Whoever Denies the Son Does Not Have the Father

You cannot properly understand God if you resist the idea that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  On the other hand, if you acknowledge Jesus then you will have the right conception of God (1 John 2:23).

God was in Christ (Colossians 2:9), revealing Himself to the world (John 14:9) and reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Anyone who strays from preaching and teaching Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of God’s self-revelation, misunderstands God (2 John 9).

If you would understand God, never waver from seeking Jesus Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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What Good Are the Oracles of God if We Don’t Practice Them?

God has made clear His idea of true religion, and it is encapsulated in James 1:27.  Long before that, He had spoken through one of His prophets and said essentially the same thing when He called upon His people to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).These truths, and many supporting ones, were written and preserved for us by ancient Israel that we might know the way to God’s salvation on this earth (John 4:22).  We have these truths today in the Bible (that is, the Old and New Testaments).

Jesus made it clear that simply knowing these truths, however, is not enough – we must practice them (John 13:17).  Simply declaring allegiance to God, and to His oracles, is not near enough (Matthew 7:21).  It is the doing of God’s will that gains His favor.   

In doing God’s will, any human being can gain His favor – regardless of that person’s ethnicity, religious heritage, or educational level (Acts 10:34-35).  

Paul wrote that while the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God, it was their behavior (that is, their adherence to the conduct prescribed in those documents) that would cause the rest of humanity to either glorify or blaspheme God (Romans 2:17-3:2).  Therefore, since you have the Bible (that is, the oracles of God) what will those who know you say about God in their hearts because of your behavior?  

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.  

   

   

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God Prefers Actual Righteousness to Judicial Righteousness

I was recently in a discussion with two evangelicals who disagreed strongly with the idea that Everyone Is Going to Heaven.  In the course of listening to them explain their position, I was reminded of – and struck anew by – their doctrine of “judicial righteousness.”  That is, they believe that Jesus Christ died for sins but only by faith in Him can we appropriate the benefit of the sacrifice, which is forgiveness for our sins.  It was obvious from other contexts that they don’t believe they are any less sinners than non-evangelicals – just forgiven because of their faith in Christ.  In other words, they believe everyone is guilty of sin but only evangelicals (or believers) have righteousness, which is based on this “justice.”  Hence the term “judicial righteousness.”

This is an apalling idea.  Jesus was not sent merely so that we could be forgiven of our sins; He was sent also so that we could stop sinning!  That is, when Paul said that God made Christ sin so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) it was to make us actually righteous – not merely judicially righteous.  God blesses us through Jesus not in spite of our wicked ways, but because through Christ our behavior changes to something worth blessing (Acts 3:25-26). 

When John the Baptist told his hearers to look to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), he was not saying that the Lamb of God was taking away merely the punishment for sins, but rather the sins themselves.  John’s whole ministry was about repentance.  He was interested in seeing people changed (Luke 3:1-14).  He was certainly not saying that faith obviated the need to change.  Rather, faith gives a person the power to change.

Looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) – that is, seeing Him who is unseen (Hebrews 11:27) – is all about the power to live righteously in an unrighteous world.  The notion that faith is the only distinguishing characteristic of those who love Him is a sad and dangerous one.  If you cannot live a life demonstrably more moral than people at large, then don’t name the name of the Lord for you’ll only dishonor Him (2 Timothy 2:19).  Your judicial righteousness is useless and leads the world to blaspheme the name of the Lord.  Actual righteousness, on the other hand, advances His kingdom because it demonstrates God’s power to change lives.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Jesus Is the Most High God

Jesus was condemned for calling Himself the Son of God (John 10:33-36).  More precisely, He was calling God His Father rather than calling Himself the Son of God.  Yet He did not use this technicality as an excuse, for indeed He was the Son of God.  Instead, He reminded His critics of the psalm that said all men were gods (Psalm 82:6).  Thus when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into the highest part of heaven having been given a name above every other name, He became (once again) the Most High God (think: the most high god). 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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The Replacement God

Jesus Christ is the replacement God.  That is, God’s revelation of Himself to Adam and Eve was spoiled by the sin He had commanded them not to commit.  From the moment of their fall, God promised to bring a revelation of Himself that would overcome sin and its consequence of death (Genesis 3:15).  That is, God would ultimately direct humanity to follow Jesus Christ just as He has originally commanded Adam and Eve to follow Him.  Through this Replacement God, humanity would overcome sin.

God’s revelation of Himself as Creator had been generous.  Indeed, we can still look all around us and see evidence of His power, character, and magnificence in what has been made.  Yet God wanted to reveal Himself as more than Creator.  He wanted us to know Him as a Friend (John 15:14), Shepherd (John 10:11), Father (Isaiah 9:6), Teacher (John 13:13), and much more. 

Through Jesus Christ, God revealed Himself to be gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:28-30), even though He is Judge and Overseer of all creation.

Everything God says in the Scriptures points us to Jesus.  This applies not just to everything in the New Testament, but also to everything in the Old Testament when it is viewed in the light that Jesus’ resurrection brought to it.  God has said He would not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11).  By this, and by many other scriptures, we know that Jesus was Himself God in the flesh.  Therefore, Jesus is the God with whom God replaced Himself.  This is figurative speech, of course.  There never has been more than one God; there never will be more than one God.   Jesus Christ always has been and always will be (Hebrews 13:8).

With the revelation of Jesus Christ, God has removed the veil from our eyes and let us see Him as He is.  Let the revelation of Jesus Christ, resurrected to heaven and full of glory, replace every other conception of God you may have.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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If the New Heavens and New Earth Have Not Yet Come, Then Everyone Is Still Descending to Hades (Sheol) at Death

Some say that the new heavens and new earth are yet to come.  However, they have already come and we are living in them.  For more explanation, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again

More to the point of this post, if the new heavens and new earth have not yet come then everyone is still descending to Hades (Sheol) when they die.  If you do not know this, then you are unaware of the Bible’s teaching on afterlife and have accepted a man-made doctrine in its place. 

Search the Scriptures and you will see that Sheol (Hades), below the earth, was the abode for everyone who died.  (Sheol is the Hebrew word; Hades is the Greek word for the same place.)  You will need one of the more literal translations and a concordance to check this out because less literal translations tend not to preserve these words.  Rather, they tend to regard Sheol/Hades as a mere idioms for death and therefore translate them as “the grave” or “death” or “dying” or something similar.

According the book of Revelation, Hades would not give up its dead until the new heavens and earth came (Revelation 21-22).  Therefore, if you were to claim that the book of Revelation’s prophecies were still future then you would be stuck having to believe that no one other than Jesus has ascended into heaven (John 3:13; Acts 2:34). 

But the new heavens and earth have come, and everyone is no longer descending.  Rather, all ascend at death into heaven. 

Just as all of us die because of Adam, all of us will live after death because of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:22).  For Jesus is the Savior of the entire world, not some portion of it; believing does not make it so, but it does make you enjoy that it is so (1 Timothy 4:10).  When Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, He put Himself in a position to draw all the dead out of Sheol (Hades) by creating a new heavens and earth around Himself (John 12:32-33).

Be zealous for God, therefore, and repent of your sins.  Live for righteousness’ sake.  Seek our Savior’s kingdom!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Patience of Job Is Nothing Compared to the Patience of God

The ancient Job is regarded as a paragon of patience, and rightly so.  He endured overwhelmingly painful, distressing, and depressing calamities in his life – yet He never relinquished his faith in God.  Job is a great model for us to follow.  He was confused by God – at least for a time – but he would not let go of God. 

Job’s patience, however, is nothing compared to God’s.  God demonstrates patience in so many ways and on so many different levels that it’s impossible to fully comprehend.  You see His patience in the life He lived as Jesus of Nazareth.  Consider also that He had spent thousands of years preparing that life.  Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, He was prepared to fully reveal Himself.  However, He had to lay the groundwork first.  Part of that groundwork was to put together a written record of all that He would do as a human being.  That process of writing alone took some 1,500 years, dozens of documents, and dozens of authors.  It would be frustrating enough to try to coordinate that many people writing contemporaneously – much less if their lives were spread over a millennium and a half!

God was producing a biography before the life was lived!  Each of the authors saw only glimpses, foreshadowings, and hints of the life to come.  Yet the portrait written in the Old Testament matches completely the actual biography recorded in the New Testament.  What painstaking attention to detail and dedication to purpose God showed throughout the ages leading up to His life as Jesus of Nazareth.  Oh, and did I mention that we the human race were provoking Him with our sins and giving Him every reason possible to give up on the task all along the way? 

Compared to us, Job was a very patient man.  Compared to God – there’s still a lot that he can learn. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Why Do You Who Believe in Hell Not Try Harder to Keep People Out of It?

I occasionally hear from people who cling to the traditional and unbiblical theory of heaven and hell.  That is, they believe that at death some people go to heaven and others go to hell.  (For my belief and its biblical support, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven).  Such people are often vehement in their assertion that hell will last for eternity and that it is unmitigated in its physical and emotional pain.  What’s so strange – aside from the fact that their biblical support, once examined, is so weak – is that they spend hardly any of their lives warning people about this place!

I recently had an extended online debate with two friends who disagree with me strongly on this issue.  At the end, I checked their own web pages and there was not a single word of warning on either one about hell.  They posted their thoughts on politics, on sports, and other subjects.  They both even warned people about issues they should vote on or register an opinion on.  Yet not one word of warning about something they believed would  be of infinitely greater danger than anything that could happen in this life.

So, my challenge to you who believe in an eternal hell for some people is, why – if you love people as Jesus said we should – do you spend time talking to people about anything else?   How can we take you seriously on this subject if you don’t even take it seriously?

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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How Today’s Church Advertises Its Disobedience

Today’s churches declare that Jesus is Lord, but then demonstrate that they are not in submission to Him by how they are divided.

In New Testament days there was only one church.  Oh, they met in different places but it’s clear from the apostle’s writings that there was only one church in each city.  After all, there was the epistle to Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and so on.  There were not letters to the Ephesian Baptists, the Ephesian Methodists, the Ephesian Presbyterians, and so on.  In fact, when the church in Corinth showed the initial signs of dividing along such lines, the apostle Paul rebuked it sharply (see 1 Corinthians chapters 1 through 3). 

Today’s churches exist in over 30,000 denominations, proving they they are no longer subject to a single Lord.  The first part of Ephesians 5:24 says that the church was subject to Christ.  Well, it has long since abandoned that subjection and gone off entirely in its own direction – or rather, directions. 

In the night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed that those who believed in Him would be one (John 17:22).  Earlier in His ministry, Jesus taught that any kingdom divided against itself would fall (Matthew 12:25).  How can today’s churches claim with a straight face that Jesus is their Lord?  Alas, when I was a pastor I used to claim that He was Lord of me and my church, too.  But He opened my eyes and I saw that I was serving myself more than I was serving Him.  Therefore, I repented.  That is, I changed.  I’m no longer a pastor.  I no longer have a church.  I no longer go to church.  Rather, I seek to obey the Lord.

The church doesn’t need reforming – it needs to be abandoned.  Instead of going to church, obey Jesus.  He said that we should turn from selfishness and love one another.  He also said that we should be humble.  Therefore, don’t associate with any group that thinks it’s holier than everyone else.  Instead, be holy in your behavior.  Husbands and wives, love each other and your children.  Children, honor your parents.  Live for morality, not for gain.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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The Linchpin of the Testaments

Jesus of Nazareth (as described in the 27 books of the New Testament) and the Messiah of Israel (as prophesied in the 39 books of the Old Testament) are indeed one and the same Person: Jesus Christ.  He is the linchpin of the two testaments. 

Jesus Christ is the unifying principle of the Bible by virtue of His being its unifying personality.  He is the focal point of “the Scriptures of the prophets” (Matthew 26:56 and Romans 16:26) as well as the focal point of “the apostle’s teaching” (Acts 2:42).  Of course, “the Scriptures of the prophets” is a term synonymous with the Old Testament just as “the apostles’ teaching” is a term synonymous with the New Testament.

“This is that,” so to speak, says the Bible – with “this” being the New Testament and “that” being the Old Testament.  In other words, this New Testament is that which the Old Testament promised. 

To reverently call Him “Jesus Christ” is to testify to the unity of the two testaments, which are really not two at all.  They are one testament of Him.  The terms “Old” and “New” are merely labels we have applied to distinguish them.  They both speak of our Savior – one in the future tense, one in the past.  Each confirms the other. 

Without the New Testament, the Old Testament is merely a record of unkept promises.  Without the Old Testament, the New Testament is merely the record of an event without meaning.  Through the name Jesus Christ, these two volumes come together in spectacular unity. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Why Was Jesus Named Jesus?

Of course, God appointed an angel to make sure that the firstborn of Joseph and Mary would be named “Jesus.”  But why might God have instructed that?

The curse of Babel forces us to do extra work to answer a question like this.  The Hebrew form of Jesus is “Joshua.”  Therefore, “Joshua” (or its Aramaic equivalent) is the name Jesus’ contemporaries would have heard, and it certainly would have brought to their minds memories of Moses and the Joshua who followed him as leader of the children of Israel.  Moses was the first great leader of the people of God.  Because of his sin, Moses was not allowed to lead those people into the promised land of Canaan.  That task and honor fell to his successor Joshua.  In this typology we see the outline of Jesus’ great mission.

It is interesting to note that it was Moses who gave Joshua his name for Joshua’s birth name had been “Hoshea.”  In Hebrew Hoshea means “salvation” while Joshua means “the Lord is salvation.”  Ponder the depths of what Moses was saying.  He knew that Joshua, great as he was, was merely a type of the far greater leader of God’s people who would one day come.  Of him, Moses said, “God will raise up a prophet like me from among your brethren; to him you shall give heed in everything he says to you” (Deuteronomy 18:15 and Acts 3:22).

The first Joshua saved God’s people from their enemies.  The last Joshua saved God’s people from their true enemies – their own sins.  For this reason the angel had told Joseph that Jesus would “save His people from their sins.”  Of course, “save” means to “provide salvation.”

Through Moses, God was prophesying when Hoshea was renamed Joshua – that He Himself would be the great leader!  The Lord would be salvation.  That is, the Lord does not merely bring us salvation.  He is the salvation that He brings.  For this reason, your relationship with Him is your salvation.  Cherish it!  That is, cherish Him!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Christ Our Life

Christ did not come to enter into your life.  He came to be your life.

Jesus said, “I am the life.”  (John 14:6)

Paul embraced this idea and stated it this way, “For me to live is Christ.”  (Philippians 1:21)

Paul also wrote that “Christ is our life.”  (Colossians 3:4)

In Galatians 2:20 Paul declared himself to be dead and that Christ was now living in Him.  In Galatians 6:14 Paul reiterated that he had been crucified to this world.

The point is that we should cease living by ourselves and for ourselves – the way of life we inherited from having been born into this world (1 Peter 1:17-19).  Instead, we should live life for Christ and with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

The death we die through Christ is a death to sin, and the life we live is life to God (Romans 6:10).  Repent of trying to get God to help you live your life.  He has already promised to help you live His.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Off-Center Christianity

How far off center does modern-day Christianity have to become before we who know the Bible declare it to be so? 

The center of Christianity is Jesus.  Yet where is He in today’s Christianity?  He is given a back seat to church and ministry building. 

When David spoke in Psalm 27 of wanting to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of His life, God foresaw a time when His people would do just that.  We today live in that age – the day of Christ, the eternal age of the kingdom of God.  Yet, instead of proclaiming Christ as that eternal dwelling place for those who will humble themselves and live righteously, we build churches and call them the houses of the Lord.  This is idolatry just as surely as Aaron’s golden calf was idolatry.

Let us return to center by forsaking churches, programs, clergy, and every other facet of organized Christianity.  In its place let us seek only the King and His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) for this is what He has commanded us to do.

Cast aside off-center Christianity and return to Him from whom we have wandered so far (Isaiah 31:6).  Proclaim Christ and be done with lesser things.   

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Is Leaderless Christianity Desirable?

Would it be desirable for the leaders of the over thirty thousand Christian denominations (and the untold number of churches that belong to them, as well as the untold number of nondenominational churches) to forsake their positions of leadership that Jesus Christ might fully reign over His people?  Absolutely!

Think of the glory if these leaders were to forsake lording over the Lord’s flock and instead simply began to praise His name!  Just imagine tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of these Christians singing His praise day by day, declaring the glory of our Lord!  What an advance Christianity as a movement would make!

The Lord does not need our institutions and our organizations but He will inhabit the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).  Let us therefore proclaim Him with all our might.  Let us shout ‘Hosanna!” to the Son of David.  The world would be far more impacted by this sort of behavior than by all the church building that is going on in God’s name.  God doesn’t need us to build churches.  He wants us to love Him and live for Him.  He builds the one true church of those who trust in Him with their whole hearts.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Your House Is Left to You Desolate

In Matthew 23, Jesus made it abundantly clear that none of us should try to take His place as the leader of God’s people.  He denounced the Pharisees for taking the seat of Moses.  Then He instructed His disciples to avoid positions and titles of leadership.  Yet in spite of this clear warning we have thousands upon thousands of Christian denominations today, each with its own human leadership. 

The apostle Paul foresaw these divisions and spoke out against their first manifestations (1 Corinthians 1-3).  Yet he knew usurpers would come out of hiding after his departure (Acts 20:29-30).  It is upon the foundation of such self-appointed leaders that the institution of today’s Christian churches stand.  Yet Jesus is not ruling them.  Instead, He is ruling the kingdom of God which neither has nor needs any human leadership.

Thus, the houses of worship we see in the world today are left desolate by the Lord.  Be sure that when His word is preached and His name is glorified, He will be faithful.  But He is not being faithful to that institution; He is being faithful to His word, His name, and to those who believe in Him.  This faithfulness of His will be shown wherever His word is preached – whether in a church or not.  Churches have no bearing on the efficacy of His word.  As He said to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem so He says to every leader of a church today, “Your house is being left to you desolate!”  (Matthew 23:37-30)

Repent of your loyalty to any person, group, or name other than Jesus Christ Himself.  He alone is worthy of our obedience, and His name alone is worthy of glory (Zechariah 14:9).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

It’s Time to Come Out of the Catacombs

Jesus told Paul that He was bringing the world out of the darkness of its ignorance.  Prior to that time, the world had been worshiping Satan – in ignorance, of course (Acts 26:18)  Jesus was bringing the light of the knowledge of God to the world through Paul and others.  As a result, people would be able to turn from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from Satan to God.  As they turned, people would receive the forgiveness of their sins and an inheritance of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding through their faith in Jesus Christ.

All this is still true today.  Yet there needs to be more people like Paul and the other Christians of his day who bring this light to the darkened world.  This is easier said than done because it takes courage to bring that light.  The world today is prepared to heap immediate and abundant scorn on anyone who brings up Christ in everyday conversation.  The only people who are prepared to live with this rejection are those who have determined to love God more than life itself. 

The world has no problem with your faith as long as you practice it out of their sight.  They will let you sing all the worship songs you want to sing and pray all the prayers you want to pray as long as you do it somewhere else.  That’s why they don’t object to churches.  Churches give you a place away from general society where, from society’s point of view, you can get all those urges out of your system.  Then when you come to work on Monday you can act like they do – that is, keeping mum about God, His glory, and His commandments. 

It’s time to come out of the catacombs.  It’s time to let the light of God shine through us who believe in Him who died for the sins of the whole world.  When the light is in the churches, it’s covered and hidden from the world.  The light of God was not meant to be hidden.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Open the Eyes of Our Hearts, Lord

Jesus said Isaiah was right when he criticized those who worshiped God with the right words but whose hearts were far removed (Matthew 15:1-20).  This criticism applies to  all the churches today, for they pay only lip service to God while what they really seek is devoted church members.

One of the most popular choruses sung in today’s churches that sing contemporary music (I could have chosen the hymn “All to Jesus I Surrender” for the other churches), is the chorus “Open the Eyes of Our Hearts, Lord.”  What an irony!  The very thing the singers of these words are praying for is the very thing God wants to do for them…but they won’t receive it. 

God would open the eyes of our hearts so that we would worship Him from our hearts all the time.  That is, not only on certain days at certain times with certain instruments and a powerful sound system.  It is precisely because the eyes of our hearts are closed to Him that we have reduced worship to a musical exercise.  When people say, “Wasn’t worship wonderful this morning?” have they not made themselves judges of a musical performance?

True worship is enthrallment of the heart.  It may on occasion lead to expression on a musical instrument, but even that would be minor.  What’s major is the heart devoted fully to its Creator and expressing itself through every word and deed of every day:  Acts of kindness to those less fortunate, performed by a heart enthralled with God.

Open the eyes of your heart and see that God wants your heart, not your guitar. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Come, Now Is the Time to Worship

Jesus said that the problem with the Pharisees was that they said things but did not do them (Matthew 23:1-3).  This, of course,. defines a hypocrite.  And Jesus was not afraid to call them by this name (no less than eight times in Matthew 23!).

This does not mean that the Pharisees did not know the truth – it means they did.  Jesus went so far as to say that salvation was from the Jews (John 4:20-24), just as today He would also say it is from the Christians.  The problem with the Jews, Pharisees, and Christians is not that they don’t have the truth but that they don’t practice it.  Remember: hypocrites are long on truth and short on behavior.

Another way of defining their problem is to say that they pay lip service to the truth, but little else.  As Isaiah put it (Isaiah 29:13) and Jesus quoted him in Matthew 15 and Mark 7, their lips are close to God but their hearts are far way.

For example, one of the most popular songs in many churches today begins with the exhortation that we should come and worship because “now is the time.”  The words echo Jesus’ words in John 4:23.  Those who sing the words are paying them beautiful lip service but their hearts don’t grasp the meaning.  For while Jesus was talking about worship as a way of living that is for all times and all places, today’s singers make the song about singing at select times and places (that is, at a “worship service”) – as if “now” was not always “now.”

If “now is the time to worship,” and if “now is always now” then let us worship Him now – from our hearts.  If worship is abundant in our hearts, it will permeate our entire being.  It will also overflow into our lips, but those expressions won’t be reserved for certain days and times at certain places with certain other people.  It will be at all times and in all places, for our hearts will not be able to help themselves (Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:17).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom

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How Can So Many Defy the Lord’s Instruction…and in His Name No Less!

Jesus instructed His disciples that none of them should be called leaders because He Himself was the leader (Matthew 23:10).  Why then do we have over 30,000 Christian denominations each with its own leader or leaders?

The answer is that they have defied the Lord they proclaim to serve.  Let’s be sure we do not make the same mistake.  Jesus is the Leader.  Follow Him!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Why Do We Say Things and Not Do Them?

Jesus famously said in the Sermon on the Mount that unless our righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees we would not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). 

We should ask then: “How much righteousness did the scribes and Pharisees have?”  The answer is that they had enough to know the right answers but not enough to do them (Matthew 23:1-3).

Have you noticed that this is the same degree of righteousness that churches have today?  This is even true of the churches who are the most faithful to the Scriptures.  That is, even in the best of churches people are professing truth that they are not practicing. 

Why is this?  Why do we say things and not do them?  It is because we are unwilling to give up the secret sins of our hearts (John 3:19-21).  If anyone in the churches were to begin to practice the truth that they preach, they would realize that God is everywhere and cannot be contained by a place or time of worship designated by human beings.  Practicing the truth that the churches preach would mean for an individual coming out of the churches (2 Corinthians 6:16-18) and experiencing the rejection that Jesus experienced (Hebrews 13:12-14). 

Again, why do we say things and not do them?  Because we’ve deemed it too costly. 

But I beg of you:  Reconsider!  Give up your relationship with the self-proclaimed people of God in order to have a relationship with the living God Himself.  If you do so, you will by that act be joining the true people of God.  For the people of God are indeed…of God.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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The God of Correction

The early chapters of the book of Revelation are filled with scathing criticisms of Christian disciples.  Jesus was the one who was dishing out those rebukes.  He didn’t speak this way because He didn’t love those people.  Quite the contrary.  He spoke harshly because He loved them and their behavior demanded this kind of response (Revelation 3:19).

Discipline is an essential part of parental love, as Hebrews 12:1-11 makes clear. 

The whole God-loves-you-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life message is only accurate to the extent that you understand that the foremost part of that plan is that you live a lifestyle of repentance.

Indeed, God does intend to give you a great future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11), but you can only experience them if you turn from living for yourself to living for Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

Living for Him means loving God above all and our neighbor as God loves us (1 John 3:23).  It doesn’t mean having God make all our dreams come true.  Rather, it means making God’s dreams for us come true to by being obedient to His instruction (James 4:13-17). 

This means God’s overarching message to us must be one of correction because selfless love is not the way most of us have been living.  The good news is, that if we will bear His reproof, we will be filled with His Spirit (Proverbs 1:23) which results in righteousness, peace, and (yes) joy for us (Romans 14:17).   

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Do You Walk in the Same Manner as Jesus Walked?

Jesus went about doing good for everyone (Acts 10:38).

If you say that you know Jesus, you should live the same way that He did (1 John 2:3-6).  That is, you should walk in the same manner that He walked.  He walked by love.  Everything He did was motivated by a love for God and a love for the people around Him – even for the whole human race.

If we’re going to walk as He walked, we’re going to have to keep His commandments.  He kept His own commandments and that’s what caused His life to be a life of love.  His commandments are that we love God above all else, and our neighbors as ourselves.  Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t the first person to formulate those commandments – they had been written by Moses over a thousand years before Jesus was born.  Jesus was just the first person to obey them to the limit.  He does not expect to be the last.  For this reason, He left us steps in which we should walk (1 Peter 2:21-25).

How can we say we’re following Him if we’re not living the way He said (that is, the way He lived)?

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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His Name Is Enough

There is no other name by which we may be saved from our sins (Acts 4:12), and make no mistake that it is from our sins that we need saving.

You do not have to have physically seen Jesus of Nazareth in order to benefit from His saving ability – just believe in His name.  His name is sufficient (John 1:12; 20:29-31).  In fact, you are more blessed for believing the story you’ve heard than the apostles were for witnessing it first hand.

You do not need a local church.  You do not need a pastor.  You do not need a spiritual mentor.  You need the name of Jesus – that’s all.  Believe in that name and listen to His whisperings in your heart.  He wants you to do right.

Be like Zaccheus.  That is, let the mere encounter of Jesus inspire you to repent.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Have You Stopped Repenting?

We can’t think we’re having fellowship with God if we keep living the same self-centered way we have been.  We must live as if every thought we have is on display for heaven (because it is).  When we do have evil thoughts, we should confess them (1 John 1:5-10) – and long before they ripen into evil actions.  This repentance brings the joy of heaven (Luke 15:7).

God came to earth and lived as Jesus of Nazareth so that He could be rejected and crucified by us.  Why did He do this?  So that we could have irrefutable proof that He loves us.  Thus, we would from then on look to Him in heaven knowing that we could be forgiven for any sin.  For this reason we fear Him, because He is approachable (Psalm 130:4).  If we thought He was unwilling to forgive sin, we would never go to Him.  He wanted to demonstrate His approachability.

That Jesus forgives our sins does not mean that our sins are not judged.  Certainly, Israel was judged for its crucifixion of Jesus in the destruction of its temple, its capital, and its sovereignty in 70 A.D.  Yet all the individuals who repented of their participation in that event were forgiven and were protected and delivered through that terrible time.

We can only afford to stop repenting when we have stopped sinning.  If, therefore, you have stopped repenting, have you stopped sinning?  Are you even making an effort to repent – or have you given up, saying to yourself that you’re living okay compared to others?  Do not go the way of the world.

Do not stop repenting until you have stopped sinning.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Why Do We Have to Look to Jesus?

Paul said that the One who didn’t know sin became sin for us that we could become righteous like Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

This matches what Jesus said when He likened His coming crucifixion to the serpent Moses put on a pole for the Israelites (John 3:14-15 and Numbers 21:8-9).  Those who looked at the serpent lived.  Even so, those of us who look to Jesus (that is, see Him by faith, lifted up in heaven) live eternally in doing so.

Jesus reveals the awful evil of which we humans are capable.  We murdered Him!  We killed the kindest, most gentle person who ever walked the earth.  We did not build Him a shrine, we did not humble ourselves to sit at His feet.  We killed Him.  Or we betrayed Him.  Or we denied Him.  Or we just stood by when the crucifixion was taking place. 

Jesus’ death defiled even the land, for it was Moses who said that he who is hanged on a tree is cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23). 

To find out that all this evil was part of God’s plan, and that therefore He intended to forgive it, begins to reveal just how good God’s goodness really is.  He wanted to demonstrate how much He loved us.  Therefore, He used the fullness of our wickedness to demonstrate the fullness of His kindness.

Where else are you going to look to find such goodness?  Nowhere but Jesus.  That’s why we have to look to Him.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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How Much Progress Have You Made in Righteousness?

Paul said that Christ would make us into the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  That’s as righteous as it gets!

This matches what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) and that the goal was that we become perfected as God Himself (Matthew 5:48).  When we hear things from Jesus this hard to believe, we have to remind ourselves that He also said that the things impossible with humans are possible with God (Luke 18:27).

As for the Pharisees, the closest representation we have of them today are churchgoers.  Therefore, He’s saying that unless your righteousness exceeds that of churchgoer’s, it isn’t good enough.  The righteousness God desires from us must be lived every hour of the day, every day of the week.  Churchgoing is a ritual that doesn’t have anything to do with righteousness.  It’s a lot of talk about righteousness, but churchgoer’s behavior is not noticeably different from that of the general population.

Ask yourself today, and every day, how much progress you have made from your sinful ways.  It’s an affront to God’s honor if we are not making appropriate progress toward the ultimate goal (1 Timothy 4:15 and Philippians 1:6).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Do You Self-Identify as Righteous or Sinner?

We know that Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but rather sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

Even the great apostle Paul identified himself as a sinner being saved and not as a righteous person – at least once he came into the saving graces of Jesus (1 Timothy 1:15).  Prior to that, he was a typical Pharisee – self-righteous and proud of it (Philippians 3:1-7), even when he was persecuting the Lord’s people (Acts 22:19-20). 

Jesus told a parable to make clear the attitude he was looking for in those who prayed to Him (Luke 18:9-14).  You can either trust in yourself, which makes you think you are righteous because you are comparing yourself to other people.  Or you can trust in God, which is righteous because you recognize that you are a sinner when compared with Him.

One of the problems with churchgoing is that it sets up in the churchgoer’s mind a division between those who are honoring God (that is, those who attend church) and those who don’t honor Him (because they don’t go to a church).  Jesus never commanded anyone to go to church.  What honors Him is obedience to what He has commanded.   

If you would honor God, then acknowledge your sinfulness to Him and let Him lead you into His righteousness by faith in His glorious redemption (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).  Your faith in Him will distinguish you in His eyes (Acts 26:18) and give you the light necessary to navigate this darkened world in which we live (John 12:46).

Even Jesus, who was without a single sin of His own (Hebrews 4:15), identified with sinners when He submitted to the ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17).  Note that it was immediately after He had done this that the Father spoke from heaven about the love He had for this Son.  Thus, acknowledging our sin does not alienate us from God – instead it endears us to Him. 

Be assured that repentance is becoming in God’s sight.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Salvation from Sin Is a Process

Salvation from sin is a process, not a transaction.  Far too often I have heard Jesus’ promise to redeem us from our sins reduced to a single prayer or a response to an altar call.  It is then said that our sins are wiped away as if a legal accounting transaction has taken place.  The exchange seems to be “If you pray the sinner’s prayer, He will make you white as snow.”  While there may be grains of truth in this formulation, it has become so perverted as to render meaningless the true promise of Jesus.

Jesus means to make us righteous.  That is, He means to lead us away from sinning and into acting righteously in all we do.  This glorifies Him.  Let us not deny Him His power or glory by refusing to participate in the process that actually cleanses our lives of sin – that makes us into much better people.

The process of salvation consists of looking by faith to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  He is the Holy One of Israel, the only One to whom we can look and be saved (Isaiah 45:22).  In so “seeing” Him, we are energized with His love.  When we look away from Him, the process of salvation is interrupted and we begin to sink back into our sinful attitudes (Matthew 14:26-31).  Let us therefore keep our eyes fixed on Him, even in difficult times (Hebrews 12:1-2).  In that looking by faith, we are empowered to live in a way that is always pleasing to Him. 

A glance at Jesus makes the moment.  An steady and uninterrupted gaze at Jesus makes a life. 

Walk by this faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) for there is no other way to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).  And there is certainly no other way to be saved from sin. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Sin Is the Problem

We must never forget that the root of every problem in the world is sin.  Therefore, to deal with the world’s problems without dealing with sin is to hack away at the branches of a tree that will just grow more branches.  To deal with sin is to deal with the root.

The name of Christ is proclaimed all over the world today, but how often is He proclaimed as the one who has come to deal with the root of all that is wrong?  Instead, His name is used to promote church building, entertainment, and all sorts of other extraneous enterprises.  If you would speak of Christ, speak of His power to turn us from our sinful ways (James 5:19-20).  Speak of Him as the One who brings us out of our slavery to sin (John 8:34). 

The Bible makes perfectly clear in its earliest chapters that everything in the creation was good until humanity sinned.  Has the word “sin” become too old-fashioned to invoke?  It certainly is vogue in terms of practice!

Sin is the problem.  Righteousness is the solution.  And Jesus is the way to move from the one to the other. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom .

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The Centerpiece of All God’s Workings

When Paul was preaching the gospel to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13), he closed with a warning that God was accomplishing a work in their days which some would not believe even if it was described to them.  That warning is eternal and therefore applies today as well.

The stone which the builders rejected is the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-8).  The builders rejected it then and the builders are still rejecting it today.  Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it (Psalm 127).  The Lord is building His house.  If you are building one for Him you are wasting your time – and His, too (read Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7).  Rise up, you people of God, and be done with lesser things.  With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, serve the King of kings – Jesus Christ our Lord.

Many people will say that the church is the centerpiece of God’s workings, but they are wrong.  Do not join that error.  Serve the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent King Jesus!  Only He can cleanse you from your sins.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom .

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Christ the Heir

The writer to the Hebrews begins the letter by declaring that the Son of God is “heir of all things.”  This leaves nothing out.

No doubt the writer was mindful of Psalm 2 and especially verse 8.  The Son was to inherit the nations and the earth upon which they dwelt.

Of course, the very reason Jesus had died and risen again is so that He might be Lord of the dead and the living (Romans 14:7-9).  He never intended to leave anything out.

For this reason we who live today should cease living for ourselves and instead live for Him who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  He is the heir and we are the prize of His inheritance (Matthew 13:44).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom .