Becoming a Christian

This is the Bible study on becoming a Christian that I sent to my (very small) mailing list at RebuildingTheFoundations.com. I think it is worth posting here as well.

Becoming a Christian

In previous Bible studies, we have talked about the Gospel (the “Good News”) that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. I have allowed several weeks to pass since the last Bible study, so it might be good to read Psalm 2 again. It will remind you who Jesus was, and why it is important to know that he is “the Christ” or “the Anointed.”

In the last two Bible studies, we talked about “foundations.” Matthew 7:24-27 taught us that hearing and obeying Jesus is the key to standing on the foundation. 2 Timothy 2:19 taught us that everyone who calls Jesus Lord should “depart from unrighteousness.”

If you are a human, then you know that it can be hard for us to do what is right. Saying that we should obey Jesus is one thing, but doing the things Jesus taught (e.g., Matthew, chapters 5-7) is quite another thing.

The New Birth

We will begin this study with John 3:1-8.

Take the time to read the passage now. If you do not have a Bible at hand, go to a search engine and type in “John 3 1-8” and click on the BibleGateway.com link. There you can read the passage in just about any version you want.

“Born again” from John 3:1-8 is a mystery to anyone who has not experienced being born again. Trying to explain being born again is almost impossible. The new birth is not a teaching, it is an experience.

It is not impossible, however, to tell a person how to be born again.

Becoming born again is a promise to all who believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God as described in Psalm 2. Those who believe this will, of course, commit themselves to obeying him because they do not want him to “be angry, and you perish” (Psalm 2:12).

As I wrote earlier, mere humans have a lot of trouble obeying Jesus’s teachings, which are best summed up in Matthew 5-7, which we call “the Sermon on the Mount.” That is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” in John 3:3.

Old Wineskins and New Wine

Let’s look at one passage to help explain the need. Look up Matthew 9:14-17. You can do that at any search engine as explained earlier.

In that passage, John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples ask Jesus why his disciples don’t fast. He explains first that fasting is for later, after he is gone. Then he tells a little parable about wineskins.

In Jesus’s day, a wineskin was made of leather. When it got old, it was stiff. If you put new wine in an old wineskin, the wine would continue to ferment, put off gases, and explode . A fresh wineskin, though, one that has oil rubbed into to it to restore it, can stretch to handle the new wine.

In the same way, Jesus’s new teachings are too much for a person who is not made new. The oil used to refresh a wineskin represents the Holy Spirit. When Jesus puts the Holy Spirit in a person, they are changed. They are changed so much that Jesus called it a new birth (“born again”).

How to Be Born Again

The apostle Peter explained this very well the first time the Gospel was preached. The story is in Acts 2. It is well worth reading chapters 1 and 2 for the whole amazing story of the birth of the Church, but I will summarize it for you.

When the Holy Spirit first came to the Jesus’s apostles after his resurrection, there was an uproar. First, there was a sound of a strong wind that everyone in crowded Jerusalem could hear. Then, flames appeared in the upper room where the apostles were praying. One flame settled on the head of each apostle (and some companions), and they all burst out in languages they did not know.

The people who had followed the sound of the wind were puzzled at these Galileans, who would have been “hillbillies” to the more refined Jews in Jerusalem. How could they speak the praises of God in all these languages?

Peter stood up and explained that the Holy Spirit had come, which had been prophesied by the Jewish prophet Joel. Then he explained that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and he used other prophecies to convince the Jews that the Messiah was supposed to die and rise from the dead. He explained that the miracles happening that day were proof that Jesus rose from the dead and that the Holy Spirit had come.

Then he came to his grand conclusion, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made this same Jesus, the one you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Messiah)” (Acts 2:36).

There were some who believed him, and he told them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus the Christ, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit, for the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all those who are far off.”

This is the way to be born again. This is the way to receive the Holy Spirit.

“Repent” in its simplest form means to change your mind. In this case, it is to stop living for yourself and instead acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters, “[Jesus] died for all, so that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

For those who have believed and therefore repented, the act of commitment to that decision is to be baptized. Baptism represents being buried, then rising to a new life as a child of God. It is the new birth, rising out of the water into your new life of following Jesus.

That transformation is what provides the power to do the things Jesus commands. There is no hope of obeying him without the new birth. That is why Jesus said, “You must be born again.”

In future Bible studies, we will learn about the things that the Jewish prophets, Jesus, and Jesus’s apostles taught. All of those Bible studies will accomplish nothing, though, if they do not bring you to belief, repentance, and the new birth. These things are mandatory if we are to drink the new wine of Jesus’ teachings and be able to live them out.

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The Glory Which Shall Be Revealed in Us

The Apostle Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom. 8:18, WEB). Whether it is the glory that will be revealed for us, as in the World English Bible translation, or “in us” as in most translations, it is obviously a revelation we want to be around for.

This revelation is so great that the whole creation is waiting for it! (vv. 19-22). It is not just waiting, but “groaning in labor pains” (v. 22).

I got a taste of what that revelation might be when I read John 20:17. There Jesus says to Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

Until he rose, Jesus did not call the disciples his brothers. He did call them his friends (Jn. 15:15), but never brothers. Now, after the resurrection, he refers to them as brothers, and he calls his Father “my Father and your Father.” In those simple words he expressed one of the greatest things accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. He made us children of God is such a real way that he is our older Brother and we are his siblings.

John 20:17 is just the beginning of it, though. In Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that we are foreordained to be “conformed to his image,” so that he can be the firstborn among many siblings. One day, when we see him (1 Jn. 3:2), we will be so much like him that it will be right to call him the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

We have to wonder what that is like. I want to propose that Jesus, exalted to the right hand of the Father, is so glorious when he appears that it causes men–even the man that laid his head on his bosom on earth–to fall down as dead (Rev. 1:17). His eyes were a flame of fire (1:14).

If the whole creation is waiting for the revelation of the “glory” of the children of God (Rom. 8:21), is it not possible that the glory being spoken of is the same glory which rested on Jesus and caused John to collapse at his feet? Moses’ face shone when he came out the tabernacle with God, and that was the ministry of condemnation! How much more glory shall there be from the covenant of righteousness of which we partake? (2 Cor. 3:7-11). Daniel prophesied that the wise would shine like the stars of heaven (Dan. 12:3). Jesus said he was giving us his glory (Jn. 17:22).

The sufferings of this time can’t be compared to the coming glory. Have we seriously underestimated that glory? Let us not shrink back, but press forward and attain!

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Earning Heaven and Being Worthy

I think it would be good to voice (write) my agreement with the idea that we will never be good enough, in ourselves, to earn heaven. This does not negate the fact that God rewards eternal life to those who patiently continue to do good (Rom. 2:6; see also Gal. 6:8-9), but eternal life is not a wage that we have earned. The reward of eternal life is far outside anything we could possibly earn. It is the gift of God to those who call Jesus Lord and do his will (Matt. 7:21; cf. Rom. 14:9)..

We do have to be worthy of it, though. Being worthy is not the same as earning something. I pay my employees wages because they earn them. I give them bonuses because they are worthy of them.

Of course, a work bonus cannot be compared to the riches God has in store for us, but I hope you get the point. Jesus promised that those who are worthy will walk with him in white. In the church in Sardis in the first century, this was just a few members of the church, not all of them (Rev. 3:4).

Again, our inexpressibly great reward for doing good is not earned. We require mercy along the way, constant strengthening by the Holy Spirit and discipline from the Father, and we fight forward, doing the best we can and thanking God for his mercy that is new every morning.

Stand by the wayside, however, and forsake the pursuit of holiness, and you will not be found worthy, and you will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

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Psalm 73: Finding Answers in the Sanctuary of God

All Scripture in today’s post is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (I actually went through this post and counted the words I quoted from the NKJV to make sure its words were less than 25% of the post, lol. That is why I typically use the public domain World English Bible, which is a good translation itself.

