Demons: Their Identity and Demise

Halloween is upon us. For this week’s entry to Bellator Christi, I decided to discuss a group of beings that are often veiled in mystery and fear. Those beings are demons. Hollywood often presents demons as being entities that are nearly impossible to combat. Recently, interesting figures have been presented in music videos and films that finds parallels to some of the demonic entities found in the Bible. This article is all about demons as we ask: who are demons; how do they operate; and what is their fate? Are demons creatures to be feared? How do we combat them? Hopefully, this article will provide some answers.

Who are Demons?

Demons are angelic beings. Therefore, they are spiritual creatures. Demons are former angels who have fallen for the lies of Satan. While the Scriptures do not provide a lot of information pertaining to their fall, they are noted in Revelation 12 as being deceived by Satan, depicted as a great red dragon (Rev. 12:3), who sweeps “down a third of the stars of heaven [angels] and cast them to earth” (Revelation 12:4).[1] To my surprise, I discovered that Scripture depicts a few categories of demons.[2]

Sedim

One category of demons are mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37. In Deuteronomy, Moses notes that the people had “sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known” (Deuteronomy 32:17) and that they were “unmindful of the Rock that bore you” (Deuteronomy 32:18). The psalmist notes that they “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood” (Psalm 106:36-37). These demons, in Hebrew, are called the Sedim (Sed, singular).

Se’irim.

The Se’irim are goat-like demons. Leviticus 17:7 states that “they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” The Se’irim are also referenced in 2 Chronicles 11:15 as goat idols. The Se’irim bear a striking resemblance to the Church of Satan’s statue Mephisto, which has been erected in several locations in the continental United States.

satanstatue_1437931159040_22035430_ver1-0_640_480
Statue of Mephisto from the Church of Satan. Notice the goat-like features.

Lilith

Some see the “night bird” (Heb. “Lilith”) of Isaiah 34:14 as a category of demon. If so, Lilith is a female demon associated with unclean animals and desolate places.

Azazel

Some see another demon known as the Azazel noted in Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26. A lot was cast by Aaron, one for Yahweh and one for Azazel (a demon). The demon Azazel represented impurity and uncleanness. The lot that fell on the goat for Yahweh was presented as a sacrifice for God. The lot that fell on the goat representing Azazel was cast into the wilderness in representation of the separation of sin from the people. In a sense, the demon was cast into the goat and cast away from the people of God. As noted in footnote 2, there is a lot of speculation concerning this demonic entity.

Evil spirits

On several occasions, evil spirits were sent to torment individuals (1 Sam. 16:15-16; 18:10). This is especially true of King Saul.

Beelzebub

Beelzebub is noted as a prince of demons, but lower than Satan. He is often associated as the lord of the flies. Beelzebub is noted in 2 Kings 1:2-3 and 6. Ahaziah inquired of Beelzebub whether he should live instead of appealing to God. Jesus is accused by His opponents for casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Mark 3:22).

How do Demons Operate?

Demons are opposed to the working of God. They manifest themselves in various ways throughout the Scriptures. They bring the inability to speak (Matt. 9:32; 12:22); the inability to hear (Mark 9:25); the inability to see (Matt. 12:22; John 10:21); convulsions (Mark 1:26; 9:26); amazing, nearly superhuman strength to the individual they possess (Mark 5:4); and destructive habits and behaviors (Matt. 17:15). They can also bring diseases to individuals. While there are natural occurrences of the previously noted attributes, demonic presences can add or amplify those patterns.

What is the Fate of Demons?

As fearsome as demons are, it must be remembered that they are powerless compared to God. Jesus cast out demons on several occasions, even by simply issuing a command (e.g., Mark 1:25). So, how does one combat demonic presences? Quite simple, demons are defeated by faith in Christ Jesus. If a person has the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit-filled individual can be annoyed by demons, but they cannot be possessed. They may be afflicted, but not overtaken. It is also important for an individual to equip themselves with the spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20).

A person needs to remember that the final outcome for demons is defeat. God will be victorious as “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). All of the demonic powers will be destroyed.

Conclusion

This Halloween, one will be inundated with horror films that depict demons as irresistible beings of evil. Films like Poltergeist capture the imagination and present demonic entities as fearsome beings. Rest assured, demons are fearsome and they are powerful. But their power ceases before the awesome presence of Christ. More fearsome than the demons is the One who has flames of fire, who will ride upon a white horse bringing judgment to the world. Who is this white horseman? It is Christ Jesus Himself. Before Him, all the world will bow the knee and confess with the tongue. Christ—the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the Prince of Peace—holds authority over all. If you are afflicted by the forces of the demonic realm, turn to Jesus.

For more information, see Joe Cathey, “Demonic Possession,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Chad Brand, Charles Draper, et. al., eds (Nashville: B&H, 2003), 412.

 christ-riding-white-horse

© October 31, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2011).

[2] It must be noted that some scholars debate whether these categories truly reference demonic beings. However, I lean towards the idea that they do, especially considering other passages that reference goats and spirit beings being demonic in nature.

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Combating Independence Day Anxieties

On Monday, July 4th, 2016, Americans will celebrate the 240th annual Independence Day. On July 4th, 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. Americans will gather in various locations to watch fireworks and cook outdoors to celebrate their freedoms. However, this Independence Day is marked by various anxieties. Americans have watched many of their cherished freedoms diminish at the altar of political correctness. Many are uncertain about what lies ahead for their beloved nation which has served as a bastion of freedom for 240 years. Bible-believing Christians comprise many who hold such concerns. How is it possible to truly relish in Independence Day with such anxieties tormenting us? I would like to suggest four ways to combat anxiety on Independence Day.

1. Combat Independence Day anxieties by trusting in
God’s sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine of a solid systematic theology. God’s sovereignty provides a distinguished trust. When a person acknowledges that God is in control, worries and concerns tend to fade away. Divine sovereignty is tied-in to God’s omnipotence. John S. Feinberg notes that God’s sovereignty means that “God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone…God’s sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his purposes and wishes” (Feinberg 2001, 294). If we were to understand that God is moving to bring about a certain end in mind, saving as many people that He knows would be saved, then the anxious times we currently experience would lose the power of uncertainty. For nothing is uncertain with God.

2. Combat Independence Day anxieties by remembering the Church’s past redemptions.

If you are like me, then you have a long-term memory problem. By that, I mean to indicate that I often find myself forgetting about the ways that God has moved in my life before this time. I eventually worry about things that God has already delivered me from in the past. A classic example of this behavior is found with the disciples. Jesus had fed 5,000 men along with countless women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish (Matthew 14:13-21, ESV). The sum total of those fed that day probably ranged in excess of 20,000 people!

Interestingly enough, the disciples were met with another instance where their food supply had dwindled. Jesus told the disciples again, just as He had previously, to feed the crowd. The disciples, yet again, said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place” (Matthew 15:33, ESV)? I can imagine Jesus saying, “Seriously?!? Are you kidding Me?!?” Well, that would be my response nonetheless. It’s easy for us to forget about how God has moved in the past.

As the modern Church faces restrictions in religious freedoms, it is important to note that the Church has experienced situations like this in the past. In fact, the Church was born in a hostile society where believers comprised the vast minority. God has delivered the Church in uncertain time. Naysayers who claimed that the Church would not make it 100 years from their time have been greatly disappointed countless times over. Voltaire is such an example. Before worrying about your present, remember the Church’s past.

3. Combat Independence Day anxieties by working the present calling.

Many modern Christians are tempted to become calloused and angry over the situations arising. While it is imperative that we stand up for religious freedoms and take our voting responsibilities seriously as Americans, we must not forget the primary calling upon our lives. We are not called to be patriots first, Christians second. Rather, we are called to be Christians first, patriots second. Often believers are tempted to focus more on the things we oppose than the things for which we stand. It must be remembered that the entire law of God can be summarized into two commandments, as Jesus masterfully put it, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

Our first love must be for God and God alone. But in addition to this, we must remember that we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? It is the Christian: both conservative and otherwise. It is the Arab and the Jew; the Muslim and Hindu. It is the Buddhist and Sikh. It is the Wiccan, the Atheist, the Agnostic, and Secularist. It is the Republican and the Democrat. It is the Liberal and the Conservative. It is the White person, the Black person, the Asian, and Latino. It is the American, the Canadian, the Russian, and the Mexican. It is those who live like you and those who do not, those who share your values and those who do not. All of the aforementioned individuals are made in the image of God…even if the person mentioned doesn’t realize that fact.

This brings us to the issue of calling. What is the primary calling for the Church united? Jesus has told us from the beginning that our primary calling is to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). Does this mean that we still stand for the truth uncompromisingly? Absolutely we do! But one’s stand must never be allowed to waver one’s commitment to love others the way Christ instructed. If we remember to see others through the lens of Christ, then we will be better focused on the task at hand.

4. Combat Independence Day anxieties by acknowledging future victory.

Beloved, I was reminded of a great truth the other day in my devotions. I came across Paul’s reminder to the Church of Rome where he notes that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-19, 28, NLT). Russell D. Moore tells us that a good way to remember the future coming is to walk around in an old graveyard and while doing so, he writes,

“think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent. And that’s when life gets interesting” (Moore 2014, 721).

Undoubtedly, we live in uncertain days. But the promise that our heavenly Independence Day brings us is that we are redeemed to live a life without worry and anxiety. Our sins have been forgiven. We have a purpose and a high calling upon our lives. So, this Independence Day, instead of mourning the things we have lost as Americans, why not focus on the things we have gained through our risen Lord Jesus?

© July 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Moore, Russell D. “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.

Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

Resurrecting Classical Theology

Recently my family and I returned from our vacation at the beach. We stayed on a local island. Instead of staying at the coastal section of the island, we chose rather to stay at the side where the waterway was found. My wife noticed that many of the houses on the coastal side were in much worse shape than those on the waterway side. The waves of the ocean and the salt-enveloped wind had beaten the coastal homes. In stark contrast, the homes at the waterway were protected by the numerous trees in the area.

I used to live in the area for awhile. A friend of mine, who had lived at the coast for most of his life, told me that storms had previously not affected homes as much as they do now. Why? Many of the sand dunes and trees found on these islands were removed to allow for more residential and commercial areas. Thus, homes, even on the mainland, were more prone to the waves and the wind. In a similar fashion, the Christian Church has been subjected to great flaws due to the erosion of classical understandings of the faith.

Attacks on the Christian church from the outside have gathered a lot of attention. Persecution and financial pressures from outside groups often concern Christian leaders and laity alike. Yet, another threat ominously endangers the Church.[1] No, it is not a threat from any government, world religion, or terrorist organization. This threat comes from the Church itself. “What is this danger?” you may ask. It is the danger of losing classical theology. By classical theology, I do not mean any particular view found in a non-Calvinist or Calvinist tradition. Classical theology, as it is used here, refers to the core fundamentals of apostolic Christianity, or the teachings of the New Testament apostles.

Unfortunately, the fundamentals of Classical theology are eroding in many Western churches. Why? Theological liberalism along with secularism, New Age ideologies, and the desire for relevancy have begun to chip away at the underpinnings of Classical theology. Richard Howe made it clear in a session at Southern Evangelical Seminary’s “National Conference on Christian Apologetics” in 2015 that the Church must reclaim Classical theology. I wholeheartedly concur. But how do we resurrect Classical theology? I feel that focusing on four core fundamentals will help.

  1. Resurrecting the classical view of divine omniscience.

Divine omniscience is one particular attribute under attack. By divine omniscience, I mean, as Wayne Grudem defines, the ability of God to “fully know himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act.”[2] Worded another way, Ryrie states that “Omniscience means that God knows everything, things actual and possible, effortlessly and equally well.”[3]

Classical theology affirms that God knows all that there is to know. However, omniscience has been assaulted by New Age Christianity.[4] New Age Christianity often seeks to excuse God from the problem of evil by claiming that God did not know that a particular bad thing was about to occur.

Such reckoning wreaks havoc on the Church’s understanding of God. Why? If God cannot be trusted to know the future, then how can we trust God in His prophetic utterances? How can we know that history will be unfolded as the Book of Revelation proclaims?[5] How do we know that God will really hold the victory in the end? In reality, a person could not trust that God would, or even could, deliver in all that He has promised. Thus, the New Age Christian lacks the trust in God’s knowledge that the Classic Christian holds. As bad as the New Age Christian attacks God’s omniscience, it is even worse when one considers the assault on God’s omnipotence.

  1. Resurrecting the classical view of divine omnipotence.

Theologically, omnipotence has been understood by classical theology as God’s ability “to do whatever is possible to do.”[6] That is to say, God can do anything that power can do. God has all-power to do all things that are logically possible. God’s omnipotence is a clear teaching of the Scriptures (e.g., 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8; 4:8, and etc.). Early Christian teachers accepted divine omnipotence. Augustine of Hippo teaches, “We call Him omnipotent, even though He is unable to die or be deceived. We call Him omnipotent because He does whatever He wills to do and suffers nothing that He does not will to suffer.”[7] So why does New Age Christianity seek to dismiss the omnipotence of God?

