Tag Archives: Jesus

Twisting the Truth #8

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Twisted into Rebellion

I apologize for not writing yet this week.  The truth is my video stopped working, and since this is a video study, it is kind of hard to continue on when the main source of the study is not working.  But all is well – I have an email in to Zondervan, the study’s publisher, to see how they can help, and I should be good to go shortly.  In the mean time, I figure I can write a short summary of what the third week of the study is about, and when the video starts working again (or I get a new one), I can fill in the details.

In the previous two weeks of this study, we have discussed 3 major ideas:

  • There is an invisible world that directly impacts our visible world. Like unseen germs that can attack our bodies and make us sick, this unseen world has the power to affect our lives in many different ways.
  • The one who is attacking us from this unseen realm is Satan.
  • The tool Satan uses to attack us is deception and twisting of the truth, and his main goal is murder and the destruction of all this is good in our lives.

For the remainder of the study, we are going to look at some of the most powerful schemes of the devil – some of the things he is the best at twisting so that he can ruin our lives.  The first of these twists is the twisting of our reaction to authority.

Romans 13:1-7 says:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Paul tells us that our response to “governing authorities” is to be submission.  The reason that we should submit to these authorities is that God is the one that established all authority – failing to submit to that authority is indirectly failing to submit to God.  Doing this will bring nothing but judgment on yourself.  It appears that this is by design – God places people in authority as a method of keeping order. These people have the authority to punish those who do wrong, therefore doing wrong is nothing more than placing yourself in a position to be punished.  So, Paul says, to avoid trouble, avoid wrongdoing. On top of that, Paul says that we should submit as a matter of conscience – it isn’t enough to obey authorities just to stay out of trouble – you should do it because it is the right thing to do.

I found it interesting that Paul calls the person in authority “God’s servant.”  He does so twice, as if to make a point.  My study points out that God has a purpose for placing people in authority – “for our good.”  But then it asks “Does this description apply to all human authorities?”  That is a very good question.  I couldn’t help but think of the interaction between Jesus and Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of John.  In John 19, after having interviewed Jesus and having Him flogged, yet still not believing that Jesus was guilty of anything worth crucifixion, Pilate continues asking Him questions, to which Jesus refused to respond.  Pilate then said ” ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?…Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’  Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above…’ ” (versus 10-11).  Here, Jesus affirms that even Pilate was given a position of authority by God.  So this begs the question – does Pilate fall under the umbrella of being “God’s servant?”  I would have to say yes, although admittedly I am a little baffled by the thought of it.

Paul ends by using specific examples of submitting to authority – paying taxes, giving honor and respect to whom it is due.  For us, I think there are many more we could add to this list – going the speed limit, not cheating on a test.  The list could go on and on. I’ll end by asking you to share some thoughts about ways we can submit to authority in today’s world, as a way to avoid punishment, as well as keep a clear conscience.  Once I get the video back up and working, we’ll continue talking about how Satan twists reality to get us to rebel against authority, and how that affects our lives.

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Truth: Who Is Jesus?

When I used to teach middle school, I also coached tennis for a couple of years. My last year of teaching/coaching, there was a girl on my tennis team who I got to talk about Christianity with. She was not a believer, nor was any of her family. They were an intelligent family, and they obviously talked about religious things, because this girl had a good base in understanding religious ideas about many different religions. She understood a little about Christianity, but she also knew other people in other religions that she loved dearly, as well as some family members who were living very non-Christian lifestyles, and she couldn’t see how she could become a Christian and believe that she would go to heaven, when all these other people would go to hell. That was “cruel” in her mind. She wanted a firm answer as to how I knew that Jesus was the only way to God.

On the other side of things, here on my blog I have had people comment by saying things that were contrary to what I had written about, and tried to portray Jesus as somebody different that I was trying to portray Him as. Specifically, when I was doing my Bible study over Heaven, I wrote about the existence of hell, and I received a comment by a gentleman who had written a book about how there was no such thing as hell, and that the passages in the Bible that taught that hell was a real place were either misinterpreted or were added later by the church to scare people into believing (and supposedly, therefore, into giving the church money). This guy had taken a central teaching of the Bible and discarded it in order to make Jesus into who he wanted Him to be. We both believed in Jesus, but not the same Jesus.

This week’s study in The Ever Loving Truth is titled The Search for the Real Jesus. I’m going to do something a little different this week than I usually do with my Bible study posts. I’m going to ask you, the reader, to respond to a few questions. Feel free to answer any or all of these, and answer them in any way you choose. I commit to respond to every single comment, and on Friday, I am going to come back and discuss my own answers to these questions, and continue the discussion of who Jesus really is.

