Monday, October 31, 2005

Reflections on 1 Peter 3:15

If I started making fun of you in a hostile manner - not joking - and to your face, how would you react? Moreover, if the things that I were saying were definitely false, how much more pointed would your reaction be?

Would you answer back with, "Well, I understand your feelings, and I believe that you are entitled to your opinions. But, I don’t want to cause any bad feelings by disagreeing with you...." No? If you’re like me, you would get crazily upset over the slander and false accusations, and fiercely defend against the falsehood.

So let me ask you a question, Christian. When you hear someone at home, work, or play blaspheming the name of Christ, denying the existence of God, or mocking the Bible – how quickly and loudly do you efend your God? The first phrase in verse 15 says, "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts," has a great deal to say of where Christ, His name and His Glory, should be in relation to all other things. Namely - the first and set apart position that nothing else comes close to equaling.

So, I say this: When our ears are accosted with blasphemy and vile things said about God, we need to be ready to make a defense for Him. More ready and willing to defend Him than to defend myself of those people closest to me. He died for me, I need to defend His name.

The following FALSE accusations are meant to provoke you to defend the true gospel. These statements are false, in big or small ways, and they need to be answered. How would you answer them? Don’t just tell me what you know, explain to me how they're wrong by using the Word of God as your primary defensive and offensive weapon.

  1. According to 1st Peter 3:21-22, we are saved by Baptism. You cannot be saved without being baptized.

  2. Jesus eternal? Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the first born all creation. How can He be eternal and God if he were created? Basically – he’s not eternal, and he cannot be God.

  3. Jesus Christ never claimed to be God. He was voted into “godhood” at a church council hundreds of years after he died.
Please defend the faith that we hold dear. Answer these questions using the Word of God, and if you’re willing, send me your defense and I’ll post some of the better ones. Let’s sanctify Christ as Lord and defend the Truth of the Word of God!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Christ - the example

Concluding the final lesson of 1 Peter 2, we dove into this passage (verse 20 to the end of the chapter). This truth has many implications on how we are to live, love, serve, and worship. One of the the implications from this truth (one that I feel we have missed in our modern Western culture) is the idea of persecution, torture, and death. We see in the text of 2 Peter 2 that Christ was blameless, yet he endured all of these trials.

How many Christians in our time and setting think about the personal reality of encountering severe persecution. In sunday school, I passed around a list of names and stories of people who are currently imprisoned in different places around the world. Following our class, the sermon in the main service seemed to dovetail fluidly with the idea of suffering for the Lord and the need to get the gospel out to the world.

The concept of the necessary suffering of Christians was hammered home again to me on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs, and the host was summarizing something that John MacArthur had said. Aparently (I could not find the information online - and I looked pretty hard), he has given a list of 5 things that would show that you're in the will of God - living the Christian life as you should. Number 5 was suffering. (If anyone knows of a link to this information, please send it to me or leave a comment, and I'll link to it). Well, then on Thursday, I was listening to this same radio program and it was an annual "Send Bibles To Africa" program, and so many of the stories that the African people in need of bibles told was how they were being murdered and abused by their Islamic neighbors and family. Now, other than being spiritually "thumped" for how little I value my bible when compared to these people, I was struck again with the reality that we cannot get away from suffering for the cause of Christ.

I do not relish the idea of suffering greatly for the cause of Christ, but you and I need to pray that we are willing to suffer greatly - even death. Because, if we are not completely leaning on the Lord in the easy times, how much more difficult will it be to lean on him when the times are dire?

I hope and pray that we set out to make our faith so strong and esteem our God so highly that we would willingly endure these trials with joyful hearts when they come upon us.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Don't "Just" Take Communion

Recently, I was asked to assist with our church's communion service. I was so excited to help, and even more excited when our youth director (who lead the service) asked me to preach/teach/give a challenge focusing on "examine yourself" from 1 Corinthians 11:28. I have to tell you - I was so ... (struggling to find the right word)... passionate about this that I found it extremely difficult to boil it down to a meaningful 10 minute attempt to accurately give a picture of what this means.

Here's what I came up with (the primary referance used is 1 Corinthians 11):

First of all, it's amazing that while most communion services use the text from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 for the taking of the elements, and they usually stop the reading at verse 26. These 4 verses are set in between different sections (v18-22 and v27-34)and about the observing of the Lord's Supper in an incorrect manner. I trust that you can (and hopefully will) read this chapter to understand the context, but it's clear that there is a very right and very wrong way to observe this ordinance. One of the things that Paul says (v 29-30) is that some people are sick, weak, or even DEAD because of their neglect in correctly observing the Lord's Supper. Now, understanding the cultural differences between 1st century Christian and 20th century western cultures, there are some very good principles that we can observe.

