Fruit That Will Last

This entry is part 61 of 61 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by silviarita from Pixabay

Everyone wants to be productive. I surf the web all the time and find all kinds of blog posts and articles about how to be productive. They cover everything from the apps you can use to be productive to all kinds of methods and philosophies of productivity.

Productivity is a big business. It applies to every possible job out there. No matter what you do, people who talk about productivity could either sell you a product or teach you principles on how to be more productive in your line of work.

Would it surprise you that the Holy Spirit wants you to be productive in holiness? Believe it or not, the Bible talks a lot about our holiness and production. It uses the words “bearing fruit” to talk about the results of a holy character and behavior in each Christian.

The “fruit” is the result of what the Holy Spirit is leading us to be in our character and deeds. Some people say that only our deeds are referred to when the Bible says fruit. But other people say that it’s our character. As I will show, it’s both.

Biblical Fruit

Fruit in the Bible can refer to the actual piece of fruit that a person eats, a literal understanding. But most often, it takes the idea of that literal fruit and uses it to refer to the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in our character and deeds.

The Bible gives examples of fruit as deeds when Jesus says in John 15 that without him we can do nothing. But will be getting into that in just a few moments. It also talks about fruit as character. The example of the Fruit of the Spirit lists nine qualities of the fruit. Those nine qualities are character issues and characteristics of the Christian life.

God isn’t interested in just the outer part of us, the works that we do. He is also interested in the inner life, are character before him. Doing often comes out of being. We are who we are, and based on that, we do what we do.

We must understand that the Holy Spirit begins with our character, working on the hardest part of us. This is where the true change happens, why nobody really notices it until it flows out into our deeds. The Spirit aims to produce the character of Christ inside of us.

Character is like the engine of a vehicle. The engine is under the hood, and nobody really sees it unless they open the hood. The Holy Spirit is the one who opens the hood and gets down into our character. He works on each character trait that doesn’t resemble Christ.

Without the engine, the car goes nowhere. Without God, we can’t do his works. But when our character, our engine, is godly, and the Holy Spirit is working on it, we begin to notice changes on the outside, the things that we do.

What we do is based on who we are. When the Holy Spirit changes our character and transforms it to conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), what we do changes also. We go from doing what we want to do to what God wants us to do.

The Holy Spirit changes our evil desires for pleasure that we used to have before we met Christ. Our desire becomes to do what God wants us to do. We want to please the Lord out of love and gratitude for what he has done for us.

So it starts on the inside and goes to the outside. As our character changes, the works we do change. People begin to notice. They want to know what happened to us. And this is where we can witness and tell them that Jesus has changed our lives.

It goes from unnoticed to noticed. It’s all because the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and changes our lives one character trait at a time. We will be getting into how he changes are character in the next few posts.

Judging Fruit

No one can see what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of every Christian. As a pastor in the church, it often falls to me to deal with disciplinary issues among Christians. I bring this up because the only way we can tell that a person is not obeying the Holy Spirit is through what we observe them doing and saying.

Christians have a lot of issues about how to judge people. Everyone points out Jesus’ injunction about not judging others in Matthew 7. But then later on in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about judging the fruit of others.

If fruit is both character and deeds, then we do have to judge people. But here’s the key to understanding these two ideas, one from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7 and when Jesus talks about a tree and its fruit. In Matthew 7:1-?, Jesus is specifically referring to judgment that criticizes another person, condemns them.

Judging for condemnation or with a critical spirit is not what Jesus wants us to be doing. It is not our place to be the Judge. That is God’s place and he will do it better than we ever would. He has perfect perspective and infinite knowledge of each person. His judgments are the only ones that are truly just.

But when you read Matthew 12:34 and following, you find Jesus talking about judging the fruit of good and bad trees. Fruit here refers to deeds. You are looking at what a person produces, and you see the result of their character development.

It’s important for us to understand that this kind of judgment is not critical or condemning. It is a judgment that evaluates what you see and hear. It gives a window into the character of a person. We must be careful to only evaluate the deeds of a person, not to critically judge their character.

Often times I use this as a pastor. I am only human, and I cannot see into the character of a person. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is working on in you. But if I see or hear you doing something that does not represent Christ well, I am obligated as a believer in Jesus to address the issue, especially as a leader in the church.

This must be done with love. It must be done with tact. We must tell the truth about one another. This is where the Scripture about judgment beginning with the house of God comes in (1 Peter 4:17).

But as I said, it is not a critical or condemning judgment. There is no condemnation for Christians (Romans 8:1). This is an evaluation, meant to build up and help believers understand how their character and deeds would be judged by the world.

