. Jesus said,

I am the way the truth and the life. Nobody goes to the Father except by me.” ( John 14:6 )

In other words, there is no back door into heaven and no other way to satisfy God. It’s simple enough, yet so many choke on the idea that they have sinned. Call it pride, or maybe they just don’t understand, I have known some that seem incapable of understanding the simplest things of God. They scoff, they mock and completely dismiss the entire message of the Bible.

The Gospel offers salvation by grace and faith

There are many religions, but only one offers salvation by grace through faith. Christianity stands alone, completely alone. Judaism is the closest, and many Jewish people have accepted Jeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leadership. It was the same during the time of Christ.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the simple things. If you make up a religion and make it complicated, you just may find some followers. But God and the Gospel offer you a simple, straight forward invitation. Believe in My Son. Jesus gave Himself so you could live. He paid your debt in full… Simple.

Forgiveness Is Essential

Forgiveness is essential! What is the different between mercy and justice? Well, mercy is what we want when we do something wrong. Justice is what we want when somebody else does something wrong to us.

A very important element in navigating the difficult trail of balancing mercy and justice is understanding the events from God’s perspective. Our heavenly Father takes an eternal perspective on all of these matters and He introduces an essential—forgiveness.

We are called to forgive each other

First we’ll look at what God says about our relationship with each other.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Secondly, with mercy and justice in mind, we then look at forgiveness and it’s impact our relationship with God. We must first understand that sin, any sin, is highly offensive to God, who clearly established His laws and pathway to heaven. Before we seek “justice” or a corrective measure, we need to consider our own actions.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Mathew 7:5)

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:12)

We ALL need forgiveness

Forgiveness is a major issue. We all need forgiveness and to receive that forgiveness we need to confess our sins to God.

Repent means to turn away, to choose another direction. There are many ways of seeking God’s direction. That is why Roman Catholics go to confession. The Bible does not say you have to go to a priest to confess, you can go directly to God.

Jesus said that when there are two or more gathered together in His name, there He will be also. Our relationship with God is personal, so confessing sins, seeking forgiveness and repenting is clearly about us and God, but we are also encouraged to confess our sins one to another.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Confession can be to another believer

It doesn’t say confess to a priest. Confession, or coming clean, to another believer is adequate. We cannot give each other absolution.

Two people, coming together for prayer and confession is a power enough. The Holy Spirit is with them, Jesus is with them and God is listening. Forgiveness is essential.

Absolution comes from God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, to us. Interestingly, the Jewish priests in the time of Jesus’ life with us, got angry when Jesus would forgive sins, because they understood, and quite correctly, that only God can forgive sins. We can forgive each other for actions, but only God can forgive and remove sin.

Before forgiveness from God, comes repentance, the sincere desire to turn away and go another direction. Repentance is the first step in being shown mercy. God, being faithful and just, will render a perfect verdict.

Our forgiveness comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. The forgiveness from Christ wipes the slate clean and our sins will not be remembered against us.

This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Like 24:47)

Forgiveness is powerful

Forgiveness is powerful. But understand that forgiveness is as much about the person forgiving, perhaps even more than the person being forgiven. People may say that they don’t want your forgiveness. Forgive anyway.

If a person is badly harmed, carrying the bitterness around is a heavy burden. The person who harmed them maintains control over them. If people can just let go and let God handle it, they are much better off. Forgiveness cleanses us and most importantly, frees us.

What is prayer?

To some it’s a ritual. To others it may be a senseless activity, like talking to the wall. Or it may be a cry for help. Actually, what is prayer?… Prayer is simply talking to God. Because God is an individual being who desires to have a relationship with us, prayer takes on a whole new dimension.

If you’re not sure what prayer is all about don’t be discouraged. Neither did Jesus’ disciples. They had been following Him for some time, but finally got around to asking Him how they should pray. He gave a very simple answer. There are two slightly different versions in the New Testament, one in Matthew and a shorter version in Luke.

He said to them, “When you pray, say:“‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4)

This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

Jesus gave us a model for how we should pray

What Jesus gave them (and us) was a model. He did not intend for this to be the only way to pray, as that would stifle any genuine meaning and make it a ritual. Imagine a small child crawling up onto mommy’s knee or daddy’s knee. The child cuddles with the parent and starts telling him about the events of the day and makes requests. The parent lovingly listens and will either grant the request, deny the request, or tell the child to wait.

