Christian Living

Resolve to strengthen your Theology in 2020

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By now, you’ve probably already made your list of New Year’s resolutions, and you may have even broken a few. You’ve probably also looked back and reflected on 2019, and thought of ways you’d like 2020 to be better.

There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful in 2020, but there are also a lot of areas of concern. This being a presidential election year, expect the stock market to become more volatile as it does each time we head to the polls. Expect more threats in the Middle East, more posturing from North Korea, and then there’s Russia.

Expect more protests in the United States, and more political fights.

On the positive end, expect more job opportunities, and expect the Lord to bless you in a special way individually. You will have blessed moments with your family and friends.

Whether 2020 becomes a banner year for you, or one you’d rather forget, there is one thing you can do to stabilize yourself against the storms of life, and prepare yourself to fully enjoy God’s blessing. You can strengthen your theology.

Strong theology comes from a in-depth study of the Bible. And by in-depth, we don’t mean reading the same passage over and over looking for a divine revelation to come by a miraculous epiphany. We mean reading the scripture, and analyzing it within the context in which it was written.

This also means reading the Bible with its central message in mind. The central message of the Bible is God’s redemption of us through Jesus Christ who died on the cross to pay our sin-debt, then rose again to give us eternal life.

As you read the Bible, taking into consideration its context, and keeping its central message in mind, you come to a full realization of how good God has been to you, and how much He loves you. The more you understand that precept, the stronger your theology has become.

So, resolve with us to strengthen your theology this year. Doing so will give you the strength to withstand the storms of life, and the sight to see the blessings God has given you.

At Life Point Baptist Church, strong theology is one of our foundational pursuits. Feel free to join us Sunday mornings at 10 am for Sunday School and morning worship.

And, to get a jump start on strengthening your theology, here are some of the more powerful messages preached at Life Point last year:

If you need to be encouraged through difficult times, we recommend Pastor Leland Acker’s Seeing God series…

 

Are you struggling in your faith, here’s a message about what to do when your faith fails:

 

Pastor Acker also took on the debate over tradition in this pointed message:

 

And if you resolve for a stronger marriage, strengthen it with the theology from this powerful message:

 

May God bless you richly this year. Stay strong in your faith and fall on Him when you are weak.

Did Dr. King Know What Was Coming?

More than 51 years later, it is still chilling to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., conclude his iconic “Mountaintop” speech with the following words:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

In concluding this speech, Dr. King asserted that he did not fear death, because he knew God would bring about the racial equality and justice for which he advocated. He compared his plight to that of Moses, who did not get to enter Canaan with the Israelites, but was allowed to go to the mountaintop, and look over into the promised land. Moses died on that mountain.

Did Dr. King know he was in his final hours? Less than 20 hours after giving that speech, his life would be claimed by the assassin’s bullet. Yet, Dr. King was not deterred by the threat of death. His commitment: “I just want to do God’s will.”

What makes the Mountaintop Speech so chilling is that you get the idea that Dr. King had been given a full view of God’s will, the future of humanity, and the glories of His kingdom. Having been to the “mountaintop,” Dr. King’s commitment to doing God’s will has elevated, and he no longer (if ever) feared what would happen in his life, or to his life.

A similar occurrence happened in the Bible. The Apostle Paul said in Acts 20:22-24:

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Notice the similarities.

Dr. King said, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

The Apostle Paul said, “I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing what things shall befall me there.”

Dr. King said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

Both men were keenly aware of where they stood in life. Both men were committed to their causes to the point of death. Both men were driven to advance their message.

Both men were driven by their faith, which was so strong that it had become real to them. We don’t know if Dr. King literally had a mountaintop experience like Moses, but we know that his faith was so strong that it in itself became the mountaintop. Likewise, Paul was so driven by his faith that God’s Kingdom was tangible to him as well.

Such is the nature of faith. The stronger it gets, the more tangible the things of God become. Which is why Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith makes God tangible!

Maybe that’s why we don’t see God move this powerfully in our own lives. Maybe our faith is not strong enough. Maybe we don’t really believe in anything.

Seriously, what do we stand for? What drives us? What gets us out of bed in the morning? What motivates us to speak, or post on social media? What did your preacher preach about last Sunday? And what did yall study in Sunday School?

We, as Christians, need to figure out our “why.” Why go to church? Why give an offering? Why pray? Why read scripture? Why work? What is our motivation?

We cannot invent our “why.” Our “why” is inherent in who we are. So, to find our “why,” we have to find ourselves. While finding yourself sounds like a man buying a motorcycle for a cross-country road trip in the middle of a mid-life crisis, it’s not. It’s simply going back to your roots, and who you are.

And, if you are a Christian, here’s who you are. Here’s who we are.

We are sinners, who, like the rest of the world, were condemned by God for our sin. We’ve all broken God’s law. None of us are righteous. No, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

But God loved us so much, that He sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, to Earth to live our experience, then give Himself on the cross for our sins. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

While on that cross, Jesus took the wrath of God for the sins of the world, more specifically, He suffered God’s wrath for every individual’s sin. Our sin was paid for on that cross (1 John 2:1-2).

Realizing our sin, and our sinful condition, we surrender to the Lord, and trust Him to save us by virtue of His payment on the cross. In doing so, we confess our sin, and confess our inability to save ourselves. (John 3:16, Romans 5:1, Romans 4).

We symbolize our faith and salvation through baptism (Romans 6:1-10).

With this renewed understanding of life, and with the Spirit dwelling within us, we become new people (Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The question is, “Do you believe that?” and if so, do you believe it strongly enough for it to motivate you? Is God’s salvation in your life your “why?” And if not, why not?

When you pray, what are you really asking for?

Every Sunday, members and visitors to Life Point Baptist Church request prayer for a variety of circumstances. (We take prayer requests during Sunday School and morning worship, and each request is prayed for specifically). These requests range from healing, to financial provision, to reconciliation within the family, to a revival in our nation, to comfort from grief.

Each and every one of these requests is borne of a fear, a concern, a pain, or other turbulence in life. At the root of each of these requests is a desire to be delivered from the torment of the situation. In essence, each prayer request is a request for peace in the congregant’s life. This is a request we pray for, and a request we sincerely hope God grants.

If it is peace you seek in life, scripture says that God freely offers that peace. Romans 5:1 says “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

To be justified means to be declared not guilty because the punishment has already been paid. Scripture teaches that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Each of us has broken God’s law, the 10 commandments which instruct us not to put anything before God, not to take God’s name in vain, to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, to honor our parents, not to kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.

Scripture also says the consequence of sin is death and eternal damnation under God’s judgment (Romans 6:23). Yet, 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ went to the cross where He suffered God’s wrath for our sin on our behalf. He paid the penalty for our sin. Therefore, all who believe that He died for their sin, and trust Him to receive them into Heaven are saved from God’s wrath, and have a future in Heaven with the Lord.

Since this salvation comes by believing in the Lord, the Bible tells us we are “justified by faith.”

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“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 5:1

This peace that the Bible references is two-fold. First, we have peace with God in that we are no longer enemies to God, but rather have been made friends with God, and are adopted as children into His family. Secondly, having been justified by faith, we experience a peace with God that surpasses understanding, that allows us to be in good spirits even when life around us is crashing.

This peace allows us to rejoice and praise the Lord when times are good, and enables us to rejoice and praise the Lord when times are bad. That peace cultivates a hope that, as we endure what life throws at us, we continue to look forward to that day that the Lord rescues us from this world and welcomes us into His eternal peace.

It is our prayer that you find that peace. Should you have any prayer requests, you can submit them below:

Bringing “Seeing God” to its full conclusion

Light at End of Tunnel

In an attempt to provide comfort to those who mourn, are facing life-challenging situations, and who feel as if their entire world is crumbling, we’ve offered the “Seeing God” series throughout the month of October. If you’ve missed this series, catch up here:

When people are in pain, their foremost desire is to kill the pain and find comfort from the pain. This Sunday, we’ll endeavor to provide that comfort from Romans 5:1-6.

