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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Book of Galatians

Paul wrote Galatians to the churches in Galatia that he and Barnabas had founded during their first missionary journey.

The main issue addressed in Galatians is the same one that would be debated and resolved at the counsel in Jerusalem. It involved a two-part question: 1. is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord the only requirement for a person to receive salvation and a personal relationship with God? 2. Or is obedience to certain Old Testament Jewish practices and laws required in order to be spiritually saved an have a right relationship with God? It appears that Paul wrote Galatians before the controversy was formally debated at Jerusalem and the church's official position was confirmed.

Paul had learned that certain Jewish teachers were confusing and unsettling his new Christian converts in Galatia. One of the main laws they were attempting to force upon the new believers was the practice of circumcision. Paul wrote to firmly deny that legal requirements have anything to do with the gift of God's grace and to reaffirm clearly that we receive the Holy Spirit and renewed spiritual life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not by relying on the Old Testament law.

Four unique features characterize Galatians. It is the most powerful New Testament defense of the basic nature of the gospel - the message that forgiveness, freedom and spiritual salvation are possible only because of God's gracious gift through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a gift we can only receive by putting our faith in Christ and actively yielding our lives to Him. The tone of Galatians is sharp, serious, and urgent, as Paul deals boldly and firmly with his opponents and rebukes the Galatians for allowing themselves to be so open and accepting of such false teaching. It is second only to 2 Corinthians in the amount of autobiographical references. This is Paul's only book clearly addressed to several churches. It contains a list of the fruit of the Spirit and the most complete New Testament list of the acts of the sinful human nature.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Book of 2 Corinthians

After some initial contacts and correspondence between Paul and the Corinthian church, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus. Next, Paul made a trip across the Aegean Sea to Corinth to address further problems in the church. This visit between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians was a painful one for Paul and the congregation because of the serious issues involved. After this difficult visit, reports reached Paul at Ephesus that opponents in Corinth were still attacking him and questioning his spiritual authority in the church. These troublemakers were attempting to persuade a portion of the church to reject Paul. In response, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. Shortly after that, Paul traveled to Corinth again, where he remained about three months.

Paul wrote this letter to address three categories of people involved in the church at Corinth. First, he wanted to encourage the majority who had been faithful to him. He wanted to challenge and expose the false leaders and messengers who continued to speak against him personally, trying to undermine his leadership and authority. He wanted to warn and firmly address the minority in the church who were being influenced by Paul's opponents and resisting his authority and correction. Paul defended the integrity of his ministry and reaffirmed his authority as a pioneer leader of the Corinth church. He also clarified his motives of love and concern for the Corinthians and warned them against further rebellion.

2 Corinthians has three main divisions. Paul begins by thanking God for giving him peace and comfort as he suffered for the sake of Christ and His message. Paul then commends the Corinthians for how they disciplined a spiritual offender. Paul then shares the most extensive insight in the New Testament on the true character of Christian ministry. He stresses the importance of separation from worldly beliefs, behaviors and lifestyles. He then expresses joy in learning from Titus that many in the church who had previously rebelled against Paul had experienced a genuine change of heart.

The tone of his letter changes in chapter 10 -13. Paul defends his apostleship. By presenting this defense, Paul hopes the Corinthians will be able to compare and, thus, identify the false messengers among them. Paul concludes 2 Corinthians in the only benediction in the New Testament addressing all three persons of the Trinity: Go the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Four major features characterize this letter. It is the most autobiographical of all Paul's letters. His many personal references are made with open and transparent humility, sincere apology and even embarrassment at the need to defend himself. But this tone was understandable and necessary because of the situation at Corinth. It goes beyond all of Paul's other New Testament letters in revealing the deep love and concern he felt for his spiritual children. It contains the New Testament's most developed teaching about Christian suffering and about Christian giving. Key terms, such as "weakness", "grief", "tears", "danger", "distress", "suffering", "comfort", "boasting", "truth", "ministry and glory" highlight the unique character of this letter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Book of 1 Corinthians

Along with Priscilla and Aquila and his own ministry team, Paul started the Corinthian church during his eighteen month ministry in Corinth on his second missionary journey. The church included Jews, but mostly Gentiles who had come out of a pagan background. After Paul left Corinth, a variety of problems arose in the church requiring his God-given teaching and authority, both in writing and in person.

Paul had two reasons in mind when he wrote this letter: He wanted to correct the serious problems that had been reported to him. Paul saw them as serious violations of God's standards. He also wanted to provide godly counsel and instruction on a variety of issues. These issues included behaviors and moral purity involving specific individuals and the whole congregation. This letter addresses problems that churches have when members remain worldly in their thinking. There were problems of conflicts and divisions based on personality and social class, tolerance of unnatural sexual behavior, sexual misconduct in general, public lawsuits, personal ideas that distorted God's truth and conflicts about questionable behavior.

Among the most important contributions of 1 Corinthians is Paul's teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church and worship setting. More than anywhere else in the New Testament, these chapters provide insight into how worship took place in the early church. Paul teaches that God's purpose for the church includes a wide variety of the Holy Spirit's works through faithful Christians who are gifted and appointed by God for certain ministries. In providing guidelines for the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church, Paul makes a distinction between how individuals benefit and how the whole church benefits from the gifts. He insists that all public expressions of spiritual gifts must flow out of love and consideration for others and that they must be used in a way that builds up the congregation.

Five major features characterize 1 Corinthians. 1. It is the most problem centered letter in the New Testament that deal also with modern-day churches. 2. There is an overall emphasis on the unity of the local church as the body of Christ with a unified purpose to honor Christ and spread His message to the community and to the world. 3. This letter contains the most extensive New Testament teaching on such important subjects as celibacy, marriage and remarrying, the Lord's Supper, speaking in tongues, prophecy and spiritual gifts, true godly love and the resurrection of the body. it provides wisdom for pastors and church leaders about methods of church discipline. It emphasizes the real possibility of people turning away from once-genuine faith if they continue in ungodly behavior and do not follow Christ wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Book of Romans

Romans is the first New Testament book attributed to the apostle Paul - a pioneer missionary and messenger of Christ who stated many New Testament letters or books. The book of Romans is Paul's longest and perhaps his most influential letter. Among all of his New Testament writings, Paul's letter to the Romans contains the most in depth theology. Probably for these reasons it is placed first among his 13 New Testament books - the letters he wrote to various churches and church leaders with whom he had ministered or had great influence. Paul wrote Romans in connection with his God-given mission to take the message of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.

Paul wrote this letter to prepare the way for his anticipated ministry at Rome and his planned mission to Spain. He had two primary purposes for writing. The Romans had apparently received distorted, or confusing, rumors about Paul's  message and teaching about God. For this reason, Paul felt it necessary to put into writing the message he had been preaching for twenty-five years. He intended to correct certain problems in the church that stemmed from wrong attitudes of Jews toward Gentiles and Gentiles toward Jews.

The theme of Romans is introduced in 1:16-17. Basically, Paul expresses the power of Christ's message to save people spiritually and to bring them into a right relationship with God. The main idea is this: God sets things right between Himself and people who have faith in Jesus Christ. First, he points out that the problem of sin and humanity's need to be rescued from sin and restored to a right relationship with God affects every person who ever lives. Apart from God's grace, no person can become right with God on their own standards. We must rely on Him, yield our lives to Him and accept His gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul describes how people whose lives have truly been transformed by Christ will reflect His righteousness, love and other character traits in all areas of life. This includes their personal attitudes and behaviors, as well as their conduct, interaction an relationships with people inside and outside the church. Following some final words of challenge and encouragement and an explanation of his personal plans, he draws his letter to a close with a final warning against deception and division in the church. He concludes by honoring God for what He accomplished through Jesus Christ.

Seven major features characterize Romans. Romans is Paul's most in-depth and organized letter, expressing a broad yet specific, overview of New Testament theology. Paul writes in a question and answer, or debating style. Paul uses the Old Testament extensively as a basis of authority for his presentation of the true nature of the message about Christ. Paul presents the spiritual concept of a righteousness from God as the core revelation of the gospel. Paul focuses on the two elements of the nature of sin, along with God's way of dealing with each element through the life and sacrifice of Christ. Romans 8 is the most developed chapter in the Bible on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ's followers. Romans contains the Bible's most powerful discussion about the Jews rejection of Christ and how God's plan ultimately comes back to Israel (chapters 9-11).

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Book of Acts

The book of Acts is a sequel, with continuation, of the Gospel of Luke and is addressed to the same man named Theophilus. Although the author is not identified by name in either book, the opinion of the majority of early Christians and the supporting evidence from within the two books point to Luke, "our dear friend... the doctor" (Col. 4:14), as the author of both books.

The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write to Theophilus to fill a need in the church - particularly among the first Gentile Christians throughout the middle eastern and Mediterranean regions of the Roman Empire. Luke's books provide a full and accurate account of the beginnings of Christianity. His former book (Luke) is his Gospel about Jesus' life. His book of Acts is his account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem. Acts also gives account of the growth and development of the early church that followed. It is obvious that Luke was a skilled writer, a careful historian and an inspired theologian.

Acts covers selected portions of the first thirty years of the history of the church. As a church historian, Luke traces the spread of the message about Christ from Jerusalem to Rome. In the process, he mentions 32 countries, 54 cities, 9 Mediterranean islands, 95 different persons by name and a variety of government officials by their specific titles. Modern archaeology continues to confirm the amazing accuracy of the details recorded by Luke. In addition to historical details, Luke insightfully describes the meaning and importance of various experiences and events in the church's early years.

