Philosophy

What is Faith?

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In Mark 5:21-43, we are introduced to two different people: Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, and a woman who had an “issue of blood.” Both desperately needed the help of Jesus Christ, and both begged for His help by falling at His feet. Jairus came and fell at the feet of Jesus as He stepped off the boat, while the woman fell at His feet after being confronted for touching the hem of the garment of Christ. Both demonstrated by their actions what true faith is.

Faith is defined as having a deep-rooted trust, and a conviction of the truth. Basically, to have faith in God is to trust God. But what does that look like?

For some, having faith means doing great things for God, or holding to a disciplined religious regiment. While faith will express itself in action, those two understandings of faith can easily lead one into the hopeless despair of a works-for-religion system.

Instead, Hebrews 11:6 gives us a better picture of what it means to have faith:

But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

In following that description of faith, all one must do is (a) Believe that God is there, and (b) trust His response to your petition, whether it be for salvation, or for a certain prayer request.

So, in expressing this faith, all you are really doing is trusting that God hears your prayers, and trusting His response to your prayer, whether it was the response you were looking for, or not.

When we examine the saga of Jairus in Mark 5, we see a father desperate to help his 12 year old daughter who is dying. He can’t help her, and no one else can. His only hope is to go to the Lord.

Jesus was a controversial figure among the rabbis of His day, and as a rabbi, Jairus was risking a lot to come and fall before the feet of Jesus in full view of a crowd that had gathered. (Even Nicodemus, whom the Bible speaks well of, only met with Jesus at night). That didn’t matter. Jairus’ daughter needed help, and Jesus could help her. Jairus knew it. So he came, and fell at the feet of Jesus, placing himself at the mercy of the Lord, trusting the Lord to respond to his dire situation. He knew who the Lord is, and he trusted the Lord’s answer. Therefore, he placed himself at the mercy of the Lord.

Then, there’s the saga of the woman suffering from the issue of blood. She had been in that state for years, was miserable, lonely, and had spent all of her money on doctors, who put her through horrible treatments, none of which worked.

She believed that if she could only touch the garment that Christ was wearing, she would be healed. Jesus was walking through a crowd of people. Hundreds were pressing against Him. She reached out, touched his clothes, and was instantly healed. What happens next is profound.

Jesus, feeling that virtue had gone out of Him (meaning He knew He healed a woman by the touch of His garment), He turned around and asked “Who touched me?”

His disciples answered, “You see the multitudes pressed against you, and you ask, ‘Who touched Me?!'” That was their way of saying, “Everyone.”

The woman, realizing that it was she whom the Lord sought, came forward, fell at His feet, and told Him everything. It was at this point that Jesus said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”

Many times, I have heard preachers preach that the woman expressed faith by persistently pursuing the Lord to touch His garment. That showed her faith in Who He is. Her true faith came in trusting Him as she came forward to confess everything. She fell at His feet, and told all the truth. That showed her faith in His being a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.

In order to have faith, you have to have both components, trusting who the Lord is, and trusting Him to receive you. This woman expressed both. She placed herself at the mercy of the Lord, and trusted His response.

You see, faith moves beyond trusting that the Lord exists. Scripture says even devils fear and tremble. Faith also moves beyond a trust that God will give you the desires of your heart.

True faith knows God for Who He is, and trusts in the answer that God will provide.

In 2010, my grandmother who raised me suffered a debilitating stroke. Partially paralyzed, and unable to fully communicate as a result of that stroke, she lay in a bed in a rehab center, desperately wanting to recover, and I couldn’t help her.

From February 2010 to May 2010, I prayed that God would heal her. I trusted that He would. I couldn’t imagine any other alternative. But one night in May, I received the call that, not only would my grandmother never recover from her stroke, but also that I would never see her again. She had passed away as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

I went on a Spiritual journey in the months that followed. I wasn’t angry at God, nor did I question why she passed. At some point, we will all pass away. I understood that. Still, I wanted to bring my faith into alignment with Who God really is, so that I will not be disillusioned by my own misconceptions.

Since then, I have learned that faith means more than trusting that God can, but it doesn’t mean trusting that God will. Faith means trusting God’s answer, even when it breaks your heart.

