Archive for the ‘#testimony’ Tag

Tell the Truth   Leave a comment

Image result for image of telling the truthMinisters and ordinary Christians face a constant temptation to tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to know. Sermons that confront a congregation with their spiritual shortcomings don’t usually result in a pat on the back. Instead, they quite often yield criticism and hostility. That’s why strong evangelical preaching and discipleship has largely fallen by the wayside these days. To preach in a way that serves Christ and not people’s egos takes courage and it is easy to become disheartened when people turn a deaf ear to preaching that tells it like it is.

Thereforesince we have this ministryjust as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of Godbut by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. But even if our gospel is veiledit is veiled only to those who are perishing among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselvesbut Jesus Christ as Lord, and  ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For Godwho said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Paul repeatedly had to deal with discouragement in his ministry. There were plenty of preachers whose motives were less than honorable and who would do whatever they thought would gain a following. There were also churches who were readily seduced by flattering speech and winsome ways. It would have been all too easy for someone who remained faithful in preaching Christ and not themselves to grow weary of the downside of human nature.

Paul didn’t give in to discouragement. What heartened him were two things: the character of his ministry and the mercy of God.

Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, he says, we do not lose heart (v. 1). Paul looked on his ministry as something he received not because of any personal merit but on account of God’s favor. Nor was this a matter of theoretical knowledge. Paul experienced God’s mercy firsthand when he was stopped dead in his tracks while pursuing Jewish Christians who had fled Jerusalem for the safer haven of Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). Then there was the surpassing splendor of the new covenant (this ministry). The privilege of being a minister of such a covenant more than compensated for the trials and tribulations that he experienced as an itinerant preacher.

As a result, Paul did not lose heart (enkakoumen, v. 1). The Greek verb means “to act badly” in the face of difficulties; “to give up” or “grow weary” while pursuing a worthwhile goal. Paul wouldn’t allow any obstacles inside or outside the churches to pressure him into abandoning his ministry. Instead of giving in to discouragement, he deliberately and categorically “renounces” the kind of behavior that characterized much of the itinerant speaking of his day. He described this behavior as secret and shameful (v. 2). The phrase is literally “the secret things of shame.” “Secret things” are a person’s innermost thoughts and intentions. These are deeds one hides because of their shameful character.

Paul rejected two types of shameful deeds. First, he does not use deception. Use is literally “to walk” (peripateo)–a verb that occurs frequently in Paul’s writings to describe the Christian life. The Greek term for deception means “capable of anything” (pan + ourgia). In the New Testament it refers to those who use their ability unscrupulously and denotes cunning or slyness. Not only does Paul not resort to deception, but, second, he does not distort the word of God. The verb distort (dolow) is commonly employed of adulterating merchandise for profit. Paul refused to follow in the footsteps of others who tamper with God’s word in order to make it more palatable to the listener or more lucrative for themselves.

Paul eschewed any behavior that was not according to the character of the gospel that he preached. His opponents, had no such scruples. They quite willingly exploited the Corinthians for financial gain (2:17; 11:20). Paul, instead, set forth the truth plainly. The Greek term translated “set forth” (th phanerwsei) refers to an open declaration or full disclosure. The contrast is between a straightforward and open message as opposed to a deceptive presentation of the gospel.

Paul told it like it was and we should tell it like it is.

By setting forth the gospel in a plain-spoken way, Paul “commended” himself to every person’s conscience.The conscience is where conviction takes hold that what one is hearing is the truth. Paul didn’t seek to commend himself to a person’s ego or intellect but appealed to their capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. He didn’t simply trust human judgment but commended himself in the sight of God. He was aware that what he did was done under the perpetually watchful eye of the Lord.

Paul went on in verses 3-4 to deal with the accusation that his message is veiled (kekalymmenon). It would appear–if we can read between the lines–that Paul’s critics reasoned from the absence of large numbers of converts (especially from among his own people) to some fault in his preaching. Paul was the first one to recognize that he was not an overly impressive speaker, as speakers go. This was deliberate on his part, as he would have his audience know only “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). So it isn’t surprising that he didn’t deny the charge. The conditional form that he chose acknowledged their claim: If [as you claim] our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing (ei + indicative). But what he didn’t allow was that there was some fault with the message that he preached. If the content of his preaching was veiled, it was not because he didn’t present the truthes of the gospel plainly (v. 2).