When your life has been in a tailspin, all you really want to do is end the chaos and find peace. Romans 5:1 shows us how to find that peace:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

We have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Over the years, this has been preached as if the believer has found a truce, a ceasefire, and a reconciliation with God. And that is the absolute truth! This peace comes from being justified by faith, meaning the believer has repented from his sin and trusted Jesus Christ to save his soul as a result of His death on the cross.

However, this peace goes beyond a ceasefire with God, and a reconciliation with God. This peace becomes an internal peace that allows the child of God to remain calm, faithful and hopeful even amidst the worst storms of life. Which is why Romans 5:2-6 discusses this hope, how this hope is cultivated, and the premise for this hope.

So, if you’re ready to end the inner turmoil, and find peace in life, spend some time reading Romans 5 this week, and join us Sunday morning at 11 a.m. to learn more about the peace and hope God has for us.

What the Perfect 21st Century Christian is Missing

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If you were to live up to every idealized qualification of the modern American Christian, what all would you do today? When we think of the ideal Christian, we often think of someone who:

  • Has a daily devotion time.
  • Has a daily prayer time.
  • Fosters/adopts children.
  • Donates time and money to charity.
  • Advocates for righteous political causes.
  • Reads daily devotion blogs, parenting/marriage websites, and attends seminars.
  • Active in church.

All of these are good things, and we do not want to discourage anyone from doing something that brings them closer to the Lord, or something that brings fulfillment and joy. However, if these things distract us from our main calling in Christ, then we are not only missing the point, we are drifting away from Him.

In Mark 9, Jesus told His disciples that some would live to see the Kingdom of God come with power. That must have been exciting news for the disciples, knowing that they stood a chance of seeing God’s glory, and having their faith validated.

The next few verses describe how Jesus then took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain, and as they were there, Christ took on His glorified form and proceeded to have a conversation with the resurrected Moses and Elijah.

These three disciples were not only witnessing the power and glory of God, but they were seeing two of their biggest Bible heroes in person. It had to be an awe-inspiring moment.

Caught up in that moment, Peter started talking.

“Master, it is good for us to be here. Let’s build three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

It was at that point that the Bible tells us that a cloud overshadowed them all, and the voice of God spoke, “This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!”

Poor Peter had a habit of engaging his mouth before his brain was in gear, but who could blame him for his excitement. We can all understand his desire to treat Moses and Elijah with respect. However, in building tabernacles to them, as well as Christ, Peter was inadvertently proposing to elevate Moses and Elijah to the same level as Jesus. That was a mistake that God corrected.

Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Those were the scriptures that children learned and adults were taught to live by. While there was a lot to learn from the scriptures, it must be remembered that the scriptures testified of the redemption and salvation that would come through Jesus Christ.

Today, the story of the Bible, from beginning to finish, is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation according to the scriptures. That Gospel is the turning point of human history, and the foundational belief of the Christian faith.

With all the expectations thrown on us today, and all the different books, podcasts and TV shows vying for our attention, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, and get so busy that we lose sight of God’s love for us. Nothing could be further from God’s will.

If the perfect 21st Century Christian has lost sight of God’s love for him, then he is missing the one thing God wants for him. He is missing a blessed assurance that God loves him, and will welcome him into His Kingdom.

The more we understand this love, the more at peace we will have, and the more effective we will be in Kingdom work.

So take time and rest in God’s love today. Focus on what He has done for you, and turn to the scriptures for a fuller understanding.

Where’s the Joy?

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In an epic rant on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, comedian Louis C.K. lamented that, “Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.” In his rant, Louis C.K. noted advancements in technology, travel, credit availability and prosperity, yet the country as a whole was in a pretty foul mood.

Indeed, over the past 240, God has prospered America, yet America is not happy. We can have face-to-face communications via Facetime with loved ones overseas. We can fly across the entire country in five hours. We can access any tidbit of information known to man within a few seconds. Literally, the collective knowledge of man is cataloged by Google, and easily accessible from the smart phone you keep in your pocket.

Economically, there are ebbs and flows. Yet, the trend is for businesses to expand, consumers to buy more, and employment is readily available for most. Those who are entrepreneurially minded can check market demands and easily connect with prospective customers via the internet, which has leveled the playing field between the upstarts and major corporations.

Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, we can now stream our favorite TV shows when we want to. No longer must we set an appointment for Thursday nights.

Everything’s amazing, yet nobody’s happy.

Television shows endless scenes of protest, controversy, and news personalities drone on and on about the President’s tweets, and the political fall out thereof.

While Fox News may promote rising stock prices and lowering unemployment rates, no TV news network seems to want to tell the stories of the overcomers. Instead, every injustice is pointed out and inflated to foment conflict and division, which are good for politics and ratings.

Thus, the general public consumes this inflammatory content, then goes to social media to air out their frustrations. Thus, online arguments start, people continue to visit social media to participate in the argument, and online media numbers rise.

30 years ago, the general public had little opportunity to weigh in publicly on the issues of the day. Today, there are ample opportunities to do so.

Everything’s amazing. Nobody’s happy.

Today, our nation finds itself in a similar position as Israel did in Isaiah 9.  In Isaiah 9:3, the Bible says, “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy.”

Over several hundred years, God prospered the nation of Israel. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, cared for them as they wandered as nomads in the wilderness, and conquered the promised land for them. Once in the promised land, God prospered them with bountiful harvests, and a strong economy.

When Israel demanded that God give them a king, He provided them with strong kings who led the nation further into prosperity, and defended them against enemy invaders.

Under King Solomon, Israel reached the height of its prominence, strong not only in national defense, but also becoming a superpower.

God multiplied the nation. He gave them increase, yet their joy did not increase. Despite God’s blessings, Israel remained discontent. Discontent over the financial sacrifice made to build the temple, over God’s restrictions from engaging in the sinful conduct of the heathen nations around them, and discontent with the traditions they were given.

In their discontent, they squandered the blessings God had given them, divided the nation, turned to idolatry, and brought about destruction in their society. God had multiplied the nation, but the joy was not increased.

Everything was amazing. Nobody was happy.

Dark times had enveloped Israel. Yet, all hope was not lost.

In Isaiah 9:2, the Bible says, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Though Spiritual, emotional and cultural darkness covered the land, people were beginning to see a light. Despite the sin and rebellion within the culture, God was shining a light upon them.

This Light was Jesus Christ, as the Bible foretold in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Through His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ offered light in darkness. He offered deliverance from the darkness of the day by showing the eternal nature of things, and putting the things of this life into perspective.

He offered deliverance from hopelessness by offering salvation. He purchased salvation by dying for our sins on the cross.

He confirmed our hope by rising from the grave and ascending to be at the right hand of God, where He ever lives to make intercession for us.

In Isaiah 9, God promised to redeem Israel from darkness through His only begotten Son. This promise is passed on to us in the New Testament.

In his rant on Late Night, Louis C.K. said that the demise of capitalism would probably be good for us.

“I think we need a few years of walking behind donkeys with pots clanging,” he said, as O’Brien added, “It’ll kind of put things back in perspective for us.”

Yet, the solution for our national situation, and our personal situation, is not poverty. An economic collapse may get our attention, but will not solve our problems in and of ourselves.

The solution for the darkness of our current generation is simply to see the Light. To turn to the Lord, put everything into perspective, have an eternal mindset, and quit looking for fulfillment in temporary earthly things.

If we do this, everything will be amazing, regardless of economic conditions, and we’ll be happy.

If seeing meant you’d have to believe, would you still want to see?

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In 1995, Joan Osborne took center stage on the American Rock and Pop charts with her break-out hit, “One of Us,” a song that explored the idea of God coming down to earth to live life as a common man.

Osborne’s vocals in the song were a higher-pitched, soft approach meant to mimic the innocence of a child’s questions about God. It may not have been the intent, but Osborne’s song opened the door for theological discussion, much of which centers around the fact that the premise of the song, God living with us, was fulfilled by Jesus Christ approximately 2,000 years ago.

