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What is in the Bible?

What is in the Bible?

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Authorship of the Bible. Today I will discuss, What is in the Bible?

It is no secret that American culture is becoming increasingly post-Christian.
Recent research reveals that only 23% of Millennials believe that Scripture is truly the Word of God. Another 26% have adopted a liberal interpretation of Scripture by believing that it may contain some of the Word of God but should not be taken literally. In short, less than half of the next generation have any respect for the text of Scripture, and only a small minority of that group believe that it is authoritative.
Consider this data in light of William Edgar’s observation that “…Christians have grown so used to their own language, terms, and culture that they have become isolated from those who surround them” (Reasons of the Heart, 12).
There is a two-fold problem at hand:
1. In our proclamation, we have assumed a Christian worldview on the part of our listeners, and this is a false assumption.
2. As we are communicating poorly, our audience isn’t even listening.

For instance, when speaking of the gospel picture housed in the relationship between a husband and his wife, we must preach (even briefly) an apologetic for God’s definition of marriage. The marriage covenant is one of the clearest pictures of the gospel, and it has practical applications for Christian living. However, it is under assault. So, when preaching on marriage or the picture of the gospel it provides, we must include apologetic elements.

A skeptic in London, in speaking of the Bible, said that it was quite impossible in these days to believe in any book whose authorship is unknown. A Christian asked if the compiler of the multiplication table was known. “No!” he answered. “Then, of course, you do not believe in it.” “Oh yes,” was the skeptic’s reply “I believe in it because it works well.” “So does the Bible,” was the rejoinder. The skeptic had no answer to that.

The late Dr. R. G. Lee, former pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis TN expressed the value of God’s Word in this way:

“The Bible is a book beyond all books as a river is above and beyond a rivulet. The Bible is a book beyond all books as the sun is above and beyond a candle in brightness. The Bible is a book beyond all books as the wings of an eagle is above and beyond the wings of a sparrow. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, immeasurable in influence, infinite in scope, divine in authorship, human in penmanship, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, and inspired in totality. This is the Book that has walked more paths, travelled more highways, knocked at more doors and spoken to more people in their mother tongue than in other book this world has ever known or will know.”

2 Peter 1:20-21
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for the prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Before we look closer to this passage, we must first make sure that we fully understand what “prophecy of the Scripture” means. The reason I say this is because the word prophecy is used today almost always for speaking about things of the future. However, this is not the only Biblical usage of this word. Biblically speaking, “to prophesy” means to speak things that come directly from the spiritual ground . Whether what is spoken is about the future or not is not relevant.

Having clarified what prophecy means, we can easily understand what “prophecy of the Scripture” means: it simply means the Bible as a whole, as the sum of the separate prophecies that compose it. Thus, what 2 Peter tells us is that no part of the Bible (“no prophecy of the Scripture”), came by the will of man. This means that it wasn’t Paul for example, who one day decided to sit down and write a letter to Ephesians. If it happened like this, Ephesians would be written by the will of man which the Bible rules out. To find how Paul and the others made their contributions to the Bible we do not have but to continue reading in the same passage. The answer is in the latter part of verse 21 where we are told that the prophecy of the Scripture i.e. the Bible was written by holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, who wrote the Bible? Holy men of God. How did they write it? As they were moved by God, Who is the Holy Spirit. So yes Paul, John and the others were the writers of the Bible. But they were not the authors. The author of the Bible is God, who moved people, like Paul, Peter and John to write down what He wanted, what He authored. And if you ask how did God move them, Galatians gives us the answer for the case of Paul which is also the same for all the others: Galatians 1:11-12 “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I RECEIVED IT BY REVELATION…”

The way that God moved those people was not by possession, for God never possesses anybody (I Corinthians 14:32-33). Instead, it was by revelation. In other words, God told Paul what to write and Paul sat down and wrote it. Who therefore wrote Galatians? Paul. Whose ideas, signature and authorship Galatians bears? God’s. Hence, who is the author? God is the author. What were men like Paul and the others that contributed to the Bible? They were the writers that wrote down what the author, God, told them. That’s why the Bible, though it was written by many, has one and the same author: GOD. It is like the director and the secretary. The secretary writes down what the director tells her. Who does the writing? The secretary. Whose ideas it contains? The director’s who thus is the author. And as a director can have many writers, so also God had many writers to write down what He wanted.

All the Bible or Scripture is God-breathed, has God as the author, and it was written by people as they were moved by God i.e. by revelation.

The way that the “stories” of the Bible are different from the stories in your average bookstore. Though the stories are entertaining, they are not given for our entertainment. It might surprise you that I would speak of the Bible as entertaining. Whatever type of literature that you like to read, you will find some of it in the Bible. If you like romance, check out Ruth and the Song of Solomon. If you like stories of war, go into 1 & 2 Kings. If you like intrigue and treachery, examine the book of Judges. If you like adventure, look at Acts, Genesis, Exodus and many other books. If you like philosophy, study the Gospel of John, Ecclesiastes and the letters to the New Testament churches. You will find some entertainment from these books. But they have a different purpose. (1 Cor 10:11 NIV) These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. The purpose for the recording of these events was so that we might learn from the successes and failures of those who have gone before us. They were recorded so that we might get a picture of God and His goodness, and that we might get a picture of ourselves and our sinfulness. They were written that we might understand through the lives and experiences of others that every time man refuses to do things God’s way, man makes a mess of His world. And they were written that we might see that God can be trusted, and that He loves us in spite of ourselves.

The Bible is not a history book. It does not attempt to give us every detail of human history. (John 21:25 NIV) Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. If John had written everything that Jesus said and did, we would have a hard time carrying our Bibles with us to church every Sunday. But what John and the other biblical writers did record is historically accurate and given for one single purpose. (1 John 5:13 NIV) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. Every story of the Bible can be summed up in this one statement: God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. That may be the hardest thing of all to believe. But God said it, and so I believe it. You can expect the promises in the Bible to be fulfilled.

One of the first promises that God ever made was to a man named Abraham. In Gen. 12, God promised him that He would give him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. He promised him that He would make him into a great nation. He promised him that He would make his name great. He promised him that in him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham believed God’s promise, but he had to wait a long time before that promise was fulfilled. Not until Abraham was 100 years old, and his wife Sarah was 99 years old did they hold a son in their arms. Abraham’s descendants through that son became the nation of Israel. Simeon too was an old man. God had made a promise to him that he would see the Savior of Israel and all mankind before he died. Simeon was one of the first to hold Jesus in his arms. God made a promise to Mary. He promised her that even though she was a virgin, she would give birth to God’s own Son. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. When God says that He is going to do something, you can be sure that it will happen.

What are some of the promises that God has made to you?

You can be a child of God (John 1:12 NIV) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

You will never be alone (Heb. 13:8) . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

You will be forgiven (1 John 1:9 NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

You can have peace (Phil 4:7 NIV) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You have a home (John 14:2 NIV) In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.