Liberated (Mark 5:1-20)

In Mark 5, Jesus travels to the land of the Gadarenes, where He meets a man that was possessed, not by one, not by two, but by a legion of demons.

This man was in as bad a shape as anyone can get. Scripture tells us that he cried out night and day, that he cut himself with the rocks, and he lived among the tombs. Safe to say, the man was in total agony.

We don’t know how the man came to be possessed with a legion of demons. Demonic possession is not something you catch like a virus. You can randomly catch a cold, or pink-eye. However, you don’t randomly catch a demon.

Demonic possession is something that happens when you give Satan space to work in your life, and we have at least one example in scripture where a man was specifically possessed by Satan. It was Judas Iscariot in John 13:27, who had Satan enter into him after he decided to betray Jesus for a payoff. Multiple demonic possession often comes by trying to battle demons without the Lord’s power.

The lesson we learn is the dangers of sin and rejecting Christ. Sin promises endless pleasure and freedom. What it actually delivers is agony and bondage.

So, here we are in Mark 5, and this man is completely degraded and destroyed by the demons in his life. Perhaps you understand what that’s like. Perhaps you don’t.

Either way, we know that this man was powerless to help himself, and he was powerless to deliver himself from the demons. In fact, when Christ showed up, all he could do was throw himself to the feet of Jesus in hopes of receiving the mercy of Christ.

Likewise, when we are beset by sin, all we can really do is throw ourselves at the feet of the Lord and trust His mercy and grace.

At that point, Christ commanded the demon to come out of him. This man could only trust in the grace and mercy of Christ, and Christ rewarded that by liberating him from the demons.

You see, when we come to Christ, He does not demand that we do certain things to obtain His grace. He simply rewards that faith by giving His grace.

Once this man was liberated from his demons, he wanted to go with Jesus wherever He went. He wished to follow Jesus, learn from Jesus and serve Jesus. This should be the response of every redeemed child of God.

Instead of welcoming him to the team, Jesus commanded the man to go and tell everyone back home what the Lord did for him. Likewise, Christ wants us to lead others to faith by sharing our testimony.

The message of liberation in Mark 5:1-20 is one of blessing and encouragement. Take a listen, and then share Christ with others.

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Why read about the creation in Genesis?

Familiarity with passages of scripture can often rob us of the blessings of God’s truth. All too often, we breeze past familiar verses, thinking that it is pretty basic, and that we already know what they say. The truth is that deeper meaning and Spiritual nourishment can be found in those familiar passages.

One good example of this is in the Genesis account of creation. One might be tempted to skim through that passage thinking, “Yeah, God created the heaven and the earth,” and completely miss the implication of it. So in the interest of maximizing our blessings from scripture, let’s take a closer look at Genesis 1-3.

Genesis 1:1 famously tells us, “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.” I cannot read that verse without thinking of a dear Christian friend of mine who emphasized the first four words, “In the beginning, God!”

God was there in the beginning, and He is the beginning. He pre-existed everything. This means He created everything. This means, having created everything, He is more powerful than everything, which means He is more than capable of overcoming that which overwhelms me.

Another observation from the Genesis account of creation is that it demonstrates God’s character and attributes to us. Romans 1:20 tells us that “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

In examining the attributes of God from the creation of the world, we readily see three attributes in Genesis 1.

God creates order from chaos in Gen 1:2. The Earth was without form and void, but the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. The resulting creation is demonstrated throughout the rest of Genesis 1, and can still be observed in person today.

God creates abundance where there is emptiness. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Earth was “void,” or empty. By the end of Genesis 1, we see a world created with abundant resources.

In the beginning, the world was dark. God’s first creation was light. So, we see that God shines light into darkness. Furthermore, He separates the light from the darkness, giving a picture of our future deliverance.

Then, in Genesis 2, we read about how God created man, and placed him in the garden of Eden, giving him abundant food and a great living space. This demonstrates the loving care God gives us.

However, in Genesis 3, man rebels. Believing that eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would elevate them to God’s status, thus freeing them from His authority, Adam and Eve ate, and thus rebelled against God.

God responded by offering them redemption (Genesis 3:15) and covering their nakedness.