Luke has at least two purposes for recording the church's beginnings. He shows how the gospel spread effectively beyond the Jewish believers to the Gentiles. In spite of opposition and persecution, the book of Acts reveals how Christ's message eventually reached most of the Roman Empire. Luke reveals the Holy Spirit's central role in the church's life and mission, emphasizing the baptism in the Holy Spirit as God's way of empowering the church to spread the message of Jesus and to continue His ministry. Luke clearly records three times that the baptism in the Spirit was characterized by speaking in tongues. The context of these passages indicates that this was a normal experience in early Christianity and in God's enduring pattern for the church to this day.

While Luke's Gospel records "all that Jesus began to do and to teach", Acts describes what Jesus continued to do and teach - through His followers - after He returned to heaven. Jesus' work continued through the power of the Holy Spirit working through His followers individually and as a church body in cities, nations and throughout the world. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, His last instruction to His disciples was to wait in Jerusalem until they were "baptized with the Holy Spirit". The key verse of Acts (1:8) summarizes the spiritual and geographical focus of the book: Jesus promises His followers that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them.

Nine major themes characterize Acts: The church; the Holy Spirit; early church messages; prayer; signs; persecution; Jew/Gentile sequence; women, triumph of the message.

God gave us the book of Acts as more than just a history of the early church. The content reveals that God wanted to be a guide for Christian living and for a Spirit-filled church. Christians today ought to desire and expect their lives and churches to be characterized by the same types of ministry and experiences that were evident in the New Testament church, except that we are not still writing New Testament Scripture. This Biblical standard is accomplished when the church is operating in the full power of the Spirit. Nothing in Acts or the rest of the New Testament teaches that the miracles, spiritual gifts and standards for the church revealed throughout this book were relevant only for a period of time. These powerful works of the Holy Spirit wee not meant to end with the ministry of Christ's first followers. Christians today have the same purpose and need the same power to fulfill Christ's mission in their generation. Acts clearly reveals what the church must be and do in any generation as it continues Jesus' ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Gospel of John

John's Gospel is unique among the four Gospels. It records much about Jesus' ministry in Judea and Jerusalem that the other three gospels leave out, and it gives a deeper insight into the "mystery" of Jesus' personhood as both God and man. The author is identified as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." It is clear from the Gospel that he described events from an eyewitness perspective, that he knew Jewish life well and that he was a leader of great influence in the early church. The writings of historians such as Trenaeus and Tertullian, the testimony of ancient Christianity and the internal evidence of the Gospel itself point to John, the son of Zebedee, as the author.

According to several ancient sources, the elderly John was living in Ephesus when church leaders in Asia asked him to write this spiritual Gospel in order to refute, or argue against a dangerous heresy that had started among the believers about the nature and person of Jesus Christ. People who followed this faulty teaching, led by a persuasive Jew named Cerinthus, were denying Jesus' deity. John's Gospel continues to serve the church as a very important and authoritative statement about the truth as it was lived out and made known to them in the life of Jesus Christ.

John states3in 20:31 that his purpose for writing is "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name". Ancient Greek manuscripts of John's Gospel have one of two tenses for the word translated "believe": the aorist subjunctive (that you may being believing") and the  present subjunctive ("that you may continue to believe"). If John had in mind the first tense, he wrote to convince unbelievers to accept the Lord Jesus Christ and be spiritually saved. If he had in mind the second tense, John wrote to encourage those already following Christ so they might strengthen their faith, resist false teaching and deepen their relationship with God and His Son, Jesus. While the book of John supports both of these purposes, his message as a whole favors the strengthening of Christians as the overriding purpose.

John presents carefully selected evidence that Jesus was Israel's Messiah and God's Son from the beginning - the Creator in the flesh. The supporting evidence includes seven main signs and seven main discourses by which Jesus revealed clearly His true identity; seven "I AM" statements by which Jesus symbolically revealed His relationship with people and His purpose for restoring their relationship with God; and the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead as the ultimate sign and the decisive proof that He is "the Christ, the Son of God" (20.31).

John has two major divisions. Chapters 1-12 describe the incarnation, introduction and public ministry of Jesus Christ. In spite of Jesus' seven convincing signs, seven profound teachings and seven astounding  "I AM" claims; the Jews generally rejected Him as their Messiah. having been widely rejected by the old-covenant Israel, Jesus then focused on His disciples as the nucleus of His new covenant people. These chapters (13-21) include Jesus' last supper, His latest dialogues and teachings and His final prayer for His disciples and for all of His future followers. The book ends  by showing how God's new covenant was started, established and confirmed by Christ's death.

Eight major topics characterize John's Gospel. It focuses on the deity of Jesus as the Son of Son. From the introduction, to the conclusion with Thomas' confession, "my Lord and my God," Jesus is clearly presented as God the Son - "the Word" - come in the flesh. The word "believe" occurs 98 times. It means receiving or accepting by faith, Christ as God's Son. But true Biblical faith is not simply a matter of mental belief; it is a heartfelt response of active trust by which a person surrenders control of his or her life to Christ and continues to follow God's purposes. This is an ongoing commitment of one's whole life. "Eternal life" is a key topic in John. It refers not simply to endless existence - but also to a present-day transformed life and ongoing relationship with God that comes through an active faith in Christ. Personal encounters with Jesus are presented throughout the Gospel (no less than 27 times). The work of the Holy Spirit enables Jesus' followers to experience Jesus' life and power in an ongoing way after Christ's death and resurrection. The number seven is the key number found in this Gospel: 7 primary signs, seven primary discourses, and seven "I AM" claims, which all testify to who Jesus is. (The number seven is key also in John's book of Revelation). Other key words and concepts in John are: "light," "word," "flesh," "love," "witness," "know," "darkness," and "world."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Book of Luke

Luke's Gospel is the first of two books (the other one is the book of Acts) addressed to a man named Theophilus. The use of the title "most excellent" could mean that Theophilus was a Roman official or at least a person of high status or wealth. He may have been Luke's sponsor, financial supporter or the one responsible for seeing that the writings were copied and distributed. However, the book was also meant to instruct Theophilus personally. Although the author is not identified by name in either book (Luke or Acts), the united testimony of early Christianity and the fact that the writing style and structure are basically the same point to common authorship by Luke.

Luke was probably a Gentile who had become a follower of Christ. He is the only non-Jew author of a Bible book. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write to Theophilus (whose name means "one who loves God) in order to fill a need in the Gentile church for a full and accurate account of the beginnings of Christianity. To accomplish this purpose, Luke's writings included two parts: 1. The Gospel of Luke gives an account of Jesus' birth, life, and ministry, death, resurrection and ascension. 2. The book of Acts gives an outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem and the events that followed involving the apostles. These two books contain more than one-fourth of the writings of the New Testament.

From Paul's letters to churches, we learn that Luke was a 'dear friend ... the doctor" and a loyal co-worker with Paul; also notice the use of the pronoun "we" throughout Acts, meaning that the author was with Paul when the events took place. From Luke's own writings we know he was a well-educated man, a skilled writer, a careful historian and an inspired theologian. When he wrote his Gospel, it would appear that the church outside the Jewish community had no complete, published or widely circulated message about Jesus. Matthew wrote his Gospel initially for the Jews, an Mark wrote his much shorter, but full version of the Gospel for the church in Rome. The Greek-speaking Gentile world did have oral accounts about Jesus from eyewitnesses, as well as short written digests, but no complete and orderly Gospel. For that reason, Luke set out to investigate everything carefully "from the beginning". He probably did research in Palestine while Paul was in prison at Caesarea and likely completed his Gospel toward the end of that time or soon after arriving in Rome with Paul.

Luke wrote this Gospel to the Gentiles to provide a full and accurate record about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke wanted Theophilus and other Gentiles who had accepted Christ - or were curious about His message - to know the exac truth about the testimonies and instruction they had heard. The fact that Luke wrote for Gentiles is apparent throughout the Gospel. For example, he traces Jesus' human genealogy all the way back to Adam, the first man, and not just to Abraham
as Matthew did. In Luke, Jesus is clearly seen as the divine-human (both God and man) Savior Who provided a way of spiritual salvation for all of Adam's descendants - the entire human race.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Book of Mark

Among the four Gospels - the narrative accounts of the "good news" of Jesus Christ - Mark is the shortest (but complete) account of the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Although the author is not identified by name in the book itself, the testimony most agreed upon by the church throughout its history has been that John Mark was responsible for its writing. This man grew up in Jerusalem. His mother's house had served as a meeting place for early believers, and he was among the first-generation Christians. He had the unique opportunity of ministering with three New Testament apostles: Paul, Barnabas and Peter. According to Papias and other second-century church leaders and historians, Mark got most of the information for his Gospel from his association with Peter. Mark wrote the narrative in Rome and focused particularly on communicating with Roman Christians.

In the first century, the general public in Rome treated the Christians cruelly, an many were tortured and killed by the Roman Emperor Nero. According to tradition, the early church leaders, Peter and Paul, were among the Christian martyrs in Rome during this decade. As one of the church leaders in Rome, John Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit t write about Jesus' life in anticipation of, or as a response to, this time of persecution. By recounting Jesus' example of power and suffering, death and resurrection, no doubt Mark strengthened and encouraged faith in Jesus' followers in Rome and inspired courage in those who were suffering for their faith.

