Monday, September 11, 2017

Going SOLO with Jesus?

The following is a paper I wrote for an assignment:

There exists a tension between living independently in Christ’s empowerment and functioning dependently within His Church body. An example of this is clearly displayed in the role of missions. While there are certain things some of us are called to do, there are many things all of us are commanded to do. Believers across all generations of Church history have been commanded to go into all the world preaching the Gospel of Christ. However, God has not called every Christian, individually, to enter the darkest jungles of Papua New Guinea and spend thirty years of their lives devoting themselves to Bible translation. We have all been given a specific assignment from the Lord which, working together, will result in finishing out the Great Commission.

With that said, it is true for someone to speak of their personal relationship with God, but it is equally true, and must never be forgotten, that we all share a corporate relationship with the Lord as His bride. While there is great value in our individual time spent in God’s Word and in prayer, the Christian life as a whole was never designed to be a solo mission. Christianity is not a one-man band and does not give credence to the lone-ranger mentality. Our faith is meant to be communal in nature.

A question was expressed in class the other day regarding whether or not we need to be open and transparent with other people or if we can simply push through life allowing God to be the only One to really know our hearts. The question initially posed supported the idea that it is okay for true transparency to take place only between you and God - fully devoid of other people. While I disagree with this interpretation, I believe this is a very common misconception which runs deep within our own veins and worthy of our attention and study. After all, if students in a Christian educational institute struggle with this issue when we have the opportunity to study God’s Word in great depth every day, then how much more will those to whom we will minister to within our lifetimes wrestle with this question?

The Apostle Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth, illustrated the corporate life of the Church in several ways. Two of the mental images he attempted to portray the Church as was that of a temple and of a human body. As a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19), we are all joined together into and make up the one temple of God. It is easy in English to miss the significance of this statement, but the apostle uses the second person plural pronoun (you) in his address to them and then speaks of the temple as a singular entity. [Yes, I am a nerd.] Thus, Biblically speaking, it is not true to refer to any one person as being the temple of the Holy Spirit—as if there were millions of little temples running around on the earth. What Paul is saying is that there is one temple of God in the world and that is His Church. The same is true in the human body analogy given in chapter twelve.

Furthermore, the first epistle of John focuses on the fellowship believers are to have with one another. Located within this overall context of togetherness is 1 John 1:9 which reads, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”[1] We often read this passage as urging us to confess our sins to God but, while this is true and good, the context of 1 John would seem to imply more of a corporate confession. Specifically, one which allows others the opportunity to live out their faith with us walking side by side as we grow up together into the mature man (Eph. 4:13; Jam. 5:16; Gal. 6:1-2).

The ability to exercise Biblical vulnerability is not a character trait any of us will ever just wake up with one day. It is a process of intentional growth in which we are exhorted to be cultivating in our own lives through regular practice. I am not at all saying that it is easy. On the contrary, it is both difficult and scary. In being transparent we open ourselves up to possible ridicule, humiliation, and even rejection. However, if we firmly believe that God is good and wants the absolute best for us, then as we submit our lives to His Sovereignty, we can be sure that He will go before us into every conversation. Further, He will come out with us on the other side full of mercy and grace in developing our characters to be more like His Son. We may get hurt, but there is coming a day when God will wipe away every tear we cry (Rev. 21:4). God’s desire is to grow us into the image of His Son even though that may be painful at times.

While there will be those who seek to do us harm, the hurt they cause will never outweigh the joy of building solid friendships and having a close group of brothers and sisters by your side through mutual vulnerability. It may be scary and uncomfortable to share with those around us what we are struggling with, but we cannot live our lives in fear that someone will betray our trust. We must resist the lie and run to the truth of God that deep communal relationships are actually freeing to our souls and it is what God has ordained in the creation of man. Ultimately, our ability to extend vulnerability and thus trust to others flows from our view of God and our trust in His Sovereignty over our lives. As leaders, we are to be the examples in our churches and communities of what living in open fellowship is meant to look like in the body of Christ. The way we relate with others should not only whet the appetites of other believers in your sphere of influence, but also draw in unbelievers who want to know more and who long for close authentic fellowship.

[1] ESV Bible, ESV Text Edition: 2011. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001).

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Religion of Self

At some point in your life you will almost certainly talk with someone who believes only select portions of God’s Word. They pick and choose which parts they like and then attempt to explain away the other passages as either irrelevant or uninspired. When this happens, they have adopted a religion of self.

Like all of us, their worldview has been firmly shaped by those who have influenced them the most, their inner circle of friends, the books they have read and the people of whom they have listened. By the time they reach their teen years they have figuratively purchased the land lot, performed the necessary clearing of rocks and debris, drawn out the architectural blueprint, dug the hole, and have even begun pouring cement to build a secure foundation. Before college, they have already allowed time for the cement to dry and have begun construction on the worldview house they will live in for the rest of their life. While some unexpected additions or delays may creep up, they will finish their worldview house. But what’s missing? God.