If you want an idea of Who God is, read about Him in the creation. What you will learn is that He is good, loving and merciful, even when we don’t love Him back.

If a farmer plants his seed, he plans to harvest

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In agricultural operations, seed is planted for survival. For many, farming is not a recreational hobby, it is a means of providing for oneself and one’s family. It’s also a risky proposition. Seed planted may grow, or may be wiped out by drought, catastrophic weather events (like hail or windstorms), or by pests.

A farmer’s income is also subject to the whims of the market, with sudden drops in commodity prices cutting into his bottom line. Therefore, when a farmer plants seed, he prepares his field, and he sows in such a way to maximize the yield from his field. Efficiency is a matter of life and death. And if the farmer has made the investment of purchasing seed, then planting it in the field, he has every intention of reaping that harvest, and getting a return on his investment. It’s the only way he keeps the farm, and provides for his family.

The idea of planting a seed without harvesting is not only foolish, but unheard of in the agricultural community. If a farmer plants a seed, he intends to harvest that seed, and he will.

It’s this concept that Jesus teaches in Mark 4:26-29:

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

In those verses, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a man who plants his seed into the ground, and watches it grow. When it has fully developed, the man harvests his crop. Simple concept. So, what does that have to do with the Kingdom of God?

To answer that question, we need to go back and look at the pattern set forth in the other Kingdom Parables, namely, the parables of the sower and the wheat and tares. In those parables, Jesus explained that the field is the world, the man is the Son of Man, and the seed is the Word, the Gospel.

The man in the story plants, and harvests. Likewise, Jesus Christ sowed the seed of the Gospel, and He will harvest His believers.

You see, 2,000 years ago, Christ came, preached the Gospel of His Kingdom, called the world to repentance, and then was crucified for our sins, thus taking the punishment of God for those sins, thus freeing us to be able to enter His Kingdom if we repent and believe.

Over the centuries, the Gospel has spread throughout the entire world, with billions being saved over the history of Christianity. As time moves forward, prophecies are fulfilled, and we see that the time of the return of Christ draws closer.

The day is coming that the time will be fulfilled, “the full corn in the ear,” and it will be time to harvest, that is, it will be time for Christ to return to Earth and establish His Kingdom.

What the parable of the growing corn teaches us is that as certain as a farmer will harvest his crop, you can depend upon the Lord to return and establish His Kingdom. Are you ready for that day?

God Doesn’t Ride Shotgun

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Does God seem distant? There may be a valid reason for that, and we might be the cause.

Manasseh, king of Judah, probably committed one of the biggest acts of blasphemy in the history of mankind. He commissioned a carved statue of the heathen idol Asherah, and placed it in the Temple of the Lord (2 Kings 21:7). It was this statue that the Lord referred to as the image of jealousy in Ezekiel 8.

Asherah was a goddess whom the people worshipped through sexual immorality. To make room for the placement of this statue, the altar of the Temple had to be moved aside.

In Manasseh’s mind, there was probably a valid reason for doing this. Many historical scholars believed that Manasseh helped spark an economic boom in Israel by obtaining a “most favored nation” status from the Assyrians. In order to attract Assyria’s favor, he led Israel to worship multiple false gods, including Asherah, who was regarded as the wife of Baal. However, economic gain is never an excuse to rebel against God, and God always deals with this behavior severely.

Manasseh was later arrested by the Assyrians, was treated severely by them, and was only reinstated after he repented and called out to God.

Yet, the damage of his behavior was done. The image of jealousy remained in the Lord’s Temple, and the altar had been moved aside.

Think about how this act violated the Lord’s presence, and the purpose for His Temple. The Temple was a place for people to go to pray, to seek God’s deliverance and guidance, and to be reconciled to Him.

It was a place of repentance, and a place where worshippers sought atonement for sin. The altar was the place where the lambs were sacrificed for sin. Every act of that sacrifice symbolized what God would do for His people through Jesus Christ.

The lamb was tied to one of the four horns of the altar. Those horns represented God’s judgment. So, that lamb was tied to God’s judgment upon us. He took our place there. That lamb was then slain, and its blood was the price paid for our sin. That blood would be collected and sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant on the day of atonement to show God’s redemption of us from sin. That blood was also placed upon the horn of the alter, showing that the Blood of the Lamb covered God’s judgment for our sin.

