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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Either Side of the Cross

Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
(Joh 19:16-18 KJV)

  1. A thief...a criminal...a lawbreaker...was on either side of the cross
    1. On one side was an unrepentant sinner
      1. Who lobbed insults and ridicule at Christ
      2. While facing his own painful death
      3. All he could do was lash out at the only One who could save him
        1. He said, And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” (Luk 23:39)
    2. On the other side…
      1. Though casting insults at first…we see a sinner who recognizes his own sinfulness
      2. We see one who repents of his sins and turns to the Savior...
        1. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luk 23:40-42)
      3. And we hear Jesus give him the forgiveness he seeks with the words,
        1. Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luk 23:43)
  2. Two sides of the coin…so-to-speak
    1. Abel and Cain
      1. Sons of Adam and Eve, same upbringing, same instruction as children
      2. One chooses life pleasing to God…the other chooses murder…
    2. Abraham and Lot
      1. Uncle and nephew, pilgrims in Canaan
      2. One chooses God…the other chooses Sodom
    3. David and Saul
      1. Both kings of Israel, both chosen by God to lead the nation
      2. One chooses to follow after God’s own heart…the other chooses his own pride and power
    4. Peter and Judas
      1. Followers of Jesus, both walked and talked with the Master face to face, both deny their Lord
      2. One chooses to repent and seek mercy…the other seeks death
    5. The thieves on either side of Jesus
      1. Both face the same penalty for crimes committed, both are hung on crosses to die excruciating deaths
      2. One repents and seeks forgiveness…the other dies in his lost state
  3. Edwin Thomas
    1. Master of the stage, latter half of the 1800’s
      1. Debuted in Richard III at age 15, he was quickly established as a premier Shakespearean actor
      2. Performed Hamlet in New York for 100 consecutive nights
      3. Won the hearts of British critics in London
        1. No small feat…an American actor winning over the British in their own beloved, Shakespeare
    2. Two brothers, John and Junius
      1. Both were actors, though they never rose to Edwin’s stature
      2. In 1863, they united their talents to perform Julius Caesar
      3. John played the role of Brutus
        1. An eerie harbinger of what awaited the brothers, and the nation, two years later
    3. John, who played an assassin in Julius Caesar
      1. Took the same role in Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865
      2. He quietly entered the rear of the box and fired a bullet at the head of Abraham Lincoln
      3. Yes, the last name of the brothers was Booth—Edwin Thomas Booth and John Wilkes Booth
    4. Edwin was never the same after that night.
      1. Shame for his brother’s crime drove him into retirement
      2. Would have never returned to the stage had it not been for a twist of fate at a New Jersey train station
      3. While waiting for his coach, a well-dressed young man, pressed by the crowd, lost his footing and fell between the platform and a moving train
      4. Without hesitation, Edwin locked a leg around a railing, grabbed the young man, and pulled him to safety
      5. After sighs of relief, the young man recognized the famous Edwin Booth
    5. Edwin, however, didn’t recognize the young man he had rescued.
      1. That knowledge came weeks later in a letter…
      2. A letter he carried in his pocket to the grave
      3. It was a letter from General Adams Budeau, Chief Secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant
      4. A letter thanking Edwin Booth for saving the life of the son of an American hero, Abraham Lincoln
      5. How ironic that while one brother killed the president of the United States…another brother saved that same president’s son
        1. Edwin Booth had pulled Robert Todd Lincoln to safety that day in the New Jersey train station!1
    6. Edwin and John Booth
      1. The same upbringing…the same parents…the same advantages and disadvantages
      2. One chose life…and the other chose death
  4. Not everyone, however, has his antithesis...not everyone has their opposite, as in the examples I've given...
    1. We all, do however, represent our own antithesis.
      1. We all have our own opposite within us
      2. We all, at some point, have been on one side of the cross
        1. And many of us are now on the other side of the cross
        2. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins...
        3. But many of us are now, “made alive in Christ” (I Cor 15:22)
  5. Terry Lee Hovey – personal testimony
    1. Good upbringing...Christian parents...Ozzey and Harriet lifestyle
    2. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Pro 22:6)
      1. But in the end, it is ultimately a choice
      2. I cannot go to heaven on my father's coat tails...I have to make my own choice
      3. I have to choose which side of the cross I will remain on...
  1. Which side of the cross are you on?
    1. Have you repented and sought the forgiveness of you sins that can only be found in Christ?
    2. Or are you still on the other side
1Paul Aurandt, Paul Harvey the Rest of the Story (New York: Bantam Press, 1977), 47

Friday, September 28, 2012

Resurrection of the Dead?

"Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and questioned Him: "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaves his wife behind, and leaves no child, his brother should take the wife and produce offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and dying, left no offspring. The second also took her, and he died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven left no offspring. Last of all, the woman died too. In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be, since the seven had married her?" Jesus told them, "Are you not deceived because you don't know the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the dead being raised--haven't you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are badly deceived." (Mar 12:18-27)

I love this passage (but then I love all the Bible) because it shows us the mind of Jesus concerning the resurrection of the dead (or actually, the living).  It also shows us how Jesus dealt with false teachings, and show us that Jesus felt that "every single word" of God was critically important in understanding the mind and the things of God.

First, I want to point out the phrase, "Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection..."  Now, I've grown up hearing that the Sadducees didn't believe in a resurrection, therefore, "they were sad, you see". (Just a little humor there).  But this is important to remember, that they didn't believe the dead would ever rise.  Another thing to remember (for future studies) is the fact that the Sadducees didn't believe in any scriptures other than the first 5 books of Moses, the Pentatuch.  So, with Jesus knowing this, we see that whenever He addresses the Sadducees, He only refers to the Pentatuch (or, the Law).  When being confronted by the Pharisees, He speaks of the Law and the Prophets...but with the Sadducees, He uses only the Law.  By this we know that as Christians, we not only need to KNOW the word of God, but we also need to know our enemy (and I use that term only for brevity's sake).

Anyway, the Sadducees come at Jesus with this story about seven brothers and one wife.  I'm thinking that this is a story, or illustration they have used many times before.  It's one of those arguments they commonly employed to show (in their own mind) the fallacy of the doctrine of resurrection.  It's kinda like the arguments unbeliever's use today, like..."if God is so good, why is there evil?, or, "If God is love, how could He send anyone to hell?"  There are many others, but I refer to them only as an illustration of what the Sadducees are doing with Jesus...employing a common argument that they think will disprove their opponent's viewpoint.

Toward the end of their story, they make the statement, "Therefore, in the resurrection..." (v.23)  This alone should show you their intent.  They don't believe in a resurrection, so why speak as if there is a resurrection?  Like I said above, they're trying to trap Him and make Him look foolish.  But this is the Lord of heaven and earth they're speaking to.  He who forms the heart (Ps 33:15) knows what's in the heart!

He answers their question by pointing out the them that they don't know the Scriptures, nor the power of God.  Blunt words, to say the least.  He tells them there is no marriage in heaven...why would there be?  Marriage afterall, is for companionship and the perpetuation of the human race.  There will be no need for such things in heaven  Then He quotes from the Pentatuch, asking them if they've read where God says, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

This is where Jesus shows His belief that every word is important (besides Mt 5:18).  He points out to them that God said, "I am..."  Not, "I was...", "I used to be...", etc.  But "I am", present tense.  God is the God of Abraham even now.  He is the God of Isaac...right now.  He is the God of this very moment.  Therefore, God isn't the God of the dead, but the God of the living...those who are presently with Him...those who are still alive and in heaven with Him...  Therefore...because you don't know the Scriptures, nor the power of God, because with God, all things are are wrong!

The fact that Jesus believed in "every word" of Scripture, would also be another argument against some modern translations of the Bible that use "dynamic", or "thought for thought" translation techniques rather than "word for word" techniques.

But, that's another post...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sell Everything!

"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." (Mar 10:17-22)

Wouldn't every Christian love to have this happen to them?  I mean, instead of going out and beating the bushes (so-to-speak), trying to drum up people to witness to and convince them of their need for salvation...wouldn't we all much rather have them come to us asking us this very question?  Man, I surely would.

