“Oh, my God!”

It isn’t uncommon for a child to be taught certain things not to say as they grow older. One of the phrases that might frequently be taught against, in a Christian family, is “Oh, my God.” As a child, the meaning of this commandment may not hold the same significance to the individual as it would when he or she was older. It’s when the individual is older and more mature in their faith that a comprehension and fulfillment of the commandments noticed in Scripture can be done. This particular commandment is one that we read of in the Old Testament, yet remains to be one of the most kept from our youth today.

In Exodus 20:7 we can read that, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain (NASB).” The context surrounding this verse is of course the Lord giving the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In the previous chapter, it can be read that the Lord’s presence on the mountain was so bold that the only visible thing was the smoke from fire which God came down in. As Moses and the people were approaching the mountain, the people were afraid of the absolute power that escaped through flashes of light and roaring sounds from within the smoke. Descriptions such as this capture what the essence of God is intended to sound like from the mouths of man. From scenarios like this it is also deducible to notice the difference between declaring the Lord’s name in vain and simply declaring His excellence.

‘For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. (Hebrews 6:13-16 NASB)’ This Scripture adds to the idea of the Lord’s name carrying such a significance through time, that even the Lord swears by His own name. Having no entity greater than He, He was forced to swear by His name.

The sanctity of the Lord’s name alone is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the strongest men. In the account of the Exodus 3, Moses asked the Lord what he should say when the people of Israel ask Who sent him to them. The Lord’s reply is one that fully encompasses the identity and longevity of His existence. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. (Ex. 3:14 NASB)’” Because of God’s nature, there was no other description needed. When taking into consideration the thought at large then, to say with adoration and respect for the power He has over life, “Oh, my God,” would not be an unacceptable phrase. Within certain situations one may find him or herself, the only words that seem fitting to say, when expressing the feelings that are stirring inside, are just statements declaring Who He is. In regards to a being that had no beginning, no boundaries, and no body adequately described by physical or worldly things, mankind can’t create a phrase special enough to match His attributes. Therefore, saying in vain the name of such a being would not a follower, worshipper, or glorifier make. His creation is to admire His handiwork and glorify His greatness.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)” This is verse is known by many and is referenced often when anyone is looking for the right words to describe what might be in their mind. When the psalmist wrote these words, the overall attitude surrounding this verse and the verses following it was astonishment. When reading things such as this it reminds us that the name of our Creator is one to be in constant fear of! This is not to say that we should be scared of His power, but that we should be in a constant state of humility and respect. If the spirit behind the phrase is one that centers itself around moods such as these, then there should be no fear or odd feelings about saying “Oh, my God!” This crucial difference is what marks the separation between the words of adoration and the words that we teach our children not to say.

 

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The Bread & The Water

From an early point in the history of man, bread has been known as a basic food item. The term “bread” has even taken on the representation of a meal in its entirety. It’s often heard that we “gather together in fellowship to ‘break bread.’” That is to say we are enjoying each other’s company and sharing a meal. It’s true that such a simple item is composed of simple ingredients, but the significance of what bread symbolizes to humanity exceeds a concoction of basic ingredients. The same type of mindset could be applied to water.

Because these two seemingly elementary things have been so well distributed and manufactured, the significance of their existence may be overlooked by modern society. In the past, if a man had bread and water, he had enough to provide for himself a meal and not worry about going hungry. For a man, during a time such as the one described, to offer a food that would never perish and keep one from going hungry would seem impossible. Yet, in John 6:35, we read of Jesus offering such a bread to the crowd, and in John chapter 4:13, we read of Jesus offering a water that would inhibit thirst from happening again.

John 6:35 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” This verse is what follows a conversation between Jesus and the crowd that witnessed Him feeding thousands of people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. In previous verses, Jesus declares that the people who had followed Him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the city of Capernaum had done so only because they had been fed. Their reply to Jesus started in verse 30, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Although Jesus had just fed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, the people were still wanting proof for what Jesus was claiming! He goes on to reply in verse 33 that the bread of God is what comes down out of heaven to give life to the world.