On another day, Jesus was talking about the sincerity of prayer and which prayers His heavenly Father would listen to, or reject.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance.

He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Our heart must be right as we pray

The tax collector was repentant, confessed and asked God for forgiveness. His heart was in the right place. That is the key. Come clean with God and hold nothing back. There are those today who boast of their piety, knowledge and standing in the church. The reaction that Jesus had to the pharisee and the tax collector is the same today as it was then.

Praying, therefore, is talking to your daddy. It doesn’t have to be flowery prose. It doesn’t have to be long. Boasting has no meaning, just sincerity. God wants you to talk to Him. But do so with a measure of respect. Acknowledge who He is and praise Him for being the one who created you, sustains you and will open the gates of His Kingdom to you.

Jesus opens the way to God

It is through Jesus that we have access to God the Father. Jesus is our one and only intercessor. Our accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior opens the gates and we are allowed to ask God for help.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

After all, believers are His children and are joint-heirs with Christ our Lord.

Does God Care About Me?

Does God Care? With the intelligence and reasoning ability that God gave us, we should reasonably assume that in any challenging situation we can anticipate trouble, form a solution and execute a game plan. However, when you are up to your neck in alligators, it’s often difficult to remember that your original objective was to drain the swamp.

People usually have a hard time accepting their own responsibility for the troubles that befall them.

We often blame God

Jesus said that in this life we will have trouble, but why is it that every time trouble comes we ask “why did God do this to me?”

God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He gave the promised land to them. He gave them His own Son to die on the cross to forgive their and our sins. He gives us ETERNAL life!

Why do we think God doesn’t love us? It’s amazing how our memory fails us. Our own arrogance and pride leads us in the wrong direction.

We push God away

Look at the world today. Trust and faith in the one, true God has been replaced by humanism. Our reason, our desires and our faulty reasoning push God aside and bring chaos.

We are led to believe that God has abandoned us, that He doesn’t care. This is simply not true, but if you tell a lie long enough and loud enough, sooner or later people will believe it, no matter how absurd it is. Political parties use this tactic and have done so for centuries. How did the Nazi Party come to power in 1932? Tell the lie. It’s a classic playbook.

Well intentioned people try to solve major problems with their own meager resources. Before taking action they fail to consult with God for wisdom and direction. What makes sense to man is more often than not just another bad choice that God wants to prevent.

He could easily stop all the nonsense, but to do so would require Him to remove free will. We make our own bed.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

Ask God for direction

Do we really come to God and ask His direction? When Jesus and His disciples were ministering to a large crowd, Jesus told His crew to feed them. They thought this was a terrible idea. They had no money to buy food. That’s when a young boy came to them with five loaves of bread and two fish.

There were 5,000 men there, not counting women and children. God fed all of them with bread and fish to spare.

We have free will to make choices

God gave us a free will to make our own decisions. So often those choices are bad, even fatal. God allows us to make those choices. If it were otherwise, the free will would exist and we would be under dictatorial and authoritarian rule. We would have no choice at all.

People make bad choices, like to rob or kill. We tell lies. We cheat. Some people make bad choices and do bad things in the name of God. “God told me to do this.” They take the Word of God and use it to their own, personal advantage. In our minds, we are justified.

In God’s eyes we are sinners and, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3;23). Paul would later write, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

God DOES care!

In spite of ourselves, God does care about us and proved that when He allowed His own Son to go to the cross and offer His life for our sins.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:9-13)

God’s love is mentioned over 650 times in the Bible. In fact, the mysterious number 666, associated with the “mark of the beast” in the book of Revelation, is the exact number of times. God’s 666 is far more powerful than Satan’s.

It Was All By Design

The signs and miracles of Christ we read about in the New Testament are not just random acts, but carefully orchestrated events taking place on specific days for specific reasons. It was all by design from creation through Pentecost. Every major event in the life of Jesus happened on a Jewish holiday, and is foretold in the Old Testament.

What we know as Easter Sunday is the second day of Passover, known as the feast of First Fruits. On that day the priest would go to the field, cut off some of the crop and take it to the temple, where he would make an offering to God.

According to Jewish tradition, if there was a good first fruits offering that meant the harvest would be good. It is significant that Christ rose on that particular day. The Apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the “first fruits” from among the dead.

If Christ rose, that meant that all who believe in Him would rise too. Jesus is the guarantee. Everything in is time on was by design.