But this doesn't happen too often, does it?!  We can't just walk around, looking holy and serene, to the point where people come up to us and ask about salvation.  Most often, we have to instigate the conversation and turn it toward the things of God, because the world does not seek God.  "...There is none who seeks after God." (Ro 3:11a)

Notice the first thing Jesus does.  The young man says, "Good Master, what shall I do...?"  Jesus immediately addresses the title given Him, "good".  He says, why are you calling me good?  Only God is good. -- in essence, "Are you recognizing who I am?  Do you realize that it is God to whom you are speaking?"  By doing this, Jesus is correcting the young man's idea of goodness.  God's is holy, perfect, and good.  No one can be good of themselves.  The absolute best we can do, the goodest (if you will allow the word) we can be..are as filthy rags to God. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isa 64:6)  Our idea of what constitutes "being good" is warped by our sinful nature.  Everything we do...every perception we have...the way we look at the world...  We interpret EVERYTHING through eyes and thoughts that are tainted by sin.  Therefore, we have no clear concept of what "good" is outside of the Word of God.

The next thing Jesus does is answer the young man's question.  He was asked a direct question...and He gives a direct answer.  Notice what He doesn't say.  He doesn't say anything about the love of God.  He doesn't say anything about the "wonderful plan God has for your life".  He doesn't say anything about "peace, joy, happiness, etc."  He doesn't tell the young man that he "has a God shaped hole in his heart".  Nor does He lead the young man in a "sinner's prayer".  No, Jesus answers the young man's question by directing him to the Law of God.  Jesus goes to the 10 commandments.  He tells him, "You know the false defrauding...honor your parents..."

Why did Jesus do this?  Doesn't He know that we're no longer under the Law, but under grace?  We are New Testament Christians!  The Old Testament has no real bearing on us today! Today, the term "Law" has become such a foul word to us Christians, that we have eliminated it from our vocabulary, except when used in a negative sense.  But read the Word...the Bible tells us that the Law is perfect...converting the soul (Ps 19:7).  It makes us rejoices the enlightens the is true and righteous altogether (Ps 19:7-9).  Read the 119th Psalm.  Read anywhere in the scriptures and you will find how holy and perfect and lovely and wonderful the Law, the commandments, the statutes, the testimonies of the Lord are.

Jesus' response to the question turned to the Law, because it is through the Law that we have the knowledge of sin (Ro. 3:20), and sin is the breaking of the Law (1 Jh 3:4)  He used the Law to illuminate the young man's sin and when the young man claimed his own righteousness (Pr 20:6), Jesus told him that he wasn't as "perfect" as he thought he was...he still lacked "one thing".  You see, up till now, Jesus had used the commandments that referred to man's relationship to man.  Now he addresses man's relationship with God.  He told the young man, "sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor..."

The young man is heartbroken at this.  He turns away, sorrowful, and leaves, because he had "great possessions."  Jesus pointed out to the young man that though his relationship with man may be okay...his relationship with God wasn't okay.  He had made his possessions his god...they had become his idol.  He had broken the 1st and the 2nd commandments.

When true conversion is sought, as it always should be, only the Law can provide the basis for that conversion.  What I mean is, there can be no conversion without the recognition of our sinfulness, and it is the Law that shows us just how sinful we are.  Jesus never used any of the "modern" evangelistic techniques that people use today.  Indeed, the only reason these modern techniques have been invented is because we, the Church, have eliminated the necessity of the Law (as I was mentioning earlier).  When we remove the Law, we have to come up with something to replace it.  And since we don't use the Law, we can't explain why people are "sinful", and heaven forbid we say anything about judgment and hell.  So, let's tell people about their God shaped hole and the wonderful plan He has.  Folks, we're creating "false converts", and it's no wonder that so many fall away when times get tough.  We told them it'd be "easy" and a "wonderful life".  We tell them..."...There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." (Mar 10:29-30)  The rosy picture of receiving "an hundredfold" of houses, brethren, sisters, mothers, children and land goes right along with the "wonderful life"...but what about the "hundredfold"...with persecutions?

It's time that the church gets back to what has worked for millenia.  We need to get back to the Word of
God and do things the way Jesus did them.  His main sermon was, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk 1:15)  This should be our message still today.