A Walk With Jesus Through His Last Week — Sunday

As I mentioned yesterday, this week is sometimes known as “Holy Week” in the larger world of Christendom, so I thought perhaps it might be an interesting topic for this blog to follow Jesus along through the last few days of His physical life on earth. At the end of each day we’ll try to draw some important observations for ourselves.

Jesus’ day on Sunday appears to have started on the other side Jericho, because the first we hear of that day Jesus is passing through Jericho in which He meets a man named Zaccheus. Jesus’ passage through almost any town created a stir, and in Jericho it turned into something like a parade in town with people lining the streets to see the famous rabbi, prophet, healer Jesus. Everybody wanted to see Jesus, including Zaccheus.

But Zaccheus had a special set of problems. Zaccheus was a chief tax collector, meaning that he had other tax gathers under him. He was viewed as a Roman collaborator and traitor to his people and therefore without morals — it was assumed that he cheated and gouged those from whom he collected taxes . Presumably, nobody wanted to make a place for him to see Jesus and be associated with him. To top it off, he was also too short to look over the shoulders of the crowd to get any sort of decent glimpse of Jesus passing through. His only chance to see Jesus was to climb a sycamore tree.

We don’t know what it was that drew Jesus’ attention to Zaccheus, but Jesus noticed him and called him down by name, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house,” probably for rest and lunch. Zaccheus was surprised and thrilled; and he gladly received Jesus into his home. But just at this point another old problem popped up; anyone he associated with got painted with the same brush of suspicion and shame that stained Zaccheus and every other tax collector. The crowd muttered and disapproved of Jesus going to his house.

Of course, Zaccheus was used to hearing ugly things said behind his back, but this time was different, this time he had been noticed and valued by Jesus. He had been called out by named would be hosting this righteous teacher. It was the perfect time to set things right, so Zaccheus turned to Jesus and, in front of the whole crowd, promised, “…Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). Zaccheus’ repentance shown in his generous giving to the poor and reparations to anyone he might have cheated prompted Jesus to rejoice, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

As Jesus was leaving Jericho, two blind men called out to Him,“…Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David” (Matthew 20:30). Use of the phrase “Son of David” was tantamount to recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. The crowd tried to discourage them by telling them to leave Jesus alone, but the blind men cried out all the more. Jesus, in compassion, turned aside from His departure for a moment to ask them what they wanted, and He gave them their sight. And they began following Him on the road to Jerusalem.

Jesus continued on His way to Jerusalem. It is about 15 plus miles from Jericho to Jerusalem, but it’s a pretty hard 15 miles — uphill, winding, dusty, narrow, and dangerous. He likely arrived in the Jerusalem area (Bethany) in the latter part of the afternoon. But His day’s events were not yet finished. Jesus sent disciples ahead to find a donkey and colt for him to ride into the city. When His disciples returned with the donkey and colt, they threw their cloaks on the donkey’s and colt’s backs and Jesus rode them down the road that led down the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley and on to the city of Jerusalem itself. During this ride into town crowds gathered along the side of the road throwing palm fronds on the road, a traditional symbol of welcome to a triumphant, returning king, and shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” a cheer that implied a call to God for salvation. 

Because of this reception and especially because of the cry, “Hosanna!” some of the Pharisees in the crowd, who thought this to be blasphemy, rebuked Jesus to discourage the people from saying such a thing. Jesus response wasn’t exactly what they expected of a respectable rabbi, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” — as if say “The whole creation has been practically bursting with excitement to confess my divinity, and you want me to tell these men to hold back?”

As Jesus continued approaching Jerusalem He could see the entire city; her beautiful Temple, its gleaming walls, its palaces, the ancient city of David, and the myriad people in the city (citizens and visitors here for Passover) — and suddenly He was struck by the centuries of sin, disobedience, and faithlessness of its inhabitants that was about to reach its great, dreadful climax in the crucifixion of its Messiah. And struck too by the horrific penalty it would pay in AD 70 for this last foul sin. And Jesus wept over it, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37). The word “unwilling” being the most heartbreaking part of all.

As a last act of His very busy day, Jesus went into the Temple itself, but upon entering it, He was greeted with the cacophony and chaos of merchants, money changers, and sharp dealings that belonged in the marketplace rather than house of prayer that it was supposed to be. The chief priests had given these merchants permission — for a price, of course — to set up shop in the court of the Gentiles to change the unclean denarius for a clean shekel for the Temple tax and purchase ritually pure animals for sacrifice. Outraged with this desecration, Jesus began to turn over the tables of money changers and drive the animals out with cords. 

There’s so much to learn in these stories

Our Lord, who seeks and saves the lost, never overlooks even one of us — not a Zaccheus, not the blind men in Jericho, and not you or me. You’re not too insignificant, you’re not too sinful, you’re not too hated or despised by others, you’re not too ruined, and you’re not too late, yet. Jesus is not too preoccupied with big problems or important people to see you and hear you. So actively seek Him like Zaccheus, persevere in prayer like the blind men, and you’ll be both heard and found.

Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees, when they rebuked Him for accepting the crowds adulation of “Hosanna!” has always struck me and appealed to me, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” This theme of inanimate creation crying out their witness of the Creator, groaning and suffering under the curse from the Garden of Eden, or (as here) scarcely being able to be restrained from bursting forth a confession of Jesus’ Godhood is one that you will run across from time to time as you read through Scripture. They are used in Scripture as a means of shaming men in their so-called wisdom and intellect that denies God; even the dumb rocks know better, know their Creator and Redeemer!

And how deeply tragic is the scene of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. It reminds me of the appeal of God to Israel at an earlier time, “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts (Isaiah 65:2).” The LORD’s appeal to His people to return down through the centuries had only occasionally been heard, and then for only a short time. Jesus’ tears were the tears of a husband (see the book of Hosea) who loves his wife, but whose heart has continually been pierced by her unloving, faithless, rebellious, and wandering ways. And even now, though she would soon “crown” her rebellion with putting Him to death, He still mourned the sure consequences of condemnation that she had so richly earned. The LORD spoke through Ezekiel, “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:11)?’”

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A Walk With Jesus Through His Last Week

Tomorrow starts a week that is sometimes known as “Holy Week” in the larger world of Christendom, because it is the week before the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus. There are many dates that we’d like to know in the Bible with more precision, like the date of Christ’s birth, etc. But the day of His resurrection is one that we do know for sure, it is the Sunday after Passover, a date we can know for sure every year. This is not to say that what we call Easter should be made a high holy day, because we celebrate Christ’s resurrection every first day of the week as Christians have done from the beginning of the church. But I thought perhaps it might be an interesting topic for this blog to follow Jesus along through the Gospels on the last few days of His physical life on earth. At the end of each day we’ll try to draw some important observations for ourselves.

Before I begin with the Sunday before His death, I’ll start with a point of interest, that I believe that Jesus was put to death and buried on a Thursday rather than Friday. This is not the traditional view, but neither is it a radical one. The first hint that it was actually on a Thursday is that a death and burial on a Thursday fits Jesus’ own prophecy that He would be in the tomb three days and three nights. Jesus said,“for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).” If Jesus was buried on Friday, and if He arose on Sunday before dawn (as all the Gospels affirm), He would only have been in the tomb 2 days and 2 nights — if you count as the Jews did, Jesus would have been in the tomb… 

Day (6AM to 6PM)Night (6PM to 6AM)
Friday day (one hour of the day)Saturday evening (6PM to 6AM)
Saturday day (6AM to 6PM)and Sunday (6PM to His resurrection)

Burial on Thursday, however, gives Him 3 days and 3 nights… 

Day (6AM to 6PM)Night (6PM to 6AM)
Thursday Thursday day (one hour of the day)Friday evening (6PM to 6AM)
Friday day (6AM to 6PM)Saturday evening (6PM to 6AM)
Saturday day (6AM to 6PM)Sunday evening (6PM to His resurrection)

But what about the day after the crucifixion being the Sabbath day? John 19:31, 32 tells us, “Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him;” The answer is not obvious to the non-Jew, but every high holy day (and Passover was a “high day”) was considered a Sabbath (see Leviticus 23:4-8, Numbers 28:16-18). Passover was given to be a specific date in a specific month, so just like our Fourth of July, it was on a different day of the week every year, not just a Saturday. On the weeks in which there was a holy day like Passover, 6 out of 7 times there would be two Sabbaths celebrated that week — one for the holy day and one for the 7th day. In this case, it would appear that these two Sabbaths were be back to back, a Friday Passover Sabbath followed immediately by a Saturday Sabbath. When we understand that there could be, and likely were, two Sabbaths back to back that week, the three days and three nights prophecy lines up perfectly with a Sunday resurrection, the Sabbath objection disappears, and Jesus’ crucifixion on Thursday rather than Friday makes sense.

All this, for the most part, doesn’t matter a whole ton — the crucifixion of Jesus happened, the resurrection on the first day of the week happened. However, fixing the date of Passover to a Friday, along with other historical markers in the Bible (the story of the wise men, the rule of the governor Quirinius, and the rule of Pilate) does help us to set this world-changing event more firmly in history. The Friday Passover that fits best with all the other historical marker is April 11, AD 27 making the date of Christ’s death and burial April 10, AD 27 and the date of His resurrection, Sunday, April 13, AD 27. The ability to place this date into an historical context is just one more evidence (among many others) that the crucifixion really happened, the resurrection was real, we are really saved from sins, and we have a real hope (confident expectation) of eternal life.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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A Thoughtful Response to Threats Down Through the Centuries

I recently ran across this quote from C.S. Lewis that I believe could be useful to us all during the current COVID-19 crisis. He wrote it in the early days of living in a world that now had the atomic bomb, the early days of the cold war. But supply “coronavirus” for the “atomic bomb” or “atomic age” phrases and see what you think…

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

God has things in control today just like he did at the dawn of the atomic age and every other existential threat God’s people have ever faced. Jesus’ words must be borne in mind continually these days, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Keep praying, stay in God’s word, live faithfully. With the Lord’s help, we’ll get through this together.

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The Best, The Most, From the Heart

Luke 21 (also Mark 12:41) tells the story of Jesus sitting in the Temple near the Temple’s treasury contribution box. The Lord had observed a number of rich people come through and drop in their bag of silver coins. Jingle! Thunk! Jingle! The bigger the “Jingle and Thunk” the prouder the giver seemed to strut away. But then along came a poor widow. You’d be excused for thinking that she wouldn’t be giving anything; she was clearly poor, she was clearly a widow, she had no coin bag to see, and what she was about to give was easily held in the palm of her hand. And when she did put in her contribution, the sound was probably so soft that it wouldn’t have been noticed at all in a noisy place like the Temple — two leptons, the smallest coin, the least valuable coin, in the Roman world. Noisy or not, however, Jesus noticed and was impressed enough to make a comment that we should sit up and take notice of: “Truly, I way to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live.” 

What made it so note worthy? There are two things to consider.

There is a difference between giving some and giving all. Although the rich had put in greater actual amounts, she had put in more proportionally. The rich had give out of their disposable income, but she had given away her grocery and rent money. Most certainly God appreciates all of our gifts, when they are given with the right heart, but the widow’s gift crossed the world’s line of “good sense” by giving not 100% of her surplus had but 100% of all she had.

There is also a difference between giving when you have prospects of obtaining more in the near future and giving without prospects of getting any more. None of the wealthier givers, as far as we know, gave 100% of their money; but if they had, it still would not have been as great a sacrifice as the widow’s gift. The wealthy had prospects of earning more later in the next business deal, the next work day, the next crop, or however they made their living. Some widows of Jesus’ day could rely on family to support them, but there were other widows who had no financial prospects being too old and a woman (Paul calls them “widows indeed” in 1 Timothy 5). The widow of this story appears to be in this latter category, so when she gave her two copper coins it was not just emptying out her purse for now, it was giving with no prospects in sight. This was a sacrificial gift founded on a deep love for God and a trust in the Him to meet her needs; this was a true giving of herself.

It was these two characteristics of the widow’s gift that made it the most and the best gift received at the Temple treasury that day. By seeing the widow’s gift through Jesus’ eyes, the apostles doubtlessly felt both deeply impressed and humbled. It could not have failed to leave a life-long lesson on their discipleship.

Perhaps we, too, feel inspired and challenged by a faith and love that would prompt such financial sacrifice; maybe next week we’ll give more to the Lord in the collection plate. But you know, there are more ways to give to the Lord than in dollars and cents. There’s time. There’s effort. There’s commitment. There are skills, talents, homes and cars and every other possession given into our stewardship. There’s lots of ways to give to the Lord like the widow; but the key principle is whatever we give — little or much, 10% or 100% — should be given trustingly, lovingly, and completely.

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Am I in God’s Place?

In Exodus 50:19 Joseph uttered these profoundly thoughtful words. His brothers were terrified that Joesph might be plotting revenge on them and their families for all the wrong they had done to Joseph as a boy by selling him as a slave to traders who sold him to the Egyptians. Their beloved father had died and Joseph was second in command in all of Egypt, there was almost nothing that he couldn’t get away with. So, as his brothers begged for their and their families’ lives, Joseph reminds them that revenge is God’s prerogative, not his. 

If only we could remind ourselves of this deep truth, not only when it comes to revenge and grudges, but even more broadly about God’s exclusive prerogatives. 

For instance, setting true moral boundaries is God’s prerogative, not ours. The world has always wanted to set the bar for morality and these days has set the bar especially low. Sexual morality, in modern times, has few “forbiddens”; honesty and truth has become a very fluid thing, changing with the individual; immodesty among women and men, it would seem, is applied largely to bare nakedness of the rawest kind; the neighbor we should love is defined by political labels; greed and materialism have become positive motivators to success and progress; the ends seem to constantly justify any means; and hatred is tolerable, if it is against one’s political opponents. The list could go on, but the truth is that we are not the legitimate setters of the bar for right and wrong; God is. We may want to set the moral boundaries, when we desire to do something sinful; but it doesn’t work that way. We must not set ourselves in God’s place.

True spiritual teachings are God’s prerogative, not ours. Somehow, the world seems to have decided that spiritual truths can be changed as easily as changing the ending of a fairy tale we don’t like. But spiritual truths are no more changeable than physical truths. That gravity pulls toward the earth, that rocks are hard, that light travels at 186,000 miles a second, etc. are physically non-negotiable laws of the natural world. And similarly, disobedience to God is sin, the wages of sin is death, Heaven and Hell are eternal places, etc. are spiritually non-negotiable laws of the spiritual world. The same God who created the physical reality also created the spiritual reality. We sin by God’s definition, we can be saved by God’s way, and we will spend eternity in places that God Himself prepared. We are not the writers of these laws or the creators of these realities, God is. We may want to be the authority for spiritual truth, when Biblical truth becomes inconvenient or is not to our taste; but it doesn’t work that way. We must not set ourselves in God’s place about spiritual truth.

Judgement, too, is God’s prerogative, not ours. I am not the judge. You are not the judge. No man-made panel, no man-made appointee is the judge. This is God’s prerogative alone. In His word He has told us what will condemn us and what will redeem us. Similarly, in His word He has told us what is doctrinally true and what is not. And God’s word even gives us examples of His judgment — that it is sure, that it is just, and that for the sinful it is severe. This allows each reader of the Scripture to accurately know for himself ahead of time, ahead of the day of judgment, how God will judge each man’s words, deeds, and thoughts — against His moral standard. And how God will judge each man’s teachings and practices — against spiritual reality. It also allows those who have read God’s word to warn others of how God plans to judge mankind. It is not my right, not any other Christian’s privilege, nor any worldling’s place to either condemn or justify anyone, on the basis of human preference. As Jesus Himself put it, (John 5:30) “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” We may think that we’d like to call the shots on judgement or whether there’ll be a judgement at all, but that’s not the way it works. We must not imagine that we can set ourselves in God’s place about judgement.

Satan, the Scripture implies, fell from Heaven through pride and trying to usurp God’s place. Joseph was indeed wise, much wiser than many, when he passed on revenge against his brothers and said, “Am I in the place of God?” Let’s recognize our real place in this world, we are human, we are the creation; we are not God, not the Creator. 

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The Value of Hospitality to You (Cheerful Obedience in Hospitality)

One of the greatest demonstrations of love and sacred duty in the near eastern world was and still is hospitality. When you invited someone into your home, you offered them almost every privilege of family including food, protection, and help; the story of Lot and the angels in the city of Sodom illustrates it. In the first century Christian world it continued to be an important Christian moral duty. Hebrews 13:2 teaches, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” The Greek work literally means “love of strangers”, but it applied to more than strangers like itinerant preacher, prophets, or apostles showed up in town; it also applied to times when the church needed a place to meet (Romans 12:13). 

But in modern times the teaching about hospitality seems to have been moved to the back row of the Christian virtues. It is probably because we live busy lives, usually have two income families, and find it a lot of work. So, are we, therefore, excused from hospitality? By no means! What we need to do, instead of finding reasons why we should be excused, is find ways to be cheerfully obedient. May I humbly offer a few helps toward that goal?

