Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Romans Road According to Jesus

If you are not familiar with the Romans Road, please see my previous blog entry.

Here's the same Gospel message, in the words of Jesus:

Mat 5:19: Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says that God gave us the Law in the OT to show us how to be righteous. He says that unless our righteousness *exceeds* that of the Pharisees (known for their scrupulous attempts to keep the Law), we will not enter heaven. In other words, no one can keep the Law. God gave us the Law to show us how Holy He is and how much we fall short of His glory. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Law is a "tutor" that leads us to Christ - the Savior we all need.

What to do? -> Admit that you are a sinner.

Mat 25:46: Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Sinners - which Jesus defines in the context as anyone who breaks the Law - will not obtain eternal life. If we're honest with ourselves, and compare our actions to the Ten Commandments (the Law distilled), we'll see that each one of us has broken God's Law many times. Thus, our "default destination" is certainly not heaven.

What to do? -> Understand that you deserve death for your sin.

Mat 20:28: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus says that His life will be given as a "ransom" to buy us back from sin and death. The wages of sin is death - eternal separation from God. But the free gift of God is eternal life. Jesus paid the price for our sins - He took upon Himself the punishment we rightly deserved for our many sins.

What to do? -> Ask God to forgive you and save you from the punishment you deserve.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We must place our faith in Christ. This doesn't mean just believing that He existed. This doesn't mean believing that what He said was true. It means trusting that He really did take our punishment upon Himself on the cross. In exchange for our sins, Christ gives us His perfect righteousness. That's *how* our righteousness can exceed the Pharisees - because it is not our own, but His!

What to do? -> Give your life to God... His love is what saves you -- not religion, or church membership. God loves you!

John 14:6: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father and heaven. Instead of all roads lead to heaven, Jesus taught this:

Mat 7:13: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
Mat 7:14: But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

What to do? -> Call out to God in the name of Jesus! His is the only name under Heaven by which you can be saved (Acts 4:12).

Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus always is ready to receive you. I believe He is knocking at the door of your heart as you read these words.

What to do? -> If you know that God is knocking on your heart's door, ask Him to come into your heart.

The Romans Road

Perhaps you've heard of the "Romans Road?" It is a series of verses from the book of Romans that encapsulate the essentials of the Gospel.

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

We all have sin in our hearts. We all were born with sin. We were born under the power of sin's control.

What to do? -> Admit that you are a sinner.

Romans 6:23a "...The wages of sin is death..."

Sin has an ending. It results in death. We all face physical death, which is a result of sin. But a worse death is spiritual death that alienates us from God, and will last for all eternity. The Bible teaches that there is a place called the Lake of Fire where lost people will be in torment forever. It is the place where people who are spiritually dead will remain.

What to do? -> Understand that you deserve death for your sin.

Romans 6:23b "...But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Salvation is a free gift from God to you! You can't earn this gift, but you must reach out and receive it.

What to do? -> Ask God to forgive you and save you from the punishment you deserve.

Romans 5:8, "God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!"

When Jesus died on the cross He paid sin's penalty. He paid the price for all sin, and when He took all the sins of the world on Himself on the cross, He bought us out of slavery to sin and death! The only condition is that we believe in Him and what He has done for us, understanding that we are now joined with Him, and that He is our life. He did all this because He loved us and gave Himself for us!

What to do? -> Give your life to God... His love is what saves you -- not religion, or church membership. God loves you!

Romans 10:13 "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved!"

What to do? -> Call out to God in the name of Jesus!

Romans 10:9,10 "...If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

What to do? -> If you know that God is knocking on your heart's door, ask Him to come into your heart.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Faith and Reason

I've been reading Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, by Dr. William Lane Craig. In the opening chapter, he draws a distinction between knowing that Christianity is true and showing that Christianity is true. He says that we know Christianity is true ultimately because the Holy Spirit reveals that it is so. He says, however, that we can show Christianity to be true to an unbeliever by use of reason. Using Luther's categories, Craig distinguishes between the magisterial use of reason (placing reason over what the Bible says) and the ministerial use of reason (using reason to support and explain to others why what the Bible says is true).

In my own experience, I think Craig is essentially correct. While I regard my faith to be completely reasonable, and - in fact - I find my faith strengthened by reasonable arguments and evidence, it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit that brought me to saving faith.

How can this fact be used in apologetics? Because saving faith is a result of one's openness to the witness of the Holy Spirit, it relieves the pressure on the apologist to "make the perfect argument." Obviously, we should strive to make our arguments the best they can be, but a hard-hearted unbeliever may reject even the best argument; and the sovereign Holy Spirit can make up the lack in even the worst argument to make it effective in a soft-hearted unbeliever. The most effective weapon in the apologist's toolchest, therefore, is prayer that God will soften hearts and open minds!

I'll leave you with Craig's advice:

"What, then, should be our approach in apologetics? It should be something like this: 'My friend, I know Christianity is true because God's Spirit lives in me and assures me that it is true. And you can know it is true, too, because God is knocking at the door of your heart, telling you the same thing. If you are sincerely seeking God, then God will give you assurance that the gospel is true. Now, to try to show you it's true, I'll share with you some arguments and evidence that I really find convincing. But should my arguments seem weak and unconvincing to you, that's my fault, not God's. It only shows that I'm a poor apologist, not that the gospel is untrue. Whatever you think of my arguments, God still loves you and holds you accountable. I'll do my best to present good arguments to you. But ultimately you have to deal, not with arguments, but with God himself.'" [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 48.]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Worship and the Son of Man in Daniel 7

It is often argued that Jesus is not depicted anywhere in Scripture as receiving "worship" in the same sense that God is worshipped. I have written about the Father and Son together receiving true worship in Rev 5:13 here.

Daniel 7:14 offers additional evidence that Messiah would receive true worship. Here, the Aramaic word 'pelach' is rendered latreuo in the oldest versions of the LXX, a Greek term none deny refers to the sacred service (= "worship") offered to God alone.

Some have tried to avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true worship by suggesting that the title "Son of Man" refers to humanity collectively. I will offer five reasons why I think Daniel 7:14 refers specifically to Messiah, and thus offers another testimony that Jesus is worthy of the praise, honor, and worship reserved for God alone.

1. Whenever the title "Son of Man" is used in the OT to represent humanity collectively, it always occurs in the formula "man...son of man" (Nm 23:19; Jb 25:6, 35:8; Ps 8:14, 80:17, 144:3; Is 51:12, 56:2; Jer 50:40). There are two "exceptions" - Jer 49:18, 49:33. But here, "no one" serves the function of "man" (cf., Jer 50:40, in which the wording is nearly identical, except "no man" replaces "no one"). Outside of this formula, the title belongs to a specific person (who, perhaps, is representative of the race). The NT usage, of course, is entirely Messianic.

2. While modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish exegetes. The Babylonian Talmud associates this passage with Messiah (Sanhedrin 96b-97a, 98a, etc.). A fragment in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q246) quotes this verse and calls the messianic figure "Son of God," "Son of the Most High," and "a great god of gods," which indicates that the Qumran community looked for a divine messiah of some sort, and believed Dan 7:13ff referred to Him. The Midrash Numbers (13:14) says that Dan 7:14 refers to "King Messiah." I'm unaware of any earlier testimonies of the rabbis.

3. The early church fathers who commented on Dan 7 all associated it with Jesus. Not one understood it as mankind collectively (cf., Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 31; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:20:11; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3:7, 4:10, etc.; Hippolytus, Christ and AntiChrist, 2:26; etc.).

4. Modern Jewish interpreters prefer the translation "their kingdom ... serve them" in verse 27 (JPS). This translation also occurs in the RSV and NRSV. This translation reinforces their view that the Son of Man refers to mankind. The problem is that now 'pelach/latreu' is given to men - when Jesus said we should latreu God alone (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8).

5. There is only one occasion in the OT where the Son of Man is said to "come on the clouds," and that's here. Whenever one is said to come on or with clouds in the OT, that "one" is God (cf., Ex 19:9; Lev 16:2; Isa 19:1; Jer 4:13). When the High Priest asks Jesus if He is the Messiah, Jesus answers:

"You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." (Mt 26:64, cf., Mk 14:62).

So, Jesus specifically identifies Himself as Messiah - the Son of Man who sits at the right hand of power (Ps 110) and is coming in the clouds (Dan 7:14). He makes the same association in Mt 24:30 (Mk 13:26). It is a real stretch to think that Jesus is not quoting Dan 7:14 here - every Bible I'm aware of cross-references these verses; every commentator I'm aware of notes the association. Jesus refers to Himself 84 times as 'the Son of Man;' thus, it is certainly a Messianic title arising from the OT - and Dan 7, which teaches that the Son of Man receives an everlasting kingdom from the Father - is in perfect harmony with what we know about Jesus as King Messiah elsewhere in Scripture - thus, it really is pressing Scripture to the breaking point to deny that the Son of Man here is Messiah. And I doubt anyone would contest this association, if the word 'pelach' were not used.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eight Reasons I am Not One of Jehovah's Witnesses

(The following are taken from the disassociation letter of Rick and Laverne Townshend, June 22, 1984)

Follow the accompanying links for more information.

1. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is guilty of continued presumptuous prophetic speculation, beginning with its founder and continuing to the present. Without exception these prophesies have failed to come true. The Society in turn has denied responsibility for these false prophesies. (link)

2. They have tampered with the sacred scriptures in the translation of their New World Translation to conform these with their particular doctrines. To give credence to their version they have gone so far as to misquote noted Greek scholars such as Dr. Robertson, Drs. Dana and Mantey. They have used a bible translated by an admitted spiritist to give support to their translation and doctrines after having exposed this translator some six years before the printing of their bible. (link) (link)

3. They have a pattern of ever-continuing doctrinal and policy changes that often make full three hundred and sixty degree circles. Their new light has gone from being new light to darkness and back to new light many times over. (link)

4. They have a unity that is the result the threat of expulsion from the Society as well as their friends and family. This is true even when the Society and its representatives are unable to refute the bible based arguments of such persons. (link)

5. They have presumptuously interjected themselves into the chain of salvation in violation of Paul's words in 1 Timothy 2:5 where it is clearly stated there is only one mediator between God and men. (link)

6. They have forced the unchristian act of shunning family members who do not agree with the Watchtower hierarchy. (link)

7. They have endeavored to take away from Christians the God-given right to investigate the truth using God's Word the Bible without the influence of the Watchtower literature and the right to express their Bible-based opinions freely. (link)

8. The Watchtower Society is personally responsible for the death and sufferings of thousands of individuals because of their inconsistent application of their own doctrines in various parts of the world; as an example Malawi and Mexico. The same has resulted due to the interferences of the Society in the health care of its adherents in such areas as transplants and inoculations. (link) (link)

Ten Reasons I am Not a Mormon

In 1973, I met some Mormon missionaries. I agreed to go through their lessons to see if the LDS church was the true Church of Jesus Christ, as they claimed.

You can read a fuller account of this (and more!) in my testimony, which you can find here.

I could not reconcile what little I knew about the Bible with the doctrines of the LDS church, did not receive a "testimony" about Joseph Smith, and ultimately decided not to become a member of the LDS church.

When I later subjected the truth-claims of Christianity to rigorous examination (and found them to be true!), I did some in-depth research into Mormonism. What I found reinforced my decision in 1973.

I will list here ten reasons why I consider the Mormon gospel to be false. There are other reasons as well, but these are some of the most significant. Follow the accompanying link for more information.

1. No Book of Mormon Geography (link)

2. The "Lost" 116 pages of the original Book of Mormon (link)

3. The Spaulding Enigma (link)

4. No essential LDS theology in the Book of Mormon (link)

5. Plagerism in the Book of Mormon (link)

6. No DNA or Linguistic Evidence of Hebrew Peoples in the New World
(link) (link) (link) (link)

7. The False Translation of the Book of Abraham (link)

8. Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates (link)

9. Joseph Smith and Money-Digging (link)

10. Multiple Accounts of the "First Vision" (link)