It is somewhat obvious to a reader that Jesus is referring to Himself when He says this, and the same could be said for when He compares what He offers can be likened to that of eternal water. In John 4, because the Samaritan woman was so focused on the physical aspect of the water, she had missed what Jesus was teaching. Similar to the Samaritan woman, do we often put too much focus on things that pertain to the world? The church in Colossae needed to be reminded of this, and Paul gave a helpful statement in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

It isn’t uncommon to notice that people tend to miss the basic concepts of things sometimes. As Christians, our goal is to strive for the spiritual food that Jesus speaks about, and spread the news that the food is free to all! If you’re feeling a little malnourished, just take a bite out of the Word of God! If your’e feeling thirsty, take a sip from the life-giving water that Jesus came to this earth to share. The message of Jesus and His sacrificial love has proven to be something that never grows old and will always appease your appetite. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This verse applies to His promises and news about how the feast has been prepared for us. All we need to do is believe Him and commit to partaking of it one bite at a time.

Scriptures & Thoughts: Baptism

Strong’s 907: baptizó – dip, submerge, baptize

Strong’s 909: baptismosdipping, washing

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

(1 Peter 2:20-22) “God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

(Acts 2:38-40) “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’”

(Isaiah 59:2) But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

(Romans 6:23) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Mark 16:16) “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”

(Romans 10:9, 13) “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. …For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Does this mean that baptism is unnecessary?

(Mark 16:16) “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”  Does this mean that repentance is unnecessary?

(Acts 2:38) says “”Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Does this mean that true belief is unnecessary? It follows that a single passage that speaks of certain elements of salvation should not be taken as exhaustive.

(Colossians 2:11-13) “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,”

It’s in baptism that God circumcises our body of flesh from us, where He makes us alive together with Him, and where He forgives us all our transgressions.

(1 John 1:7) “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

  • Combine with     –

(Acts 22:16) “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

It is at baptism that Jesus’ sacrifice takes effect and begins continually cleansing us.

What if someone dies on their way to the baptistry?

(1 Corinthians 4:5) “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

(Luke 4:9-12) “And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU, and, ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It is said, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.”’”  

Conjuring up extreme hypotheticals just to see how God would respond is putting Him to the test.

(John 21;21-23) “So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’ Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?’”

If (IF) God wants to make a special case for someone else, that does not have an effect on what we should do as individuals.

Is infant baptism valid?

(Acts 8:12) “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.”

The Greek words used for men and women here are “anér” and “guné” respectively.  Information from Strong’s:

Anér: 1. with a reference to sex, and so to distinguish a man from a woman; either a. as a male b. as a husband.  2. with a reference to age, and to distinguish an adult man from a boy.

Gune: a woman; specially, a wife — wife, woman.

The text could have mentioned men, women, and children, as occurs in Matthew 14:21 and Matthew 15:38, but it does not:

(Matthew 14:21) “There were about five thousand men (anér) who ate, besides women (guné) and children (paidion: a little child, an infant, little one).”

(Matthew 15:38) “And those who ate were four thousand men (anér), besides women (guné) and children (paidion: a little child, an infant, little one).”

This phrase “men and women” occurs again in (Acts 5:14) and (Acts 17:12) also when it describes men and women as believing the gospel that is preached to them.

Relevant phrases in Acts: “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (2:38),” “those who had received his word were baptized (2:41),” “when they believed Philip preaching good news and Christ, they were baptized (8:12),” “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life (10:18),” “The Lord opened her heart to respond (16:14),” “arise and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (22:16).”

(1 Corinthians 14:20) “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”

(1 Peter 3:21) “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you– not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience— through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

(Romans 1:18-20): “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

(James 4:17) “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

(Isaiah 7:14-16) says “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”

(Deuteronomy 1:39-40) “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn around and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.’”

(Romans 14:12) “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”

(2 Corinthians 5:10) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

(Romans 9:11-12) “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’”

(Romans 10:14) “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”

How old does someone need to be in order to be baptized?

(John 9:22-23) “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’”

(Luke 2:41-43, 52) “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it… And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

(Luke 3:21-22) “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a

voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’”

*example of Jesus being baptized as a Man, grown in wisdom and stature

(Exodus 30:14) “Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD.”

(Number 14:29-32) “Your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. ‘Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness.’”

(Deuteronomy 1:39-40) “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn around and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.’”

Is sprinkling or pouring valid?

