Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jesus is Faithful – 2 Tim 2:11-13

This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (NKJV)
Faithful Sayings
Paul has a list of faithful sayings: 1 Tim 1:15 regarding salvation, 3:1 regarding church officers, 4:9 regarding godliness, 2 Tim 2:11 to be discussed, Titus 3:8 regarding salvation.
Died with Him
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 2:20, 3:27 RSV)
To understand how we can say that we’ve died with Jesus, we need to understand what it means to be baptized into Christ or to put on Christ. Both are biblical terms. The word baptize however, probably has sparked some of the biggest controversies among Christian denominations as any other word. At the root of the word there is a physical and a metaphorical meaning. Physically, it simply means to makes something completely wet with the intent of either making it clean or dying it to completely change its color or appearance. The metaphorical meaning isn’t very different. It means to overwhelm though it could also be physical. When I apply these meanings to the being baptized into Jesus (Rom 6:3-11) I can see all of them coming into play.
Immersed
I am first of all immersed into Jesus. I’m not sprinkled with Jesus but completely covered. It is easier to understand what it means to be immersed in Jesus if you think of what it looks like for someone to be only sprinkled with Jesus. They get just enough of Jesus to think they are saved and that’s all. They are not willing to deny themselves and follow Jesus (Matt 16:24-25). They want the association but not the commitment. On the other hand, to be baptized into Jesus means making a complete commitment that my life is His. We can’t die with Jesus unless we first die to our selves. We can’t live our own life and His at the same time.
This doesn’t happen on a physical level but a spiritual level. It is a matter of the will to make the decision and to follow through with it. A side note to this is that we must also recognize that while we make the decision, we wouldn’t be able to do that without God enabling us to do it. All of God is involved in saving us (Titus 3:4-6). That is why it is spiritual and not physical.
Put on Jesus
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom 13:14 NASB)
When we are baptized into Jesus or put on Jesus, we are made spiritually clean. Prior to this verse, Paul tells us to stop doing a bunch of things. We are also told to put off everything that corrupted our ways before putting on the new life that is now created to be like God in holiness (Eph 4:20-24). The list of things to put off is even longer in Col 3:5-10 and the emphasis is stronger calling us to put to death all the ungodly activities as we put on the new self.
That new self is Jesus. While baptism usually demonstrates an outward cleansing, the truth of being baptized into Jesus must include a changed heart, an inward cleaning. Jesus said that all the evils that we must put off come out of the heart (Matt 15:19). The only way to clean our hearts is to have Jesus there. We must have Jesus in our hearts, which happens when we receive Jesus by faith (Eph 3:17, Rev 3:20). Jesus is in our hearts if we are really saved. Contrary to what some people say (they say that He can’t be in more than one place because He took on a physical body) Jesus can be in my heart and yours at the same time. Not only so, but He is seated at the right hand of the Father at the same time and makes intercession for us. What does that do for your concept of the spiritual realm? It should blow it wide open with no restrictions. It is the only way to explain how we can put on Jesus.
Complete Change
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17 ESV)
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9 ESV)
Dying with Christ or being in Christ is a complete change. I can’t speak to people who became Christians when they were very young. They probably don’t really remember much about their sinful life as a toddler up until they became a Christian. However, I can speak to people who became Christians when they were older. If you can’t remember a change, then your memory is really bad or you didn’t really change and that means you had better take a good, hard look at whether or not you are really a Christian. I’m not trying to say that we become perfect, that is a long process of spiritual growth, but I’m saying that when we are changed we stop making a practice of sinful behaviors. Our desire is no longer to be involved in the despicable things that are clearly condemned in the Bible and we desire to please God by living holy lives. If the desire isn’t there, there hasn’t been a change, there hasn’t been repentance, and that means there hasn’t been any admission of having done wrong.
The rich young ruler in Matt 19:16-22 is a good picture of someone who thinks he is a Christian but isn’t. This is the person who grew up in the church doing all the right stuff. If you were to ask him if he had kept all the commandments, he would say that he had just as the rich young ruler did. He might even be able to tell you the exact date he “received” Christ or was baptized. But Christ has never been first in his life. When confronted with the things that are more important, his idols, he is unwilling to give them up and follow Jesus. He wants to have eternal life, but deep down, he is trusting in his own goodness to save himself.