The fault lie rather in three areas. First, the audience was at fault. If there was a hidden aspect to what he preached, it only appeared so to those who were perishing. As in 2:15-16, Paul divided humanity into two groups based on their destiny:

  • those who are on the road to destruction (tois apollymenois)
  • by implication, those who are on the road to salvation.

To the one the gospel makes no sense (v. 3), while to the other it is plain as day (v. 6).

The fault lies, second, with the situation. The minds of those who are perishing have been blinded. The blindness is inability to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (v. 4). As the Mosaic covenant shone with glory, so the gospel shines with glory. Of Christ is plausibly construed as objective: “the glorious gospel about Christ.”

Christ is further described as “the image of God.” To be an image is to be a true representation. We say today that a child is the “spitting image” of his father or mother. Wisdom is similarly described as “a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God and an image of his goodness” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:26). Paul stated that Christ is, not was, God’s image, for He alone brings to visible expression the nature of an invisible God (Col 1:15). To see Christ is to see God and to not see Christ is to not see God.

The fault lies, third, with the source of the blindness. Unbelievers cannot see the gospel’s light because their minds have been blinded by the god of this age (v. 4). This is the only place where Paul referred to the adversary of God’s people as a god. He was usually called Satan or the devil–although in Ephesians 2:2 he was named “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” It could well be that these are traditional formulations Paul used because of their familiarity to his readers. But there is no denying the power of this being. He can destroy the flesh (1 Cor 5:5), masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) and empower his servant, the antichrist, to work all manner of miracles, signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Paul’s thorn in the flesh is attributed to him (2 Corinthians 12:7), as is tempting (1 Corinthians 7:5), scheming against (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11) and trapping (2 Timothy 2:26) the believer. On more than one occasion Paul experienced firsthand his active opposition to the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

The Christian, especially preachers, in our media-oriented society is pressured to use the pulpit as a stage for displaying eloquence, dramatic skill and fine oratory. Congregations add to this pressure with their desire to be amused and entertained. As a result, preaching is often seen by outsiders as just another stage performance. And what is hailed as a successful ministry is sometimes little more than good acting. But to his credit Paul said of himself and his coworkers in Christ, that “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (v. 5).

The emphasis in terms of word order is on not ourselves (ou heautous khryssomen, “not ourselves do we preach”; v. 5). It is hard to determine whether Paul was on the offensive or defensive here. He certainly accused the Corinthian intruders later in the letter of putting on airs (10:12-18). But he also appears to have been faulted for ministerial arrogance (3:12–4:3)–although his claim to preach Christ and not himself was not an idle one. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 he reminded the Corinthians that on his founding visit he did not come to them with eloquence, superior wisdom or wise and persuasive words. This was so that they might know nothing while he was with them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Now he is concerned that they know not only the crucified Christ but also Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as master of their congregational life.

What then is Paul’s role? In 1:24 he said that he didn’t not lord it over the church but worked together with them. Here he goes even further in defining his role as that of a servant (doulos). As an apostle of Christ, he could have merely said the word and commanded their obedience. Domination was not Paul’s style. He was there to serve them and used a command only as a last resort.

This is an important reminder for pastors today. If Christ is to be truly Lord of the church, then pastors must be content with the role of servant.

Paul went on to explain why he preached Jesus Christ as Lord. For God . . . made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (v. 6). The familiar caricature of sudden understanding as a light bulb going on in a person’s mind captures the idea. Knowing what, however? In verse 4 it was knowing the good news about Christ. Here it is “knowing God” –or more specifically, knowing “God’s glory”.

This knowledge, Paul said, God made shine in our hearts. It is commonly thought that Paul referred to his Damascus Road encounter, but Luke described that experience as “a light from heaven [that] flashed around him (Acts 9:3), while here it is a light that illumines the heart. Paul also uses the plural our hearts, indicating that this was (and should be) the experience of all gospel ministers. Some aspect of his conversion experience is undoubtedly in view. Perhaps it was the point at which “God was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Gal 1:15-16).

Paul pictured the conversion experience as a new creation (v. 6). For it is the God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, who illumines the human heart through knowledge of himself. The key thought is that God’s light dispels darkness, whether it be the physical darkness of night or the spiritual darkness of human ignorance. The idea of light dispelling darkness is a recurring one in the Old Testament. Perhaps the most familiar texts are Isaiah 9:1-2, where it is promised that those who walk in darkness in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali will see “a great light,” and Isaiah 49:6, where it is said that God will make his “servant . . . a light for the Gentiles.”

The light that dispels darkness in the human heart is found in the face of Christ. Paul was undoubtedly thinking of the Incarnation. The face is the image that we present in public. Christ’s face, then, is what He presented during his earthly ministry. This is the second time Paul linked knowledge of God irrevocably with Jesus Christ. The connection is a relatively simple one: To know Christ is to know God; to not know Christ is to not know God.

Bearing Witness   Leave a comment

Contrary to what many want to believe about the Bible, Jesus did challenge sinners to live according to God’s principles and there are plenty of examples when you take the Bible in context rather than cherry-pick verses for your own ends. I believe that, as much as possible, we should take the Bible in context. Which means that I post long passages because you have to understand what is said in context with the general conversation in order to understand the message God is trying to convey.

In John 4, Jesus is passing through Samaria and he has an encounter with an unsaved, seeking sinner. The encounter is illustrative of how Jesus dealt with sinners and how we should as well.

John 4:5-26

Verse 5: Now he came to a Samaritan town called Sychar,near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his sonJoseph. Jacob’s well was there, so Jesus, since he was tiredfrom the journey, sat right down beside the well. It was aboutnoon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her,“Give me some water to drink.” (For his disciples had gone offinto the town to buy supplies.) So the Samaritan woman saidto him, “How can you – a Jew  – ask me, a Samaritan woman,for water to drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) John 4:5-9

A couple of things to recognize in this passage. The Jews avoided Samaria because they felt it was filled with sinful people. The Samaritans were descended from Jews who had been left behind during the Babylonian exile. They had intermarried with the Canaanites and formed a Judaic cult. Jesus didn’t avoid Samaria nor did he “keep kosher” when he encountered the woman. The woman came to the well at noon, which generally flies over most people’s heads. She was there alone in the heat of the day. Women in Middle East culture, then and now, went to the well in the morning before it got too hot. They went as a group and it was a social time. This woman had been ostracized by the women of her village.

Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you wouldhave asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water? Surely you’renot greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you? For he gave us this well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and hislivestock.” 

Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.But whoever drinks some of the water that I will givehim will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternallife.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” He said to her, “Go call your husband and come back here.” John 4: 10-16

Jesus used everyday life as a springboard to talk about salvation. At this point, the woman is still thinking of physical water, but she may have had some idea that it was magical. She was intrigued and seeking the water of which He spoke.

But, notice that Jesus doesn’t say “Here you go, here is salvation, go off an enjoy a wonderful life just as you are living it today.” He certainly had the power to do that and He had done so with others in the past. But He didn’t do it with this woman because He knew something we cannot. Remember, Jesus is God. He knows the hearts of men and women. So, instead, He cut to the heart of the matter.

Before she could accept this living water, she had to acknowledge that she was outside the will of God. She had failed God’s standard.