Our Source

One of the most challenging passages about bearing good fruit that lasts comes from John 15. As Jesus is about to leave the disciples through his suffering on the cross and death, he outlines in John 13-17 all of the things he wants them to focus on from his teaching.

He talks about bearing fruit, referring to deeds. Jesus teaches his disciples, and us, that he is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus is the source for all the good deeds that we do. Good fruit that we bear comes from our relationship with Christ.

Jesus teaches that those branches, or disciples, that don’t bear fruit the Father takes away (John 15:2). Even the disciples who bear fruit are pruned so that they can bear even more fruit. But the key is in our relationship, in abiding, in Jesus.

The good works that we do, the good fruit that we bear, it doesn’t come from us. It comes from a relationship with Jesus (John 15:3). And Jesus comes right out and says it in black and white, or in red and white, that apart from him we as his disciples can do nothing on our own (John 15:5).

We prove to be Jesus’ disciples when we bear much fruit (John 15:8). The only way we could bear a lot of fruit for Jesus is to remain in him, to abide in Jesus alone. Let’s not look to any other source to bear good fruit other than Jesus.

People talk about doing good things for others because they are nice people or they make it a goal in life to do nice things or good things. But according to these verses, Jesus tells us that he is the source for all of the good fruit we bear. Apart from our relationship with Jesus, we will not bear good fruit.

Fruit in the Bible

While John 15 is mostly about fruit as doing good deeds for Jesus, the Fruit of the Spirit speaks of the kind of fruit that is our character. The Holy Spirit is cultivated the one fruit, which has the nine qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

These are all character traits, not actions. To have the character trait of love or joy or peace or any of the others requires that the Holy Spirit works on our character to make it more like Christ, who demonstrates each of these nine qualities perfectly.

I will be talking more about the Fruit of the Spirit in later posts, but I wanted to introduce the idea here to show that sometimes fruit talks about deeds, and other times it talks about character traits. Either way, the Holy Spirit is working Christ’s character and deeds in us.

Sometimes it is very hard to distinguish which is being referred to when the Bible uses fruit. I suggest that in some circumstances, fruit refers more to the final product of the Holy Spirit’s work in both our character and our deeds.

The end result of who we are in Christ works to show what the Holy Spirit has done in us. Our character affects our deeds, and our deeds reflect our character. If you see someone doing good things, it is because the Holy Spirit is working in their character.

Fruit is used widely in the Bible, everything from literal fruit, like in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the trees in the garden, to figurative fruit for the end result or final product. Here are some of the figurative ways writers of the New Testament refer to character and deeds.

Paul uses fruit to talk about the results or benefits people get from the old life (Romans 6:21-22). He also speaks of living as children of light, describing what is expected of us, as the fruit of light that consists in all that is good, right, and true (Ephesians 5:9). This verse uses fruit to be descriptive of the character and actions we produce as God’s children.

Paul speaks of the gospel as bearing fruit in the world (Colossians 1:6). He further speaks of the Colossian believers bearing fruit, or results, not only in good works but also in learning about God (Colossians 1:10).

The writer of Hebrews uses fruit to talk about the results of discipline and calls these results peaceful, and the fruit is righteousness itself. This is another descriptive use for the word “fruit.” He writes in the conclusion of the letter that the “fruit of the lips” acknowledges Jesus’ name and is a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).

As James compares earthly wisdom with heavenly wisdom, he describes heavenly wisdom, or wisdom from above, with the words “full of mercy and good fruit” (James 3:17). He compares the actions of heavenly wisdom with earthly wisdom

Conclusion

As we have found in studying fruit in the Bible, it refers to both character and actions. God evaluates both, and neither of them can hide from his all seeing eyes. God knows us inside and out. And his Holy Spirit is working on the character and deeds in our lives.

As we continue to talk about all of the things the Holy Spirit does in our hearts, we will see that he is all about production and godly results. He works great things in us, things we cannot do ourselves.

Leave a comment and tell me how you understand bearing fruit in the Bible. May we all grow not only in godly character but also in godly deeds! Thank God for the Holy Spirit who guides us into holiness.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Testament Origin

This entry is part 367 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by KatineArt from Pixabay

Is there really a New Testament (New Covenant) ? If so how is it different?

Yes, there is a New Testament. It came about because of some of the Old Testament prophets that prophesied about a new covenant that God was making with his people. The words Testament and covenant refer to the same thing.