Likewise, the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world once and for all. Furthermore, the blood of Christ also covered God’s judgment for our sin. It was with this in mind that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” as he introduced Christ in John 1.

Once the lamb had been slain, the body of the lamb was placed on the altar, where it was cooked, and then eaten by the worshipper, and the priest. The fat was left on the altar to be burnt up, symbolizing God eating His portion. That step in the sacrifice showed restored fellowship between man and God, a friendship and a family relationship that bonded man with God.

The Temple, and more specifically, the altar, was where man went to repent and be reconciled to God. It was where man went for assurance that His sin had been paid for.

Yet, Manasseh had moved that altar to make room for the statue of Asherah, a goddess worshipped through sin and immorality. It was such a betrayal to God, that He later told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8 that He had been driven from the sanctuary of the Temple. God’s presence was no longer there.

Had the altar been moved for any reason, it would have been a sacrilege. God’s redemption of man would have been de-emphasized for the flavor of the month. However, to move the altar for the image of Asherah, was to move redemption out of the way in favor of licentious sin. This is an all out rebellion against God, and was the closest man could have come to spitting in His face.

Therefore, God’s presence was no longer in His Temple, leading the elders to say in Ezekiel 8 that the Lord had forsaken the earth. (That’s Old Testament for, “God seems distant.”)

So, if God seems distant, maybe it’s because we moved Him out of the way of our desires. Maybe we moved His altar from the temple of our heart to the back recesses of our heart in order to make room for something more pleasing to us… whether it is merely something of the world, or whether it is all-out sin.

However, God does not move to the back. He does not ride shotgun. He is either front and center, in the driver’s seat, or He is gone altogether.

So, if God seems distant to you, examine your heart, and see where your priorities are, and what your spiritual condition is. Then, repent, pray to God for restoration, and welcome Him back to your life.

The Resurrection…

Of all the things that Christians believe, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most incredible. Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ was betrayed, and turned over to the Romans, who crucified Him, killed Him, then released His body to Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Him in the tomb. On the third day, Jesus was raised back to life, and He walked out of the tomb.

The belief is so incredible that a young investigative journalist by the name of Lee Strobel believed he could debunk the entire Christian religion simply by proving that the resurrection of Jesus never happened. Instead, Strobel encountered a mountain of evidence that supported the resurrection of Christ, from the number of copies of the scriptures that have been preserved over the centuries, to secular writings about the resurrection, to written testimony of the Apostles.

Strobel compiled this evidence into a book, entitled, The Case for Christ, which was later made into a movie. Strobel himself became a believer.

However, 2,000 years before Strobel embarked on his proof of the Gospel, the Apostle Paul had already laid out the case that the resurrection was indeed reality. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul noted that Jesus was seen after the resurrection by the 12 apostles, by Peter, and by 500 brethren at once, some of whom were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing, and could personally attest to the truth of the resurrection. Paul could produce eye witness testimony.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the third and final part of the Gospel, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Since the resurrection happened, we have proof that the Gospel is true.

But what does the Gospel mean for us?

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”

Paul told the Corinthians that they received the Gospel, and the Gospel was what made them stand, that is, have standing in the Kingdom of God. In other words, without the Gospel, they would have no standing in God’s Kingdom, and would be condemned. But they received the Gospel, and had standing, and therefore, by the Gospel, they were saved.

It works the same for us. When you receive (that is, believe) the Gospel, you are saved from God’s wrath and given standing in the Kingdom of God. This is all made possible by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is all proven by the resurrection of Christ.

In Romans 6, the Apostle Paul takes it a step further. Not only does the resurrection prove the Gospel, and not only does it secure our salvation, but it also transforms us.

In Romans 6:4-5, the Bible says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”

When Jesus rose again, He did not walk out of that tomb in the same broken body that was placed within it. Instead, He walked out of that tomb with a new, glorified body. The only signs left from the crucifixion were the nail scars in His hands, and the hole in His side from the spear thrust into Him by a Roman guard. The Lord purposefully kept those scars as a reminder of what He did for us, and they were the reason why the Apostle Thomas repented of His unbelief and worshipped Christ.

When the Lord returned from the grave, He was transformed and glorified. Likewise, we also should be transformed by the power of the Gospel. How? The Bible tells us in Romans 6, to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive unto God, and to yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness rather than sin.

If you have believed the Gospel, you have repented of your sin and trusted Christ to save you. If you have trusted Christ to save you, then that belief will change you.

Therefore, as we study the resurrection, we must ask ourselves, “Has the Gospel changed us?” If not, perhaps it’s time to do what Peter told us, to “make our calling and election sure.”

May God bless you as you follow Christ.

The Death…

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“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

The circle of life used to be a straight line, and the daily struggle didn’t exist. Such was life in the Garden of Eden, as God prepared a perfect place for man to dwell with a plentiful food supply, an automatic sprinkler system, no bad weather, and no problems. Adam and his wife, who would later be named Eve, were to enjoy the garden to its fullest, eat as much of the fruit as they wanted, and to do light gardening work as they desired. (Irrigation was covered, and there were no weeds, thorns or pests, so all work was recreational.)

In this perfect world, there was no death. Adam would not die. He would be allowed to live to see what his children, grandchildren, etc, would become. He would live to see what his work would produce. He would live to see the society he would build. It was perfect.

There was one stipulation. The tree in the midst of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was off limits. This was for two reasons. (1) God wanted man to obey, love and worship Him by choice, and (2) God did not want man to experience the evil he knew Satan already had planned for His creation.

Therefore, God warned Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Adam likely did not have any concept of death. Prior to his sin in the garden, there was no death. Adam had never mourned for his dog who died, had never suffered that separation from a close loved one, and had never experienced lost fellowship with God. He had no concept of death. However, if God warned against it, it must be bad, and therefore the tree of knowledge of good and evil must be avoided.

The Biblical meaning of death is separation. Separation of soul from body. Separation of man from God. The day that Adam ate the fruit, his soul wasn’t separated from his body, but he was separated from God. Death happened. And death, both the separation of the soul from the body, and the separation of man from God, happened the day Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.

Since that time, man has sinned, and his sin has become progressively worse. Man has become ever estranged from God. Man rebels against God, His word, His law, His design. As man does this, things on earth get progressively worse. Adam didn’t live to see a great society built. He lived to see the world become so bad that God decided to destroy it with the flood. (Adam didn’t live to see the flood, but he did live to see the conditions that led to it.)

Sin separated man from God, therefore man died, and sin reigned. And so it was.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The death prescribed by God in Genesis 2 went beyond physical death. It also meant an eternal death, an eternal separation of man from God, where God was no longer man’s Father and Provider, but rather man’s judge, jury and executioner. Sin brings death. Death brings judgment.

Yet, God loves us too much to leave it at that. Romans 5:8 says “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The death Christ died was the death brought on by our sin. The death Christ died was the death we deserved. The death of Christ on the cross was not a mere physical death, from which the Lord could easily heal Himself. It was a separation… His Spirit from His body, but moreover, His separation from His beloved Father.

As Jesus hung on the cross, saying, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” He was not merely shouting out in agony. Neither was He sad that God “turned His back on Him.” Jesus cried, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” because the relationship had changed.

The perfect union between God the Father and God the Son had been converted to the relationship of judge and executioner. Instead of lovingly comforting His Son, God was now judging His Son, and pouring out His wrath on Christ for all the sin of the world. This was done to satisfy the requirement for death, so that man could be saved from God’s wrath, if man repents and believes.

Out of all the cruelties that Christ endured on the cross, the hardest part was enduring the wrath of God.

Pastor Bobby Sparks of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, Tex., who also heads up the Tabernacle ministries, says that on the day of the crucifixion of Christ, man was given one “hour” to do unto God has he pleased. Pastor Sparks then points out how man treated Christ with more cruelty and shame than has ever been dealt to any other human being in history.

The cruelty of the Romans, the scourgings and beatings, the mocking of the crowds, merely demonstrated the evil and sin within man’s heart. It was the wrath of God poured out onto Jesus that settled our sin-debt, cleared us from guilt, and makes reconciliation with God possible.