You will have success (Josh 1:8 NIV) Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Everything will work out for good (Rom 8:28 NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This is just a small sampling of the promises that God has made. I hope that you noticed something about these promises as I listed them off for you. Some of the promises that God makes will happen regardless of what we do. But most of them have a requirement that we have to fulfill before we can take advantage of the promise. In order to have forgiveness of sins, we must confess our sins. In order to have peace, we must think about the things that God tells us to think about. In order to be a child of God, we must believe on Jesus and accept Him as the Lord of our lives.

Some of you may be sitting there thinking that God let you down on some promise that He made to you at some point in your life. And because of that supposed failure, you have turned your back on God, or you have refused to trust Him with your life. When you are evaluating God’s performance record on how well He fulfills His promises, you need to ask yourself three questions. One, where did I get the idea that God promised that thing to me? Is it specifically recorded in the Bible? Or is it a feeling that I have – a wish that God would do something special for me?

Second, have I fulfilled the requirements that must happen before this promise can be realized in my life? Have I done what is required of me? If not, then I have no right to expect God to do what He said that He would do. Third, am I giving God the right to fulfill His promise in His own timing? God makes promises, and He will fulfill them, but He will do so when He is ready. Abraham experienced that, and we are experiencing it today. One promise that God made is that His son Jesus is coming back to earth one day. (Acts 1:11 NIV) “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” This is one promise that will happen regardless of what we do or fail to do, but it will happen in God’s own timing. (2 Pet 3:4,8-10 NIV) They will say, “Where is this ’coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come . . .

God has filled the Bible with promises to us, but the only way for us to know what those promises are, take advantage of them in our own lives, and receive the peace that they provide is by getting into the Bible and discovering them for ourselves.

Bill was a young man from a wealthy family, and he was getting ready to graduate from high school. Bill lived on the nice side of town where the custom was that graduating seniors received a new car for their graduation gift. Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars trying to pick just the right one. Then, the week before graduation, they found it – the perfect car. Bill could hardly sit still during the graduation ceremonies. He knew what would be waiting for him when he got home. His dad had promised. When Bill got home, he was a little surprised to see that there was no new car in the driveway. But he figured that maybe they had it parked at a neighbor’s house – you know, to make the surprise a little better. You can imagine Bill’s disappointment when his dad handed him a new Bible and told him that was his graduation gift. In anger, Bill threw the Bible down, walked out the door and never again saw his dad alive. Not until his dad’s death did he come back home. After the funeral, Bill was going through his dad’s stuff when he found the Bible that his dad had tried to give him so many years ago. Something was sticking out of it, so he opened it. To his amazement, he discovered a cashier’s check dated on the night of his graduation and made out for the exact amount that he would have needed to purchase that brand new car. Because he refused the Bible, Bill lost out on the promised car and on the relationship that he had with his Dad.

The Bible records all the promises that God has ever made to you. But if you never open the book, you will never be able to take advantage of the promises. What’s worse is that you will never get to enjoy a relationship with the one who made those promises. Especially if you let your intelect get in the way, and try to have the Bible conform to your reasoning! You can expect the promises in the Bible to be fulfilled because God is the one who made the promises.

You can trust the wisdom of the Bible to give you direction. There’s something about being a man that causes us to refuse to ask for directions when there is any possibility that we might be lost. One commercial that I’ve seen recently on TV is of a young guy who is in the car with his girlfriend. They are obviously lost. For the love of the girl, the guy finally agrees to stop at a gas station to ask for directions. He walks into the station and slowly makes his way up to another guy at the counter where he, in a soft, timid voice says, “Can you give me directions? I’m lost.” The guy behind the counter stares at him for a second, dumbfounded that he would admit being lost, and then snickers. When the guy gets back to the car, he’s holding a map and says, “Supposedly these things are supposed to show you where to go.”

God has already given us wisdom in His Word to give us direction. But it’s not direction about how to put a train set together or how to get around town. It’s direction about how to live our lives in such a way that we will receive the most satisfaction and fulfillment from them. (Psa 119:105 NIV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psa 119:130 NIV) The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Prov 6:23 NIV) For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, (2 Pet 1:19 NIV) And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. It tells me where I need to go and what I need to do when I get there.

For several weeks this summer and early fall, we spent time going through the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs is a book recorded by the wisest man who ever lived – Solomon. Solomon observed life and people, and then he took his observations and drew conclusions about what people are like, how foolishly they behave sometimes, and what the proper way for them to deal with the situations they face in life is. Solomon recorded wisdom about the proper way to deal with finances, how to make friends and keep them, how to achieve success, what the real meaning of beauty is, the importance of telling the truth, and the significance of having God as the center of your life.

Sometimes, the reason that we do not follow wise directions is because those directions are not clear. A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch wouldn’t budge. “Forget it,” the man finally said. “We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?” God’s wisdom is not like that. The directions that He gives are very clear. When he says in Eph 5, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and sacrificed Himself for her”, that’s pretty clear. And when He says in that same passage, “Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord” & “Children, obey your parents”, that’s pretty clear. But you may say, “There’s a lot in the Bible that I do not understand. There’s a lot of it that is not clear to me.” Join the club. There’s a lot of the Bible that is not clear to me either. But as Mark Twain said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that trouble me; it’s the parts of the Bible that I do understand.” I have a suspicion that if we spent all of our time doing our best to be obedient to the parts of the Bible that we do understand, that at the end of our lives when we stand before God, we would find that we had done a pretty good job of obeying the parts that we didn’t understand too.

Our problem is not a lack of understanding; it is a lack of obedience. A man and his wife were traveling through town to get to some friends’ house for dinner. They had never been to this particular city, so they had gone to the internet where they found street-by-street directions. Everything went well until they got into the city. [begin to give excuses of why they chose not to turn down certain streets “bad part of town”, “steep hill and it’s starting to snow”, “dirty street – just had the car cleaned”, “saw a billboard ahead that I wanted to get a look at”] The problem was not in the one who gave the directions. The directions were good. The failure was in the ones who had received the directions. They didn’t like what the directions said, so they picked out their own pathway. Those people who refuse to follow the directions that they are given wind up getting very, very lost and are never able to enjoy the relationship with the friends who were waiting for them at the end of their journey.
You can trust the wisdom of the Bible to give you direction because the wisdom comes from God.

You must obey the commands of the Bible to receive God’s blessing.
– Noah and the ark
– Peter and the great catch of fish Luke 5:5 “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and

What is in the Bible?

What is in the Bible?

haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” The result: “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”
– Us – “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” “Love your enemies, & pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44) “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:2)
You must obey the commands recorded in the Bible for you. They come from God.

You must heed the warnings of the Bible to escape God’s wrath.
– Adam and Eve
– Achan and the Israelites
– Unsaved church members (Mt. 7:21-23) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’”
– Revelation is a warning

One day, a little girl picked up a book of poems. They were dry as dust. They meant nothing to her, so she put the book down. Later, she was introduced to a man. She began to become quite interested in him. She learned that he was a poet. Furthermore, she learned that he had written the book of poetry that she had looked at. She went back and picked up that same book of poems, only now she found them very interesting. The difference was that now she knew the author.
Do you know the Author of this Book?

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 not making you real.
Forgive us for not studying your word as we ought so we mat find you.

Make us real. With a Circumsized and a heart after you!
In Jesus Precious name, Amen.