One of the primary differences between our cultural observances of this ordinance is that we do not observe an entire meal, instead we take the "elements" of this meal to remember the Lord's Supper. The key is that we need to examine ourselves to make sure that we're not taking communion in an unworthy manner (1 Cor 11:27,28). There are other questions that need to be addressed, but in the time that I had, this was the focus of the message. One of the other necessary studies is, for instance, what does being "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" mean?

Q: What do I need to examine so that I am not observing the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner?

A: Primarily, we need to examine how we take communion. The Corinthians were eating the Lord's Supper as if it were just another meal. Paul mentions that there were those who were getting drunk while others went hungry (v. 21). This is a picture of some having excess (not just in drink) and others being utterly deprived. The overall point is that they were not separating this as a time to remember the sacrifice of Christ, and that led them to eat and drink as if it were just a regular meal or party.

Now that we understand what errors the Corinthian believers were making with the Lord's Supper, we can look at what would cause us to be observing it in an unworthy manner. I have come up with a list of things that I have done (and probably you have too) that will show the principle of taking communion in a wrong way:

  • Standing up (because I have to) for praise and worship when I'd rather sit and sing...grrrr.
  • I really don't feel like talking to people, but because Pastor said to greet someone, but I'll act happy and say "good morning" anyway.
  • Bowing my head while being lead in prayer about someone or something that (at that moment) I am just not personally and spiritually invested in. But I bow my head because that's what you do.

The point is this - I should never, NEVER, take communion with an attitude that isn't focused and done in heart-felt seriousness for the reason for this observance. This has served as a good and sobering thought: how much of my current refining is a result of my stubborn heart and casualness toward the Lord? Now, I do not believe that all of the trials or bad things that happen are a direct result of being wicked or not pleasing God in life. If you don’t agree, look into Job 1 and see how God refers to Job before his trials begin, or John 9 and see how Christ explains the reason for this man’s blindness, and not to mention every trial and persecution that Christ went through.

Whether I am at the communion table or at a football game – the sacrifice of Christ, and what that sacrifice has purchased for me should be the overwhelming force behind my speech, actions, and attitude.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Being Offensive is Necessary.

The true gospel has never been (and will never be) accepted by the majority of any particular culture or society. Whenever the true gospel is preached and the message is not altered, there are many who are utterly offended by it. We should not be offensive in the way that we present the gospel, preach the Word of God, or live our lives (see 1 Peter 4:14-16), but likewise we should never make the gospel that we preach or the Word of God itself inoffensive in what it says.

Now, this thought itself may seem offensive to you, but I want to show you why I believe it is true, and we need to understand this. In 1 Peter 2:6-8, Peter quotes the O.T. and making the connection that Jesus Christ is the corner stone, or foundation on which all else depends, of true faith and belief in God. These same quotation shows that Christ will be (He is) a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. Nothing can be "true" of God unless it is built upon this foundation. I don't have to tell you that this idea of one exclusive way of salvation (much less anything else) is intolerant (and therefore, it's offensive).

Q: Why is this important?
A: The very Word of God itself declares that God chose the foolish (dare I interject that it is also offensive and unacceptable to an unsaved person) things of the world to fulfill His will. For a good reference, read 1 Corinthians 1 - yes the whole chapter - and note how the Apostle Paul repeatedly makes the point that God chose the foolishness of the message to save those who would believe (v. 21). Also, note verse 23 that the gospel that Paul preaches is foolishness to gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews.

Q: Well, my church doesn't believe that, so why should I care what you believe?
A: It's not what I believe that should be the initial question. It should be this: What does the Bible say? Then the next thing needs to be, if this is what it says why do I discount or disbelieve it?

The true gospel that the Bible sets forth, that Christ preached, and the apostles died for has been offensive because it has ALWAYS said this:

  1. God has standards (His Holiness)
  2. Man sinned and, by nature, cannot meet God's standards (our sinfulness and offensiveness to God)
  3. God must, because of His nature, eternally punish those who don't meet his standards (His Justice)
  4. Man cannot reconcile himself with God, no matter what we do (our depravity)
  5. God poured his wrath on His Son in the place of those who are believe in Him so that they could now meet his standards (His Mercy)
  6. Those who do believe in Christ are changed, are seen as Christ in God's eyes and their lives show that they no longer serve sinful flesh, but rather serve Almighty God. (Salvation - Justification and Sanctification)
Schizms have been made and churches have split over any and all of these issues. But they always seem to come down to a few things. We either try to change who Christ is, and that His sacrifice on the cross isn't enough to forgive me totally of my sins.
  • Mormon theology teaches that we are saved by the grace of God and Christ's atonement after all that we can do. (they also deny the eternal deity of Christ, yet another heresy)
  • Catholic theology states that one must go to purgatory to suffer for some sins before entering heaven. Other than the fact that the doctrine of purgatory doesn't appear in the Bible, this doctrine says that Christ's sacrifice (in effect) wasn't enough to pay for all of my sins. Therefore, I have to do works that make up for that deficiency.
The Gospel is exclusive because God is Holy and Righteous. If I think that I'm "not that bad," the Bible says that anyone who is jealous, has outbursts of anger, envious will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21). God sees anger as murdering someone and lust as adultery in the heart (Matt 5:21-32). Furthermore, James says that if we break one law - do one sin, we are guilty of them all before God (James 2:10).

If we do not hold fast and preach the only true biblical gospel, but tone down the offensiveness of the gospel, the exclusiveness of the gospel, or the intolerance of the gospel we will be in serious jeopardy of not preaching the true gospel at all, and those who hear it will not hear the saving message of the gospel! If we don't preach the true gospel - that which Christ and the apostles proclaimed - then we are not preaching the saving and sanctifying message that Christ died to give and rose again to validate.

Christ says that unless a man is born again, he will not enter the kingdom of God. If you don't know what that means or aren't sure if you are - please ask me. Eternity hangs in the balance on this one.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Have you ever heard the saying...? (Part 2)

I'd like to alter the saying mentioned in Part 1 to be the following: "You can tell someone's heart or devotion to God by examining one simple thing...their day-planner."

Now, I understand that most of us don't keep a day-planner for our day to day activities, but what if we did? Now, I'm not thinking of a day-planner where you pencil in what you need to or intend to do, but one that is retro-active in its entries. If there were a report like this that would show me exactly what I was doing for my day on a 15 minute increment as well as an overall summary of time, what would it look like? Now, obviously, there is no such report that can be generated automatically that we can look at, but what if you or I were to sit down for a few minutes and sketch one out? It'd actually be pretty easy since most of our lives have a great deal of consistency on a day to day basis.

For instance, I work the same time (relatively) each day for the same amount of time during the week. I'm in the car (mostly to and from work) for a similar amount of time each day. And so on and so on. So, once you build a "normal" day, it's easy enough to edit it for any given day.

Q: What's the point here?
A: The point or intention of this exercise is to get an idea of how much of my time do I spend solely devoted to God as opposed to how much time do I spend on "relaxing" or time solely spent on me.

I am looking at this with the same critical eye that I was examining the "giving" issue that I have previously raised. Here's an example:

Many of my Christian friends love our local football team. The Vikings play for about 3 or 4 hours each week during their season. Most fans (Christians and non-Christians alike) are riveted to the TV or radio for that time, and make an event of it. We'll clear our schedule, get food, set up the TV/Family room, dress for the occasion (hat, jersey, etc) - all of this prior to the 3 hours of entertainment - just to watch a football game. But it doesn't stop there, following the game (for days on end) there is the discussion of the game results and the prognostication of the rest of the season, play-off hopes, etc., etc.

How does my dedicated - not gonna compromise this time except in the case of an emergency - time for my football team stack up against time that I devote wholly to my love for and walk with Christ?

My thrust is not to say that every Christian needs to have the same "cookie-cutter" type of quiet time formula, but I think that if I (we, you, or whomever) don't have some sort of designated, set apart, special, intense, devoted time for my walk with God - and yet I have it for my own personal time - I need to do some serious reevaluating of where my true treasure and love resides. Sounds harsh, huh? Well, it should. We (Christians) are warned over and over about what we do and how we act and to be aware that these things will be judged. 1 Corinthians 3:14,15 speaks to how a Christian's works will be judged by God in the end. I think that a good understanding of this passage revolves primarily around the gospel that we preach and we need to make sure that it conforms to the true gospel (there is no other gospel - see Galatians 1:6-10 for Paul's super clear admonishment about this). But, our way of life, and what we show as valuable (with our time and money) reflect the worth that we attribute to the gospel and ultimately to Christ Himself.

Wrap up:
1 Peter 2:2 says that new Christians should desire the pure milk of the Word. This (I understand) means that a new Christian desire and need the plain and simple truths of the gospel just like a baby desires mamma's milk. And parents - you and I both know that babies are never circumspect about their need for food. Psalms 119:9-16speaks for an older believer in God and the scope of his desire for God's truth. When Paul tells Timothy that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, Paul also instructs him to flee from these things and puruse righteousness, among other things (1 Timothy 6:10-12). Also, we can get an idea of how important it is to make a point of special, devoted time to God by seeing Christ as the example. One of my favorites is Mark 1:32-37 (specifically verse 35) where we see that Jesus got up early after a long night of working to make special time for God.

For His glory, let us examine ourselves in all areas.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson