Author: Leland Acker

Pastor of Life Point Baptist Church, morning host on News/Talk 102.3 KXYL.

What is Truth?

Photo by Andres Ayrton on Pexels.com

Having pardoned the woman taken in adultery, confronting the Pharisees for their own sin and addressing their unbelief, Jesus then turned His attention to the people that believed on Him. In a word of encouragement, He said, “If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

How amazing it must be to know the truth and to be set free by it. It seems simple, yet liberating. Easy, yet hopeful.

Then, questions arise in our souls. Questions like the one that plagued Pilate, “What is truth (John 18:38)?” And, “From what are we being set free?”

To answer these questions, lets travel back in time to the days of Christ. Israel was under Roman occupation, and the people faced oppression, not only from the Roman government and military, but from many of their own people.

From the publicans who enriched themselves by extorting tax money from the people, to the religious leaders who enriched themselves by seizing power through the religious institutions. For the people who followed Jesus, there were few points of hope, save for one… that the Messiah would come and set everything straight.

As Jesus walked the earth, the people had become hopeful. The timing of the arrival of the Messiah was nearing as predicted by the Prophet Daniel. John the Baptist fulfilled scriptures in Isaiah concerning the forerunner to the Christ, and John himself pointed out Jesus as being that Christ.

As Jesus taught and ministered, many of the people came to believe that He was, in fact, the Christ that had been promised to deliver Israel. Those who followed found salvation, love, compassion and deliverance in His words.

The people who were constantly being called upon by their own religious leaders to sacrifice more, to suffer more, and to obey more, were being told by Jesus, “Come unto Me, and I shall give you rest.” And, for a time, they accepted that invitation.

Jesus knew that there would be those who would follow for a while, and leave. Indeed, it is a common thing when one is overcome with the struggles of life to cling to religion, or a religious leader, in order to find some sort of answer or resolution. Often, when that resolution is found, or when hope of a resolution is lost, the follower will fall back to their old ways.

It was that pattern that Jesus spoke to when He said, “If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed.” The ones who are truly the followers of Christ are those who continue to follow and trust Him regardless of outcome, who continue with Him until the end.

That level of dedication leads one to know the truth.

What is truth?

Truth is objectively true, and which is true under any consideration. Truth is real regardless of how men may perceive it.

Regarding the Lord, truth is the reality of the Gospel, and the blessing of hope that comes through the Gospel.

Jesus told His followers that if they continued in His word, then they would truly be His disciples. They would know the truth of the Gospel, Who He is, and the truth of God’s grace, and thus they would be freed from the oppression of the religious leaders and the anxieties of living under Roman rule.

For us today, continuing in the word means continually learning the truth of the Gospel from the scriptures. The more we do that, the better we know and understand the Gospel, the more we know the truth, and the more we are set free by the truth.

Being set free by the truth means being freed from fear of God’s judgment, from the questions of whether we’re good enough to get into Heaven, and freed from the fears peddled to us by cable news. We have been set free, because we know the One who holds tomorrow, the One who holds us, and we know that our eternal life and deliverance is in His hand, not ours.

And that is liberating.

Jesus: Light of the World, Destroyer of Darkness

In chapter 8, the Apostle John records the account of the woman taken in adultery, in which Pharisees challenged Jesus by bringing a woman who was allegedly caught in the act of adultery, and demanding that Jesus tell them what her consequence should be.

In that famous passage of scripture, Jesus told the Pharisees that the one without sin could cast the first stone. After they all left, realizing both their own sin and their inability to win this particular debate with Jesus, the Lord asked the woman where her accusers were. When she said no one stood there to condemn her, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

John 8 is a beautiful account of the sinless perfection of Christ, and His grace and mercy upon us as we struggle with sin.

After this incident, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Jesus being the Light of the world is a recurring theme in the book of John, beginning with John 1, in which states that “in Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”

With that, we are reminded that life with all of its meaning, fulfillment and blessings, comes from Christ. He is the source of life, intellect and creativity. This means that, ultimately, Christ is the source of all that is good in life.

Check out this message, as Pastor Leland Acker discusses how Christ being the Light of the world brings goodness to our lives and gives us deliverance from the darkness of this world.

And the Soul Felt its Worth

What is the value of a human soul? How much are you worth to God?

As Jesus concluded His teaching of the Kingdom Parables, He shared two parables that answer those questions. Two parables, one message, told in such a way to remove any doubt as to the preciousness of the human soul to God.

In the first of these two parables, Jesus told the story of a man who found a treasure in a field. This man found a treasure hidden that was so precious, he found it necessary to buy the entire field so that the treasure could be his. He went and sold everything that he had to raise the funds to purchase the field, so he could have the treasure.

While there may have been value to the field, the driving force behind the man’s purchase was the treasure. The result was the man bought an entire field, but his only interest was the treasure.

Employing the symbols and rules of interpreting the Kingdom Parables we’ve previously discussed, we find that the man represents the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The field represents the world. Thus, the man, Jesus Christ, purchased the entire world (the field), to obtain the treasure He truly wanted, which are those of us who believe.

This concept is proven in scripture. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” In essence, 1 John 2:2 says that the Lord paid for everyone’s sins so that He could save those who repent and believe.

That concept offends some who hold to the doctrines of Calvinism, because they believe that it would paint the Lord as wasteful, having wasted a payment on the sins of those who would never come to salvation. However, not one of those Calvinists would feel that they wasted any money purchasing a barn that contained an all-original 1962 in showroom condition. Though the Calvinist had no use for the barn, in that transaction, he would receive what he was truly paying for, and that would be the Corvette.

The beauty of this concept is not only that we are so precious to the Lord that He paid for the sins of the world so that we can be saved, but also that, with all sins having been paid for, anyone can be saved. Anyone can be redeemed. Anyone can be transformed. As long as there is the breath of life in the individual, there is hope that he can be saved, no matter how far he has drifted.

As for the treasure, scripture clearly teaches that God’s love for us motivated the Gospel. Hebrews 12:2 states, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

It was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross. That joy was not the glories of Heaven, nor the ownership of the universe. He already possessed those. The joy set before Christ was His people. To redeem His people, He went to the cross to pay for the sins of all people. With the sins of all people being paid for, there would be no limitations on the redemption of His people.

He truly purchased the entire field so that He could have the treasure.

In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus followed that parable up with the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price.

In this parable, we find a merchant man seeking good pearls. He finds one, the greatest, most beautiful pearl he has ever seen. Needing to add this pearl to his portfolio, he goes and sells everything he has so that he may purchase the pearl.

Once again, employing our rules of decoding the Kingdom Parables, we find that the man represents Christ. However, what about the pearl?

If the treasure in the field represents all of the saved, then the pearl represents an individual who has been saved. Whereas the treasure in the field shows us the big picture, the pearl of great price shows us how precious each individual is to the Lord.

Notice how Jesus described the man. He is a merchant man looking for goodly pearls. Pearls are his business, and he depends on that business to thrive.

For the Lord, 1 Timothy 1:15 says that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” The Lord’s business was saving souls, individual souls. And in 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul said that out of all of those individual souls, he was the worst, and he was saved.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus Himself said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which is lost.”

Jesus is in the business of saving souls, and each individual is precious to Him. The Lord did not merely go to the cross to save the mass of humanity, but He went to the cross to save you as an individual.

This idea is backed up by the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

So, what is the value of a human soul? How precious are you to God? So valuable and precious that the creator of the universe willingly and steadfastly laid down his life for you. And if you truly grasp that idea, then your soul has felt its worth.

One Focus, One Mind, One Church

In John 17, Jesus has just observed the Passover meal with His disciples. Having broken the unleavened bread and shared the wine, thus instituting the Lord’s supper, Jesus spent the next few moments preparing the disciples for what would come next. From John 13-16, He prepared His disciples for His arrest, trials, and crucifixion.

As He discussed these things with His disciples, He reminded them of God’s eternal plan through all of it, and how it would all work to their redemption. Still, things weighed heavy on the heart of our Lord, and on the hearts of the disciples.

So, in John 17, Jesus lifted up His prayer to God. In that prayer, He prayed for His own glorification, for the protection of the disciples, and then He brings the prayer to its glorious conclusion in verses 20-26 as He prayed for the unity and glorification of His disciples.

You read that right… the unity, and the glorification of His disciples.

Christ prayed that His disciples would be one, that they would be unified. Since verse 20 shows that Christ not only prayed for His disciples, but also for all future believers, we can conclude that He prayed for our unity as well.

This unity that Christ prayed for was not a generic hope that we would all be able to get along. Unity can only come from being centered around a central idea, theme, ethic or cause. There has to be a basis for unity.

In His prayer, the Lord prayed that we would be one in God. The basis for our unity is the Lord Jesus, and our Heavenly Father. In a broader sense, the basis of our unity would be in what Christ was about to accomplish on the cross.

Unity among believers can only happen if we are centered upon the Gospel. If we lose our focus on the Gospel, we will find ourselves preoccupied with different things, and those different things will divide us. Therefore, we must continually focus and refocus ourselves on the Gospel.

As Alastair Begg once preached, we must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily to prevent ourselves from drifting from the Lord, and placing our trust in ourselves and our own understanding.

Indeed, once we lose focus on the Gospel, we become more focused on the menial things of this world, and such drift more toward selfishness. This is the cause for most church divisions.

Show me a church that is divided over worship style, and I’ll show you a church that has lost its focus on the Gospel. Show me a church divided over carpet color, sanctuary decor, and programs, and I will show you a church that has lost its Gospel.

Show me a church building that has been placed on the market as the congregation it once housed disbanded, and I will show you a church that forgot the reason for its existence.

When we lose the Gospel, we lose unity, we lose purpose, we lose everything.

Jesus prayed that we would be one. That we would be united in will and understanding, that we would hold the same mission. That can only be accomplished through our unified focus on the Gospel.

Jesus then prayed that we would be glorified. Specifically, in His prayer He mentioned that the glory that was given to Him was also given to His disciples. This “glory” is translated from the Greek, Doxa, from which we get the title of the song, Doxology, which means to make renown, or to be well thought of.

Christ not only made His name great in the Earth by completing the Gospel, He lifted up the names of His disciples, too. This was done so that the disciples could turn around and glorify the Lord.

There are aspects to our transformation in the Gospel that make us stand out in this world. The purpose behind our standing out is to direct people to the Gospel.

The purpose of all of this is to effectively proclaim the Gospel and lead others to salvation. Is that a purpose we live by? Or do we get in the way with our earthly and selfish desires? To ensure that we do the former, and not the latter, we must be Gospel-focused.

Trying to Solve Spiritual Problems with Worldly Solutions

The scene must have puzzled Pilate. The man who had entered Jerusalem as the Messiah was now in custody and detained in his judgment hall. Even more puzzling, it was this Messiah’s own people who arrested Him and turned Him in.

The traditional understanding of Holy Week is that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, so named because as He rode the donkey colt into Jerusalem, multitudes of people laid palm leaves in his path while cheering, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”

This caught the attention of the chief priests and Pharisees, who wanted Jesus to tell the people to quieten down, saying, “Master, rebuke your disciples.” Such an event likely caught the attention of Pilate, whose job it was to keep the peace in Jerusalem, a task that was seemingly impossible.

With the people’s desire to overthrow Roman rule, and with a popular Messiah entering the city to the cheers of the crowd, Pilate was possibly bracing for the worst. Then, he awakens to find that the Pharisees had arrested that Messiah, and He was being held in the judgment hall.

When Pilate asked Jesus why He had been arrested, Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”

The Pharisees opposed Jesus because they wanted an earthly kingdom, and they wanted to rule that kingdom. Pilate lived in the flesh, and in the tangible aspects of this world. Even though he saw the truth of Who Christ was, and the words He spoke, Pilate was unable to repent and trust the Lord as His Savior.

And through this account in John 18, we find that the Kingdom of God is a Spiritual Kingdom. It being a Spiritual Kingdom, that means that our mission is a Spiritual mission, our priorities should be Spiritual priorities, and that the things of this world are mere distractions.

Check out the above video, where Pastor Leland Acker encourages us to live for the Spiritual things of God, not the temporary things of this earth.

Why Doesn’t God Reveal Himself?

Why does God have to be so enigmatic?

If He wants us to know the truth, if He wants us to believe in Him, why doesn’t He just appear before us and remove all doubt?

