God and Time

This entry is part 382 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

If a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day for the Lord, why did he create time in the first place?

This idea and phrase comes from 2 Peter 3:8. Before I talk about God and time, let me lay down the context of this passage so we can understand why Peter says this. Here’s the passage:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:8–10, ESV)

When Peter states that it is a fact that a thousand years is as a day to the Lord, he is using an illustration or example to show that the Lord is outside of time. The Lord does not endure the passage of time as we do. He is eternal and we are not.

This is one of the major differences between God and humans. Peter states this fact of God’s eternal reality to show that he can be very patient toward us and humanity in general. After he states the principle that God is outside of time, he gives the specific meaning for us, that God is patient toward us (2 Peter 3:9).

God had not yet sent Jesus back to retrieve the Church in the first century when Peter wrote this. People were calling God slow because he didn’t send Jesus back already. Perhaps he is speaking to false teachers and even persecutors of the church who are mocking the church for believing in the imminent return of Christ.

So Peter defends the idea of the imminent return of Christ at any time by saying that God is not slow but waiting on the full amount of people who will repent to repent before he sends Jesus back. And in case we thought that he will wait forever, Peter says that’s not the case.

He says that after God has waited patiently for the full number of people to repent, you will then bring the Day of the Lord, his day of judgment on all the people who did not repent (2 Peter 3:10). As part of that judgment, we will see amazing astrological and celestial signs of destruction because of the judgment of God.

I am not a physicist or scientist. However, I have the understanding that space and time must exist simultaneously. So for God to create the universe, time had to be part of the equation. But beyond this, I believe you are asking a more philosophical question than a scientific question.

Some people take this to literally mean that a thousand years can be compared to a day in the Bible. Then they take this idea and put it across all of Scripture. For instance, some of the people who hold this literal stance suggest that the six days of creation before the seventh day of rest for 6000 years instead of six literal 24 hour days.

The problem is that if you take this literalist view about a thousand years and a day, every time a day as mentioned in Scripture, they must make an interpretive decision on whether this is a 24 hour day or a thousand years.

It’s much better to understand what Peter is talking about in context and not use it as an overall rule to interpret the word “day” in all of Scripture. I hold to the standard that unless otherwise made clear, when we see the word “day” it probably means a literal 24 hour period.

If you see the word appear in apocalyptic literature or even prophetic literature, it may mean something other than a literal day. As we have seen, Peter is laying down a principle that God is eternal and outside of time.

This is a really neat thing when you think about it. God sees all of human history in one shot, and nothing as a surprise to him. Because he is outside of time, he knows what’s going to happen at the end. Nothing that happens to you or me is beyond his capability.

He is the God of human history, the King of all of creation and time. Time was created for humanity, not for God. He can choose when to insert himself into human history. He can decide when to interact with humanity. And we see throughout the Bible he does exactly that.

I caution against taking this principle of Peter literally. It is only an illustration to show that God is above time and he can use it however he wishes for his purposes. But we must be careful to not presume to know why God takes more time or less time from our perspective. God is in control.

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

Noah and Wine

This entry is part 381 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Was Noah the inventor of wine? Does that help explain Genesis?

In Genesis 9:20-21, the Bible tells us that Noah became a man of the earth, a farmer of sorts, planted a vineyard, made wine, and became drunk. It further goes on to tell us about something that happened between Noah and his son, Ham, who saw his nakedness (Genesis 9:22-24).

What we know about this event is that Ham does something that makes him  and his descendents cursed. We don’t know exactly what he does or what the taboo is here. The Bible is not clear. But it makes definite illusions to something evil that Noah’s son does.

It’s not likely that Noah is the creator of wine. It’s much more likely that wine was already something that existed on the earth before the flood. Noah learned about it or how to make it before the flood.

Then after the flood, it’s one of the things he does. There’s nothing wrong with planting a vineyard. The Bible doesn’t speak anything against drinking alcohol. There is no prohibition against drinking alcohol in the Bible.

However, drunkenness is a sin. So for some reason Noah decided to push the issue and go to far. Everything was good until he became drunk. You can see from the cautionary event here that happened in his family with one of his sons that is drunkenness made him lose all of his inhibitions.

This is how he ends up uncovered in naked. Something happens because of Noah’s drunkenness. But his son is also at fault, perhaps more so since his father is drunk and not able to pay attention to what is happening. But the Bible has this event for some reason.

The reason in my opinion is to show us how dangerous drunkenness can be and why God does not permit drunkenness among his people. It leads to the release of inhibitions and bad things happen after people get drunk.

As far as the rest of the book of Genesis, the only lasting effect is the cursor over Canaan and Canaanites because of the sin of their descendent Ham. Genesis in the beginning eleven chapters highlights the sins of humanity that led it astray from God.

Noah’s single event of drunkenness here shows that humanity has really not changed. Even though God started over with a man who was righteous, he still had flaws. Earth would not be the perfect paradise that God originally intended when he created the Garden of Eden.

God would have to do something even more drastic than a great flood to get his creation back from sin and darkness. As much as Genesis 1-11 talks about all of the sins and wickedness that were on the earth that caused God to act in the flood, it also highlights some of the hope for later.

Genesis 3:15 prophesies in the midst of the curse on humanity, creation, and the serpent, that God would bring out of the woman his own seed or offspring. This refers to Jesus who would come much later but is the final solution to the sin problem of humanity.

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

Our New Identity in Christ Part 1

This entry is part 70 of 70 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

Everyone needs to know who they are. Without knowing who you are, you will not be successful. You’ll spend most of your life still trying to find your identity. More than that, if you don’t know your identity, you won’t act like the person you’re supposed to be.

Identity is the foundation of our whole lives. We can search for years and years before we figure out who we really are. It’s hard to be comfortable in your own skin when you don’t know your identity.

So it’s even more important that those who follow Jesus, whose lives have been completely changed, know who they are in Christ. If we don’t know our identity in Jesus, we will spend most of our walk with him trying to be what we already are.

Christians who don’t realize their full identity in Christ bang their head against the wall of temptation and sin. Over and over they find themselves locked in a mortal battle with an enemy Jesus has already defeated.

As we embark on a study of the identity we have in Jesus Christ, I hope that you will not only learn your identity in Christ, but you will embrace it and live like what Jesus already has declared you to be.

A Sneak Peek at Identity

The New Testament says so much about our identity in Christ that it’s hard for me to put it in one blog post. I’ve decided to split it up into six. But I want you to know what you’re in for. I split the individual identities in Christ into four categories.

The first category we will cover is images of conversion. This has to do with how Jesus has changed our lives forever and what these images mean to us. They show us how we have changed in Christ and are fundamentally different than we used to be in our old lives before we met him.

The second category falls under a change in perspective. Each one of these explanations of identity in Christ shows how we now are different people and we operate in different ways. They emphasize how different we are from the world around us.

The change Jesus made in us is so significant that we don’t even look like the people we used to. This doesn’t mean that we don’t retain anything from before we met Christ. But it does mean we act a whole lot different than we ever did.

Each of these show how we are representative of Jesus Christ now. We live differently than the world and we act in different ways. Now that we are Christ’s representatives in this world, these qualities greatly affect our witness in the world and our lifestyle.

The third category of our changed identity is a new status. The discussions on these changes in our identity focus on a brand-new understanding of our place in God’s kingdom and family.

God has included us in a new inheritance and this changes how we see ourselves to agree with what God declares of us and how he sees us. This changes everything about our destiny. We are no longer condemned to God’s judgment and eternal death. Now we’re heading for a glorious destiny.

The final category of our identity in Christ declares the blessing we receive from him at salvation carrying on through in our walk with God. This category talks about our spiritual blessings received in Christ, our privilege to be his temples, exactly what he does in saving us, and how he is using us in the world today.

I’m excited to talk about our identity in Christ because I believe it is the reason most Christians do not advance toward holiness. Not knowing identity in Christ keeps us from achieving the level of obedience that moves us forward in our walk with him.

The Crucial Component

What specifically holds us back in our walk with him? It’s not only not knowing our true identity in Christ and practicing what we know to be true of ourselves in our lives. It’s much more than that.

If we could only understand with our minds what Jesus thinks of us, we would advance by light years in following him. There would be no more worrying about our salvation, temptation, sin, and a host of issues Christians rehash in their minds and hearts.

The mind is the battlefield for holiness, and knowing who we are in Christ can win that battle. This is one of the reasons one of the pieces of the Armor of God is the helmet of salvation. Our minds are not protected as we face the devil in battle.

He continues to question our faith in Christ, our commitment to the gospel, and our understanding of who Jesus says we are. When we are unclear on our identity in Christ, we cannot use it in the everyday battles we face.

Protecting our understanding and application of our true identity in Christ gives us the fortitude to fight and win every battle we face. It is locking in our mind who we are in Christ that gives us the upper hand.

When we clearly understand who we are in Christ, we don’t give up ground to the enemy, to temptation, to our fleshly desires, and to anything else that hinders us. We listen to the Holy Spirit and respond with obedience.

Changing Our Nature

Jesus changes us from the inside out, saves us, and sets us on this new path in him. But the change is so deep, so all-encompassing, that we really understand exactly what happens in our salvation. More than that, as we grow in Christ, become sanctified or made holy in him, it changes everything about us.

Jesus changes who we are, are very identity, when he sets us on this path. The old nature that we had, the old understandings we had, the old desires we had, are made new in Christ. Identity is at the core of our being. When he changes that, he changes us.

