Posted in A Passion for Christ, A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Eternal Life, FALSE RELIGION AND TRUE FAITH, Knowing Jesus, Uncategorized

DO YOU KNOW JESUS as a FACT or as the TRUTH?

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It probably seems strange to ask whether or not you know Jesus by fact or truth.  Isn’t a truth also a fact? However, a fact may be far less than a truth, because truth can transform a person in a way that a mere fact cannot. The best statement to this effect that I know of is by A.W. Tozer.

“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.”

I have one major question regarding Tozer’s statement. How does faith gain consent; or put another way, what part do you and I play in faith and obedience? It is not certain to me what Tozer meant by faith gaining consent of the will, but the Bible speaks in this way.

 “…just as you have always obeyed …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13)

It is essential to understand that even the willingness to obey God must come from Him. Continuing from my last blog, intimacy with God is the most important and relevant factor. Jesus said, apart from Him we can do nothing. Therefore, abiding in Him, resting in Him, and allowing Him to take up residence in our heart is essential to obedience. To abide, rest, and desire Christ to reside in our heart are actuated through the privacy of prayer.

Prayer changes me 3There is one thing more than all others that will keep us from prayer – sin. Jesus said, we should go into the closet, that is to say, we should spend alone time with God. Prayer brings faith to its place of completion. Prayer is where we ask God for what we need, and learn to see ourselves as we actually are, that is, in desperate need of Him. However, praying is not merely saying words. If prayer is not deeply heart-felt and personal, it dishonors the One to whom we pray.

Prayer changes me 1The year was 1979, walking into the chapel of the Bible Institute a voice became audible. Someone was obviously having a conversation, but the closer I got to the person  the more evident it became that he was alone. He was having a heart to heart to be sure, but it was with no person that could be seen. It was not like any prayer that I had ever heard. The intimacy level took prayer to a place I’d never been. Suddenly it became clear that I was intruding on a private conversation. All I could do was to walk quietly backwards and let myself out. As serious as the conversation was, there is no doubt in my mind that he was not aware of my presence.

Prayer is never to be done as a ritual or something on a check list. If prayer is not as a personal transaction with the person of God, it accomplishes nothing good. When our faith goes to work, then we willingly invite God into our lives, recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, and thereby, live a life of obedience.

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As we pray and meditate on the truths of scripture, and consider them against the backdrop of our own ignorance, biases, cultural mores, and sinful desires, then God speaks to us through His word. Only intimacy with God can overcome the perils of the world, the flesh, and the devil that distort a proper interpretation of scripture.

Again I say, faith is made complete in prayer, and God honoring prayer always honors God’s revealed word more than our own misunderstandings. Only then do we hear Him with a willingness to believe Him and obey. To know Jesus Christ in this way is to live a new and transformed life.

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The best way to know the one true Jesus is to know well what the Bible has to say about Him. THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW was written to give you much to meditate upon, regarding the person of the Son of God. 

There is nothing better than to know Jesus Christ.

Posted in A Passion for Christ, A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Discipling with Truth, Life-giving Truth, Powerless Preaching

PASSIONATE OR POWERLESS PREACHING

For more than 1,600 years the church has suffered from a malady called pride. Christians are those people who follow Christ and Christ is almighty God who humbled himself to become like those whom He created. It stands to reason that those who would follow Him would have to humble themselves to be like him. Certainly, the true Christian humbles himself and is humbled by His Lord. However, Christians are not perfect this side of heaven, and knowing that we fight against three powerful foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil, is essential to become victorious in the fight.

To know that we fight against three foes may be true of many Christians, but how the enemy works is not always as clear, and this can cause a tremendous problem.

In the Fourth Century Christians began to think that because they were trying to reach the Gentiles, who were very educated, they needed to be educated also. There is certainly nothing wrong with being educated, but the first century Church turned the world upside down for Christ and they were mostly uneducated slaves and common people. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27)

The Elder’s Calling  The Christian needs to, ” Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) However, there is a huge difference between the knowledge of God’s word and becoming a doctor of theology, by which a man is known as an expert in the things of God. Jesus, in speaking about such things, told the crowds and His followers,

“The scribes and the Pharisees …they do all their deeds to be seen by others ….But you are not to be called rabbi (a teacher respected for accumulating a great number of Bible facts), for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father (one who imparts life) on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors (Master teacher, expert, professor, doctor), for you have one instructor the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:2, 5, 8-12)

Notice that Jesus first says ‘be not called’, then He says ‘call no one’, and then He returns and says, ‘be not called’. Two-thirds of the responsibility is placed upon the leader to be not called something he is not, and one-third on the follower not to overly magnify the office. We have been given teachers for the perfecting of the saints and the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4), but we have also been instructed as to how we are to view them. We are led by brothers, fellow heirs of the grace of God, not masters, doctors, or experts. The ground is level at the cross! If we are to compete for anything it is to be for the bottom and the place of humility, and not for the top or the place of pride.

The Cause of Powerless Preaching  Last night a man came over with whom I have discipled for about two years. He is young in the faith, has an enormous fervency and love for Christ. His zeal is apparent in his humble and teachable spirit. He is polite, quick to ask forgiveness and to forgive.

He was asked to speak in the church plant that he is now attending. Last night he asked me to critique the message that he prepared, which he was asked to give today. As he read his well prepared manuscript, I noticed that all his fire was missing. He prepared well, but their was no passion in his speaking, and more importantly, I could not even tell whether or not he believed what he was saying. If a preacher does not believe what he is saying why should we?

The imparting of knowledge during a sermon goes without saying, but that is not the whole of preaching. Passion is either in a sermon or it is lifeless. Pastors are to impart life giving truth, they are never to lecture as if they were a professor teaching a class at college. The great twentieth century preacher, Martin Lloyd Jones, put it this way,

The Christian does not begin at zero  “The Christian is not taught as those in other disciplines; the doctor, engineer, and architect all begin knowing nothing. However, the Christian is taught all things by God, who gives us of His Spirit, so that we might receive those things about Him. (paraphrased)” The pastor prepares for ministry by broadening the knowledge that he has already received from God, as we all have. The Apostle John said it this way, “But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27)

Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit teaches the Christian all things. He is the Father that gave us life and new life. We have a received a new heart to understand, and He is the one who imparts knowledge; He also imparts the fruit of the Spirit, and a passion for Jesus Christ, His work, and sufferings. No man can impart knowledge! Men can speak the truth, but the work of changing hearts belongs to God.

It was so encouraging for me to watch my disciple go from the fear of man and trying to say all the right things, but merely seeking to impart knowledge, to a fervent follower of Jesus, seeking to share Christ from an honest fear of God. May it be with all of God’s servants. Dead facts kill, living truth gives life. A.W. TOZER put it this way.

“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.” A.W. TOZER

To know Jesus, a person must receive life-giving truth, and not merely hear cold, hard facts. 

Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Knowing Jesus, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW, The Meaning of Life, The Priority of Christian Knowledge, THE TRUTH IS A PERSON

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

A fact can be held in a mind, unattached, unacknowledged, and not applied, for a lifetime, and thereby not do the person any good. Truth is living, it too can be rejected, but ultimately only by the dead. Those whom God has “…appointed to eternal life believe” (Acts 13:48), and thereby will be transformed into the the image of God’sSon.

THE HEARTS OF MEN ARE REVEALED BY KNOWING OR NOT KNOWING GOD

Paul, when writing to Titus, declared the state of men who profess to be Christian but in reality are not, and prove themselves to be counterfeit because they deny Christ. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16)

The optimal word in verse sixteen with regards to man’s spiritual condition is the word know.  Authentic Christians, or people who possess spiritual life, know God. The idea of knowing God, as it is used in the scriptures, translates into the possession of eternal life. To know God is to partake of God, and thereby partake of eternal life, because God is eternal life. The Apostle John said as much when he wrote concerning Jesus Christ, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—” (1 John 1:2).

Eternal life is defined by John in His Gospel as a knowledge of Jesus Christ. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

The knowledge of which the Bible speaks is not chiefly intellectual, even though that is of knowledge of Godcourse necessary; biblical knowledge is intimate in nature. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” (Genesis 4:1). The highest form of human knowledge according to the Bible is considered to be that of a man and a woman in marriage, as it is restricted to only one relationship. Only two people, within the bonds of holy matrimony for a lifetime, are to have such an intimate relationship.

Hence the word (ginóskó), in the Greek, means “to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand knowledge)”. Such knowledge of a person by another could not be obtained by reading a book or told any other way but by spending time together, and thereby, becoming intimately acquainted. “And Mary [a virgin] said to the angel, ‘How will this be since I do not know (ginṓskō = sexual intimacy) a man?’ (Luke 1:34)

The knowledge of God of which the scripture speaks regarding eternal life is of a spiritual nature. Of course, it is not physical as in the case of marriage, which is only meant to point to the intimacy that God desires with His people. Intimacy with God is a first hand knowledge of God, which can only be found in the person who trusts in Him.

evans-our-god-is-awesome-god-response-5-728Christianity is not a matter of perfection but direction. Nevertheless, the distinction between true and false Christians by whether or not  we obey. Found in the heart of every believing Christian  is the desire to keep God’s commandments. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3, 4).

A person can desire to be good by adhering to cultural norms. However, a desire to be good apart from a personal knowledge of God is not what John is referring to as keeping His Commandments. The practice of which John speaks in 2:29 is the intimacy of filial love.  “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”

Christianity is about identification with Christ by faith; identification through faith makes Jesus near and dear, thus creating intimacy. The Christian understands that when Jesus died, he died. When Jesus rose from the dead, he rose from the dead. These things took place in the heart of God, as God sees the believer in Christ. The believer knows this and lives accordingly.

A day is coming when the kingdom of God will be made complete, and of that day the scripture says, “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘know the LORD,’ for all will know me, from the least to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:11). The kingdom of God consists of only people who have come to a saving knowledge of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. To know Jesus is to partake of Him.

However, be careful to understand the Jesus who offers Himself as the eternal life, of which men must partake to be saved. For Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Jesus further said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (John 6:56 & 57). To abide in Christ is to desire what He desires and obey whom He obeys.

Do you know God in this way? Do you possess a knowledge of God like a fact that does no good, or do you have an intimate relationship with God, that is transforming  your heart? Do you ask him questions and find the answers in his word? Do you live your life for His pleasure or is it all about your own? Can you answer these questions honestly and truthfully without self-deception? I hope and pray you can?

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“The greatest motivation to receive the message of Jesus is Jesus Himself. His moral integrity and trustworthiness draw men to Him …Jesus perfectly introduced a form of life that makes love the most desirable thing on earth. The life that Jesus lived flowered from a heart filled with an uncompromising love for God and His fellow man. It is Jesus’s heart – His motives, attitudes, desire, and will – that make Him the most desirable person in the universe. It is the desirable person of Jesus whom the author has attempted to describe publicly and accurately.” (Quoted from the introduction)

 

Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Jesus Christ: The Character of God, Knowing God, Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

It is one thing to hear the gospel call to receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and it is still another to to follow Him as set forth in the scripture. Barely a teen and a failure at reading the Bible, the way to follow Jesus was foreign to me.

The great lesson learned during those years was discipleship. There was no one in my life to help me navigate the terrain of the Christian walk, which involves separation from the world, war with our own flesh, and spiritual warfare. Some paths are best walked with an experienced guide.

My high school years were spent growing in the fine art of becoming an odd ball. As a typical teenager there was a desire to fit in, but there were some things I would not do. Something was different about me but I couldn’t identify what it was. When speaking to my dad on one occasion, the words rang out of my mouth with an assurance that had not been present before, “I know that there is a God.”

It is good to have assurance of God’s existence, however, the devil is assured of God’s existence and trembles. Furthermore, it is equally important to understand God’s will and to be empowered to carry it out. You can only coast for so long, where there is no growth the world, the flesh, and the devil will become too much to resist. So it was in my case, sin got the best of me after high school.

The authentic Christian cannot live with wrongdoing for very long, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and makes living in sin completely unbearable. It is a hard lesson to learn but in the end it makes the student more empathetic toward those he/she will seek to help through similar circumstances.

As a along time teacher, it is never a good idea to be tolerant of sin. Furthermore, even though empathy is an important part of helping others to know that you love them, it is equally important to teach well that sin is the most destructive force in everyone’s life.

There is always a consequence to sin in this life and for the Christian that means discipline from a heavenly Father who loves us very much.

Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, FALSE RELIGION AND TRUE FAITH, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, THE TRUTH IS A PERSON

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

 

Every person that is born of a woman is on a journey. It is true that life is a journey, but life is not about the journey; life is about the glory of God. Therefore, here is my journey for God’s glory.

 

I am the grandson of Italian immigrant grandparents; whose children survived the great depression and a world war. My father was wounded a couple of days after landing on Anzio Beach, Italy. As a boy he lived to play baseball, but I watched him drag his leg for forty years of my life.

He was a war hero, but what everyone that knew him understood about my Dad was his understanding spirit, ability to turn tense times into a reason to laugh, and a natural wisdom that could only have been given to him by God.

At five or six years old while sitting in a Catholic church, and noticing a little box sitting on the altar at the front of the building, I said, “what’s in the box,” to which my cousin responded, “God”, to which I answered, “How does He fit in there?”

It is amazing the things that we believe, or rather accept simply because they are told to us by people we trust, or perhaps do not want to disappoint. Only by the grace of God working within me have my eyes been opened to foolish falsehoods.

Who opens the eyes of the blind

As a student at a religious school for eight years it was easy to develop the attitude that the path laid before me was the correct one. One day the teacher answered someone’s question, “What about people that have never heard what we believe?” The answer came back, “There is only hope for those who believe as we do.” I remember thinking to myself, “I am so glad I am a Catholic.”

One night while praying in bed the thought came to me, “If I were to die right now, I don’t know that there’s a God or a heaven. Under my breath the words came out, “I don’t know if there is a God, but if there is, please help me go to sleep because I don’t want to think about this anymore.”

Shortly thereafter, while sitting in front of the TV and hearing the Gospel as never before, a consciousness of sins guilt came upon me, and the weight of the world landed squarely upon my shoulders. After inching down the couch ever closer to the TV, I rose, went to the bedroom, and from the edge of my bed cried out, “God help me.” The weight was lifted and all was right with the world – for a time.