Count down to Pentecost

The day Jesus rose began the countdown to Pentecost, which is the day that Moses came down from Mount Sinai. Following the resurrection of Jesus, the Day of Pentecost became the day God gave His Holy Spirit to all believers. First came the Law, then came grace and then the Holy Spirit. It was not an accident.

Think about it. Jesus was crucified during Passover. In Exodus, God told Moses to tell the people to spread lamb’s blood over the doorpost of their houses. If God saw the blood He would “pass over” the house and the plague that came upon Egypt, claiming the first born male child, would not kill them.

Once told to do this, the people had to exercise faith and believe that God would save them. After all just spreading blood over the door doesn’t make a lot of sense, but having faith is what God wants from us does.

Passover and the Crucifixion of Jesus are related

The blood of the lamb, the Passover in Egypt and the Crucifixion, nearly 1500 years later, are all tied together. Jesus’ followers wanted to remove His body from the cross and bury Him before sunset, the beginning of Shabbat (the Sabbath).

Jesus was always doing something on Shabbat, the day of rest. No Jew was allowed to do any work on Shabbat, not even to look for food. What God had intended for rest, the Jewish religious leaders took as an absolute command, never to be questioned or broken.

A day that was created for man to rest, was turned into a way to control and dominate people. Healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, making the crippled walk were all events that took place on Shabbat.

Jesus was Crucified because He angered the religious elite

The religious elite considered the healing the Jesus did during the Sabbath to be blasphemy. It is a major theme in the television show “The Chosen.”

The Pharisees were outraged and some tried to gather evidence to take to the Sanhedrin, the ruling council. We see the plot develop, from mere outrage to a plan to kill Jesus. The Bible tells us of seven times Jesus performed a miracle on the Sabbath.

Jesus healed a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). He healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter (Mark 1:29-31). The Lord gave sight to a man who had been born blind (John 9:1-16).

Also of note is the belief of Jews at the time that the reason some were afflicted was because of their sin, the blind man was an exception because he was born without sight. The Messiah healed a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17).

A man with swollen arms and legs was healed by Jesus in the view of Pharisees (Luke 14:1-6). Jesus cast out a demon (Mark 1:21-28). At the pool of Bethesda Jesus healed a lame man and told him to get up and walk (John 5:1-8). All done on the Sabbath. None of this was well received by the Pharisees. They were incensed.

It was all by design

The Pharisees were always trying to trip Jesus up by asking trick questions, or any question that would go against their own beliefs if answered honestly. Therefore, it would have been a lot easier for Jesus to lay low and not do anything in public, but the signs and wonders were necessary to establish who He was and what He was about.

The Pharisees, the Romans, the Sanhedrin were all in on the crucifixion of Jesus and it was no accident. God had everything planned. God knew what these groups would do and He used their actions to serve His purpose. It was all by design.

All Those Religions… Which One is True? Part Two

All those religions throughout the world there are countless examples. The vast majority might best be described as local, to a specific group of people. All those religions throughout the world there are countless examples. The vast majority might best be described as local, to a specific group of people. Read All Those Religions… Which One is True? Part One

There are countless belief systems, some based on history or events, others based on myth. Yet others are created, not to draw people to God, but to control them.

How to separate truth from fiction is difficult, especially on a post-truth society, where the loudest lie on the television or internet becomes a fact. Therefore you don’t need believe anything in this blog, but please research it for yourself.

The next question… Does reason matter?

Does my ability to reason have any bearing on the truth of a religion? Yes, very much so. In doing our detective work, we need to separate the claims of some religions and put them to the test. This will help to rid the table of false claims. Logic is necessary and a critical tool in determining truth.

Truth is truth and opposing views of truth are not equal in value. Only one is true. I read an article on Echo Global (an excellent source of information and truth) that separates the world’s three biggest religions. Judaism and Islam both state that Jesus is not God. The New Testament says He is.

Logic is critically important

Logic suggests that a claim cannot true and not true at the same time. Jesus is God or He is not. You can’t have it both ways. If Christianity is right, the other two are wrong. Logic demonstrates that contrary claims cannot both be true. It also shatters the argument that “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” That is like saying, “you may believe in God, but there is no God.” If I make a claim “A” to be true, then “not A” cannot be true.

Logic also pours cold water on the belief that all roads lead to heaven. Religions deal with this issue. That is another reason for you to use your reason. Logic is an important element in the search. There may be a lot of dead end roads in your search, so it’s more like a maze, not a pathway.