But if we don’t have a clear understanding of the deep changes Jesus has made, how he has transformed us, we easily go back to the old identity, the old self, and the old ways. When we don’t see ourselves the way he sees us, we revert to our worldly ways because we live in the environment of the world.

It’s when we truly understand who we are in Christ that we can stave off temptation and worldly desires. This is when we can be who Jesus declares us to be. When we know we’re different than the world, we act differently than the world does.

What we know about ourselves changes how we think, speak, and act. If I think that I grew up on the streets, not knowing that I was adopted and my parents were royalty, I act like a homeless vagabond. I learn my identity from others on the street instead of from the King who is my true father.

We must learn of our identity in Christ because it changes our thinking processes. We think like Jesus instead of the world. We speak life into our situation and those around us. And we reach out to be Jesus’ hands and feet, to represent him in this world.

One of the main contentions people in the world have against Christians is that they are hypocrites. This is because we can get our identity in Christ in our heads, but it doesn’t extend to our hearts. We don’t truly demonstrate our new identity in Christ regularly.

But knowing who we are in him gives us the ability to be more consistent with who we truly are. Sure, we will stumble from time to time, but when we walk with Jesus knowing who we are, we represent him better in this world.

Conclusion

As we embark on this series about identity in Christ and how it changes the way we live our lives for him in this world, I hope you enjoy our study and learn who you are in Christ. But even more than that, I hope you practice your identity in Christ in front of everyone you know.

It does us no good to know what the Bible says about us and how Jesus looks at us if we don’t live out our knowledge. It must be both a head and heart knowledge. As we begin this look into true identity, I pray that the Holy Spirit would place deep in your mind and heart these truths about who you are.

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

Jesus’ Kingdom

This entry is part 380 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Parker_West from Pixabay

John 18:36 what’s your application and reflection?

This is one of my favorite conversations between Pilate and Jesus. It is the ultimate testimony of a pragmatist (Pilate) who cannot deny Jesus’ message. He’s not even trying to trap Jesus like the Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel.

He is only trying to figure out what to do with this man. He can understand that Jesus is innocent. But he is also between a rock and hard place. If he doesn’t do what the Jewish leaders want him to, he could have a riot on his hands.

He was always a pragmatist, someone who seeks their own gain in every situation. Everything he did in Palestine was for his own political gain. He hated dealing with the Jews because they were such a hard people to work with.

And then they bring him this Jesus who proclaims that he is a king. He doesn’t know what to do with this. If Jesus does proclaim himself a king of Palestine, and the Romans have a problem. The only king of Palestine they recognize is Caesar.

These would be grounds for him to do exactly what the Jews want him to do, kill Jesus for treason. But that’s not how it plays out. Jesus explains that he is the king of a different kingdom, a kingdom not of this world. That rules out killing him just because he thinks he is better than Caesar.

Jesus doesn’t even fully admit to it, telling him that everyone else has told him that he is a king. If it were up to Pilate, he would just like Jesus go and get on with his day. But the Jewish leaders are not going to allow him to do that.

He has to choose to act. A couple of times he has already said that he things Jesus is innocent. He can’t find any fault in him. But that doesn’t matter to the Jews. They want Jesus’ head. They will stop at nothing to see him crucified.

The Jewish leaders cannot kill Jesus and the common Jewish way. They can’t stone him to death. It’s illegal in the Roman province of Palestine for the Jewish leaders to handle their own matters in the way that the Torah prescribes.

So they’re left with going to Pilate, the Roman governor, to do their dirty work for them. He doesn’t want to do it, but he has to. In John 18:36, Jesus declares that he does have a kingdom, but it’s not of this world. And then he gives the proof that his disciples have not raised a finger to defend this “kingdom.”

Jesus’ kingdom begins in the hearts of people. He sits on the throne of our hearts as our Lord and Savior. It is nothing like the kingdoms of this world where our leaders Lord their position over us and tell us what to do.

Jesus’ kingdom is based on everything but the kingdoms of this world are not. His kingdom is based on love as the motivator for action. He doesn’t force us to do anything. We choose to do it out of love and gratitude to him.

Pilate would’ve never understood any of this. His only goal was to get Jesus out of his home so he could do what he wanted to do. Unlike the kingdoms of this world, Jesus’ kingdom is based on truth, God’s truth.

Pilate asks one of my favorite questions of the New Testament. He asks, “What is truth” (John 18:38)? But the saddest part is that he doesn’t wait around for the answer. He goes back out to declare Jesus innocent again.

The important thing to recognize is that truth has already been defined in the book of John. Go back to John 14:6 Jesus declares himself to be the “Way, Truth, and Life.” Truth is not objective or subjective. Truth is the person of Jesus Christ.

