Category Archives: Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series

Universal Salvation Biblical

Universalism is the belief that everyone will be saved. There are many people today who hold to universal salvation and believe that all people eventually end up in heaven. Perhaps it is the thought of men and women living a life of eternal torment in hell that causes some to reject the teaching of Scripture on this issue. For some it is an over-emphasis on the love and compassion of God and the neglect of the righteousness and justice of God that leads them to believe God will have mercy on every living soul. But the Scriptures do teach that some people will spend eternity in hell.

First of all, the Bible is clear that unredeemed men will dwell forever in hell. Jesus own words confirm that the time spent in heaven for the redeemed will last as long as that of the unredeemed in hell. Matthew 25:46 says, “Then they [the unsaved] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” According to this verse, the punishment of the unsaved is just as eternal as the life of the righteous. Some believe that those in hell will eventually cease to exist, but the Lord Himself confirms that it will last forever. Matthew 25:41 and Mark 9:44 describe hell as “eternal fire” and “unquenchable fire.”

How does one avoid this unquenchable fire? Many people believe that all roads all religions and beliefs lead to heaven, or they consider that God is so full of love and mercy that He will allow all people into heaven. God is certainly full of love and mercy, it was these qualities that led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us. Jesus Christ is the exclusive door that leads to an eternity in heaven. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 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.” If we choose to reject God’s Son, we do not meet the requirements for salvation (John 3:16, 18, 36).

UniversalismWith verses such as these, it becomes clear that universalism and universal salvation are unbiblical beliefs. Universalism directly contradicts what Scripture teaches. While many people accuse Christians of being intolerant and “exclusive,” it is important to remember that these are the words of Christ Himself. Christians did not develop these ideas on their own, Christians are simply stating what the Lord has already said. People choose to reject the message because they do not want to face up to their sin and admit that they need the Lord to save them. To say that those who reject God’s provision of salvation through His Son will be saved is to belittle the holiness and justice of God and negate the need of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

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China’s Cult Crackdown: What Is The Church Of Almighty God?

In China’s latest attempt to crack down on religious cults, 21 members of the banned Church of Almighty God were given jail terms, state media said Wednesday. The group was blamed for the death of a 37-year-old woman who was beaten to death at a McDonald’s after she refused to give her phone number to members who tried to recruit her.

Two of the four members in that case were sentenced to death in October. Two of the individuals sentenced on Wednesday have been given seven- and four-year prison terms for “organizing and using the cult to damage law enforcement,” Shanghai Daily reports. The men, identified as Zhang Shuzhi and Geng Yuqin, were sentenced at a court in China’s northeastern Liaoning province.

Police arrested them in July after reportedly finding memory cards and books that contained information on the cult’s teachings. The court also found the two men recruited new members as well.

The remaining 19 members received prison sentences between two and six years in neighboring Jilin province. The city of Yanji has reportedly been cracking down on the cult, Xinhua reports.

Religion in China

While the Chinese government allows Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Catholic and Protestant Christianity to be practiced, the groups must be affiliated with a government organization called the State Administration for Religious Affairs. However, millions attend “house churches” and follow other unsanctioned religious organizations.

The Church of Almighty God (also known as Eastern Lightning) is among the 14 religious groups the Chinese government has labeled an “evil cult.” These organizations face strict scrutiny since some have been known to cause unrest. For instance, the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-19th century that resulted in 20 million deaths, was started by a man who believed he was the younger brother of Jesus.

Church of Almighty God

Up to a million members across China follow the Church of Almighty God since its founding in 1989. Most are in rural areas. Its members believe that God has returned to Earth as a woman named Yang Xiangbin, who will guide mankind for the third and last time. China’s Communist Party is called “the Great Red Dragon,” whose growth triggers the end of the world. Previously, the cult pushed the doomsday belief that the apocalypse would take place on Dec. 21, 2012. At the time nearly 1,000 members were arrested for handing out apocalyptic pamphlets.

According to a 2014 report by China’s People Daily, members who attract more converts gain a higher status within the cult. Tactics include missionary work where nonmembers are enticed with money, gifts and sexual favors. A member receives 20,000 yuan ($3,237) for every new person they convert. New members are encouraged to purchase religious materials and pay 2,000 yuan ($323) in membership fees. They are told they will be punished if they leave the faith.

Latest Crackdown

To date, the group has been associated with several crimes. In 1998, eight violent riots have taken place in Henan province. In 2010, an elementary school student was murdered after his uncle tried to leave the cult. In 2012, a 36-year-old man went on a stabbing spree in Chenpeng village where 22 students and one elderly woman were injured.

Liu Ling is a Peking University graduate student who has been studying the Church of Almighty God for two years as part of her thesis work. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in June, she explained that while she has read media reports about the group’s violent attacks, she has been unable to verify they took place. She has interviewed relatives of cult members who say they have had their windows smashed and fires set in their yards as an effort to force them to join the group — but nothing as violent as the McDonald’s murder that took place in May.

In wake of that incident, Chinese authorities have intensified efforts to find Almighty God members and arrest them. So far, about 1,500 members have been arrested. Some have been in custody since 2012, the New York Times reports. For some, the crackdown is reminiscent of what took place in 1999 when members of the quasi-spiritual movement known as Falun Gong were jailed after 10,000 members peacefully demonstrated outside the government’s central compound.

Today, banners are seen in public spaces across China urging people to, “Believe in science, create culture, make great efforts against evil cults.”

Propaganda material against the Church of Almighty God fills a public bulletin board in a residential neighborhood to east of Guozijian, Beijing, 2014

Propaganda material against the Church of Almighty God fills a public bulletin board in a residential neighborhood to east of Guozijian, Beijing, 2014

“I think it’s more visible. After the Falun Gong, there was a wave of this kind of propaganda,” Nanlai Cao, associate professor in religious studies at the People’s University of China in Beijing, told the Los Angeles Times. “The past five years, I don’t think it was very visible, but now I think it’s a big issue and has become a top priority for government officials.”

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Church of Almighty God

Deceived by the Lightning

Christians in mainland China’s “underground” house churches have faced persecution from the country’s Communist government for years. They now face another threat from one of the mainland’s largest cults, which frequently uses deception and coercion to gain converts from among house churches.

The cult calls itself “The Church of Almighty God.” The Chinese government refers to it as the “Real God” cult. Chinese Christians call it “Eastern Lightning.” Its followers believe that Jesus has returned in the form of a Chinese woman, like “lightning that comes from the east,” according to the description of His second coming in Matthew 24:27.

Its official name is the Church of Almighty God (Chinese: 全能神教会; pinyin: Quánnéng Shén Jiàohuì), but it is known by many names, prominently also as Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom (国度福音教会; Guódù fúyīn jiàohuì). The group has been described as a cult and a terrorist organization.

Estimates of the group’s size vary. A November 2001 Time magazine article titled “Jesus is Back, and She’s Chinese” said followers numbered themselves at 300,000, although observers estimated only tens of thousands. A 2002 report produced by the Center for Religious Freedom, which contained copies of seven confidential documents from a Chinese government report on religious cults, said that the group had active organizations in more than 10 provinces and cities and was deceiving thousands. China For Jesus, a Christian mission organization, estimates that the cult has more than a million members in 20 provinces. Fear of government persecution has driven religious groups in China underground, making an accurate head count of any group’s followers virtually impossible.

According to the secret security documents, the public security minister, Jia Chunwang, called for increased action against the cult, saying, “We need to work more, talk less to smash the cult quietly.” Security officials are concerned by the cult’s declaration that China is the Great Red Dragon of the book of Revelation who faces destruction. Beijing police arrested more than 2,000 followers of the cult prior to 2002, but they were not able to destroy the group.

Scores of first-hand accounts received by Christian organizations working in China confirm the devastating effect that the Eastern Lightning cult is having on the house churches. A report titled “When China’s Christians Wish They Were in Prison,” by Paul Hattaway, director of the mission organization Asia Harvest, contains accounts of Christians being deceived, kidnapped, brainwashed, beaten, poisoned, and blackmailed by the cult. One worker in northwest China told Hattaway that the Chinese house churches that usually experience phenomenal growth had been declining due to the cult’s activities. He explained, “In the past year many of our leaders were targeted by the Eastern Lightning cult. Some were attracted by their financial inducements and joined them. Later, when they discovered what they’d joined was not biblical, they were not permitted to leave. Dozens of our believers are missing, dozens more crippled. Some who have managed to escape the cult’s clutches are in hiding, fearing for their lives. At least two of our people have been murdered. Others have simply vanished.”

In April 2002, Eastern Lightning members kidnapped 34 leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship, a network of house churches. Cult members posing as representatives of Haggai Institute, a leadership training school in China, lured the leaders to attend a seminar where they were separated and held against their will. One woman managed to escape and alert the police. By June all the others had escaped or were released, although some who were drugged while being held captive continued to suffer physically.

Invisible Lightning. There are a several versions of the cult’s history. A number of Christian organizations cite the Time magazine article and the seven secret security documents that say that the cult was founded in 1989 by a man named Zhao Weishan, a former member of a Christian sect called the Shouters. Weishan proclaimed that Jesus had returned in the form of a 30-year-old, plain-looking Chinese peasant woman named Deng from the province of Henan. This teaching is based on revelation that Weishan claims he received from God regarding Matthew 24:27. Asia Harvest reports that in 2000 Weishan was granted refugee status in the United States, where he continues to run the cult’s activities in China. The report does not cite the source of this information.