Even if religions have some similarities, the end of the search is radically different because their core doctrines are different. An example of this is the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Christians will affirm every word in the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament. They differ however in the real identity of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Messiah or He isn’t.

Logic and reason are your tools. If you have doubts, ask questions. If you have concerns, ask questions. Be careful to gather reliable sources. Again, don’t take my word for it. Form your own conclusions. You might just find the journey enjoyable and rewarding.

The Nicene from 325 AD

For Christians this a full statement of the truth:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Amen

All Those Religions… Which One is True? Part One

All those religions throughout the world, there are countless examples. The vast majority might best be described as local, to a specific group of people. Most religions have no written texts and are beliefs that are passed down from generation to generation.

There are countless belief systems, some based on history or events, others based on myth. Yet others are created, not to draw people to God, but to control them.

How to separate truth from fiction is difficult, especially on a post-truth society, where the loudest lie on the television or internet becomes a fact. Therefore you don’t need believe anything in this blog, but please research it for yourself.

Which religion is true?

The question becomes “which one is the truth?” You have to become a detective. Like any good detective story, you have to assemble information, follow the clues and make conclusions.

Sometimes you get sidetracked or you discover that your conclusions were wrong. But don’t despair. We all learn from our mistakes.

This leads us to an important starting point. Be inquisitive. Don’t go into your investigation with preconceived ideas. Keep an open mind and collect data. An essential fact to consider is that two people can look at the same evidence and arrive at completely different conclusions.

It’s not that one is stupid or sloppy in their research. They just see it differently. Think of this in terms of scientists trying to find a cue for a disease. There’s trial and error and studies to be done. It’s a process.

Therefore, it is important to gather solid information. Studying God is no different. Ask questions and question answers. Ask God. Maybe you are unsure if there even is a God and that’s okay. Then you might ask, “if you’re out there, help me see who you are.”

Your must have a plan for seeking the truth

You need a plan. Let’s put three elements in place to establish a framework for seeking truth. For starters, is the religion logical and consistent? Look for contradictions and flaws in logic.

One religion, for example, calls for a person to rid themselves of all desire. But to do that, they first have to have a desire and then try to rid themselves of it? What desire? Eating? Sleeping? Happiness? It’s illogical. Humans have desires.

Next, you have to have some data to support or findings. You need proof. If you make a claim, be prepared to back it up. If you can’t, you’re probably on the wrong path. EXCEPTION: You cannot prove the existence of God. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t very strong evidence.

Religion should answer big questions

Any religion has to answer some big questions. Where did I come from? How should I live? What purpose is there for my life? Where am I going? From these questions come hundreds more. It’s like pealing an onion.

Is there absolute truth?

Another key question; is there absolute truth, something that in all times and places is always true? Or does truth vary depending on circumstance or which country your in? If there is no such thing as “absolute truth?” We will never know anything for sure. It can become an endless litany of asking more questions because you cannot arrive at a conclusion.

Some people believe that all truth is relative. If that is the case, then is it universally true that there is no absolute truth? If your answer is yes, then there is an absolute truth; that there are no absolutes.

Eliminates alternatives

Absolute truth eliminates the alternatives. No other view can be real. Absolute truth is narrow and our emotional feeling and desires, no matter how sincere, are either true or false. In comparing religions you might see beliefs that are similar. But we cannot change truth.

People can be manipulated into believing a lie, but something that is true cannot be made false. Remember that the next time someone tells you want to think.

To be continued on next blog: All Those Religions… Which One is True? Part Two.

What is a Christian?

Most everybody has an opinion on who is and who is not a Christian. Christianity is even tossed about in political circles, as in “we are a Christian nation,” We make up our own definition of “Christian.” It may or may not have anything to do with what God’s definition of what it means to be a Christian.

Christians are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. They realize that they are sinful and that they are in need of a Savior a Messiah. Also, they have confessed those sins to God and are repentant (they desire to turn to a new way). They declare Jesus to be the Son of God. They have invited Jesus into their hearts and have accepted Jesus by faith as their Lord and Savior.

What isn’t necessary to be a Christian

Let’s mention what is not necessary to be a Christian. You don’t have to be a member of a church, or even go to church. You don’t have to pay money. It is not necessary to earn your right standing with God. You don’t have to be a member of a political party. Your social standing doesn’t matter, nor does your education matter. Your bank account, or lack of bank account doesn’t mean anything.