Overwhelmed
As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. (Mark 9:13 NIV)
Being baptized into Jesus is to be overwhelmed by Him. Most of the time that people are described as overwhelmed, it isn’t a description of anything good happening. As I read in the Bible, people are overwhelmed with horror (Ps 55:5), physical circumstances such as waves (Ps 78:53), or even anger (Prov 27:4). While being overwhelmed in baptism most logically relates to physically being submerged by a flow of water, the definition of overpowering someone emotionally and even physically by Jesus also applies metaphorically.
If we stop to think about what Jesus went through on the cross to save us, we should be overwhelmed with emotion. When we think about the fact there was nothing we could do to save ourselves and that we were enemies of God, yet Jesus saved us, we should be overwhelmed. When we think of the blessings He has bestowed on us in the heavenly realms, we should be overwhelmed. Considering that we have been adopted as sons of God through Jesus, we should be overwhelmed. Shouldn’t our emotional overwhelming result in an undying love of our Lord and Savior?
Does Jesus overwhelm us metaphorically? Are we like a 95-pound wrestler who tries to fight a 210-pound heavy weight when it comes to our will vs. Jesus’ will? We really should give up and let Jesus overwhelm us if we are really baptized into Him. We should surrender completely to His will and start doing the things He wants.
Unfortunately, many of us still try to squirm and do our own thing instead. All the while we’re pinned to the mat, we are saying that He can hold us down but He can’t break our spirit. How sad to think of being overwhelmed by Jesus like that. We really should be thinking about being overwhelmed by Jesus in terms of the might and strength He provides us as we cooperate with Him. We can do all things through Jesus who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).
Live with Jesus
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NKJV)
To abide in a place means to dwell there. It isn’t a one-time visit to a beautiful location and then return home. When you abide in a place, you are home. When you abide in Jesus you are in a beautiful location with no thought or desire to return to your previous home. That previous home was spiritual death. Who would want to go back there? If we died with Christ, then the desires to go back to that old life should have died at the same time.
Jesus used the symbology of a grape vine and the branches to describe our relationship with Him. A changed life can’t occur when we try to live partly in Jesus and partly in our old way of living, the world. Neither can I imagine a grape branch that somehow only connects to the vine for a few minute a day to get sap. What kind of fruit would it produce? At best, it might have some tiny, bitter grapes. At worst, the blossoms would wilt and never even produce a grape.
So it is with a Christian who thinks that Jesus can be just a part of his life instead of the center of it. Unless our life is centered in Jesus, our fruit will be stunted. Our joy will be lacking, our love will be fickle, our peace will be disrupted, our patience will be short, our kindness will be crude, our faith will be lacking, our gentleness will be rough, and our self-control will be volatile. If we don’t see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Gal 5:22-23), then we need to see if we are really abiding in Jesus or if we are abiding in the world.
Many people only consider their life with Christ to start when they reach heaven. They tend to forget that how we live our lives with Jesus now will determine what our eternal life with Him will be like. Jesus taught with parables about this when He told of servants who were entrusted with money while their master was away. Those who used it wisely were granted authority over cities, one ten and another five. The one who didn’t even use his money lost it (Luke 19:12-27).
Endure and Reign
to the one who overcomes … I will … (Rev 2:7, Rev 2:11, Rev 2:17, Rev 2:26, Rev 3:5, Rev 3:12, Rev 3:21)
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Rev 21:7 KJV)
Paul says that we will reign with Jesus if we endure. Jesus makes similar promises to the people of the churches in Revelation if they persevere during this lifetime. If we take abiding with Jesus seriously, we know that we will face problems just as the churches in Revelation. If we overcome everything from apathy to persecutions we will reap the promises described by Jesus in eternity. God affirms that if we overcome, are victorious, or conquer by putting to death the old self and abiding in Christ, we will inherit all these promises, but the icing on the cake is that He will be our God and we will be His sons.
This isn’t to say that He isn’t our God now or that we aren’t already His sons because the Bible tells us that we are (Eph 1:3-14). What we will see when we persevere to the end of our lives will be the completion of the process.
This is a reoccurring theme in the Bible. Eternity will be much different than most people will expect. Some think only of strumming harps on clouds on one extreme and other think only of one long worship session as described in Revelation chapter four. The latter is more accurate, but that is only part of the picture. The whole concept of reigning with Christ must expand our thoughts of eternity. How, will this occur, who will we reign over? Ponder these questions in light of what we know in the Bible and we realize that heaven will not be boring as some are afraid, neither will it be only a single eternal worship session.