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Filed under Authorship of the Bible: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Authorship of the Bible. Today I will discuss, Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?

Authorship of the Bible

“Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?”

Ultimately, above the human authors, the Bible was written by God. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible was “breathed out” by God. God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that, while using their own writing styles and personalities, they still recorded exactly what God intended. The Bible was not dictated by God, but it was perfectly guided and entirely inspired by Him.

2 Timothy 3:16
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God….”

The word “Scripture” in the above passage is another name for the book that today we call the Bible. What the above verse tells us is that all the Bible (“all Scripture”), was given by inspiration of God. The phrase “by inspiration of God” is actually one word in the Greek text, the word “theopneustos”. This word is composed by the word “theos” that means God and the word “pneustos” that means breathed. Therefore, when the Bible says that it is “theopneustos” what it means is that it is “God-breathed”, it is God’s conception, God’s idea, God’s inspiration. Hence: Author of the Bible is God who breathed it, inspired it, conceived it, authored it.

The Bible is unique inasmuch as it maintains consistency, harmony, and continuity from cover to cover. It has one message from Genesis to Revelation. Nothing outstanding about that you say… After all most books have one ‘theme’, story line or subject. True! But perhaps the Bible’s uniformity is more than a little curious considering that …

Forty independent writers were used in its compilation.

They wrote over a 1,500 year time span.

They lived in three different continents.. Asia, Africa and Europe. Moses wrote in the desert of Sinai, Paul wrote in a prison in Rome, Daniel from exile in Babylon, and Ezra in the ruined city of Jerusalem.

They spoke and wrote in three different languages

They had twenty different occupations, which included a couple of kings, a general, at least two fishermen, a musician, a priest, a tax collector, a physician etc.

It has a cast of 2,930 characters in 1,551 places.

It covers a huge number of different subjects. Isaiah wrote to warn Israel of God’s coming judgment on their sin, Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, Zechariah wrote to encourage a disheartened Israel who had returned from Babylonian exile, and Paul wrote addressing problems in different Asian and European churches.

It was written under many different circumstances. David wrote during a time of war, Jeremiah wrote at the sorrowful time of Israel’s downfall, Peter wrote while Israel was under Roman domination, and Joshua wrote while invading the land of Canaan.

Its message is expressed in all literary forms (poetry, prose, etc.).

Without possible concert or collusion, they produced a book which, in all its parts, is pervaded by one spirit, one doctrine, one design, and by an air of sublime authority which is its peculiar characteristic. It is amazing that with such diversity, there is such unity in the Bible. That unity is organized around one theme: God’s redemption of man and all of creation. Hundreds of controversial subjects are addressed and yet the writers do not contradict each other.

Such a Book is a Literary Miracle. It is Impossible to Account for its Existence Upon Ordinary Principles.

No other book in history can make the same claim!

Could You Write The Bible?

Say you were going to write a book, and this was how you had to write it: For a start find 40 different writers – totally different writers. Get some who are highly educated, even doctors – then get some farmers. Go dig a guy off a ranch somewhere and say, “I’d like you to help me write a book.” Then find some fishermen. Go down to the wharf and find a couple of guys from San Francisco and say, “Hey! listen help me write a book.” And they say, “Sure, fine… we’ll help you.” And then you get all of them to write on the following things: religion, poetry, ethics, science, philosophy, the creation of the universe and where it’s going – and ask them to throw in a few things about where they think it will all end.

Next, you need to collect all that information, and then… oh, by the way, you have to separate these people so they can’t communicate by phone or telegraph… only possibly word of mouth, passed down over the years. Ah yes, years… you collect all this stuff over about one and a half thousand years, and compile the whole thing in one book. What would you have? I know what you’d have – you’d have the most motley junk you’ve ever seen in your life, with people totally contradicting each other! I suggest you take a biology textbook from 60 years ago, and compare it with one today. And that’s just 60 years! But that’s not what you have when you read your Bible. The more you read this book, the more you see the incredible unity of it. Because the more you get into it, the more incredibly detailed it is, and you find there are not 40 people who wrote it, but One Person.

The Christian’s Charter

This book reveals the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.

Here, too, heaven is opened and the gates of hell disclosed.

Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.

Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully.

It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure.

It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever.

It involves the highest responsibility, will regard the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Owned it is riches; studied it is wisdom; trusted it is salvation; loved it is character; and obeyed it is power.

Humanly speaking, the Bible was written by approximately 40 men of diverse backgrounds over the course of 1500 years. Isaiah was a prophet, Ezra was a priest, Matthew was a tax-collector and of the tribe of Levi, John was a fisherman, Paul was a tentmaker, Moses was a shepherd, Luke was a physician. Despite being penned by different authors over 15 centuries, the Bible does not contradict itself and does not contain any errors. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same one way of salvation—Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Few of the books of the Bible specifically name their author. Here are the books of the Bible along with the name of who is most assumed by biblical scholars to be the author, along with the approximate date of authorship:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy = Moses – 1400 B.C.
Joshua = Joshua – 1350 B.C.
Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel = Samuel/Nathan/Gad – 1000 – 900 B.C.
1 Kings, 2 Kings = Jeremiah – 600 B.C.
1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah = Ezra – 450 B.C.
Esther = Mordecai – 400 B.C.
Job = Moses – 1400 B.C.
Psalms = several different authors, mostly David – 1000 – 400 B.C.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon = Solomon – 900 B.C.
Isaiah = Isaiah – 700 B.C.
Jeremiah, Lamentations = Jeremiah – 600 B.C.
Ezekiel = Ezekiel – 550 B.C.
Daniel = Daniel – 550 B.C.
Hosea = Hosea – 750 B.C.
Joel = Joel – 850 B.C.
Amos = Amos – 750 B.C.
Obadiah = Obadiah – 600 B.C.
Jonah = Jonah – 700 B.C.
Micah = Micah – 700 B.C.
Nahum = Nahum – 650 B.C.
Habakkuk = Habakkuk – 600 B.C.
Zephaniah = Zephaniah – 650 B.C.
Haggai = Haggai – 520 B.C.
Zechariah = Zechariah – 500 B.C.
Malachi = Malachi – 430 B.C.
Matthew = Matthew – A.D. 55
Mark = John Mark – A.D. 50
Luke = Luke – A.D. 60
John = John – A.D. 90
Acts = Luke – A.D. 65
Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon = Paul – A.D. 50-70
Hebrews = unknown, mostly likely Paul, Luke, Barnabas, or Apollos – A.D. 65
James = James – A.D. 45
1 Peter, 2 Peter = Peter – A.D. 60
1 John, 2 John, 3 John = John – A.D. 90
Jude = Jude – A.D. 60
Revelation = John – A.D. 90

This article may seem a bit heavy but I believe that we must lay a proper foundation and begin with the basics in order to be based upon the same “rock.”

Jesus is the chief cornerstone. “… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Eph. 2:20-21

Romans 10:9 says: “…if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

First, I want to make it very clear that The House of the Nazarene is a believer’s church asking everyone to “confess” that Jesus is Lord.