It is really quite simple to be Christian

It’s really very simple. Some may try to create a complicated set of rules and regulations, or say that a person has to meet certain standards of behavior, or demonstrate in some way that they are worthy of God’s love. It’s just not that way at all.

A Christian is just a person who believes in Jesus, that He was the Son of God, that he died on the cross to cover our sins and that He rose again. Even if they have never read the Bible or gone to church, they can have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.

Moses shows us how simple it is

If you want another look at this, just go to the Old Testament and the book of Exodus. The Israelites were roaming the desert and many were bitten by poisonous snakes.

God told Moses to take some brass and form a snake, place it atop a pole and tell the people that whomever looked at this snake would not be harmed by a snake bite. God did not offer proof, just what Moses was told to do.

Those who accepted God’s promise, by faith, followed the instructions. Those who choose not to believe, turned away. The ones who exercised faith survived. Those without faith died. All they had to do was accept the solution by faith and look at the snake on the pole. Nothing more.

Jesus died for our sins

Christians accept, by faith, that Jesus died for our sins. They accept by faith that He rose from the dead. They accept by faith that they need to allow Jesus to come into their heart and be the Lord of their life, they need to follow Him. Those are the basics.

The Bible offers a rich description of the history of man’s relationship with God. God reveals His nature and character through the Word. Therefore, he delights in Christians gathering with other Christians to worship and grow. Church is a good thing. Meeting with other Christians is a good thing. But the most important thing, the essential, is to have faith.

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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It really is that simple. That’s what a Christian is.

Jesus Both God and Man, Offensive or Delightful?

Jesus both God and man: Belief in Biblical Christianity is a dividing line between family members, coworkers, neighbors and even nations. In some cases the mere mention of the Lord Jesus Christ is bitterly offensive and so we will briefly examine the chasm that is as far as east is from west. Jesus of Nazareth is probably the most offensive person in human history for some people.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6)

On the surface, that is either the most arrogant lie ever told, or it is the truth. Think about it. I have met people with a rather high opinion of themselves, but never a person who actually believed that no one can come before God unless He says so. It’s difficult for people to believe this because they are thinking in human terms.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)

The biblical prophets foretold of a savior coming someday. Some in the century leading up to Jesus’ birth imagined a powerful, military man, who would lead an army against the Romans. But He came in the most humble of ways and His first bed was a manger.

Jewish leaders rejected Jesus

The Jewish leaders rejected Him. All of the clues were in the writings of the prophets, or the psalms of David. His story began to unfold in Genesis and left off at the end of Revelation. He never went after the Romans; never even challenged them.

He did, however, rebuke the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and arrogance. The Jewish elite were threatened. He was viewed as a heretic, not a Messiah. Jesus was the most improbable one to forgive sins, heal the sick and open the door for all of us to enter into the Kingdom of God. He was fully man and fully God, and thus a problem.

Gnostics didn’t believe Jesus was both God and man

The Gnostics believed that the flesh was evil and the spirit was good. Therefore fully man and fully God was not possible. They railed against it and tried to subvert the Gospel message. Much of the New Testament was written in response to that deadly deception.

Some people still believe that there may have been an historical Jesus, but He was just a good man and a good teacher. They are also wrong.

The only thing we know about Jesus comes from the Bible, so they reject the Bible and do not believe that it is as an authoritative source. Even some churches have stretched the truth so far as to water down the truth to the point of the Gospel message becomes meaningless.

Jesus has always caused anger

For the last 2000 years Jesus has been at the cross-hairs of non-believers. The mere mention causes anger. Saying His name invokes the worst of human behavior. He is either who He says He is, or He’s a liar or a mental defective.

The Bible clearly states that we are saved by the grace of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe in Christ, faith in what Christ has done for us and the desire to turn around and follow another path are the simple elements of Christian belief.

Nicodemus was a pharisee but also saw Jesus as the Messiah

As Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel and a highly respected scholar, saw the truth in Jesus and was amazed. Unlike his fellow members of the Jewish ruling class, Nicodemus saw the Messiah, not a rogue preacher or lunatic.

But it was the rest of the leaders wanted Jesus to die, because He was bad for their business. Jesus would cause people to turn away from the Temple and stop making sacrifices, causing a collapse in what was a rather lucrative enterprise.

People would come to the temple to buy animals for the sacrifice. They came from all over and spend a lot of money. For Jesus to come in and interrupt commerce was a very bad thing. The temple, the house of God, was a money-making front.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, (Mark 11:15)

You can see why Jesus was offensive. Even at the very beginning of His ministry, He stepped on toes in the synagogue.

…and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:17-19)

Pharisees could not accept the divinity of Jesus as both God and man

The Rabbis were incensed. They wanted to kill Jesus. Later in His ministry, Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead and the Pharisees formally began to plot how to kill him.

Even today, in some places, the reading of the Bible and following Jesus is against the law and punishable by death. He remains the controversial figure he was during His life on earth. Nothing has changed.

Old and Disposable

It’s hard to get old in America. People become old and disposable as they age. You reach a certain age and your employer wants to push you out the door in favor of somebody younger. That can happen to people as young as 40. If you are 50, 60 or 70, it gets increasingly more difficult to be taken seriously.

When God called Moses to take His people out of bondage, the poor man was 80 years old. He led the Israelites for 40 years. That would never happen today. America is a disposable society.

What do we value?

It gets down to what we value. We worship money, status and celebrity. Church attendance today is not what it was years ago. There is no truth in this post-truth era. Everything is relative. Think about that for a moment.

Church folk regard the Bible as the inspired Word of God, inerrant in it’s original form, that is the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic scrolls. From those come countless translations. Then come the paraphrases, not really translations but more like interpretations of translations.

So, the point is more and more people do not view the Bible as authoritative, just a nice book of stories.

Absolute truth is essential

So what’s the fuss? Truth is important. Absolute truth is essential. What God says is the truth and to be taken to heart. We don’t get to define truth, although a common phrase gives us a way out of any conversation… “Well, what’s true for you may not be true for me.” When saying that about the Bible a person is actually saying, “What’s true for God isn’t necessarily true for me.”

Good news, God does not throw away older people

God does not throw away older people. The truth is God uses older people to counsel younger people. But even in churches, older adults are pushed aside. God seems to see things differently.

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. (Psalm 71:9)

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:18)

The simple truth is older adults have experience, wisdom and depth of knowledge. In our culture, that doesn’t really matter. “They’re old. What do they know?” God gave Moses a whole lifetime of experience before He called him to ministry. That wasn’t an accident.

What is the church?

Side view of the historic, yet abandoned Peace Lutheran Church in Stonehenge, SK with a canola field and countryside in the background

All my life I have heard people talk about “the church” and in particular why their church is the best church. “Church,” in general terms, implies a church service. We “go to church” to sing songs and hear the word of God. The church can be easily identified in terms of a building. We go to “our church”.

But church in the Biblical sense, is a way to identify the body of believers, a family of like-minded followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. But in the real world, there are those who will contend that if you do not believe exactly what they believe, or follow their denomination, you are not a believer at all. I’d like a dollar for every time I was told that.

People can be rigid in their beliefs

As a hospital chaplain, I was kicked out of many rooms because I was from the “wrong” church. Once a pastor even kicked me out of the room, dismissing me in no uncertain terms and rather harshly, because I wasn’t a part of his denomination and therefore a non-believer. I just asked him how he was feeling. He kicked me out not knowing anything about me.

I’ve been called a heretic for not reading the right Bible, even though I enjoy many versions of the Bible. Some Christians who don’t want to hear the truth from the Bible, or encouragement from anyone but their pastor. They don’t want prayer because they are taught to reject anyone outside of their particular church.

The term church can be problematic

You can see why “church” can be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the church, but it’s people that get in the way. For all the wrong reasons they reject the body of Christ. Some church organizations, or individual congregations, bear little resemblance of the church that Jesus established. They not only reject other believers, they dismiss them entirely.

In order to protect their way of seeing the world, they will sadly reject what the Lord Jesus told us.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

The Jewish authorities, so intimidated by the ministry of Jesus, took action and determined that he must die. Little did they know that God would use their fear and hatred for His own purpose. When Jesus raised Lazarus, the plot started to unfold.

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. (John 11:45-55)

God loves His church

God loves His church, all of the believers, all of the denominations. Think of it as a family of believers. We don’t all agree on every point, but we all agree that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Sadly, the church is divided on who gets to believe the truth. Just like the Pharisees, they sometimes do more harm than good. But the it survives. It’s a good idea. Believers should be connected to a church. Men and women may get in the way, but the Lord Jesus is still in charge.