New Age Christianity, as it does with the omniscience of God, dismisses divine omnipotence in an effort to explain away the presence of evil. If one could say, “God would like to rid the world of evil, but He just can’t quite do it,” then the New Age Christian feels that God’s omnibenevolence (or all-loving nature) is spared. Some may seek to compromise divine omnipotence in an effort to explain the existence of unbelievers.

The New Age answer causes greater problems with it addresses. If God is incapable of doing all things, then is God truly God? God, properly understood, is the highest being in existence. If God were not all-powerful, then God would really not be God. If God were not all-powerful, then what assures the believer that God will ultimately triumph over evil?

Luckily, better answers are found in Classic Christianity. If one acknowledges human responsibility and the impartation of the human will,[8] then a person can find the answer to these conundrums without sacrificing God’s attributes. Here again, the Classic Christian answer provides a better basis than newer alternatives. In a similar sense, the Triune nature of God is diluted.

  1. Resurrecting the classical view of divine trinitarianism.

One of the earliest heresies to face the Church dealt with the issue of the Triune nature of God. Christians since the days of the inception of the Church have accepted that God was One God, but in three persons. While most Christians accepted this truth, it was through a process that the doctrine known as the Trinity would be properly understood.

Let me say from the outset that the Trinity was not an invention of Constantine as some have claimed. The Scriptures demonstrate the divine nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One of the clearest examples of the Triune nature of God is found in Christ’s baptism (Matt. 3:13-17). In the particular passage, one will find Jesus who “went up from the water” (Matt. 3:16);[9] the “Spirit of God descending like a dove” (Matt. 3:16); and the Father speaking out from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Why is it that modern versions of Christianity seek to demote the doctrine of God’s Triune nature?

Many New Age versions of Christianity have been influenced by heretical groups. Worldviews found outside of the classical Christian understanding[10] have promoted an idea of God that is antithetical to the classical view. Unfortunately, a severe lack of biblical training complemented with a woeful disregard for intellectual understandings of the faith have led to the inclusion of heresies that have been condemned since the 300s. The disregard for the Triune nature of God has also led to a weak view of Christ.

  1. Resurrecting the classical view of divine incarnation.

Finally, the person of Christ has been chipped away by modern ideologies. Some have taken the Gnostic understanding of Jesus. In this understanding, Jesus is seen as a mystical and spiritual person. Jesus’ humanity is ignored. Jesus is thus turned into a Marvel comic character. The opposite is also true. Others have sought to demonstrate Jesus’ humanity while neglecting and dismissing the divine nature of Christ. Individuals such as Rudolf Bultmann have sought to “de-mythologize” Christ. Therefore, any miraculous claim given by the Gospel narratives are bypassed as mere myth.

In either case, the Church is (to use a cliché) standing on thin ice when accepting either of the previous alternatives. Paul records an ancient confession saying that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). As Lord, one acknowledges the divine status of Christ.[11] The apostle John also notes that “every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). The Classic Christian view is that Jesus is both God and man in one person.

Conclusion

This article has been somewhat longer than most posts that I write. But it is longer for good reason. The church is at a crossroads in the Western world. Globally, Christianity is growing at a rapid rate. The Western church, however, has faced many problems. The problems of the Western church originate from increased secularization, decreased biblical knowledge, and an explosion of possible distractions—from technology to careers. The church in the Western world has sought to combat this decline by catering to the culture, all-the-while seeking to become relevant.

While I fully acknowledge that methodologies must change, it is a grave mistake to tamper with the fundamental doctrines that uphold the Christian worldview. By “watering-down” particular doctrines, the church essentially commits the same problem that many coastal areas have done. They take down the very things that buffer them from the storms of life. Houses can be rebuilt. But undermined theology can lead to erroneous doctrines which may hold eternal consequences. Let’s fix this problem by resurrecting and maintaining classical Christian theology.

 

© June 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] I use the capitalized term “Church” to reference the global community of Christ.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 190.

[3] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 47.

[4] In this article, I use the term “New Age Christianity” to denote a modern form of Christianity that is found to disassemble the fundamental core of Classical Christianity.

[5] I hold to a futurist understanding of the Book of Revelation.

[6] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 487.

[7] Augustine of Hippo, City of God 5.10.

[8] In varying degrees depending upon one’s view of salvation (soteriology).

[9] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[10] Such as the Jehovah Witness movement and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.

[11] Also noted by Thomas in his response to the risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

The Power of a Positive Legacy

Normally towards the first of the week, we examine an apologetic issue of importance. However, today I am still left with the overwhelming importance of a person’s legacy. This past weekend, I helped officiate my grandfather’s funeral service. I learned much more about my grandfather’s early life during his funeral than I had known while he was with us. Grandpa’s brother, Paul Sisk, said that Grandpa had led him to the Lord as well as many in their family. I also heard, from many of his parishioners, how great a pastoral leader my Grandpa had been. One word keeps coming to mind: legacy.

Legacy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “something handed down by a predecessor.”[1] My Grandpa handed down a legacy of Christian conviction and influence. Grandpa was by no means perfect. However, he did strive to live the best Christian life that he could and used the resources he had available to him to make a difference for the kingdom of God. The issue of legacy makes me wonder what type of legacy I will leave behind. Some may inquire, “Why is it important to leave a lasting legacy when people may not remember us past a generation or two?” Such is a fair question. I feel that we must leave behind a positive legacy for many reasons.

  1. A positive legacy will inspire future generations.

The term inspire is defined as to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something.”[2] Inspiration is generally associated with a positive urge or ability implanted in someone. Throughout the Scriptures, we find records of individuals who have inspired future generations to do great things. Abraham is one such example. Abraham inspired the faithfulness of future generations. Abraham is revered not only in the Christian worldview, but also in the Judaist and Islamic worldviews. Others have served to inspire future generations, as well.

Jesus inspired the salvation of future generation. Jesus’ obedience even leading to the cross has inspired countless individuals to face and overcome amazing odds. Jesus noted that those who believe in him “will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).[3] If we look for a perfect example for how one should inspire others, look to the perfect example found in Christ Jesus. For it was Grandpa, who pointed me to Jesus and tried to emulate Christ as much as he could. While we all need heroes of the faith and need to be heroes of the faith for others, we should inspire individuals to always look towards the perfect example found in Jesus.

  1. A positive legacy will influence future decisions.

The legacy of an individual will influence the decision-making of future generations. If a person holds a negative influence over others, the person may propagate bad decisions in his or her children. People who constantly surround their children with drugs and addictive behaviors could influence their children to do the same. But, the opposite is also true.

We often hear about the exodus of youth from church. While we may concentrate on those things that don’t work, I have been seeking information on what does work. Michael Haverluck, writing for One News Now, notes one particular influence that keeps children in church. Haverluck writes,

“Nielson argues that firm and loving leadership at home is essential to keep kids rooted in their faith into adulthood. ‘The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church,’ Nielson continued. ‘They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.’”[4]

I feel that the Nielsen studies are accurate. If a parent does not take church seriously, what makes a person think that their children will? Wishy-washy, buddy-buddy, boundary-less parenting does not lend itself towards good results. God told Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:15). It was Moses’ and the peoples’ responsibility to influence future generations. Modern Christians hold the same responsibility.

  1. A positive legacy will initiate future changes.

One person can make a distinct difference which will initiate a future chain of events. People often like to think that the person is their own person and does not influence anything or anyone else. But this is simply not true. Instead of living isolated lives, people are interconnected through a human network so to speak. The choice of one person may directly or indirectly initiate a future change of some sort.

Take Joseph for instance. What if Joseph had succumbed to temptation? What if Joseph refused to listen to God and interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh? Well, life would be much different than it is now. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, a chain of events took place eventually leading to the Exodus, leading towards the nation of Israel, ultimately leading to the first advent of Christ. Actions today lead towards decisions tomorrow.

Take again my grandpa. Grandpa became a Christian in part due to the ardent prayer life of my grandmother. What if Grandma had not prayed as she did? What then? I would suppose that we would not have had the Christian upbringing that we enjoy and countless others would have never heard the gospel message through Grandpa. Grandma was influenced to accept Christ due to the moving of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of those close to her. What if those people had rejected the calling of God to share the gospel? What then? We initiate future decisions by our actions and attitudes. A person must ask himself or herself, “Am I purporting positive potential future changes?”

  1. A positive legacy will insulate the furtherance of truth.

A person’s legacy is either that of one who insulates, or protects, the truth, or one who rejects and distorts the truth. The importance and value of the Scriptures were emphasized to me very early in life. My grandpa told me, “Son, if you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you are okay. However, if you leave the text found between these two covers, you are on your own.” Grandpa’s sage wisdom in the area of biblical exegesis is one that I have tried to keep and maintain in my ministry. It was actually due to this advice that I left the ministry when I had times of doubts. If the text could not be trusted, then I did not need to preach at all. Once God demonstrated the veracity of Scriptures, I could then preach and teach with a newfound fervor.

I am struck by the dichotomy found in the Third Letter of John. John, on the one hand, praises one named Demetrius. Why did John praise Demetrius? Demetrius had “received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 12). The legacy of Demetrius was one devoted to truth. Yet, the same was not true for Diotrephes.

Diotrephes had a legacy that was one not devoted to truth. Rather, Diotrephes was one “who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). Furthermore, Diotrephes was involved in “talking wicked nonsense about us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 10). While scholars do not know much about Diotrephes, his legacy has been tainted in the pages of God’s Word. Can one imagine the horror of having one’s legacy recorded for all eternity as one who stood in the way of God’s church? Such is the case for all who allow themselves to be the conduits of falsehood.

Conclusion

Every person will leave behind a legacy of some sort. Theologians, pastors, apologists, and regular congregants alike leave something for the next generation. One must ask oneself, “What will be my legacy? What will others remember about me?” It behooves each person to evaluate themselves and begin building a legacy that will bring about good results. God has been too good for one to lackadaisically and half-heartedly settle for mediocrity. Let us all strive to leave behind legacies that will positively shape the generation to come.

 

© May 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Michael F. Haverluck, “3 Factors Keeping Youth in Church Through Adulthood,” OneNewsNow.com (May 4, 2015), retrieved May 23, 2016, http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2015/05/04/3-factors-keeping-youth-in-church-through-adulthood.

Lessons Learned from Graduation

    This weekend, I had the honor to be counted among the 19,432 graduates for the 43rd commencement ceremonies at Liberty University. I cannot even begin to express the excitement and love that I felt at the university. The journey to graduation was tough. The drive to Lynchburg even proved difficult as we will soon discuss. However, my education did not end at graduation. In fact, during graduation weekend, I learned four valuable lessons that I hope to take with me for the duration of my days on planet earth. These lessons play off of the adopted biblical verse for Liberty University which is “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).[1] The context of the verse implies that God removes the veil from our eyes so that we can “see and reflect the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT).[2] Thus, what does God’s liberty mean to us?

Lesson #1:      With God’s liberty, there is power to do the impossible.

Ronald Hawkins noted that the first graduating class of 1974 had 46 graduates. This year’s graduating class had 19,432 graduates. With God, there is power to do what may seem to be impossible. Our commencement speaker was Rashad Jennings who is the running back for the New York Giants. Jennings noted that he should not be playing football by normal standards. Jennings said that he was told that he was too short, in high school had a 0.6 GPA, weighed 275 pounds and had asthma. However, as Jennings noted, “With God, you can dream crazy big.”[3]

With God all things are possible. No mountain is too high and no valley is too wide for God. God can help you do the impossible. This is the very thing that the angel told Mary before she became the mother of our Lord. Mary had learned that her relative Elizabeth would be with child. Elizabeth was too old by most people’s standards. However, the angel told Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Lesson #2:      With God’s liberty, there is love to reach the impoverished.

            My wife and I have been dealing with great strains as of late. Due to personal reasons, I cannot relay the reasons behind these problems. Both of us have been stressed for so long that it was a radiant breath of fresh air to experience numerous people who congratulated us and wished us the very best. My wife was stunned at how loving and kind the professors were. She said, “I always thought that professors were somewhat distant from the students. But, the professors here really care about their students!” At the School of Divinity, the professors laid their hands upon the graduating class praying over them. Again, our minds were blown!

My wife and I have been impoverished here lately due to the stress and strains of life. To experience the overwhelming love and kindness that we received this week from the students, families, and staff at Liberty University was refreshing. We met a man who was good friends with the late Dr. Jerry Falwell. He told us about their friendship and about the passion that Dr. Falwell had for the Lord and the compassion that he had for people. The gentleman invited us to attend his church (Thomas Road Baptist Church) some weekend when I wasn’t preaching. He gave all of us hugs and said, “I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say, ‘I’ll see you later.’”

I learned this weekend that the love of God radiating through His children is a refreshing drink to the dehydrated soul. It is a nourishing meal to the malnourished heart. Perhaps this is why Jesus commanded us that the mark of true discipleship is love. Jesus noted that the believer is commanded to “love one another, even as I have loved you…By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Ed Hindson noted in the School of Divinity graduation that knowledge is important. However, some people will not care how smart a person is. The Spirit of God must open their hearts before they can receive the truth of Christ. The believer is to show grace and mercy to all people. Hindson’s statements really resonated with me. I have failed to show love the way I should from time to time. Perhaps some of this has stemmed from personal attacks that I have received in my ministry. Yet Christ was attacked and prayed for the forgiveness of His offenders. Love is a cherished gift from God. May we all make it a priority to focus on loving others the way Christ commanded us.