Jesus Christ died that death, so we don’t have to. Yes, we will one day close our eyes as our soul leaves our body. However, we do not have to suffer an eternity separated from God. Are you willing to trust what Jesus Christ did on the cross for your salvation? Do you trust the Lord? Then turn from your sin and follow Him.

May God bless you.

Gospel Week: Celebrating the Central Theme of Christianity

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Redemption.

This is the one thing that all people seek. Redemption.

It is romanticized in literature, sought through accomplishments, and desired for lifetimes. Redemption.

Redemption is often called by different names: liberation, validation, triumph. At the heart of these desires, however, is redemption.

Last weekend, millions across America celebrated Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters. Woods’ first Masters victory in 11 years, coupled with his recovery from injury, personal failures, and controversy, prompted many in the media to hail his “redemption.”

Redemption was a theme interwoven into the NFL careers of Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians, whose careers had been sidelined due to firings and trades, then re-ignited when they were signed by the Arizona Cardinals, before making it to the NFC Finals.

The word, “redemption,” may not be used, but it has captured the hearts of writers, poets and artists. Redemption is celebrated in songs, such as Aerosmith’s “Amazing,” fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” and countless movies and TV shows. Every story about the aging athlete seeking one last championship, every story about a child seeking a long-lost parent, every story about a businessman seeking one last deal, or the advocate seeking one more victory over Wall Street, is a story about a protagonist seeking redemption. Redemption is a theme of every rags-to-riches story, and every story about overcoming loss.

We frame it in so many ways, but at the end of the day, all we are really after is redemption. And true redemption cannot be found in one last championship, one last victory, or in a dream come true. No matter what victories we score in life, we will never receive the fulfillment we seek, unless our redemption is a Spiritual one.

And that’s what Christ purchased on the cross for us.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds the Corinthians in verse 1 that they have received the Gospel, and it is the reason they have standing in God’s Kingdom. He then reminds them that the Gospel is the basis for their salvation. Essentially for them, and for us, the Gospel is the source of our hope for the future, our hope for eternal prosperity in God’s Kingdom, and our hope that all that is wrong will be made right.

Then, in one of the most important things ever written, Paul defined the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul wrote:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

How did Christ purchase our redemption? He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day in fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures.

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the price for our sin. 1 John 2:2 says that He is the propitiation for our sins. A propitiation is a payment made to God to atone for sin. A propitiation cancels a debt owed as a result of sin. To make this payment on our behalf, Christ gave Himself, and was nailed to the cross, and gave up His life.

In doing this, Christ not only paid our debt, but He also removed the stain and guilt sin left on our lives (Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”) Essentially, the old has been washed away, and all things have been made new. New life, new Spirit, new us, new hope. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Revelation 21:5, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 4:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Historically, churches have commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross on “Good Friday.” (In all actuality, He was likely crucified on a Wednesday, but that’s a story for another day.) On Easter Sunday, we celebrate His resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, Paul wrote that the Gospel is how Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. He then spends the rest of the chapter defending, and advocating, that Christ rose again from the dead. When you see how adamantly Paul argued that the resurrection happened, you will understand not only how important this doctrine is to Christianity, but also how much hope it gives us.

As Phil Robertson once said, “A dead savior can’t do much for you.” However, a living Savior advocates for you and opens the doors of Heaven for you.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us His victory over death, which will also be our victory if we know Him as Savior. And that’s true redemption. To be rescued from the pain of this life into an eternal life with no pain, to be transformed from the old you into a gloriously new version of you, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness is the ultimate redemption, and that is truly what we celebrate, not just every Easter, but every Sunday as well.

Come join us for Sunrise Service, 7 a.m. Sunday, April 21, 2019, at the Early Visitors and Events Center at 419 Garmon Dr. in Early, TX.

The Kingdom Parables (Sermon Audio)

For more background on this message, check out The Most Misinterpreted Parable Ever, The Counterfeiters, and Understanding Why Things Happen.