  1. Who is Jesus to you, personally?
  2. Who is the Jesus in the Bible? Include any Bible passages you may use to give this answer.
  3. How long has Jesus been around? How do you know?
  4. What role has Jesus played throughout history?
  5. How can we know who Jesus really is?

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Grace and Truth: An Unpopular Truth…

Something I haven’t had to deal with much, since I live in the Bible Belt, is having to share the unpopular truth of Christ being the only way into Heaven. But you hear it all the time, on television, radio, and other media, that people have a hard time accepting that Jesus is the only way. I taught and coached at the middle school level for several years, and last year I had a student who was hungry for the things of God. We talked quite a bit about it, and my wife would pray during these times that I could effectively witness to her. But even as a young teenager, this girl had a hard time believing that Jesus was the only way to God. She knew other people in other religious systems, and she knew personal family friends who were living in homosexuality and other anti-biblical lifestyles, and she just couldn’t imagine these “good” people not going to Heaven. She assumed that there must be more than one way to Heaven, and that my way (or more specifically, the Christian way) was just one of many options.

Unfortunately, if we are following Jesus, He didn’t leave us any other options. Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, emphasis added). He didn’t say He was a way, a truth, and a life. He said He was the way, truth, and life, and that no one can even come to the Father except through Him. That leaves no lee-way or wiggle room. In a culture where it is unacceptable to be intolerant of others, we often forget this truth, but it doesn’t make it any less true, any more than denying gravity exists means you won’t fall if you jump off a cliff.

For an unbeliever, there is still a choice to be made about the truthfulness of the claims of Christ. He or she has yet to make that choice, and thus they are not yet a believer. But for a believer and follower of Jesus, we have supposedly already made this choice, and if He is the only way to God, then our lives must reflect His standards of truth. Probably even more often than I see the media trying to convince people that there are more ways to Heaven than just through Jesus, I see people who claim to be followers of Christ, yet they don’t live according to His standards of truth. Jesus gave 2 analogies in Matthew 7:15-20 regarding recognizing false prophets:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Randy Alcorn points out that many of the people listening to this message were probably shepherds or at least were familiar with the idea of wolves being an enemy to their flocks, and therefore the first analogy of false prophets being wolves in sheep’s clothing was extremely relevant to them. And His second analogy, of a true follower of Him bearing good fruit, was also relevant to an agricultural society.

After making these analogies, Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Some people talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. They claim to be Christians, they even do things that seem very Christian (pastor churches, teach Sunday school, talk about God and write God-related books and blogs, prophesy, drive out demons, and do many miracles in Christ’s name – see v. 22). But they don’t live according the standards of truth that Christ set. Sometimes that includes me, and I shudder at the thought of Christ saying He never knew me. So, I will persist in developing my relationship with Him, and I will focus on living according to His truth.

So, today’s lesson:

  • Truth is truth. It cannot be changed.
  • Jesus is truth. He sets the standard.
  • Followers of Jesus will be known by their fruit, which includes living according to the truth.

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Grace and Truth: Jesus – A Lamb or a Lion?

We’ll finish this week’s study of The Grace and Truth Paradox by looking at Jesus once again. As we’ve mentioned multiple days this week, Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), a perfect balance between these two foundational concepts of the Christian faith. If we were to ask what characteristics of Jesus we needed to most emulate, these two traits would sum it all up.

Often, people add to or take away from who Jesus really was. Take the following bumper stickers that you can actually buy online:

This sticker demands that Jesus was a conservative – I assume it’s suggesting that Jesus’ political views would lean toward the right, that He would choose to “believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense” (see here). On the other hand, check out this one:

This one suggests that living like Jesus would annoy conservatives, which I assume means that Jesus was liberal, or that He would choose to “believe in governmental action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all, and that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.”  I would laugh at either of these arguments – I don’t think anything in Jesus’ message talked about the role of government or national defense. These stickers are evidence that people try and fit Jesus into their own little box, making Him out to be what they want Him to be, rather than who He truly was.

Randy Alcorn uses parts from two of C.S. Lewis’s stories from the Chronicles of Narnia series – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – to illustrate the these two complementary sides of Christ. In a scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, one character, Susan, asks Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan the Lion: “Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” To which they reply “That you will, Dearie, and no mistake. If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just plain silly.” Lucy then says “Then he isn’t safe?” And the Beavers reply with “Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.” Most people agree that C.S. Lewis fully intended for Aslan to be a mythical representation of Christ, and this description of Aslan is a good fit for Christ as well – He is good, but as Alcorn says, “until we understand that He’s not safe, until we come to grips with the truth of His uncompromising holiness, we will never begin to grasp His grace.”

Alcorn goes on to point out that most people expected Jesus, the Messiah, to show up as a powerful lion. Overlooking many scriptures, they created an image of who Christ would be, but their image was incomplete. Isaiah 53:7 prophesied that Jesus would come like a lamb:

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

Jesus came as a lamb, gentle and full of grace, never opening His mouth when they came to slaughter Him. Although this may have caused the Jewish people to see Jesus as weak, Revelation 17:14 makes clear that the Lamb is not weak – “[The ten kings under the power and authority of the Beast] will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings…”

Alcorn also points out that at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the children come across a small lamb who, as they speak, turns into Aslan himself, a huge golden lion. Sometimes Jesus appears like a lamb, and sometimes He appears like a lion, but in actuality He is always both. He is powerful, mighty, and should be feared because of His holiness and justice. But He is gentle and full of grace, willing to forgive those who turn to Him and seek His mercy. Jesus is both the lion of truth and the lamb of grace.

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Genesis 49: A closer look at Judah…

My study today did not cover anything new out of Genesis 49, but instead had me look closer at the person of Judah, and more specifically, look at his lineage to David and then to Christ. I am going to try and share a little of what I studied today, but it will be much shorter than yesterday’s post, which is probably a good thing.

Genesis 49:8-12 is a quote from Jacob as he blesses Judah before he dies. As I have written about before, often times these end-of-life blessings are as much prophecies over their son’s lives as they are anything else. We saw this in the case of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27).  Jacob proclaims in these verses:

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

The first part of this says that Judah will be greater than his brothers. This is similar to what Isaac had told Jacob when he blessed him – “Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.” (Genesis 27:29). I think this can be taken one of two ways – either you can see it as a prophecy of what is to come, that Judah and his descendants are foretold to be “lord” over his brothers’ descendants, or you can see this as a proclamation of Jacob giving Judah a title of lordship over his brothers. Either way, it is accurate, since Judah did become a great nation and one of the 2 kingdoms. Jerusalem, the central power of the nation of Israel (and of the later nation of Judah), was located in the kingdom of Judah.  And Judah was the leader among his brothers, respected by both them and their father (even though he was not the firstborn).

The next part of this blessing in Genesis 49 talks about how “the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his…” I believe this points directly to 2 of Judah’s descendants – David and Jesus. We know through the genealogical records that David was a descendant of Judah. In 1 Chronicles 5:2, it mentions that “…Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him…”.  In Matthew 1, we see the human genealogy of Jesus, and we that both David and Judah are his ancestors. So it can be said that this line from Judah’s blessing is an accurate prophecy – that Judah’s descendants would be rulers. David, of course, was the king appointed over Israel after Saul. Jesus’ reign is a heavenly kingdom, and his rule over the earth is yet to come. In Isaiah 9:6 it prophecies Christ’s birth and rule – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  In verse 7 it says that “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” In Jeremiah 33:15 it also prophecies of Jesus’ coming – “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line…”

This “scepter” that is talked about could be either a symbol of leadership, or it could be a symbol of a person who is the lawgiver. My study pointed out that either way, this points directly at Christ. In Revelation 19:15 it says of Jesus – “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” This actually is a quote from the words of David in Psalm 2, when speaking of “the LORD” and “his Anointed One” (v. 2, speaking of Christ), he says “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (v. 9). This lines up perfectly with the idea of Jesus as the lawgiver – as the one who puts the law in place, he is the one with the right to judge all people and all nations – to “dash them to pieces,” if you will.

One final thought that my study didn’t bring up, but that I did mention in yesterday’s post, is about the final line of the blessing. It says “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch…” I automatically assumed that this meant that at some point, Judah’s power would be transferred to Joseph.  My reasoning behind this is that, just a few lines later, when Jacob is blessing Joseph, he calls Joseph “a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring…” (Genesis 49:22). It also says in Judah’s blessing that he will rule “until he comes to whom it belongs…” My study pointed out that this refers to Joseph – in 1 Chronicles 5:2, it blatantly says “though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph…” This, to me, also points to Christ – Joseph is seen by many as a “type” of Christ, or a figure, example, or pattern. See this page for a list of verses that compare Joseph to Christ. So perhaps Jacob is saying that at some point, Judah will submit to Christ’s authority.  It is interesting to note that Jesus also calls himself a vine in John 15:1.

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