(Acts 8:36-38) “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ [And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

(John 3:23) “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized–”

(Mark 1:9-10) In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

(Romans 6:3-5) “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. or if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,”

(Colossians 2:12) “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

In what situation is rebaptism appropriate?

(Acts 19:1-7) “It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men.”

Who can do the baptizing?  A religious leader, a Christian male, any Christian, any one at all?

(1 Corinthians 1:12-17) “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”

(Acts 2:41) “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”

(1 Timothy 2:12) “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

What elements are essential for a valid baptism?

(Acts 8:29-39)Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’ Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter;

And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

So He does not open His mouth.

In humiliation His judgment was taken away;

Who will relate His generation?

For His life is removed from the earth.’

The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.”

  • Example of a baptism by immersion into water
  • Example of a believing heart in accordance with the Scripture, accepting Jesus’ deity and Saviorship

(Matthew 28:19) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

(Acts 10:48) “And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.”

(Acts 4:12) “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

(Romans 10:14) “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”

Do we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized?  What does that mean?

(Acts 2:38-40) “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’”

(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”


(Ephesians 1:13-14) “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

(Romans 8:16-17) “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

What is the baptism of fire?

(Matthew 3:10-12) “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

(Luke 3:15-18) “Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.”

(Mark 10:38-40) “But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’”

Am I Walking In Darkness – Austin Gonzales

So when we’re saved from sin, we are supposed to repent, right? We need to change from our wicked ways; and when we learn that we’ve been doing something wrong, correct it. Okay, that sounds great. But no one is perfect, so obviously it must be a continual cycle of renewing this commitment. Okay, well that’s doable. But what about the days when we fail to make that commitment, and we can feel the guilt of what we’ve done – at what point might Jesus’ blood cease to cleanse away our sins?

1 John 1:6-9 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So according to this; as long as we are walking in the light, Jesus’ blood continues to cleanse our sins away. But that is kind of our question, isn’t it; at what point are we walking in the dark, rather than the light? Well one point is in the next sentence. The Lord will forgive us if we confess our sins, but if we pretend that we simply have no sin – keeping ourselves “in the dark” – then that’s one case where we no longer have forgiveness. This makes sense, because how you one repent of something that you don’t believe needs to be repented of?

Another situation in which Jesus’ blood no longer cleanses us is if we try to live by the Old Law. Galatians 5:2-5 says, “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

Why is this? Well, keeping in mind that no man is perfect – a fact backed by Romans 3:23 – James 2:10-12 explains this for us: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” Then, even if somebody could follow the Mosaic Law perfectly, Hebrews 10:4 tells us that “…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” After all, it was Jesus Who died once for all (Romans 6:10).

The last example that I could find of walking in darkness is in Hebrews 10:26-29. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

This third situation is obviously a blatant rejection of God’s commands and of His sacrifice, after receiving grace previously. This is when a brother or sister has ceased to believe in the Lord, or when they have given up the attempt to turn their life around for God. Applicable here are also the verses about church discipline; giving multiple chances for a brother in sin to change his ways before deciding to reject him (Matthew 18:15-18). I suppose that included in this category would be a divisive person or a false teacher, causing havoc and heartache in the Lord’s church.

So, rather than walking in darkness, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Let Justice Roll Down like Waters

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In that speech, he alluded to the words of the prophet Amos when he said: “we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Indeed, it is right for us to be dissatisfied as long as there is injustice in our world. God Himself was truly unsatisfied with His people when he rebuked them in the book of Amos, in the passage to which King referred:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)

The people of Israel enjoyed festivals, sort of like we enjoy potluck meals and get-togethers. They had solemn assemblies, just as we bow our heads to pray for those who are hurting among us. They offered sacrifices both of animals and of song, even as we take up an offering from our weekly incomes and pour our hearts out through singing.

Yet God was profoundly dissatisfied with the state of things in Israel. The words He used to describe His feeling towards their religious observances are “I hate,” “I have no delight,” “I will not accept,” “I will not even look at,” “take them away,” and “I will not even listen.”

Why? Why would God reject all of Israel’s religion? Because they were not letting justice and righteousness flow through their lives.

Let this be a warning to us. Coming to church on Sunday, giving a few dollars, and singing a few songs is not sufficient to satisfy God.   He wants a people who live their lives in honesty, purity, and respect.

God wants a people who treat others the way they would want to be treated; who truly care about the ostracized, mistreated, and needy in their world. A people who are not content with injustice and who will not accept that “that’s just the way things are.”

As the Lord said in Hosea 6 and as Jesus repeated in Matthew 9, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Do you honor your husband, wife, parents, or children by the way you live, even when they are not around? Will you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and respond to their needs with love rather than judgment and bitterness? Do you care that others are being mistreated? Will you stand up for those who are being taken advantage of? Will you live a life that puts others first?

Will you refuse to be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?

Christianity is More than simply Doing Good Deeds

As Jesus was traveling along, He entered a village.

“…and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10)

As many have noted, Martha was probably doing admirable things, rushing about and making sure that the needs of her guest were taken care of. But in the midst of all of her well-doing, she had taken her eyes off of the only thing that really mattered: Jesus.

And it really is so easy to get distracted by so many different “important,” and “good” causes that we forget what matters most.

Maybe we are busy all day working hard to provide for our families, but are unmotivated to open our Bibles or spend quiet time in prayer.

Maybe we spend hours online researching political news-stories and assessing what is best for our country, but we hardly give a thought to what Jesus might be trying to teach us as individuals today.

Maybe we feel deeply for the physical needs of those around us without giving a single thought to their spiritual need for a Savior.

We must remember that doing good is not simply about what we do, but why and how we do it. Christianity minus the Christ is just another form of humanism. Put another way: good deeds are indeed good, but it is possible to do them while missing the very heart of Christianity.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Jesus Himself is an example to us in that He never allowed the good and necessary actions of everyday life to pull Him away from His Father. “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

The church in ancient Ephesus was warned that their good deeds alone were not enough to save them:

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  (Revelation 2:2-4)

We must ask ourselves: Am I helping the poor? Am I serving my neighbors? Do I take care of my family and friends? Am I kind and considerate? Do I care about my country?

But we MUST also ask: Am I truly in love with Jesus?

Christianity is Unique

Poet and journalist Steve Turner satirically remarks in his poem “Creed:” “We believe that all religions are basically the same; at least the ones we read were. They all believe in love and goodness.  They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.”

Indeed, to claim that “all religions are basically one” or that “all religions lead to the same god” is logically inconsistent. I would like to define some of what separates Christianity from other worldviews, and the power that it has.

1) Christianity gives ultimate meaning and purpose to life. In this respect Christianity is separated from atheism.  The Bible gives us a view of a cosmic, beautiful, incredibly important story unfolding.  It is a war between good and evil, between love and lawlessness.  It gives us a reason to live and it shapes our lives. Of course an atheist can live with a sense of personally constructed meaning, but that meaning lacks the authority to empower his actions in his moments of greatest need.  It is essentially utilitarian.  It is, by his own admission, only a product of random chance that happened to serve him for a time and will abandon him at the grave.

2) Christianity does justice to the importance of the heart. This separates us from Islam.  A Muslim is justified when his good deeds outweigh his bad ones. But Christianity is not a legalistic religion.  It is not chiefly about rule following.   In a legalistic religion, rituals become compulsive.  The heart is not addressed because the actions are considered sufficient. Christianity, on the other hand, emphasizes the heart first, and actions follow naturally.  Consider Jesus’ brilliant “Sermon on the Mount” that begins in Matthew 5 for examples.

3) Christianity is ambitious. This separates us from Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.  A central goal of Buddhism is to become free from all desire.  Desire is understood to cause pain, and eliminating desire eliminates pain and brings us to enlightenment.  There is no distinction between desires for right or wrong ends.  All desire is to be eliminated. Christianity, however, exalts the desire for that which is right, while rejecting that which is wrong.  It is ambitious enough to expect something more wonderful to be accomplished than an escape from all desire.

4) Christianity teaches us how to forgive others and ourselves. In this way I believe that Christianity outshines any other worldview.  The Bible teaches that God is Love.  Love is willing to suffer for the good of others.  Thus Jesus Christ came to the cross to suffer for our sakes, so that He might forgive us. The incredible teaching of Christianity, which no other religion dares to suggest, is that God Himself, our Creator, is willing to suffer in order to absorb our evil.  In this way the relationship between Him and us is held together. It follows that we have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.  We are not justified in withholding mercy when we are so clearly in need of it (Matthew 18:21-35).