Second, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16-17

I have said that I do not like to refer to the events recorded in the Bible as stories. To me, the word “stories” carries with it the idea of myths, fiction, nursery rhymes, and fables. We even use the word to refer to telling lies – “Johnny told a story.” I much prefer to speak of “events” or “historical accounts” when we talk about the happenings of the Bible. Now, I’m not going to get mad at you if you continue to use the word “stories” when referring to the Bible. There may even be times that you catch me using that word. But just remember that the stories recorded in the Bible are unlike any other story in the libraries of the world. You can be 100% sure that they are true to the smallest detail.

I must admit though that if I did not know that the Bible was God’s Word, I would have a hard time believing some of the events that are recorded in it. The Bible records that the whole universe was created in a period of 6 days, and that it was created with nothing but the words of God. It also says that God got so disgusted with the people in His world that He sent a great world-wide flood to destroy it. It says that the water was so deep that it rose 20 feet higher than the tallest mountain. Floating on top of that water was a boat that contained the last 8 people on the face of earth and at least 2 of every kind of land animal on the planet.
The pastor of another church announced that on the following Sunday, he was going to be speaking on Noah and the ark. A couple of mischievous boys noticed something interesting about the passage and decided to play a prank on their pastor. They glued two pages of the pastor’s Bible together. The next Sunday morning, the pastor got up to read his text, but because two pages were glued together, it read a little bit different than he expected. It went something like this: “And Noah took a wife, and she was” – page turn – “450 long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall.” The old pastor stood there stunned for a minute, and then he said, “I have been reading this Bible for 50 years, and there are still some things that I read that are hard to believe.”

The Bible is full of things that are hard to believe: the 10 plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the fall of the walls of Jericho, the day the sun stood still, the strength of Samson, Jonah and the great fish – all things that would fit well into a science fiction movie except for the fact that God said that they happened and that they happened just the way that they are recorded in the Bible. But the hardest story of all to believe is the story of Jesus because it is the one that is the most ridiculous. To think that Jesus, who is Almighty God, would leave behind the splendor of heaven, be born of a virgin, live as fully God and fully man, heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water, feed the hungry, teach those who would listen, be rejected by those He created, die on a cross as payment for the sins of people who lived 2000 years later, rise from the dead the third day, and be taken back up into heaven – that’s foolishness! (1 Cor 1:23-25 NIV) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Whether the pages of the Bible sound foolish to you or not, they are true. You can believe them. You MUST believe them for they are your only hope.

While I was learning the history of the Covenant, the common question of the early founders of the church was repeated many times. It was the question “Where is it written?” The Covenant was founded on the principle that what we believe about God is based upon the scripture rather than tradition, cultural influences or feelings.

The problem comes in where people will take the same passage of scripture and believe it says seemingly diametrically opposing things. This really isn’t the “big” problem. Often in scriptural interpretation the difference is really over our presuppositions. We can come to the text and try to “use” it to make the point of our belief rather than coming to the text and allow it to speak.

Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?

Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?

In order to avoid the “conflict of interest” between our presuppositions and what the text actually says Biblical teachers develop a list of principles that they use in looking at the Bible. Often the meaning of a Bible passage is plain and obvious. When it is not, a few logical principles can be used to help in understanding the passage.

We call this “exegesis.” The Greek word exegeomai means basically “to lead out of.” When applied to the Biblical text, it carries the sense of “reading out” the meaning. The meaning comes from the text. The noun, therefore, could refer to “interpretation” or “explanation.” So whenever we read a passage of scripture we seek to understand and interpret.

Hermeneutics takes this process to the next level and seeks to apply the text into our lives today. Many people use these terms interchangeably.

Stage One: UNDERSTAND:
What does the passage actually say?

Setting: When and where was the book or passage written?
Purpose: Why was it written?
Context: What is the book as a whole about?
Form: How, or in what form, was it written?
Words: What is the meaning of individual words?

Stage Two: EXPLAIN:
What does the passage mean?
What did the passage mean to its original readers?
What is the main point or teaching of the passage?
How does it compare with other, perhaps clearer, Bible passages?

Stage Three: Apply
What does the passage mean today?
What is an equivalent situation today to that of the original readers?
Does the passage have some specific teaching about God, man, the world, the church…?
Is there any action to be taken in the light of the passage?
Does it lead to prayer or praise?

When common sense makes good sense look for no other sense.

These two points of doctrine (believers’ church and Biblical basis) seems basic because it is. This is what the Covenant is founded upon. The Bible was recorded by man, but it was authored by God. It can be trusted in every word and for every need.

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 not trusting your word.
Forgive us for not studying your word as we ought..

Make us real. With a Circumsized and a heart after you!
In Jesus Precious name, Amen.

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Filed under Authorship of the Bible: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

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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Atheism (Part 2)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 12, (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.

Atheist and Humanist rites of life

Ceremonies

People often mark the major life stage events in life – like being born, getting married and so on – with religious ceremonies like christenings, weddings and funerals.

Atheist and Humanist organisations offer their own rituals for these events that give them meaning and significance without any religious content.

These ceremonies differ from mainstream secular ceremonies like civil weddings, in that they are highly personalized for the individuals concerned.

Non-religious weddings and civil partnerships

A non-religious wedding marks the commitment of two people to share their lives together just as much as does a religious wedding.

A non-religious marriage is founded on the efforts and relationship of the couple. There is no place in the marriage or the wedding for a supernatural power.

Whether a couple chooses a religious or a non-religious wedding depends on their faith or lack of it, and their cultural tradition.

Humanist wedding ceremonies allow for far greater personalisation than religious ceremonies, which must inevitably follow the directions of a particular church or institution. This allows the ceremony to incorporate words and rituals from a wide range of cultures.

Some religious wedding services include gender-biased traditional language that may not truly reflect a couple’s own idea of their relationship. Humanist wedding rituals often emphasise the equality of the partners.

Humanist weddings

In most countries Humanist wedding ceremonies are not legally valid, and a civil ceremony will be required as well.

Registered Humanist celebrants can conduct legally binding marriages in Scotland (though not currently England or Wales) as of 2005. Humanist weddings have been increasing in popularity as a result: from 80 in 2004, before legal recognition, to 434 in 2006. This figure rose again in 2007 to 710.

The British Humanist Association trains and licenses celebrants to conduct Humanist weddings – but anyone can conduct a non-binding ceremony if they wish to.

The ceremony will reflect the Humanist idea that the marriage depends solely on the efforts and relationship of the couple.

Humanist wedding ceremonies may include:

Music
An introduction that sets out the nature, purpose, and importance of marriage
Readings:
A ritual of commitment for the bride and groom
Ritual actions:
These will include an exchange of rings, and perhaps an embrace, candle-lighting, a wine cup ritual or a hand-fasting ritual
Formal words pronouncing the couple married
A non-religious blessing of the marriage

Atheist and Humanist celebrants

Humanist organisations train people to officiate at humanist ceremonies, and compile lists of those who are qualified to do so.

Non-religious funerals

Non-religious funerals are legal, and funeral directors and crematoriums and cemeteries are accustomed to arranging them.

Why a non-religious funeral?

Many people are uncomfortable with religious funerals if religion had no meaning for the dead person, and when most of the dead person’s closest relatives and friends are not religious.

