Christianity

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 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 futility of fishing alone

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Photo by Vietnamese Private Tours on Pexels.com

When Jesus told His disciples, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” we often misinterpret what He said. Having grown up in the United States, where the most common form of fishing is recreational, and is accomplished with a rod and reel, we often think of fishing as a recreational activity meant to be enjoyed in a relaxing manner. Such an activity can easily be enjoyed alone, and in some cases, it’s easier to enjoy the serenity of God’s creation when fishing alone.

However, as previously mentioned, fishing for the disciples of Christ was not a recreational activity accomplished with a rod and reel. It was a commercial enterprise undertaken for mere survival that was accomplished by casting a net. One thing we did not specifically address in the above-linked post is how the net was cast, and how it was drawn from the water.

In order to successfully fish with the types of nets the disciples used, you had to have a team (which is one reason you didn’t see the disciples by themselves when Jesus called them to be fishers of men. They were working as teams.) Often, these disciples utilized two boats to draw the net from the water. It took a lot of hands to fish with those nets, but the harvests could be great. With the help of Christ, they were on more than one occasion.

A fisherman who chose to fish alone would not only have a hard time properly casting the net, but properly drawing the net with a sufficient catch would prove nearly impossible.

The Spiritual application to this fact is that, as Christians, we will never be as strong in isolation as we will be when gathered with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The fundamental truth of fishing, whether commercially in Jesus’ day, or Spiritually in our day, is that it is a team effort. The Christian who chooses to isolate himself from his brothers and sisters in Christ has chosen a life that will prove frustrating and discouraging.

Therefore, let’s heed the Biblical command in Hebrews 10:25, which tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and let us come together to encourage, pray and lift up each other. Then, let’s minister for the Lord together.

Inside the Throne Room of Christ (Revelation 4-5)

If one is rushing through the book of Revelation to get to the “good stuff,” one might miss the amazing thing that happens in Revelation 4. The Apostle John, imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos for spreading the word of God, has been invited into Heaven. Not only has he been invited into Heaven, but He has been invited into the nerve-center of Heaven, the throne room of Christ.

As John is conveying to us everything he saw as he entered into the throne room of Christ, it can be easy for us to get lost in all the precious stones, gems, and spectacular sights of that place. For example, how does one interpret verse 3, which says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald?”

What’s interesting is that the things John sees are not only brilliant and spectacular, but are symbolic as well. As John looks upon the One sitting upon the throne, he sees a being that looks like jasper and sardine stone. While this speaks to the glory of Christ, there is also a deeper meaning. Jasper and sardine stone are both red. Isaiah 1:18 tells us that the color of sin is red. The color of the blood of Christ is red. When you look through a red lense, that is, these precious stones and the blood of Christ, the redness of sin is cancelled out.

Thus, as the Bible says in Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Surrounding the throne is a rainbow, which you might remember is the symbol of the covenant God made with Noah to never destroy the world with a flood again. Right there in front of Christ is a reminder of His grace and mercy.

In the secular world, in the business world, we tend to decorate our offices (our throne rooms, if you will,) with the things that we are most proud of… the things which are the most important to us.

When you look into the throne room of Christ, you see symbol after symbol of our redemption and salvation. What does that tell you about the Lord’s passion for you?

The 7 Churches (Revelation 2)

The church is dead.

The church is judgmental.

The church is full of hypocrites.

Those common complaints against modern American churches are nothing new. For years, people have complained that the church experience can be cold, uncaring, and full of betrayal at the hands of those who pretend to be Christian, but are not.

Often, those complaints against the church are used as justification for rejecting church membership altogether, electing rather to worship God alone. After all, if Christ knew just how awful the church really is, wouldn’t He support a mass exodus from the church?

It might surprise you to know that the issues with the modern American church are nothing new. In fact, these issues permeated the first century churches. Thus, in Revelation 2, Christ begins the process of addressing each church individually, assessing the condition of each church and instructing them to repent of their sins and shortcomings.

Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia (now known as Asia minor, or Turkey) to prepare them to meet the Lord. Speaking through the Apostle John, Jesus foretold the events that would precede His return, the events that would mark His judgment, and the promises to every believer.

The book of Revelation was written specifically to those seven churches to prepare them to meet the Lord, but the truth that is taught in this book will prepare us, also, to meet the Lord. Those churches of Asia met the Lord when they passed away. We will meet the Lord when we pass away, or when He returns, whichever comes first. Therefore, we should take the lessons of the book of Revelation and prepare for that day.

One of the most common errors in studying Revelation 2 is that many theologians believe that the letters to the seven churches are actually metaphors for seven different time periods during the church age. This approach to Revelation 2-3 is problematic for many reasons.

First, if Christ had dictated the letters to the seven churches as an allegory for the seven periods of the church age, then the message would have made absolutely no sense to those churches to whom the letters were written.

Secondly, as you read the letters to the seven churches, you will notice that Christ addresses specific issues, and specific individuals within the churches. While many try to parallel those specific individuals and issues with historic events during the church age, the fact of the matter is that there were specific issues and individuals addressed by Christ in those churches.

In other words, when these letters were read to the seven churches of Asia, no one had to ask, “I wonder what the Lord meant by that?” They knew exactly what Christ was talking about, whom He was talking about, and what He was commanding. There was no mystery to those first-century churches.

So, if these letters were addressed to the first century churches, and addressed specific issues within seven specific churches in Asia, then what’s the point of studying them today? Simple.

In the often forgotten Pauly Shore comedy, In The Army Now, Pauly Shore told the drill instructor that “welcomed” him to boot camp that she didn’t have to yell. The drill instructor replied, “IN THE U.S. ARMY, WE DO NOT YELL. WE MERELY SPEAK LOUDLY SO THAT ALL CAN LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!”

While it may seem sacrilege to reference a Pauly Shore movie during a Bible study, the fact is that we can learn from the mistakes of the seven churches of Asia, and we can take the lessons the Lord teaches them and apply them to our own lives.

In the letters to the churches in Revelation 2, we learn that Christ sees everything. He sees our love and works, or the lack thereof. He sees the motivation for our works. He sees our struggles and problems. He sees our errors. Then, He calls us to repent.

The above posted episode of The Point expounds those truths. If you listen, I predict you will be blessed by it.

The Opposition

The people who had moved into the land were tolerant of the Israelites who returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but once construction began on the Temple, conflict broke out.

In this message, we evaluate why the people of the land opposed the construction of the Temple, and how that correlates to Satan’s opposition to our daily lives today. This chapter illustrates how Satan actively opposes you and tries to sabotage you as you try to live out God’s purpose for your life.

Why happiness is so elusive…

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Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

-James 4:2-3

John D. Rockefeller built a fortune through his company, Standard Oil. Seeing a need for a reliable brand of kerosene that would not explode into flames as kerosene often did in the 1800s, Rockefeller set out to develop a safe way to refine the liquid fuel from oil, and then brand it so that anyone buying it would know they bought a safe product. Hence the name, “Standard.” As in, “This product lives up to our standards of safety,” and burns bright enough to illuminate our homes and offices to our standard. It elevated our standard of living.

Rockefeller’s shrewd business skills and ability to leverage service, money and volume built his empire. He built strategic partnerships with railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, eliminated competitors through hostile takeover and stock purchases, and never quit working to expand his empire.

To this day, the name “Rockefeller” is synonymous with wealth. Unlike many who inherit wealth, Rockefeller built his from nothing. Today, his family still benefits from his decisions.

Yet, when asked, “How much money is enough,” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

At the height of his wealth and power, Rockefeller basically owned America. Yet, even at the height of his wealth and power, Rockefeller neither found happiness nor peace. At least, he didn’t find it in his wealth and power.

The fundamental fact of life is that, if you can’t be happy where you are, with what you have, then having more will not make you happy.

That’s why James 4:2-3 says:

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James addressed discontentment among early Christians by pointing out two things. (1) They didn’t engage God in prayer about their needs and wants, and (2) their motivation was suspect.

The first situation addressed here is discontentment. The Christians to whom James wrote were not happy. They desired things that they could not have. They wanted more. They struggled for more, yet they failed. The harder they pressed, the harder the world pressed back.

The first reason those who read James experienced this torment dealt with their worldly attitudes. They wanted, and fought to have, but failed to obtain, because they didn’t ask God. They neither asked God for the blessings they sought, neither did they ask for God’s permission and direction.

These Christians lived a carnal, worldly existence. In doing so, they excluded God from their day-to-day lives. That’s an important detail to remember. When we live in the carnal, day-to-day world, without seeking God through prayer, Bible reading and meditation (deep thoughts on the scriptures), we are excluding God from our day-to-day lives.

These Christians, having excluded God from their lives, received no blessing from God. Why would He bless and reward His children who avoid His presence.

James then addressed another problem. Those who had approached God in prayer about their desires did so with impure motives.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Those who had gone to the Lord in prayer to request specific blessings did so for the sole reason of pleasing their flesh. They wanted that which they could consume, not that which they could use to bless God and others.

A good example of this would be the man who prays for the new convertible, the beach house, or for the winning lottery numbers.

So, while they did follow Biblical directives to pray, their hearts were not right. Instead of having a heart for God and His people, they were selfish. Therefore, their prayers went unanswered.

That brings us to a very pointed question. “What’s my motivation?” Are we self-focused, or focused on others? Do we see others? Or do we only see ourselves?

Happiness is defined as confidence and security. Do you feel confident that the Lord will do great things in your life? And are you secure, knowing that He will provide, protect and care for you? If so, then you are happy, whether you feel joyful or not. If you do not feel confident and secure, it might be because you are searching for confidence and security in the wrong things. At that point, nothing will provide happiness for you, regardless of how much of that nothing you have.

As for John D. Rockefeller, you might be surprised that amassing wealth and making money wasn’t his primary motivator, as he is quoted as saying, “I had no ambition to make a fortune; mere moneymaking has never been my goal. I had an ambition to build.”

Putting the past where it belongs

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The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, … and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.

-Zechariah 1:2-3

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the child of a notorious criminal?

What would it be like to be the child of Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, Al Capone or Charles Manson?

Think about it. Wherever you went, your father’s name and sins would come up, no matter how hard you tried to separate yourself from his dubious legacy. You could have become a successful businessman and philanthropist, but the second anyone figured out who you were, they would suddenly act awkward, or want to talk to you about your father’s legacy, and what it’s like to be the son of ___________.

What a tragedy for an individual to be doomed to the dark legacy of the sins of his father. Such was the case for the people of Israel during the return from the Babylonian exile. As spoken by the prophet Zechariah, “The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.”

The good news for Israel was that God would not define them by the sins of their fathers. After telling them that He had been “sore displeased” with their fathers, the LORD exhorted the nation of Israel to “Turn ye unto me.” If they did, He would turn to them.

The LORD offered Israel a fresh start. He would cleanse them of their sin, and allow them to become His people, and He would be their God. This was good news for them, and it’s good news for us.

Just as God did not define Israel by the sins of their fathers, neither does He define us by the sins of our fathers. You family heritage does not define you. God created you in a unique way, giving you your own identity and choices.

Therefore, you are not hindered from entering God’s Kingdom just because you come from “a long line of losers.” Furthermore, you are not guaranteed entry into God’s Kingdom just because you come from a family of Spiritual giants.

Every man will stand before God alone on judgment day, with no one to hinder him, and no one to help him, with the exception of Jesus Christ our advocate. Therefore, the LORD says “Turn ye unto me.” This is God’s way of exhorting us to repent of our sin and trust Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

Just as we are not defined by the sins of our fathers, we are not defined by the sins of our past. The people in Zechariah’s day may not have been involved with the idolatry that resulted in the Babylonian exile, but Israel the nation was. Nevertheless, God offered the nation a new start that would come by their repentance and faith.

Like Israel, we can find ourselves in a state of disarray as a result of sinful choices we’ve made. We can find ourselves being chastised by God, reaping the consequences of our choices, and in an overall state of despair.

The promise that God made to Israel also applies to us. “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

God allows us to reap the consequences of our actions in order to teach us to turn away from sin. If we learn that lesson, and turn from our sin and put our faith in the Lord, He turns to us. When He does this, He delivers us, restores us, and reconciles with us.

As He promised, “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

When you turn to the Lord, He turns to you, which means that He becomes your champion and your advocate. He restores you, protects you, cleanses you from sin, and blesses you. It’s a promise.

So, as you “consider your ways,” repent from any sin that has infiltrated your life, and renew your faith in the Lord. He will respond to you, and bless you.

Who is there among you?

Jerusalem Reconstruction

Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

-Ezra 1:3

The Persian king Cyrus had no ties to Jerusalem. There was no sentimentality on his part. He had probably never even been to Jerusalem. Yet, when God stirred his spirit, he was moved to rebuild the house of God at Jerusalem.

Knowing that God’s will was to revive Israel, Cyrus understood that if the reconstruction of the Temple was to truly accomplish its purpose, the Israelites would have to be the ones to rebuild it. Therefore, he challenged God’s people. “Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him.”

Over the past 9 years, I have seen signs posted along the highways of Texas urging residents to pray for our nation. On more than one occasion, our nation has been mentioned as a prayer request during morning services.

And then there’s 2 Chronicles 7:14:

 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

We pray for our nation often. We pray that our nation will remain safe, prosperous, that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same lifestyles we did. More importantly, we pray that God would bring a revival in America. More than a cultural revival, we pray that God would bring a spiritual revival to America.

We’re concerned about more than American traditions. We’re concerned about the soul of America. Historically, our nation has lived by Judeo-Christian values. In recent years, it seems that society is deliberately moving away from those values.

As a result, we see the increase in drug abuse and crime, child abuse, human trafficking, moral degradation and cultural rot. The solutions to these problems cannot be legislated. These are problems that can only be solved by a revival in America. These problems can only be solved by national repentance and a renewed interest in true Christianity. We pray for this to happen.

However, this revival will only be sparked if the people of God will stand up, speak His Gospel, minister to those who hurt, and reach out to those who are lost. If we are to see a spiritual revival in America, we need a generation of Christians to rise up and unabashedly do God’s work.

So, in the words of Cyrus, “Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him.”

Rise up, reach out, and be the influence that leads your friends, family and neighbors to the Lord. Who knows? You may be the spark that ignites a revival in our country.

Leland Acker has served as the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Sunday Worship at 11 a.m., and meetings are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce/Small Business Incubator Facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX, pending the construction of a new worship facility.