Lesson #3:      With God’s liberty, there is humility to counter one’s importance.

Going back to Dr. Hindson’s powerful message, I was reminded that despite our achievements, we must always remain humble. As noted previously, Hindson reminded us that some people will not care about how smart we are until they experience the grace of God within us. Hindson is absolutely right. Knowledge and wisdom are important. In fact, they are critical. Yet, if knowledge and wisdom are shrouded with a haughty spirit, then they are for nothing. Peter reminds us that we are to “humble [ourselves] under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NLT).

Lesson #4:      With God’s liberty, there is strength to endure the interruptions.

“Interruptions” is probably a bad word to use for this lesson, but I wanted to stay true to the “I” theme. While my family and I were driving up to Lynchburg, we received a call that my grandpa was not doing well. My mother and father needed to go back home. We were all riding together. My wonderful wife took it upon herself to drop my son and I off at the hotel and drive my parents back home. Altogether, my wife drove for 6 hours the Friday before graduation. She told me afterwards, “You know, God gave me strength to make the journey.” God will give us strength to endure many of the obstacles of life. My grandpa improved, although he still has many health issues plaguing him.

Many have noted that when they have faced troubles and trials, God always shows up to provide them strength to endure. God also provides us means of rest if we will take it. It is up to us to make sure we give ourselves the rest that God provides. Jesus invites to “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).

Conclusion

            Some will undoubtedly read this and say, “Well, you are just pumping up your alma mater.” That is not the purpose of this article. Rather, I have sought to show the importance that comes taking God seriously in both word and deed. When we devote ourselves to the Lord, we can find power, love, humility, and strength. Will you devote yourself to Christ? My challenge for all the graduates of 2016, not only at Liberty but everywhere, is to devote yourselves unto Christ Jesus. Receive His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Then, go spread those attributes to each person you meet. With God, we can have an impact upon the world!

© May 16, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[2] Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

[3] Rashad Jennings, Commencement 2016, Liberty University (May 14, 2016).

Qualities of God’s Mercy (Numbers 14:18-19)

Nearly all of us have heard the song Great is Thy Faithfulness. The hymn states, “Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. Morning to morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great Is thy Faithfulness Lord unto me.” Unlike some other hymns, this hymn is not the result of some tragic event in Thomas Chisholm’s life but a powerful witness to his daily walk with Jesus as he experienced “morning by morning” new mercies from His Everlasting Father. Pastor Chisholm always trusted his Everlasting Father to take care of him, sustain him, and provide for his daily needs. Just before his death in 1960 he wrote this power, personal witness: “My income has never been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”[1] Chisholm’s hymn demonstrates not only the great faithfulness of God, but also the great mercy of God. Chisholm’s health would have failed him much earlier if it were not for the mercy of God. Chisholm realized that he was being sustained by the mercy of God.

We have spoken about the grace of God. Grace was defined as “giving someone something that they do not deserve.” Mercy is quite the opposite. Wayne Grudem defines mercy as “God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress.”[2] In other words, mercy is not giving someone something that they deserve. Some have asked whether mercy is an attribute or an activity. Norman Geisler has stated that “Regardless of whether mercy is itself an attribute or an activity of God, it is deeply rooted in His unchangeable nature. As such, it reveals something extremely important about God’s character.”[3]

1. The mercy of God has the quality of PATIENCE (14:18a).

 Moses acknowledges in his prayer the patience of God as he says “the LORD is slow to anger.”[4] Moses had witnessed God’s great mercy in demonstrating patience in times past. Moses was asking for the same as the people had rebelled against the Lord. People were exclaiming, “We would have been better off in Egypt!”

It’s interesting to note the difference between the lack of patience from the people and the overwhelming patience of God. Remember, mercy means NOT giving someone something that they deserve. Did the people deserve a divine pop in the nose? Yes! However, God demonstrated mercy by his patience. What if God acted to us the way the people acted to God? Would they have been afforded the opportunity to enter the Promised Land? No!

2. The mercy of God has the quality of KINDNESS (14:18b).

Moses continues with his prayer noting that God has “abundant lovingkindness.” This phrase comes from two Hebrew words “rab” and “chesed.” The word rab means “mighty, “strong, or even “numerous.” Chesed means “lovingkindess” that has its root in one’s mercy. Thus, one could say that kindness is rooted in mercy. Moses was pleading for the kindness of God.

Let’s think this over. God had great mercy on the Hebrews keeping them from the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. God had mercy on the Hebrews allowing them to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground. God had mercy on them by giving them manna from heaven. God had mercy on them leading them into the Promised Land. God had shown nothing but mercy to the Hebrews. Yet, still the Hebrews rebelled against God. Perhaps the problem was not so much with God’s mercy, but with the gratitude of God’s people.

3. The mercy of God has the quality of JUSTNESS (14:18d).

Moses was praying for God’s mercy. But, Moses also realized that there would be some who would not repent no matter how much grace was extended to them.  As we learn earlier in the chapter, many were saying, “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt” (14:3)? What was the real sin? The writers of the New Bible Commentary note that “The Lord’s word begins with an accurate analysis of Israel’s sin—it is unbelief.”[5]

Three things can be said about the justness of mercy. 1) Isn’t it amazing that the people, who could not save themselves, thought that they knew better than the One who delivered them? Some people claim that God is unjust for sending people to hell, while at the same time accusing God for allowing evil to go unpunished. The same people will accuse God for not revealing himself to the world, while at the same time accuse God of foolishness for revealing himself on earth as Jesus of Nazareth. God’s mercy is extended, but his mercy does not force the obstinate and those who refuse to repent.

2) It was G. K. Chesterton who said, “Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape.”[6]

3) God is not unjust for sending unrepentant people to hell. God is merciful to allow anyone to go to heaven. It would be unjust of God to allow unrepentant people to enter into heaven.

4. The mercy of God has the quality of FORGIVENESS (14: 18c, 19).

Moses pleads with God to forgive the repentant. Moses played the part of a lawyer. Moses argued: “If the Lord wiped out the nation, it would reflect more on His character than on the character of rebellious Israel. His inability to fulfill His promise to bring this people into the promised land would negatively impact His reputation if He carried out His plan to destroy the nation. Moses, however, knew that the Lord could not let this rebellion go unpunished.”[7] Of course, God knew this all along. Thus, Moses pleaded for God to show mercy through his forgiving nature.

 Mercy is at the heart of forgiveness. People really only hold two options when they are offended: they can hold grudges and seek revenge, or they can forgive giving the people over to God. But really, if we consider all for which God has forgiven us, it should be no big issue to forgive others. Jesus says quite bluntly, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:15). When we hold on to bitterness, we really in the end only hurt ourselves anyhow.  

A medieval story captures the manner in which bitterness holds us a prisoner. Long ago, two monks were traveling and approached an unusually rough river. Standing alone on the bank was a woman who approached the monks and asked if they could help her across so she could return home to her family. Knowing it was forbidden to touch a woman, one monk quickly looked the other way, ignoring her request for help. The other monk, feeling compassion for the desperate lady, decided to bend the rules. Breaking tradition, he lifted her into his arms and carried her safely across the rushing water. Exceedingly grateful, the lady thanked the helpful monk and left for home. The two monks continued on their journey. After miles of silence, the first monk finally said with disgust, “I can’t believe you picked up that woman! You know we’re never supposed to touch the opposite sex.” The compassionate monk replied, “I put her down miles ago, yet you still carry her in your heart.” God grants us mercy by his forgiveness. By God’s mercy, we are afforded the opportunity to forgive others as well.

Conclusion: A little boy named Johnny and his sister Sally stayed at their grandparents’ house for a week during the summer. Johnny had just received a brand new slingshot. However, Johnny wasn’t a good shot. His grandma called him in for supper. Frustrated, Johnny took a shot at his grandma’s pet duck. However, this time he hit the duck in the head and killed it dead. Johnny panicked. He took the duck’s corpse and hid it under a bush. His sister Sally had watched the whole thing. She said to him, “You’d better do what I say or I’ll tell Grandma.” So, the next day after lunch, Grandma said, “Sally, I need you to help with the dishes.” Sally said, “Johnny wants to do it.” Sally looked at Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck.” Grandpa said to the children, “Let’s go fishing at the pond.” Grandma said, “I need Sally to help with supper.” Sally said, “Johnny wants to help.” She looked at Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck.” After a few days of being Sally’s slave, doing chores, and obeying her every whim, he confessed to Grandma. Grandma said, “Honey, I was standing at the window when you accidently shot the duck. I forgave you then and there. I was just wondering how long you were going to be Sally’s slave.[8] The grace of God gives us heaven. But it is by the mercy of God that we are forgiven, transformed, and changed. If God has had mercy on you, remember you are a changed individual. Don’t be enslaved by the Devil’s reminders of your past. In life fashion, if you have received the mercy of God, demonstrate that same mercy unto others.

 

© April 29, 2016. Brian Chilton. Published May 5, 2016.

Notes

[1] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990), 366

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 200.

[3] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2011), 595.

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[5] D. A. Carson, et. al., The New Bible Commentary (Liecester, UK: Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, 1994), Logos Bible Softward.

[6] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: SnowBall Classics Publishing, 2015), 57

[7] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 234.

[8] Adapted from the story given by Ellen Klinke, “The Duck and the Devil,” SermonIllustrationLibrary.org (May 3, 2006), retrieved April 29, 2016, http://www.sermonillustrationlibrary.org/illustration56.

How Does God’s Omnipresence Affect You?

My mother and I have always been especially close. After I graduated Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, I was called to pastor a church near Southport named the First Baptist Church of Sunset Harbor…in fact, the only Baptist church in Sunset Harbor. I found great support while at the church. However, the most difficult thing about living at the beach was the absence of my family. My mother had tears rolling down her cheeks as they traveled back to their home. I shed a few tears myself. Then I truly knew the depths of our locational limitations.

In contrast to our locational limitations, God is said to be omnipresent. Again the term “omni” means all. So when we speak of God’s omnipresence, we are saying that God can be in all places at all times. In Acts 17:22-34, we hear the message that Paul delivered before the Athenians. Paul is a great example of one who never changed the message, but employed differing methodologies to reach various people groups. When confronting the paganism of this supreme intellectual city (home to many top-notch philosophers), Paul discussed the omnipresence of God. This passage of Scripture shows the depth of Paul’s philosophical prowess. He uses four types of philosophical tactics to present the gospel: 1) exordium v. 22-23 (introduction of a discourse); 2) proposito v. 23b (a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or an opinion); 3) probatio v. 24-29 (the test of a certain statement); and 4) peroration v. 30-31 (conclusion intended to inspire enthusiasm). In his message, we find three aspects of and reasons for God’s omnipresence.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his ESSENCE (17:24b; John 4:24).

Paul notes that God “does not live in temples made by man” (17:24b).[1] That is, God is not a physical being. Yes it is true that Christ, the incarnate God, came to earth. But, God as he has been from eternity is non-spatial, a spirit. Jesus tells the woman at the well that God is “spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Wayne Grudem defines God’s omnipresence as the following: “God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.[2] (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 173). Thus, God is not limited by physical location as we are.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his TRANSCENDENCE (17:24-25; Is. 66:1).

Paul notes that God “who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (John 17:24-25). That is to say, God is beyond the scope of physical creation. God is not limited by physics, physics are limited by God. When we study the physical nature of the universe, we understand the normal operation. But, God transcends such boundaries as he also transcends space-time.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his IMMANENCE (17:26-27; Psa. 139:7-8; Jer. 23:24).

Lastly, Paul notes that God is all-surpassing due to his immanence. This means that God is not a “dead beat dad.” He is a God who is actively involved in creation. Paul notes that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (17:26-27). I especially like the last part of Paul’s teaching. Often one may feel that God is distant from them. Feeling perhaps that God has long forgotten them. But, God’s omnipresent nature promises that God is always around us. Closer than we would ever think. So what does this mean to you?

  1. God is with you when no one else can be. You are never alone. Norman Geisler describes omnipresence as “God is everywhere at once…Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent.”[3] God promises that he will be with you now and for all eternity (Matthew 28:20; Gen. 28:15). You are never alone.
  1. God is with your loved ones when you cannot. God is able to protect your loved ones from afar (Gen. 48:21). Even when you are not there, God is. Thus, while we can contact one who is ever-present to look after our loved ones when we cannot…and even when we can.
  2. God is with your loved ones who have already passed. Jesus quoted to the Sadducees who did not believe in the afterlife Exodus 3:6 where God stated that he is “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Jesus uses this argument to defend the reality of the afterlife. God is with our loved ones in eternity. Our loved ones continue to exist. Those who are in Christ are safely in his arms.
  1. God is working in creation even when you cannot see it. God is beyond the scope of creation, but is always working in creation (Ps. 147:4; Jer. 31:35). Thus while things seem chaotic, God is always at work being present where we cannot.
  1. God’s presence is with the believer in a personal fashion. While God is everywhere, God is personally with those who receive Christ (John 5:38; 8:31; 15:4-9). God’s Holy Spirit (personal presence) is with those who trust in Christ. Therefore, the believer definitely has a companion that is closer than anyone else could.