In a fast-moving description of events, Mark presents Jesus as the Son of God who filled the roles of both a suffering servant and the spiritual Savior of the world. That is to say, Mark's message strongly focused on Jesus' humanity and his divinity. The climax of the book is an episode in Caesara Philippi, followed the transfiguration. At this point, Jesus fully confirms to the disciples His identity as the Christ and fully reveals His mission to give His life for us. The first half of Mark focuses primarily on Jesus' powerful miracles and on His authority over sickness and demons as signs that God's kingdom was near. This means that His power, purposes and way of life on earth were fully in progress and proceeding according to God's perfect plan. At Caesarea Philippi, however, Jesus tells His disciples openly that He "must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again." There are many references throughout Mark to suffering as the cost of following Christ. In Go's kingdom, however, suffering for Christ will, in the end, lead to freedom and victory, as shown in Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Four major features characterize Mark's Gospel: 1. It is a Gospel of action, putting more emphasis on what Jesus did than on what He said. Mark records eighteen miracles but only four of His parables, not including parable-type statements. 2. It is a Gospel especially written for the Romans - explaining Jewish customs, omitting all Jewish genealogies and birth stories, translating Aramaic words and using Latin terms. 3. It is a gospel that begins abruptly and moves rapidly from one episode to another, often, making transitions using the Greek term for "immediately" (42 times). 4. It is a Gospel of clear and lively images and descriptions that report the events of Jesus' life with the direct, brief, complete and artistic style of a skilled writer.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Book of Matthew

The book of Matthew is one of the Bible's four Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew is quite fitting as an introduction to the New Testament and to "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (16:16). Although the author is not identified by name, the testimony of all early church leaders is that Matthew, one of Jesus' original twelve disciples, wrote the Gospel.

While Mark's Gospel was written for the Romans and Luke's Gospel for Theophilus and other Gentiles, Matthew's Gospel was written specifically for Jewish believers. The Jewish background of this Gospel is clearly present in many ways. 1. It uses Old Testament revelation, promises and prophecy to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. 2. It traces Jesus' family line starting from Abraham, the "father" of the Jews. 3. It reportedly declares that Jesus is the "Son of David". 4. It uses phrases and terms commonly used by the Jews. 5. It refers to Jewish customs without any explanation.

Though this gospel is written with the Jewish audience in mind, it is not for Jews alone. Like the message of Jesus Himself, Matthew's Gospel was written for the whole church. In this way, it faithfully reveals th cross-cultural and worldwide scope of the good news about Jesus.

Matthew wrote this Gospel to provide his readers with an eye witness account of Jesus' life; to assure his readers that Jesus was God's Son and the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the Old Testament prophets and to show that God's kingdom was revealed and lived out through Jesus in a way never before known to humankind.

Matthew wants his audience to understand two important issues: 1. Israel, for the most part, rejected Jesus and His kingdom. They refused to believe that He was their promised Messiah because He came as a spiritual leader rather than as a political leaders, as they expected. 2. Only at the end of this age - in the last days following God's end-time judgment on earth - will Jesus come in glory as the King of kings to judge and rule the nations.

Matthew presents Jesus as the One who fulfilled all of the God-inspired Old Testament prophecies about Israel's hope. He fulfills Old Testament prophecy in a variety of ways, including: His birth, His birthplace, His return from Egypt and His residence in Nazareth; His prophetic predecessor - John the Baptist, His primary location for public ministry, His healing ministry, His role as God's servant, His teaching in parables, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His arrest.

Chapters 5 - 25 record five of Jesus' major discourses. They also contain five major narratives describing His mighty acts as the Messiah. Many of these are miracles revealing His limitless power, authority and compassion. Jesus' five major discourses are:  His Sermon the Mount, His instructions and encouragement for His followers before He sends them out to preach, His parables that teach lessons about the kingdom of heaven, His teachings on the character of true disciples, and the teaching from the Mount of Olives about end-time events.

Seven major features characterize this Gospel. 1. It is the most Jewish-oriented of the New Testament Gospels. 2. It contains the most systematic and orderly arrangement an account of Jesus' teaching and ministry of healing and spiritual deliverance. 3. The five major discourses contain the most complete blocks of material in all of the Gospels on Jesus' teaching during His ministry in Galilee and on the subject of eschatology.

Far more than any other New Testament book, this Gospel carefully identifies events in Jesus' life that fulfill Old Testament prophecies and promises. It mentions the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God twice as often as any other Gospel. Matthew focuses on the righteous standards of the kingdom over sin, demons, sickness and even death; and the future triumph of the kingdom in a final victory over evil in the end-times. It is the only Gospel to mention or predict the church as a powerful future entity belonging to Jesus.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christ in the Scriptures

According to the New Testament, Adam is "a type of Him who was to come." (Romans 14). In other words, Adam's life in some ways points vividly to Jesus. Consider that both individuals entered the world through a special act of God, as sinless men. But while Adam is the head of the old creation, Christ is the head of a new creation.

Melchizedek (whose name literally means "king of righteousness") is a strange and shadowy figure who suddenly appears in Genesis 14. He is the king of Salem (which means "peace"); the Bible calls him "the priest of God Most High." Some scholars believe that this one who was, in the words of Hebrews 7:3, "made like the Son of God," was in fact Christ Himself. Christ, after all, is known as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Joseph's character and experiences (chapters 39-50) foreshadow the coming of the Messiah in that both Joseph and Christ are objects of special love by their fathers, hated by their brothers, rejected as rulers over their brothers, conspired against and sold for silver, condemned though innocent, and raised from humiliation to glory by the power of God.

In numerous ways, Moses is a type of Christ (Deut. 18:15). Both Moses and Christ functioned as prophets, priest and King (although Moses was never officially made king, he functioned as the ruler of Israel). Both were endangered in infancy and hidden by their parents in order to escape death. Both acted as redeemers, saving the people whom they loved. Both voluntarily renounced power and wealth in order to associate with those they sought to save. Both were deliverers, law-givers, and mediators. Further, Christ is clearly seen in the celebration of the Jewish Passover that historic event (described in Exodus chapters 12 and 13) that required the blood of a pure, sacrificial lamb to be painted over the doorposts of the Hebrews homes to spare them from God's judgment and then usher them to freedom from slavery in Egypt. John 1:29, 36 and 1 Corinthians 5:7 make it clear that Christ is our Passover Lamb. It is His death - His blood applied, as it were, over the doorposts of our lives - that rescues us from divine judgment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Lord's Return

Throughout Scriptures we find three admonitions given to us about the Lord's return:
1. Watch faithfully.
2. Work diligently.
3. Wait peacefully.

1. We are to watch. The Lord said repeatedly that we are to watch for His coming because we do not know the day or hour of His return (Matt. 24:42; 25:13). In Luke 21:36 Jesus gave this specific instruction: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

We are to do more than pray as we watch. We are to stand fast in the faith with courage and strength (1 Cor. 16:13). We are to watch soberly, arming ourselves with faith and love and salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). As we watch, we are to remain especially aware of false prophets; we are to discern the spirits and to reject soundly all who do not confess that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.

Jesus spoke to John in a vision and gave this great promise to those who remain whatchful: "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches ..." (Rev. 16:15).

2. We are to work. Why does Jesus leave us here on earth after He saves us? Why aren't we born again, and then immediately taken into the Lord's presence? Because we still have work to do.

First, God calls us to win souls. We are to be the Lord's witnesses - telling of the love of God and the atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins. We are to testify about what He has done in our own lives, both with our words and by our example. So long as there remains a soul on earth who hasn't heard the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have work to do.

Second, we are to grow spiritually, developing an ever-increasing intimacy with the Lord. None of us fully lives up to our spiritual potential. We all have room to grow. In Christ, we must work with the Holy Spirit to be conformed to His likeness. Our minds must be renewed. Our inner hurts and emotions must be healed. We must grow in spiritual discernment and in the wisdom of God. Our faith must be strengthened and used so that our prayers and our actions more effectively build up the Lord's kingdom.

3. We are to wait. Waiting isn't easy. Impatience often leads to frustration. Waiting can also cause a buildup of fear; the longer something anticipated doesn't happen, the greater our concern with what will happen, which can degenerate into worry over what might happen - and fear is only a step away.

The angels spoke peace to the earth at  Jesus' first coming (Luke 2:14). More than four hundred times in the Scriptures, the Lord says that we are not to fear, but to enjoy peace. The prophet Isaiah referred to Jesus as the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). Throughout His ministry, the Lord Jesus spoke peace: to the woman with an issue of blood He said, "Peace be still"; and to His disciples He said, "My peace I give you." The Lord calls us to peace as we await His return.

Apart from Jesus, there is no peace - not within a human heart, and not among human beings or nations. With Jesus, we can experience peace that passes our rationl minds and settles deep within (Phil. 4:7). We are to seek an find this peace as we await the Lord's return.

When the Lord comes, will He find you among those who love Him and call Him Savior and Lord?

When the Lord comes, will He find you doing what He has commanded you to do?

When the Lord comes, will He find you eager to see Him?

When the Lord comes, will He find yo ready for His appearing?

When the Lord calls with a shout from heaven, will you instantly rise to be with Him?

When the Lord appears in the clouds, will your heart rejoice with exceedingly great joy?

You have it within your grasp to positively answer these questions. How will you choose to respond to the Lord's challenges upon your life?