Among the many questions and thought provoking ideas, the song asked one pointed question, “If God had a face, what would it look like? And would you want to see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe?”

Would you be willing to see God if it meant having to believe on Him, on Jesus, and trust Him to the point that you would give your life to Him? Would you receive a sign from God if it meant you would have to repent?

Or is it easier to remain in darkness, stay in doubt, and numb your Spiritual perception with plausible deniability.

This question was put before King Ahaz in Isaiah 7.

The Kingdom of Judah was under seige from the northern Kingdom of Israel and Syria. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Ahaz, King of Judah, that He would not allow this assault to stand. He then added this caveat, “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established (strengthened).”

Basically, God told Ahaz that He would stand up for him and fight for him, but if Ahaz did not believe, it would do him no good. Then, God put forth an offer in Isaiah 7:11, “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”

Here, God offered something to Ahaz that He hadn’t offered to anyone else. God was willing to confirm His presence, existence and love to Ahaz by giving a miraculous sign… and the sign could be anything Ahaz requested, either in the height above or in the depth below. Essentially, Ahaz was handed a blank check.

Ahaz was given the choice… see God and believe? Or refuse to see God and reject Him.

In Isaiah 7:12, Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt (or test) the LORD.”

Ahaz did not want to see, because he did not want to believe. And thus, the words of Jesus Christ were fulfilled in him, when Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that Light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).”

Ahaz’ rejection aside, God promised a sign.

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).” – Isaiah 7:14.

Though Ahaz rejected God and refused His sign, though Ahaz did not want to see, because he did not want to believe, God would send a sign, His only begotten Son who would be born of a virgin.

And while Ahaz did not live to see it, Christ was born. Being the Spirit of God indwelt in a body of flesh, the world got to see God take on the form of man and live life as a commoner. He lived, worked, suffered, struggled, hurt, mourned, grieved, prospered, and faced the same issues in life we face. Thus Hebrews 4 says He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

After living the life of a commoner, and relentlessly traveling, preaching, teaching and healing, Jesus went to the cross where He died for our sins, clearing us of the guilt and blame, was buried, and rose again the third day, conquering death. This was done in full view of thousands, with many writing personal accounts of the Gospel, four of which are recorded in the New Testament.

Joan Osborne’s question has been answered. The sign offered to Ahaz was given. The question is, do you want to see Jesus for Who He is? Do you want to believe? Or are you willing to ignore Him, in the hopes that plausible deniability will deliver you?

It won’t.

See. Believe. And watch God transform you.

Wanna Get Away?

 

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Let’s face it. Sometimes we just need to hit the “pause” button on life, and get away. Whether our escape is hopping a flight to LA for the weekend, engrossing ourselves in a good book, or an evening of Netflix, our need to escape the pain of life is real.

Unfortunately, our retreat into a good book, movie, or even a road trip often amounts to little more than a temporary distraction from what truly bothers us. While we have temporarily redirected our minds, we have not truly escaped what ails us. Hence, when the book is finished, when the movie ends, and when the road trip is over, we once again find ourselves discouraged by our present situation.

You see, when books, Netflix and travel are our escapes, we never truly take refuge. We merely trick our minds into ignoring our problems for a few hours. The peace and happiness we feel during that time is not real, and we will soon be hit by reality again.

So, what can we do? Where can we truly turn when we need refuge from the trials and tribulations we face on a daily basis?

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

A refuge is more powerful than a distraction. A refuge offers real protection and escape from a problem. If you truly want to escape from and solve a problem, scripture says there’s one place you can turn. The Lord.

The Lord is our refuge. The Lord offers us true escape from the problems we face. All too often, we forfeit the true peace God can offer us by turning to mere distractions instead. God offers true deliverance from life’s problems, and He offers the strength to endure them. To learn more about obtaining peace from God, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

Who Is This Jesus?

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In the Gospel according to Mark, scripture demonstrates who Jesus is by showing us what Jesus did. Throughout the book of Mark, you can see the various attributes of Christ, from His compassion, to His love, to His righteousness. You also see His power and His authority.

Mark continually demonstrates who Jesus is, culminating in two questions Christ asked His disciples in chapter 8, “Whom do men say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

Those questions forced the people, His disciples, and even us today, to consider and understand Who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is. Indeed, this question has gripped the world since His crucifixion, when even the Roman centurion confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Why is He addressed as Jesus Christ, and sometimes Christ Jesus? Is Jesus the Christ? And if so, what is the Christ? These questions are answered in Mark 8.

When Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am,” the disciples gave several answers. Some said that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Others said He was the reincarnation of Elijah. Yet others believed He was one of the Old Testament prophets risen from the grave.

King Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the grave to exact justice for his murder. Others in Jesus’ day believed He was a revolutionary, sent to overthrow the Romans.

The debate over who Jesus is continues to this day. Muslims believe He was a prophet. Many Jews believe He was a man of wisdom. Some believe He was a great teacher. Some a wise revolutionary who changed the world with His doctrines of peace and love. And some deny His existence altogether.

The issue, however, isn’t what others think about Jesus. It’s who YOU believe Jesus to be. Hence, the question Jesus asked Peter, “But Whom do you say that I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This was a huge confession from Peter. The Christ was the Anointed One God promised to Israel. This Christ would end sin, restore the Kingdom, and deliver the people from Israel. Peter understood, as scripture taught, that Christ would be the Son of God.

In this confession, Peter expressed his total faith in Jesus. The Christ, the Messiah, would deliver Israel. He was the One that the Old Testament foretold, that God promised, and through Whom God’s blessings would come.

Peter’s faith was that God would not only keep His promise, but that He had already kept His promise, and Jesus was the One through Whom God’s promises were kept. In this faith, Peter’s hope was in Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Indeed, our hope is in Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. Our hope for forgiveness of sins, for redemption, for eternal life, is all in Christ.

In Mark 8, Jesus then expounded on Peter’s answer by explaining that Christ must go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, turned over to the Gentiles, and crucified. However, on the third day, Christ would rise from the grave. It was at that point that Peter rebuked Jesus, saying “Be it far from you, this will not happen!”

Jesus then rebuked Peter, calling him Satan, and telling him that he loved the things of man, not the things of God.

Peter’s hope and faith was in Jesus. Peter trusted Jesus in all things, and knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Christ who would come and redeem Israel. Peter was a saved man.

However, instead of savoring the Spiritual salvation and eternal redemption Christ would purchase on the cross, and instead of resting in the love of God and seeing how all other blessings flow from that love, Peter desired the earthly victory of seeing Jesus crowned King, and the Romans overthrown.

Peter was a saved man, but his mind was still on earthly things. He wanted to see his nation restored. He wanted to serve in the King’s court. He wanted to be somebody. Though he were a saved man, his mentality was not really that different than the rest of the world. That’s the mentality that Christ confronted.

Like Peter, we too can become preoccupied with the things of the world. We look to the Lord to deliver us from an overbearing boss at work, or to provide us with the next promotion. We think that if we can just live up to God’s standard, God will bless us with an upper-middle class lifestyle.

We count our victories in terms of checks cashed, promotions earned, recognition given, and status symbols won. A significant amount of Christian literature and Sunday sermons teach that God will reward faith by giving us these victories. But, if checks cashed, promotions earned, recognition and status symbols are what we’re after, then how are we different from the rest of the world? We’re not!

What separates the Spiritual Christian from the worldly Christian, and from the rest of the world, is that we are content to endure whatever state God places us in, knowing that our true reward is when Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom. Our focus is not on this world, but on the next.

This focus brings us hope. That hope is built on the fact that when Christ died on that cross, He took the punishment for our sins. When He rose from the grave, He conquered death so that we can have eternal life.