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God declares that he is making a new covenant with his people, the house of Israel and Judah. He charges that they broke the old covenant. Old covenant refers to the covenant that God made with Moses on Mount Sinai. This is the covenant from which all of the Old Testament laws originate.

There have been several covenants throughout Scripture that God makes with different people. One of the things we must realize about a covenant is that it has an initiator and a beneficiary. The covenant is in place as long as the initiator continues to agree to it, changes it, or dies. Since God is the initiator of all the covenants, they are still in place.

Some of them become obsolete as new covenants are made. This is what has happened to the old covenant as far as Christians, who follow the new covenant, are concerned. This doesn’t mean that the old covenant does not have any value. Indeed, the Old Testament, or old covenant, is still attached to Christian Bibles.

Back to Jeremiah 31:31-34. God declares that he is making a new covenant with Israel. In the New Testament, the claim can be made that God’s people, the true Israel, includes everyone who follows the new covenant through Jesus Christ.

God claims that part of the new covenant will be him putting his laws within them and write them on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). This is fulfilled for those who follow the new covenant through following Jesus. He fulfilled Old Testament law in himself and those who follow his teachings and commandments fulfill the law through obedience to his Spirit.

Jesus taught about internalizing Old Testament law, using many examples from the Ten Commandments in his Sermon on the Mount. He would start by saying, “You have heard it said…” Then he would follow that with a much harder teaching requiring not only outward or behavioral obedience but internal obedience.

Jeremiah follows by recording God saying that he will be their God and they will be his people (Jeremiah 31:33). Jesus does this in the new covenant because he is the second member of the Trinity, God himself come to humanity. And those who follow him are his people. He unites in himself both believing Jews and believing Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-22; Romans 9-11).

God then declares that no one will have to teach his neighbor about the Lord because they will know the Lord from the least of them to the greatest (Jeremiah 31:34). This is best demonstrated in the new covenant by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-11).

On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the least and the greatest. In the old covenant, the Holy Spirit came upon people who would fulfill service in the three offices of Israel, prophets, priests, and kings. They were anointed as a sign that the Holy Spirit was upon them for service in these three offices.

But the amazing thing about the new covenant and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28 and following) is that every believer in Jesus in the New Testament receives the Holy Spirit as he dwells in them. No longer does he choose individuals and come upon them, but now he dwells in followers of Jesus.

Because the Holy Spirit dwells in believers, they know God, the third member of the Trinity. They also know Jesus, the second member of the Trinity. So they will all know God from the least of them to the greatest.

Finally as part of this prophecy from Jeremiah, God says that he will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34). This is fulfilled through Jesus’ forgiveness of the sin of those who believe in his name. Because Jesus is God, he is literally fulfilling this prophecy for all who believe in him.

Another way that the new covenant or New Testament is different from the Old Testament or old covenant is that it shows the messianic prophecies coming true through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Parts of the New Testament go to great length to show that he is the Messiah who fulfills all of the Old Testament prophecies about him.

Throughout the Old Testament there are many prophecies about a Servant who will come in God’s name and restore Israel. This individual in Isaiah is known as the suffering Servant. There are psalms about him as well. And there are many prophecies in the prophetic books.

He is called the Lord’s Anointed One, also known as the Messiah. Scriptures about him are littered throughout the Old Testament. Jesus comes and fulfills all of these prophecies, showing that he is this Anointed One, the one who ultimately fulfills all of these Scriptures.

The new covenant is administered by him to the people of God. So the New Testament is all about Jesus, the Messiah. The New Testament, or new covenant, is different from the old for these reasons. But it presents a sort of new era or new realm, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God. It shows those who believe in Jesus how to live in this new covenant.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

This entry is part 368 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Why does God not forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Is there any hope for anyone who did that to be forgiven if only he repents?

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is taught by Jesus in Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 1:28-29. The context explains much of why this is the unpardonable sin. Then we can understand how to apply it today and answered the full context of the question.

In Mark 1:23, the scribes and Pharisees, the teachers of the Old Testament to Israel who have the responsibility of knowing Scripture better than anyone else, accuse Jesus of having a demon because he delivers people from demons as part of his ministry.

The claim that he casts out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus goes on to explain a house divided against itself cannot stand. Why would the prince of demons allow Jesus to remove the demons he put on assignment in those people? It makes no sense.

Basically the scribes and Pharisees who are supposed to be so wise in the Scriptures make claims out of ignorance. But it’s even worse than that. Such a claim about Jesus blasphemes or speaks against his ministry and his person.

Jesus goes on to say that he will personally forgive anyone who does this and then changes their opinion of him after they believe in him (Mark 1:28). However, if a person makes this claim about the work of the Spirit it will not be forgiven (Mark 1:29).