The fact is: He is coming again!

Monday, December 12, 2011

God's Hatred of Pride

Proverbs 16:18

The Bible makes it very clear that God hates human pride. James 4:6 states very clearly, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The same message gets stated in the Scriptures no less than three times (see also Proverbs 3:34 and 1 Peter 5:5).

Elsewhere, the Bible lists pride among four things that the Lord hates: pride gets lumped together with arrogance, the evil way, and the perverse mouth (Proverbs 8:13). In yet another passage, pride finds a place among seven things that are an abomination to God: "a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethern (Proverbs 6:17-19). God puts pride in the same category with murder!

Why does God hate human pride so much? Because it is the one sin that keeps us from allowing God to use us for His purposes. When we commit ourselves to doing things our way, we are in no position to do things God's way. Pride renders us useless in the kingdom of God. We fall prey to pride when we forget that God dos not exist for us, but we  exist for Him.  The Lord refuses to share His glory with anyone. When we seek to take His glory for ourselves - saying, in effect, "Look at what I have accomplished! Look at me! Look at who I am!" - we deny that everything we accomplish comes about because God enables and empowers us to accomplish it. Any good in us is by His design and redemption. Anything noteworthy that we become, we become because He wills it. We have no goodness apart from God's goodness imparted to us.

Most people know some version of Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." While not all destructions are caused by pride, pride always "ends in destruction - and usually, we lose the very thing thing we feel most proud about having achieved, earned, owned or accomplished.

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Happens When We Praise God?

Psalm 150:1-6

Perhaps no book exemplifies the spirit of praise and worship more than the book of Psalms. It records more verses of praise than any other book of the Bible. Obviously, God wants the praise of His people.

God tells us to give Him thanks for everything (1 Thess. 5:18), even when things press against our souls. We may not understand what is happening; we may never understand. But God's will in each circumstance is that we praise and thank Him.

But why? It's because praise is the clearest and most direct means by which you declare your dependence on God. it repeats your trust in Him in the midst of darkness. It confesses your allegiance and devotion to the One who was crucified for you and to whom you are eternally joined.

Consider a few specific benefits we derive from praising the Lord:

Praise magnifies God:  praise puts our focus on God, not on our problems. God's power, presence, and ability transforming our thinking.

Praise humbles us:  when we worship God, we gain a right view of ourselves. Praise deflates excess pride and ego. We gain a healthy self-image, based on God's view of us. By removing pride, praise strengthens us against temptation.

Praise reveals our devotion to God: if I love Christ, I will praise Him. If He has first place in my life, I will honor Him with worship and thanksgiving.

Praise motivates us to holy living: praise opens our hearts to want to live the way God desires - holy and separated unto Him, to do His will above our own, to want to be like Him more than anyone else. The more we worship Him, the more like Him we will become.

Praise increases our joy: joy is the constant companion of praise. If we feel depression or discouragement, praising God will soon bring us joy.

Praise establishes our faith: the greater we see our God, the smaller we see our problems.

Praise elevates our emotions. Worry, fear, and doubt cannot survive for long in an atmosphere of praise.

If you want to see a difference in your relationship with Christ and in your walk with Him, start to praise Him today. Continue even when you feel prone to give up. Commit yourself to a life of praise and fellowship with Jesus - and experience the fullness of what God means by "joy".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Intimacy with God - His Highest Priority for Our Lives

One of our greatest needs is to know that we are loved. Each one of us has to feel certain, deep down in our hearts, that someone loves us, cares for us and has our best interests at heart.

That is how God designed us. He wants us to know that He loves every one of us with a passionate intensity too deep for words.

God created human beings with fellowship in mind - first with Himself, and then with others. But we cannot fully love one another until we have ourselves experienced the love of God. We experience His love when we willingly surrender to His call to be our Savior, Lord, and friend.

There are at  least three reasons God seeks our surrender: 1. He loves us and desires our fellowship and worship. So long as we hold something back from God, we cannot know Him completely or fully experience His love. When we surrender to Him, we get all of Him. 2. He wants our service for Him to be effective and fruitful. The more we get to know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. The more energetically we nurture our relationship with the Lord, the greater the positive mark we will leave behind. 3. He waits for the freedom to bless us. God is  omnipotent but will not violate His own principles. He draws us to Himself so we can experience His love and forgiveness. He asks for our willing surrender so that He can give us the best blessings He has to offer.

So why do we resist? With all this in mind, why does anyone resist surrendering to God?

Pride is the key reason most people resist surrender. They thing they know better than God and that they can handle their life better than He can, so they keep Him at arm's distance.

Others do not surrender because they fear what God will do (or not do) for them. They think that if they give Him control, He'll make them do exactly what will make them most miserable.

Still others refuse to surrender to Christ because they believe satan's lie, which tells them that God is judgmental and will punish them for their mistakes.

All of this is completely false!! God always has our best in mind. He will refuse us no good things when we gladly submit to His will (Rom. 8:32). He tells us, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jere. 29:11).

It only makes sense to surrender to God, because when we do, we grow close to Him - His highest priority for us - and we begin to have an impact on our world.

Anne Graham Lotz once told an interviewer about the many trials she had faced over the previous years, including her parents' serious illnesses and her son's battle with cancer. She finally came to the point where all she wanted was Jesus. "Just give me Jesus," she declared.

Anne realized that if she had a personal, intimate relationship with the Savior of this universe, then whatever problems she faced, He would fact them with her and He would bring a sweet resolve and a peace to her heart.

Is this the cry of your heart? Do you want to know the Savior and live in the fullness of His blessing each day? You can. David wrote, "those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing" (Ps. 34:10).

If you have drifted in your devotion to the Savior and feel as though you grow more distant each day in your relationship to Him, then pray that He would draw you near once more. He knows your weaknesses, and if you will tell Him that you want Him to take control of your life, He will come to you in a mighty way and bring hope and light to your situation, no matter how dark and hopeless it may feel (Isaiah 55:6, 7).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Three Distortions of Christianity

JUDAIZED CHRISTIANITY - their definition of a Christian:
Christians were Jews who have recognized Jesus as the promised Savior. Therefore any Gentile desiring to become a Christian must first become a Jew.
Their genuine concern:
Having a high regard for the Scriptures and God's choice of Jews as His people, they did not want to see God's commands overlooked or broken.
The Danger:
Tends to add human traditions and standards to God' law. Also subtracts from the Scriptures God's clear concern for all nations.
Question:
Do you appreciate God's choice of a unique people through whom He offered forgiveness and eternal life to ALL peoples?

LEGALIZED CHRISTIANITY - their definition of a Christian:
Christians are those who live by a long list of "don'ts". God's favor is earned by good behavior.
Their genuine concern:
Recognized that real change brought about by God should lead to changes in behavior.
The Danger:
Tends to make God's love something to earn rather than to accept freely. Would reduce Christianity to a set of impossible rules and transforms the Good News into bad.
Question:
As important as change in action is, can you see that God may be desiring different changes in you than in others?

LAWLESS CHRISTIANITY - their definition of a Christian:
Christians live above the law. They need no guidelines. God's Word is not as important as our personal sense of God's guidance.
Their genuine concern:
Recognized that forgiveness from God cannot be based on our ability to live up to His perfect standards. It must be received by faith as a gift made possible by Christ's death on the Cross.
The Danger:
Forgets that Christians are still human an fail consistently when trying to live only by what the "feel" God wants.
Question:
Do you recognize the ongoing need for God's expressed commands as you live out your gratitude for His great salvation?

TRUE CHRISTIANITY - their definition of a Christian:
Christians are those who believe inwardly and outwardly that Jesus' death has allowed God to offer them forgiveness and eternal life as a gift. They have accepted that gift through faith and are seeking to live a life of obedient gratitude for what God has done for them.
Their genuine concern:
Christianity is both private and public, with heart-belief and mouth-confession. Our relationship to God and the power He provides results in obedience. Having received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life, we are now daily challenged to live that life with His help.
The Danger:
Avoids all the above dangers and distortions.
Question:
How would those closest to you describe your Christianity? Do they think you live so that God will accept you or do they know that you live because God has accepted you in Christ?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Angels and the Angel of the Lord

The word "angel" means messenger. Angels are God's heavenly messengers or servants (Heb. 1:13-14) created by God before the earth began (Job. 38:47). The Bible speaks of both good and evil angels. But it states that all angels originally were created good and holy - devoted to God's purposes (Gen. 1:31). Because they did have freedom of choice, many angels joined satan's rebellion against God. By rejecting the privilege of being God's servants, they lost their purpose and place in heaven. The demons described in the New Testament are in the same category as these fallen angels.

The Bible speaks of a host, or very large number, of good angels, though the names of only two are mentioned in Scripture: Michael and Gabriel. The Bible also mentions that there are divisions and ranks among the host of angels that serve God and His purposes. For example, Michael is called an archangel (literally "leading angel"). There are serophs and cherubim. There are angels with authority and control over certain areas or things. There are countless numbers of angelic spirits serving God as He wills.

As spiritual beings, good angels praise God, do His will, come freely into His presence, are in submission to Christ, are in a certain way superior to humans and dwell in heaven. They do not marry, will never die and must not be worshiped. Yet they appear in human form, usually as young men.