In conclusion: No worldview meets mankind where he is like Christianity.  Its meaning, purpose, and morals are universal and objective, giving them the necessary weight to serve us in our most difficult hours.  It emphasizes the transformation of our hearts, not simply of our actions.  It gives us an ambitious outlook on the outcome of this amazing battle that we see around us.  And most importantly, it teaches us the truth about love, the only force strong enough to hold us together.

Let the Bible Speak

Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” In this simple metaphor the psalmist communicates a very important idea: God’s word is an outside source of knowledge and guidance, over and above our own feelings and opinions.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

If indeed God has sent His word out to accomplish His purposes, we ought to let it speak for itself rather than twisting it around to say what we want it to. We must resist the temptation to simply assume that Bible affirms what we want it to affirm. We must be willing to listen with open hearts.

Acts 17:11 says of the Bereans, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

The test that the Bereans used to determine the truthfulness of an idea was not how it made them feel, or how popular it was in the current political or religious climate, or what their families had always believed, but rather what the Scriptures said.

Consider one final passage, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, written from the experienced apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Notice a few key points from these verses:

  1. Paul considers this instruction so important that he charges Timothy in the presence of God and Jesus, who will judge us all one day.
  2. Paul tells Timothy to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. In other words, be deeply concerned with the truth of scripture, even if that truth is not popular.
  3. There is a real temptation for us to only listen to people who tell us what we want to hear. This is a destructive tendency.

Whether you consider yourself “doctrinally conservative” or “doctrinally liberal,” or don’t necessarily really know or care how you would be categorized, the scriptural plea to all of us is this: let the Bible speak.

 

How Should We Worship?

Contemporary religious groups worship in many different ways. Some have a choir and an organ, others have acoustic guitar and drums, others have laser light shows and men repelling from the ceilings. Some set a mood that is joyous and celebratory, others are serious and reverent. 

As with any aspect of life, so it is also with worship that God’s will is revealed in scripture. In John 4:24 Jesus said “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” These two concepts – spirit and truth – can provide a basic framework for considering our worship.

In scripture, the spirit is understood to be the core of one’s being, and the source of our desires, and emotions. We therefore understand worshipping in spirit to be a calling out from deep within ourselves. It is giving our all to Him both with our hearts and our minds.



Truth as understood from scripture is an objective reality that emanates from God. The truth about gravity, for instance, is that a person’s body will be pulled down towards the earth. As the gravity example illustrates, truth is not at the whim of our opinions. Worshipping in truth is about submitting to the realities that God has established regardless of our opinions.



Examples that illustrate the principles of worshipping in spirit, and worshipping in truth are both found in the Bible:

Romans 12:1 describes worship as the giving of our very selves as living sacrifices to God. Matthew 13:45-46 describes a man who joyously gives up everything that he has in his excitement at having found God’s kingdom. This man is worshipping in spirit, he is zealous for good and eager to give his all. Rather than worshipping out of compulsion or a sense of guilt, he worships because he is in awe.

Passages such as the rejection of Cain’s offering in Genesis 4, the consumption by fire from heaven of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10, or the striking dead of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 demonstrate the Biblical importance of worshipping in truth. For a New Testament example consider 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, in which the church is harshly reprimanded for taking the Lord’s Supper in a manner that is not in accordance with God’s will. All of these examples demonstrate that our “feelings” are not sufficient grounds to worship in a way that God does not accept.



Much confusion surrounding how to worship may come from an overemphasis on one of these principles to the detriment of the other. Our great zeal to worship God can be disastrous if it is unchecked by a deep respect for His will and the utmost concern for worshipping in a manner that He accepts. On the other hand, a solemn commitment to adhere strictly to God’s guidelines can still produce an empty worship if it is done out of obligation rather than true adoration.

The working out of the many implications of God’s desire for worship both in spirit and in truth is a subject too broad for a short bulletin article, but establishing these principles lays the groundwork for developing an understanding of worship that is full of both respectful obedience and heartfelt adoration.

Worship