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can best be defined as giving credit to demons the work of the Holy Spirit. You are literally worshiping a demon by giving it credit for the things that God is doing by his Holy Spirit.

It is unforgivable because it is a claim only someone who does not know God would make. To credit the works of God to Satan is to worship him. Anyone who knows Jesus and worships him would never do this. It is the final act of someone who is falling away from Jesus. The Bible calls it apostasy, or falling away.

It is the final step in severing your relationship with God. Or it is what an unbeliever who doesn’t believe in Jesus and doesn’t want forgiveness does. This is why it is unforgivable. It’s not because God doesn’t want to forgive the person. It’s because the person doesn’t seek forgiveness for what they say.

Our words have the power to carry with them the actions that they profess. If we speak against the Holy Spirit through attributing his works to demons, we are actually attributing his works to demons. This is the sin of speaking an action into existence.

We see the same context in Matthew 12:22-32. Jesus delivers a demon-oppressed man and Pharisees claimed the same thing they do in Mark, that Jesus delivers people from demons by the power of the Prince of demons (Matthew 12:24). They attribute the work of God to demons.

Jesus then challenges the Pharisees by asking who their disciples cast demons out by (Matthew 12:27). He then further explains that if he casts demons out by the Spirit of God, God’s kingdom has come upon them (Matthew 12:28).

He is basically saying that they are attributing the Spirit’s work through Jesus to demons. While there accusing him of operating by demons, they are attributing the work he does through the Spirit to demons.

Jesus forgives them for accusing him of operating by demons. But the Holy Spirit will not allow his work to be attributed to demons. Because those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit do it out of spite, unbelief, and a desire to mislead others about God, the Holy Spirit does not forgive the sin.

If the person were repentant it would be a forgivable sin. But no one who commits this send desires to be forgiven. This is why they sin in this manner. They do it in rebellion toward God, an act purposefully done against him and premeditated.

Once again, it is not unforgivable because God is unforgiving. It is unforgivable because the person who commits the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit willfully does it against God, not desiring to be forgiven.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Operate in Love

This entry is part 365 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

What are your thoughts on the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 13:2?

In the larger picture of 1 Corinthians 12-14 concerning spiritual gifts and their operation in the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 13 sits in the middle. Paul has described the nine spiritual gifts used in corporate worship in 1 Corinthians 12.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives a lengthy teaching on how to use especially the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues with interpretation. These must have been the two gifts that the Corinthians most misused.

In between introducing the gifts and teaching about their operation Paul explains the best way to use any of the gifts he mentions. First Corinthians 13 is usually used in weddings and is called the Love Chapter. But it is not about marital love.

The word for love used in the original language refers to unconditional love. It’s function in 1 Corinthians 12-14 doesn’t concerned marriage, but the unconditional love we have for one another as we operate in all of the gifts.

We know that it is a clear connection not only because it sits between these other two chapters but because Paul speaks about spiritual gifts and the importance of love over spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8-10).

In 1 Corinthians 13:1, he begins with the example of speaking in tongues. This powerful gift spoke to the community of faith. But if it wasn’t done with unconditional love for the entire body and all of its members, it was just a bunch of noise. Paul will later clarify in 1 Corinthians 14 that speaking in tongues for the corporate service must be accompanied by interpretation.

First Corinthians 13:2 contains Paul’s second example of gifts that are powerful but useless without love. He lists prophecy, words of knowledge, and the gift of faith. These can be very powerful when used..

But underlying the operation of the gifts is an unconditional love for the ones that we minister 6. The entire point of 1 Corinthians 13 is that we must unconditionally love those to whom our gifts are directed if we will be at all effective.

First Corinthians 13 finishes out examples of the gifts by including ones that Paul has not introduced as spiritual gifts. I consider the gift in 1 Corinthians 13:3 to be generosity. Paul speaks about that in other places (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).

Perhaps not only generosity, but also humility and sacrifice are in view here. The point is that generosity and sacrifice are gifts we used to bless others. But when we use these gifts, we also are blessed when they are received by others.

This is what Paul means when he talks about gaining nothing. If our generosity and sacrifice are not done in the spirit of unconditional love, we have wasted the gifts.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Jonah and the Ninevites

This entry is part 36a of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Parker_West from Pixabay

Is it implied that Jonah related more to the people of Nineveh than what is recorded?

The book of Jonah is one of the most interesting prophetic books of the Old Testament. Here’s a prophet God actually calls away from Israel to their enemies. The Ninevites were the sworn enemies of the Israelites, the strongest empire in Jonah’s day.

Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrians. While they were the military and political power of the day, they were an extremely wicked people. This is exactly why God sent Jonah to them. He sent him to declare and prophesy their destruction by God’s hands.

Jonah was more than okay with this arrangement until God gave the ultimatum in his prophecy that if the Ninevites turned to the Lord, they would be saved. Jonah wanted them, as his nation’s archenemies, to pay the price of God’s judgment.

This is why at the end of the book in Jonah 4 he goes out after God changes his decision to destroy the Ninevites and sits under the tree. He complains to God because God changed his mind and stayed his judgment of the Ninevites.

The book ends by God reminding Jonah that he is sovereign and gets to decide what he does with each nation and every people group. He reminds Jonah that these are people, not just his enemies, and they need his salvation also.

Jonah ends the book by being upset with God because of his grace toward the Ninevites. This is the basic narrative of his book. He was upset that God would give his grace to the enemies of Israel. But God has a larger rule.

He is gracious to those who hear the gospel message and turn from their wickedness and worship him. He is no respecter of our enemies, friends, or any other relationships we have with others. And like Jonah, he will use us to send that message of grace to anyone.

He cares more about individual people and their response to the gospel than he does our thoughts on who should be saved and who shouldn’t. Everyone is worthy of God’s grace if they confess, repent, and turn to the Lord.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Leave a comment

God Gives Good Gifts

This entry is part 370 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds

What is the meaning of Matthew 7:10?

This short verse is part of a supporting argument Jesus is making during the Sermon on the Mount. This part of the sermon runs from Matthew 7:7-11. Jesus tells us as his disciples that we can ask, seek, and knock, and God will answer, respond to us.

He seeks to clarify that God does not keep things from his children. He always answers when we ask, seek, and knock. All of these are approaches to God. God is open to his children and answers them immediately. He is not vindictive in his answers.

To show this, Jesus presents two illustrations that every parent in the audience would have understood clearly. The premise is that parents want to give their children the very best. They want to answer their children’s questions or give them exactly what they want.

The two examples he gives are local to Galilee where he preached this sermon. Every person in the audience would understand each illustration. Because we are over 2000 years removed from this teaching of Jesus, we must understand the historical and cultural references.

Illustrations show images of the point Jesus is making. In the first one, he asks if any parent would give to their child a stone instead of the bread the child asks for (Matthew 7:9). No parent wants to see their child go hungry. It would be cruel and evil to give the child a stone to eat instead of bread.

Why would Jesus refer to bread as a stone? When a loaf of bread was made in Israel, it resembled the stones. It was about the same size. It also looked like a stone in color. We see this happen elsewhere in the New Testament.

When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) Satan tempts him after he is very hungry to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). Because stones resemble bread, but are not bright at all, this is a perfect illustration to use in his sermon.

The second illustration comes to the verse you cited in your question. Jesus says, “Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:10). As many of the fishermen in the crowd would have known, fish in the Sea of Galilee had a longer body than most.

The fish resembled in look an eel than they did the fish we think of today. They looked like smaller sized snakes. So when Jesus says a serpent instead of fish, you get the impression that it is a look like, something designed to look like a true gift but will let the child down upon further examination.

These illustrations feed into Jesus’ point that when the Father in heaven gives gifts to his children, they are not look-alikes, mirages, or any other sort of illusion. They are good gifts, the real deal, and he gives them to us freely. When we ask God for this or that, he gives us when we ask for, and nothing else.

Jesus says that all human beings, even parents, have evil motives and intentions (Matthew 7:11). Parents want to give their children the world. But even their best intentions may not be enough. We give gifts expecting a certain response, but getting a different one.

Everyone at Christmas expects to see the gift they have given have positive effect on the one who receives it. But it doesn’t always happen in reality the way that the person or parent wants to see. The desired effect may not happen at all. There could even be a negative effect. We do the best we can, but even we can’t get it right every time when we give gifts.

We do our very best. Most of the time, our efforts are met with our desired outcome. But despite our disability at times to give the good gifts we want to give to children, God is not like that at all. Every gift he gives is a good gift that hits the target.

That’s what makes God a good Father. He gives the good gifts that we ask for, seek him for, and knock on his door to receive. Because we are his children and because he is a good God, he gives the gift we seek.

You will never receive from got something other than what you ask him for. Luke also records this saying of Jesus during his sermon (Luke 11:9-13). He only mentions that God gives what we ask for.