In obedience to God's command, angels carry out many activities on earth. They had a unique role in revealing God's law to Moses (Acts 7:38). But above all, they serve in Christ's mission to restore people's relationships with God. They serve in the best interests of God's people and observe the life of Christians in the church. They deliver messages from God, bring answers to prayer and sometimes interpret or help individuals understand prophetic dreams and visions. Angels also strengthen and assist God's people in difficult times, protect those who honor God and hate evil and punish God's enemies. The Bible describes angels fighting against demonic powers, rejoicing when even one sinner surrenders his or her life to God and carrying those who know God to heaven after death.

During the events of the end times, the war will become more fierce between Michael with the good angels and satan with his demons. The Bible says that angels will come with Christ when He returns, and they will be present at the judgment of the entire human race.

The Angel of the Lord is sometimes referred to as "the angel of God". This is a unique angel who appears in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The first mention comes as he appears to Hagar in the desert (Gen. 16:7). Other appearances involved such people as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, all the Israelites during their exodus from slavery in Egypt, and later at Bokim (Judges 2:1-4), Baalm, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Daniel, and Joseph.

The angel of the Lord carried out several tasks similar to those of angels in general. Sometimes he brought messages from the Lord to his people. At other times, God sent His angel to provide for the needs of His people, to protect them from danger and on occasion to destroy their enemies. When God's people were very rebellious, His angel could be sent to destroy them (2 Sam. 24:16-17).

The identity of the angel of the Lord has been debated because of the way he often addressed people. Note the following: In Judges 2:1, the angel of the Lord says, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said I will never break my covenant with you." When compared with other Bible passages describing the same event, these actions were the things done by God Himself. God was the One who promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants would inherit the land of Canaan and that His covenant with them would be everlasting. It was God who brought the Israelities out of Egypt and into the promised land.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua, Joshua fell down and worshiped him (Jos. 5:14). Such a response has led many to believe that this angel was a physical appearance of the Lord God Himself. Otherwise, the angel would have told Joshua not to worship him as he did when he appeared in other times. Perhaps a clearer hint of the angels' identity was when the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush and said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex. 3:6).

Because the angel of the Lord is so closely identified with God Himself, and because he appeared in human form, some consider him to be an appearance of the eternal Christ - the second person of the Trinity - prior to Jesus Christ coming to earth in human form through the virgin birth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Jesus had a special relationship with the Holy Spirit, a relationship that is most important for our own personal lives.

Many Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah specifically predicted that He would be guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Both Matthew and Luke state clearly that Jesus came into this world as a result of a miraculous act of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Because of His miraculous conception, Jesus was completely "holy." This meant that Jesus came into the world unstained by sin and free from spiritual corruption. This made Him completely worthy to become the perfect sacrifice required for sins of humanity. He was able to take our total guilt on Himself and pay in full our penalty for sin.

When John the Baptist baptized Him, Jesus was personally anointed by the Holy Spirit. At that time, the Spirit came upon Him in the form and appearance of a dove equipping Him with great power to fulfill His ministry, including His work of redemption. When Jesus went into the desert He was "full of the Spirit" (Luke 4:1).

Immediately after His baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. It was only because He was full of the Holy Spirit that Jesus - as a human - was able to face satan and resist his temptations. In the same way, it is God's intention that3we never face the spiritual forces of evil and sin without the power of the Holy Spirit. We must be equipped with His full authority and follow His leading in order to be victorious against satan. In fact, in God's sight we are not God's children - and do not belong to Christ - unless His Spirit lives in us (Romans 5:9, 16; 2 Co. 1:21-22) continually empowering us to overcome sin and do what is right.

When Jesus referred to Isaiah's prophecy about the Spirit coming on Him, He used the same passage to outline the primary purposes of His ministry: preaching, healing and liberating. The Spirit anointed Jesus for His mission. Though Jesus was God, He was also human (1 Ti. 2:5). As a human being, He had to rely on the Spirit's help and power - just as we do - to fulfill His responsibilities. It was only as a Spirit-anointed, Spirit-led man that Jesus could live, serve and proclaim the gospel as God intended. Jesus is the perfect example for all Christians, who should receive all the Spirit has to offer and rely completely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and power.

As one of His present tasks, the Holy Spirit honors Jesus by revealing Jesus' truth and purposes to His followers (John 16:14-15). The benefits of spiritual salvation and a renewed relationship with Christ are made available to us through the Holy Spirit. The most important benefit is Jesus' nearness to us (John 14:18). Through the Spirit, Jesus remains with us constantly. The Spirit makes us aware of Jesus' personal presence, His love, blessings, help, forgiveness, healing and all that is ours through faith. The Spirit inspires us to pursue a deeper relationship with God through His Word, prayer, and worship.

Jesus has promised to return and take His faithful people to be with Him forever. This is referred to as "the blessed hope" of all believers (Tit. 2:13); it is the event that we should pray and long for (2 Ti. 4:8). The Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit inspires our hearts to cry out to God for our Lord's return. In fact, God's Word describes the Holy Spirit as "a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Co. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). It is the Spirit who testifies within our hearts that our restoration and relationship to God remain incomplete until Christ returns. At the very close of the Bible, the Holy Spirit inspired the words, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Kingdom of God

Matthew 12:28

The kingdom of God (or heaven) carries the idea of God coming into the world to reveal and display His power, glory and authority over all powers, including the power and control of satan in this sinful world. The kingdom speaks of God's present activity and involvement in the course of human events in order to accomplish His purposes and reveal Himself in Hi plans for His people. God's kingdom includes more than spiritual salvation or the work of the church. It is God expressing Himself powerfully in all He does in the world and in individual lives. Therefore, His kingdom involves revealing His ideal purposes and way of life both in the present and into eternity.

In the simplest explanation, the kingdom is a statement and display of God's power in action. God, as King, is beginning His spiritual reign on earth in the hearts and activities of His people (John 14:23; 20:22). He chooses to work out His purposes through those who have devoted themselves to Him. He is involved in the world He created and comes into it with all power. Yet we must not view this power in material or political terms, for God is not looking to prove His might, power and authority to rule through a show of earthly things, such as wealth or military might. Instead, we must realize that God uses His power to bring about spiritual change. His kingdom is not a political theocracy, in which God exercises His control and forces His standards upon the world through an earthly system of government. God's kingdom is not a matter of social or political control over the kingdoms of this world. It is no God's goal at this time to save and reform the world through social or political campaigns or through violence. Until Christ returns to earth to overthrow the forces of evil, the world will remain an enemy of God - opposed to His people and His purposes.

Because God clearly reveals Himself as the One with supreme power, the sinful world is presented with a crisis. Since the world is going its own way and allowing satan to exercise a great deal of control, God's expression of greater power fills the devil's empire with alarm. When the Bible says that God's kingdom has "come near" (Mark 1:15), it means that everyone is faced with the decision either to submit to God's rule or to continue rebelling against Him. The necessary and most basic condition for becoming part of God's kingdom is this: "Repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15).  True repentance involves changing our attitude toward God, admitting our sins, turning from our own way, submitting to God and following His purposes rather than our own.

God's intervention is seen in the display of His power. In fact, the coming of God's kingdom marks the beginning of the destruction of satan's rule as it frees people from demonic power and influence and from sin; God uses His power to work miracles and to heal the sick; God's followers  spread the good news of Christ, "because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes and because it convinces people of the reality of sin, righteousness and judgment; Christ baptizes His followers in the Holy Spirit, giving them power to spread His message and accomplish His purposes. The evidence that a person is truly experiencing God's kingdom is the fact that his or her life is characterized by righteousness, peace and jy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Signs of Believers

The Bible clearly teaches that Christ wants the lives and ministries of His followers to be characterized by supernatural works. Just like Jesus, those who spread the message of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ should perform miracles in His name as evidence that God's kingdom is active and available here on earth. Christians do not do these works on their own. As Jesus' representatives on earth, they minister under His authority, and everything they do is done through the power of His Holy Spirit so that everything brings honor to Jesus. He told His followers that after He left and the Holy Spirit came to empower them, they would do even greater miracles than He did. This refers to the fact that His followers would spread His message to a greater degree and reach many more people over time. But it also refers to the greater level and wider range of supernatural ministry that would take place. The key to doing "greater things", however, is having faith in Christ; the miracles that Christ's followers perform are not to anyone else's credit because it is still Jesus doing the ministry and miracles through them.

These signs, done by true followers of Christ, confirm that the gospel message is genuine and that God's kingdom has come to earth in a powerful and supernatural way. Miracles and supernatural signs done in Jesus' name also reveal that Jesus is alive, active, present and working through His people.

God wants these supernatural spiritual activities to continue within Christ's churches until Jesus returns. God's Word never suggests that these signs were restricted to the time period immediately following Jesus' departure from earth and return to heaven. Some suggest that these signs were only necessary to get the first churches started and to help spread Christ's message rapidly in the beginning. However, the Bible does not teach nor does it gave any evidence that these supernatural activities would decrease or become unnecessary as the message spread and churches grew. In fact, it says quite the opposite, for much of the New Testament provides instructions about how to carry on the ministry of the church with the same power and with the same spiritual gifts in operation. In addition to Jesus' own words, consider Paul's instructions about spiritual gifts or James' instruction about prayer for the sick. After all, the church continue to serve the same purpose and needs the same power that is described throughout the book of acts and the rest of the New Testament.