The Most Misinterpreted Parable Ever

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In Matthew 13:31-33, Jesus gave the parable of the Mustard Seed, which goes as follows:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is one of the most misinterpreted parables in the Bible. Because of the beauty of the songbirds that line our trees, and possibly even the portrayal of birds in Disney princess movies, we tend to think of birds as good, beautiful creatures. However, the birds that Jesus referred to were nothing like the mockingbirds, parakeets and robins we see today. The birds who inhabited Israel during Jesus day were more like vultures, buzzards and crows.

That explains why these birds were symbolic of demonic forces. In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said the fowl of the air symbolized the evil one which snatches up the seed of the Gospel before it takes root. Since the symbols of the parables remain consistent throughout them all, then the fowl of the air in the Parable of the Sower symbolize the same thing as the birds of the air in the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

So, to interpret the Parable of the Mustard Seed, let’s put the symbols to work. The man who sowed the mustard seed in his field is the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The field is the world. The seed is the word, the Gospel.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the man, (Jesus Christ), sows the seed (the Gospel) into His field (The world), and it grows into a mighty tree. Good story… now what does it mean? To answer that question, we must remember the reason Jesus gave us the parables. In Matthew 13:11, Jesus said, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom.” The Lord wants us to understand what will happen with the Christian movement as we get closer to His return, and as we get closer to His establishing His Kingdom on earth.

Each of these parables follows a common theme. Things start out pure, then corrupt as time moves forward. The same can be said for the Christian movement. It started pure, with Christ preaching with His disciples on the shores of Galilee. Over the past two millennia, we’ve seen false doctrines, sin, and impure motives infiltrate Christianity to the point that there have been massive splits within the movement, with some denominations following heretical teachings, and others following scripture, but being marred with sin and scandal.

Seeing these things develop would most certainly be discouraging, if we did not understand how they fulfill the prophecies of Christ. Jesus told us 2,000 years ago that this is the way things would be, and that things would progressively get worse until His return. Thus, we have the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

In the parable, the man (Jesus) sows the seed (the Gospel) in the world. The seed is the least of all the seeds. Likewise, the Gospel is regarded as the least of all the philosophies in the world. Think about it. In academia, we study the philosophies of Aristotle, Plato, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Jefferson, and many others. How much time is spent in academia studying and parsing the Gospel? Very little. Christianity is often criticized, with little attention paid to its central theme, redeeming love.

Yet, as disregarded as the Gospel is, it has transformed the world. Christianity spread rapidly in the Roman Empire, and even influenced people at the highest level of government. As disregarded as the Gospel is, Christianity has been extremely influential in western literature and culture.

With that in mind, let’s continue to follow the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Jesus said that the mustard seed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest of all herbs, and becomes a tree. Thus, we see the words of Christ fulfilled.

So far, so good. All who interpret the Parable of the Mustard seed agree on the interpretation I’ve given so far. It’s when the birds enter that we have controversy.

Most people interpret these scriptures to say that the kingdom started out small, but grew in power and influence into a huge, beautiful tree until the birds of the air came and built nests and sang beautiful songs from the branches. It’s a beautiful vision, but not one based on reality, and even more importantly, not one based on the prophecies of Christ.

Given the true symbolism of the birds of the air, and what a bird was to the people of Israel in the 1st century, we see that birds are not a good thing. It’s why Christ used them as symbols of demons. They pollute. They ruin. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen what a group of buzzards will do to a tree? Furthermore, would you park under a tree in the Walmart parking lot that was inhabited by grackles?

When Jesus said, “the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof,” He was predicting that as the Gospel influenced the world more, and as it spread throughout the world, Satan would seek to pollute its presence and influence. Satan does this through inserting false doctrines into church teaching, by placing false Christians, teachers and pastors among the Lord’s churches, and by tempting Christians to sin in very public and profane ways.

That’s why there are so many scandals surrounding churches and Christian denominations today. Satan’s birds have roosted in the tree of the Lord’s Kingdom. Christ predicted it. And with the tree coming to near maturity, we know that the return of the Lord must be near, so we can take comfort in that. The Lord will return, and correct everything. And He will heal us.

So, when you see sin in the church, or you see a church rocked by scandal, don’t be discouraged, and don’t let your faith be shaken. The Lord told us these spiritual attacks would come. Keep looking to the sky, for your redemption draweth nigh.