Bible

Born Again by the Living Word of God

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” – James 1:21

There is a good friend of mine who made this simple yet profound statement: “Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

When I heard this for the first time, I recalled my former life as an unbeliever. There was no power from within to overcome my sinful cravings. I had eyes full of lust. A haughty heart stirring up trouble in the bars. Constant cravings for success and self-promotion. While the superego accused me of not achieving my idealized self, the power from within had no ability to change my carnal nature.

Without the Word of God–who is the Logos, the Incarnate Son Jesus Christ, we have no power to overcome sin (Jn. 1:14; 6:63; 1 Pet. 1:22; Eph. 5:26). This is what James is getting at here in verse 21. He says it’s necessary to accept the Word of Truth planted in us since the Word has the power to save; the power to restore, heal, and deliver us from the penalties of the messianic judgment.

John Piper, theologian and former Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church said it best:

James adds at the end of verse 21 “which is able to save your souls.” What saves our souls? The implanted word which we receive. In other words, our souls depend on the implanted word, and our souls depend on receiving the word. If you decide that you don’t need to receive the external word, you are like a person who decides he doesn’t need to breathe. If you are spiritually dead, you can carry through that decision. You can choose not to breathe. But if you are spiritually alive, you can’t. The implanted word is powerful; it produces life and breathing. It takes over the spiritual diaphragm and demands oxygen. It demands the life-giving external word. If the word is implanted in you, you can’t hold your breath forever. The implanted word will sooner or later conquer and be replenished. You will receive the word again. And you will love it.

Furthermore, the Greek word δύναμαι (dunamai) refers to the intrinsic power and inherent ability of the Word of God to carry out the salvation of our souls. From the context earlier, James says, “The Word of Truth brought us forth, or made us born again, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” -James 1:18

You may be asking, “Isn’t it Jesus alone who saves us?” And my answer is, “Yes.” Also, remember that the Word took on human flesh. The Word is God. Jesus is the Word. Hebrews 4:12 makes it clear that the Word is more than letters on a papyrus–it is alive and active. Therefore, when James says the Word implanted in us is able to save our souls, he is viewing salvation as the entire process of the Christian life, culminating in our ultimate deliverance from sin and death that takes place at the time of Christ’s return in glory (Rom. 5:9, 1 Th 5:9; Phil. 2:12; 1 Tim 4:16; Heb. 9:28).

In the end, my friend was correct. Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible. The choice is yours. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the implanted Word of God, which is able to save our souls. Thank you for Jesus Christ, Your Son, the Incarnate Word, who died on the cross for our sins. Thank you that His atoning sacrifice on the cross was more than sufficient to cleanse us from our sins. May we continue meditating day and night on your Word, knowing full well the logos has the power to rescue us from the grave. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

The Most Important Question Ever Asked

What’s the kindest deed or action a stranger has done for you? Not your family, friend, or co-worker. What’s the kindest deed a stranger has done for you? I want you to think about that for a moment. 

When I was a sophomore at the University of Indianapolis, I lived in a rental house about three blocks away from campus. My two roommates and I, who were on the swim team, decided to get a house off campus. Our neighborhood was called University Heights because it was known around the outside community for students who lived in houses.

In our neighborhood, there was a rumor going around the Mormon missionaries were in town. This rumor was true. Two Mormon missionaries came to our front door on a Saturday morning and asked if they could share their religious literature. Curious at the time, and not a believer myself, I said: “Sure, come on in.”

My friend Kieran was not interested at all. He was sitting on the sofa in the living room with his pajamas on, watching a bass fish tournament on Television while I am talking with them about Joseph Smith and Angel Moroni. After sharing Mormonism, they asked if I would meet with them again. I said sure, but next week I will be moving to another house off campus. They said, “No Problem. We will lend you a helping hand.”

The following week, they returned and moved every material possession I had. My bed, books, study table, and even dirty laundry. I was a college student so you can only imagine how smelly my room was. After the Mormon missionaries moved all my stuff out of the house, they also helped me move it into the new house. As if that wasn’t enough, they took me out to eat at Wendy’s Restaurant. Consequently, I will never forget the nicest deed ever done to me by a stranger was in fact, a Mormon.

BACKGROUND OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

What do you call a stranger who helps out a person in need? A Good Samaritan, which is our main text today found in the gospel of Luke. The Oxford dictionary defines a Good Samaritan as a charitable or helpful person.