In the above-posted clip, Pastor Leland Acker addresses those questions. In reading the Bible, we learn that God has, in fact, revealed Himself to mankind on a number of occasions.

He appeared to Adam after giving him life, and as He paid out the plan of salvation following Adam’s sin. He appeared to Noah, to Old Testament Israel, and then He appeared to us through Jesus Christ.

When God presented Himself to all mankind through Jesus Christ, man rejected Him and crucified Him.

The idea that man would simply accept God if He were to appear is a false assumption. Adam saw God, and rejected Him. Israel saw God, and rejected Him. The people of Jesus’ day saw Him, and crucified Him.

And the Bible says that when Christ returns, the armies of the world will gather to battle against Him.

God has appeared. He has spoken to us. The question is, do you accept Him, or reject Him?

Sanctified and Sent (John 17:17-19)

As Jesus prayed the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, his time with the disciples was winding down. There in the upper room, Jesus and the disciples had just observed the Passover, and Christ had just instituted the Lord’s Supper. Both of those observances symbolized what He was about to do.

The Passover was a celebration of God leading the children of Israel out of Egypt by delivering them from the curse of the death angel and by leading them through the Red Sea. To commemorate this event, the Israelites were commanded by scripture to sacrifice a yearling lamb, without spot or blemish, to sweep all leaven out of the home, and to eat unleavened bread and drink wine (but not in a way to get drunk).

In scripture, Egypt is a symbol of the bondage of sin. The Lamb symbolizes a sacrifice made to God to atone for sin. The blood pays the penalty for sin. The Passover celebration pictured Christ, that sacrificial Lamb that took away the sins of the world, and by so doing, led His people out of the bondage of sin.

The unleavened bread given by the Lord as He instituted the Lord’s Supper symbolized His body, and the wine symbolized the blood that redeemed us from sin. This was about to be fulfilled by Christ as He went to the cross.

This truly was a powerful moment in the life of Christ, the lives of His disciples, and truly one of the most powerful moments for all human history. The symbols of our redemption intersecting with our moment of redemption, coupled with the imminent separation of Christ from His beloved disciples, drove our Lord to prayer, and thus we have recorded in the Gospel of John the High Priestly Prayer of Christ.

In John 17:17-19, Jesus prays for God to sanctify His disciples through truth, noting that God’s word is truth, and declares that He is sending the disciples into the world. From this, we learn about the sanctification of the disciples of Christ, the mission of the disciples of Christ, and the sanctification of Christ Himself.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

In John 17:17, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.”

The word “sanctify” was translated from the Greek hagiason, which in this case means to purify internally by the reformation of the soul.

In this prayer, Jesus was praying that God would transform the disciples from the inside out through His truth, which is written in His word, the Bible. Indeed, the Bible has transformative power, especially when one completely grasps the central message of the scriptures.

The Gospel, how Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day is the central theme of the Bible. Scripture fills out this message by introducing us to God through the creation in Genesis 1, demonstrating Him as the source of our lives in Genesis 2, depicting His formulation of our redemption in the immediate aftermath of our sin in Genesis 3:15, teaching that He demands sacrifice by faith and not empty works in Genesis 4, showing His gracious rescue of His people in Genesis 6-8, His ultimate sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac, His redemption of His people from the bondage of sin in Exodus through Deuteronomy, and His provision for the faith-filled life in the book of Joshua.

Psalms declares His glory. Song of Solomon declares His passion. Isaiah declares His salvation. The four Gospels the events of the life of Christ that purchased our redemption, and Revelation foretells God’s final victory and our final deliverance.

These scriptures depict a God who gave us life so that we could have fellowship with Him, and Him companionship with us. Instead, we rejected Him and tried to overthrow His presence from our lives. Instead of accepting this rejection and allowing us to die the death that comes from cutting ourselves off from the source of life, He (through Christ) died that death on our behalf so we could be reconciled, endowed with eternal life, and reunited with Him in His Kingdom.

The deeper we understand this truth, the deeper we understand the Gospel, the more our souls are transformed into the people God intended on us being. The more fully we understand the Gospel, the more sanctified we are.

After praying for our sanctification, Christ then told why He wanted us sanctified.