That’s who Jesus is to us. He is the Only Begotten Son of God who freed us from condemnation by giving Himself for our sins, and rising again to conquer death. Therefore, He is the deliverer who will rescue us from the pain of this world and take us into His Kingdom where there will be eternal peace.

Is Tradition Bad?

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Are church traditions inherently bad? Does a traditional worship service indicate that a church is Spiritually dead? Does a contemporary service indicate Spiritual life?

Or is it the opposite? Does a traditional service demonstrate a commitment to the Word, while a contemporary service indicates a willingness to compromise truth?

To pose these questions is to ignore the one thing that God actually assesses, the condition of the human heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” In all we do, God examines our heart.

We can be the most religious, most progressive, most forward thinking, or most moral people in the world, but if our heart is not right toward God, none of it matters. If our heart is far removed from God, we are at odds with Him regardless of our actions.

No place is this better illustrated than in Mark 7:1-23, where Jesus is confronted over the fact that His disciples do not participate in ritual hand-washing before eating.

In His rebuttal to their criticisms, Jesus chastised the Pharisees for disregarding the commandment of God in favor of the traditions of men (Luke 7:8). This verse, combined with the restlessness of Christians anxious to see change in their churches, has led to many using Mark 7 to attack ALL traditions in church.

Those who see tradition as the problem use Mark 7 to criticize the use of hymnals in church, the presence of pews and not chairs in the sanctuary, the lack of audio/visual aids to the sermon, and even the way others dress themselves. Such criticisms, however, miss the basis for the Lord’s contempt for the traditions of the Pharisees.

In Mark 7:6, Jesus said, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

The issue was not that the Pharisees had traditions. The issue ran deeper than the fact that the Pharisees elevated their traditions to the same level as scripture. The real issue was that the Pharisees’ hearts were far from God, yet they portrayed an aura of righteousness by hiding behind their traditions.

In learning from the mistakes of the Pharisees, we see that we must evaluate the condition of our hearts. To do this, we’ll apply three tests:

  1. If we are more focused on our own traditions than the Word of God, we have a heart problem.
  2. If our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God, we have a heart problem.
  3. If we express anger, bitterness, illicit lust, or other forms of darkness, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if we are more focused on our traditions than what the Bible teaches. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had the entire Old Testament, with its numerous passages teaching God’s love, grace and redemption. Yet, if you attended a Bible class taught by a Pharisee, you would be more likely to hear a lecture on proper hand-washing technique than you would about repentance and faith.

If our churches are spending more time teaching their viewpoints on Bible translations, politics, financial management or social justice, rather than the Gospel as revealed in scripture, then we are more focused on tradition than God’s word. If that’s the case, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God. That brings up the question, “What is the commandment of God?”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus said the greatest commandments of God are to love God, and to love your neighbor. Basically, the commandment of God is love.

The Pharisees abandoned the idea of loving one another when they challenged who was actually one’s neighbor, and when their tradition of Corban allowed them to neglect their aging parents. The Pharisees failed to follow God’s commandment to love, and this was expressed in how they observed their traditions. But make no mistake, their heart was the problem.

If our traditions hinder our love toward God, or our love to others, we have a heart problem. If we see people as the problem, different groups as opponents, or disdain those who don’t meet our expectations, we have a heart problem.

Finally, if we express darkness in our lives, it’s an indication that we have darkness in our hearts. Jesus explained that our problems have more to do with what’s going on inside us, rather than what happens around us. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus said:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

If we find ourselves focused on evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications (sexual immorality), then we have darkness in our hearts. If we hate someone to the point that we’d like to kill them, if we desire to steal, or if we desire others’ possessions, we have darkness in our hearts. If we rebel against God, we have darkness in our hearts.

That darkness within our heart is the problem. That’s what separates us from God. How we treat our traditions are merely the symptom.

Once we learn to examine our hearts, we can correct our thinking to return us to where God wants us. God wants us to learn from His Word, love others, and express the righteousness He has placed within our hearts. When we follow this plan, we’ll be too busy glorifying Him and reaching others to be concerned with what color the carpet in the sanctuary is. That will be a beautiful day.