Pilate was this close to discovering who Jesus really is not only as a king of a different kingdom but also as the truth that he so long for all of his political career. The seeker of truth was sitting in front of the Truth. But his pragmatism didn’t allow him to take the closer look at Jesus he should have.

How would I apply this? First of all, Jesus’ kingdom is in the hearts of people, completely unlike the kingdoms of this world we are used to. We can look at our nations and our leaders and know that this is not the final state of things.

God is going to bring his kingdom through Jesus. He already began to inaugurate the kingdom of God when he first came to this earth. He preached and taught God’s kingdom, and then he showed it on the cross. It’s not a kingdom the nations of this world can control.

After they killed him, three days later Jesus rose from the grave. This kingdom of God cannot be stopped. Even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it. We belong to a kingdom that will shake the nations of this world. We belong to a Savior who’s the ultimate Victor over this world.

We belong to a kingdom that subverts the nations of this world and its kingdoms. But it doesn’t do it in the way you think. It does it through love and peace. It does it one person at a time. God’s kingdom comes through the message of good news.

Second, I would apply it by saying that we need to slow down from our busy schedules and busy lifestyles to see the King of Kings standing before us. Jesus is the Truth we are all searching for. He is the one person who fills the holes in our hearts.

If we would wait long enough to see him for who he is, he will change our lives forever. Everything that we’ve been searching for we find in him. But we must take the time to evaluate his claims and see him for who he is.

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

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 4

This entry is part 69 of 70 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Mauro Borghesi from Pixabay

None of the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit happen in the world around us regularly. We would be more surprised to see any of these nine virtues are characteristics of the Spirit in our world.

Even if we do find them in the world, they are only used for selfish gain. But the fruit of the Spirit is not to make us a better person so we can show off our superiority to others. His fruit in us makes us holy, conforming to Christ’s image. It shows the world the difference Jesus makes in us. It gives us access to the presence of God to dwell with him forever.

In the last several posts I have described the Fruit of the Spirit, the resulting work he does in our character and lives. I want to conclude this list with the last three, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul completes the list by talking about how they apply to the law of the land. He has really nailed down the character of Christ in these nine choices for explaining the Fruit of the Spirit. These characteristics of the Spirit’s work in us deal with inner character transformation. But people observe these characteristics in us as we act. They deal with our interactions with others.

Faithfulness

The seventh characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. But the word in the original language is just the word for faith. Just about everyone understands this to be a characteristic instead of the ability to have faith.

Faithfulness is the characteristic of being believable. When we speak about something, people should not think it is far-fetched. Some people will think this no matter what we say. But most people should understand that what we’re saying is believable and accurate to reality.

Faithfulness means that we are dependable and reliable people. Others can count on us when we give our word or say we will do something. We don’t want to be the kind of people that others can never take at their word.

We must be trustworthy people on every account. Faithfulness doesn’t come naturally to us. That’s why the Holy Spirit is working this quality in each of his people.

As with all of the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit, Jesus is our example. He is always faithful. All of his promises come true. We can trust his word and we see his works. He has never led us astray.

In relationships, we must be loyal friends, loyal family members, and loyal saints. We must stand for those in our relationships, defending them and telling the truth at all times. We keep our commitments to everyone.

We must be faithful to the gospel, God’s people, and God. When we speak about Jesus, we must be faithful in our witness, consistent. This is the only way lifestyle evangelism works. People will only listen to our witness if they see holy lives.

The last way we can think about being faithful is being a good and faithful steward of all that God entrusts to us. He must be able to put things in our hands to manage. Other people must be able to trust us as faithful managers.

Joseph was a great steward of all that was put before him whether he was in prison or the second in command of all of Egypt. The Holy Spirit is working faithfulness in each of us. It’s going to take time and we will improve in increments. But he never gives up on us.

Gentleness

Gentleness is hard to describe. This is a lot like meekness. It is a quiet strength. It’s power under control. It’s a person that can’t be provoked easily. Meekness is a synonym for gentleness.

The gentle person has a mild manner. Gentle people show consideration for others first, put others before themselves and think of others before themselves. They don’t have selfish ambition. They are considerate.

Already you can see that the Spirit must give us this quality. So many people like myself one to rise up in anger, especially when offended. And yet the Holy Spirit wants to guide us into the quality that uses that anger at the right time for the right reason.

Gentleness is often seen as a strength by Christians but not by the world. It’s patients and humility together. In fact, humility can be one of the hallmarks of the gentle person. Gentleness is the preferred quality when we deal with conflict, a fallen brother who needs to be restored, and proclaiming the gospel in word and deed, to name a few approaches.

The gentle person is generous in giving themselves and their resources to others. He or she is a selfless person. This is a person who doesn’t demand their own rights and don’t think of themselves as superior to others.