Jesus told the Father that, as He was sent into the world, He was sending His disciples into the world.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8, we find that Christ sent His disciples into the world to preach and bear witness of the Gospel. Like His disciples, we are called to go into all the world preaching the Gospel to all who will listen, and baptizing those who believe, following up with good doctrinal teaching.

That is the reason we live as followers of Christ, and the reason our church exists.

Finally, Christ said that He sanctified Himself so that the disciples could be sanctified. In this sense, Christ was set apart, consecrated, and holy, as He prepared to go to the cross to redeem us.

These few verses in the larger High Priestly Prayer of Christ should remind us of the transformation God has worked in our lives, and motivate us to carry His Gospel to a lost and dying world.

Why Scandal and Conflict Seem to Follow the Church: Decoding the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven

How many high profile preachers have been marred by scandal? How many have been caught in extra-marital affairs, embezzling church funds, or manipulating the faithful into funding their lavish lifestyles?

How many churches have split, been embroiled in conflict over doctrinal differences, or divided over conflict among the leadership?

And why are there so many hypocrites in the church?

We could write endlessly about the problems plaguing modern American Christianity. We could wring our hands in righteous indignation and disillusionment, lamenting the blight of these scandals on the testimony of Christ.

However, once we understand the Kingdom Parables, we should be no more surprised by these problems than we are the trials and temptations that come with the Christian life… for scripture foretells all of it.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32), Jesus said the Kingdom was like a mustard seed, which despite bring small, would grow into a tree so large that the birds of the air would lodge in its branches.

While many see this as a prophecy of Christianity infiltrating and influencing the world, once we apply the proper interpretation using the symbols Christ gave in the Parable of the Sower, we’ll learn that the problems of today’s church do not surprise our Lord. In fact, He planned for these problems.

In the Parable of the Sower, we find that the seed represents the Gospel, and the birds represent the evil one (Satan and his demons).

Utilizing that imagery, we find that as the Gospel spreads and the church grows, Satan will send his forces to disrupt and pollute the work of the church. Hence, we find high profile Christian leaders falling to temptation, and we find great churches descending into conflict.

Where the Gospel is being advanced, Satan will work to disrupt. So, Spiritual conflict is actually a sign that God is working.

In the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33) we find that a woman has taken leaven and hidden it in three measures of meal. That leaven permeated that meal until the whole lump was leavened.

Leaven symbolizes sin in scripture. It’s why the Lord’s Supper is observed with unleavened bread. The bread represents the body of Christ, and Christ was sinless.

Thus, in the Parable of the Leaven, we see a woman who has placed leaven in a lump of meal, resulting in the whole lump being leavened. Leaven is basically yeast that causes bread to rise. That leaven infiltrates everything it is infused into.

Thus, when the leaven is placed in the lump, the whole lump is leavened. Likewise, when sin enters the equation, it infiltrates everything.

So, when scripture says that by one man sin entered into the world (Romans 5:12), sin infiltrated all aspects of human life. As a result, everything we do is touched by sin, even the things that we do for good.

That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:21 that “I find a law, that even when I would do good, evil is present with me.”

So, even when people are volunteering for charity, serving in the church, spreading the word of God, and helping the poor, sin is still present, and has a tendency to taint the good that has been done.

A good depiction of this can be found in the classic DC Talk song, “What if I Stumble,” where the singer wonders, “Is this one for the people, or is this one for the Lord? Or do I simply serenade for things I must afford,” before lamenting, “You can jumble them together, the conflict still remains, holiness is calling in the midst of courting fame.”

With sin ever present even in the best of our behaviors, we can see how problems could arise in even the most Spiritual circumstances. Thus, we find conflict, moral and spiritual failure, and hypocrisy within even the strongest churches.

This might be a little disturbing, and may cause some to become disillusioned. However, Christ knew we would have these struggles, and He planned for them.

God has a way of taking that which is bad and using it for good. He takes that which disrupts and creates order. He takes that which is broken and creates beauty. He redeems the good from the bad, the diamonds from the coal, the smooth from the rough.

So, do not be disillusioned when you see failure in the church, and don’t be too hard on yourself when the failure is yours. The Lord understands the frailties of humanity, and has planned for them.

Trust Him, and praise Him for His gracious and amazing redemption of us.