At this point it is hard to change a person’s preconceived ideas, but it is not impossible. Jesus declared in John 8:32 that the truth of God’s Word has the power and potential to set people free.[1] Yes, this means demolishing our first home. But God, the Master-Builder, is fully capable of assisting us in joyfully building a new home built on a sure foundation. By recognizing the power the Gospel is having in our own lives (emphasis on the present tense), we are then capable of passionately and confidently sharing the truth with those around us.

Upon finding out that someone near to you willingly disregards certain portions of the Bible, you should know that they have chosen to build their house on a nice sandy beach. They went for the view when they were choosing lots. And, while it may look very nice from their perspective, ultimately, their house will not make it in the long run. It will flood, shift with the sand, and become infested in life-contaminating mold, eventually falling into the raging ocean.

Whether they have physically cut out portions of their Bible or not, the fact that these individuals have removed and denied passages exposes their pride. Their position that they themselves can determine what is and is not truth reveals the exaltation of self. They have, at that moment, placed themselves on a pedestal and have mentally removed God from His throne and replaced Him with an idol.

Do not be deceived. They have taken the place of God by replacing Him with their own god. They have selected verses that make them feel good and excluded those that convict or call for sacrifice and have thus created a god to suit their comforts. The only problem is that this god does not exist. They may continue worshipping with you in the same local church body but they are no longer worshipping the one true God of the Old and New Testaments. If this happens, love them and pray for them. However, guard yourself from falling into the same trap of exchanging the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:25) or following after words that tickle the ears (2 Timothy 4:3).

The religion of self is the same temptation Adam and Eve fell into in the third chapter of Genesis. They believed the lie that they could only trust some of God’s Word. Satan was able to gain a foothold in their lives when he got them to question the goodness of God. Many today have become untrusting towards God because Satan has deceived them into viewing God as rival, rather than Father. Thus, when they come to uncomfortable passages or verses that disagree with certain ideas being advanced in our culture, they side with the world and not a loving Father.

This then has resulted in the religion of self. The exaltation of man above God. The belief that we can define our own reality for ourselves—totally independent of God. This way of thinking says, “I will believe the passages of Scripture I like; but the ones that call out my sin must go, because God could not have really meant what He said. My God would never want me to be unhappy.” It would honestly be better for them to write their own religious book, than to continue plagiarizing and misquoting the Christian Scriptures.


We will not always have the answers to every question. Even through Bible study and continual preaching (yes, in the Great Commission passage Jesus has called you to be a preacher – future blog coming) we may not always have an immediate answer to every possible question. However, we must endeavor to reach men and women no matter where they are at in life knowing that the only way they will come to hear truth is through people like you and me (Romans 10:13-15). Remember, this is a spiritual battle so prayer is ultimately your most powerful weapon to compliment the spoken Truth and the Holy Spirit’s work.

[1] ESV Bible, ESV Text Edition: 2011. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001).

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Jesus Defines Sexual Immorality

What Does JESUS Mean by “Sexually Immoral?

Jesus said in Revelation 21:8,[1]

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

While you will likely not find this verse with red font in your personal Bible, it is quite clear from the context that Jesus Christ is the One doing the talking when you begin reading from 21:5.

Many will attempt to argue that Jesus Himself never spoke on bestiality, homosexuality or polygamy. However, it is here in Revelation 21:8 where that argument falls apart. Jesus is all-inclusive. Rather than getting lost in an endless list, Jesus sums up all forms of sexual immorality into one category, much like a folder icon you see on the computer. He includes every form, whether physical or mental, of sexual activity outside of the bounds of a God-defined marriage under the category of sexual immorality.

Why is it that Jesus did not mention bestiality, homosexuality or polygamy?

To begin, it is blasphemous to say that God approves of groups that practice these sexual perversions. Does He love them as individuals made in His image? Yes, but He cannot and will not ever approve or condone their actions of immorality. He is Holy and we are sinners.

The reason Christ did not mention these three specific sins is actually very simple. He came to the nation of Israel and preached to the Jewish people. While there are examples of Christ interacting with Gentiles (non-Jewish people), even a quick glance at any of the four Gospels will assure you that Israel was the focus of His mission. As God’s covenant people, they were chosen to be the nation from where the Church would be born, and Christ made His message applicable to His target audience.

Bestiality, homosexuality and polygamy were not common practices among the Jewish people and possibly even non-existent in the nation of Israel during the time of Christ’s first coming. Had the nation been exposed to and even struggled with these sins in the past? Absolutely! That is why God speaks against them in the Law. However, at the time Christ came, Israel had become zealous for the Law and everything it contained. They felt they were doing such a good job at following every single command that they began to think highly of themselves and look down on others.

Israel did however struggle with adultery (John 8), perverse speech (Matthew 15:18-19), pornography (Matthew 5:27-30), and prostitution (Matthew 21:31-32). Obviously, two thousand years ago Israel could not pull up a pornographic website. However, to look with lust at a man or a woman and selfishly desire to feed your own cravings by fascinating over your imaginations is Biblically considered pornography—when you mentally picture the act and allow it to consume and control you.


These are the sexual standards of the Bible. We can choose to live by them or not, but no matter who we are we will all bow before God and be held accountable to His standard of sexuality. God alone defines what is good, proper and holy. If you are involving yourself in any form of sexual immorality, then “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…”(Romans 12:1).

[1] ESV Bible, ESV Text Edition: 2011. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001).

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Only Christ's Words

Which words do you believe?

There is a growing tendency among liberal evangelicals to believe that only the words in red (i.e. direct quotes from Jesus) are the inspired Word of God. Various translations have faithfully attempted to aid the reader by changing the font color but, from this godly desire, has arisen an unholy viewpoint. While the recorded words of Christ during His earthly ministry are of eternal importance, those who hold to this view have lost sight of the fact that every single word in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, are the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 1:17, Jesus Himself says,

I AM the First and the Last
Notice that not only are His words in red, but He claims for Himself the All-Supreme title of the Eternal and Sovereign God! This brings us to the Old Testament book of Isaiah chapters forty through forty-eight. The prophet Isaiah spends these nine chapters quoting God regarding Israel’s sin of idolatry. What does this have to do with Jesus, you ask? Everything! The Sovereign God, Jehovah, emphatically declares this title for Himself and assures His people that He will give this title and His glory to no other (Isaiah 42:8).

In Isaiah 44:6 (along with 41:4 and 48:12), Jehovah God says,

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I AM the First and the Last; besides Me there is no god.
Did you notice the choice of font color? You will likely not find it colored red in your personal study Bible, but may I remind you that the publishing company does not determine our Lord’s words or even where they are found in Scripture. What this means then, is that the God who is audibly speaking to the prophet Isaiah is none other than Jesus Christ. Therefore, if one claims to believe and submit only to the words of Christ, then they are accountable to every quotation of Christ, not just in Isaiah, but in all of the Old Testament.

In Zechariah 12:10, Jesus Himself says,

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on ME, on HIM whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for HIM
In Hosea 13:4 (along with Isaiah 43:11), Jesus Himself says,

But I AM the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but Me, and besides Me there is no Savior.
We know this is Jesus speaking because we know that there is no other Savior apart from Him. He is the One. He alone willingly chose to die on the cross for our sins and rise again on our behalf because He alone has the power to do just that! And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Christ’s affirmation of the Old Testament Scriptures, His choosing and commissioning of His apostles with His New Testament message, His sovereignty over the protection and proper distribution of His Word throughout the ages, and even of His glorious appearing and bold declarations consumed in His Revelation.

The Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:20-21,

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Who’s Holy Spirit? Christ’s! Jesus Christ is the Eternal God and He is the One who spoke, inspired, and guided both the prophets and scribes to accurately record His faithful and true message. Not only should the quotations of God throughout the entire Old Testament be colored red, but this passage from Peter means that the entire Bible should be in red. This is Peter whom Jesus Christ spoke to and through in order to get His Word into the hands of His people.


To conclude, you will see that the idea that only Jesus’ words are inspired is actually a true statement—because every word in all of Scripture, Old and New Testament, are Christ’s words. And, not only are they His spoken words, but they are all together summed up in Him as the Apostle John has written in John 1:1,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[1]

[1] ESV Bible, ESV Text Edition: 2011. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001).

Friday, September 1, 2017

Russia Rising: Book Review

A special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of Mark Hitchcock’s book, Russia Rising.

It is not the outcome of presidential elections or the occurrence of astronomical phenomena that are the main indications regarding the end of days. Rather, it is the rising and allying of the nations and kingdoms surrounding Israel. In Russia Rising, Mark Hitchcock will walk you through step by step in revealing Russia’s involvement in end times prophecy. Using Scripture and analyzing recent events, Hitchcock articulates Biblical prophecy clearly and understandably. Perfect for the Biblical scholar or the new believer. I highly recommend Russia Rising to any who are seeking to deepen their understanding of current events in light of Christ’s return.

Russia Rising brings the reader into mental preparation and is a guide to aid in clearly considering the eschatological implications of the world events of our time. It can be easily read, understood and, most importantly, Hitchcock keeps on track and maintains a very informative and doctrinally sound walk-through of Ezekiel 38 and 39 without getting lost in opinions and speculations. He uses the Bible as the ultimate authority and he does so with great care and humility.

If you have ever wondered if and how our current world powers (i.e. America, Russia, etc.) play a part in the fulfillment of Biblical revelation in the last days, then this book is for you. Gog and Magog tend to mean very little, if anything, to the modern reader of Scripture. However, Hitchcock clearly identifies these archaic nations as we best know them today. Russia Rising is well worth your time.

     -          Biblical Perspicacity