In Matthew, the request is general, speaking of parents giving good gifts to their children (Matthew 7:11). But in Luke Jesus becomes even more specific, saying that the gift the Father gives is the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Leave a comment

Trustworthiness of the Bible

This entry is part 369 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds

What makes the Bible trustworthy?

People want many evidences to confirm that the Bible is reliable or trustworthy. Reliability itself is a test of the Bible. I will present several arguments for the trustworthiness of the Bible with one caveat.

I will provide a few avenues of human studies that will help to verify that the Bible is trustworthy. First, the Bible agrees with human history. The people mentioned in the pages of the Bible existed in history at the time that the Bible references them.

As we research human history as recorded in external sources, we will notice that these people show up on the scene in history at the times the Bible mentions. They are also contemporaries of the people mentioned in the Bible.

Archaeology continues to prove over and over that biblical accounts of history and the people involved in the Bible events truly did exist. Archaeologists as they did up history are finding compatible evidence that the times of the Bible and the people there, the cultures and societies in the Bible at those times, are accurate and real. We find evidence of these civilizations as we dig in the earth.

Another form of evidence that verifies biblical truth and makes the Bible trustworthy is a discipline called textual criticism. Especially helpful in the New Testament, this discipline compares the thousands of Greek manuscripts to verify the accuracy of the original documents we don’t have anymore.

As scholars compare these manuscripts, they are finding that the Bible is 99.75% accurate between the comparison of these texts. This proves that the Bible does have today in the New Testament especially is accurate to the one that was written originally in the first century AD. This shows that God preserves his Word throughout time.

Scholars also talk about intertextuality. This is the study of how the Bible interacts with itself between books. What I mean by this is that the Bible has been written over 1600 years by 40 different authors in several different cultural contexts throughout history.

Each book carries what is called a metanarrative, an overarching account that is accurate when referenced between the books. One book can refer to something in another book accurately. It’s astounding to most scholars that throughout so much time with so many different authors the Bible could be so consistent.

Finally, the little snag that presents itself to anyone who does not believe in the trustworthiness of God’s Word. The Bible presents facts along the way. Everything we’ve talked about from historical facts to scientific facts (current with the time of the author) present external and internal evidence of the trustworthiness of the Bible.. But it is primarily a book of faith.

Every part of the Bible from beginning to end expects faith from its reader. Even with the opening verse of the entire Bible, Genesis 1:1, requires faith to continue reading. It says, “In the beginning God created…” Right at the start it requires belief in a supernatural being called God who is outside of creation and decided to create everything.

Book after book is written within history and culture but requires faith to believe that God intervenes in human history. You can talk about how trustworthy the Bible can possibly be in use all kinds of external evidence.

But it will always fall short because the Bible requires belief and faith, a trust in the Bible itself. It’s a trust in the claims of Scripture. And if faith leads to trust in the God of the Bible, faith also leads to trust in the Bible as God’s Word spoken to human beings who recorded it throughout time, culture, and history. I can provide evidence that the Bible is trustworthy, but in the end it comes to faith.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lukewarm Christian

This entry is part 366 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Nick Looy from Pixabay

What are some steps to not become a lukewarm Christian?

One of the best ways to stay away from becoming a lukewarm Christian is to continue to be passionate in your walk with Christ. The exact opposite of lukewarm is on fire. Jesus himself said that he would prefer a Christian be hot or cold instead of lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16).

This is the only place in the entire Bible where the word “lukewarm” is used. Jesus wants us to be passionate about him and our walk with him. Even if a Christian were cold instead of lukewarm, Jesus can do some work to bring that person back in the relationship with him.

So the first step is to search out all that you can when you read your Bible. Reading the Bible raises questions that need answers. If you pursue understanding the Bible to its full extent, it will help you remain passionate for God.

Another way to do this is through prayer and worship. These are open doors to connect with God. The more that we do them, the more we fall in love with Jesus all over again. We grow in him and care about his expectations for us.

Yet another step to take is to get involved in the Christian community. I’m not just talking about showing up to church once a week for service. I’m talking about getting involved with groups, spending time with other Christians.

Spending time with other Christians is like iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). As we spend time with one another, we ask questions and grow in God together. We spur one another on. We encourage each other and make each other want to know God more.

Some of what you will have to do happens on your own. Evangelism, witnessing about Christ to your friends and other people that don’t know the Lord also keeps you passionate for Jesus. They will ask you questions and even reject you. But they do it because you know Christ.

Facing these people by sharing your faith is another way to stay sharp on what you know about Jesus, but also to share the reason why you love him in the first place. Sharing your testimony, or your story, helps you remember your own experience in beginning to follow Christ.

There are probably other steps to take, but these will get you started in keeping you away from becoming a lukewarm, dispassionate Christian. When you read the entire letter to the Laodicean church, they became complacent because they thought they were all that and a bag of chips in the culture.

They embraced the world and thought they were rich and prosperous. They didn’t attribute any success they had to Jesus. Instead, they had embraced their culture so much that they couldn’t even remember who Jesus was.

This can happen easily in our secular culture. You can’t have the world and Christ (James 4:1-8). We can’t pick a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I’m not saying that you can’t interact with our culture. But the more that you do, without examining the philosophies and values of our culture, it will lure you away from Christ.

You must have a balance between your interaction with the world and chasing after Jesus. Stay close to Jesus, and spend time in the world for the kingdom’s sake. The friends you have that aren’t Christians, witness to them and maintain these friendships. But don’t forget that you are a child of God and that the Christian community and heaven are your true home.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Your Heavenly Employer Part 5

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Your Heavenly Employer

As we finish out this series on the theology of work in the Bible, we all want to please God and how we work for him. If you’ve missed some of these five posts about the theology of work, check out the previous posts also.

Most Christians are concerned about what God wants them to do. Scouring the Scriptures to learn his principles and commandments about work is my goal in these posts. We’ve talked about everything from being lazy to being a workaholic.

But in this post I want to lay out God’s principles for work that pleases him. Work hits the heart of what we do most of our day. No one wants to be a slouch at work. God has great expectations for us and how we handle our jobs. Let’s take a look at these principles.

Quality Work

Not only is there a correlation between production and consumption in God’s Word, but also a principle that work should be skilled and done with excellence. There seems to be a testing of the work we all do on the Day of the Lord at the end of time.

God cares about the quality of the work you do. We are commanded to put our whole heart into our work and work with excellence. Think about this: your work as a representative of Christ is just as much about His reputation as yours. When we don’t do a good job, it reflects poorly on our witness.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Colossians 3:17, 23-24

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him”

Ephesians 6:3-9

Employers and Employees

Another principle about our work as believers in Jesus is that it must be done with excellence, as unto the Lord. If anyone is curious why I have pointed to a passage about slaves and masters in the New Testament, our American idea of slavery, and our history with it, is very different from Roman slavery and biblical slavery.

Surely enough slavery of other human beings in any fashion is not God’s very best. Many question why Christians did not outright fight against slavery and why Paul provided guidelines for it instead of abolishing it.

What Americans do not understand, because we color the Scriptures with our own historical meaning of slavery as a horrible moral evil, is that slavery in the Roman times was more like our current employer/employee relationship.

Oftentimes, slaves could earn independence and freedom from their master. True, it was up to the master to be kind enough to allow a slave to pay into freedom, but it was possible for a slave to gain freedom, if that slave even wanted it. Slaves were not treated the best in the Bible times, but they were treated better than in American slavery.

Some slaves were even paid to work for their masters. The payment made them slaves. They might have had a debt to repay. Even the Old Testament Law of Moses allowed for slavery to be an option when someone had a debt to pay.

It is up to the slave and master to be godly even in this situation in life. Let me remind each of us as believers that Paul uses the language of slavery to show that we are slaves to righteousness and God’s Law (Romans 6:15-23).

Paul in Scripture asks slaves to be obedient, and masters to be kind and not threaten the slaves. If the master acted like God, our heavenly Master, toward his slaves, and if the slave honored his master as he honors Christ, the slave relationship was essentially Christianized.

I hear people who work for good bosses say they’d rather work for them than anyone else. When we treat one another properly at work, we will find that work is not as harsh as the curse has made it to be.

Christian employees are expected to do excellent, top notch work for their employers. We are also expected to have the mind and attitude of Christ toward them. That means that we don’t bad-mouth them or be insolent.

Granted, if we are being mistreated, we do need to voice our concerns, but in a godly, redeeming, and Christ-like way. Along with our excellence in job performance, we must consider that we are working for the Lord, not for people.

“As unto the Lord” is a serious injunction by Paul that calls us to consider our work as working for God, not for human beings. So what would you do if God was your employer? How would you approach your work differently?

If you are a Christian employer, it is up to you as a manager of your people to be kind and like Christ toward them, dealing with them in grace. Don’t pick favorites or pit employee against employee. Competition must not become ungodly or demeaning.

Treat them with respect, and you will find they enjoy working for you. You’ll get more efficiency and production out of them for it! But it is key for employers and managers to realize that they are working with people, not things. Don’t act like you own the people. Act like a team player, but serve in the leader role and function.

Follow Godly Principles

Of course there are a host of other principles about work you can gain from God’s Word! There are parables that speak directly to work ethic. There is wisdom literature that teaches us how to be better workers.

We all want to enjoy our jobs. No one wants the job they are not built to do. They spin their wheels for a long time and remain unhappy. Sometimes there are seasons in our lives where we must do these jobs.

But we must remember these principles and do them with joy, as unto the Lord. If the Lord asked you to do menial tasks that must be done to serve others, you would do them for Him. Our Lord Jesus taught us to be servants (John 13:12-20).

Indeed, there are a host of other passages in both Testaments referring to work, but these principles will help you to have a Christian work ethic in whatever you do:

  • A balanced work ethic honors God and His principles.
  • A balanced work ethic is a witness to unbelievers and believers.
  • A balanced work ethic places priorities in the proper order and maintains them.

So when it comes to work, the Bible teaches work as part of God’s design for humanity. It is something we would do even if sin wasn’t part of our world. The medicine of Scripture’s teachings for those who do not work is for them to balance work with responsibility. It calls them to be productive and to serve the Lord through whatever He has gifted them and skilled them to do in their lives.

For those who work too much, the Bible’s medicine is a steady dose of Sabbath and rest. They must not overwork themselves. We were designed to glorify God by being good stewards of this body, and the life He gives. When we overwork, we neglect the other areas of our lives. We must worship God by giving Him one of our seven days in a week.

For those who are fairly balanced in their work attendance, the message of God’s Word is that we must be excellent at what we do because it is ultimately for the Lord’s sake, not ours. Even in duty we must pay attention to detail and so glorify God.

Conclusion

Most of all, we find we have work to do for God. We are imitators of God, His representatives and ambassadors in this world. Being godly and sharing Christian values in each situation honors God. Living for Him while at work is a plus for anyone’s evangelistic efforts.

Even in work, Christians must look different than the world. Wherever you are and wherever you go, you can do your greatest job as a child of the King by witnessing about Him and showing others through demonstration the grace and power of our Lord. Our primary job is to serve Christ, and the nine to five is a way in which we can do that.

Have you enjoyed our study of work in the Bible? Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve gotten out of this study. May the Lord teach us to balance our work and responsibility, and to take our seventh day rest.

Posted in Theology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creation and Dinosaurs

This entry is part 364 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Rolando Otero from Pixabay

What is your opinion on the world’s creation as described in the Bible? Do you think it is true? Then what about the dinosaurs which existed before humans?

My opinion on God creating the entire universe out of nothing is that it requires faith on our part. But then again, any approach to creation requires faith. Evolution especially requires faith, because we know that chance is not even a scientific approach.

Since none of us was there to witness creation, we must rely on faith. There is nothing different between the faith to believe in the supernatural being who created everything or to believe in chance, and all of the options in between.

The only difference is how much faith we have in each of these options and what we base that faith on. As a Christian, I place my faith in the narrative given to me in the book of Genesis and other books that talk about creation.

I believe that God created everything in the beginning. I understand Genesis 1 to be a poetic representation of how God created. I also understand Genesis 1:1 to give the overarching story of creation, Genesis 1:2 to zoom in on how God created, and Genesis 2 to zoom in even further and focus on his creation of animals and humanity.

I think it is the most elegant approach to show that God created with intent and purpose. We are not accidents or objects of chance. He placed us here and approved of his creation. He has a plan for each of us.

Beyond this, I believe that the creation taught in Genesis 1-2 goes against all of the other creation narratives of Moses’ day. When he wrote these chapters under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was showing that the God of the Bible is way different than the gods of the other nations.

All of these other narratives show humans and creation as accidents of these gods. They don’t care about humanity, or they have a negative view of it. But the God of the Bible created with a different approach in mind. And he still intervenes and interacts with humanity today.

As far as dinosaurs are concerned, I believe that God made all of them. The Bible tells us that he made all of the animals of the land, air, and sea. There are several ways to approach why they are extinct today.

In my opinion, one of the best understandings I have read about is the idea that the great flood caused the massive death of dinosaurs at one time, showing why there are many bones for dinosaurs and they are all in the same places. It also explains why they would have been covered up.

One of the best ways I can explain dinosaurs is for you to take a look at the question about dinosaurs that I have answered in the past here. I present a few other views about dinosaurs that agree with the creation narrative and the rest of the Bible. The Bible does talk about dinosaurs. So take a look if you have the opportunity in time to view that post.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment