Archive for September, 2009

Is it Ever Permissible to Break the Law?

September 25, 2009

Title: Is it Ever Permissible to Break the Law?

Text: Matthew 12:1-14

Date: September 3rd, 2009

 

Of all the laws among the ancient Jews there were probably no greater number of laws than those surrounding the Sabbath. If you were to accuse the Jews of legalistic religion you could point to no greater example than the Sabbath laws. According to some sources there were at least 39 separate categories of activities forbidden on the Sabbath. Starting from the simple command of God, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” found in the Ten Commandments, the Jews had multiplied law after law in order to cover nearly every conceivable activity. The Old Testament actually gives only a few instructions on how to keep this law, however that didn’t stop Jewish scribes from working out a whole system of Sabbath law-keeping that defined what this command meant down to the smallest detail. So when Jesus and his disciples thought they were entering a simple grain field looking for something to eat – which was permissible in those days, to eat from someone’s field only enough for oneself – they actually walked into a minefield, because the Jews were ready to fire at them with legalistic laws. The topic for today, then is, is it ever right to break the law? What is the difference between the law of God and the law of man? Is all law strictly absolute or are there exceptions? We need to answer these questions today because as Christians we are confronted with many laws found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. How are we to follow all of these laws? Do any of these laws sometimes conflict with one another? If and when they do conflict, which of them are we to obey? Now before I go any further, let me answer a question that some Christians raise in respect to God’s law. “Aren’t we free from the law of God since we are saved by grace alone through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross?” In other words, the question is, “Aren’t we now free from God’s law, aren’t we free from the obligation to obey it?” Well, the answer to that question is yes and no. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith and not by observing the law of God; but no, we are not free from our obligation to live by God’s will or law. It doesn’t save us, our obedience to the law, but it’s our instruction from God how to live, so we must follow it. But the deeper question is, how do we follow all of God’s will, because after all it’s not just a simple thing of following a list of rules. God’s complete law sometimes seems to conflict in life. For example, how do I as a parent balance God’s will for disciplining a child with God’s will to love that child? How strict should a parent be with his or her child? Does every act of disobedience demand punishment or are there exceptions? These are all important questions that Matthew 12:1-14 (read) touches on. The question is not, should we follow God’s law, but the question is, how shall we follow God’s law. Jesus teaches us some very important things to consider. Let’s consider them. (more…)

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Jesus Offers Relief for the Weary Modern World

September 11, 2009

Title: Jesus Offers Relief for the Weary Modern World

Text: Matthew 11:28-30

Date: September 2nd, 2009

 

Today we come to one of the most comforting of all teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Unlike many or most Christian churches today, we just can’t go through the Bible preaching and teaching the sweet and pleasant verses while at the same time omitting and ignoring the difficult ones. That’s what congregations seem to want these days — all sweet and no sour – but we can’t do that and be faithful to the whole revelation of God taught in the Bible. No, we must state the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as we are reminded each time someone is “sworn in” to give testimony in a court. So too we must hear the entire message God gives from his Word without editing out unpleasant parts or teaching exclusively from pleasant passages. And that’s the balance I try to maintain in my ministry – actually it’s easy to keep such a balance when I’m teaching verse-by-verse through a book or section of the Bible, because if I’m accurately explaining each verse there will be a balance between sweet and sour truths. But today we come upon one of the more pleasant passages in all of God’s Word, the invitation of Christ Jesus for everyone to find rest for their soul in him. That’s good news for a weary world like we live in today. The pace of life is so fast today, it seems like everyone is always so busy. And there is also lots of pressure today that wasn’t present in times past. Someone once observed that with all our laborsaving devices such as the washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, for example, that we have more time not less time for everything we desire to do. Wrong. When we get more time we quickly fill it up with something else so that we are just as busy as we ever were, only now we actually have more things to do! But it’s not just the pace of life that’s a problem today, it’s the way of life that even more troubling. As faith in God and obedience to his will slips more and more in society, as we try to live our lives on our own terms rather than God’s, we suffer a lose of meaning and purpose at the center of our lives. Our lives become hollow and empty. This may be the biggest problem facing the modern world today. It’s not so much that we are tired of activity as much as we are tired at the core of our being because we are more and more losing the very point and purpose of life. Our modern problem is truly a spiritual problem but few people identify it as spiritual. Most people today think it’s psychological – so they visit a counselor or therapist to get themselves fixed. They complain of a lack of drive or motivation, or low self-esteem, or depression or anxiety, for example, but the real problem stems from a lack of meaning and purpose because they’ve ignored God and God’s Word. They’ve substituted other things for God in their lives and wonder why they are so empty. But even Christians can get off track and begin substituting other things for God at the center of their lives, so the malady isn’t limited to non-Christians by any means. What is needed is a re-centering of God in our lives. God must be front and center in our lives, not just in theory but also in fact. Only then can we feel the peace and security he offers us through his Spirit, only then can our lives be properly ordered so that meaning and purpose flow from God at the center outward into every activity we involve ourselves in. That’s what Jesus invites us to in this passage. That’s what is such good news. Let’s explore it further. (more…)

Jesus — The Only Way

September 11, 2009

Title: Jesus – The Only Way

Text: Matthew 11:27

Date: September 1st, 2009

 

One of the really exciting things about the Bible is the way it can teach us so much from just one verse! That’s what we have today as we work verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Matthew. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” Matthew 11:27. This verse shows what theologians call “the exclusivity of Christ,” or in other words, how Christ is the only way to God. I’m aware that this is a disputed fact among people of the world today; it’s even being questioned by some so-called Christians as well. Today, it’s popular to say that all religions are different paths to God. All faiths are valid as long as they are sincerely held. To claim that Christ or Christianity is the only way to God smacks of bigotry and narrow-mindedness. But if we are honest to God’s Word, if we are consistent with unanimous biblical teaching, we must agree that Jesus Christ is the only way to have access to God the Father in heaven. Now that doesn’t answer all the questions the critics have concerning the relationship between Christianity and all the other religions and philosophies of the world, but it does accurately express the Bible’s teaching on the subject. And Matthew 11:27 is just one of many passages that teach the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. There are others. For example there is the famous passage where Jesus clearly states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s pretty clear. Another example of the exclusivity of Christ is found in Acts 4:12, where the apostles make this claim, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” I could give still other passages in the New Testament to support the exclusivity of Christ, but I’ve mentioned enough to prove the point – the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, the only way of salvation. But what about all the people from all the other religions? Can they be saved following their own religion sincerely? That’s what most religious leaders like the Dali Lama teach. For example, in countless interviews he has expressed the belief that for him Buddhism is the religion of choice, but for someone born in a predominantly Muslim society, Islam would be just as valid a choice. For someone born in a majority Christian society, Christ could be the way of salvation for him or her. He teaches the relativity of all religion. Or, in other words, all religions, if sincerely believed and practiced, can lead a person to God and the way of salvation. This view is fast becoming the view of most people today, although the Bible contradicts it. Just what does the Bible teach about Jesus Christ and the way of salvation? Does it really teach that Jesus is the only way? Let’s look at Matthew 11:27 and find out. (more…)

Interpreting the Bible Correctly

September 5, 2009

Title: Interpreting the Bible Correctly

Text: Deuteronomy 29:29, Matthew 3:5-7, Daniel 9:2

Date: August 15th, 2009

 

I’ve been teaching on the Bible for the last few weeks, covering such topics as why there are no real errors or contradictions in the Bible, only apparent problems. I also taught about how divine inspiration works in connection with the human authors of the biblical books and showed how God assigned each writer a prophetic task to communicate his Word using their own language and styles, while keeping them from any errors of any kind in the process. Today, I’d like to focus in on how to read and interpret the Bible. It does us no good if we totally believe in the divine inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, yet read it sloppily and interpret it incorrectly. It’s critical that we read, interpret and apply the Bible correctly in order to believe and live by its truth in our lives. This is one of the major problems in the Christian church today and in the lives of Christians today – the misinterpretation and misapplication of the Bible. There are countless churches which hold strongly to the doctrine of divine inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, yet err in their interpretation and application of it. There are Christian colleges and seminaries which hold to both inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, training Christians to be influential leaders, yet permit administration and faculty members to operate under false and corrupt interpretations; thus practically nullifying any advantages of holding to an inerrant and infallible Bible. As they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If Christian leaders, churches and Christian institutions hold to biblical inerrancy and infallibility in theory, yet in practice permit wild and irresponsible interpretations of the Bible to spread within their circles of influence the end result is often the same as if no inerrancy or infallibility were held at all to begin with. The end result is the same – false doctrine and improper behavior. So it’s critically important that basic rules of correct biblical interpretation be followed within Christianity. The good news is that the basic rules of interpreting the Bible are not difficult or complex; they are simple, and once learned, can be applied always and everywhere. So today, I’d like to outline just a few basic rules of biblical interpretation that will help Christians read, interpret and apply the truth of the Bible correctly. Not that there will ever be 100% agreement on every interpretation of every biblical passage, but at least the ground rules for interpreting can be agreed upon, which goes a long way in bringing about unity and truth within the Christian church. Today, I’ll only mention three basic rules for interpreting the Bible. First, the plain or common sense rule. Second, the rule of context. And third, the harmony rule. Three simple guidelines for interpreting the Bible that will eliminate most misinterpretations. I’ll mention a few other rules, but cover only these three in any detail. (more…)