You make known to me  the path of life; in your presence there is  fullness of joy; at your right hand are  pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11 ESV )
Denial vs. Faithfulness
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matt 10:33 KJV)
In Matt 10:28-33, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we have to make a decision to follow Him. We must decide if we value our earthly existence more than our eternal existence with Him. He tells us that His omniscient Father, who even pays attention to sparrows, values us much more than the birds. Therefore, we shouldn’t fear what others can or will do to us if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior. However, even as much as He values us, if we let fear cause us to deny Him, He will deny us before the Father.
If we are faithful, then we will acknowledge Jesus and we won’t do it in secret. Certainly there are places in the world today where some attempt to keep their faith secret because it means a death sentences. However, even in these places, when their secret is found out they have to decide what is more important. If we truly know Jesus, then He will give us the courage to admit it. That is one way He is faithful.
However, there is another way that He remains faithful. Jesus is the Word, therefore every truth in the Bible is about Jesus. When Jesus says that He will deny someone who has denied Him, He won’t change His mind otherwise He would be proved a liar. Jesus can’t deny Himself so He can’t go back on anything He has said.
When Jesus says that He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), then He hasn’t changed that to include all other religions or so called paths to enlightenment. If He added any way that depend on the adherent to do something for salvation, then He would be denying Himself. It means that Jesus doesn’t need help of any other priest, prophet, or system to save anyone. If we need anything other than faith and obedience to Jesus for salvation, then it would prove Jesus as faithless and He would have denied Himself.
When Jesus says that He gives us eternal life and that no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28), then we can rest on that promise. Once we have crossed over from death to life (John 5:24), once we have put on Jesus, there is no way that we or anyone else can take us away from Jesus. If we could, then we would prove Jesus faithless.
Jesus also said that there would be many who will come and claim to be the Christ (Matt 24:5). They will even use the name Jesus but they come to deceive and lead people away from the real Jesus. They may want salvation but don’t want the real Jesus for many different reason. A false Jesus will always deny the real Jesus in one way or another. Jesus is faithful in that He has warned us about the false christs.
This makes it all the more imperative to acknowledge the one true Jesus of the Bible as Lord and Savior while we are alive. We won’t get a second chance after we die (Heb 9:27). There will not be any do-overs. Jesus pointed this out in many parables. Five virgins were doing all the right stuff, but didn’t know the bridegroom (Matt 25:1-12). They didn’t get a second chance.
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5 NASB)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Results of Evangelism – 2 Tim 2:9-10

And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. (NLT)
Suffering
But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:15-16 RSV)
Paul knew exactly what was going to happen to him after he became a Christian. The Lord told Ananias Paul’s mission. How often are we told either before or immediately after we surrender our lives to Jesus what is in store for our future service? Most of us probably had no clue that suffering (1 Peter 4:16), persecution (Matt 5:10-12), ridicule (Luke 14:27-30), false accusations (1 Peter 2:12), and being ostracized (Matt 10:34-39) would be in our future because of our decision to follow Christ yet that is what the Bible says we should expect.
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (1 Peter 4:16 KJV)
In today’s world, as it was when Peter wrote, people are often ashamed when they suffer. They attribute the suffering to their own failures or a lack of faith. The prosperity gospel and the positive thinking gospel has permeated the Church to the extent that when hardships fall upon believers, they can expect to find well-meaning people lined up at their door to tell them why they are suffering. “You have a hidden sin and you must confess it. Your suffering is a result of a generational sin that your parents or grandparents have passed on to you. You need to have more faith, this wouldn’t be happening if you had more faith. You haven’t been praying enough or reading your Bible enough.”
While it is possible that any one of these may be true, few attribute the trials to simply trying to follow Jesus in a fallen world which is more likely the problem. Even fewer will recognize the final phrase in 1 Peter 4:16, to glorify God. While God certainly teaches us through hardships, too many of us have a mindset that it is all about me. It isn’t all about us; it is all about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Suffering as a Christian will bring glory to God. This is a reoccurring theme in the Bible. The central message of the Bible, the redemption of mankind, is to bring glory to God. We can’t forget that or we will be ashamed of our suffering and live some very poor Christian lives.