Christ's followers are not only to bring the message of God's kingdom but also the power of the kingdom. That is to say, they are not only supposed to talk about Christ, but also show His power - just as He did while He was on earth. This type of ministry reveals the completeness of Christ's salvation, which is able to free and heal the entire being - body, soul and spirit. Jesus teaches in Mark 16:15-20 that these signs are not just special gifts available to only a few, but they are to be given to all followers of Christ who obey Him, spreading His message and trust His promises.

If these signs are not happening in churches today, it is not that Christ is failing to keep His promises. Instead, it is usually evidence of a lack of faith and devotion on the part of His followers in those local congregations.

Christ has promised that if we remain loyal to Him, then His authority, power and presence will be with us as we battle satan's kingdom. We must help rescue people from the devil's control by spreading the truth about Jesus, by living according to God's standards, and by performing supernatural signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Word of God

The phrase "the word of God" can be understood in a variety of ways in the Bible. It refers first of all to anything that God has spoken directly. When God spoke to Adam and Eve, what He said was the Word of God. God spoke His Word to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. God also was speaking to the entire nation of Israel at Mount Sinai when He delivered the Ten Commandments. Even as Moses communicated the commandments to the people, the words they heard were God's Words.

In addition to direct speech, God also spoke through the prophets. So when the Israelites were listening to the words of a true prophet of the Lord, they were listening to the word of God.

God spoke through the New Testament apostles. What they proclaimed was the anointed word of God delivered through them. Paul said that "when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of man, but as it actually is, the word of God" (t Th. 2:13).

Everything that Jesus spoke was the word of God because He is fully God. Luke  states clearly that when people heard Jesus, they heard the word of God (Luke 5:1). It is so important to listen to Jesus' words that He Himself says, "Whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned" (John 5:24). Jesus is so closely identified with the word of God that He actually is called "the Word" (John 1:1, 14).

The Word of God, the scriptures, is the written record of what the prophets, apostles and Jesus have spoken. What is written in the Bible is the Word of God. The Word of God stands firm in the heavens (Ps. 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25). Yet it is not a stagnant or inactive word; it is dynamic and powerful and it accomplishes great things (Isa. 55:11). The Word of God is the creative word. According to John, the Word that God used to create all things was Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3).

The Word of God has the power to give, reveal and communicate new life. Peter testifies that we are born again "through the living and enduring Word of God" (1 Peter 1:23).

The Word of God also releases grace, power and revelation that cause Christ's followers to grow in their faith and commitment to Him. Peter writes that by drinking the "pure spiritual milk" of the Word of God, we grow up in our relationship with God" (1 Peter 2:2).

The Word of God is "the sword of the Spirit" that God has given us to fight satan and his evil plans. Notice the account of Jesus' victory over satan's temptations in the wilderness that each time He defeated satan by declaring, "It is written."

Finally, the Word of God has the power to judge us. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles often spoke words of correction, discipline and judgment that they received from the Lord.  Jesus Himself  said His word will condemn those who reject Him (John 12:48). In Hebrews we learn that the powerful word of God judges "the thoughts and attitudes of the heart". All of this means that those who choose to ignore God's Word will one day experience it as the final word of judgment and conviction.

The Bible describes in clear and unmistakable language how we should respond to the Word of God in all its different forms. We must hear and receive God's Word eagerly and depend on God to help us understand it. We must praise and honor God's Word, love it, and let it be our joy and delight. We must accept what the Word of God says, letting it get deep into our hearts. We are to trust it, and put our hope in its promises. Above all, we must apply it directly to our daily lives. We must obey its commands and live by its principles, instructions and guidelines. All followers of Jesus are called to proclaim God's Word, spread its message of hope, forgiveness and new life - wherever they go.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Christian Relationship to the World

The term "world", as it is used throughout the New Testament, often refers to the vast world system that exists independent of God (going its own way without regard for God) and basically opposed to Him. It is how things in the world have operated ever since the first humans gave in to satan's temptation, disobeyed God and brought the curse of sin upon all creation. As a result of defying God, humankind gave up the authority over creation that God had originally delegated to them. satan then seized control (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and began to dominate human endeavors (ideas and efforts) with his evil purposes (1 John 5:19). This means that the "world" in its present condition is characterized not only by wicked, immoral and selfish lifestyles, but also by a spirit of rebellion and indifference toward God and His revelation. This attitude is characteristic of all humans and human endeavors that are not submitted to Christ's leadership and authority.

Consequently, satan often uses the world's ideas of morality, its philosophies and its social customs to oppose God, His people, His Word and His standards (Matt. 16:26; 1 Co. 2:12; 3:19). Most of these issues and areas of life are not evil in and of themselves, yet satan will work through any or all of them to promote his purposes and cause spiritual deception. For example, educational systems may be used to nurture students in ungodly and humanistic philosophy, or more subtly, the clothing industry can be greatly used to promote general habits of dress that would definitely bring shame and offence to those who live according to the standards given by God for his people. Christians must be aware that behind all human endeavors, apart from God, there is a spirit or power that moves against God and His Word in varying degrees. Finally, the "world" also includes unbiblical religious systems and organizations that use the name of Christ or His family of believers, yet teach and encourage lifestyles contrary to God's true church and standard of holiness that are given in His Word.

The world and the true church are two distinct groups of people. The world is under satan's authority; the church belongs exclusively to God. For this reason, true believers must separate themselves from the ungodliness and corruption of the world.

In the world, God's people are aliens and strangers, simply passing through on the way to their true home with God. They do not belong to the world, but are called out from it (John 15:19). As a result, they no longer conform to the world's patters or love the things of the world. Through a relationship with Christ, God's people overcome the world and its evil.

Loving the world is a form of spiritual idolatry and unfaithfulness that defiles our relationship with God and leads to spiritual destruction. It is impossible to love the world and God the Father at the same time. To love the world means to be closely related to and associated with its beliefs, behaviors and customs. It means being devoted to or accepting of its values, interests, practices and pleasures. It involves taking pleasure in or enjoying what is common in the world, but is offensive to God. Notice that the term "world" and "earth" are not synonymous; God does not forbid us to appreciate and admire the beauty of the created earth. While we are to hate the corrupt ways of the world, we also are to demonstrate God's compassion for people who are spiritually lost.

According to 1 John 2:16, three aspects of the sinful world created open hostility to God and promote defiance against His Word:  "The cravings of the sinful man" (1 Co 6:18) ; "the lust of the eyes" (Exodus 20:17)); "the boasting of what he has and does" (or pride).

Christ's followers must not be in close companionship with those who participate in the world's evil system and corruption. Instead, believers must live in a way that is distinct from the world and that exposes the world's evil. Christians must be salt and light to the world. This means reflecting God's character and love so that those who are lost can see the hope that is found only through a relationship with Christ.

From the world, a true Christian will experience trouble, hatred, persecution and suffering. By various forms of temptations, enticements and attractions of the world, satan makes a determined effort to destroy the life of God in the Christian and to ruin his or her relationship with Christ.

The world system is temporary and will eventually be destroyed by God. Even now, it is in the process of passing away (1 John 2:17).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Resurrection of the Body

1 Co. 15:35

The resurrection of the body - of anyone who has died physically but who will spend eternity either in heaven or hell - is one of the basic teachings in God's Word. It refers to God raising their physical body from the dead and reuniting it with the person's soul and spirit. The physical body was separated from the soul and spirit during the intermediate state between physical death and the resurrection. The Bible teaches that though there is a period of time between a person's physical death and his or her bodily resurrection, there is no lapse of time between death and the life to come. A Christian's death brings him or her immediately into Christ's presence. While awaiting resurrection, believers do not exist as vague shadows or naked souls without a bodily form. For example, on the Mount of Transfiguration both Moses and Elijah appeared clothed with a heavenly body even though they were awaiting their resurrection bodies (Matt. 17:2-3). In addition, in Rev. 6:9-11 souls in heaven are described as visible and wearing white robes.

The Bible reveals at least three reasons why the resurrection of the body is necessary: the body is a basic part of the total human personality; humans are incomplete without a body. For this reason, the redemption that Christ offers applies to the whole person, including the body. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit for those who follow Christ. At the time of resurrection, it will again become a temple of the Spirit. In order to undo the tragic result of sin at all levels, humanity's final enemy - death of the body - must be conquered through the resurrection. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach about the future bodily resurrection. Our bodily resurrection is guaranteed by the fact that Christ was resurrected from the dead.

In general terms, a Christian's resurrected body will be like Christ's own resurrected body. More specifically, the resurrected body will be: a body with structural similarities to the body of this life, so it will be recognizable (Luke 16:19-31); a body changed from an earthly into a heavenly body, adapted for life in the new heaven and new earth (1 Co. 15:42-44); an immortal body - permanent and indestructible - free from decay and death (1 Co. 15:42); a glorified body, like Christ's (1 Co. 15:43); a powerful body not subject to disease or weakness; a spiritual body, not bound by the laws of nature (Luke 24:31); a body capable of eating and drinking (Luke 14:15).

When God's people receive their new bodies, they "put on" immorality, which will fulfill the Christian's final and complete victory over death (1 Co. 15:53-54). The Bible gives at least three purposes for this: so that God's people may become all that God desired for humans at creation; so that believers may come to know and relate to God in the full way He wants them to know Him; so that God may express His love to His children as He desires.

Christ's faithful followers who are still alive when Christ returns for His church will experience the same bodily transformation as those believers who have died prior to the day of resurrection. They will receive new bodies just like the bodies given to those who will be raised from the dead at that time. They will never experience physical death.

Jesus speaks of a resurrection of life for those who follow Christ and a resurrection of judgment for those who do not (John 5:28-29).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Rapture

1 Th. 4:16-17

The word "rapture" comes from the Latin word "raptu", which means "caught away" or "caught up." This Latin word is equivalent to the Greek term "harpazo" that is found in 1 Th. 4:17, and translated as "caught up." This event, described here and in 1 Co. 15, refers to the time when Christ will take His followers from the earth to meet Him in the air and be with Him in heaven. It involves only those who are part of Christ's true church - His faithful followers worldwide who are in a right relationship with Him.

Just prior to the rapture, as Christ is descending from heaven for His church, the resurrection of the "dead in Christ" will occur (1 Th. 4:16). This is not the same resurrection described in Rev. 20:4, which is an event occurring after Christ returns to earth, destroys the forces of the antichrist and confines satan to the bottomless pit (Rev. 19:11, 20:3). The resurrection in Rev. 20:4 relates to those who turned to Christ and died for their faith in Him during the tribulation. The Rev. 20:4 reference may possibly involve Old Testament followers of God as well.

At the same time as the dead in Christ rise, followers of Christ who are alive on earth will be transformed, their bodies becoming imperishable and immortal. This will happen in an instant - "in the twinkling of an eye."

Both the resurrected Christians and those who are instantly transformed will be caught up together to meet Christ in the air. They will be visibly united with Christ (1 Th. 4:16-17), taken to heaven and reunited with loved ones who have died knowing Christ (Th. 4:13-18). They will be removed from all suffering and distress (2 Co. 5:2, 4; Php. 3:21), from all persecution and oppression and from the entire realm of sin an death (1 Co. 15:51-56). The rapture also rescues Jesus' followers from "the coming wrath" - the great tribulation.

The hope that our Savior will soon return to take us out of the world to "be with the Lord forever" is the blessed hope of all who have yielded their lies to Christ. It is a major source of comfort for suffering Christians.

Paul uses "we" in 1 Th. 4:17 because he believed the Lord's return could have happened in his own lifetime. He communicates this same sense of urgency and anticipation to the Thessalonians. The Bible insists that Christians in all time periods must remain alert and ready for the Lord's return (Romans 13;11; 1 Co. 7:29).

Those who claim to be Christians and part of the church, yet are unfaithful to Christ and do not truly have a personal saving relationship with the Lord, will be left behind. They  will be left with only a false system of religion.

Following the rapture is "the day of the Lord", referring to a time that brings distress and judgment on the ungodly. That will be followed by the second stage of Christ's coming, when He literally returns to earth at the end of the tribulation to defeat the forces of the antichrist, destroy the ungodly and reign on earth for a thousand years at the end of time as we know it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Faith and Grace

Spiritual salvation comes as a gift of God's grace, but it can only be received and become personally effective in individuals' lives by the response of faith. To understand the process of salvation, we must understand these two words - "saving faith" and "God's grace".

Saving faith: Faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for receiving God's free gift of salvation. Real faith is an active response from the heart of a person who truly desires to accept Christ as Savior and to follow Him as Lord. This means that faith is more than intellectual acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is God's Son who died to pay the price for our sins. True Biblical faith involves an active trust by which a person surrenders complete control of his or her life to Christ and commits to following His purposes. The New Testament description and pattern of faith includes four main elements:

1. Firmly believing Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead to bring us life, then trusting in Him as our personal Lord and Savior. It involves believing with all our hearts, surrendering our wills (our desires, choices, plans and motives) and devoting ourselves completely to Jesus Christ and His purposes as revealed in the Bible.

2. Faith involves repentance and a complete turning toward God in order to follow Christ. True Biblical faith always involves sincere humility and repentance (Acts 2:37-38).

3. Faith includes obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word. Such obedience must become a way of life, inspired by our trust in Christ, by our gratitude to God and by the life-transforming work of the Holy Spirit. It is an "obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1:5). For this reason, faith and obedience go together. They cannot be separated when it comes to serving God and following Christ. True saving faith is not possible without the commitment to sanctification (the ongoing process of spiritual purity, separation from evil and growth to a maturing faith.)

4. Faith includes a passionate, personal devotion to Jesus Christ that expresses itself in complete and selfless trust, love, gratitude, and loyalty. In a personal relationship with Christ, true faith cannot be separated from love. The two completely work together. Both faith and love represent a personal act of surrender and self-sacrifice directed toward Christ.

5. Faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is both the act of a single moment and an ongoing attitude of action that must continue to grow and gain strength. Because we have faith in a definite person who loves us and gave His life for us, our faith should become greater. Trust and obedience - two of God's primary requirements in our lives - develop into loyalty and devotion. Loyalty and devotion then develop into a strong sense of personal attachment to and love for the Lord Jesus Christ. This king of faith in Christ brings us into a new relationship with God and spares us from His final judgment against sin. Through that new relationship, we become "dead to sin" and live in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself as a God of grace and mercy who showed love to His people, not because they deserved it, but because of His own desire to have a personal relationship with them and to be faithful to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Justice could be described as getting exactly what e deserve. Mercy could be described as God sparing us from the consequences and judgment we deserve. Grace could be described as God granting us favor and benefits we do not deserve. The New Testament focuses on the theme of God's grace in the giving of His Son, Jesus, who willingly gave His life for undeserving sinners. Christians today continue to experience that grace through the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit conveys God's mercy, forgiveness and acceptance, and He gives them the desire and power to do God's will. The whole process and progress of the Christian life is dependent on this grace.

God's grace must be desired, pursued and accepted. Some of the ways by which God's grace is received are: studying and obeying God's Word; hearing and responding to the preaching of the gospel; praying; fasting; worshiping Christ; being continually filled with the Holy Spirit; and participating in the Lord's Supper.

God's grace can be resisted and rejected, received in vain and without lasting effect, set aside and disregarded and abandoned by people who, at one time, truly believed and accepted Christ (Gal. 5:4)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Peace of God

The Hebrew word for peace is "shalom." This term refers to far more than the absence of war, conflict or stress. Shalom's basic meaning is the positive presence of harmony, wholeness, good purpose, well-being and contentment in all areas of life. Experiencing peace can include unity, cooperation and contentment in human relations, both inside the home and outside the home. It can refer to one's personal sense of wholeness and well-being, including freedom from anxiety and fear. This might be called peace within one's own soul and with God. Even though the word "shalom" is not used in Genesis 1-2, shalom describes the original created world that existed in perfect harmony and wholeness. When God created the heavens and the earth, He created a world at peace. The total well-being of creation is reflected in the statement: "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).

When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, were deceived by satan and ate from the forbidden tree, their disobedience introduced sin. In turn, sin broke the flow and order of creation's original harmony. When that happened, Adam and Eve experienced guilt and shame for the first time in relation to God, and they lost their inner peace.

Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden destroyed their perfect relationship with God. Before their disobedience, they enjoyed a deep personal relationship and close interaction with God. But after their sin, they "hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden". Instead of looking forward to talking with God, they now were afraid of His presence.

They traded their peace with God for the false and temporary pleasure of their own way. In addition, the peaceful and pleasant relationship between Adam and Eve as husband and wife was disrupted also. When God began discussing their sin with them, Adam blamed Eve. God said that this sort of tension and conflict would continue between man and woman. In fact, this sort of tension in relationships accounts for much of the social conflict that is now part of the human existence. This social conflict ranges from arguments and violence in our homes.

Finally, sin took away the harmony and unity between humankind and nature. Before Adam sinned, his work in the Garden of Eden was a pleasure; he freely walked among the animals, giving each one a name. However, following the fall, part of God's curse included anger and hatred between people and the serpent. In addition, people's work would involve sweat, exhaustion and hard, physical labor. Where there once had been harmony between the human race and the environment, there was now struggle and conflict, so that "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time".

Though sin affected human existence by destroying peace and well-being in the entire created world, God had planned to restore "shalom." The story of restoring peace is what the life and message of  Jesus Christ is all about. God sent Jesus into the world to make a way for peace between people and God. Christ came to provide forgiveness and freedom from sin and the hope of a personal and eternal relationship with God. Since satan started the destruction of peace in our world, his power needed to be destroyed in order to regain and restore peace on earth. In fact, many of the Old Testament promises about the coming of the Messiah were promises of a coming victory and peace.

When Jesus was born, the angels proclaimed that God's peace had now come to the earth. Jesus himself came to destroy the devil's work and to break down all barriers of conflict that prevent peace in our lives. Jesus left His disciples a lasting legacy of peace. By His death and resurrection, Jesus literally disarmed, or removed the impact of satan's powers and authorities in the spiritual realm, making true spiritual peace possible.

Knowing that Christ came as the Prince of Peace does not automatically bring peace to our lives. Experiencing peace with God requires that we be united with Christ by faith. This belief is more than an intellectual agreement. It is an active trust by which a person accepts Christ's sacrifice and surrenders control of his or her life to Christ's leadership. A person who responds to Christ in this way is forgiven and justified through faith. Along with faith, we must follow God's guidelines and obey His commands in order to live in peace. The Old Testament prophets declared over and over that there is no real peace for the wicked. In order to experience continually God's peace, He has given us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit develops the holy character and purposes of God in us, which include God's peace. With the Spirit's help, we must pray for peace, let peace guide our hearts, desire and pursue peace and do our best to live in peace with others.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Glory of God

The phrase "the glory of God" is used several ways in the Bible. Sometimes it describes God's splendor, magnificence and majesty. But no human language can fully describe God's highest glory, which is so supernaturally supreme that no human can experience it firsthand. We can only bear to see an "appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ezekiel 1:26-28). The glory of God reveals to us the fullness of His uniqueness  and His holiness and His transcendence. Peter uses the term "the majestic Glory" as a name for God.