Some people find that a church funeral (no matter how well done) for a non-believer is just a formal religious ritual conducted by someone with no knowledge of the dead person, and which doesn’t help them to say farewell to someone they love.

Religious people will often organise a non-religious funeral if the person who has died was not a believer, out of respect for that person’s views.

A humanist funeral, although it does not include hymns or prayers, can be entirely acceptable to religious people mourning an atheist. Humanist ceremonies do not include anti-religious material.

Humanist Funerals

A Humanist funeral remembers the life of the person who has died, and reflects on their contribution to the world and to others.

It also provides an opportunity for family and friends to share their sadness and create a bond of support for those who were closest to the dead person.

A Humanist funeral

The ceremony is likely to include:

Music
A non-religious reflection on death
Readings of poetry and prose
Reminiscences about the dead person
A eulogy
A talk focusing on the achievements of the dead person, and the meaning of their life.

Ritual actions
These might include: Candle lighting, sharing reminiscences with the people alongside you, moments of silence and reflection.
Formal words of goodbye
It’s likely that some of those attending a humanist funeral will have religious beliefs, and humanist funeral ceremonies usually contain a period of silence and meditation that can be used for private prayer.

Who takes a Humanist funeral?

A Humanist officiant is a person familiar with the procedures of cremation and burial who understands the experience of bereavement.

They are trained and experienced in devising and conducting a suitable ceremony.

The British Humanist Association describes officiants like this:

‘Officiants are generally at least 35 years old, have experience of public speaking, and have probably had paid or voluntary experience in a caring/supporting profession – such as nursing, teaching, police or social work, for example.
They must be able to cope with the emotional burden of regularly meeting and working with bereaved people – often in relation to particularly difficult or unexpected deaths, such as the death of a child in a road accident.
Funeral directors are able to make arrangements with trained officiants in their local area.’ British Humanist Association.

Now let’s contrast what all this means, Shall we?

Godlessness is easier than you may think. You don’t have to murder, steal, or commit adultery. In fact, you can maintain a sterling Christian reputation while living a life completely devoid of the influence of Jesus Christ. To live a godless life all you need to do is leave God out of the picture. You can believe in His existence, but don’t bring Him into your day to day living and … viola … godlessness.

Take the cursed line of Cain for example. Were they practicing anything we’d label evil? No way! Cain built a city and named it after his son. Nothing wrong with that. Jabal raised livestock and lived in tents. Maybe he was the first environmentalist. Nothing wrong with that. Jubal gave us the gift of music. Tubal-Cain advanced our technology. See anything bad in their efforts? Not at all! Even Lamech, the hardcore great, great, great grandson of Cain, was respectable by our standards. He never cheated on his two wives. He did encourage vengeance for any wrongs committed against himself. He’d fit in quite well with our culture. After all, we lap up movies and TV shows where the bad guy gets what’s coming to him. America is a personal injury paradise. Nothing wrong with that is there?

Nope. There’s nothing about these people that you could say was overtly evil. They demonstrate how easy godlessness can be. Did you notice what was missing from all their activity? God. He’s no where to be seen in their planning or purpose. They simply lived their lives without Him. That’s a-theism, without God. They believed God existed. But they were practical atheists. They knew God, but didn’t allow Him in their day to day lives. That’s godlessness. See how easy it is?

You can be godless and get along well in life. You can be godless and raise a great family, build a successful career, and be labeled a good person living a good life by most people. Heck, if you’re skilled or wealthy enough, you could probably be godless and lead a church committee or two. The only drawback is the emptiness of godlessness. Your life will have had no purpose or lasting value and you will feel it. Even worse, you will stand before Christ, who you said you believed in, and say something like: “Lord, Lord, didn’t I prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” But because you did them without God’s authorization and power He will respond: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23)

“But wait!” you’ll say, “I didn’t do evil things. I followed the 10 commandments. I served. I tithed. I read the Bible. I attended church regularly. I wasn’t an evil person.” Maybe not evil by most people’s definition, but evil by God’s standard. Evil is godlessness. Living a good life without God is godlessness and, therefore, evil.

In the Genesis account there was only one thing that separated the godless, cursed line of Cain from the godly line of Seth. It was their approach to the Lord. There are only two approaches to God: crowd out or cry out. This is one of those cases where you really have to dig to derive any application from the scriptures. Seth’s descendants began to “call on the name of the LORD” while Cain’s crowded Him out with a whole lot of activity. Those who cry out to God are the godly. Those who crowd out God are the godless, evildoers.

Psalm 14:4 makes this concept clear:

Will evildoers never learn – those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the LORD? Psalm 14:4

We may say that we believe in God. Fine. We may even say that we believe in Jesus Christ. Great! That makes us just like the descendants of Cain. They believed in God, but they didn’t invite Him into their daily, walking around lives. Saying you believe, but then living as if God doesn’t really exist is crowding out. It is godlessness.

This is another one of those mornings when I want you to be ruthlessly honest with yourself. I want you to ruthlessly honest about our church. What is our approach to God? There are only two: crowd out or cry out. If we’re crowding Him out we are functioning as practical atheists.

Practical Atheism Made Easy

Why does Genesis tell us that Cain built a city? Nice info, but so what? The reason Cain built a city was protection. Prior to this he killed his brother Abel and God cursed Cain for it. He was cast out of the area where his family dwelt and into a harsher, crueler world. He would have even less of God’s provision and protection than his parents. Therefore Cain built a nice little fortified wall around a collection of houses and other buildings – the first city. It was the absence of God in his life that led him to this. Keep in mind that Cain believed in God, but he lived his life apart from the Him. In his mind he was a believer, but in his practice he was an atheist, without God.

This gives us our first principle in becoming a practical or practicing atheist.

Focus on insulating yourself from the harsh realities of life on earth.

Last fall at school one of the chapel speakers shared the incredible story of how God called him to walk across America with nothing but the clothes on his back. He didn’t know why. He wasn’t sure what God wanted him to accomplish, but he did it. It took him several months. He was often lonely and tired. Sometimes he was scared walking or sleeping in certain areas. On many occasions he had to sleep under the stars. On the up side, he never went hungry. Along the way people gave him money. They also gave him rides and a place to spend the night. He did speak in a few churches along the way and share what he was doing. He also grew incredibly close to God on that journey. I thought it was a wonderful story of trust in God’s faithfulness.

My students, however, were appalled. How could this guy leave his wife and kids? God wouldn’t call somebody to do something like this. He didn’t really accomplish anything, so it definitely wasn’t from God. Those were their objections, but I know the real reason. They were afraid He might call them to do the same thing or something even more outlandish, therefore it was necessary to dismiss the speaker. Though most professed to be believers, they were practiced at the art of insulation. They were fearful that God might invite them out of the nest into the harsh and scary realities of life with Him and they wanted none of it.

We do live in a culture that’s all about insulating. It used to be that people asked what will we eat?; what will we drink?; what will we wear?; where will we live? To day we’ve mastered insulating ourselves to the point that we’re asking: Is there a medicine that will take care of this? ; Is there a politician who will take care of me?; Is my 401K big enough?; Is my stock going up?; Am I eating enough fiber?; Am eating too much fat?; What can I do to prevent this disease? There’s nothing wrong with asking these questions, unless they’ve become our preoccupation. If our focus in life is insulation, we’re practicing godlessness.

Jesus said that Godly people have an altogether different perspective:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans [godless people] run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34

Not only do the godly refuse to insulate, they refuse to worry about the harsh realities of life. They look to and call on the God who is more than adequate to meet their needs. They live lives of adventure as God takes them from one assignment to the next.

Oswald Chambers, the man who wrote the devotional classic My Utmost for His Highest, was just such a person. After his marriage, he and his wife decided to make their lives completely open to God. They’d set no agenda, pursue no career. They’d go anywhere God called them at any time, and do whatever He asked. Do you think they spent their lives penniless living in a shack? They traveled the world engaged in various types of ministry. They taught, preached, wrote and served. At one point they found themselves living in a mansion in Scotland, completely free. Chambers recorded in his diary that they were God’s spoiled brats. His biography, which is a great read, is appropriately titled, Abandoned to God.

That’s the way it is with godly people. They are abandoned to God in their love and trust. Godless people, on the other hand, are abandoned from God. They’re so focused on insulating that they’ve insulated themselves from the influence of God.

A second way to become a practical atheist it to …

Divert your attention from what matters most.

The descendants of Cain invented diversion. Music, technology, and a fixation on beauty kept God comfortably off their radar screen. There’s nothing overtly wrong with any of these things except when we obsess on them and leave God and the things of God behind.

Let’s do a little check up here. Please don’t raise your hand. How many of us claim to have little time for our families or deep relationships with fellow believers, but we have plenty of time to watch TV for hours on end? How many of us have no time for the spiritual discipline of prayer, but we’ll make time to go to the gym or exercise? How many of us have no time to study God’s word, but plenty to read newspapers, magazines, or novels? How many of us have no time to serve people made in God’s image, but lots of time to spend on the lake or at the beach or in the mountains or at Carowinds or the golf links or the mall or the theater? How many of us claim that we can’t hear God, therefore we don’t know His will, all the while there’s an MP3 player, iPod, or cell phone shoved in our ears?

Don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing inherently sinful about these things. The problem

is that they can crowd God and the things of God completely out of our lives. We live in a culture of diversion. Our misuse of these good things can lead to godlessness.

I had a shift in thinking the other day when I heard a speaker say that what we do with our time is the single biggest indicator of our theology. In other words, if you want to know what you really believe about God look how you spend your time. Is it diversion or intense, intentional focus on Him? What you do with your time either crowds out the Lord or cries out to Him. The book of Ephesians encourages us to take every opportunity to seek God and the things of God:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT)

The place where godlessness really shows up in our age is the third practice of practical atheists.

Assert your self-reliance over dependence on God.

Jump back into Genesis chapter 4. Look down at verse 23 where Lamech, the fifth son of descendant of Cain sings a tender, love song to his two wives.

“I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” Genesis 4:23b-24 (NIV)

It’s pretty easy to understand what happened. Lamech killed someone who had attacked him. It’s the first instance of vengeance in the Bible. What’s not so clear is the last part. What’s all that seventy-seven times? To understand you have to go back up to God’s promise of protection over Cain in verse 15:

But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. Genesis 4:15 (NIV)

Here’s the contrast. God promised Cain His own vengeance upon any attackers. Lamech boasted his own vengeance upon anyone who gave him the slightest injury. Lamech actually boasted that what he’d dish out would be far worse than God’s punishment. Translation: “I’m so strong, I don’t need God.”

That’s the outworking of godlessness: self-reliance rather than dependence on God. The godless person relies on their own wisdom, experience, skill, and strength to navigate life. The godly person, on the other hand, admits their inability and seeks God’s help more and more. It comes down to those two approaches again: crowd out or cry out. If you think you’ve got what it takes you’ll crowd God out with your own glory. If you recognize your inability you’ll cry out to Him again and again.

Here’s the interesting thing: those who cry out to God receive His mercy and grace. He gives wisdom and direction. He gives strength. He gives ability, often times supernatural ability.

I had a friend who once told me that he didn’t like to ask God for many things because he felt that He had more important things to do. At the time I thought that was a humble statement. Now I see it as veiled arrogance because he was really saying that he had what it takes. He’s self-reliant enough not to really need anything from God. If you don’t need Him, you won’t get Him.

For some reason God is attracted to weakness. Just listen to these verses:

The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” Isaiah 57:15 (NLT)

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5

God actually opposes self-reliant people. He empowers and enables those who admit their weakness and cry out to him. You know that old verse, “God helps those who help themselves”? It’s not in the Bible. It’s a saying invented by the incredibly smart and skilled Benjamin Franklin, a man who did not need God. God doesn’t help those who help themselves. He helps those who admit that they’re helpless.

There’s something about weakness that attracts God. The cross is a prime example of this. God worked out our salvation in weakness rather than overwhelming might.

For to be sure, He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in Him, yet by God’s power we will live with Him to serve you. 2 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)

God empowers people and church that cry out to God and admit their need. The apostle Paul was arguably the most powerful leader, other than Christ, the church has ever seen. Where did his power come from? Paul lets us in on the secret in 2 Corinthians where he describes an illness that he asked God to take away, but didn’t:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 9-10 (NIV)

Let me say this as gently as possible. Merely filling out a ministry calendar or filling in ministry positions is self-reliance. It is godlessness. Doing things as a church because it the way we’ve always done it or it what we see every other church doing is practical atheism because we’re attempting to do ministry without God. Yes, we do need some organization and some structure, but even more we need to call on the name of the LORD just as the line of Seth did. We have to call on Him in our personal lives and in our corporate gatherings. This does not mean simply naming names on the prayer list and asking God to bless them. It means seeking God, seeking to understand His will, and seeking to accomplish extraordinary things by faith.

I invite you to leave the godlessness of practical atheism this morning. Let’s turn together from our insulation, our diversions, and especially our self-reliance. Let’s come humbly admitting our inability and powerlessness. Let’s go to the throne of grace to receive the sufficiency of Christ. Let’s change our approach to God. Let’s cease crowding Him out and begin crying out.

BUT I’M AN ATHEIST AND I INTEND TO STAY THAT WAY!

He was wide eyed but unable to speak properly. The nurses told me that he did not have long to live. Brian (not his real name) was experiencing spasms of pain and shortness of breath. He was groaning, and looked weak, drawn and afraid. I offered to pray for him. I prayed for healing and encouraged him to reach out to Christ and seek to have a relationship with Him. I told him that Christ would be able to help him get through this situation.

The next day I came in to see Brian again. I asked the nurses how he was and they told me he was much better. I was surprised that he was able to speak again. His recovery was amazing. An answer to prayer! I introduced myself. He looked at me, recognised who I was immediately, and said vehemently, “I’m an ATHEIST and I intend to stay that way!” His response to Christ as he had faced the possibility of death was to REJECT Him. I said that this was his choice but that I hoped he would come to know the Lord.

It’s not unusual that the crowd is amazed as Jesus heals a demon possessed, blind and dumb man in Matthew 12:22, but it’s that TOTAL REJECTION of Jesus by the Pharisees (and Brian) that surprises me the most.

The Pharisees response to Jesus is vehement and MALICIOUS. Not only do they REJECT Jesus but they proceed to SLANDER His name before the people. They say in Matthew 12:24 (NLT) “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.”

Why are they saying this? Why aren’t they willing to examine things further? Is it that they are afraid of losing their REPUTATION? Is it because they want to hold onto their POWER and already feel that it is slipping away? Perhaps.

On the news last night TERRORISTS bombed a group of people who did not practise ISLAM in the traditional way. The Pharisees are like that (If people don’t agree with your traditions, killing them is always an option). They behave like RELIGIOUS THUGS! The intensity of their unbelief is incredible. It has already expressed itself as they plotted to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14)! They are obstinate, pig-headed, determined, inflexible, unmoved, stubborn and persistent leaders. The kind of political leaders we still revere in many parts of our world today.

The Pharisees did not actually see first hand Jesus heal the demon possessed, blind and dumb man. That’s not surprising. When I DISTANCE myself from Jesus I will rarely see His miracles, even when I hear about what God is doing in the lives of others who have had a personal experience of Christ. Like the Pharisees I will not be satisfied or happy for the man who has been healed, even though his life has been CHANGED FOREVER. It is only as I am willing to place myself in PROXIMITY to Jesus and see Him for who He is that I begin to acknowledge, like the crowd, the possibility of Him being the MESSIAH, more than a man, the One sent by God to save me from my sin.

In psychology, PROJECTION is a defence mechanism where a person denies what is happening in their own lives, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions, and then ascribes them to other people. Perhaps the Pharisees are demon possessed

Obstinate people

Obstinate people

themselves and being BLIND to this, they PROJECT what is happening to themselves onto Jesus. John the Baptist calls them a BROOD OF VIPERS in Matthew 3:7 who are resistant to REPENTANCE.

In Matthew 5:20  Jesus says “But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

The man who was healed was BLIND AND DEAF. The Pharisees are BLIND AND DEAF themselves to the things of God and need healing. John 12:38-40 (NIV) says “…For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has BLINDED their eyes and DEADENED their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Like Brian they say, “I am blind to what Jesus has done for me and I intend to stay that way!” My Dad used to say “There are none so blind as those who will not see!”

God bless you, as the Lord opens your eyes to His truth and as you intentionally remain open to Christ and what He wants to do in your life today. (Continued on next Sermon)

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Atheism

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 11, (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.

Atheism is the absence of belief in any Gods or spiritual beings. The word Atheism comes from a, meaning without, and theism meaning belief in god or gods.

Atheists don’t use God to explain the existence of the universe.
Atheists say that human beings can devise suitable moral codes to live by without the aid of Gods or scriptures.

People are atheist for many reasons, among them:

They find insufficient evidence to support any religion.
They think that religion is nonsensical.
They once had a religion and have lost faith in it.
They live in a non-religious culture.
Religion doesn’t interest them.
Religion doesn’t seem relevant to their lives.
Religions seem to have done a lot of harm in the world.
The world is such a bad place that there can’t be a God.
Many atheists are also secularist, and are hostile to any special treatment given to organised religion. Although many Atheists are heavily organized! Oxymoron?

It is possible to be both atheist and religious. Virtually all Buddhists manage it, as do some adherents of other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity.

Atheists are as moral (or immoral) as religious people.

In practical terms atheists often follow the same moral code as religious people, but they arrive at the decision of what is good or bad without any help from the idea of God.

What does it mean to be human?

Atheists find their own answers to the question of what it means to be human. This discussion looks at the question from both theological and ethical viewpoints.

Atheist criticisms of religion

The bad

Not all atheists are hostile to religion, but many do think that religion is bad. Here are some of their reasons:

Religion gets people to believe something untrue.
Religion makes people base the way they run their lives on a falsehood.
Religion stops people thinking in a rational and objective way.
Religion forces people to rely on outside authority, rather than becoming self-reliant.
Religion imposes irrational rules of good and bad behaviour.
Religion divides people, and is a cause of conflict and war.
The hierarchical structure of most religions is anti-democratic, and thus offends basic human rights.
Religion doesn’t give equal treatment to women and gay people, and thus offends basic human rights.
Religion obstructs scientific research.
Religion wastes time and money.

The good

Most atheists willingly concede there are some good things about religion, such as:

Religious art and music
Religious charities and good works
Much religious wisdom and scripture
Human fellowship and togetherness

Different reasons for being an atheist

Many people are atheists because of the way they were brought up or educated, or because they have simply adopted the beliefs of the culture in which they grew up, or the parents wanted the child to choose on their own when they grew up. So someone raised in Communist China or America is likely to have no belief in God because the education system and culture make being an atheist the natural thing to do.

Other people are atheists because they just feel that atheism is right.

Note for philosophers

The arguments and counter-arguments are presented in this article in an extremely simplified way and are intended only as a starting point for further reading and exploration.

Reasons focussing on lack of evidence

Law of probabilities

“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence”
W. K. Clifford (1879)

Many people are atheists because they think there is no evidence for God’s existence – or at least no reliable evidence. They argue that a person should only believe in things for which they have good evidence.

A philosopher might say that they start from the presumption of atheism.

The presumption of Atheism

This is an argument about where to begin the discussion of whether or not God exists.

It says that we should assume that God does not exist, and put the onus on people who believe in God to to prove that God does exist. Why? Because they cannot disprove God exists!

The philosopher Anthony Flew who wrote an article on this said:

“If it is to be established that there is a God, then we have to have good grounds for believing that this is indeed so.
Until and unless some such grounds are produced we have literally no reason at all for believing; and in that situation the only reasonable posture must be that of either the negative atheist or the agnostic.
So the onus of proof has to rest on the proposition.
It must be up to them: first, to give whatever sense they choose to the word ‘God’, meeting any objection that so defined it would relate only to an incoherent pseudo-concept; and, second, to bring forward sufficient reasons to warrant their claim that, in their present sense of the word ‘God’, there is a God.”

Reasons that treat God as unnecessary

Science explains everything, Atheists argue that because everything in the universe can be explained in a satisfactory way without using God as part of the explanation, then there is no point in saying that God exists.

Occam’s Razor

The argument is based on a philosophical idea called Occam’s Razor, popularised by William of Occam in the 14th century.

In Latin it goes Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate or in English… “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”.

This is usually simplified to say that the simplest answer is the best answer.

Therefore atheists might argue that since the entire universe, and all of creation can be explained by evolution and scientific cosmology, we don’t need the existence of another entity called God.

Therefore God doesn’t exist.

What would William have said?

William of Occam would not have agreed; he was a Franciscan monk who never doubted the existence of God.

But in his century he wasn’t breaking the rule named after him. 14th century science knew nothing about evolution or how the universe came into being. God was the only explanation available.

What William would think if he lived now is another matter…

Arguments for God aren’t convincing.