Persecution
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12 NASB)
Jesus proclaimed in the Beatitudes that persecution is what happens when we try to live a righteous life. If we are destined for heaven, to be part of God’s glorious kingdom and we are living like it, we can expect those who are not to hate us and persecute us for it. Our attitude during this should be that we are blessed. It confirms that we are on the right path. Unfortunately, many Christians have been told that blessings mean the absences of pain and turmoil in their lives. They haven’t been told that the reason to rejoice is what is waiting for them in heaven. Most likely, the majority of Christians on this dust ball will not have the blessings of prosperity and good health.
Have you ever been part of a prayer chain? If you haven’t, you can probably find some website that allows people to post their requests and read them. My experience is that most prayers are for health issues, followed by financial, then marriages and other family problems.
As you look through the Gospels, people came to Jesus mainly to be healed. Our God is very gracious and Jesus does heal, but all the miracles of the Gospels had one primary purpose, to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah and that believing in Him we can have eternal life (John 20:30). Yes, the miracles also demonstrated His compassion and care for us, but the ultimate demonstration of His compassion was His own suffering and death on the cross so that we could have eternal life with Him.
On the prayer lists, every once in a while you will see someone asking for prayer to be a good witness through the difficulties and glorify God in them. While they would like healing, they are not asking for an exemption from the problems of life but to glorify God through them. We must not forget that this life is temporary and that our eternal home is with Jesus. Persecution now will bring glory to God in eternity especially when it results in bringing people to Jesus.
Ridicule
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him. (Luke 14:27-30 ESV)
Christians are often ridiculed because the unbelieving world sees only an unfinished foundation. They see us making decisions that are not politically correct because we have a foundation (1 Cor 3:11) that they don’t understand. That foundation shouldn’t change from culture to culture or year to year because we are following Jesus and He doesn’t change (Heb 13:8).
Christians are also ridiculed because many people start well but don’t finish. They are dragged away by the cares of the world and end up no better or even worse than they started (2 Peter 2:20). While some may argue that they weren’t really Christians if they fall away (1 John 2:19), the point is lost on the unbelieving world.
We may be ridiculed but it shouldn’t change our commitment to follow Jesus and prove to be His disciple.
False Accusations
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)
If you want to find out what many people think of Christianity, go to the internet and search for “dangerous radical Christianity” or some other variation of the topic. You may be surprised at the number of people who have formed their opinions based on various things including personal experience, history (distorted or not), crazy preachers, or biblical preachers.
A common thread is that they perceive that Christianity is out to change the world, country, or their personal freedoms. They are right! Our goal is to change all these things, just think about the implications of Matt 28:19-20. If we follow Jesus’ command then our goal is to teach everyone to obey Jesus. That is downright frightening to people who want to do their own thing. It is very threatening to them. They will always accuse us of something, right or wrong, to protect what is important to them.
However, Peter clarifies that we should live godly lives among them so that when Jesus comes back He will be glorified. When we teach, we should do it with gentleness and respect so that they will be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15-16). Unfortunately, many will not be ashamed until they see Jesus come back. In the mean time, we keep on teaching and expecting false accusations. Rather than focusing on the false accusations, we should live godly lives and stick to the Gospel message.
Ostracized
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt 10:34-39 KJV)
These are really tough words. Many people have come to Christ and started to follow Jesus only to find out that members of their own family have turned against them. In some parts of the world, it means death either at the hands of family members or when they are reported to authorities. For them, the sword is a real physical consequence of following Jesus. More often, the result is divorce or alienation from family members who want nothing to do with Jesus or Jesus followers. 
For some who are considering surrender to Jesus, this is a huge obstacle. They know their family well enough to know that there will be problems. They wisely count the cost of becoming a Christian, but they don’t always understand the consequence of not following Jesus.
Jesus summed it up in verse 39. Whoever decides to have a life that doesn’t risk losing everything for Jesus will end up actually losing that life. Whoever is willing to give up everything to follow Jesus will find real life now and in eternity (Luke 18:29-30).
It boils down to surrendering your will to Jesus. Who or what do you love the most? God made it very clear in the first commandment that He is to be first (Ex 20:3). He commanded His people to love Him so completely (Deut 6:5) that any other love naturally has to take a second place. This is what Jesus was reiterating.
Not all are called to lose family members over Jesus. Many come to Jesus after one family member is brave enough to follow Jesus. Sometimes there is a single holdout. Not all people are persecuted, ridiculed, or accused. Sometimes neighbor, friends, and co-workers come to Christ as a result of one person’s conversion. We don’t know what will happen, but the point is that we need to make the decision to follow Jesus regardless of the consequences. Are you willing?
Bound or Not
Paul was willing to suffer the consequences of preaching the Gospel. He took the next step in following Jesus to urge others to do the same. So here’s Paul sitting in prison with chains on him so that he couldn’t escape. Does he get all depressed and want to die? Not at all. He looks at his bonds and sees them in contrast to the Word of God.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa 55:11 KJV)
Why can’t God’s Word be chained? It is because of Him who sends it. God is Sovereign. When He wants something done, all He needs to do is declare it. Look at the first chapter Genesis. Look at the first chapter of John. Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God and He created all things (Col 1:16). Whether we are talking about Jesus or the Bible when we speak of the Word of God, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference because God is accomplishing His purpose.
People in all parts of the earth have tried to destroy the Bible. One of the earliest recorded events is in Jeremiah 36. The Lord told Jeremiah to have his servant, Baruch, write on a scroll then read it in public. Some of King Zedekiah’s officials heard it and were scared because of the prophecy of destruction on Jerusalem. They knew it was God’s Word through Jeremiah even though it was read by Baruch. King Zedekiah heard the words and cut the scroll in pieces and burned it. Was the Word destroyed? Was that the end of the matter? Not at all. God simply had Jeremiah dictate the same to Baruch and added to the prophecy because of Zedekiah’s disdain for the Word.
It is important to see in this account that Zedekiah’s officials recognized the authority of God’s Word even though it was not given to them directly by the prophet. This is the same thing that we see in the Bible. We don’t have the very original writings, but God’s imprint is on it. We see His authority when we read the Bible.
It is also important to see that even though the original was destroyed, God was able to provide another copy. The original wasn’t diminished and in this case, more of the same was added to it (Jer 36:32). The message didn’t change. God didn’t consider that Zedekiah didn’t like or ignored what he heard and therefore decided to say something different. While the Bible hasn’t changed, His servants continue to preach the Word from pulpits around the world and in books. Faithful preachers don’t change what is written, but use additional words to explain and proclaim the truth of what God has said. As long as there are people who know the Lord, His Word can’t be destroyed, even if it were possible to burn every Bible, take down every web server, and wipe every memory device in the world. There would still be people who know God’s Word and would be able to faithfully recreate the Bible.
Look at Paul’s words. He said he was willing to endure everything so that the people God has chosen for salvation would be able to hear it. He isn’t alone and most importantly, God is working through faithful people today.
Jesus promised that nothing of the Law would pass away until it was all fulfilled (Matt 5:18). Peter reiterated that God’s Word will remain forever and that the Word is the good news (1 Peter 1:25). The heart of the good news of the Bible is God redeeming His people from the slavery of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection to prove that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus.
Endure for the Elect
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations … Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you," declares the Lord. (Jer 1:5, 7-8) NASU
Jeremiah was a prophet who endured persecution to faithfully bring the message of God to those God wanted to hear. There are only a handful of people mentioned in the book who were attentive to God and sympathetic to Jeremiah. He watched as Jerusalem was destroyed just as God said it would be. He was rescued from those chained to be exiled to Babylon only to be forced to go to Egypt by the remnant who were still disobeying God. Through it all, he was obedient to proclaim the Word of God.
I wonder how many listened and put their faith in God. I wonder the same about people today. It seems that there are fewer and fewer Christian who are being heard. It used to be that if Billy Graham came to an area for a crusade, people would come from all over the area to hear him. People would even tune in on his television specials. I know because I was a volunteer on the telephone banks talking to people who called wanting to know how to be saved. There were many before him, some of whom would go from town to town and spend a week preaching every evening. They were faithful to endure whatever it took to reach those whom God had called.
Those days are gone, at least in the U.S. they are. But there remains one thing and that is God’s elect. There are still people God has called for salvation in Jesus Christ with eternal glory. However, as it was in Jeremiah’s time, the remnant is smaller and smaller. How many of us are willing to endure everything in order to bring the Gospel to a few people? I’m not talking about going off to some small village in a remote area of the world, though there are some who will go. I’m talking about going to those who are practicing pagans right in our own neighborhoods.
They are people who grew up in homes that never went to church or who rejected Christianity and were taught that whatever spirituality or even no spirituality was fine and acceptable. They believe that whatever truth you have is personal and the next person’s truth is just as valid even if it is completely opposite. There are also many who have immigrated and brought their religion with them.
Some worship other gods, some worship things, others worship self. None worship the one true God. They are like the remnant of Judah that asked Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord. They promised to do what God said, which was not to go to Egypt. Instead, they went to Egypt and when they were there, they heard from the Lord to turn from idols. They said they would continue to worship the queen of heaven and whatever else they wanted (Jer 42-44).
People today are no different. Yet God want us to endure everything because among them there are some people who will be saved. I pray that I may reach a few that they may have eternal glory with Jesus.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Remember Jesus is the Christ – 2 Tim 2:8

Remember Jesus
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21 KJV)
Paul says to remember Jesus Christ. Jesus is our God and Savior, our Lord. The name of Jesus is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning Jehovah is salvation. When parents decided to name a child Joshua, every time they called him, they were saying, “Jehovah is Salvation.” “Jehovah is Salvation, it’s time for dinner.” “Jehovah is Salvation, stop stomping in the mud.” “Jehovah is Salvation stop hitting your sister.” That could do one of two things for a parent and for a child. It could be a great reminder that God saves or it could become old and trite.
In some cultures, boys are still named Jesus. Unfortunately, as a name, Jesus is only a string of letters making a sound by which the child or parent recognizes the person. There isn’t any clear meaning to the name of Jesus today. When we speak the name of Jesus, people don’t hear “God is Salvation.”
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NASU)
When I say the name of Jesus, I should hear, “God is Salvation” but I won’t unless I’ve trained my mind to understand what Jesus means. There is no way to separate Jesus’ name from who He is, salvation from God. When I talk to someone about Jesus, “God is Salvation” should be at the heart of the message because that is why Jesus came, to save us from our sins. His name is the only name by which anyone can be saved because His name is “God is Salvation” (Acts 4:12).
When doubts assail us about salvation, God, our future, or anything else, then we need to remember Jesus; Jesus is God; Jesus is Salvation. 
Christ
Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means "Christ"). (John 1:41 NLT)
We need to remember that Jesus is the Christ because our culture not only has a problem remembering who Jesus is, but they also think His surname (last name) is Christ. Even among Christians, Christ has little meaning. Many people know that it is synonymous with Messiah. But what does that mean, and how does remembering that Jesus is the Messiah make a difference when our soul is downcast within us?
The first thing to understand is that Christ or Messiah is Jesus’ title. There isn’t anything special about the word, christ. It is a transliteration of the Greek word without the “os” on the end. It simply means anointed. We christen or anoint children and boats. To understand the significance of Messiah or Anointed one, we need to look at its origin in the Old Testament.
Messiah in the Old Testament
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (Ps 2:2-3 KJV)
Messiah is the Hebrew word for anointed and was applied to kings (most often David), priests, prophets, and even Cyrus, a pagan. They were all anointed by God. Messiah isn’t significant until it is used as a title. While there are many prophesies about Jesus, the word messiah is seen clearly referring to Jesus when the distant future is in the context of the passage. Psalm 2 is the first place where I read of the Lord’s anointed and it is clear that it is speaking of Jesus. People who don’t know Jesus have set themselves against the Lord and His anointed (Jesus) and want nothing to do with Him.
By demoting the title of Christ to a last name, people don’t understand or are unwilling to accept that they are under His dominion. They are not free to do whatever they want. They don’t know or ignore that there will be a day when they will bow before Him and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:9-11). It will only be then that the full impact of the title, Christ, will be clear to them, but it will be too late for Jesus to be salvation for them. But for us, remembering Christ is remembering who is our Sovereign and who is in control of all our circumstances to which we are grateful.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself … (Dan 9:25-26 KJV)
The timing of Jesus’ coming as Messiah is predicted in Dan 9:25. Some versions transliterate the word mashiyach as “Messiah”, others translate it “the Anointed One”, but others say “an anointed one” without capitalizing the words. To me there is a big difference between these translations since there is only one Messiah or Anointed One; translating it as “an anointed one” literally means that there could be several Messiahs. Translating it “Messiah” or “the Anointed One” means there is only one and it is specific – it can only be fulfilled by Jesus.
And He said to them, "How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? (Luke 20:41 NKJV)
In remembering Jesus, it is important to remember that Jesus is a descendent of David. The Messiah wasn’t called the anointed one when He was first announced in Gen 3:15. He was simply called the offspring or seed. The promised Savior can be traced through the Old Testament to the line of David and the promises God gave David that he would have a descendent sit on his throne forever (2 Sam 7:13). This is an important part of the Gospel because it shows that the Messiah had to have a human as well as divine origin in order to pay for our sins. Remembering Jesus descended from David reminds us that through all of history, not one prophecy has failed to bring Jesus at the right time through the line of David. We can trust a God who does that.
It may be that only after reading Daniel Jewish scholars started talking of the coming Messiah. However they missed the whole point of verse 26 where Jesus is cut of (killed) not because of anything He did, but for our sins. The title of Messiah for them was a conquering king, they didn’t understand that Messiah was also one who would save us from our sins and that would cost His life.
Messiah in the New Testament
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ." Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him. (Mark 8:29-30 NKJV)
Jesus seldom referred to Himself as Christ yet that is one of the major issues that the Jewish rulers used to accuse Jesus before Pilate and taunt Him at the crucifixion (Luke 23:2, 35).  The Jewish rulers understood that the title of Christ was the same as Son of Man and Son of God (Luke 22:66-70). Jesus knew that the title of Christ would mark Him as the coming ruler of Israel but that was not the purpose of His first coming.
After Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah, He taught them about His future suffering, death, and resurrection (Mark 8:31). He elaborated on this after His resurrection when He explained that this was predicted by Moses and the prophets (Luke 24:25-27). When we remember the title of Christ or Messiah, we should remember that this is the title of the one who has suffered and died for our sins but who is raised to prove that He is God. His resurrection is a fundamental part of the Gospel and without it, we would not have a Messiah and we would not have hope (1 Cor 15:14).
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt 24:30 KJV)
The conquering Messiah is yet to come. Jesus identified Himself with the conquering Messiah when He talked in Matthew 24 and 25 of His return and the events that will lead up to it. The coming of the Messiah will accomplish two things. The first will be judgment upon the wicked of the world. That is why all the tribes of the earth will mourn. At that time they will realize they had not remembered Jesus. They didn’t turn to Him for salvation when they had a chance. They will see His power and glory and mourn because they will not be a part of it.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ … (Rev 12:10 KJV)
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev 20:6 KJV)
The second thing that will be accomplished is the kingdom of God; salvation for all who have trusted in Jesus will be finalized. Christ or Messiah is clearly identified as God’s Christ or God’s Anointed. Salvation for all of us who have yielded to Jesus, God’s Anointed, in this age will be completed when we reign with Him in the millennial kingdom and on into eternity. Remembering Jesus the Messiah assures us of a perfect future without sin and evil.
Why Remember?
… give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov 30:8-9 NIV)
When do doubts come crashing in on you? Is it when you are in despair because of hardship or having too little? Or do doubts come when things are going to easy and you wonder if it is really because of your own abilities that things are going smoothly? The proverb warns that having either too little or too much can lead a person away from the Lord. Which is worse?
We see that ease of life has taken most cultures far away from the Lord as economies boom, people become self sufficient and forget about the Lord. Is that any worse than those within the culture who are poor and despised, who then result to illegal activities to make ends meet? The problem for both is the same. They haven’t remembered Jesus. Even worse, the next generation doesn’t even hear about Jesus. Their emptiness often leads them to other religions and the downward spiral of civilization intensifies.
Psalm 42 is the cry of person who is in deep depression. Doubts assail him as his enemies taunt him asking where his God is (vs. 3). For some reason, he has been cut off from worshipping with others (vs. 4); perhaps he just doesn’t feel like worshipping. He feels as if God is drowning him in sorrow (vs. 7) and has forgotten him (vs. 9). His depression is even causing him to have physical illness (vs. 10). What is his response to all this?
O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee … (Ps 42:6 KJV)
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. (Ps 42:11 KJV)
Can you believe this? His world has come crashing down on him and he starts talking to himself. He tells himself two fundamental things to keep going. First, he makes a decision to remember God. Second, he makes a decision to hope in God. Hope in God is not wishful thinking, it is looking forward to that which we have been assured is true (Heb 11:1). These two things lead him to praise God even in the midst of his problems.
We can raise us up from depression as well when we take some time to remember everything that the Lord has done. We can start in Genesis and praise Him for creation and work our way through the Bible to see how He is in control and works all things together to culminate in the book of Revelation and eternity with Him. We can remember how He has worked in our own lives and if we don’t think He has, then we’d better consider whether or not we belong to Him. If we belong to Him, if we have been born again, then we are assured of our eternity with Him (1 John 5:13).