 

© February 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

 Notes

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 173.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 493.

God Can Fix This: The Role of Prayer and Service

Recently, theDaily News New York Daily Times had on its cover the words “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The cover was quite deceptive as the article was more of a political rant than a religious polemic. Rich Schapiro, the writer of the article associated with the cover, argues that “Democrats—even those not running for office—slammed the GOP presidential candidates for offering prayers instead of action” (Schapiro 2015). While I will leave the political innuendos to the exchange of pundits in the field; as a theologian and pastor, I feel that I need to address the issue of prayer as it relates to service. Walter A. Elwell notes that “both Testaments insist that while prayer and service are not to be equated with each other, they are also not to be separated from each other. With this insistence goes the belief that only the prayer of the righteous is efficacious (Prov. 15:29)” (Elwell 1996, Logos). I believe that prayer propels the person of faith to do great things for the Lord. The Scriptures provide at least 5 ways that prayer impacts the service of the believer.

Prayer provides trust to serve.

In 1 Chronicles, it is shown that prayer provides the trust necessary to do incredible things for God. The chronicler writes that “when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (1 Chronicles 5:20).[1] Their victory came by the trust that they held in God, but it was a trust that moved the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:18) to serve. James also notes that the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:15-16). Note two important elements in the preceding passage. First, prayer was based on one’s trust in God. Second, the faith of the praying persons lead the people to action. Thus, a faithful prayer life provides one with the trust in God to serve.

Prayer provides encouragement to serve.

Luke notes that the Lord “said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10). Because Paul was a man of prayer, God spoke to Paul and provided him with encouragement to go and serve. This encouragement may also address the change of mind that takes place in the person of faith. When a person commits him or herself to prayer, God begins to change the mindset of the person (Romans 12:2). The person of faith begins to see people the way God sees them. This will move the person of faith to action in order to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

Prayer provides direction to serve.

People often want to see action. They want to see results. “Do something! Anything!” Such is the mindset of many. However, it is easy for a person to move in the wrong direction if they are not careful. When speaking of cutting wood for a construction project, my grandpa always advised, “Measure twice, cut once.” This means that a person needs to make sure that what they are doing is correct before taking action. Prayer provides direction. Luke notes that “the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot’” (Acts 8:29). Why? An Ethiopian eunuch was contemplating the meaning of Isaiah 53:7, 8. Philip was able to lead the eunuch to a saving faith in Christ. Why? It was because Philip was led by the Holy Spirit in the right direction. The Scriptures warn that “where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” (Proverbs 29:18, NASB).[2] Thus, prayer provides us insight and direction as the Holy Spirit leads us. In stark contrast, a lack of prayer may lead one to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Prayer provides empowerment to serve.

Prayer is essential, in fact critical, if one is to see anything great accomplished. Why? It is because God provides empowerment to the believer to serve in extraordinary ways. Paul notes that “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-16).

As a pastor, I have seen many people perform extraordinary accomplishments due to the empowerment of God. I remember a woman named Gaynelle. Gaynelle suffered from many afflictions. As fate would have it, her husband suffered dementia. Gaynelle’s husband fell and broke his hip. Her husband had to be placed in a nursing home where he could receive appropriate care. Gaynelle, despite suffering numerous physical maladies, drove countless miles each day to spend time with her husband. After her husband died, everyone asked her, “How were you able to do so much for your husband while being so sick?” She replied, “I prayed and God gave me strength to serve.” Gaynelle is but one example of prayer’s empowering capability.

Prayer provides opportunities to serve.

Luke notes that when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria, they gathered the church together and “declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Jesus says to the Church of Philadelphia, “I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close” (Revelation 3:8, HCSB).[3] By prayer, God provides doors of opportunity. A person who is seeking to switch jobs does not want to proverbially “jump from the frying pan into the fire.” Rather, a person of faith will desire to follow the will and plan of God. Prayer provides the means of opportunity as God opens the eyes of the believer to the given opportunities at hand. Opportunities lead one to a chance to serve.

Conclusion

So, let us ask the question again; does prayer counteract action? Obviously not! Rich Schapiro obviously does not understand the biblical concept of prayer. Prayer and service are not antagonistic rivals. Rather, prayer and service—while not the same—are complementary. Prayer leads to great means of service. So, when we say, “You are in our thoughts and prayers,” one should not presuppose that service is negated. Rather, the believer is literally saying, “I pray that God gives you comfort in your time of need.” I make no political commentary for either side of the American political paradigm that Schapiro referenced. That being said, perhaps Schapiro is correct in noting that we cannot allow prayer to supplant action. Even James notes that “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). However, we cannot allow action to override the importance of prayer either. Instead of demanding that one choose between prayer and service, or demeaning the practice of prayer; why not accept the biblical model realizing that prayer and service coincide? Could it not be that God will fix the issues of society by people of faith? Could it not be that God will use the prayers of the faithful to propel them to service?

 

© December 6, 2015. Brian Chilton

 

Sources Cited:

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996. Logos Bible Software.

Schapiro, Rich. “GOP Presidential Candidates Offer Prayers—Not Solutions on Gun Control—after San Bernardino Massacre.” New York Daily News.com (December 3, 2015). Accessed December 6, 2015. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/gop-candidates-call-prayers-calf-massacre-article-1.2453261.

 

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Scriptures marked NASB come from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[3] Scriptures marked HCSB comes from the Holman Christian Standard Version (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

The Theological Liberalism that Divided Spurgeon from the Baptist Union in the 1800s

When individuals consider great modern preachers, evangelists such as Billy Graham and pastors such as Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, Greg Laurie, and the late Jerry Falwell may come to mind. However, if one were to consider who was among the greatest of preachers in the late nineteenth century, one would be amiss if Charles Haddon Spurgeon were not added to such a list. According to John Piper, Spurgeon preached “over six hundred times before he turned twenty years old. His sermons sold about 20,000 copies a week and were translated into twenty languages.”[1] Spurgeon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England. John Pitts writes of Spurgeon that his “theology was moderately Calvinistic, his sermons warmly evangelistic, and his presentation of the gospel so fresh and refreshing that within a few months of entering upon his London ministry, at nineteen years of age, the crowds flocked to hear him and continued to do so for thirty-eight years.”[2] Yet despite the great fame of the London preacher, in a bizarre twist, Spurgeon formally withdrew from the Baptist Union which was an association of Baptist churches of the time. The severance from the Baptist Union took a toll on Spurgeon. Pitts denoted that Spurgeon “died in 1892, his end probably hastened by the unhappy Downgrade Controversy in which he was involved.”[3] Thus, one must inquire—what was the conflict that led Spurgeon to abandon the Baptist Union? This paper will argue that it was the intrusion of theological liberalism within the Baptist Union that influenced Charles Haddon Spurgeon to abandon his association with the Baptist Union in the so-called “Downgrade Controversy.” This paper will demonstrate the influence of theological liberalism upon the Baptist Union, at least as it was perceived by Spurgeon, in four ways. First, the paper will investigate the influence of theological liberalism upon the Baptist Union’s soteriology. Then, the paper will demonstrate the influence of theological liberalism upon the Baptist Union’s spirituality. In addition, the paper will examine the influence of theological liberalism upon Baptist Union’s morality. Finally, the paper will observe the influence of theological liberalism upon the level of authority given to the Word of God. The paper will begin this investigation by observing the influence of theological liberalism upon the Baptist Union’s soteriology.

The Influence of Theological Liberalism upon Soteriology

Soteriology is the study of salvation—emanating from the Greek terms soter meaning “savior” and logos defined as “study of” or “word.” Salvation is defined by Kenneth Keathley as “the work of God that delivers us from sin and its penalty, restores us to a right relationship with him, and imparts to us eternal life.[4] Soteriology is central to the message of Christianity. Therefore, it is a serious challenge when one’s soteriological understanding is compromised. Spurgeon had issues with the influence of Arminianism promoted through the lens of liberal theology which led to Socinianism, a form of Universalism.

Among one of the more hostile topics of theology surrounds that of John Calvin’s view of salvation in contrast to that of Jacob Arminius’ view. While Spurgeon was a noted Calvinist, his flavor of Calvinism would be found in the moderate framework. Norman Geisler provides an excellent model for understanding extreme or hyper-Calvinism as opposed to moderate Calvinism as he denotes that the “extreme Sovereignty view is held by extreme Calvinists. The extreme free will view is embraced by extreme Arminians (also termed Open Theism). The balanced (or middle) view is maintained by moderate Calvinists and moderate Arminians.”[5] Calvin’s soteriology would be considered moderate Calvinism according to Geisler’s model. Estep denotes that Spurgeon’s “theology was basically the Calvinism that characterized much of the English Nonconformity of his time…On his first visit to Geneva he wore Calvin’s robe and preached in the Geneva Reformer’s pulpit in St. Pierre. And yet he was not a hyper-Calvinist.”[6] To demonstrate that Spurgeon was not an extreme or hyper-Calvinist, Estep quotes Spurgeon as saying, “I fear that I am not a very good Calvinist because I pray that the Lord will save all of the elect and then elect some more.”[7] Yet it would appear that Spurgeon was a better Calvinist than he may have imagined. Duncan Ferguson denoted that many of “Calvin’s heirs were not as balanced in their views. The sense of liberty in interpreting the text was replaced by dogmatic tradition and an airtight doctrinal system.”[8] Craig Skinner, writing of Spurgeon’s soteriology, denotes that Spurgeon’s strength “lay in the balance with which he espoused them and not in the ideas as they stood alone…He preached the atonement as potential for all and the gospel as an authentic free offer of grace. Yet he also insisted that, from an eternal perspective, the atonement was actually effective only for the elect who responded freely to God’s call of grace.”[9]

This theological excursus is merely to define Spurgeon’s involvement in this theological debate. Spurgeon’s issues were not as much with the Arminianism construct (although Spurgeon certainly disagreed with Arminians) as much as it was the extreme version of Arminianism which liberal theologians used to demerit God’s involvement in the salvific process. Liberal theologians began to introduce Socinian ideologies into the Baptist Union. Socinian beliefs held that Christ began to exist at the Virgin Birth and also held that God did not know every future contingent truth.[10] Alan Cairns denotes that Socinus, from whom Socinianism is named, “denied that Christ offered any atonement or satisfaction to God for sinners, advocating the example theory of the atonement. He held that sinners are pardoned and accepted by God, through divine mercy, on the ground of their own repentance and reformation.”[11] Such teachings were unacceptable to Spurgeon. Spurgeon denotes that “We too often measure God after a human standard, and hence make mistakes. Remember that God has such an abundance of mercy, and grace and power, that he never has to calculate how much will be necessary for the accomplishment of his purpose.”[12] Spurgeon inquired, “Saved on different footings, and believing different doctrines, will they enjoy eternal concord, or will heaven itself be only a new arena for disputation between varieties of faith?”[13] Spurgeon appreciated the differences between orthodox believers so long as such believers remained orthodox. Spurgeon denoted that “Although upon the doctrines of grace our views differ from those avowed by Arminian Methodists, we have usually found that on the great evangelical truths we are in full agreement, and we have been comforted by the belief that Wesleyans were solid upon the central doctrines.”[14] Thus, Spurgeon was not out to create divisions due to minor theological variances, rather Spurgeon discredited any attempt to deprive the exclusivity of the Christian faith—something that some in the Baptist Union were attempting to assert.

Spurgeon’s stand for the biblical understanding of soteriology is important and one that should be promoted among Christians in modern times. Theologians and sociologists alike have labeled the present period of thought as post-modernism. While this paper does not have space enough to describe the details of post-modernism, suffice it to say, post-modern thinkers are more susceptible to the acceptance of alternative soteriological constructs. Whereas it was important that Spurgeon took his stand for the biblical case for soteriology, it is just as, if not more, important that modern Christians do the same.

This section has noted Spurgeon’s issues with the ultra-Arminianism did not stem from a particular problem with orthodox believers who adhered to a differing viewpoint. Spurgeon was not one who sought trouble where none existed. Rather, Spurgeon had issues with particular theories which evolved into systems which would be found beyond the umbrella of Christian orthodoxy, a system that elevated humanity over divinity which is a hallmark of liberalism. Spurgeon had another issue with the liberal theology growing in the Baptist Union—the lack of trust in biblical authority.

The Influence of Theological Liberalism upon Authority

Whereas Jesus is the foundation upon which Christianity rests, nonetheless the truths of Christianity—those truths presented about Jesus—are presented in the Bible. The Old Testament provides the foundation upon which the Messiah and the early church would emerge. The New Testament provides the foundational doctrines pertaining to the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus and the early church. If a person begins to deny the authority and/or reliability of the Bible, then the foundation of one’s faith begin to crumble. Walter Elwell describes the importance of biblical authority as being so “vital to understand that this doctrine, far from playing a minor role on the fringes of Christian belief, brings us face to face with the authority of God himself. What is at stake in the authority of Holy Scripture is the authority of its divine author.”[15] Thus, biblical authority is critical if one is to accept the core teachings of Christianity. Liberal theologians throughout the history of the church have a reputation for dismissing the authority of Scriptures.[16] Spurgeon was one who remained steadfast upon the conviction that the Bible is inspired and infallible. Ferguson denotes of Spurgeon that at “the foundation of his approach to Scripture was his deep Christian faith and belief in the truth of the Biblical testimony. Faith in the redemptive acts of God as recorded in Scripture is the ground of Spurgeon’s hermeneutical system.”[17] Therefore, it is not surprising that part of Spurgeon’s problem with the infiltration of liberal ideologies into the Baptist Union was the liberal theologians’ denial of the Bible’s authority in their convictions. Spurgeon denoted that “The case is mournful. Certain ministers are making infidels. Avowed atheists are not a tenth as dangerous as those preachers who scatter doubt and stab at faith…A gracious woman bemoaned in my presence that a precious promise in Isaiah which had comforted her had been declared by her minister to be uninspired.”[18] One can appreciate Spurgeon’s sentiments. For a minister to discredit the Bible would be comparable to an electrician discrediting Ohm’s law. Such a one loses the foundation upon which they stand. Spurgeon thought that an acceptance of biblical authority was an example of the grace of God in one’s life. Spurgeon denoted that “A still surer evidence of grace is the mind’s perception of revealed truth and its obedience to it.[19] In contrast, if one were to deny the Scriptures, then where was the grace of God? With the apparent dismissal of biblical truth by some liberal adherents and the refusal of the Baptist Union to address the intrusion, one can understand why Spurgeon decided to withdraw from the Union.

Modern Christians can learn much from Spurgeon’s stand. While Baptists hold a bad reputation for divisions, certain times present themselves where such a division is permissible. If the authority of the Bible is denigrated, then what is left for those proclaiming its truths or those hearing them? Jesus himself stated that “if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).[20] If the authority of a denomination, a church, a pastor, or a layperson is not standing upon the authority of Scripture, then such a one is divided against itself. Suffice it to say, Spurgeon was justified in his concerns in the denigration of biblical authority within the Union. Yet, Spurgeon would hold another issue with the influx of liberal theology upon the Baptist Union, one that is the outflow of one’s dismissal of biblical authority—the lack of spiritual integrity.

The Influence of Theological Liberalism upon Spirituality

To Spurgeon, spiritual integrity was essential. Spurgeon writes that “When man confides in God, there is a point of union between them, and that union guarantees blessing. Faith saves us because it makes us cling to God, and so it brings us into connection with him.”[21] Due to the emphasis on prayer and spiritual integrity, one would not be surprised when one discovers that Spurgeon’s complaints pertaining to the Baptist Union, surrounded, as McBeth denotes, “the decline of prayer meetings among Baptist churches, the worldliness of ministers…and doctrinal decay.”[22] Some might claim that Spurgeon was intruding into affairs that did not concern him. However, such a one would not understand the emphasis that Spurgeon placed upon prayer. To Spurgeon, prayer and a strong relationship with Christ was essential for ministry. Peter J. Morden denotes that “The corporate prayer meeting, as well as being critical to his ministry, was a means of personally experiencing close communion with God. Such times were certainly vital to his prayer life; they were vital too, to his overall spirituality—the way he related to God.”[23] Thus, for Spurgeon, if one did not possess a strong relationship with God, then one would become susceptible to heterodoxy and heresy. In contrast, if one were to remain faithful to God in their spiritual lives, then one would be kept safe in the confines of orthodox beliefs and practices. Spurgeon denoted that “if thou canst trust God in thy trial, thou wilt prove and enjoy the power of prayer. The man that has never needed to pray cannot tell whether there is anything in prayer or not.”[24] Since liberal theology had invaded other areas, the lack of spiritual fervor resulting from such liberal tendencies added further reasons for Spurgeon to leave the Union. If one did not believe in the authority of the Scripture, then why would one desire to live by what the Scriptures claimed?

For modern Christians, the spiritual decline among leadership must also be combated. Dave Earley denoted that recent surveys demonstrated that “only 16 percent of Protestant ministers across the country are very satisfied with their personal prayer life.”[25] Like Spurgeon, the modern church needs to place a high value upon spiritual health—for the pastors and the laity alike. The natural progression of spiritual decline begins with humanistic soteriology and a low integral value for Scripture. It then progresses to decay one’s spiritual life with God before eroding one’s moral integrity. The forthcoming section of the paper will evaluate theological liberalism’s influence upon the moral integrity of the ministers of the Baptist Union in the late nineteenth century.

The Influence of Theological Liberalism upon Morality

Theological liberalism had brought forth moral depravity among those who were supposedly redeemed in the Baptist Union in the late 1800s. Spurgeon called one of the evils penetrating his time the “growth of wickedness in the land, especially in two forms, which we ought not to overlook. One is, the growing worldliness among professing Christians. They are indulging in extravagance in many ways; in luxurious habits, dress equipages, feastings, and so on, and wasting the substance of which they are stewards.”[26]  David Nelson Duke denoted that “Spurgeon’s social concern was grounded in his devotion to God in Christ.”[27] For Spurgeon, living a sinful life was essentially rejecting the authority and even the existence of God. Spurgeon denoted that “There are some, whose lives have proved how sinful their nature was, for their sin has taken the form of open and gross vice…Opposition to divine sovereignty is essentially atheism. Men who have no objection to a god who is really no god; I mean, by this, a god who shall be the subject of their caprice, who shall be the lackey to their will, who shall be under their control.”[28] According to Spurgeon, many among the Baptist Union, both clergy and laity, had engaged in immoral and rebellious acts which demonstrated a lack of commitment and a lack of belief in the sovereign God.

The modern Christian should benefit greatly by Spurgeon’s example, standing against immorality in the Baptist Union. Immorality is the end result of liberal theology. If one does not hold to the authority of Scripture and does not place a high value of the grace of God, then one will be less inclined to maintain a strong spiritual walk with God. If one does not maintain a strong spiritual walk with God, then one will collapse into a worldly lifestyle. According to Spurgeon, such a collapse was transpiring in the Baptist Union in the late nineteenth century. Since Spurgeon had no backing by the leadership of the Baptist Union, the only recourse left for Spurgeon was to resign his association from the Baptist Union.

Conclusion 

This paper has evaluated the influence of theological liberalism upon the Baptist Union and in the decision of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the Metropolitan Tabernacle leaving the Baptist Union. The paper has demonstrated that, according to Spurgeon, theological liberalism had led many ministers to minimize the influence of God in salvation, even leading many to Unitarian beliefs. In addition, the paper evaluated Spurgeon’s claims that theological liberalism had lessened the authority that many had placed upon Scripture. Due to these influences, theological liberalism was shown to influence the spiritual and moral lives of the clergy, ultimately influencing the laity, also. The downside to such a paper as this is that only one side of the equation is offered. For those who were accused of liberalism, those individuals may have claimed that Spurgeon was reaching beyond the boundaries, becoming greatly involved in the lives of others. Nonetheless, history tends to reveal the truth. While Spurgeon’s withdrawal did not hold a huge impact upon the Baptist Union at the time, eventually it would. The Baptist Union remained in steady decline throughout the twentieth century. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies was the remarkable impact the controversy factored into the famed preacher’s health.

While certain aspects of Spurgeon’s ministry are not accepted by this paper—perhaps mostly the disdain that Spurgeon held for apologetics seen so clearly in some of his messages; this paper commends Spurgeon for the convictions he held pertaining to the authority of Scripture, proper theology, and the impact that a relational walk holds in the life of the believer. Modern Christians would do well to share these convictions even if they do not agree with Spurgeon on all fronts.

 The previous paper represents the academic work of Brian Chilton. The work has been submitted and thus any attempt to plagiarize this work in future academic works will be noted by one’s academic institution. As always, be sure to offer proper citations for any work used in this piece.

Copyright July 2, 2015. Brian Chilton

Bibliography

Cairns, Alan. Dictionary of Theological Terms. Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002.

Duke, David Nelson. “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Social Concern Exceeding an Individualistic, Self-help Ideology.” Baptist History and Heritage 22, 4 (October 1, 1987): 47-56. Accessed May 28, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Earley, Dave. Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008.

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996.

Estep, William Roscoe. “The Making of a Prophet: An Introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History and Heritage 19, 4 (October 1, 1984): 3-15. Accessed May 28, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Ferguson, Duncan S. “The Bible and Protestant Orthodoxy : The Hermeneutics of Charles Spurgeon.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25, 4 (December 1, 1982): 455-466. Accessed May 28, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Geisler, Norman L. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

Keathley, Kenneth. “The Work of God: Salvation.” A Theology for the Church. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H, 2014.

McBeth, H. Leon. Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville: B&H Academic, 1987.

Morden, Peter J. “C. H. Spurgeon and Prayer.” Evangelical Quarterly 84, 5 (October 1, 2012): 323-344. Accessed May 28, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Piper, John. Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity. Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2015.

Pitts, John. “British and American Preaching Since 1900.” Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology. Edited by Ralph G. Turnbull. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967.

Skinner, Craig. “The Preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History and Heritage 19, 4 (October 1, 1984): 16-26. Accessed May 28, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. All of Grace. n.g.: CountedFaithful.org, 2012. Kindle Electronic Edition.

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. “The Child of Light Walking in Darkness.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons. Volume 33. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1887.

______________________. “A Sermon for the Time Present.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons. Volume 33. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1887.

______________________. “General Yet Particular.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons. Volume 10. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1864.

______________________. “It Pleased God.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons. Volume 56. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1910.

______________________. An All-Round Ministry. Edinburgh, UK; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003.

______________________. The Downgrade Controversy. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2008.

[1] John Piper, Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2015), 1.

[2] John Pitts, “British and American Preaching Since 1900,” Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology, Ralph G. Turnbull, ed (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 14.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” A Theology for the Church, Daniel L. Akin, ed (Nashville: B&H, 2014), 543.

[5] Norman L. Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010), 19.

[6] William Roscoe Estep, “The Making of a Prophet: An Introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Baptist History and Heritage 19, 4 (October 1, 1984): 6, retrieved May 28, 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Duncan S. Ferguson,”The Bible and Protestant Orthodoxy: The Hermeneutics of Charles Spurgeon,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25, 4 (December 1, 1982): 455, retrieved May 28, 2015.

[9] Craig Skinner, “The Preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Baptist History and Heritage 19, 4 (October 1, 1984): 22, retrieved May 28, 2015.

[10] The realm of God’s knowledge of future contingents resembles that of modern Open Theism.

[11] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 420–421.

[12] C. H. Spurgeon, “General Yet Particular,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Volume 10 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1864), 238.

[13] C. H. Spurgeon, “Progressive Theology,” Sword and Trowel (April 1888), in C. H. Spurgeon, Down-grade Controversy (Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2008), 88.

[14] C. H. Spurgeon, “Notes,” Sword and Trowel (1891), in Charles H. Spurgeon, The Down-grade Controversy (Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2008), 148.

[15] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 154.

[16] Two examples of this are found in the demythologization of the Bible presented by Rudolf Bultmann and the ideas of Paul Tillich.

[17] Ferguson, “The Bible and Protestant Orthodoxy,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 458-459.

[18] C. H. Spurgeon, “Another Word Concerning the Down-grade,” Sword and Trowel (August 1887), in The Down-Grade Controversy (Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2008), 36.

[19] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Child of Light Walking in Darkness,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Volume 33 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1887), 557.

[20] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[21] C. H. Spurgeon, All of Grace (n.g.: CountedFaithful.org, 2012), Kindle Electronic Edition, 591.

[22] C. H. Spurgeon, The “Down-Grade Controversy: Collected Materials Which Reveal the Viewpoint of the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publishing, n.d.), 513-514, in H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville: B&H Academic, 1987), 303.

[23] Peter J. Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Prayer,” Evangelical Quarterly 84, 5 (October 1, 2012): 325, retrieved May 28, 2015.

[24] Spurgeon, “The Child of Night Walking in Darkness,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle, 550.

[25] Dave Earley, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008), 1.

[26] C. H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry (Edinburgh, UK; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), 102.

[27] David Nelson Duke, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Social Concern Exceeding an Individualistic, Self-help Ideology,” Baptist History and Heritage 22, 4 (October 1, 1987): 47, retrieved May 28, 2015.

[28] C. H. Spurgeon, “It Pleased God,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Volume 56 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1910), 292-293.

50 Shades of Green: The Problems Associated with a Greed-Driven Life

There is concern among the Christian community about an ultra-erotic novel titled 50 Shades of Grey. While it must be admitted that this writer knows very little about the novel, it is certain that the Christian needs to avoid those things that would tempt them. While I will leave the book 50 Shades of Grey to be critiqued by another more knowledgeable about the book than myself, it does seem to me that there is another problem. For the sake of argument, let us call this problem 50 Shades of Green. What is 50 Shades of Green? It refers to a greed-driven life. While there is nothing wrong with possessing nice things, especially if one has worked hard for those things; there is something wrong about a life that is focused more on possessions and power than on the things in life that really matter (God, family, friendships, parenting, and the like). The Bible presents at least four problems that come by living a greed-driven life. Those four problems will be addressed in this article.

money bag

Greed Brings Immorality

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Some have misinterpreted this verse to claim that “money is the root of all evil.” However, Paul writes that the “love” of money is the core root of evil. Thus, a greed-driven life is a catalyst for immorality. Have you ever thought about what drives individuals to rob banks, steal information from another person’s bank account (e.g. identity theft), and even commit atrocious acts of abuse? Greed is the engine that drives such actions. It stems from the desire to have more.

While there is nothing wrong in one desiring to improve one’s life, it is wrong when one has an incessant desire, or craving rather, for more things. Part of the problem is that a person will never know contentment under such circumstances. I have known more than one person who has worked themselves to an early grave. Why? Perhaps, it came from a desire to possess more or to do better than everyone around them. In such cases, a person will not know peace and contentment. Rather, for such a one, life will be one continuous competition in which no ultimate winner will ever emerge.

Money_Dollar_Sign_Money_Clipart

Greed Brings Hypocrisy

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus said of the Pharisees that they were guilty of hypocrisy. Why did they become hypocrites? Greed! Recently, Eric Metaxas wrote a powerful article for the Christian Post titled What We Can Learn from Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity. Metaxas writes, “Here’s something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too much of that” (Metaxas 2014, http://www.christianpost.com/news/learning-from-young-atheists-what-turned-them-off-christianity-124151/). The Pharisees were not changed by their belief system. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. The Pharisee’s hypocrisy was driven by greed. They wanted people to look to them for answers. They wanted to be liked. They wanted power. They wanted to have all that came with fame and popularity. However, the Pharisees sacrificed their integrity at the altar of greed. Jesus teaching and Metaxas’ article should remind us that we should not allow greed to warp our mentality. Greed should not cause us to warp the message of the Bible in favor of entertainment. Greed should not cause us to be so driven by proclamation that we fail to undergird the message by a close, personal relationship with God. Perhaps, part of the weakened state of the American church stems from congregations placing more focus and attention on the building in which they worship instead of the God in whom they serve.

money-hi

Greed Brings Idolatry

“Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature:  sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Atheists and agnostics will commonly call themselves “free-thinkers.” Yet, it seems that once one enters a “free-thinking community,” one loses the freedom to believe in God. If one chooses to believe in God in the “free-thinking community,” the community may not be as open to them as they once were. So, how free-thinking is the “free-thinking community”? Nonetheless, a greed-driven life leads one to idolatry. Idolatry is a lifestyle that leaves God out of the midst. Idolatry is the worship of a material thing over the Creator. It should be of no surprise that the “free-thinking community” refers to themselves as “pagans” or “the godless.” The free-thinkers do worship something. Perhaps the object of their worship is found in themselves. The object of worship could be that of their perception of science. The object of worship could even be in the free-thinker’s own fight against religion. Whatever the case may be, something is still worshiped.

As tragic as it is for the free-thinker, it is far more tragic for the believer to fall into greed’s idolatrous trap. When a person claims to be a Christian, the person should realize the value of life and of creation in general. When anyone allows greed to take control, the person will then justify his or her actions to obtain a particular thing. For a Christian, this may allow for unChristlike behavior. The Christian should remember that Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15). How much do you love Jesus as opposed to materialism?

ShockedMonopolyMan-t

Greed Brings Atrophy

“They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep” (2 Peter 2:3). Peter was writing to the church concerning false prophets in the end days. In fact, I would suggest that every believer makes oneself familiar with the teachings of 2 Peter chapter 2. Peter warns the church about the problem of greed. A greed-driven life will lead one towards atrophy (or destruction). One will find that the more one is driven by greed, the less one is concerned about family, friends, or even God.

I will never forget a time when I met a Christian businessman. He was asking about how serious he should take the commands of Jesus in the workplace. I told him that he should take the teachings of Jesus very seriously. However, there were others who tried to justify his actions in business. I admit that I do not know what those actions entailed. But, if Jesus is God incarnate (which I believe He is) and if Jesus is the truth (which I believe He is), then what He taught and what He instructed in how we should live should be taken seriously, regardless of whether the context is in business, or in the life of one’s family. Now obviously, context is the rule. Nations cannot turn the other cheek whilst they are being bombed. They must protect their citizens. Of course, Jesus was not addressing national polity in His messages. Jesus was addressing individuals. Context is the key. Nonetheless, the clear teachings of Jesus should be followed by the one who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Otherwise, a person will find oneself eroding in their relationship with God and in their relationships with others.

 

Conclusion

Do you need evidence that greed erodes? Just look around you. Nations will war against other nations because one nation wants what the other possesses: the driving force—greed. Businesses will ruthlessly overtake every other smaller business that they can drive out of business: the driving force—greed. Companies will charge hidden fees to obtain more and more of your money: the driving force—greed. Groups of individuals will ruthlessly take the lives of others that cause them problems: the driving force—greed. American sports constantly face union strikes that often interrupt American pastimes: the driving force—greed. The NCAA is potentially facing an implosion: the driving force—greed (be it from players or from the NCAA…you be the judge). The United States of America was once the greatest superpower in the world. The nation’s standing is eroding: the driving force behind this erosion—greed (and the rejection of God). Why do great churches crumble? Why do great leaders fall? The reason…they begin to look more upon themselves and their desires than toward the direction and leadership of the One who first gave them life: God. Greed is a dangerous monster. Don’t be found to hold 50 Shades of Green. Be found to be driven by God…not greed. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate the one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NLT).

fifty shades of green

 Bibliography

 Metaxas, Eric. “What we can learn from young atheists: what turned them off Christianity.” Christian Post.com. (August 1, 2014). http://www.christianpost.com/news/learning-from-young-atheists-what-turned-them-off-christianity-124151/. (Accessed August 4, 2014).

Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Version. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007.

Top Ten Tips To Prevent Spiritual and Emotional Burnout

burnout1

According to Wilson and Hoffman,

Of ministers in the United States: 25% have been forced out of or fired from their ministry at least once. 90% feel inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands. 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively. 45% say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence. 40% have serious conflict with a church member at least once a month. 20% admit to having an affair while in the ministry. 37% admit that Internet pornography is a current struggle. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend” (Wilson & Hoffman 2007, 31).

Let’s face it: American ministers are often running on spiritual and emotional fumes. One could argue that the American church has placed far too many demands on their ministers. While this could be true, many in ministry are facing spiritual and ministerial burnout. This does not only include ministers. Many in high-stress jobs (e.g. doctors, lawyers, police officers, executives, etc) face similar problems.

However, burnout does not need to be the case. When one is pushed to the maximum, methods exist to help the person cope with the high demands so that they will not become a victim of burnout. Recently, I took a course at Liberty University called LEAD 625: Preventing Ministry Burnout. Through this course, I learned ten great tips to help one cope with spiritual and emotional burnout. This list has been compiled in the fashion of a top-ten list by which I personally have benefited. Others may find lower-ranked tips more important for themselves. Without further ado, here are the top ten list of tips to help one prevent spiritual and emotional burnout.

 

#10th Best Tip:            Learn Who You Are and What God Has Called You to Do.

God said to Jeremiah, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). This passage of Scripture is powerful in many ways. First, God taught Jeremiah that Jeremiah had a purpose. Jeremiah was not some random mistake that came about by happenstance as many atheists would want one to believe. No, Jeremiah had purpose. Second, God demonstrated that Jeremiah was set apart for a certain task. Finally, God revealed to Jeremiah what that task would be: that of a prophet.

The point is that each one of us has a purpose. You were born with a divine plan. God has a purpose and plan for you. The problem is that so often we fail to see what God’s plan for our lives may be. So many individuals wander around in life with no purpose and direction. However, if they would go to God, they could find their purpose and God’s plan for their lives. In addition, one must understand that he or she is unique. So often, I have heard people tell me, “You do a good job. But, I wish you would preach harder.” Others say, “Wow! You do good, but you preach too hard.” I cannot be anyone else other than what God has called me to be. Truthfully, if you are in the center of God’s will, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you. Find God’s plan and accept that reality and you may find less spiritual and emotional problems in life.

 

#9th Best Tip:              It’s Okay to Say “No.”

It is difficult. But if you want to avoid being burnt out, learn to say “no” to those things that are not priorities. Wilson and Hoffman write, “Our boundaries help us to say “no” to the manipulator and “yes” to our spouse and kids” (Wilson & Hoffman 2007, 146). Don’t be manipulated. Just because someone has a good idea does not mean that YOU have to act on it. Encourage the person who has the idea to investigate it themselves. It may be that God is calling that person to something and the person wants to push the calling off on you. But if God has not called YOU to do the thing, YOU do not need to do it.

Saying “no” is completely biblical. Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him during Jesus’ earthly ministry. They tried to persuade Him to go to Jerusalem before it was time. They said, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition” (John 7:3). Jesus replied, “My time has not yet arrived but your time is always at hand” (John 7:6). In essence, Jesus told them “No.” It was not time for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. Learning the art of saying “no” to the things that are not essential may be one of the greatest practices you can do in order to find spiritual and emotional balance in your life.

 

#8th Best Tip:              Protect Your Family and Close Friendships by Boundaries.

Going back to what Wilson and Hoffman said, “Our commitment to our family, coupled with our refusal to be manipulated, will help us, our family and the one manipulating us to see more clearly the consequences on all sides” (Wilson & Hoffman 2007, 145). Can someone give them an “Amen”? Don’t be bullied. Emotional bullies exist everywhere. Emotional bullies are individuals who use guilt in order to manipulate you to do what they desire for you to do. But, the real issue is that you are not serving that bully. Your call is to serve God first and foremost. Your first calling is to your family. Paul writes that “But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Understand one thing: ministry and all occupations are necessary. However, chances are likely that those you work with and work for are much less likely to care for you while you are on your deathbed than those of your household. Protect the relationship with your family and closest friends.

 

#7th Best Tip:              Always Operate with Humility.

John Dickson defines humility not as “being a doormat for others, having low self-esteem or curbing your strengths and achievements…Humility is the noble choice to forego your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself” (Dickson 2011, 23-24). The Bible says much about the need for humility. Proverbs 22:4 states, “The result of humility is fear of the Lord, along with wealth, honor, and life.” The prophet Zephaniah states that one should “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who carry out what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility…” (Zephaniah 2:3). Paul warns about false humility in Colossians 2:18. There is a great benefit in understanding that not all of life is a competition. Live with humility and you may not only find spiritual and emotional balance, but you may find many other blessings as well.

 

#6th Best Tip:              Learn How to Handle the Fires of Conflict without Getting Burned.

It is inevitable that conflicts will come. However, knowing how to handle those conflicts go a long way in helping one deal with the issues of burnout. While articles could be written about this very thing; the best advice that I received in this course is by being prepared. Prepare for possible problems in advance. Be proactive instead of reactive. Many conflicts can be headed off at the pass by simply preparing in advance for possible problems. What would you do if A happened? What if B took place? Also, understand that you are not going to make everyone happy. There was only one perfect person that ever walked this earth and He found Himself nailed to a cross. In addition, leave the conflict where the conflict occurred. Don’t take it home with you. In this case, the preacher may be preaching more at himself than anyone else. Nonetheless, it is still good advice.

 burnout

#5th Best Tip:              Relax and Unwind.

The Bible states that God worked six days and relaxed on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). Was it that God needed the rest? No. Perhaps God wanted to take time to look to see what He had done. Nonetheless, you are not God. You do need the rest. I think this is the whole principle behind having a Sabbath day. A Sabbath day not only serves to provide one time for worship, but it also allows one to have time to unwind and to relax. Our family has recently started a Family Fun Night in which we play card games or board games. It’s amazing how a simple game of Uno® will allow one a chance to unwind and relax. For examples of Jesus unwinding, see the number one tip provided in this article.

 

#4th Best Tip:              Learn that Everyone is a Problem Person to Someone…Even You.

It is unavoidable: some people are going to drive you nuts!!! Different people have differing temperaments. These temperaments have been called a variety of names. Wilson and Hoffman are creative in their approach. They have called these temperaments the following:

Powerful Hammer:

Themes: ‘Let’s do it my way!’ ‘Let’s move, shake and make it happen!’ ‘Let’s get it done now!’

Can be ‘spotted in a crowd’ by their restlessness; quick grab for control; fast-moving and high-energy approach.

Versatile Swiss Army Knife:

Themes: ‘Let’s do it the fun way’; ‘Lighten up, don’t take things so hard!’ ‘Don’t worry, we can just wing it!’

Can be ‘spotted in a crowd’ by constant chatter; animated and colorful expressions; enthusiasm; ability to mix easily; networking with others.

Adaptable Duct Tape:

Themes: ‘Let’s do it the easy way!’; ‘Don’t make waves!’; ‘Let’s take the path of least resistance!’; ‘Excuse me, can I say something now?’; ‘I don’t know what you want me to do?’

Can be ‘spotted in a crowd’ by their calm, modest and accommodating posture; maintaining a low profile by ‘blending’ into the social situation.

Precision Tape Measure:

Themes: ‘Let’s do it the right way!’; ‘But what about _____?’; ‘The job isn’t complete until the paperwork is done!’

Can be ‘spotted in a crowd’ by their sensitive nature; serious conversations; well-mannered approach to others; well-groomed appearance (with some exceptions)” (Wilson & Hoffman 2007, 193-195).

 

Here’s the point. If you are a Hammer, you will be frustrated by the Duct Tape because they won’t speed up. If you are the Army Knife, you will be frustrated by the Tape Measure because everything has to be precise, or perhaps they think things through to death. If you are a Duct Tape, you will be frustrated by the pushy nature of the Hammer and wonder do they ever slow down? If you are the Tape Measure, you will be frustrated by the Army Knife wondering if they will ever shut-up!!! Everyone has someone that drives them crazy. But you probably drive someone crazy too. Jesus told us that we were to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35)…this includes those that drive us crazy. Looking at people from Jesus’ lens will transform the way we look at those problem people.

#3rd Best Tip:              Accept the Fact that You Cannot Change Everyone.

Understand that there are just some things that you cannot change. God has granted people with a level of human will. God demonstrates His own frustration in Ezekiel when God says, “‘Do I take pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ This is the declaration of the Lord God. ‘Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives'” (Ezekiel 18:23)? Some people will not change regardless of what you may do. The best you can do is to love them, tell them about the salvation found in Jesus Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. In the end, only God knows whether that person will repent or not. Understanding that you are not responsible for the outcome, only the proclamation makes evangelism much easier.

 

#2nd Best Tip:              Make the “Main Things” the Main Things in Life.

The next best tip that could be offered is to allow the “main things” to be the main things. Several things could be said. If you are a concerned Christian, you are probably overwhelmed at the amount of problems facing our culture and our children’s future. That is why we must strive to protect our freedoms and our faith; for our children’s sake. It is overwhelming when one observes the mass problems facing our culture: moral collapse, rising persecutions, the deterioration of the family, and so on. In the end, we must learn to trust God. Change those things which you can change. Focus on those things in which you can make a difference. Grow and blossom where God has planted you. Leave the rest to God. Understand that God has not called you to be a Superman or a Superwoman. God has called you to fulfill the calling that God has placed in your life. Let the main things be the main things…trust in His work in those things…and leave the rest to God’s providential care.

 

#1 Tip:                                    Protect and Maintain A Strong Devotional Life: Prayer in Solitude.

The number one tip is number one for a reason. Everyone needs time with God. Jesus, the Son of God, needed time alone with His Father. Mark writes that “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, (Jesus) got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there” (Mark 1:35). We must protect our time with God. This may require a mode of fasting, too. By fasting, I do not necessarily mean that one should go without food. I simply mean that one should leave one’s phone in the other room. Do not get on Facebook. Do not allow any distractions during this time. Focus completely upon God and upon His Word. My wife has told me that she can tell when I spend an adequate amount of time with God from those times when I do not. When I spend an adequate amount of time with God, I am more rested, peaceful, and content. We live in a hurried time. Maybe the best advice of all is that we need to slow down and take time with the One who is responsible for anything to exist in the first place. Wilson and Hoffman say it best as they write that “We must maintain strong boundaries around our inner life, for as soon as we relax them we may be attacked by an enemy who sees us as the gateway to hundreds if not thousands of souls” (Wilson & Hoffman 2007, 167). For spiritual and emotional peace, call up the Prince of Peace. His number is toll-free and is available 24/7.

 

Conclusion

I have had some health issues as of late. Some of these issues were based upon some anxieties and problems that I was carrying and had never let go. While I cannot say that I am completely over these issues as it takes time, I can say that by applying these principles I have found a greater sense of peace and contentment in my life. I know that God has called me to continue my education. I don’t mean to promote Liberty University as Liberty is one of many fantastic Christian universities. However, I will say that God has placed me in classes that I needed at the times I needed them the most. LEAD 625 “Preventing Ministry Failure” may be seen as a course requirement for some. For me, I think God used this class as a means to save me from burnout. That is why I pass along the principles that I have learned on to you. Many of the health issues we have come from our mishandling of stress. But, it does not have to be that way. Trust God. Love others. Stand for truth. Provide for your family. God will handle the rest.

 

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman, 2009.

 Dickson, John. Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Wilson, Michael Todd and Brad Hoffman. Preventing Ministry Failure. Downers Grove: IVP, 2007.

 

 

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Holy Spirit Leadership

bright flamy symbol on the black background

This past week I was responding to a post on a discussion board for one of my classes at Liberty University in Evangelism. The lady who posted a message mentioned that in her opinion, one of the most pressing needs is for pastors to be led by the Holy Spirit. I could not agree more. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the very presence of God in our lives. Yet so often, it seems that individuals seek out their own agendas or their own concerns instead of what the Holy Spirit desires. Paul warns us that it is possible to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). So what are some ways that we can become more in tune with the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

 

1.         Follow the Spirit by Spending Quality Time with the Lord in Prayer.

Several times it is reported that Jesus went away to spend quality time with the Lord. Jesus, the Son of God, needed time to rest in the presence of God. In Matthew 14:13, it is written that Jesus “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” In Mark 1:35, we learn that Jesus “got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Here is the point that must be learned: if Jesus needed time alone with God, we need even more time alone with God. So many times our spiritual reserves are drained by the problems of life. However, we should know that God provides us rest in the Holy Spirit. Find a time in which you can spend with the Lord and defend that time adamantly. Wilson and Hoffman write in their book Preventing Ministry Failure that one “must maintain strong boundaries around our inner life, for as soon as we relax them we may be attacked by an enemy who sees us as the gateway to hundreds if not thousands of souls” (Wilson & Hoffman 2007, 167). Find a time and place where you can get away with God and spend that time with Him. Leave your pagers, phones, and Facebook accounts in a different place. Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and pray to your Father, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). You may find this time with God the most relaxing time you have spent in some time.

 

2.         Follow the Spirit by Spending Quality Time with the Lord in His Word.

Part of your time with God needs to be spent in the Word of God. Do you have a regular Bible reading plan? Even more importantly, do you look and hear what God may be telling you? If you do so, it may be that the Spirit of God convicts you in some ways or perhaps changes your perspectives. If He does, know that you are in good company. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit that He would “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). The Spirit would also convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8ff). The Holy Spirit inspired the writings of Scripture in their original form and works through its words to convict, teach, and lead. Not only should one read the Word, one should meditate on the Word asking the Holy Spirit to guide them into the truth.

 HolySpiritFire

3.         Follow the Spirit by Spending Quality Time with the Lord Resting in the Promises.

I made a startling discovery the past few weeks. Many of the health issues with which I have been struggling have been directly related to anxiety and worry. I found myself recently undergoing a gastric emptying test to check the functioning of my stomach. While in the waiting room, I spoke with two individuals who were in for the same kind of testing. They spoke of their conditions. Admittedly, they have suffered with far more than I have. Yet, a common trend was noted. All of us had undergone stressful events in our lives and none of us had coped with the events very well. Then it hit me…it’s not supposed to be that way. Did not Jesus say “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)? We can find rest in God through the Holy Spirit if we call upon Him.

 

Conclusion

Much more can be said, but this article would become a book if I did. The Holy Spirit of God should have impacted us in a mighty way. But, this spiritual awakening does not have to be a one-time experience only. A Christian should have constant communion with God through the Holy Spirit. A Christian should be led by the Holy Spirit of God and directed in His paths. If the modern church would let go of the things that they cannot change and focus on the things that they have been called to change, then it might just be that we could be on the verge of a Third Great Awakening. That is my prayer. But understand, the Spirit of God cannot be controlled, maintained, and does not operate by the vote of the majority. The Spirit of God is like an untamed lion. Perhaps that is why the Spirit has been symbolized in Scripture by a fire. In fact, God is said to be a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Allow the Spirit of God to take control, you may find yourself speaking to people you never thought you would, doing things you never thought you could, being enlightened to new truths that were previously misunderstood, and seeing former bad things miraculously transformed into good. Because our God can “do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Are you ready for Holy Spirit leadership? I certainly am!!! Take control Holy Spirit and lead us into the paths of Jesus our Savior.

 God consuming fire

 

Bibliography

 

Scripture taken from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

 

Wilson, Michael Todd and Brad Hoffman. Preventing Ministry Failure. Downers Grove: IVP, 2007.

 

 

© Pastor Brian Chilton 2014.

Reflections on an Unforgettable American Hero: Junior Matthews

Junior Matthews  Some people that you meet are forgettable: unimpressionable and impersonal. Then there are others who are unforgettable. These are individuals that, no matter how long they are gone from your presence, leave an indelible impression upon your life. Junior Matthews was one of those unforgettable people. Junior Matthews was born near the Yadkin River in the foothills of North Carolina. Junior grew up in a simple time. He and his family had no electricity nor running water. Junior said that most the time for transportation his family would either walk or ride a horse and buggy to get where they needed to go.

Junior was drafted to the army in World War II. It was a miracle that he survived the war. According to his personal account, “We were instructed to go up a river to scout for the enemy. As we were walking up an embankment, we came under fire by the Nazis. I stepped backward and fell in a foxhole dug out by the Nazis. At that time, a fireball flew over my head. I was saved by the foxhole. Most of our guys did not make it back that day” (Junior Matthews, Interview). It was a miracle that Junior made it back home.

Junior did make it back home. He married his sweetheart Earlene. As a farmer and carpenter, Junior and Earlene raised their children and loved each other dearly until the Lord called Earlene home. Junior was a deacon at Friendship Baptist Church for an amazing 56 years and only resigned from the position when he was no longer able to physically continue with the task.

This past weekend, the community was rocked by the news that Junior had passed into eternity. Junior’s family and friends are mourning his passing while celebrating his life. I was one who was affected by Junior’s life. So, I would like to share a few impressions that Junior left upon my life.

Junior and Brian

1.     The Impression of Faith

 “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:9).

Junior was a great man of faith. He trusted God for guidance and depended upon God for strength. Junior told of the moment he received Jesus as his Savior, “I know very well where it was when I got saved, but I cannot remember when it was that I received the Lord. I was probably about 12 or 14 years old when I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I grew up in Prospect United Methodist Church. It was in a revival at Prospect when I gave my heart and life to Jesus. R. L. Sharpe was the pastor at that time. I gave my heart to Christ that night. I very well remember that I was sitting up on the first bench of the church. I felt someone put their arm around me…and it was my momma. It was a blessing to know that she was there with me. We walked to church. And she said, ‘Now Junior, don’t you feel better?’ I sure enough did. I was the first of 9 children to give my heart and life to Jesus” (Junior Matthews, Interview). Junior steadfastly served the Lord faithfully from that moment onward for all of his 90 plus years on earth.

2.     The Impression of Forgiveness

 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).

Junior was quick to forgive. He did not hold grudges. He did not like trouble and discord. Junior relished in peace…especially the peace that God gives. To my knowledge, Junior did not say many, if any, bad things about other people. To my knowledge, I know of no one who would say anything negative about Junior Matthews. Junior demonstrated the forgiving nature that all of us Christians should hold.

3.     The Impression of Friendship

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Junior has a smile that is infectious. His kindness exudes from him as the heat from the summer sun. Junior was a friend to everyone he met. Even while Junior was not in the best of health, he made it a point to travel to the nursing home with his good friend Chuck Smith to visit those in worse shape than himself. When Junior entered a room, everyone lit up. Junior was and is a great example of a genuine friend. To this writer’s knowledge, Junior did not consider anyone an enemy.

4.     The Impression of Integrity

“For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Proverbs 2:6-7).

I interviewed Junior for my internet radio show “Redeeming Truth” which can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton. He said something that has haunted me since the first moment I heard his wise words. Junior told of a particular instance that surprised him, “A woman came to me a little while ago. She said to me, ‘Do you know what you were doing 72 years ago?’ I said, ‘No, I sure don’t.’ The woman said, ‘You and your wife Earlene were at Prospect (UMC). And do you know who was teaching the Sunday school class that day?’ I said, ‘ I don’t know. Who?’ She said, ‘You did!’ I said, ‘Well if I was teaching it, you must not have gotten any good out of it.’ But she said that after Sunday school, Earlene and I went with her to Earlene’s momma’s house and ate dinner with them that day. So that just goes to show you that people don’t forget the things you do…She said that she didn’t remember what I said in the Sunday school class, just that I taught it. I could have been doing anything that day. I am glad I was doing something good…People remember what you say. You can’t take it back. Be careful in what you say and be careful in what you do because people don’t forget.” (Junior Matthews, interview).

 

Junior’s example is also a challenge for those of us who remain. Junior has essentially passed the torch as it was passed on to him. It is up to us to become examples of individuals who serve the Lord faithfully, with a forgiving heart, with a heart of friendship, and a walk of integrity. Then maybe then when our souls are required of us, people will be able to say that we too were…unforgettable.

junior matthews 2

Junior’s full interview can be heard in its entirety at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2012/11/12/episode-9-changes-of-the-past-century-with-jr-matthews

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

 

Essential Doctrines (Part 7): The Trinity

Trinity1  One of the important, yet misunderstood, doctrines in the Bible is that of the Trinity. In this article, the doctrine of the Trinity will be explained, then, it will be shown why a person should believe in the doctrine, and finally, why it matters. The Trinity is one of the major dividing lines between orthodox Christianity and heretical versions of Christianity.

 

What is the doctrine?

The doctrine of the Trinity suggests that God is one, yet exists in three different persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Some have criticized this doctrine as being a form of polytheism and leaving the roots of Judaist monotheism. However, this is not the case. The Christian understands that God is one God. Yet, this one God is manifested in three persons. Various methods have been used to describe this. One of my favorite illustrations is that of water. Water is found in three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Despite being found in these three (four if you include plasma) forms, the substance is the same…water. So, now that the doctrine has been explained, the article will now examine why the doctrine should be accepted.

  

Why should one believe in the doctrine?

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the more bizarre concepts in Christianity. However, it is founded upon strong evidence. There are certain things in life that may seem difficult to understand. However, those difficult things should not be cast aside as false if there is good evidence to suggest that they are realities.

The Deity of the Father

There is really no need to expound on the deity of the Heavenly Father as it is presented throughout the entire Bible. God the Father is revealed through the personal names given to Him throughout the Hebrew Bible. The classic personal name given to the Father is “YHWH.” Some translate the personal name of God as “Jehovah.” However, it seems that the name “Yahweh” is far more accurate. As found in Exodus 3:14, And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14, NKJV). Another title given to the Father is “Elohim.” Elohim is an interesting title. It is a plural name given to a singular entity. Some have seen a reference to the Father’s plurality of persons. While this is debated, Erickson writes that “Grammarians have termed this phenomenon the quantitative plural. Water may be thought of in terms of individual raindrops or of a mass of water such as is found in the ocean. Knight asserted that this quantitative diversity is unity is a way fitting way of understanding the plural ‘elohim.’ He also believed that this explains why the singular noun (adonai) is written as a plural (GAF Knight 1953, 20)” (Erickson 1998, 354). There is no dispute that the Father was seen as divine by the Old and New Testament writers.

The Deity of Jesus

 As mentioned in previous articles (“Essential Doctines: The Incarnation”), Jesus of Nazareth, as opposed to movements like the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormon Church, is understood to be divine. Anything less is untrue to the context of the New Testament. Since this attribute has already been discussed in previous articles, it is not necessary to undertake the issue again. However, it would behoove us to mention one of the earliest mentions to Jesus’ divinity found in an early Christian hymn in Philippians 2:5-11.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11, NIV).

 Verse 6 uses the “word ‘morphe’ contrasts with the word ‘schema’, which is also generally translated ‘form,’ but in the sense of shape or superficial appearance rather than substance. For Paul, an orthodox Jew trained in the rabbinic teaching of strict Judaism, verse 6 is indeed and astonishing statement. Reflecting the faith of the early church, it suggests a deep commitment to the full deity of Christ” (Erickson 1998, 350). Therefore it is undeniable that the earliest church understood Jesus of Nazareth to be the divine Son of God.

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

 The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. Dunn describes that the word “spirit” (Hebrew ruah, Greek pneuma) is the word used from ancient times to describe and explain the experience of divine power working in, upon, and around men, and understood by them as the power of God” (Dunn 1988, 986). In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit was seen as the “wind of God” (Genesis 8:1, Exodus 10:13, Exodus 14:21); the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, Job 33:4, Psalm 104:29); David coined the term “Holy Spirit” (ruach qodesh) to separate the Spirit of God from other spirits (Psalm 51:11); the Spirit of prophecy (Haggai 2:5, et al); the Spirit in direction of the end times, or the Spirit who would be poured out upon men and women (Ezekiel 39:29, Joel 2:28, etc.). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was seen as “wind” (John 3:8); “breath” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), “breath of life” (Revelation 11:1); the provider of salvation (Acts 2:38, 29); the teacher of truth (John 14:17); the advocate (John 14:26); the giver of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 1 Cor. 112:29-30, Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:11); and the giver of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). But do these Scriptures necessarily point to the divinity of the Holy Spirit? One could argue that they do, but there are more specific links which attribute the Holy Spirit as a person in the Godhead.

The baptismal formula definitively suggests that the Holy Spirit is as much God as the Father and the Son. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The three are linked together in Paul’s benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14). The Holy Spirit is linked to critical times of Jesus life: Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:35), His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), and at His resurrection (Romans 8:11).

The early church recognized the Trinity. In the Didache, an early book that nearly made it to the New Testament, it is said, And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before” (Didache 7:1-4).

Justin Martyr, writing in the early 2nd century, also wrote concerning the Trinity, For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water… And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed” (Justin Martry, Apologies I.61). Ignatius of Antioch writes in the late 1st century, “For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water” (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, XVIII). Although the word trinity is never used in the Bible, the concepts of a Triune Godhead are clearly taught and understood by the earliest of Christians.

  

Why is the doctrine essential?

If one is to understand God as God is presented in the Bible, then it is essential to the Christian faith. Anything less is untrue to the nature of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. To strip any one of the three from their divine nature is to have a false view of the person. Unfortunately, there have been many heresies that have developed over the millennia that have sought to undermine this doctrine.

Arianism

 Jehovah Witnesses fit within this category. JH’s view Jesus as the incarnation of the archangel Michael. But the JH movement established by Charles Taze Russell is nothing new. Their beliefs can actually be seen in an early cult known as Arianism. An early cult known as Arians popularized a belief that Jesus of Nazareth was not completely divine. Jesus was a created individual who was given the highest status among humans. In light of the teachings of John 1:1 and the self-identification of Jesus Himself as recorded in the Gospels, such a notion should be rejected.

Docetism

Docetists denied the actual humanity of Jesus. They believed, like the Gnostics, that Jesus only appeared to be human.

Apollinarianism

Apollinarius developed a Christology that Jesus had two natures: human and divine. But, he carried it too far. He denied that Jesus had a human will.

Nestorianism

Nestorius completely divided the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike Arian, Nestorius viewed the Spirit of Christ as being eternal, but the humanity of Jesus being only finite. Therefore, Jesus did not become divine until the Spirit of God rested upon Jesus.

Eutychianism

Eutychicus took Nestorius’ teachings even further. He seemed to indicate that once Jesus became divine, Jesus lost his human will and only then had the divine will.

Modalism

Modalists believed the essentials of the Trinity, but denied that they existed at the same time. In other words, they believed that God was the Father, then God ceased being the Father to become the Son, and then ceased being the Son to become the Holy Spirit. They do not believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit co-exist. This causes complications when one tries to fit the belief in the context of Scripture. For instance, at the baptism of Christ, we are presented with Christ being baptized, the Father speaking, and the Spirit descending like a dove. Therefore, this view cannot be accepted.

Mormonism

Mormons claim that there exists a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. These entities are but offspring of another set of divine parents. There are tremendous difficulties merging such a doctrine with the teachings of the Bible. Therefore if Jesus is seen to be the Son of God and there is evidence for the Trinity, then such a view must be rejected.

There are many other discrepancies that can be evaluated. However, the trinity is an important doctrine to understand and to accept if one is going to understand the nature and work of God. What’s more, the teaching of the Bible indicates that we are joined in with this divine relationship through the abiding of the Holy Spirit, paid for by Jesus at the cross, and established in the mind of the Almighty Father.

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Bibliography

All Scripture noted as (NIV) comes from The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

All Scripture noted as (NKJV) comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Didache 7:1-4. Translated by Donalds and Robertson. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html. Accessed March 4, 2014.

Dunn, James D. G. “The Holy Spirit.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by Walter A.

Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. pg. 57.

Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885., pg. 183.

Knight, G. A. F. A Biblical Approach to the Doctrine of the Trinity. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1953. In Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Essential Doctrines (Part 3): The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

jesus-on-shroud     The incarnation of Jesus Christ is critical in understanding the person of Jesus Christ and in understanding the salvation that comes from Jesus. It is due to aberrations of the understanding of Jesus’ identity in the movements of Jehovah Witnesses and for many in the LDS church that those two movements are normally not recognized within the umbrella of Christian faith by most evangelicals. For instance, Jehovah Witnesses claim that Jesus was a created being. Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claimed that Jesus was the archangel Michael. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, claimed that Jesus was the first offspring from a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. The LDS hymn “O My Father” (LDS Hymnbook #292) refers to a Heavenly Mother. Therefore, Jesus is reduced to a mere offspring and not the God incarnate as identified in Scripture. This article will examine the essential doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

 

What is the Doctrine?

The doctrine of the incarnation of Christ has to do with the person of Jesus Christ. It seeks to answer the question that Jesus posed to Simon Peter, “Who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16:15). Who was Jesus? Those who knew Jesus best answered that Jesus had two natures: Jesus was divine and Jesus was human.

The Divinity of Jesus

Christians from the earliest of times have understood that Jesus was divine. This is clear from the early Christian hymn which was preserved in Philippians. The hymn states,       

“who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

This hymn is important because it pre-dates many of the New Testament documents. For instance, Elwell and Beitzel write about the early nature of the incarnation, “As a result, some believe that it represents an earlier stage in the development of the church’s theology, before the doctrine of the incarnation had evolved. That is doubtful for two reasons: incarnation passages like the Philippians hymn (2:6–11) probably antedate Mark’s Gospel; and Mark has a well-developed theology of the two natures of Christ” (Osbourne 1988, 1026). Although John’s gospel was one of the later documents written, John left no room for doubt concerning Jesus’ divine nature as John wrote, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3, NIV). So, it can be seen that Jesus was viewed as divine from the earliest times of church history.

The Humanity of Jesus

Jesus was clearly seen as a human being, as well. This is clear from the Philippians hymn as it was recorded that Jesus “taking the form of a bond-servant…made in the likeness of men.” Jesus was not a theological concept nor was Jesus an intellectual invention. Jesus was in fact a human being. This is evidenced by the fact that Jesus grew in stature (Luke 2:52), became tired (John 4:6), slept (Matthew 8:24), wept (John 11:35), and became hungry (Mark 11:12). All these attributes show that Jesus was in fact human. It is important to keep a good balance of Jesus’ humanity along with Jesus’ divinity.

  

Why should a Person Believe the Doctrine?

There are at least four reasons why an individual should believe that Jesus is both divine and human:

Evidence of Jesus’ Existence

 No reputable historian denies the existence of the historical Jesus. Only those in secular online communities give any weight to the “Jesus is fiction” myth. Jesus’ existence is not only confirmed in the New Testament records, but there are extra-biblical writers who confirm the existence of Jesus of Nazareth (the official historical name for Jesus). It would be irresponsible for this article to seek to offer an exhaustive list of extra-biblical writers, however, a few of the more popular sources will be given.

Tacitus, a reliable Roman historian writes,

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures of a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular” [Annals 15.44].

 Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D. that said,

“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind” [Letters 10:96]

 From these two sources, one can find that there is good and early evidence to support the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth as well as the New Testament documents which must be included.

Evidence of Jesus’ Miracles

 There is also evidence that Jesus performed miracles. Not only was Jesus known by the early Christians for performing great wonders, Jesus was known for doing the same by His opponents. The Babylonian Talmud, compiled from 70 – 200 A.D. has a portion of the Sanhedrin that reads,

“On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover” [Sanhedrin 43a, Babylonian Talmud]!

 Obviously “Yeshu” is the Hebrew, or Aramaic, form of “Yeshua” which is translated over to “Jesus” in English. In this text, it is seen that Jesus was hung (another term for crucifixion) on the evening of Passover. Jesus was accused of working sorcery. Obviously this is a link to the miracles performed by Jesus. The greatest miracle of all would be that of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is not mentioned here as it will be addressed in the 6th installment of this series.

Evidence of Jesus’ Understanding of Himself

 Jesus obviously believed Himself to be the incarnate God. Jesus called Himself “Son of Man.” This was, in fact, Jesus’ favorite term for Himself. The phrase “Son of Man” alludes to the Daniel prophecy pertaining to the one who approached the “Ancient of Days.” The “Son of Man” prophecy alluded to one who would be divine (Daniel 7:13). John records Jesus’ “I Am” teachings. This was a direct reference to divinity as the sacred personal name for God (YHWH) was defined as “I AM WHAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). So for Jesus to call Himself the “I Am” is a direct reference to His divine nature.

 Evidence of Jesus’ Transforming Power

 This may not be popular with some theologians and apologists, but I believe that the transformation of individuals that comes from a relationship with Christ is to be understood as an important aspect of Jesus’ identity. The fact that people are transformed shows that there is power in the one who was known as Jesus of Nazareth.

  

Why is the Doctrine Essential?

 John writes, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2, NIV). It is clear that one must accept Jesus as God come in the flesh is important for one to be identified as a true Christian. Jesus’ divinity is mandatory, as well. Jesus Himself said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB). This text shows that it is important to understand the divine nature of Jesus in order to be saved from sin. Therefore, it is important to understand that the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history are the one and same person. It is this historical Jesus Christ that can redeem a person from sin and set a person on a right path.

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Bibliography

 All Scripture identified as (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

All Scripture identified as (NIV) comes from The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Osborne, Grant R. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible Edited by Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988, page 1026.

Pliny the Younger. Letters 10.96. In Norman L. Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Sanhedrin 43a. Babylonian Talmud. In Norman L. Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Tacitus. Annals 15.44. In Norman L. Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.