Reports from other missions organizations do not mention Weishan as the founder but say, rather, that the woman Deng set herself up as the “female Christ.” Several Chinese Christians who regularly visit the mainland and are familiar with the cult told the Christian Research Journal that although they had heard of Deng, they had not heard of Weishan. Chinese sources favor the theory that Deng hides herself, while Weishan runs the cult’s operations.

An article dated January 2004 on one of the cult’s Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org), however, denies as “rumor” the reports that Almighty God’s Church believes in “a woman with the surname Deng who was once possessed by a demon in Zheng Zhou of Henan province.” The article explains, “Actually, the place of birth and location where God became flesh is not in Henan province at all. Furthermore, the surname is not Deng.” The article does not, however, identify someone other than Deng as the Christ; rather, it explains why “the flesh of the Almighty God” could not be demon possessed. The fact that no one has ever seen or photographed the woman they call the “female Christ” makes her identity or even her existence difficult to confirm.

The Second Incarnation. The group believes that the Bible is out-of-date and that those who limit God’s revelation to just the Bible are like the Pharisees who held on to the Old Testament and rejected Christ. Followers are told to give up the truth of the past and build their foundation on the Holy Spirit’s word for today: the writings of the “female Christ,” which are “God’s new word.”

The cult has published numerous books, including The Word Becomes Flesh and The Lightning Comes from the East, and distributed hundreds of thousands of copies in China. Two of the books that are distributed among Chinese churches in America are titled The Holy Spirit Speaks to All the Churches and God’s Work through His Secret Appearing. The content in these books is nearly identical. Much of it is written in first person, as if by their “female Christ,” and is terse and threatening.

The “female Christ” states that Jesus was God’s first incarnation, but that He did not complete His work; therefore, God needed to come again to finish the work, this time as a woman. This “appearing” ends the previous age and begins a new age in God’s six-thousand-year plan to save all humanity.

God’s plan, she says, has three ages (creation, salvation, and destruction) and three dispensations (law, redemption, and kingdom). She claims that she comes for the kingdom dispensation and therefore her work is judgment.

Her books are filled with explicit and horrific pronouncements of damnation and judgment on unbelievers. The only sin is not to accept her as the Christ, she says, and salvation is possible only by following her. She states that “God is inhumanly cruel” and she admits that she hates humankind.

She teaches that Christ died for our sins, but denies that He rose again physically. She ardently opposes the concept of the second coming of Jesus and tells followers not to wait for a “white cloud descension.”

The “female Christ” doesn’t prove her divinity to potential believers by healing the sick, casting out demons, or performing miracles; instead, she uses threats and intimidation to persuade converts. She says that she will punish or slay those who repudiate her, and even their family members will meet with misfortune. Another of the cult’s Web sites (www.godword.org) lists 887 cases in which people allegedly died of sickness, accident, or unknown causes after rejecting the cult’s evangelistic efforts.

The cult demands complete obedience and sacrifice. Adherents must turn their material possessions over to the organization and follow orders, otherwise they will be punished. They are urged to leave their families, to live in a commune, and to spread the message of the “female Christ.”

Spying and Paving the Way. The cult is known for its deceptive evangelization practices. An article in Tianfeng, the magazine of the Chinese government–controlled Three Self Patriotic Church, says the cult entices people with money or gifts, but will turn to violence or even murder if a person accepts their gifts but fails to join.

A report from China for Jesus describes four stages of strategy that the cult has used. The first stage was simply to send books and money to Christian preachers. In the second stage they adopted aggressive tactics, including violence and coercion. In the third stage they used sexual temptation and entrapment as a means of blackmailing prospects.

The fourth stage is called “spying and paving the way,” the name the cult gives to their process of infiltrating a house church. Followers are instructed to mingle with church members in order to identify those who are strong Christians and core members of the church. Likely targets are those who arrive before a church meeting and stay after, and who can look up Bible passages efficiently. Cult members will try to befriend such people and to act like sincere truth seekers in order to gain their trust. Once the infiltrators have successfully “spied” these people, they begin to “pave the way” by asking questions to shake the Christian believer’s faith. They may invite the believer to a “Bible study,” for example, where instead of studying the Bible they badger the believer with questions such as, “Where is heaven? Is it on earth?” Or they will question the concept of the rapture of the church, a doctrine the cult ardently denies. Ultimately, they turn to preaching their message, which is the second incarnation of God. The author of the China for Jesus report predicted that they will begin to use an unknown fifth strategy now that this latest one has been exposed in recent years.

The cult denies that Almighty God’s Church kidnaps people and forces them to accept its message. An article on one of their Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org) states that regulations instruct followers not to pressure those who are not willing to believe in God, because the church doesn’t want “worthless” members who do not really believe. The article claims that in 1999 alone the church dismissed 70 to 80 thousand people “who were guilty of misconduct and disobedience to the church’s regulations.”

Eastern Lightning prefers to target orthodox Christian house churches rather than fringe or heretical groups. According to the cult’s own internal instructions, they are not to evangelize those who do not worship Jesus alone and do not study the Bible, such as Buddhists, Taoists, and Muslims, as well as many Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics in China. Non-Christians and even family members of Eastern Lightning followers are also excluded from being evangelized.

Church of Almighty God

Church of Almighty God

A book about heresies in mainland China, published in Taiwan by the Christian and China Research Center, contains the testimony of a Chinese house church member who escaped the cult. He says that the cult never acts in the open, but that their activities are always covert and organized. “Wherever they go, they destroy and scatter that church with incredible speed and unmatched means.”

Even though the central Chinese government denounces the cult, some Chinese Christians view the cult’s behavior and financial strength as indications that it is being supported by individual local Communist officials who are seeking to disrupt and destroy house churches. Other Chinese Christians see the cult as satanic and believe that the Satanic church in America is behind it.

Global Vision. The message of the “female Christ” of Eastern Lightning resembles that of Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. Moon came to America in 1971 claiming that Christ had not completed His mission, and in 1992 he declared he and his wife to be the Messiah, the True Parents, who would usher in a “Completed Testament” age of world peace.

The “female Christ” declares that her appearance as the new Messiah ushers in the last stage of God’s plan. On one of the cult’s Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org) she confirms that its work has already expanded beyond the borders of China: “At the present time, the work is one of conquering the deeply corrupt people in the nations. Moreover, it is not merely a work of guiding people in China, but one of guiding the entire universe. You now only see the work being done in China, but actually it has already started to extend overseas.”

In a 2001 article titled “Lightning from the East” in the China Insight Newsletter, researcher Tony Lambert reported that the cult now has centers in New York and Toronto. The Journal has received reports from Christians in Paris and Amsterdam that the cult has reached Europe as well. Sources in the West have reported that the cult has been distributing books, tracts, and CDs through the Internet and in the parking lots of Chinese churches. It has also advertised a paid position to translate their books into English.

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Mormon Church Releases First Photos Of The Stone Joseph Smith Used To Translate The Book Of Mormon

Mormon Church Releases First Photos Of The Stone Joseph Smith Used To Translate The Book Of Mormon

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”Galatians 1:6-8 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Joseph Smith started Mormonism, in violation of the book of Galatians, with the fairy tale of an angel named Moron-i, golden plates and a magic stone that made words magically appear. This is where their “bible” came from. Now the Mormon Church believes that by showing you that stone, they will get the credibility they crave. 

The Mormon church‘s push toward transparency about its roots and beliefs took another step forward Tuesday with the first published pictures of a small sacred stone it believes founder Joseph Smith used to help translate a story that became the basis of the religion.

BEHOLD THE MAGIC STONE THAT CREATED MORMONISM, In an attempt to be more transparent, the LDS Church released pictures of the stone said to have been used by founder Joseph Smith to transcribe the Book of Mormon

The pictures of the smooth, brown, egg-sized rock are part of a new book that also contains photos of the first printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled the photos at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

The religion’s drive in recent years to open its vaults and clarify sensitive beliefs is aimed at filling a void on the Internet for accurate information as curiosity and scrutiny increased as church membership tripled over the last three decades, Mormon scholars said.

Church historian Steven E. Snow acknowledged that dynamic, saying: “The Internet brings both challenge and opportunities. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share much of collection through the use of the Internet.”

The church’s campaign seems aimed at preventing current members from leaving and showing non-Mormons that they aren’t hiding anything, said Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion and the James Bostwick chair of English at the University of Richmond.

As an American-born religion much younger than most world religions, the origins of Mormonism have come under greater scrutiny and put pressure on the church to prove their stories, Givens said.

“The other churches’ origins are concealed by the mist of history,” Givens said. “Mormonism is the first world religion in which the origins were exposed to public view, to documentation, to journalists and newspaper reporting.”

The pictures in the new book show different angles of a stone that is dark brown with lighter brown swirls. The photos also show a weathered leather pouch where the stone was stored that is believed to be made by one of Joseph Smith’s wives, Emma Smith.

LDS Seer Stone

LDS Seer Stone

The church has always possessed the stone, which was transported across the country during Mormon pioneers’ trek from Illinois to Utah in the mid-1800s, but it decided to publish the photos now to allow people who prefer visuals to words to better understand the religion’s roots, said Richard Turley, assistant church historian. The stone will remain in the vault.

“The picture brings a kind of tangibility to something that has been previously been talked about just in words,” Turley said. “That helps people connect with the past. We’ve discovered that artifacts and historical sites are a way to give a sense of reality to things that are otherwise somewhat ethereal.”

Mormons believe that 185 years ago, Smith found gold plates engraved with writing in ancient Egyptian in upstate New York. They say that God helped him translate the text using the stone and other tools, which became known as the Book of Mormon.

The manuscript in the new book actually belongs to the Community of Christ, a faith that was created by early Mormons who stayed behind when most of the religion moved out West to Utah. A Community of Christ leader joined LDS officials at the press event Tuesday in what both said demonstrated the two faiths have moved on from past squabbles.

The publication of the pictures of the stone are important because some speculated the stones were buried in the archives and never to be seen, said Richard Bushman, a Mormon historian and emeritus professor at Columbia University. They probably won’t persuade non-believers who don’t buy the story, but they offer another indication the church is moving toward opening up, he said.

The church has been releasing books containing historical documents that shed light on how Smith formed the church. The religion also has issued a series of in-depth articles that explain or clarify some of the more sensitive parts of its history that it once sidestepped, such as the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy and its early history of polygamy.

The church paid a price for its past decisions to stay silent on topics or keep key artifacts in the vault, Bushman said.

“Their faithful members would stumble on information on the Internet. Not having heard about them, they were shocked and disillusioned,” Bushman said. “They felt they had been lied to and got pretty angry.”

Today the church is taking a new approach, by saying, “We can face up to the facts. We don’t have to make the picture prettier than it is,” Bushman said.

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JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES (Part 3)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 17, (Continue)

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Christianity and world religions. Today I will discuss JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES and as is the case in all of these sermons—I want to make this disclaimer. I am not an expert in this religion—this is only a summary of my study and research in this area.
Again before we dive into the material, I want to say something about the nature of this second part of the series as with the rest. My purpose in this message is to help us to be as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves about the happenings around us these days.

One time in the O.T. King David was assessing the strengths of the people he had with him. And in I Chronicles 12:32 it says this. It says he had with him, “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…” – I Chronicles 12:32

That’s what we want to be. People who understand the times we’re living in so we can be responsive and productive members of God’s kingdom.

Another time, in the N.T., the Apostle Paul told first century Christ-followers that they too should be very clear and mature in their thinking and understanding of the events happening around them. He said, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” – 1 Corinthians 14:20

In other words, like Jesus, he’s saying, “Be informed. Don’t stick your head in the sand and think circumstances will go away. Do not become ugly or hate-filled, be innocent of evil. But be informed.”

As with last Sermon, I want to remind you of our spirit in this series. The purpose for spending time on this is not so we can worry or get angry or figure out how to get revenge, but to be informed so that we can be wise as serpents, gentle as doves. So that we can see things in their proper perspective and respond with the gentleness of Jesus.

So that’s our purpose. To be informed so that we can respond gently, but wisely to our world and its present horrors.

Are we all clear on that?

Okay.

Starting from where we left off:

The cult sect known today as the Jehovah’s Witnesses started out in Pennsylvania in 1870 as a Bible class led by Charles Taze Russell. Russell named his group the “Millennial Dawn Bible Study.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”John 1:1 (KJV)

Charles T. Russell began writing a series of books he called “The Millennial Dawn,” which stretched to six volumes before his death and contained much of the theology Jehovah’s Witnesses now hold. After Russell’s death in 1916, Judge J. F. Rutherford, Russell’s friend and successor, wrote the seventh and final volume of the “Millennial Dawn” series, “The Finished Mystery,” in 1917. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was founded in 1886 and quickly became the vehicle through which the “Millennial Dawn” movement began distributing their views to others. The group was known as the “Russellites” until 1931 when, due to a split in the organization, it was renamed the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The group from which it split became known as the “Bible students.”

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?

Close scrutiny of their doctrinal position on such subjects as the deity of Christ, salvation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the atonement shows beyond a doubt that they do not hold to orthodox Christian positions on these subjects. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being.

This contradicts many Scriptures which clearly declare Jesus to be God (John 1:1,14, 8:58, 10:30). Jehovah’s Witnesses believe salvation is obtained by a combination of faith, good works, and obedience. This contradicts countless scriptures which declare salvation to be received by grace through faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the inanimate power of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the concept of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and instead hold to a ransom theory, that Jesus’ death was a ransom payment for Adam’s sin.

The Truth is: Jesus Is Lord, Jesus Is God.
Part of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! Jesus Christ the son of God Almighty!

So How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses justify their un-biblical doctrines?

First, they claim that the church has corrupted the Bible over the centuries; thus, they have re-translated the Bible into what they call the New World Translation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society altered the text of the Bible to make it fit their false doctrine, rather than basing their doctrine on what the Bible actually teaches. The New World Translation has gone through numerous editions, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses discover more and more Scriptures that contradict their doctrines.

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13 (KJV)

The Watchtower bases its beliefs and doctrines on the original and expanded teachings of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and their successors. The governing body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the only body in the cult that claims authority to interpret Scripture. In other words, what the governing body says concerning any scriptural passage is viewed as the last word, and independent thinking is strongly discouraged. This is in direct opposition to Paul’s admonition to Timothy (and to us as well) to study to be approved by God, so that we need not be ashamed as we correctly handle the Word of God. This admonition, found in 2 Timothy 2:15, is a clear instruction from God to each of His children to be like the Berean Christians, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things they were being taught lined up with the Word.

There is probably no religious group that is more faithful than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at getting their message out. Unfortunately, the message is full of distortions, deceptions, and false doctrine. May God open the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the truth of the gospel and the true teaching of God’s Word.

I Will!

I Will!

If your a Jehovah’s Witness  and you want to find true Salvation, it is simply a prayer away, and Salvation can be yours!

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T.U.L.I.P. (The Five Points of Calvinism)

Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.

The Five Points of Calvinism

There are two mains camps of theology within Christianity in America today: Arminianism and Calvinism. Calvinism is a system of biblical interpretation taught by John Calvin. Calvin lived in France in the 1500’s at the time of Martin Luther who sparked the Reformation.

The system of Calvinism adheres to a very high view of scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual where he is then able and wants to choose God; and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation.

Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined, but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation).

Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

These five categories do not comprise Calvinism in totality. They simply represent some of its main points.

Total Depravity:

Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.

The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, “In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?” The answer is, “He cannot. Therefore God must predestine.”

Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23).

Unconditional Election:
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).

Limited Atonement:
Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many’; John 10:11, 15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bore the sins of many (not all).

Irresistible Grace:
When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out,” (John 6:37).

Perseverance of the Saints:
You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return.

Now what does the Bible say? Let’s look at the The Parable of the Sower Shall we?

The Parable of the SowerMatthew 13 King James Version (KJV)

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon (soon; shortly) with joy receiveth it;

21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

4 Conditions of the Heart that Increases in Complexity 

Reading this Parable Jesus Himself states that All people does have the choice to Salvation, Not just the elect.

There’s the Path

They hear the word and it is quickly stolen from them, Example: Atheists, Agnostics.

Rocky Places

They hear the word they go home to their family and is talked out of what they have heard.

Thorns

They hear the word then cares of this world choke out their faith, These people are so close yet so far! Example: no one knows who the authors of the books of the Bible are, or the Bible isn’t accurate anymore. (I say hogwash to this one, you mean the Almighty that created numerous and by that I mean countless, boundless universes can’t keep track of a few words?)

Good Soil

They hear the word and Praise God they keep their Salvation!

Conclusion

This should answer the question on how a person can be wiped from the Book of Life, they are written in the book then they chose not to continue, For more on this Please read:  Can a Christian lose salvation? or If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?

I and the Bible support that He foreknew us from the creation of the earth, Not that He created us to be His chosen or elect, so on that point I am Arminianism, God looked forward in time to know us.

I also hold that, Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. I’ve been asked if Hitler could have been born again even after he killed all those Jews, and I say yes he could of, (Though I’m pretty sure he didn’t.)

God chose the weak to confound the wise, Scripture backs that stance.

So of which Heart are you? You have a short time to decide this, Remember no decision is still a decision, you just chose the default settings!

To make sure Read here:

Salvation

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ATHEISTS EXPOSED! shared by Greg Liebig Sr.

ATHEISTS EXPOSED!

Hello America, it’s me again, the servant of the Most High
God (Yahweh). Sunday morning 12/16/12 around 6ish the Lord woke me up. He said, “Listen and hear me well for there are some things I need to tell my beloved America.”
I said, “yes Sir.”

“First, let it be known, that I created each and every person on
this planet; also, THAT I LOVE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. Furthermore, let it be known unto them, that I have a purpose for them now, during the millennial reign of my Son Jesus (Yeshua) and THEN THROUGHTALL ETERNITY!
“My precious humans are eternal spiritual beings: yes, for the time being they are in flesh, blood and bone bodies, at death, that changes. When I send Yeshua to rapture up the church they will be changed as well. I am having you tell humanity this because it won’t be long before I tell My Son to get His Bride, the Church, the believers.”

“So, tell them to beware of an evil spirit that is making a last ditch effort to destroy them. He is not one that gives up easily, he is persistent in his lies and if he has his way, even the elect will be FOOLED.”
“That spirit is straight out of the depths of hell itself, satan’s #1
demon; THE SPIRIT OF UNBELIEF!”
“That spirit has been around since the Garden of Eden, Adam
succumbed to his wiles and you see what happened there. As he sees the approaching of Christ’s appearing, he and a few of his
partners (doubt and fear) have really been stepping it up.”
One of his lies is,” God (Yahweh) does not exist.”
Another is, “Jesus (Yeshua) did not really die and rise again.”

“So, consequently he has turned a great number of people against me. He really does hate my precious humans.”
“Another one of his tactics is he has chosen very weak minded
individuals to enlist in his destructive task and they have fallen for his lies, hook, line and sinker.
He tells them to go to various places and spread these lies. He even
pushes his agenda onto governments. He even tells people that it is
not right to have people display Godly things in government institutions; like the Ten Commandments for instance.
He has them say it is offensive to pray in public places.”
“Why he even had his people to have prayer removed from schools. I want to be with little children and protect them, but you listened to a few of these people and had Me removed.”

“REMEMBER Madeline Murray O’Hare?”
“These people are called atheists, non-believers, heathen or just
plain lost. Now remember, I still love these people: don’t ever loose sight of that fact.
The problem is, they don’t love me. WHY?”
“When these atheistic people push their agendas on others, it causes dire consequences, especially if people bow down to their cause without a fight. Resisting these spirits and telling them NO is all you have to do and they will flee. You do not have to obey those demonic forces. Just stand your ground and say NO to satan and his emissaries, that is how you fight this enemy,
just say “NO” to them!”

If God and Jesus are not alive and real then why do the heathen rage so? I mean, why even bother about something that does not exist? Hello, atheist person, can you answer that one for me? You spread your poison of unbelief and doubt with such hatred and you waste loads of energy and money doing so. It was you, the atheist who fought to have prayer removed from our schools. It is you, the atheist who is fighting to have the
Ten Commandments removed from our courthouses. Why, you are even fighting to have war memorials taken down, simply because they put people in mind of a saving God and His Son Jesus. It is you Mr. and Ms. atheist that has a supernatural hatred for the Cross of Jesus Christ!

WHY?

I will tell you why, because deep down inside of you, you know the truth!
You know GOD IS REAL and His Holy Spirit convicts you of the truth about HIS SON JESUS!

Well, I have Good News for you though; one drop of the
Blood of Jesus Christ will forgive you, cleanse you and will
deliver you of that spirit of unbelief and any other spirits that
have filled you and tormented you!
Now, all you have to do, is ask Jesus to forgive you of unbelief
and then invite Him into you heart by faith. You do this and
He will come in and fill you with His Love. So, just ask Him,
go ahead He does love you, remember I told you this at the
beginning of this message.
Your sin, IS NOT GREATER THAN HIS BLOOD!

“AMERICA LET ME ASK YOU.”
“Do you want Me in your personal lives at all? Do you want
Me back in your national leaders lives? Do you want Me back in
your schools? Do you want to be called a Christian nation again?
Do you want to be a vibrant economic power once again? Do you
want to be the lender nation and not the borrower nation again?”
“OK, America, IF YOU DO, then the remedy for this is very simple. It won’t be easy. Are you ready for the solution?
Well, this is what you do: Repeat this prayer after me, ok:
“Oh God our Heavenly Father, we as individuals come to you in faith, we are so very sorry for having offended you! We have ignored you, for that we are heartily sorry! We have sinned against you by allowing idolatry to run rampant in our lives! We have allowed greed to overtake us. We have succumbed to sexual perversion of

OH God Heal Our Land!

OH God Heal Our Land!

ALL KINDS and TYPES IMAGINEABLE, for that we are deeply sorry! We have murdered our unborn babies, for that we are heartily sorry! As a nation, we are guilty of all these sins!
So right now Heavenly Father we REPENT, WE ARE SORRY!
We ask you to please forgive us of our sin, we ask you to wash us
by the BLOOD of YOUR SON JESUS and cleanse us from all
unrighteousness. We ask that you would deliver us from all
sin and set us free from the yolk of bondage and
oppression we have been under because of OUR SIN.”
“THANK YOU JESUS, OUR SAVIOR AND LORD!”

“AMEN”

“Pastors, lead your congregations in this prayer; because some of you have allowed these sins to run free and unchecked in your churches!”
“Mr. President, Senators, Congressman, all Representatives,
all Governors of every state in this nation and all political leaders,
state and local, come together as one and pray this prayer.”
“IF YOU DO THIS I WILL HEAL YOUR LAND!”

With love, the servant of the LORD YESHUA!

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Christianity, What is it?

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 14, (Continue)

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Christianity and world religions. Today I will discuss Christianity and its beliefs.

Again before we dive into the material, I want to say something about the nature of this part of the series. My purpose in this message is to help us to be as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves about the happenings around us these days.

One time in the O.T. King David was assessing the strengths of the people he had with him. And in I Chronicles 12:32 it says this. It says he had with him, “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…” – I Chronicles 12:32

That’s what we want to be. People who understand the times we’re living in so we can be responsive and productive members of God’s kingdom.

Another time, in the N.T., the Apostle Paul told first century Christ-followers that they too should be very clear and mature in their thinking and understanding of the events happening around them. He said, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” – 1 Corinthians 14:20

In other words, like Jesus, he’s saying, “Be informed. Don’t stick your head in the sand and think circumstances will go away. Do not become ugly or hate-filled, be innocent of evil. But be informed.”

As with last Sermon, I want to remind you of our spirit in this series. The purpose for spending time on this is not so we can worry or get angry or figure out how to get revenge, but to be informed so that we can be wise as serpents, gentle as doves. So that we can see things in their proper perspective and respond with the gentleness of Jesus.

So that’s our purpose. To be informed so that we can respond gently, but wisely to our world and its present horrors.

Are we all clear on that?

Okay.

Christians believe in a loving God who has revealed himself and can be personally known in this life. With Jesus Christ, the person’s focus is not on religious rituals or performing good works, but on enjoying a relationship with God and growing to know him better.

Faith in Jesus Christ himself, not just in his teachings, is how the Christian experiences joy and a meaningful life. In his life on Earth, Jesus did not identify himself as a prophet pointing to God or as a teacher of enlightenment. Rather, Jesus claimed to be God in human form. He performed miracles, forgave people of their sin and said that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life. He made statements like, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Christians regard the Bible as God’s written message to humankind. In addition to its being an historical record of Jesus’ life and miracles, the Bible reveals God’s personality, his love and truth, and how one can have a relationship with him.

The Old Testement points to the New Testement and the New Testement points to the Old Testement, thereby completing the circle.

Whatever circumstances a Christian is dealing with in their life, they can confidently turn to a wise and powerful God who genuinely loves them. They believe that God answers prayer and that life takes on meaning as they live to honor him.

Let’s talk about what Christianity is not for a moment shall we?

Christians think that laying down your life is just something “figurative” and “spiritual”. Jesus said whoever is not willing to give up everything they have cannot be my disciple. But we think we’re disciples if we pray a prayer. Following Jesus means being willing to serve and be inconvenienced for the sake of the Gospel. When we are willing to lay down our lives for Jesus’ sake, we will discover we’ve actually found the abundant life.

The following are actual responses from comment cards given to the staff members at Bridger Wilderness Area in Wyoming:
Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.

Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.

Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests.

Please pave the trails so they can be snow-plowed during the winter.

Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.

The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.

A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call…

Reflectors need to be placed on trees every 50 feet so people can hike at night with flashlights.

Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.

A MacDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.

The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.

Too many rocks in the mountains.
(Citation: Mike Neifert, Light and Life (February 1997), p. 27)
What do all of these comments have in common? They are from people who are ready and willing to climb the mountain trails as long as they are convenient enough. Just get rid of the rocks, the hills, the spiders, the dark, the coyotes, the deer, any problems, and we’ll climb the trail!

These hikers are what I call “convenience hikers”. They want all the beauty and the joy of being out in nature as long as it doesn’t come with any cost or inconvenience.

Does this sound familiar? The Lord has been dealing with me recently on this issue. No – not when it comes to getting outdoors and enjoying God’s creation, but about my relationship with him.

Through the example of people in this church and through some challenging books I’ve read recently God’s been convicting me of being a “convenience Christian – someone who practices what I call “convenience Christianity”.

What is convenient Christianity?
• Convenient Christianity is a false way of living in which people profess to be followers of Jesus but are unwilling to be inconvenienced in serving Him.
• Convenient Christianity is submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as long as it causes no inconvenience.

I don’t want to be a convenience Christian. I don’t want to lead a church of convenience Christians. And it is my prayer that as we look at God’s word today his Holy Spirit will speak to our hearts about how we can move beyond convenience Christianity and into the real thing – costly discipleship that leads to abundant living!

Matthew 16:24-27
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

PROBLEM: We read these words. Most likely we’ve heard them before. But they’ve become so familiar that instead of taking them at their face value we “spiritualize” the meaning.

What is the clear meaning? If you want to follow Jesus it is going to cost you. If you want to find your life the only way to find it is to lose it by becoming a slave for Jesus.

But instead of really living this way we live our lives like the person in this “sort of love poem”:

If It Don’t Rain

I would climb the highest mountain
Swim the deepest ocean too
I would crawl the hottest desert
I’d do anything for you
I would leap the tallest building
I’d bear any trial or pain
There’s no limit to my love
And I’ll be over Friday night
If it don’t rain

–Dan Atkins

Don’t we say this to our Lord so often. “There’s no limit to my love – and I’ll do anything for you – as long as it won’t cost me. As long as I can still do everything with my time and my money and my life as I want to – sure I’ll do anything you need me to.”

The question that has been running around in my mind these last couple of weeks is this: Am I willing to suffer for Jesus Christ? Or does my willingness to serve Jesus Christ and his kingdom stop the moment it becomes inconvenient?

Giving God the crumbs.
Brownies: represent our time. Slips of paper for school, work, driving kids around, eating, sleeping, watching TV, doing yardwork, personal reflection, going to movies, going on vacation, going out to coffee, worship, serving God.
Giving god the crumbs,
We are too often content to give God the crumbs of our lives. The leftovers. When he wants to be Lord. Who is on the throne of your life? Who gets the first and best pieces? Who gets the crumbs?

Now, I don’t want this message to be a big downer – and I don’t want to use guilt to induce you to a life of serving God whole heartedly, so let my remind you of a couple of things.

First – the same one who said “Unless a man gives up everything he has he cannot be my disciple” said “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”

The miracle news is that if we give God the first piece, the rest of the pieces of our life fit together the way they were designed.

Remember this story?

Mark 6:30-44
30The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Jesus Loves you!

Jesus Loves you!

32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38″How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.”
39Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42They all ate and were satisfied, 43and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

The need was daunting – feeding those thousands of people. And when the disciples took stock of what they had – they didn’t have near enough to meet the needs. But when someone had the faith to give the little that they had, and to sacrifice their own needs to help meet the needs of others – that’s when the miracle happened.

Now let’s talk about what Christianity is for a moment shall we?

Fearing the Lord is not just good for us after we die – it is for our good in the here and now. Deut 5:29 (Deut. 5:29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!) in which we learn that fearing the Lord is for our good – we haven’t really talked in specific terms about what that good is. That’s what we’re going to do today. When it comes to fearing the Lord (even though we should do it “just because He says to”) there are some major benefits that come into our lives. If you ask, “What’s in it for me?” the answer is “more than you’ll ever have to give up to get it!”

1. WISDOM

Prov. 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

There is a simple rule to life that goes like this. Fools never prosper. People who are fools make bad decisions constantly. Bad relationship decisions. Bad financial decisions. Bad career decisions. Bad spiritual decisions. And they always find themselves in trouble.

On the other hand you’ve got wise people. Wise people are people who make wise decisions. Wise relationship decisions. Wise financial decisions. Wise career decisions. Wise spiritual decisions. Wise people find themselves, more often than not, avoiding trouble that plagues so many others.

What kind of person do you want to be? Funny thing is noone WANTS to be a fool. But so many people are – because they don’t start at the right place.

You can have lots of knowledge – go to college, ace tests, you can be an expert in some sort of skill – and yet still lack wisdom – for if you want true wisdom it starts right here – with the fear of the Lord.

Why is this? Because when you begin with a relationship with your creator that is one of awe and respect, you begin to have a life that aligns with God’s purposes in the world. As you live under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit you will begin to think more like God, you’ll begin to react to situations and people more and more like God – and when you do this, you’re guaranteed to be making wise decisions.

2. INTIMACY WITH GOD
As I’ve been saying since the beginning of this series The fear of the Lord is the key to an intimate relationship with Him. But let me show you exactly where this comes from and what it means.

Psa. 25:12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.

Psa. 25:14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

God tells His secrets to those who fear him.
He confides in those who esteem him properly. And he gives them instruction in the way chosen for them.

It can be hard to know God’s will or why he is doing certain things in our lives. But if we fear Him we are promised He will not leave us out in the cold forever. He will give instruction. He will confide.

When I’m going through a difficult time – stress, difficult situations – I want to talk to someone with whom I know the information will be safe. I CONFIDE in someone close to me.

When we fear the Lord – he knows he can trust us with information about what he is doing. He will give insights.

Psa. 103:8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
Psa. 103:9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
Psa. 103:10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Psa. 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
Psa. 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psa. 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

The Lord has compassion and great love for those who fear Him.
Though the Lord is Holy and Mighty – he is also compassionate and gracious. When he finds people who fear Him he removes his hand of judgment from them and instead deals with them with compassion.

An intimate relationship with God.

One of our 3 values as a church is worship. “We are devoted to worshiping God as a lifestyle.”

But what does it really mean to worship? But what is it really? Is it singing songs? Is it listening to an explanation of God’s word? Is it drinking coffee? Well, yes, and no. Before I give you my definition of worship let me get some input from you. What do you think worship is?……

In the New Testament by kneeling or prostration to do homage (a show of reverence and respect) or make obeisance (a gesture of respect or deference) to express respect or to make supplication, Worship is declaring in word, thought, or action the greatness of God and your submission to Him.

Isaiah 1:10-15 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11″The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies. 14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.

Wow! Strong words. God does not desire meaningless rituals from us. In fact he hates having people come before him and perform rituals without meaning.

So we know what type of worship God hates. But what does he want from us? How can you know your worship is pleasing to Him?

1. Offer your body as a living sacrifice to God. (Rom. 12:1)

Rom. 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living

sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.

Throughout the OT we know that when the people of God came to worship – a main part of it was the offering of a sacrifice, usually some sort of animal, which would be slaughtered and then burned on the altar as an offering to God.

What the NT teaches is God doesn’t need the blood of animals to cover our sin anymore (Christ blood has paid for our sin once and for all) – but that we are to make our life a LIVING sacrifice for God’s use.

However, the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep wanting to crawl off the altar.

To offer myself as a living sacrifice means that I come before God and say “my life is yours – all of it”. It means that just like the sacrifices offered to God under the Jewish sacrificial system, we are offering ourselves to God for his pleasure. (The sacrifices are called “a pleasing aroma” throughout the Old Testament. Think BBQs!)

When we come to him and offer ourselves, not just a formal sign or outward activity – this brings pleasure to God just like the smell of a BBQ brings pleasure to us!

How do we DO this?
It begins with our attitudes. Humility before him. Submission to his greatness. Love and respect and faith.
Then it moves on to our words – proclaiming your allegiance and your love of God. We express our respect and reverence for God through written words, spoken prayers, even silent prayers, and music.
But then it moves into actions. To truly make ourselves on offering we show God we revere him and honor him by LIVING our lives in obedience to God’s Word. We love our neighbor as ourselves. We avoid sin. We introduce others to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Worship that is pleasing to God is NOT constrained to one place (a church building) or in any certain setting.
It is NOT constrained to any type of music or silence or spoken word.
It is NOT constrained to one type of physical expression.
It is anything we do that says to God “here I am – I give myself to you as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you”.

But there’s more we can learn today about what true worship really is and how we can engage in worship that we know is pleasing to God. If we want to worship in a way that is pleasing to God, Jesus taught that we must…

2. Worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:19-24)

As you turn there let me give a bit of background. (You do read the Scriptures that I reference for you, Don’t you?) Here Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman at mid day at a hot, dusty well in the village of Sychar. He speaks to her of the living water he can offer her that will quench her spiritual thirst once and for all. As the conversation continues, she begins talking to him about worship, and the differences between the ways and places Jews and Samaritans worship God.

John 4:19-24 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father

seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

So, Jesus says, God wants worshipers who worship him in SPIRIT and in TRUTH.
What does this mean? Let’s take it one word at a time.

What does Jesus mean when he says we must worship in “spirit”? First off – something it does not mean. It does not mean to worship God in THE Holy Spirit. The word “the” is missing in the Greek. Yes God wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit as we worship, but that’s not what Jesus is talking about here.
This word “spirit” is the same word used when Jesus died and he “gave up his spirit” (Mt. 27:50) and when Jesus raised a girl back to life and her “spirit returned” (Luke 8:55) To worship in spirit (Gk. Pneuma) is to worship with the essence of your inner being. It is the opposite of worshiping with your outer actions only.
Now, what about this word “truth”?
The word “truth” is found throughout the Gospel of John many times as Jesus repeatedly introduced his teaching with the words, “I tell you the truth…” or “Verily, Verily” He said it over and over again. When you heard him speak , you knew it would be true – you could trust him – it was authentic – you knew there was no falsehood in it.
I think this is the idea Jesus is getting at when he says to worship in truth. It is declaring God’s greatness and your submission to Him without falsehood, with authenticity.

Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
So at the risk perhaps of making this too simple – I think what Jesus was saying when he said true worshipers worship in spirit and truth was this: It is declaring God’s greatness and your submission to him from your inner being with complete authenticity.

Remember the context: The Samaritan woman with whom Jesus is talking here is confused about what true worship is. She thinks in order for worship to be accepted by God the location must be right, and the form of worship must be right.

We Got a Friend in Jesus!

We Got a Friend in Jesus!

But Jesus corrects her and says – neither the Samaritans’ spot of worship (Gerazim) or the Jews’ place of worship, the temple in Jerusalem is the most important thing. The place – and for that matter – all the external signs of worship – are not the most important thing. What matters is your heart. What matters is that you worship in SPIRIT and TRUTH.

To worship in SPIRIT and TRUTH means that your heart and mind and emotions are all connected with whatever external form of worship you are engaged in.
• It means if you’re singing a song – you’re agreeing with the truth of the words. You’re praying them to God as a reflection of what is going on inside your inner being.
• If you’re listening to a message, you’re authentically seeking to apply God’s word in your life – not just trying to “look spritual” by sitting and nodding or even saying “amen”.
• If you’re partaking of communion you’re engaging your mind and your emotions with the ritual of taking the bread and the juice.
• If you’re serving someone else in God’s name you’re doing it out of an authentic love of God and not for the approval of other people.

NOTE: Make sure I’m understood here. God can be equally pleased through liturgical worship with its formal rituals as through a more free worship style like ours or yours. He can also be equally Unpleased with either one. It all depends on the heart of the person worshiping. Are they doing it with authenticity or simply going through the motions?

I have felt God presence sitting silently in a monastery chapel. I have experienced him while listening to contemporary worship music in my car. I have encountered unbeliievalbe joy while standing amidst a throng of worshipers in a loud concert setting. I have connected with God singing ancient hymns with a pipe organ. I have heard God speak to me through speakers both dynamic and not so dynamic.
The place and the forms of worship are not what determines if true worship happens. True worship happens when you declare the greatness of God and your submission to him with your inner being without any falseness.

The amazing thing is that God wants us to come to him in spirit and truth. He wants us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. I know that sometimes coming to God in truth I have to say things like “I don’t really feel like praying right now.” “God I’m mad about this.” “I want to sing these words but my heart doesn’t seem to be in it for some reason.”

He would rather have this type of worship – worship that is authentic and real and coming from our heart – than external and false displays of religiosity.

And the great thing is that if you’re willing to enter into a relationship with God like this – that is authentic and based upon your surrender of your life to Him as a daily, living sacrfice – you’re the type of person God is looking for.

As Jesus said,
John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Imagine the playground scene – picking up teams for kickball. Who always got picked first? The strong and fast and athletic.

In the spiritual realm God is looking for players. And the type of players He is looking for are those who will offer themselves as a living sacrifice and will declare his greatness and their submission to him in a way that comes from their heart with authenticity.

As he searches, will God find such a person in you?

Let’s pray.

PRAYER
Search me O God and know my heart
Test me and know my anxious thoughts
See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Forgive us for putting on a show.
Forgive us for being concerned with externals when what you really care about it our hearts.

Make us real. With a Circumsized and a heart after you!
In Jesus Precious name, Amen. (Continued in next Sermon)

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Christianity, What is it? (Part 3)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 16, (Continue)

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Christianity and world religions. Today I will discuss Orthodox Christianity and as is the case in all of these sermons—I want to make this disclaimer. I am not an expert in this religion—this is only a summary of my study and research in this area.
Again before we dive into the material, I want to say something about the nature of this part of the series as with the rest. My purpose in this message is to help us to be as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves about the happenings around us these days.

One time in the O.T. King David was assessing the strengths of the people he had with him. And in I Chronicles 12:32 it says this. It says he had with him, “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…” – I Chronicles 12:32

That’s what we want to be. People who understand the times we’re living in so we can be responsive and productive members of God’s kingdom.

Another time, in the N.T., the Apostle Paul told first century Christ-followers that they too should be very clear and mature in their thinking and understanding of the events happening around them. He said, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” – 1 Corinthians 14:20

In other words, like Jesus, he’s saying, “Be informed. Don’t stick your head in the sand and think circumstances will go away. Do not become ugly or hate-filled, be innocent of evil. But be informed.”

As with last Sermon, I want to remind you of our spirit in this series. The purpose for spending time on this is not so we can worry or get angry or figure out how to get revenge, but to be informed so that we can be wise as serpents, gentle as doves. So that we can see things in their proper perspective and respond with the gentleness of Jesus.

So that’s our purpose. To be informed so that we can respond gently, but wisely to our world and its present horrors.

Are we all clear on that?

Okay.

Now, we know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour is proclaimed each and every Sunday in the year. In fact, the passion and the resurrection is proclaimed each and every day with the celebration of every Mass in this Church; but for a significant number of Christians across the globe, this morning is the particular day of celebration – today is the Orthodox Easter day.

but didn’t we in the Western Church celebrate Easter over six weeks ago? Why the discrepancy between the West and the East?

As we all know, the date of Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which was agreed on at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Before then Easter was a local custom, and more closely based on the Jewish Passover of 14 Nissan – another moveable feast based upon the lunar cycle. Although we know from Scripture that the Passion and Resurrection occurred at the time of the Passover, we do not know the exact date, and so we have always had to make some kind of approximation, just as the birth of Christ for Christmas.

The principle reason for the difference between the East and the West is because of the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendars. The Julian Calendar was commissioned by none other than Julius Caesar, and made a pretty good estimate of the length of the year – only 11 minutes and 23 seconds a year over. Obviously, over time this builds up and causes problems – and the major correction occurred in 1582 when Pope Gregory the Thirteenth instituted the Gregorian Calendar, and 10 days were skipped. The Western Church over the next 200 or so years adopted the Gregorian Calendar – we ourselves did in 1752, by which time we had to lose 12 days. Political domination by the West ensured that the secular world followed the religious world and consequently we are all tied into the Gregorian Calendar.

The East continues to calculate its first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox based on the Julian calendar, for they have no time for such Romish inventions; even though the world in which they describe Easter uses the Gregorian Calendar. Because Easter must fall on a Sunday there can be a discrepancy of up to 5 weeks. Occasionally, our Easter and their Easter will coincide and we can once more be at one.

Does the date of Easter actually matter? Should it not be a fixed date, as fixed as the 25th of December? I would suggest not. Just as our faith is not just a faith for using on Sunday morning, but is a faith for all week; our Easter is not just a single day, but a daily proclamation of the inevitable, earth-shattering truth, that Jesus Christ is alive, risen from the dead. The actual date of Easter, 31st of March or 5th May is actually quite irrelevant: what matters is what we do with that revelation of God to us, what matters is how we proclaim that Gospel and what we do with that truth in both our own lives and the lives of the people we encounter.

Our readings this morning speak of that truth, they speak of the Holy Spirit preparing to come amongst the people of God at Pentecost, and providing the inspiration for the Church. It is the love of Christ, the love of the Father and our love for him which matters, rather than the adherence to one date or another. He promised that he would not leave us as Orphans, a promise which reaches much further than the mathematics and astrophysics used to calculate the date of Easter. Much as I may have said at Christmas, “Jesus is the reason for the Season” – it is his resurrection which has transformed our lives, and transformed society, and we should never let the secular world lose sight of that.

I understand that the Easter Act, passed in 1928 allows for a government committee to fix the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. It has never been implemented (thank God), and so Easter still drifts from year to year. We should work hard to ensure that Easter is not further degraded by a committee; nothing even to do with the church, but a committee of bureaucrats! There are pressures, especially from the education authorities to abolish Easter and replace it with a Spring Holiday. We must therefore be vigilant.

If you read a recently written history book, you may notice that BC and AD – Before Christ and After Death,  have been replaced by BCE and CE – Before the Common Era and of the Common Era. (I had noticed this change before, but before I started studying for this article, I thought they meant, Before Christ Era and Christ Era! How sneeky!) There is an awful inevitability about this: yet more bland standardisation which threatens to write Jesus Christ out of general history, despite the fact that even for the most atheistic historian, it was Jesus Christ and his Church which has shaped the past two thousand years. Bland standardisation offends no-one, but loses the passion which underpins our traditions, our history.

Easter in a Common Era makes no sense, when Easter is for all time. Happy Easter! Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!

The Christian world can be divided into 3 main branches: Catholics, Protestants, and the Orthodox (Oriental and Eastern). Many branches, branch off of these. This 3rd stream has been described as an “unknown world.” It is foreign and mysterious to most American Christians, yet it represents a major segment of our faith. For many of us, all we know of the Orthodox Church in the hit movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” (Greek Orthodox)

There are about 4 million Orthodox Christians in the US, with ties to churches in Greece, Russia, Armenia, Syria, Poland, Romania, Egypt, and the Ukraine. There are about 150 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. Because of where most of them are located, you’ll often hear them referred to as “Eastern Orthodox”.

The separation of Eastern European Christianity from Roman Catholicism came about over a rejection of Papal authority. Prior to this schism, (well before the Protestant Reformation, refer to the picture.) the Eastern Church had co-existed with the Roman Catholic Church as the principle expression of historic Christianity. The Crusader invasion of Constantinople, the growing power of the Pope, the issue of celibacy (Orthodox priest are allowed to be married) and conflict over which language should be used in worship were main points of contention that eventually resulted in division. The Eastern Church then subdivided into ethnic/national expressions.

Many of the important early church councils (on doctrinal issues) convened in the East. Christian monasticism and religious art began in the East. The term “orthodox” means “glorious teaching”, or “teaching about the One to whom glory is given”. Some Protestants and Jews use this term to describe their adherence to the historical truths of their faith. One of thier CCCC churches in nearby Gloucester is the “Orthodox Congregational Church of Lanesville.” There, “orthodox” is used as a synonym for Conservative, a way of saying that they have remained true to the teaching and authority of the Bible.

Upon entering an Orthodox service, the first thing one may notice is that there’s no place to sit. In spite of the fact that Orthodox worship can often last for several hours, worshippers are expected to stand. The Orthodox calendar differs slightly with the Western Church, which is why, for example they celebrate Easter somewhat later than the rest. The church architecture, the dim lighting and the incense add to the exotic sense of wonder. The formal liturgy is chanted and sung music is extremely important to convey God’s truth and majesty. Russian composers Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky both wrote sacred music for Orthodox worship.

Art is very important in the Orthodox Church. We’re somewhat familiar with icons, the pictures Orthodox Christians display in their worship. We may wonder if they venerate these images. The Orthodox Church regards icons as tangible expressions of Gospel truth. They are a source of revelation, or “theology in color.” They provide a way of “showing” people the message of Christ.

When the Apostle Paul tells us that we bear the “image” of Christ, he uses the Greek word ikon:

o “Clothe yourself with the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image (ikon) of your Creator” (Col 3:10).
o “Just as we are not like Adam, the man of the earth, so we shall bear the image (ikon) of Christ, the man from heaven” (I Cor 15:49).

Like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church venerates saints from the Bible and from church history. Every day of the calendar is dedicated to a particular saint. While they do not worship these people, they’ve created, in essence, a holy “hall of fame”. Protestants to a lesser degree give honor to significant leaders like Calvin, Luther, Knox, Moody, Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, to name a few. By perpetuating their memory they learn from their teaching and example. The Orthodox Church seeks to help their followers to attain a historical appreciation of their faith. All Denominations could well do a better job of teaching the history of Christianity. Many church-goers know little of what’s happened in the Church since the days of the Apostles.

Can I get an Amen??

The Orthodox Church puts a strong emphasis on “holy tradition”. They are not seeking to update the church to accommodate contemporary styles of worship; they rather are striving to keep the focus locked into the ancient ways. While this may alienate some, they feel, their goal is to be faithful to history. Protestants place less emphasis on tradition; they try to live as Biblical Christians in modern times. The Bible does not dictate an “order of worship” so they feel free to conduct worship in a variety of ways, with degrees of formal or inform expression.

They use Paul’s warning in Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ” (2:8). The only Apostolic tradition they follow is what they find in the Bible, their sole authority. They are not anti-tradition, yet neither do they elevate tradition to the status of Scripture.

As for church structure, each national Orthodox church has its own Patriarch (or Metropolitan), who serves as a member of the Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey). There is no central figure with authority to speak for the entire Church, although the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch are regarded with special honor and respect. The council is a family of self-governing churches bound by history, tradition, and faith.

Some Orthodox writers claim their Church embodies the only true Apostolic faith. Critics of Orthodoxy label this view “triumphalism”, meaning an exclusive, narrow-minded view of Christianity. The Orthodox Church claims an unbroken succession with the NT apostolic church fathers. Ecumenism isn’t easy for everyone. Protestant Fundamentalists have an equally difficult time seeing people from other expressions of Christianity as part of their spiritual family.

For example, “Landmark” Baptists also claim an unbroken succession all the way back to John the Baptist (Trail of Blood), and thus see themselves as the only legitimate church. While Congregationalism’s historic roots only go to Plymouth, they believe they have a spiritual connection to the NT church (as well as a spiritual link to Abraham and Judaism, Galatians 3:7, 29). The late George Florovsky, an Orthodox refugee from Communism and Nazism, was known for having a large circle of fellowship, one that included Catholics and Protestants. His reason, he stated, was that, “The Christian is never a stranger where our blessed Lord is loved and worshipped.”

The Orthodox view of salvation emphasizes that God must be known experientially, which is a mystery transcending human reason. It’s not enough to merely acknowledge Jesus; they must encounter Him. There is validity to this

Main Branches of Christianity

Main Branches of Christianity

viewpoint; many Protestants have little tolerance of mystery; they act as though they have God fully figured out, what theologians call “putting God in a box”. There’s a place for mystery in faith; yet at the same time, we do have a faith rooted in revelation–God has explained in human terms, Who He is, in Scripture. We can be sure He hasn’t told us everything, but He’s given us all we need and all we can handle.

What do we agree on with Orthodox? We hold in common some key teachings: the inspiration of Scripture, the two natures of Christ (human & divine), His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, the resurrection, and our future hope of eternal life. Unity does not require uniformity; it often necessitates agreeing to disagree about distinctive doctrines, while being drawn together by faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also affirm our commitment to the distinctives our Pilgrim heritage.

When we use the term “the church” we may be referring to an specific organized faith, but ultimately the church is the fellowship of all believers, which transcends all labels. The “Church” is the Body of Christ. While there are many expressions of Christianity, there is only one Body–the family of God.

PRAYER:

I am going to say a prayer that may express what you may want to say today—or speak to God in your heart in your own way today.

O God, I give you thanks for your love for us. I thank you that you are a bigger God than I first supposed. I am grateful that your love is so deep and wide that you reach all to all peoples. Thank you for being patient with me when I’m confused and don’t understand. Yet your longing was that I might know you fully and completely. Thank you for coming among us in Jesus Christ. Help me as a Christ follower to listen, understand and learn from others and at the same time to be capable of bearing your light to the world, I COME AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF DIVISION, THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION AND THE SPIRIT OF I RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG. I BIND YOUR EVERY IMAGINATION, AND YOUR EVERY THOUGHT PROCESS! I SEND YOU BACK TO THE DARKNESS AND OUT OF THE CHURCH. I CALL FOR UNITY IN THE BODY OF CHRIST FROM THE NORTH THE SOUTH AND THE WEST AND THE EAST, For Lord God we need unity again as in the time of the Apostiles, and as you, the son, and Spirit are one, to be one body, and you Jesus as the Head striving to do one work, the work the the Holy Spirit is helping us to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Lord willing the final part will be the conclution, where I try to tie all of these parts together. (Continued on next Sermon)

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Atheism (Part 3)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 13, (Continue)

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Christianity and world religions. Today I will discuss Atheism and as is the case in all of these sermons—I want to make this disclaimer. I am not an expert in this religion—this is only a summary of my study and research in this area.
Again before we dive into the material, I want to say something about the nature of this part of the series as with the rest. My purpose in this message is to help us to be as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves about the happenings around us these days.

One time in the O.T. King David was assessing the strengths of the people he had with him. And in I Chronicles 12:32 it says this. It says he had with him, “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…” – I Chronicles 12:32

That’s what we want to be. People who understand the times we’re living in so we can be responsive and productive members of God’s kingdom.

Another time, in the N.T., the Apostle Paul told first century Christ-followers that they too should be very clear and mature in their thinking and understanding of the events happening around them. He said, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” – 1 Corinthians 14:20

In other words, like Jesus, he’s saying, “Be informed. Don’t stick your head in the sand and think circumstances will go away. Do not become ugly or hate-filled, be innocent of evil. But be informed.”

As with last Sermon, I want to remind you of our spirit in this series. The purpose for spending time on this is not so we can worry or get angry or figure out how to get revenge, but to be informed so that we can be wise as serpents, gentle as doves. So that we can see things in their proper perspective and respond with the gentleness of Jesus.

So that’s our purpose. To be informed so that we can respond gently, but wisely to our world and its present horrors.

Are we all clear on that?

Okay.

One person once observed: “If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace.” So, what is the “meaning of judgment”? And what does that tell us about “the meaning of grace”?

Several years ago, a Charlotte, North Carolina man, purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against … get this … fire. Before he had made a single payment on the policy, he smoked every last one of those 24 cigars… and then he filed a claim against the insurance company stating that he had lost the cigars in “a series of small fires.” The insurance company refused to pay citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion.
Well the man sued the insurance company.
And he won!
The judge ruled that – since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unacceptable fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.
Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.”
But after the man cashed his check the insurance company had him arrested.
Can you guess the charge?

Arson! 24 counts of arson!

Now, that’s poetic justice. This man tried to bilk the insurance company out of 1000s of dollars and he paid the price for his arrogance. (Apparently this story began as an urban legend back in the 1960’s and even Brad Paisley did a song memorializing it. Alas, the story is a falsehood. But I put it in because it is a cool story!)

There’s something inside of all of us that says that there must be a day of judgment, On someone else, never on us.
There must be a day when the wicked must be made to pay.
The unrighteous must be brought to justice.
Those who are evil must face judgment and punishment. Just look at all the trials on TV nowadays and Judge Judy etc.

And the God assures us that – YES – there’s going to be a day of judgment.

Hebrews 9:27 tells us “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” KJV

2 Corinthians 5:10 says: “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Or as Revelation 20 tells us – everybody – both great and small will stand before judgment seat. And the books will be opened, and “the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

Based on these Scriptures (and on a few others) I can confidently predict for you today: One day you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Now, just about everybody thinks that’s a great idea.
Because just about everybody thinks THEY ARE NOT going to face judgment.

A little over 10 years ago US News and World Report took a survey and found that approximately 87% of those they interviewed believed they were going to heaven.
They didn’t think they’d have to face judgment.
Judgment was for all the evil people.
And these folks didn’t think they were all that bad.

These folks are like the little boy who was doing poorly in school. One day he gravely approached his teacher’s desk and said, “I don’t want to scare you, but my daddy says if I don’t get better grades…. somebody is going to get a spanking.”

Now – WHO did that little boy think was going to get a spanking? (Not him. The teacher) Why? Because that little boy didn’t think he deserved punishment but he was pretty sure the teacher did.

When it comes to the final judgment… there are folks who believe they’ll get a pass.
• Atheists presume there won’t even be a judgment – because they believe judgment is all tied up in this

“God-thing” whom they don’t believe exists, and so there is no ultimate judge of their behavior

• Some religions in the Far East believe they’ll escape judgment because they’re all going to be reincarnated. And they’ll get to come back again and again and again… until they get it right.

And then there’s the vast majority of people who believe they haven’t been all that bad that they’d have to be condemned. Sure they’ve done some bad things… but they’re NOT really bad people…..

Now… why would they believe that?
What would make them so sure they’re such nice folks?
Well, it’s because they compare themselves with those around them.
And they figure – hey, I’m better than this person/that person.
And because they generally compare themselves with others they don’t like they usually come out looking pretty good.

One person observed: “Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scale.” – Byron J. Langnefield

Or as But Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:12 “… When (people) measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

Why not?
Why aren’t they wise?
Well, they’re not wise, because they’re using the wrong set of standards.
When they declare themselves righteous by comparing themselves to someone else they’re using a faulty set of scales.

On the last day (when we come into God’s presence) we’re not going to be able to compare ourselves with somebody else. There will be millions upon millions of people all around/but all you’ll see is Him.

His very presence will overwhelm us.
And His very righteousness will overpower us.

When Isaiah was in the temple, he said:
“I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”

When Isaiah saw God, his response was immediate:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:1-5

When Isaiah saw God, he didn’t think about comparing himself with his neighbor. He didn’t compare himself with his relatives. He didn’t compare himself with someone who lived down the street. All Isaiah could see was the purity and holiness of God. And that purity and holiness frightened him. Because God was pure but Isaiah wasn’t. God was righteous but Isaiah was not.

Ps 130:3 says “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?”

That’s what it’s going to be like at the judgment.
We’ll see God in all of us glory and righteousness and purity
And suddenly all the failures and shortcomings and sins of our lives will overwhelm us

God is righteous. God is pure. And we aren’t.
And for us to come into His presence depending on our own “self-righteousness” would be pure folly.

Years ago I went to a viewing at a funeral home. I wore a nice shirt and a pair of khaki jeans. But the moment I walked into the funeral parlor I

knew something wasn’t right. Everybody else was dressed in their finest clothing. The women had on their best Sunday dresses. The men in suits and ties.
Nobody said anything to me at the time… but I felt ashamed.
I had come to a solemn event and my clothes (which I had THOUGHT were OK) were suddenly inappropriate… they seemed shabby and out of place.

And on that final day – when I stand before my God – all my righteous deeds will seem even shabbier than the clothes I wore that night.

Isaiah 64:6 says
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”

Job 25:4 asks the question:
“How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?”

In the Gospels we read about a young rich man who came to Jesus and asked: “what good things must I do to have eternal life?”
And Jesus responded “Why do you ask me what is good? Only God is good” Matthew 19:16-17

The young rich man came to Jesus believing he could be good enough to be good enough to get into heaven. He lived by the theology that if he did enough good things, that when judgment came he could tip his hat to God and walk right on in.
He believed his own “self-righteousness” would get him in the gate.

But that’s not going to happen.
The Bible repeatedly teaches… all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

And many are feeling the pressure of that judgment even now.
Several years ago I was having a discussion with a relative of mine who was not a believer. We were talking about anger and bitterness and the damage it can do to people. As I often do, I was illustrating my points with Scripture and stories that I remembered. I didn’t think too much about the discussion being an argument, I was just teaching the Biblical view of the dangers of bitterness. But all of a sudden my relative got very angry.
“Quit telling me your ‘God-stories’” she said.
Then she made the most bizarre comment: “My mother was a righteous person. My father was a righteous person. And I’m a righteous person!”
But I hadn’t said anything about her parents. In fact I hadn’t thought I’d said anything about her personal righteousness. In fact, I was a little puzzled that she was upset with my God-stories (I am a preacher after all).
But upon reflection it occurred to me that in the stories and Scriptures I presented to her she sensed a threat to her own belief in her “rightness”. The righteousness of God was convicting her and she wasn’t comfortable with it.

Revelation 20 tells us that EVERYBODY is going to be there at the judgment.
It says the books will be opened and “the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Revelation 20:12b

Now, that’s kind of scary!
I’m not sure I want everybody to hear about all the things I’ve done/thought/said
Now granted, there’s a lot of things I’ve done that I feel good about.
But–by contrast–there’s a whole lot I’d just a soon you didn’t know about.

And there’s a probably a bunch of things in your life you’d just as soon I not know.

So, does Revelation 20 say that all of our past is going to be an open book?
Well…….. no
Not for all of us.

Look again at Revelation 20:12
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life.”

Book of life?
What’s this book of life?

Well, the “book of life” is mentioned just a few times in Scripture but apparently it’s a VERY important book.

In Psalm 69:28 for example, David speaks of wicked men – and says:
“May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.”
Only those God counts as being “righteous” will be listed in this book of life!

Later in Revelation 13:8 we’re told
“All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast— all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”
The book of life belongs to the Lamb that was slain.

Who is this Lamb that was slain? (Jesus)

Who’s in this Book of Life?
Paul tells the church at Philippi “… help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:3
In other words, everyone who belongs to Jesus is in that book.

If you’ve believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Trully repented of your sins, confessed Jesus as your Lord and Master… then you’re name is in that book.

And – if you belong to Jesus – your sins are all covered, Speaking about our blessings in being a Christian, Paul wrote:
“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Romans 4:7-8

If you are listed in the Lamb’s book of life, your sins are blotted out. Scripture teaches us that when God forgives our sins they are taken away from as far as the East is from the West and buried in the very depth of the sea.
Our past sins have blotted out. They’ve been covered.
God WILL NEVER count them against us ever again.

Now others who come before the judgment seat will be “… judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” And that will a terrible thing.

But not for us.
Do you remember how I said that – when I’d attended that viewing – that I was ashamed?
That I felt that my garments were shabby and inappropriate.
Well I won’t feel that way when I come before the throne of judgment, because I’ll have NEW GARMENTS ON.

As Galatians 3:27 says
“…all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

I won’t stand before God with those old rags of my past sins… I’ll stand before Him with the white garments of righteousness supplied by Jesus.

One man told of a dream he’d had. He said: The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I tho’t was a courthouse. The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table.

As I looked around I saw the “prosecutor.” He was a villainous looking man who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen.

I sat down and looked to my left and there sat my lawyer a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed familiar to me.

The corner door flew open and there appeared the judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence as he moved across the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. As he took his seat behind the bench, he said, “Let us begin.

The prosecutor rose and said, “My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this man belongs in hell.” Then he proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and of times I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank.
I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t look at anyone, even my own lawyer, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.

As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me I was equally upset at my representative who sat there silently, not offering any form of defense at all. I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life. Couldn’t that at least equal out part of the harm I’ve done?

Satan finished with a fury and said, “This man belongs in hell, he is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise.”

When it was his turn, my lawyer first asked if he might approach the bench. The judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan and beckoned him to come forward.

As he got up and started walking, I was able to see him in his full splendor and majesty. I suddenly realized why he seemed so familiar. This was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior. He stopped at the bench and softly said to the judge, “Hi Dad,” and then he turned to address the court.

“Satan was correct in saying that this man had sinned, I won’t deny any of these allegations. The wages of sin is death, and this man deserves to be punished.”
Jesus took a deep breath and turned to his Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, “However, I died on the cross so that this man might have eternal life and he has accepted me as his Savior, so he is mine. His name is written in the book of life and no one can snatch him from me. Satan still does not understand yet. This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.”

As Jesus sat down, he quietly paused, looked at his Father and replied, “There is nothing else that needs to be done. I’ve done it all.”

The judge lifted his mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from his lips:
“This man is free.
The penalty for him has already been paid in full.
Case dismissed.”

As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, “I won’t give up, I’ll win the next one.”

God's Courtroom

God’s Courtroom

I asked Jesus as he gave me my instructions where to go next, “Have you ever lost a case?” Jesus just smiled and said, “Everyone that has come to me and asked me to represent them has received the same verdict as you, Paid in Full.”

One person observed: “If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace.” – Dorothy Sayers

Do you understand the meaning of judgment?
Do you understand the meaning of grace?
We do. And that’s why we offer an invitation at the end of every service…

Salvation

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