It must be conceded that hospitality can be a lot of work, but consider who we’re offering it to — the Lord. Remember the passage that tells us about the Judgement? Jesus tells us,“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?…’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40). Remember, it’s not the Smiths that you’re really entertaining; it’s the Lord. Who wouldn’t be anxious to do that, no matter how much work?

Second, remember in the midst of all the work you may be doing, the brethren came to your house not to inspect your house and critique your meal, but to see you. Sometimes we get all caught up in the folly of the world and think we need to present a perfect house, meal, etc. While we needn’t take the other extreme, we do need to realize that we’re family and that we’re all going to appreciate whatever effort was possible. Wasn’t that a great deal of Martha’s problem? She missed the joy and opportunity of hospitality to Jesus and the apostles as she tried to be the perfect hostess.

Even beyond these things, however, hospitality gives you the chance to be a good steward. We occasionally mistake the definition of stewardship to mean preservation of what we have. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14ff) tells us what the difference between good stewardship and bad stewardship is. The two good stewards in this story were those who used the master’s money to invest and increase their master’s assets; the bad steward was the one who just preserved the master’s money. In other words, it is the proper use (by the Lord’s definition) of what we’ve been blessed with that makes us good stewards; but the Lord specifically defined poor stewardship in this parable as non-use. Now we can safely add deliberate abuse to that definition of poor stewardship, but you get the idea. And if we understand blessings like our homes (apartments), our energy, and our food as a stewardship (as they certainly are), then use of them in a God-commanded way like hospitality is a perfect use and stewardship of them, and the perfect way to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23). 

Lastly, it gives us the chance to be better connected, have better fellowship with one another — a huge priority in the church. The introduction of the TV into the family living room began an antisocial trend in our culture that has only deepened over the decades. Rather than seeking community socialization, we began to be content to stay at home and be entertained. It got worse with computers and grew worse still with mobile phones and their always-on electronic anonymous social networks (there’s a real oxymoron there) and text messages — isolating us more and more. On the other hand, hospitality is to the church what the dinner table is to the family; it is the place to reconnect with a real person with a real voice, real tears, real laughter, real concerns, and real encouragement. 

So, yes, hospitality is work, just like washing feet; but it can and should be cheerfully and joyfully obeyed. When we do, we gain so much

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“Just the Facts, Ma’am”

A friend recently forwarded me a report in the news about a man, Emile Ratelband, a Netherlands media personality, who wants to change his age legally from 69 to 49, because he “identifies as a 49 year old”, and because it will make him better able to attract younger women on an online dating site and more hirable for certain jobs. So, he wants his birth certificate changed to reflect how he identifies. We’ve all been told in recent years that we need to allow and accept those who “identify” as another gender, let them change their gender on their birth certificate, compete athletically against those of their opposite birth gender, go to the restroom or locker room of their choice, etc. It would appear more and more that truth and facts in this world really have become completely a matter of how we feel. Instead of delusions being a psychologically abnormal state, there is a deliberate effort being made to make delusion the norm. Facts and truth are becoming so fluid as to be pretty much nonexistent. The absurdity of it would be hilarious, if it weren’t so shockingly frightening.

But as many of us might recognize, this has been going on a long time in the world a long time now. 

In spite of the proofs for the existence of God — nothing comes from nothing, design, and the moral proofs — some refuse to believe what they cannot see. Yet, they’ll accept the “big bang” or the eternality of the universe without any (ANY!) proof that can be seen — and in spite of the scientific facts and laws mentioned just above. 

The Bible’s teaching about creation is rejected often not on the basis of any fact, but on the basis of what “everyone else” says it must be. Indeed, in spite of the fact that there has never been a single true transition between species discovered (the missing link is still missing after over 200 years of looking for it), many are “just certain” that evolution must be true. But the facts don’t support the evolutionary claim.

As people read that Jesus is the way, the truth, and life, and that no man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6); some would almost immediately respond that it simply couldn’t be true. “There are many ways to the same Heaven (just by different names).” But the facts don’t support this religious claim.

As people read what the book of Acts has to say about how to become a Christian (including Acts 2:38 and Acts 22:16), there is often a quick rejoinder that salvation is by faith alone; because that is what a prior minister told them one time. “I accepted Jesus into my heart and said the sinner’s prayer and now I feel in my heart that I am saved.” But the facts don’t support this religious claim either.

Despite reading passages like Revelation 20:15 as it speaks of the condemnation of the lost in Hell, it’s not unusual to hear, “I just can’t believe that a loving compassionate God could possibly send anyone to a place like Hell. I feel that the part about Hell must not really be true.” But the biblical facts don’t support the wishful thinking.

Spiritual truth after spiritual truth is often rejected by men on the basis of how they feel. So men feel their way to the “right” church, feel their way to worship that is in spirit and in truth, feel their way to unity, feel their way to morality, feel their way to doctrinal truth and more. Constantly groping for but never arriving at the truth, because they don’t read or believe the Bible (the one absolutely true source of spiritual knowledge). 

God made man and woman in His image, including our emotions; but emotions are not what determine truth. No one can simply wish something to be true and have it become true. That’s magical thinking — and no Harry Potter isn’t true either. Anyone interested in getting to Heaven must realize this and operate in the spiritual world with the same rational approach as we do in the physical one.

In early television there was a police drama entitled Dragnet in which the lead detective, Sergeant Friday, frequently encouraged his witnesses with “Just the Facts, Ma’am”. Maybe we’d all do a little better in this world — but especially in the spiritual world — if we just stuck to factual truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — the Bible.

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Will any sort of faith do?

In my last post we gave thought to why faith was necessary. I hope it spoke to you, you’re always welcome to ask questions. But the aim of this post is to think about whether just any faith will do. I’ve heard plenty of armchair theologians confidently declare that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something. Is that true? And if it’s not, what kind of faith makes a difference?

First, our faith needs to be in the God that the Bible (the Hebrew and Christian scriptures) speaks about. Why?

The God of the Bible is the God. Faith in another god is faith in nothingness.

How do we know that the God of the Bible is the God? He is the source of  the all prophecies found in the Bible, all of which have been fulfilled. A 100% fulfillment record cannot be said for the gods of the other so-called sacred scriptures. Here is why 100% accuracy matters: a simple, common sense test given by God Himself for the true scripture (and therefore the true God): “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21, 22). Absolutely every prophecy made in the Bible came to pass — every one; therefore the Author of that book is God. Not so with the Koran, Veda, book of Mormon, etc.; they are shot through with prophecies that were downright wrong and others that never came to pass. The God of the Bible; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses, Joshua, David, and the Old Testament prophets is the one true God. His name is YHWH, there is no other, and we must believe in Him.

And we need to have faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the object of many of those biblical prophecies just mentioned above. He proved His identity as the Son of God by 1) fulfilling all the prophecies made of the Messiah, 2) miracles and healings witnessed by thousands, and 3) His resurrection from the dead and appearance to as many as 500 witnesses at one time. One of His appearances is especially convincing, since it was to a man who was in vigorous opposition to Jesus and His followers, Saul of Tarsus. On the road to Damascus (Acts 9) Saul met the resurrected Jesus, spoke with Him, believed, and was baptized 3 days later. Saul went from being an adamant enemy of Christ to a dedicated evangelist of the the good news of Jesus in a virtual turn-on-a-dime moment. No, it wasn’t a psychotic break (his writings are too rational), and it wasn’t a hoax (no one suffers and dies for a lie, and he died for what he believed). In 2 Corinthians 4:13 Paul said, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe therefore we also speak.” And we should believe in Jesus, too.

But lastly, when we ask the question, “Will any sort of faith do?”, we need to realize that our faith needs to do things. Some people believe that faith is something that happens strictly between the ears, but the Bible would disagree wholeheartedly. Bible faith, real faith, acts in accordance with its belief — this is also known as obedience to God’s commands. 

The story goes that over a hundred years ago daredevils would string cable across Niagara Falls and perform high wire acts. As a crowd wildly applauded one such daredevil, he asked one of his more zealous admirers, “Do you think I can push this wheelbarrow across the falls?” “Well, of course,” the man responded enthusiastically. “Do you believe I could push a man in a wheelbarrow across the falls?” the daredevil asked again. “Why, yes, I believe you can do anything!” the fan replied. “Well, then climb into the wheelbarrow, Mister, and let’s go for a walk,” the daredevil invited. The fan declined. No faith. You see, faith without deeds is really just an opinion. Indeed, James 2:14ff teaches us that faith without words is dead! 

Is it true that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something? No, not at all. It does matter; it matters greatly. Getting to Heaven and avoiding Hell starts with faith in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a narrow road, but that’s just exactly what Jesus said it would be (Matt 7:13,14).

But there’s more. Check me out next time.

Have you taken a look at my new book?

Or do a search on Amazon.com for Park Linscomb Next?

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Why do we need faith?

This post is being written primarily for those who are searchers, perhaps agnostics, or sincere atheists. For those who already believe, I’d be “preaching to the choir”, right? But I want to start by acknowledging that your question is a legitimate one. Faith, for a fleshly human being used to empirical evidence for truth, it is sort of puzzling and perhaps even simplistic sounding to hear a believer tell you, “You just gotta believe!” It is no wonder that the the one who doesn’t believe will often accuse the one who believes of blind faith and naïveté. I would ask you for your ears (eyes?) for a couple of minutes to carefully consider from the Bible why faith might be necessary.

We’re told in the Bible that men and women are made of flesh, physical beings. We already know this but we may not have considered some of the ramifications. God is spirit (John 4:24), but He is also —well, God — the most powerful, holy being in the universe. His full presence is simply more than the human body can endure, we would die. In illustration, imagine standing next to a nuclear device as it detonates or being put a foot away from the surface of the sun. Empirical evidence would be our death, therefore we must operate by faith.

It could be argued that Adam and Eve walked with God, but there could be a couple things that would explain this question. 1) Perhaps, God appeared to them and walked with them in a diminished presence (not in His full glory) as He has done with (for example) Moses, Enoch, Joshua, and some others. Or 2) perhaps Adam’s and Eve’s pre-fall bodies were able to endure His presence. After eating the forbidden fruit, the fall, Adam and Eve were separated from the Tree of Life and death entered the world.

But angels, being spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), are different. They, like men, have free will, but they (unlike men) are able to see God face to face and have no need for faith. However, there is a disadvantage to needing no faith, when angels sin they are irredeemable. Angels know with empirical certainty that God exists, and when they sin they are doing so defiantly (with a high hand). There is only condemnation found in the Bible for angels who have fallen (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6). Such evil spirits (angels) rightly expect nothing but torment in the Abyss (see Luke 8:31; Mark 5:7; and Matthew 25:41). Nowhere is there even a hint at a plan to redeem them (Hebrews 2:16). 

There are probably many reasons for the special grace of God toward mankind, but undoubtedly the need to operate by faith is part of what makes humans savable. So, before we complain about not being able to see God, let’s remember that, at least in part, it is faith that gives us a chance to avoid Hell.

As a brief aside, let’s also remember that faith needn’t be blind, as unbelievers so often say. God hasn’t left Himself without evidences. We could list them, but that’s really a job for a good Christian evidences book; the evidences are really everywhere. God doesn’t expect anyone to check their brains at the door. This is the reason why so many agnostics and atheists have become believers as they did opposition research against Christianity.

Have you taken a look at my new book?

Or do a search on Amazon.com for Park Linscomb Next?

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A new book

Some of those of you who know me may remember that I’ve been working on publishing book for a while. Well, it is finally published and can be obtained as either a physical book or an electronic book from Amazon here

The book is primarily about death and beyond, and is broken down into 13 chapters, for those who might want to use it as Bible class material. This is an important study especially for our day. 

There is a clear gap in the knowledge of the Scripture’s teaching about the afterlife due partly to infrequent teaching on the topic, but also complicated by multiple religious groups teaching myriad afterlife doctrines. And this isn’t just my isolated observation. In an article I’ve read since beginning this book, Dr. Allan J. McNicol noted, “In my teaching in churches I find there is considerable confusion about historic Christian teaching on these matters. The church is in desperate need for teachers to think through and restate in a fresh way the biblical teaching on the last things. When one reads the Bible in its total canonical context, it is amazing how much of the text is concerned with the new world God is bringing.” Biblical teaching about the afterlife (a.k.a., the Christian hope) has been on the back burner for too long.

Yet it is the Christian hope that can help provide the resolve and strength for right living, perseverance, obedience, sacrifice, joy, and more. Is it possible that part of the abandonment of faith that we wring our hands about so much these days has to do with the scarcity and want of this very important biblical doctrine?

I hope you’ll consider picking up my new book up and possibly using it in your own congregation as class material. I’m also in the process of putting together a workbook and workshop, if you think your congregation might benefit from a Gospel meeting or congregational study of what comes next.

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