The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband. This you said truthfully!” John 4:17-18

Jesus cut right to the chase. “You have sinned,” he said, “but at least you’re truthful about it.” Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did deal with people’s sins. He had the power and authority to judge her. He didn’t ostracize her. He was still a Jewish man speaking to her directly in the heat of the day and asking her for water in violation of Jewish ritual regulations, but He didn’t let her walk away from Him without her sins acknowledged.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountainand you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, womana time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in JerusalemYou people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spiritand the people who worshiphim must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:19-24

Misdirection much? The woman didn’t want to talk about her sin, so she switched the channel to a theological argument. Where is the right place to worship? Should I be a Baptist or an Episcopalian? Jesus didn’t pursue the red herring. He answered the larger question about Who she should worship — the God of the Jews, Who is seeking true worshipers to worship in spirit and in truth.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming(the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.” John 4:25-26

At this point the woman admits that she believes in the Messiah and expects Him to come and explain “everything” to them. In this, she sounds very similar to skeptics Christians encounter today who say our interpretation of the Bible is wrong and that when Jesus comes we’ll learn the “real truth”. To my ears, she seems to be simply trying to avoid the implications of His knowing about her sin and His correcting her theological errors, but Jesus again KNEW her heart and accepted what she said as a confession of God’s grace working there. Of course, Jesus knew what we cannot because He could actually know what was in her heart, but we could learn from that, to be a little less argumentative and a bit more discerning. Jesus then revealed Himself  as the Messiah to her.

You can (and should) read the rest of passage for yourself. I recommend the NET Bible online because there are notes attached to the verses that explain the passage. You can even explore Greek translation of the passage all within an online environment. So much easier to carry with me than Strong’s Strongest, a comprehensive concordance and a Bible dictionary, although I do now need to do weight lifting at the gym to make up for the lack of hefting those sizable volumes.

The disciples, who had gone into town to get food, returned. The woman left her water bucket and ran into town to tell people “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” In other words, she acknowledged that Jesus had revealed her sin and made a change in her life.

Believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess that belief before others = SALVATION (Romans 10:10)

How do I know that the woman was really saved?

Well, how do we know about this conversation? The disciples weren’t there, including apparently Matthew who appears to have been the note keeper for the group. John says Jesus was alone, so John must not have been there either. Did Jesus tell John about it? Maybe … they were best friends …

… except this passage isn’t written in John’s style, though it appears to have been part of an early version of the Gospel of John, suggesting that it was part of the original manuscript. So where’d it come from if John didn’t write it?

The best guess comes from the style. It has lots of details — the well of Sychar, noon, she was alone, she left her water jar. Scholars say it was almost certainly written by Luke and for some reason left out of the Gospel of Luke. Maybe he didn’t learn the story until after he circulated the Gospel. The Gospel of Luke was written in the AD 60s. The Gospel of John was written late AD 70s, early 80s. That’s a long time to meet new people. It’s highly likely Luke and John met in Ephesus where there was a large Christian community in which John was an elder and from which John wrote his gospel. They probably knew one another well enough for John to borrow passages from him or for Luke to say, “Hey, I wish I could have put this into my gospel, will you put it in yours?”

So where did Luke get the conversation? He wasn’t an original disciple so he wouldn’t have been there. Any journalist worth her salt recognizes when stories come from interviews and Luke seems to have been a dedicated historical interviewer. He includes incredible details from Mary, the mother of Jesus, that none of the other gospel writers do. There are so many historical details as well. My guess is he interviewed this woman from Sychar and for some reason he didn’t include it in his gospel. He then had a conversation with John who remembered the incident at Sychar. Maybe Luke even read John’s gospel while he was writing it and said “Hey, when you were at Sychar, did the conversion of the townfolks start with Jesus talking to an immoral woman at a well? Well, I have that interview.”

Bart Ehrmann believes it shouldn’t be in the Bible since we don’t know exactly who wrote it and it’s in the wrong gospel, but ultimately, this passage should be in the Bible because it tells us so much about how Jesus deals with sinners as He draws us to Him. I can totally see Luke and John having that conversation. Jesus offers us something wonderful while also confronting us with our sin and requiring that we acknowledge that we’ve failed God’s standard. He doesn’t expect us to clean up before we can become Christians, but He requires us to acknowledge that we’re outside the will of God. This is the narrow gate that John will speak of in Chapter 10. Jesus is less than concerned about what denomination we choose to attend at, so much as that we worship in spirit and in truth. And if we acknowledge in the barest of ways that by grace we are starting to believe He might be God, He reveals Himself. Then He uses our testimony of our encounter with Him to draw others to Himself.

We know this woman was saved by her encounter with Jesus because she left her water jar (water is extremely important in a hot climate) and ran to give testimony of Jesus in the town, where she was ostracized. She was willing to be uncomfortable and to talk about her sin in order to tell people of this encounter.

You notice nobody was directly saved by her testimony? They were made curious and they sought Jesus for themselves. This outcast showed a change in her behavior and it caused others to want to understand why. If she’d gone back to her old life, she would have had nothing of value to say them and that might have prevented some from coming to Christ, but because they received their salvation from Jesus Himself, her future behavior had nothing to do with their salvation.

And that is what witnesses with Jesus is all about, to point the way to Jesus for HIM to bring them to salvation. It’s not about us. We’re the signpost pointing to the wonder, not the wonder itself. We need to recognize that and simply tell people what we have experienced.

Truth Precepts   3 comments

This is Part 7 of a series – What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

There are some basic principles to understand about God’s Truth

First – There IS such a thing as Truth. It has been recorded in God’s Word. It is a proposition that says truth (true truth) is to be the focal point of Christian lives and discovered in and through Jesus Christ. Contrary to the teachings and beliefs of human philosophers and occult religionists, Truth exists and we can put it into word, phrases, and sentences that make sense. Truth is recorded in God’s Word (John 17:17). We can find the answers to life’s questions in the Bible. We are to know the Truth and to live it.

Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mindyour whole beingand all your strength.

These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the roadas you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the door frames of your houses and gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 

By the way, this passage known as the Shema would have been a principle Jesus was raised to believe and to quote every day and He referred to it when speaking with the Pharisees and temple priests.

Truth is embodied in Jesus Christ (John 14:6) Only hours before His encounter with Pilate, Jesus had said, “I am the Truth.” In Him, we see the Truth of God walking in a human body (John 1:14,18). If you want to know Truth face-to-face you will find it in Jesus.

Second – Biblical Truth is objective. What Francis Shaefer called “true truth” is utterly unlike liberal, existential forms of small truths. Biblical faith teaches that the events recorded in the Bible are reliable historical facts. If you look at the apostolic sermons in Acts 7, 10 and 13, you find that the preaching of the apostles was grounded in the historical truths of the Bible and thus is consistent with the preaching of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament. The apostles were not mystics or philosophers. They preached and taught about God, who is, who acts, and who communicates through personal intervention in, and providential guidance of the history of human events. As the apostles recorded the gospel records, they were careful to stress the reality of what they were writing about. The life and works of Jesus actually happened.

Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginningSo it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know for certain the things you were taught. Luke 1:1-4

Luke was a doctor who traveled with Paul and then Peter and possibly John. He was a careful historian whose claims have been backed up by archeology. He never walked with Jesus, but there is evidence in his gospel of his having interviewed those who had, including Jesus’ mother, Mary.

Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31

John lived and walked with Jesus and was witness to the events he recorded. He wasn’t trying to re-invent the wheel however. He was the last of the gospel writers. Matthew, Mark and Luke’s histories had been in circulation for several years when John wrote his. He didn’t need to record every event, though perhaps he recorded a few that the others had not.

This is the disciple who testifies about these things and has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written downI suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:24-25

Paul in teaching on the resurrection in particular, stressed the eyewitness accounts of it, and the importance of its factuality to the Christian faith.

Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or theythis is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.

Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 1 Corinthians 15:1-14

Paul invited his readers to go find the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Some of them were still alive and there were many witnesses … including Paul. One of the requirements of an apostle was that he had seen Jesus resurrected. Paul qualified because Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. That encounter had so changed Paul’s life that he could not deny the truth. He went from persecuting the church to being its greatest missionary because the Truth had made Himself known to him.

Truth exists and it is knowable. None of us today saw Jesus when He was alive and it’s doubtful we have seen Him in resurrected form. But we have the histories recorded by those who did live through those events and we have the testimony of those who have accepted that truth.

Christian know the Truth and Jesus the Truth has set us free.

Part 8

Posted June 2, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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