They don’t assert themselves or their own agendas. This doesn’t mean that gentle people don’t have an agenda or any power. It’s that they yield them to others first. There’s always a time to address one’s own agenda, especially if it is a kingdom agenda.

A gentle person is always teachable, ready to learn, and open to correction. This is why we need the Spirit to cultivate it in us. Putting others first and being able to deal with conflict without becoming part of it is a special quality of the Spirit and takes his strength to instill in us.

Self-Control

Some people can be self-controlled with their own willpower for a time. Willpower sometimes helps us to attain self-control. But when we do it without the Spirit’s help, it doesn’t last and is often for selfish reasons.

One of the most holy things the Spirit can help us with his mastery over temptation, our impulses, fleshly desires, and sin. Just because we are new creatures in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t still have to keep the flesh under control.

Temptations weigh on former desires we must keep in check. Self-control helps us to do that. It helps us to live in the world but not be like the world. With self-control, we don’t yield to temptation.

Jesus is our example. He was tempted by the devil three times in the wilderness and yet did not yield to him at all. Self-control gives us complete control through the Spirit’s power.

The Bible often contrasts it with self-indulgence in sexual matters, drunkenness, and the like. But self-control is much wider than these issues. Self-control Christians control everything about their behavior, thoughts, and speech.

We can’t keep our desires and passions under control without the Spirit dwelling in us. We need his power every day to deny the flesh and our own desires. The Bible calls us to take up our cross daily. Self-control helps us to do it.

We might momentarily fall to our temptations. But the power of the Spirit lives in us. We can be restored in Christ and walk with him again. We must avail ourselves of the Spirit’s power as he teaches us to have self-control.

One of the best ways to understand self-control is through discipline. Like athletes, we deny certain things as we run the race Christ marked out for us. Discipline keeps us from worldly passions and allows us to stay on the right path with Christ.

No Law against Them

Paul ends the list by saying that there is no law against these nine qualities. Some people believe Paul targeted the fruit toward the Galatians. But if they’re in the Bible, they give us a starting point to understand the Spirit’s work in us.

He is cultivating more than just these nine characteristics of his fruit. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list. The Holy Spirit works in us whatever we need to conform to Christ’s image. But this is a great template for him to start from.

Paul says this as an understatement. It calls to mind what he said earlier in the passage about the works of the flesh, that they disqualify us from inheriting God’s kingdom. Laws are made for the works of the flesh, but the fruit of the Spirit works for everyone, not against us.

No one will charge you if you demonstrate the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit rather than the 19 works of the flesh. The character of the Spirit isn’t against any law a nation creates. But it does work against our natural tendencies. This is why the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ.

Conclusion

We have talked about the Fruit of the Spirit, the resulting work of the Spirit in our character and lives. We can see how the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ, to conform to his image (Romans 8:29).

But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just wave a wand and make us the holy people of God. It takes our obedience to listen to the Spirit, knowing which part of the Fruit he wishes to address and work on next.

We work with the Holy Spirit through obedience. He changes us little by little as we walk the path of righteousness with Jesus. Leave a comment and tell me if this short study on the Fruit of the Spirit has helped you.

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

Old Testament Saints

This entry is part 379 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Were the Old Testament saints limited only to the Israelites according to the Bible or were any gentile nations included in the contract with God?

When you say contract, you are probably referring to the covenant. The covenant itself was only for Israel. It was Israel that God was making not only a nation, but also his nation. So they are the only ones to have received the covenant at Mount Sinai with Moses.

However, throughout the Old Testament there are signs that other people from the nations, Gentiles, came to become believers in God. Yahweh may have taken Israel as his own nation, but he also meant for them to evangelize nations around them.

For instance, take Jonah. He goes to Nineveh for the express purpose of telling them that God’s judgment is coming their way. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, at the time, Israel’s enemy. Cereal was the nation to take the northern kingdom of Israel into exile.

Jonah was no friend of the Ninevites. When he went to Nineveh to proclaim God’s judgment, he almost relished telling them that God was going to destroy them in his wrath. However, as is always the case with God’s judgment, there is always a note of grace.

Jonah was not only required to tell the Ninevites that God was going to judge them and destroy them but that if they would repent he would turn from his judgment and embrace them. The nightmare for Jonah is that the people responded to the message he gave by repentance. God spared his arch enemies, the Ninevites.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read stories here and there of one or two, maybe even an entire family, accepting the message of Israelite prophets who brought the same types of messages as Jonah to Gentiles who received them and changed from their ways.

So while there is probably only the one reference to the Ninevites, a whole city of Assyrians, accepting the message of repentance and responding to it, we see Gentiles coming to God through Israelite evangelism in the Old Testament.

The sad thing is that these are rare occurrences instead of the regular operation of Israel. They tended to look down on the nations around them because the nations did not receive the special revelation of God’s Law.

Israel enjoyed knowing exactly what God expected of them, but the nations around them scratched in the darkness hoping to stumble upon whatever would please their gods. Most of the time, the Gentiles had no idea how to please their idols.

The Israelites could have used this as part of their witness to the nations around them, but sadly most of the time they scoffed at their neighbors. Nobody is perfect and evangelism efforts. We all make these mistakes from time to time.

May the story be told of Christians that they reached out at every opportunity to preach God’s kingdom through words and actions to everyone they met.

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

Apocrypha and the Bible

This entry is part 378 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Bohdan Chreptak from Pixabay

Why are the Apocrypha not part of the Bible? Who decided they shouldn’t count?

The Apocrypha was never actually part of the Bible. Let me explain a little bit further. Even the Jewish people did not consider the Apocrypha to be part of Scripture. They saw the Apocrypha as Jewish history.

The difference for criteria for a biblical book is that it must be inspired by God. Although the Jews considered the Apocrypha helpful for history, they did not believe it was inspired by God. The way it found its way into Scripture is that it was often included in the back of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament from around the 200s BC to 200s AD.

It was included as popular literature among the Jews, especially in the first century. We can see its popularity because Jude and a couple of other New Testament writers include examples from apocryphal books like Enoch.

If it makes it into a sermon illustration, it’s a pretty popular thing. So as long as the Septuagint, read by Jews all over the Greco-Roman world who had never come back from the exile in the Old Testament, survived and was copied, the Apocrypha survived.

It was probably continued by the early church, still being popular reading. There is nothing wrong with the Apocrypha as long as you don’t consider it inspired Scripture. Christians have carried on the tradition of the Jews in this matter. Because the Jews did not consider it inspired or Scripture, so also the Christians did not.

It has been included in most Catholic Bibles. Even today you can open up a Catholic Bible and will see the Apocrypha in it, right between the Old and New Testaments. During the Reformation, the Reformers did not include these books in their translations of the Bible. So you will be hard-pressed to find it in a Protestant Bible.

When the Canon of Scripture, the books of the Bible accepted as inspired for the church, was considered, Christians accepted the 39 books the Jews considered inspired as the Old Testament. Then by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the church finally affirmed the 27 books of the New Testament we have in our Bibles today.

They also considered the Canon closed. This means that there will never be any books added to the 66 books of the Bible. These are considered the ones inspired by the Holy Spirit. You will find them in every Bible, whether you find other books were not.

I would also like to point out for the New Testament that the 27 books the Council of Nicaea finally acknowledged have earlier been mentioned in other Canon lists, as early as the 160s AD. But Jews and Christians alike have never considered the Apocrypha part of the Bible.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God’s Rest

This entry is part 376 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

What does Matthew 11:28 mean in terms of “I will give you rest”?

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:25–30, ESV)

This passage of Scripture is a promise from Jesus that when we come to him, he will give us rest. Rest is one of the key concepts of all of the Scripture. Beginning in the Old Testament, you will better recognize the word for rest as “Sabbath.”

God instituted and ordained one day of the week as a Sabbath rest for his people. This was a time when they followed God in his example after the six days of creation. Genesis 2:2-3 shows God as an example for rest. Although he did not need to rest because he is God, he set the example for all of his people.

Unlike God, we are not infinite. Human beings are designed to need rest. It is not just physical rest that we need. We need mental and emotional rest. And most importantly, we need spiritual rest. This is why God instituted the Sabbath day rest among his people.

When you look at the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11) you will notice that it uses the account in Genesis 2 as the example of God resting first. So the Israelites on through the ages have remembered the Sabbath day.

Because it is part of the Ten Commandments, Christians also observe the Sabbath day. Most Christians celebrate the Sabbath day on Sunday rather than the Saturday the Jews celebrate it on. Part of the reason usually given for this by Christians is that Jesus, the Lord, was raised to life on Sunday.

I have said in other questions about the Sabbath that the concept of taking one day to rest and worship God is way more important than what day it is. If you’re part of a faith community, you should honor that community’s chosen day to celebrate the Sabbath.

But getting back to Matthew 11, Jesus tells everyone who will come after him that he will give them rest. Matthew 11:26 gives more clarification as to Jesus’ meaning. When he talks about rest, he then further says to take his yoke upon you.

A yoke is a piece of farm machinery, but often much simpler than machinery. It can be a piece of wood fitted for the necks of two oxen, or it can even be leather. It’s designed to make the oxen work together so that one of them doesn’t get ahead of the other.

What Jesus is saying is that if we yoke ourselves to him and his teaching, he will give us rest. When the Jewish rabbis would teach their disciples their view of the Bible, it was often called a yoke. So Jesus’ yoke is his teaching. It’s how we are to understand God and his Scriptures.

Many of the Pharisees and rabbis of his day had hard yokes. Their teaching was almost impossible to follow, and they couldn’t even do it themselves. Jesus chastises them throughout the Gospels because they make it impossible for people, even their disciples, to follow God.

But he is saying that his teaching is easy and light. He does not place a great burden upon his disciples. If you follow his teaching, you will find it easier than the teaching of all of the other rabbis you will ever read.

But even deeper than this understanding is that Jesus is also God. When he talks about his yoke as easy and his burden as light, he is also referring to the rest that he gives as God, not just as a Jewish rabbi. This brings in the meaning of the Sabbath rest.

The rest we find in Jesus is mostly a spiritual rest. He says we will find rest for our souls. This rest he gives is nothing like any of the rabbis could have given their disciples. This is a heavenly rest from God.

Another place you’ll find a lot of writing about the Sabbath rest for the people of God is in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:7-4:15). The writer of Hebrews talks about how the Israelites in the wilderness refused to find their rest in God. So he rejected them.

But for the people of God who believe in Jesus today, there is a Sabbath rest for us. You cannot fully enter into Jesus’ rest until you believe in him.

We must understand that the Sabbath rest is not only for our physical, emotional, or mental rest. It is not even only for our spiritual rest. It is a holistic rest that God gives to us. We rest in his presence and in the truths and promises of his Word. We rest in worship to him. It is a rejuvenation of the whole person, not just one part, and it happens in his presence.

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

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 3

This entry is part 68 of 70 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Mauro Borghesi from Pixabay

How many situations have each of us been in that require God’s grace and power? It’s not easy to have patience with difficult people. Even more, how can we be kind to those who persecute us or treat us rudely?

It’s a good thing that the Holy Spirit is with us every step of the way in our walk with Christ. He is the one who cultivates these nine characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit. We cannot do these things on our own. We would easily lose control.

In this third post on the Fruit of the Spirit, we will be looking at the fourth, fifth, and sixth characteristics of the Spirit’s resulting work in us. These three fruit of the Spirit are often spoken of as those characteristics that deal with our relationships with other people.

It’s not difficult to mess up our relationships through an impatient word or action, slipping up in our ability to be good and kind to them. Let’s take a look at these three closely related characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit in us.

Patience

There are two words in the New Testament for patience. One of these words is more about endurance, bearing up under pressure. But the word 1for patience that Paul uses here is the other word, meaning forbearance or long-suffering.

Patience has the idea of having a long leash when it comes to persecution and offenses against us. When we have this characteristic or quality from the Holy Spirit, while we are being long-suffering, we do not imagine or act out on thoughts of revenge.

God shows his long-suffering toward sinners, and we have seen it in our own lives first. As our first example, God has helped us to understand what it means to be patient or long-suffering. Because we have experienced God’s long-suffering toward us, we know how to treat others this way.

He put up with us when we sinned against him for the greater goal of seeing us as part of his family. He did not react to our sin by bringing his wrath right away. Instead he sent Jesus, his Son, to die for us and bring us into relationship with him.

We hold back in the time of offense. It is unnatural for a person to demonstrate this quality unless the Holy Spirit gives us the power to be patient. We could describe it as tolerance, but not as tolerance is defined today.

Tolerance today has been redefined so that it means acceptance rather than tolerance. Tolerance used to mean we are not pleased with the position of another person, but we don’t push our views on others, or that we don’t judge them critically for their views.

Now, to be tolerant means to accept and even promote the positions of our opponents. But the word for patience here is not referring to acceptance or promotion. It refers to tolerance, a holding back of our judgment or anger in the face of opposition toward another.

We keep it to ourselves without affecting the relationship. Patience avoids strife with others. No matter how much people try to goad us or irritate us, we hold ourselves back. We don’t allow ourselves to have an outburst against them.

Some people just want to see if they can irritate us. Although I’m not proud of it, when I was much younger in middle school, there was a girl in a higher grade that had this ability to be very patient. I made it my goal to see if I could make her angry. She never broke. I was always impressed with her composure and patience. For the most part, I have grown out of this tendency.

Opposite of a short temper, this is a long temper, a long fuse in the face of annoyance or irritation. We refuse to act out on the feelings we have in the moment and rely on the Spirit’s power to get us through the offense.

I think Paul puts it best when he talks about being patient with one another as Christians, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). Perhaps bearing with one another is one of the best ways to describe patience. Whether it is Christians or unbelievers, we must allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate this characteristic, this fruit in us.

This is one of the reasons Christians should not be easily offended. We can be offended internally, but we must not allow the offense to goad us into saying or doing something that will not be easily erased. We must consider the redemptive nature of God’s long-suffering and emulate it in our own lives.

Kindness

When we reflect on God’s kindness to us, it is easier for us to be kind to others. When the Old Testament declares God’s goodness, it speaks of his kindness toward humanity. Our only way to demonstrate kindness is to emulate God’s kindness toward others.

Kindness is one of the out workings of love. When we actively love others, we show them great kindness. Even those who do not deserve our kindness, we freely give it because Jesus gave us kindness when we didn’t deserve it.

In the original language, the word for Christ and kindness is only separated by one letter. Slaves were often given the name for kindness because one of its meanings is “useful.” It makes sense that Christ, God incarnate, who showed us his kindness, is so close a word to kindness in Greek.

The word for kindness often relates to love and patience. It makes sense that it comes after these other fruit of the Spirit since it is the outworking of both of these. To show kindness is more active than to be patient. But all of these work out of love, the first in the list.

As it relates to our relationships, kindness talks about our disposition. How we treat people when they approach us? It is a graciousness that we greet one another with. When we are kind to others, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We are benevolent toward them and gracious. We treat them with the same grace that God afforded us.

We care about others before we care about ourselves. This could be the opposite of selfishness. It’s often used as a synonym for goodness and gentleness. So is closely related to two of the other Fruit of the Spirit. I also put it under the idea of hospitality.

Goodness

Goodness is a synonym with kindness. It’s a very general term usually, but here it may carry the idea of being generous. Kindness is almost a passive approach. People who are kind generally show it by their demeanor.

But goodness is more of an active approach. It is the act of showing generosity, of being generous. This is where we give ourselves and our resources to others without reservation. We’re not afraid to give to others whatever they need without thinking of ourselves first.

It often carries along with it a moral sense. To be good in the Bible leads toward other words like righteousness. It shows a quality of not only choosing the good thing in every circumstance but also cheering on anything that is good.

A good person is one who acts for goodness. It’s not a revolutionary or an activist per se, but someone who’s always on the side of good. This requires the Spirit’s power in our lives. Otherwise, we will not know how to apply it in some situations.

Conclusion

A couple of these words run together, probably because Paul is emphasizing the relational side of love, the first Fruit of the Spirit. In one sense, the other eight characteristics of the fruit are more of an emphasis of love.

But these are the relational aspects of the Food of the Spirit. They concentrate on how we treat others. God cares very much about how we treat others because how we them reflects how we feel about his image placed in every human being, whether they know Christ or not.

In our final post coming up on the Food of the Spirit, will focus on the last three characteristics of the fruit, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Stay tuned for the final installment. And leave a comment about how you apply these three characteristics of the fruit.

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

Reading Revelation

This entry is part 375 of 394 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Why should I even bother to read Revelations? It’s not like I can do anything about it anyways.

There are several reasons why it’s important to read the book of Revelation. Revelation is a prophecy about Jesus’ supremacy even in the face of the end times. It is a book that greatly encourages all of the saints that no matter what is happening in our world today, past, present, and future, Jesus is on the throne and in control.

The book of Revelation teaches us that no matter what happens, God is not surprised by it. He has already planned ahead of time for the saints. We don’t have to worry about what is happening in our world. God is in control.

Even when we see things turn a way we don’t want them to, God is still on the throne. We can worship him and glorify him because we know that in the end he wins against any evil forces. Many bad things will happen in the end times that we are approaching, if not already in.

But Jesus is victorious over all of the evil forces that come against him. Even though the world will not choose Christ, he will bring all things to an end, and all of the saints will be comforted. This is the message of the book of Revelation. It is a very encouraging book.

When you face any kinds of trials in this world, reading through Revelation shows that no matter how bad things can get, God is with his people and Jesus is victorious. We are on the winning team.

But there are some other reasons that you should read the book of Revelation. First of all, as part of the Scriptures, Paul tells us that it is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Everyone can gain great benefit from reading every book of the Bible. There’s something to receive and apply to your life in every part of the Scriptures.

Next, John tells us in the beginning of Revelation itself that anyone who reads the words of the book is blessed by God (Revelation 1:3). You receive a blessing every time you read the book of Revelation. The message of Revelation brings blessing to you.

These are some of the reasons that reading the book of Revelation will benefit you. I realize what you are saying in your question about not being able to do anything about it. We as believers on the winning side do not have to “do anything about it.”

The prophecy of Revelation concerns what happens to the world at large during the judgment of God. As God’s children, we do not have to worry about his judgment against us. All of the judgment and revelation concerns the world that does not believe in him and turns to the devil and antichrist instead.

What we can do about the end times events showcased in the book of Revelation is witness to everyone around us about Jesus while the time is still open for them to come to the Lord. So, in a sense, we can do something about Revelation right now. When these events begin to happen, it will be too late.

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