Nearly everyone has heard this phrase before, but may have questions as to who the Samaritans were or where they came from. Here’s a little history. Samaritans were an offspring of the Jews who remained in the land when other Israelites were taken captive to Babylon in 677 BC. The Samaritans remained in the land and intermarried with the Gentiles who came from Assyria.

When the Jews returned back from Babylonian captivity, they were horrified to find their own people assimilated into the pagan culture, even marrying unbelievers. As a result, the Samaritans were despised and hated because they polluted the strain of God’s chosen people. In fact, after the captivity was over, Nehemiah came back and aspired to rebuild the wall. Well, the Samaritans showed up and said: “We would like to assist you in rebuilding the wall. We will reconnect with our Jewish roots.”

And the Israelites said, “Absolutely not. We want nothing to do with you.” The bitterness was very deep and so the Samaritans said, “Fine.” If you want to play that game, we will build our own temple. So a man named Sanballat was the Samaritan leader who built a rival temple in a place called Mount Gerizim. Well, the Israelites did not like this, so in 128 BC they went and destroyed the temple and killed some of the Samaritans. The animosity was profound and just as strong during Jesus’ days on Earth.

For instance, when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees in John 8, they asked Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” Woah. This is quite an offensive remark. The religious leaders associated Samaritans with someone who worshipped Satan. You might say, “Well this isn’t surprising. The Pharisees are usually depicted as bad guys in the Bible. True, but even Jesus’ own disciples, who were supposed to be the good guys in the story, also hated the Samaritans. Remember the time in John 4 where Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well? The disciples were so upset about it they were tempted not to speak to their own Messiah. Or what about the time when James and John asked God to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village in Luke 9? Thankfully Jesus rebuked them for that remark.

What I find most ironic about all of this is that out of the 4 gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the writer Luke, a Gentile doctor (associated with Samaritans), wrote more than any other Jewish author from the New Testament, including the Apostle Paul. Really? Yes, Paul wrote more letters, but Luke, along with its companion volume Acts, comprises the largest amount of material in the New Testament.

Please turn with me to the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. Luke was a historian. He put great emphasis on dates and details, connecting Jesus to events and people in history. Luke also focused on the universality of the gospel message. He demonstrates Jesus’s special concern for outsiders, such as the poor, sinners, and our story now, the Good Samaritan. Please stand with me in reverence for the reading of God’s Word, starting in verse 25.

BIBLE STORY

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.

Throughout history, there have been many ideas and interpretations concerning this passage. In fact, John Macarthur states that the Good Samaritan is the most misunderstood parable in all of Scriptures. However, we shouldn’t be surprised since Jesus said just a few chapters beforehand in Luke 8: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.” Parables are hard to discern without the spirit of God, so it makes sense why there are so many interpretations.

The early theologian Origen, who lived in AD 184, considered this about the parable: The man who was going down to Jericho represented Adam, Jerusalem is paradise, Jericho is the world, the robbers are hostile powers, the Priest is the law, the Levite is the prophets, the Samaritan is Christ, the wounds are disobedience, the animal is the Lord’s body, the inn is the church, the manager of the inn is the head of the church, and when the Samaritan says he will return again, that represents the Savior’s second coming. This is quite a literary stretch to make, don’t you think?

It wasn’t until John Calvin came along during the Reformation in the 1500s and suggested to read this passage in its historical context, rather than in some secret hidden meaning, similar to the heretical Gnostics from the 1st century.

Today, the Good Samaritan parable has been told for many purposes. More liberal leaning scholars have justified it as a call for the government to redistribute wealth to the poor, the sick, and the needy. Liberation theology says this is about the all-inclusive reach of unity and harmony. Others apply this passage as a cry for social justice, gender equality, and racial reconciliation. Pastors emphasize this passage as a plea for Christians to radically love and serve others, especially those in need. Of course, these are all good points and you can find some of these themes in the story, but that’s not the main point of the passage.

The main point of this passage is soteriological—it’s about how to be saved. This is a scene of Jesus doing personal evangelism. He is answering the question from the religious expert about how to inherit eternal life. It is similar to Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus in John 3 and it is comparable to Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Its Jesus illustrating a parable and using the story to explain what is required to inherit eternal life. That’s why the topic for this sermon is entitled: “The Most Important Question Ever Asked” because it deals with how to be saved. Let’s set the scene and go back to verse 25.

It all starts with a question from an expert in religious law. He wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. This is the first point in your notes: #1: In order to inherit eternal life, God requires perfect obedience.

When Jesus asked the expert what the Law of Moses required, the Lawyer gets it right. He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said exactly. Do this and you will live. The man was sharp. He knew exactly what Scripture verse to quote to make Jesus happy. The perfect teacher’s pet.

Unfortunately, the scribe never admitted his inability to perfectly love and obey God. He should have been honest and said, “You know what Jesus. I can’t fulfil this requirement. I know I am supposed to abide by the 613 commandments in the Torah, but I can’t even keep the 10 you gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. I can imagine the lawyer saying, “You know, the other day I was sick while studying at the synagogue and thought more about my own well-being rather than giving you glory: I put the god of “me” before you. Then, when I recovered from my sickness, I decided to work on the Sabbath day to catch up on my legal document writings. Oh yea, and if that’s not bad enough Jesus, I was coveting my neighbor’s brand new parchment paper made of sheepskin for the Torah scrolls. I am a sinner, have pity on me.

We know that’s not how the story went. In verse 29 it says the man wanted to justify his actions so he asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor.” First, this assumes the man believed he was already justified before God by his own works. He never brought up loving God with all his heart again. He was good there. Second, it implies the man asked the wrong question by placing a condition on who his neighbor was. When Jews said the word neighbor, they meant only an Israelite; one of the same nation and religion; near to them in blood, someone they can call a “neighbor in the law.” I envision this man saying to Jesus, in a cynical way. I know I am good with loving God and my neighbor too, unless you have some other definition of neighbor.

At this point, Jesus could have stopped the conversation. He could have said this man is so blinded by his own self-righteousness there is nothing I might possibly say to convince him his need for grace and mercy. But Jesus, out of his love for self-righteous sinners, chose instead to illustrate a story about how to love unconditionally and be a true neighbor. Hopefully this will indeed humble the man. Let’s hear the parable again.

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among robbers and they stripped him and beat him and went off leaving him half dead.  And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite also when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him and when he saw him, he felt compassion and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and he put him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.”

Jesus introduces a little bit of hope to the story. In Verse 31 it says a certain priest was going down that road. This is good news. Surely the Priest, a man of virtue, a servant of God, one who prays every day for his people, will help this stranger in need. Maybe along the way he was meditating on Exodus 23 that states: If you find your enemy’s donkey in a trench, make sure to rescue the man’s donkey, let alone the man. Maybe the Priest recalled Micah 6: “What is good? What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God? But what happens? It says he walked on the opposite side. He completely ignored the man. Ouch.

As if that’s bad enough, a Levite, a member of the Hebrew tribe, one who assisted the Priest in the temple, also came to the place and saw the man half-dead and overlooked the situation. How could this be? Maybe the Priest and Levite were afraid to touch the almost dead carcass because it would be ceremonially unclean. Perhaps the Priest and Levite thought the man was involved in illegal dealings with the robbers and said, “He got what he deserved.” It’s possible the Priest and Levite were more focused on getting to the synagogue than helping a stranger in need. Maybe it’s like driving to church on Sunday and seeing a poor man begging for food but excusing it because God wouldn’t like you to miss church after all, right?

Then you have the least likely character, a Samaritan, the one hated by the Jews, as the hero. He was the one who truly loved his neighbor in an unconditional way. This is my second point. In order to inherit eternal life, God requires unconditional love. Here’s a Samaritan, a half-breed, equal to the wretchedness of demons according to the Pharisees, helping out a stranger. In fact, some translations say the stranger was a Jew. Remember, there was a tremendous amount of racism between the two. The Good Samaritan didn’t set any requirements for loving his neighbor like the Lawyer. He just did it because it was the right thing to do. This Samaritan was risking his own life for his enemy. Keep in mind the robbers could still attack. Keep in mind the road is a 4,000 foot drop in 17 miles, so he could easily die trying to save this man’s life.

This is just the beginning. It says the Samaritan bandaged up the man’s wounds. How did he do that? By ripping off his own clothes. Remember, the Jewish man’s clothes were stripped off and stolen. Then, he takes his own oil and wine, which were items he used for cooking his own food, to heal this strangers wounds. This is a 17 mile journey with quite an incline and yet the Samaritan is willing to use his own food and drink to help the man? Wow. Also, the verb used in the Greek indicates the Samaritan generously poured out the oil and wine. He didn’t just dab a little and save the rest. He joyfully did it. This is relentless, unconditional love.

Two years ago, my son Evan was dangerously sick. We were in Ukraine at the time and he contracted a strange fever that lasted several days. I felt hopeless. I did everything I could to help my son. We went to the local doctor to get antibiotics, I emailed my brother the situation and asked for advice. We drove to another city and got more expert opinions to see if there was any remedy. I can honestly say I would have gladly took the place of my son. At that moment, I loved him unconditionally.

Could I say the same for a stranger? No. I never loved a stranger unconditionally. Yes, I have volunteered hours at the Rescue Mission. Yes, I once gave $100 of my own birthday money to a stranger in Indianapolis. Yes, I volunteered many hours sawing down trees and picking up debris in stranger’s yards when the tornado hit Kokomo, but this is not the extreme love found here in the parable. The point of the parable is to once again show this religious man that if he wants to inherit eternal life, he needs to love everyone, even his own enemies, unconditionally, and he simply can’t do that. Only God loves that way.

Honestly, if you are debating right now whether you can love this way, you have missed the point of the parable. You are being like the expert in religious law, trying to justify yourself that perhaps maybe you can love this way, but you can’t.

How do I know that? Because God doesn’t just stop with unconditional love, which leads to my third point. #3. In order to inherit eternal life, God requires limitless servanthood.

We already mentioned the Samaritan used up all his oil and wine for the stranger’s wounds, he used his own clothes to bandage the wounds, he spent careful time soothing his pain at the expense of the robbers seeing him, and he did all of this for a stranger who was his greatest enemy. Following this, The Good Samaritan serves him in a profound, limitless way. First, he puts the man on his own donkey, which implies the Samaritan walked the rest of the way and also had to make sure the man wouldn’t fall off since he was half-beaten and most likely unconscious.

Second, the Good Samaritan transports him to an inn. Right there you might say, Chad, I would go this far. Okay, I will grant you that; you brought him safely to a location where his medical needs will be attended to. But the Samaritan goes much farther than this. Third, he stays the whole night by his bedside taking care of his wounds. How do I know that? It says in verse 35 that he woke up the next day. Fourth thing we see is that he gave the innkeeper two silver coins. That was enough money for the Jewish man to stay at the inn for 2 full months. It’s important to note that the money he gave the innkeeper, was notorious for being a swindler but the Samaritan still proceeded to give him the money. Fifthly, The Samaritan tells the innkeeper that if his bill runs higher than that, he will pay more. Lastly, the Samaritan tells the innkeeper that he will come again to check up on the stranger. This is lavish, unconditional love. This is limitless servanthood. This is perfect obedience of loving God and neighbor as yourself. Is Jesus trying to make a point here?

I think he is. And the final point I think Jesus is trying to make here in your notes is this: In order to inherit eternal life, God requires heartfelt conviction these standards mentioned are impossible apart from Jesus Christ.

There’s a story about Martin Luther, a German monk, priest, and important figure to the birth of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. When he was traveling through a terrible thunderstorm, a lightning strike nearly killed him. He cried out a vow to God that if he survived he would live as a monk. And so he did. He entered the Augustinian order at Erfurt. He prayed eight times a day, slept little, and performed painful self-infliction for his sin. He was attempting to love God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, and yet he was miserably bound to the law. Luther was known for confessing his sins so often that he would stay up all night and the Priests grew weary. Oh no, Luther is here.

It wasn’t until Luther meditated on Romans 3:20 that he finally understood what God desired from him. It says: “By the works of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. That’s when he came to the brink of his own self-righteousness gave up, and asked for justification by faith alone in Christ alone!

Don’t get me wrong. We are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength through prayer, fasting, sharing the gospel, and memorizing Bible verses. We are commanded by God to love our neighbor as self. 1 John 4:20 says whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother or sister is a liar. Jesus hopes we love others unconditionally, including our enemies. Romans 2:11 says “For God does not show favoritism,” and neither should we. And yes, God calls us to serve in a limitless way, for we are the hands and feet of Jesus. But God also reminds us these standards are impossible apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you do not abide in Him, if you do not die to self, if you do not cast away your legalism by constantly trying to earn God’s favor, then you will never be truly free. You will never be truly free. You will be bound by the law like this religious leader. You will be bound by the law like Martin Luther was. And my friends, for all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. The law will condemn you.

Let me just share with you how I acted like the religious leader last Sunday. How I failed to love my neighbor. There was a couple in a car who came to our church immediately after service. They were asking for money. They said, “We came to visit relatives and need gas to make it back home to Indianapolis. Can you help us out?” My cynical self said on the inside: “Hmm, and why didn’t you ask your relatives for gas money? What are you really going to use the money for?” I then proceeded to justify myself and took out my wallet. I showed them: “I really have no money or else I would give it to you.” They said, “Don’t worry about it and drove off.”

You know what my first thought was: I am one of the Pastors, two church members saw me neglect helping a stranger in need, and I am preaching on the Good Samaritan next week. I am such a hypocrite. How sad of a testimony. But think about that first thought. That thought itself was sinful. I was more concerned about my own reputation, my own identity, what two church members might think about me, than I was about God and this stranger. They came to church looking for assistance, out of all places, a church, and didn’t get it from me. How Sad. A wasted opportunity to share the gospel. Even if they had wrong intentions, what if I told them: “Look, I don’t have any cash, but I can follow you to a gas station, use my card, and fill up your gas.”

But then I wrestled with these thoughts again. The Lord spoke to me and said, why are you surprised you acted like this? Yes, you sinned. Yes, you should have followed them to a gas station and used your debit card to fill up their gas. But you are not the Savior. You are not perfect. You will sin against your neighbor. Confess your sins and I will forgive you.

In that moment, I realized I was tempted just like the Lawyer. If you notice at the end of the story, the expert answers correctly concerning who loved his neighbor and Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” The man still didn’t get the story. He thought he could satisfy this radical love like the Good Samaritan. He never said. Okay Jesus. You got me this time. I hate Samaritans. I can’t even love my best friend this way, yet alone my own enemy. Please forgive me. Please, I beg you, have mercy on me. The story ends without a response.

You know the exact response Jesus was looking for. It’s found in Luke 18: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Brothers and sisters, until you realize it is impossible to obey God perfectly, impossible to love unconditionally, and impossible to serve limitlessly, you will never truly come to the cross of Christ for forgiveness. You will by no means truly comprehend the depravity of your human nature. The treadmill of your good works will lead to vanity and despair.

You may say you’re trusting in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, but deep down you might be tempted to feel justified like the religious leader through serving as a deacon in the church, volunteering at the rescue mission, attending 3 bible studies a week, and sharing your faith with others in the park. These actions are good. These things please the Father, but these things fall exceedingly short of God’s holy and righteous standard. Only the righteousness of Christ is sufficient to save you from hell. Only the righteousness of Christ is able to set you free from the law of sin and death. So go to the cross, go to the cross, go to the cross of Jesus Christ, and only there my friends can you inherit eternal life. Let’s pray.

Did the Sabbath Change from Saturday to Sunday for Christians?

Did the Sabbath change for Christians? A typical response from an evangelical might be: “Yes, the old covenant Sabbath on Saturday was an ordinance of the old creation. Sunday, which is the Lord’s Day, is the Sabbath of the new creation because Jesus rose from the dead.”

Is this biblical? Are there any passages from Scripture that justify the Sabbath being changed from Saturday to Sunday after Jesus rose from the dead? Let’s take a look at the most common arguments in favor of Sabbath change and whether this theological viewpoint can hold under scrutiny.

Remember, all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, showing mistakes, for correcting and for training character (2 Tim. 3:16). Whatever view you take, it must pass the litmus test of biblical veracity. Therefore, do not trust in your denominational heritage or preconceived notions about the Sabbath. Instead, follow the Bereans, who received the word of God with great eagerness, searching the Scripture with due diligence (Acts 17:11).

Some argue that 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 defend the position that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday because Paul discusses meeting on the first day of the week, Sunday, to collect an offering for the saints. However, the expression “laying aside” in the Greek comes with the connotation of putting something aside at home. Thus, there was no religious meeting held on the first day of the week and no collection plate passed at church on Sunday. Instead, they were to gather and store up their donations at home on that day.

If there was no religious meeting on Sunday, then why did Paul specifically suggest this work be done on Sunday? Simply put, the letter would have been shared with the church on the Sabbath when they were all gathered for worship, and the first opportunity for them to do the work would be the next day–the first day of the week.

But one might object further, saying, “What do you do with all the other references to “first day of the week?” Let’s examine Acts 20:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2-3 that is often used in support of the Sabbath being changed to Sunday, the first day of the week.

“But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” – Acts 20:6-7

Look up Acts 20:7 on greekbible.com. This is interesting. The verse actually states: μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, or “one of the Sabbaths,” not first day of the week. So what does one of the Sabbaths mean?

In the context, verse 6 mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So what were they doing in verse 7? They were counting the Sabbath weeks. They were at “one” μιᾷ or first sabbath. How do we know that?

Leviticus 23:4-6;15 ‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.”

Now verse 15: “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.”

Why did the Lord want His people to count off 7 Sabbaths or weeks? Because the day after the 7th Sabbath is Shauvot, which is “Pentecost.” That’s why the Pentecost is always 50 days after the resurrection of Christ.

The same Greek phrase is used in 1 Corinthians 16:2-3: κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου. The wording here in Greek is similar, but the context makes all the difference. Notice that Paul will be taking the collections and sending their gifts to Jerusalem. This offering was once again alluding to Pentecost.

Deuteronomy 16:16: “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed.”

Moreover, other passages that attempt to argue special days and seasons are referring to the Sabbath. For instance, Galatians 4:8-10 states: Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!”

Does this verse represent the Sabbath or feasts of God? No. Paul is speaking with Gentiles who never observed God’s ways. Verse 8 says at one time you did not know God. Moreover, verse 9 says they are turning back. Back to what? Back to their pagan celebrations, not back to observing the Sabbath.

Romans 14:5-6: One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

The word Sabbath is not mentioned here in this text.

Colossians 2:16: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

First, it’s important to note that Paul isn’t confronting the pharisaic Judaism like he was in Galatians. Instead, Paul is confronting an eastern mysticism known as Gnosticism, which maintained that secret knowledge can enhance one’s religion. That’s why he says to beware of philosophy according to the tradition of men, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8).

These pagan philosophies were attempting to persuade the Colossians, who were mostly Gentile, that perfection could be achieved through self-denial and abstinence from pleasure (Col. 2:20-23). It was therefore the Gnostics who were condemning the believers for eating meat, drinking wine, and enjoying food and fellowship when observing God’s Sabbath and festivals.

The irony here is that some people would argue Paul is talking to legalistic Judaizers who were trying to enforce the Sabbath, new moons, and festivals upon them. But the opposite is true. The Gnostic ascetics, who thought they could obtain salvation through self-denial and self-mutilation (Col. 2:21-22), were telling the believers to stop enjoying these religious festivals. Therefore, Paul says, “Believers, do not let any one judge you as in regard to food, drink, new moon, and Sabbaths.”

1 John 5:2 says, “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Observing the Sabbath is an opportunity to rest from your labor and enjoy God. The goal of the Sabbath was never a “yoke or burden.” In fact, it’s a time of refreshment and renewal. Jesus enjoyed life!

Let me comment on an important passage from Mark 2:33. “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. So the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Was this unlawful? Deuteronomy 23:25 states, “If you enter your neighbor’s grain-field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain.”

The Pharisees were wrong. God never said you couldn’t pick grain and eat, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation on the Sabbath. Enjoying food. Eating when hungry. What the law was against is being covetous that day. Taking all the grain, storing it in your house, and attempting to make a profit.

The question one must ask is this: Did Paul teach that the law was burdensome? Did he teach that it was a yoke of slavery, as some would suggest from Galatians 5:1? Or, is Paul talking about the oral tradition of the law, which has been misapplied by the religious leaders? If you look at the Talmud, the Jewish ceremonial laws, they add many more commandments than what the Bible teaches.

If you believe Paul is talking about the law and the Sabbath as a burden and yoke, then your hermeneutical framework might look at keeping the Sabbath and the new moons and festivals as what Paul was against in Colossians as legalistic and done away with under the dispensation of grace in Christ.

However, Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. This verse is not saying, the law is the shadow and now it’s done away. The shadow is still there. In fact, it says these are a shadow of the things “to come.” This is talking about the future “rest”, not a fulfillment of the law that is now abolished in Christ. Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18).

Finally, some theologians argue that Jesus changed His Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday because that was the day He rose again from the dead. This is called the Lord’s Day. So whenever the verbiage Lord’s day is used, proponents suggest the apostles were referring to Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead.

A few concerns. First, nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly state that the Lord’s day is Sunday. Theologians falsely conclude, from their own presuppositions, that because Christ rose from the dead on Sunday and appeared to His disciples on the same day, this somehow transferred the Old Covenant Sabbath to the New Covenant Sunday. However, Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, and Luke 6:5 do say: “Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.” Wouldn’t that therefore make the Sabbath the Lord’s day, which is Saturday?

This topic is of enormous importance because Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Jesus didn’t say to obey 9 out of the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai. He told us to obey them all. And of course, the greatest command is to “love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” And when we obey God’s commands, we fulfill the greatest command. Thoughts?

Should Christians Gamble?

In college, I went to the Kentucky Derby with my friends. The main reason we went was to socialize, not bet on horses. After watching a few races, we decided to put down a measly sum of money. $10 to be exact. Was that wrong for us to do? Would the Bible condemn that action?

While there are no specific references in Scripture that condemn gambling, betting, or lottery, the Bible does warn us not to be tempted by the love of money (1 Tim. 6:10; Heb. 13:5). Scripture also condemns receiving money without labor (Prov. 13:11; 23:5; Eccl. 5:10). All of us know the gambling industry personifies both. Therefore, I think gambling should be avoided by Christians. Let me explain why.

Anyone who gambles can develop addictions if they are not aware of the risks and do not gamble responsibly. Signs that indicate someone has a problem is when behavior hinders relationships, finances, and the workplace. Gambling addiction has been known to be a “hidden problem” because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like drug or alcohol addiction. Here are 4 things to ask yourself to determine whether you may have a gambling problem:

  1. Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. You might gamble in secret or find ways to lie about how much you really spend on betting. For instance, you may go to the convenience store everyday to get a lottery ticket but tell people that’s not “really gambling.”
  2. You may have trouble controlling your gambling. When you begin gambling, is it hard for you to walk away from it? Are you compelled to keep spending your money until you bet the last dollar? Do you borrow money from others so you can win your loss back?
  3. If you gamble even when you don’t have money, this is a concern, especially if you have children and a spouse to take care of. When you feel pushed to borrow or even steal things for gambling money, you have a problem.
  4. People closest to you in life will share their concerns, eventually when you can’t hide it anymore. Denial keeps problem gambling going, but after a while it becomes obvious. When friends and family show concern, it’s best to get professional help.

If gambling is a struggle, I would encourage you to seek help. Get counseling from a Christian counselor who can remind you of the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation. Remember, all of us struggle with sin. It’s when we admit it and are willing to repent from it that God will help us in our time of greatest need. I will end with this verse to remind you of God’s great love. God bless.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

God’s Law and Grace Are Harmonious

“To separate God’s law from grace is to misapply both law and grace.”

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). For all have sinned and stand condemned before God (Rom. 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Thus, all deserve God’s wrath for breaking His law.

Thankfully, Jesus took our punishment on the cross in order to satisfy God’s righteous anger toward sin. Because God upholds His law, He must punish all sin, including yours and mine. To absolve us from the curse of the law, God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (Isaiah 53; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but he lived in complete obedience to the law. That’s why there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Why? Because what the law was powerless to do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us (Rom. 8:4).

Therefore, the only way to understand grace is in light of the law. The law says, “You are guilty.” But God says, “even though your sins are as scarlet, I will make them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Essentially, the law magnifies grace.

Jesus also makes it clear the law is everlasting. “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose (Matt. 5:17). And He did. He perfectly obeyed the law and that’s the only reason we are made righteous before a holy God.

Live for Jesus Now So You Will Be Prepared When He Comes Back

 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13)”

I work at Costco. We found out a week ago that our CEO was going to drop by for a visit. This news changed the entire workplace environment.

For instance, all of the employees got extra hours to ensure the place was running smoothly. Also, our general manager has been cleaning every spot in the entire warehouse. Just yesterday I saw him cleaning a hidden corner where cobwebs were growing.

At first thought, it made no sense why our general manager was cleaning a hidden corner of cobwebs instead of managing his 100+ employees. But then it dawned on me how significant that spot really was.

The CEO is not going to look for the obvious. Most warehouses will have their inventory lined up, cash registers updated, and protocols for managing the safety of the store. So what the CEO is looking for is how well a warehouse does, even on the most minute of detail; hence, the cobweb in the furthermost corner of the massive building.

The same is true with us. As Christians, we know Jesus is coming back. He is going to visit us soon. And we must be sober-minded, vigilant, and living a godly lifestyle (Philip. 2:15) just like a bride prepares herself on the wedding day.

But Jesus is also going to look at the not so obvious things in our life. How did we treat the person in the car in front of us during a traffic jam? What was our attitude when we got a bad grade in class? Did we smile or even say Hi to our neighbor before rushing off to work?

I would encourage you to think about the small details in your life and do all you can to bring glory, honor, and God through it. The good news is that our righteousness doesn’t depend on us. Jesus already died on the cross for our sins.

We are now free to live for Him any way we want, but don’t you want to make him proud? If I work tirelessly to make my supervisors impressed at Costco, how much more should I work tirelessly to live a holy and blameless life? May God give you the strength and power to do so today!

 

 

Responding Biblically to Common Atheist Arguments

Here is a conversation between an Atheist and myself. He brought up 9 common arguments against the existence of God. His concerns were legitimate, but I believe the Bible has the answers to these emotional statements.

1. Objective Morality? Please. Rather, please explain the strange sense of whimsical morality and justice within the Christian tradition. First, I am born guilty and deserving of eternal punishment because of something someone did 6000 years ago – the original sin.

This statement presupposes the imputation of Adam’s sin on the whole human race. I don’t believe Scripture teaches in total depravity or being born as sinners. Psalm 51:5 is the most common verse used: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (ESV).” The English Standard Version and NASB both have the most literal translation from the Greek. Other translations say “I was sinful at birth.” This is not what Scripture is teaching here. His mother conceived him out of wedlock. The other verse commonly used: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12). The last phrase “because all sinned” reveal that each individual is personally responsible for their sins. Have you lied? Said the name’s Lord in vain? Coveted after something that doesn’t belong to you? I know I have. Therefore, our own sin condemns us, not the sin from Adam.

2. Even though babies are sinners based on Adam, they will still go to heaven if they die before their age of accountability.

Once again, I don’t believe your examples are consistent with what Scripture teaches. Babies and children don’t have the cognitive ability or moral framework to understand right from wrong. When they take something that doesn’t belong to them, it’s not considered stealing. They are exploring the world and learning their boundaries. However, if an adult steals money from their employer, no one would ever say, “He is still exploring his environment.” The individual would be fired and put in jail for embezzling money.

3. Someone receives the death penalty for what I did as I go free – the vicarious atonement.

The vicarious atonement of Christ is a gracious gift to you and I. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of Christ. While I was reading John Loftus’s book “The end of Christianity” I came across this statement: “So as a Christian, it seems one ought to believe it is wrong for the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty on the basis of his implanted sense of right and wrong and the clear teaching of the Bible (p. 185).” Absolutely. John Loftus is exactly right. And it parallels with what Jesus said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The greatest injustice that ever happened on this planet was for the sinless one, Jesus Christ, to die for us, who rebelled against Him by our own free will (not determinism).

4. Jesus paid it all – really?

God’s eternal being can take on the eternal weight of God’s wrath. Jesus confirms this connection in Gethsemane when he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath, a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types. Heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring thoughts, lies — all of it will be punished by God.

5. Someone deserves eternal torture by burning because of 70 years of sin – eternal torture in the lake of fire.

Personally, I think Hell is locked on the inside. People love their sin more than they love God. People worship self rather than God. They would rather burn with their lustful thoughts than transform their mind to what is holy and good and righteous. They won’t want to enter a place where all attention and focus will be upon Jesus Christ. They would rather gnash their teeth in defiance forever than bow their knees to the holy one of God. As Desmund Tutu said: ‘I’d rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God.” There is a book entitled: Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. They may be able to address some of your emotional concerns on Hell.

6. I have the power to save the whole world, but I don’t want to. I’ll save a few because I want to – The Calvinist tradition and its understanding God and election.

Once again, you are assuming a Calvinist position. I don’t follow Calvin, but the Bible. Read these words from 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The same can be said in the Old Testament. “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel (Ezek. 33:11).”

7. I had the thought of enjoying a bad action, so I am just as guilty as doing the bad action – the excessive application of Matthew 5 and a personal favorite in the repertoire of Christian preachers wanting to make sure that not even one person sits in the pew feeling innocent from sin.

All evil actions start from a thought. Just because one doesn’t carry it out doesn’t mean they are innocent of it. In fact, read through some documentaries by serial killers who started out with an evil thought that led to their action of murder. It’s all about the intentions and attitude of the heart. Someone may be bitter and angry against their friend and never incite violence. However, their relationship will always be in question until they get rid of that thought or try to reconcile back. Restoration is the key to why thoughts should be good, pure, and holy. God is concerned about both the heart and the action.

8. Sin is sin – how most American evangelical and fundamentalist Christians think.

I never said all “sin is equal.” Good verses you alluded to. Here is another one that Jesus said in Matthew 11: “But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will descend to Hades! For if the miracles that were performed in you had happened in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

9. One more example for free. Most Christian traditions will not touch this one. Noah gets drunk. One son sees him naked and makes fun of it to his other brothers. The result: Noah is allowed control the destinies of people for the next 4500 years and sets up systems of slavery and oppression. The black skin descendants of Ham and Canaan are cursed to live lives of slavery, slave trades, slave ships, oppression, cruelty, rape, etc. because Ham saw his naked drunk father and made fun of it? Huh? Strange sense of justice.

 

If the type of slavery that happened in Africa in the 19th century was in the Bible, the Mosaic Law would sentence that person to death. Exodus 21:16 reads: “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.” Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God and they would have been put to death for it. Contrary to popular belief, God did not condone antebellum slavery in the Bible.