I have always loved the last few verses of Psalm 73. Long ago I memorized “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none on earth I desire besides you” (v. 25). I use this verse both to exhort and to comfort myself. I remind myself with this verse to desire God first and foremost, and I encourage myself with this verse that God welcomes and desires me.

The entire Psalm is “deadly accurate.” It is an arrow fired right at our deceitful flesh, exposing it, and showing us how to crucify it.

My feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (vv. 2b-3)

Paul warns us that those who want to be rich face “temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful lusts” (1 Tim. 6:9; reworded from old KJV). It is easy to envy worldly men and women who have wealth and adulation. They don’t seem to be suffering at all for their prosperity.

Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease, they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocence. (vv. 12-13)

When we have to wait; when we are not seeing fruit; when we are struggling to make ends meet; at those times it can be hard to see the benefit of what we’re doing. It can be tempting to say, “I have cleansed my heart in vain.”

If I had said, “I will speak thus,” behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of your children. When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—” (vv. 15-16)

Why are the wicked blessed while I suffer? Have you ever asked that question of yourself? I have. The first time I couldn’t pay an electric bill, I questioned God. I had been told that where God guides, he also provides. Then why couldn’t I afford to pay my bills? I know a man who was the son of a missionary. He passed out at school as a youth because he had not eaten in three days. He said he would never become a missionary and face such poverty.

How do we understand these things? They are too painful.

The NKJV ends that statement with a dash … a pause, then gives the important word “until”:

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. (v. 17)

When we despair, when we envy, when we almost anything, we will find the answer is to enter the sanctuary of God. There we will understand whatever we need to understand. In the case of the psalmist, it was to understand the end of the wicked. In our case, it might be anything. My questions were too painful … until … until I entered the sanctuary of God.

By sanctuary I mean, of course, the New Testament holy place, though the psalmist could only have meant the holy place in the stone temple built by Solomon. For us, the sanctuary is not a building made with the hands of men, but it is the holy place in the heavens, where the throne of grace is and to which we have bold access by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 4:16). There, where there is mercy and grace to help in time of need, we can see most clearly and think most wisely.

Here is a good time to tell you that my friend, the missionary’s kid who passed out at school because of three days without food, is a missionary himself now, accomplishing a great work of church planting and feeding the hungry in India.

Psalm 78 goes on to give a message of hope for our times of foolishness and ignorance:

I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before you. Nevertheless I am continually with you; You hold my by my right hand. (vv. 22-23)

And the conclusion:

It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the LORD God, that I may declare all Your works. (v. 28)

I love Psalm 73.

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More “Coincidences” (God-incidents)

This story reminds me that I used to have a better understanding of “the burden of the Lord” than I do now. I really need to beef up my prayer life, and I am giving strong effort to do so. As the Scripture says, “The Lord is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

This happened a long time ago, in 1985 or 1986. My sister wrote me about here son “Jo-Jo.” She and her husband had been moved to an air base near Washington, D.C. so he could be treated at Bethesda Hospital. I was stationed in Germany at the time, and I did not know about his eye infection, nor even that my sister had moved.

The letter I received told me that my nephew had had a persistent eye infection for over a year. He was now blind in that eye, and the infection had spread to his other eye. He was losing vision in that eye, too.

The day I received that letter, I brought it to a couple with whom I was close friends. We prayed for about 45 minutes over that one problem. As I prayed, I could feel “the burden” lifting. Towards the end of that prayer time, I felt lighter, but that last little bit of “burden” just would not go away.

Two weeks later, I got another letter. In those days, it took a week for mail from the U.S. to get through the military postal system to me. So the letter I got had been sent one week after our prayer. It said that Jo-Jo’s sight had returned, and the infection was almost gone. The doctors expected the rest of it to go away.

I don’t want to take anything away from the doctors, who must have found a way to treat the infection. I also do not want to take anything away from God. Not only did this happen right after our prayer, even though it had been going on for over a year, but after praying, I had that feeling that we were not quite there. I am convinced that God let a little bit of the infection remain to help our faith there in Germany. My nephew did get all the way better.

If any of you want to share a story of yours in the comments, feel free.

One interesting thing was that after I was in a back and forth with atheists on EVCforum.net years ago, one of the atheists told one of those “amazing coincidence” story. There was no reason to attribute this to God, but it was amazing. Apparently his grandfather had a favorite clock that sat on his mantle all his life. Yeah, you guessed it. When his grandfather died, the clock stopped working, forever displaying the time of its owner’s death.

Not all amazing coincidences are Christian events. God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Again, I would love to hear your stories in the comments.

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Faultless Before His Throne

A friend of mine from England commented on a recent post. He feels condemned a lot when I write. If you do too, I can’t write things that are less convicting, but I can share how I deal with conviction. (I wrote this in a comment, so this is a repeat.)

Here is what I believe, Jon. I believe that he who has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of King Jesus (Php. 1:6). I believe that Jesus will confirm me to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). I believe that my Father is able to keep me from falling and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).

Back when I was giving in to my pornography addiction, I was pretty sure I was going to hell. I’m not doing that anymore, thank God.

I believe everything I wrote in my post because it is what the Bible says. I believe everything I just wrote because it is what the Bible says. God has a vested interest in making sure I live up to the things he shows me. He has a vested interest in you living up to the things he shows you.

Thus, I expect when he convicts—or even frightens me—I expect it to be impossible for me not to succeed in going forward. God does not convict to condemn. He desires the repentance of everyone (2 Pet. 3:9). He takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but that they should come to repentance (Ezek. 18:23).

By the saving power of Jesus Christ, I am zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14). Thus, when he convicts me of something, it is good news. He is going to help me get closer to him. That is especially true in this case because repentance means spending more time with him. Time with him is the best of the best of good works, though it’s probably not accurate to call it a good work.

So, yes, I think what I wrote is good news.

I read about a preacher a long time ago who said, “I will preach the truth even if the truth condemns me.” I do not know what it is like in England, though I have heard it is better than the U.S. Here, a true biblical standard is in desperate need of being set. My posts—and the Bible—set an impossible standard, but that is biblical. Meeting that standard is supernatural.

One of my favorite early Christian writings is Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. In it, Trypho (the Jew) says he loves the precepts that are in the Gospel, but he doubts that anyone can keep them. Christianity is a miraculous religion. It depends on, not just amazing grace, but miraculous grace. It also depends on abundant mercy, for none of us live up to it perfectly. What I described in this post is what I am going to fight for, confident in Christ that I am going to succeed, for as long as it takes. I will get closer and closer to God, turn my riches over to God more than I have, cast my cares on him more, and leave the pleasures of this world further behind. I am less touched by those things today, and I will be even less touched by them tomorrow. Next week, I will need to read Luke 8 again and refire my desire to please him, and I will advance even further.

A friend shared this from Clement of Alexandria recently. It is from The Instructor, written about AD 190 or 200. It says:

Now, O you, my children, our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion; God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father’s will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father’s right hand, and with the form of God is God. He is to us a spotless image; to Him we are to try with all our might to assimilate our souls. He is wholly free from human passions; wherefore also He alone is judge, because He alone is sinless. As far, however, as we can, let us try to sin as little as possible. For nothing is so urgent in the first place as deliverance from passions and disorders, and then the checking of our liability to fall into sins that have become habitual. It is best, therefore, not to sin at all in any way, which we assert to be the prerogative of God alone; next to keep clear of voluntary transgressions, which is characteristic of the wise man; thirdly, not to fall into many involuntary offenses, which is peculiar to those who have been excellently trained. Not to continue long in sins, let that be ranked last. But this also is salutary to those who are called back to repentance, to renew the contest. (Bk. II, ch. 1).

That is how I look at following Christ. Even if I did not look at it that way, I would still write what I write because that is what the Bible says. I sin, but I nonetheless am a captive of Christ. I cannot but do what he has called me to do. My heart burns at his word, and like Jeremiah, if I am silent, it burns in my bones. I will write these things even if they condemn me, but I know that in the end they will not because he has promised to present me faultless before his throne.

He promised you that, too.

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The Parable of the Sower and the American Christian

I read Luke chapter 8 today, and it was so rich and full that it felt like 560 verses rather than 56. I was astonished. It was like I had never paid enough attention to it before. Today, I think I could expound on the chapter for hours, covering subject after subject, talking about the promises of God, the requirements of God, the amazing love of Jesus, and even a defense against an atheist argument I have heard.

On this blog, though, I just want to cover the Parable of the Sower. In fact, I only want to cover one of the four types of ground upon which the seed was sown.

That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (Luke 8:14, WEB)

Do you find yourself too busy to read the Scriptures? Is it hard to find any time for prayer? Then this is you.

I have had times where my time with God competed with work, financial worries, my children, my house, and various others who needed me. At those times, I was the seed being choked out by the care of this world, riches, and the pleasures of life.

I think this is a common American malady.

Yikes.

Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why.

  • Cares
  • Riches
  • Pleasures of this life

For how many of you is this a scary list? These things have you in a choke hold, and you don’t see it. You think it is the normal Christian life. It is not. We have to free ourselves.

As I’m reading through Luke, I saw the way Jesus dealt with the overwhelming need around him. He withdrew to pray. Before important events, he spent entire nights in prayer.

Can we escape with less?

“Now she who is a widow indeed, and desolate, has her hope set on God, and continues in petitions and prayers night and day, but she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:5-6, WEB). Does that standard seem high, or even harsh? Maybe that is because we have not set a high enough standard for ourselves.

Seed that falls in good ground produces fruit, thirtyfold at a minimum. Are you producing fruit? Am I?

Those who are good ground “having heard the word, hold it tightly,” and they “produce fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15, WEB).

Getting out from under cares, riches, and the pleasures of life requires holding tightly to our time with God, and producing fruit requires perseverance. “For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36, WEB).

Fight your way out of the thorns and briars, brother … sister … You have need of endurance! Hold tightly to the seed, the implanted Word of God, which is able to save your souls, so that you may receive the promise (cf. Jas. 1:21).

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Coincidences or God Incidences?

“Answers with Joe” is a YouTube series that I occasionally run across. As a science lover, I enjoy them. Yesterday, though, I saw Joe Smith trying to explain some amazing coincidences. He appealed to the same thing that Richard Dawkins does: when there are seven billion people on the planet, some billion-to-one coincidences are going to happen.

Joe’s effort to explain this, though, tanks on the very numbers he appeals to.

Joe gives 10 amazing coincidences, then explains the math on just one of them. Before he does this, he relates a common example: a person dreaming about a loved one, and then the loved one dies the next day. Because dreaming about loved ones is common, and because it is not rare that people die, it is almost inevitable that this occurs regularly. That’s a legitimate argument that an atheist can make, sure.

The problem is that although Joe then gives 10 amazing coincidences, he only does the math on only one of them. The story he does math on is the story of an American lady who was visiting France and saw a book in a bookstore that she had loved as a child. She decided to buy it, and when she took it home, it had a note in it. It turns out the book was the very one she had read as a child. Because of the circumstances involved, Joe computes the chances of this happening as 3,331 to 1.

I am sure that Joe would admit that calculation is not very accurate, but I agree with his point. It is very unlikely, but not impossible, that an American’s childhood book would make it across the sea to France, where she would find it in an English-language bookstore. There are only so many of those in France. Also, to help the odds, her childhood book was part of an estate that was sold, and so the book could have gone anywhere at that time.

On the other hand, one he did not explain was the story of Laura Buxton. Laura was a little girl who let a helium balloon loose with a note on it, a “letter in a bottle” kind of thing. She was living in Staffordshire, England, and the balloon traveled 140 miles to land in the yard of another 10-year-old girl, also named Laura Buxton. They met, arrived in similar clothes, and found out that they both had the same pets: a grey rabbit, a black labrador, and a guinea pig. This happened in 2001 when the population of England was 49.5 million.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, there are 6,822 Buxtons in England. So the odds of the balloon reaching a Buxton was 1 in 7,256. Laura is not in the top 100 British girl names, so let’s say 1 in 500 girls in the UK are named Laura and multiply that 7,256 by 500 to get 3,628,000.

Now we have to calculate the odds that both girls were ten years old. Snopes and other sources point out that one child was 9, though they were only a few months apart in age, so let’s say the average age a UK woman lives is 70. The odds, then, that our two Laura Baxtons would be 9 or 10 is 1 in 35. Our odds are now 1 in 126,980,000.

Let’s ignore the fact that they were the same height, wore the same hair style, and each showed up wearing jeans and a pink jumper sporting their pet guinea pigs with similar markings. Let’s just add in the odds of both having a grey rabbit, black ladrador, and similar guinea pigs as their three pets! I am going to argue that is no less than a 1 in 100,000 chance, which assumes there are 495 people with that exact combination of pets. That is very generous. Adding five zeroes to our odds, we are now at 1 in 12,698,000,000,000. So with generous numbers and ignoring a few factors, we are at 1 in 12 trillion, over 1,000 times the population of the world.

I do have to point out that the true story is that a neighbor of the second Laura Baxter found the balloon, thought it was his neighbor’s, and he gave it too her. If we include Laura Baxter’s neighbors, the numbers are smaller, but not 1,000 times smaller. And remember, I left some things out.

No, Joe and Richard, we cannot explain away everything that happens by crunching numbers.

To make this post more worthwhile, let me summarize the story I saw on Youtube right after Joe’s failed mathematical defense of his disbelief. You may enjoy watching the video, though.

A man who had been raised by his mom only (possibly a stepfather) longed to know his dad. He knew only his dad’s name, Larry Lambert. Once he got married, his wife saw that he was obsessed with finding his dad. She told him he should start looking, but he had no idea how, so they prayed. That Sunday, a lady named Mary was late to church because she could not find her Bible. She grabbed her old one, the one with her maiden name on it. You guessed it, that week, she decided to sit in a different seat than she normally did, and it happened to be right in front of the man. Her maiden name was Mary Lambert, and her dad’s name was Larry Lambert. Better yet, he had the “Lambert nose,” and his dad was thrilled to find him.

Go ahead and run the numbers. Keep running them over and over and over as odd coincidences and answers to prayer pile up. I prefer to just enjoy the life of Jesus and the answers to prayer that come on an ongoing basis.

One last note. I had a discussion about this very topic on an evolution vs. creation forum a long time ago, 15 years or so. I started giving them stories. The comments slowly changed from “that was chance” to “spontaneous remission happens all the time” to “I think you’re lying.”

The “all coincidences can be explained by probability” argument just does not work, Mr. Scott and Mr. Dawkins.

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The Early Church Fathers, the Law of Moses, and the Road to Emmaus

This is from an email I sent:

The reason I like the early church fathers is because they provide insight into some important interpretations of Scripture, especially in regard to the Old Testament. One teaching that is completely lost to us is throughout the early church fathers. It is in regard to the Law, to sacrifices, and to the Sabbath. It appears to me, though, that all leaders of the early churches knew about it. Jesus literally brought the Law to fullness (i.e., extended, completed it), as he said in Matthew 5:17. Thus, the Sabbath, which was a physical rest practiced weekly, became a spiritual rest practiced continually. We enter into that rest in Christ, as Hebrews 4 teaches, and that rest is perpetual, not dependent an a day.

I can argue that doctrine based on Scripture, but I learned it from the fathers. I also learned about the “second law” from the fathers. While sacrifices existed before Aaran made the golden calf, they were not mandatory or part of the Law until after the golden calf. Moses had to return to the mountain to get this second law. This explains Jeremiah 7:21-23, which is mysterious to us who rely only on the Scriptures. There God denies ever commanding the Israelites to offer sacrifices!! There are a couple other verses like the one in Jeremiah, but I don’t know them off the top of my head.

The early church fathers had a different perspective on the Scriptures and a better understanding of the prophecies of Christ than we do. This is simply true. Wouldn’t you want to know what Jesus said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? I think the early churches did know because Jesus taught those same things to the apostles over the 40 days before he ascended into heaven. The apostles taught those things to the churches, and we would benefit greatly by learning those things ourselves.

This does not turn the fathers into Scripture, but it does make them better commentators on Scripture than just about anyone around today. There are things we have lost over the last 2,000 years. It would be great to get them back. Some of them are seen in the united churches of the second and third centuries, and some even lasted a few centuries into the apostasy.

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How Do We Prepare for the Judgment?

If we are judged by our works, and if sinless perfection is not the standard, what is? That question is reserved for the Judge of All, but he gives us descriptions that we need to take into account. My next task after Rome’s Audacious Claim is to write a book on this subject, which is worthy of a book. It is mostly written, but in very rough draft form. Here is one of my attempts to gather together Scripture in one place. Feedback welcome.

Paul Pavao So I have already made it clear that I am not talking about perfect obedience. One huge evangelical heresy is that God requires perfection at the judgment. That is based on one verse in James that is not talking about the judgment. Look at the judgment passages in Ezek. 18:20-30 and Matt. 25:31-46. We have to be forgiven regularly, 1 Jn. 1:8-9.

The “line” is not clear, which is why we are commanded to be in fear because of the judgment (1 Pet. 1:17). It is rare that anyone cares to hear that from me, but it is a command, and it is in the Bible. I can give an idea of how to be on the right side of that line.

1 John 1:7 says that if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin. Thus, John has set a standard for us to follow: walk in the light. Paul gives a description of that in Ephesians 5.

1 John 3:7 is even more important: “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one that is living righteously is righteous as he is righteous.” The righteousness of God is a gift, but that gift is given to those who are in the faith. Those who are in the faith are keeping the commandments of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:3-4). They are loving (1 Jn. 4:7-8). As Ps 36:10 says, “Continue your lovingkindness to them that know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart.” It is our job to be upright in heart, and it is God’s job to bestow righteousness upon us when we obey.

Evangelicals love to proclaim “faith only,” but they refuse to pay attention to 1 John. Faith cannot be divorced from obedience. A great definition for faith is allegiance. A loyal follower, even of men, may not be perfect, but you can tell the difference between a follower and one who is not a follower. Both John 3:36 and Hebrews 3:17-18 show us the unbreakable link between faith and obedience. That is why the Scriptures say that the Spirit (Acts 5:32) and eternal salvation (Heb. 5:8-9) are for the obedient.

Paul took the judgment pretty seriously. He said he disciplined his body daily so he would not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).. He said he left everything behind, striving for the goal, so that he might attain to the resurrection of the dead (Php. 3). He warned the church in Ephesus night and day with tears so that they would get to the end (Acts 20). We can find ways to soften that, but Paul said to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1) and ta have the same mind as he had in Philippians 3 (v. 15).

I am not the one who said that is scary. Peter said it. He said the righteous are “scarcely saved.” We have to consider why Paul was warning the Ephesians with tears every day for 3 years. We have to consider why the only thing recorded about their return trip to the churches in Acts 14 is that they appointed elders and warned them that it is through many tribulations we enter the kingdom of God.
Evangelicals play silly games with the warnings of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and Eph. 5:3-8. They gloss over Rom. 8:12-13 and Galatians 6:7-9. Walking in the Spirit is not an option; it is the only way to be saved. God is able to save. His Spirit is real and powerful. His mercy is new every morning. He bestows righteousness upon the upright in heart. He gives us great and precious promises that have delivered us from the corruption that is in the world (2 Pet. 1:3-4). His mercy is great, but his mercy is for the upright in heart. Walk by the Spirit. Seek God, and you will find great reward. If you mock him, though, then fear.

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