The glory of God can also refer to God's visible presence among His people. This is sometimes called the "shekinah" glory. Shekinah is a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling of God", and it is used to describe a visible appearance of God's presence and glory. Moses and the Israelites saw a form of God's shekinah glory in the pillars of cloud and fire that guided them day and night. She shekinah covered Mount Sinai when God gave His law to Moses; it filled the tabernacle when it was completed; it guided Israel in the desert; and it later filled Solomon's temple  during the dedication ceremony. Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord rise and leave the temple because of widespread idolatry. The New Testament equal to the shekinah glory is the presence of Jesus Christ - the glory of God in human flesh. The shepherds of Bethlehem saw the glory of the Lord at Jesus' birth; the disciples saw it at Christ's transfiguration and Stephen saw it as he was being killed for his faith in Christ.

The glory of God is also expressed in the Bible as His holy presence and power, as well as th effects of that presence and power in individual lives. The fullness of God's greatness and majesty is yet to be revealed. For this reason, people often fail to recognize God's greatness; and, as a result, they often take His presence for granted. However, Christ's followers experience God's glory and presence in many ways, including His nearness, guidance, love, strength, wisdom, answers to prayer and the spiritual gifts.

Finally, the Old Testament warns that any kind of idolatry pushes God's glory back or to the side as though He were not present. Idolatry dishonors His name. Christ's entire ministry on earth brought glory and honor to God.

How does God's glory affect His followers and apply to their lives personally? God reveals His glory for humankind to see in two ways: "in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever" (Eph. 3:21). That is to say, God shows Himself and reveals His works through His Son, Jesus, and through the lives of His faithful followers who serve His purposes. That is because His Holy Spirit lives in them and is active in their lives.

In our present time, followers of Jesus experience God's presence through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, which brings the presence of God and the Lord Jesus near to them. When the Spirit becomes powerfully active in the church, God's glory is seen and experienced by people in such a way that it cannot be denied.

Peter says to the individual who boldly identifies with Christ and suffers insults for his or her faith in Him: "the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (1 Peter 4:14). As One reason Jesus came into the world was to reveal His glory to people (Luke 29:32). As followers of Jesus, we must live our entire lives for the glory of God so that He is honored and glorified in and through us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Attributes of God

The Bible does not try to prove that God exists. Rather, it assumes His existence and describes numerous attributes and character traits that He possesses. Many of these are unique to Him as God - no other being has these traits - while other traits we see in human beings as a result of their being created in God's image.

Unique Attributes of God:

God is omnipresent. He is present everywhere at the same time. No matter where we go, God is there (Psalm 139:7-12; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28). This means that God sees and is aware of everything we do.

God is omniscient - that means He knows everything; He possesses complete and perfect knowledge of all things. He knows not only our actions but also our thoughts. When the Bible speaks of God's foreknowledge, it means that He knows all possibilities in any situation - what could have happened and what will happen. God is aware of everything that has taken place in the past and everything that will happen in the future. All the things God has destined and prophesied have either been fulfilled or will yet be fulfilled with absolute certainty. God has given us a free will to make our own decisions, which means that people are still responsible for their choices and the results of those choices. The fact that God knows everything does not mean that He is limited by His own foreknowledge. He remains free to alter His purposes in time and history, depending on what He wants to accomplish and what He knows is best.

God is omnipotent - that means He is all-powerful and has the highest authority over all things and all creatures. God has the ability to do anything - nothing is impossible for God.

God is transcendent - that means He is different and independent from His creation. The essence and nature of His being and existence are greater and higher than anything and everything He has created. He himself is uncreated and exists apart from creation. Transcendence does not mean that God is incapable of living among His people and interacting with them on a personal level.

God is unchangeable - there is never any change in God's attributes, in His perfection or in His purpose for humankind. This does not mean, however, that God never alters His temporary purposes in response to people's actions. He lets us make choices and then works His perfect plans through and around those choices. He may, for example, change His plan of judgment on people who have defied Him if those people truly repent. Also, He is free to respond to people's needs and prayers in a way and time He chooses. The Bible often speaks of God changing His mind or redirecting His plans as a result of godly, continued prayers. At other times, God desires to do certain things at one point but waits for faithful people to pray and make themselves available before He takes His desired course of action.

God is perfect and holy. He is pure and complete in character, totally without sin and absolutely right in everything He thinks and does. It also means that He is separated from all evil. God cannot sin.

God is triune. He is one God, a single being, who has revealed Himself in three distinct but interrelated and completely unified persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully divine and equal with the other two; yet they are not three Gods, but One. Another way this concept of God has been described is "three in Person, One in essence." The correct teaching is that all three persons of the Godhead exist uniquely at the same time.

Moral Attributes of God:

God is good. All that God originally created was good because it was an extension of His own nature.

God is love. His love is completely selfless that embraces the entire world.
God is merciful and gracious. Grace is God giving us the benefits of salvation that we do not deserve. The definition of mercy is expressed as God saving us from the punishment our sins deserve.

God is compassionate. Compassion means to feel sorrow for someone else's suffering, with a desire and effort to help. True compassion requires action. God provides His Son - His "good news" to a sinful humanity.

God is patient and slow to anger. God first demonstrated this trait in the Garden of Eden, and then again in Noah's time. God is still patient because He is now holding back His judgment on the world in order to give everyone time to repent.

God is truth. His Word, the Bible, is also described as "truth". God does not tolerate lies, dishonesty or deception of any kind. There is no other truth outside of God.

God is faithful. We can trust God completely. He will never fail His people or the nature of His character.

Finally, God is "just". God keeps in balance the moral order of the universe and is totally right in the way He treats and deals with humankind. But in the end, God will also show His wrath at sin because of His love for righteousness. God's justice does not contradict His love. His acts of justice and love, working together, provided the only way to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

If we want to fully understand the personality, character and nature of God, we must look at what the Word of God reveals about Jesus because "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives" (Col. 2:9).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Election an Predestination

The issue of predestination often raises the question of whether God has determined ahead of time who will be saved and spend eternity with Him and who will be condemned and forever banished from His presence. That is to say, has God already decided who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? The Bible is clear about the fact that God is omniscient (He knows everything), and He is actively involved in people's lives and in the world He created. The Bible is equally clear, however, that people have a choice whether or not they will spend eternity with Him. The fact that God knows all possibilities and the eventual outcome of any given situation does not mean that He causes the outcome. God is aware of everything that has taken place in the past and everything that will happen in the future, yet this does not mean that God causes everything to happen that He knows will happen - including our choices and actions. God created us with a free will to make our own decisions, which means that people are still responsible for their choices and the consequences that result.

Election: God's choice of those who accept Christ by faith is a foundational teaching of the apostle Paul. Election refers to God's choice to claim for Himself a people based on their choice to accept His forgiveness and yield their lives to Jesus Christ. In accepting the sacrificial work of Christ and the cleansing power that it brings, each person is choosing to remain spiritually pure and reserved for His special purposes. Paul sees this choice as an expression of God's love in that God willingly receives as His own all who willingly receive His Son, Jesus. Simply put, God chooses to accept those who willingly choose to accept Christ's leadership and authority in their lives.

"Election" is Christ-centered. Jesus is, first of all, God's "elect" - His chosen One. For this reason, Christ is the foundation of our election as part of God's chosen people. Only as we are united with Christ - in a personal relationship with Him - do we become members of God's elect. No one is part of God's elect unless and until they have willingly accepted Christ and committed their lives to Him.

Election in Christ is a broad term, referring mainly to His choosing of an entire people. In this way, election involves the entire community of those who become God's people. This community includes individual people only as they identify and associate themselves with the body of Christ - through a personal faith in Christ.

God will always have a people who are spiritually saved. But the certainty of election for individuals as part of that body remains conditional. It depends on their personal faith in Christ and their ongoing devotion to Him as Lord and highest authority in their lives. God's elect are being led by the Holy Spirit toward sanctification and holiness - holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27). Paul states this clearly: "Christ will present you holy and blameless in His sight" only if we continue in the faith.

Predestination:

Predestination means "decide before hand" and applies to God's purpose that will be realized as a result of election. Predestination is what God has determined will happen to His people; it is the outcome, or result, of their choice to follow and serve Him. Predestination, like election, refers to the body of Christ as a whole and becomes a reality for individuals only as they become part of that body through a living and active faith in Jesus Christ.

Summary:

Concerning election and predestination, we might use the example of a great ship on its way to heaven. The ship (the church) is chosen y God to be His very own vessel. Christ is the Captain and Pilot of this ship. All who desire to be part of the journey to heaven must know the ship's Captain personally. They must entrust their lives to Him if they want to board the ship. As long as they are on the ship, in the company of the ship's Captain, they are among the elect and on their way to heaven. If they choose to abandon the ship and its Captain, they cease to be part of the elect. Election is dependent on one's personal relationship with the Captain and one's place on His ship. Predestination tells us about the ship's final destination and what God has prepared for those who remain on the ship. God invites everyone to come aboard the elect ship through faith in Jesus Christ.