Weakness of the proofs that God exists,

There are a number of traditional arguments used to prove that God exists; however, none of them convinces atheists. Here they are:

The Argument from Design

The universe is such a beautiful and orderly thing that it must have been designed. Only God could have designed it. Therefore since the universe exists, God must exist.

An atheist might refute this by saying that, actually, the universe is not particularly beautiful and orderly. And even if it was, why should there be a designer? And modern science shows that most of the natural things we think of as designed are just the products of processes like evolution.

The “Ontological” Argument

We think of God as a perfect being. If God didn’t exist he wouldn’t be perfect. God is perfect, therefore God exists.

Most atheists think this argument is so feeble they don’t bother dealing with it.

Professional philosophers usually reject it on the grounds that existence is not a property of beings.

The First Cause Argument

Everything that happens has a cause. Therefore the universe must have had a cause. That cause must have been God. Therefore since the universe exists, God must exist in order to have caused it to exist.

An atheist might respond by asking what caused God. (And what caused the cause of God, and so on.) The argument might proceed that if God didn’t need a cause, then maybe the universe didn’t need a cause either. If God was already perfect before he created the universe, why did he create it? How did it benefit him? Why would he bother? And if the universe was caused, perhaps something other than God caused it?

The problem of evil

The Argument from Evil

The existence of evil seems inconsistent with the existence of a God who is wholly good, and can do anything.

The argument goes like this:

Most religions say that God is completely good, knows everything, and is all-powerful. But the world is full of wickedness and bad things keep happening. This can only happen if…

God is unwilling to prevent evil, in which case he is not good or
God doesn’t know about evil, in which case he does not know everything or
God can’t prevent evil, in which case he is not all powerful or
Some combination of the above.
And so there is no being that is completely good, knows everything, and is all powerful. And so, there is no God.

Theologians and philosophers have provided various answers to this argument. They all agree that it gives useful insights into the nature of God, evil, and belief.

Reasons to do with science and the history of thought, The best explanation.

For most of human history God was the best explanation for the existence and nature of the physical universe.

But during the last few centuries, scientists have developed solutions that are much more logical, more consistent, and better supported by evidence.

Atheists say that these explain the world so much better than the existence of God.They also say that far from God being a good explanation for the world, it’s God that now requires explaining.

Before science.

In olden times – and still today in some traditional societies – natural phenomena that people didn’t understand, such as the weather, sunrise and sunset, and so on, were seen as the work of gods or spirits.

Bible times

The Old Testament portrays the world as something controlled by God.

Where we would see the weather as obeying meteorological principles, people in those days saw it as demonstrating God at work. And it was the same with all the other natural phenomena, they just showed God doing things.

The Greeks

Everything is full of Gods
Thales (624-546 BCE), Greek philosopher
The Greek philosopher Thales moved things on by suggesting that the gods were actually an essential part of things, rather than external puppeteers pulling strings to make the world work.

Myth and magic

But there was more to these ancient explanations than gods doing things in or to the world. People saw the whole universe in a religiously structured way; they had no other way to see it at that time.

For the ancients, God provided the power that made the universe work, and God provided the structure within which the universe worked and human beings lived.

Astrology

Ideas like that survive in modern astrology. Many people believe that their lives are in some way influenced by the movements of heavenly bodies. And the heavenly bodies concerned have names taken from mythology and religion.

Modern religion

And you’ll find similar ideas in most popular religious thinking. Many people still believe, or want to believe, in the idea of God as puppeteer.

They believe that God is able to do things in the world: he can divide the waters of the Red Sea to save the Israelites from Pharaoh, he can respond to prayer by healing an illness or getting someone through an exam.

Cosmology

Cosmology is the study of the origin and nature of the universe.

Nowadays it’s a branch of astronomy and physics, but in pre-scientific times it was a religious subject, organising the universe in terms of almost military ranks of beings. God was at the top, and human beings came pretty much at the bottom.

In some cosmologies there was also an inverted hierarchy of evil beings going down from humanity to the source of wickedness, the devil, at the bottom.

Power

These religious cosmologies were rigid; each being had its place worked out for it in the structure that God had provided, and that was where it stayed.

Looking at the universe like this provided great support for the hierarchical power structures of earthly nations and tribes: Everyone in a nation or tribe had their place, and the power came from the top.

And if God had decided to organise the universe in such a hierarchy, this provided a strong argument against anyone who wanted to suggest that society could be organised in a fairer and more equal way – God had shown us the perfect way to organise things, and those who were ruling did so by a right given by God.

It was also very good news for whichever religion was followed in a particular nation: since the power all came from God, religion was bound to be given high status.

The mechanical universe.

The idea that God steered everything in the universe as he saw fit was demolished by the discovery that there were natural laws obeyed by objects in the universe.

Galileo, for example, discovered that the universe followed laws that could be written down mathematically.

This suggested that there was logic and engineering throughout creation. The universe behaved in a consistent manner and was not subject to gods pulling a string here and there, or some unexplained influences from astrological bodies.

This didn’t give Galileo any religious problems (although it annoyed the church greatly and they eventually made him keep quiet about some of his conclusions) because he believed that God had written the scientific rules.

And around this time scientists began to come up with new ways of assessing whether certain things were true. Things were expected to happen in a repeatable, testable way, that could be written down in equations.

God the engineer

Although scientific discovery began to explain more and more, it didn’t cause large numbers of people to become less religious.

Even many – probably most – scientists still had a place for God in the universe. At the very least, he had started the whole thing going, and he had created the rules that his universe was shown to obey.

This half-way house between religion and science still had problems for the faithful, since it didn’t seem to leave much room for God to intervene in the universe – and certainly it didn’t need God to keep things ticking over.

God the creator

But the half-way house also provided some support for the faithful. They could look at the universe and see how beautifuly made it was, and be reassured that God had demonstrated his existence by creating such a wonderful place.

And since science, until the late 18th, and 19th centuries, hadn’t produced any good explanation of how things began, religion still had an important place in explaining how the world was the way it was.

God takes a back seat

God’s role as an explanation for the way things are took a serious knock from the sciences of geology and evolution.

Geologists discovered that the earth was hundreds of millions of years old, and not just 6,000 years old as was generally believed at that time.

They showed that the rocks that make up the earth had been laid down in layers at different times; a deeper layer (by and large) came from an earlier time than a shallow layer.

In each layer were fossils that showed that different species of animals had lived in different eras. Not only were many no longer in existence but some didn’t appear until relatively recent times.

This was incompatible with the idea that God completely created the world in 6 days and so scientists with a faith came up with another compromise – the 6 days of biblical creation were a poetic way of describing long periods of millions of years during which God worked on the world.

The theory of evolution

Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker
The theory of evolution explains the variety of life forms on earth without any reference to God.

It says that from very simple beginnings, processes of genetic variation and selection (i.e. new forms of life keep appearing, and some forms of life don’t survive and become extinct), working for hundreds of millions of years, generated the range of plants and animals that exist today. (Although there is no evidence of genetic variation going on today, example: is their a monkee man walking around today?)

These processes are not directed by any being, they are just the way the world works; God is unnecessary.

The result of this for God has been explained by Stephen Jay Gould:

“No intervening spirit watches lovingly over the affairs of nature (though Newton’s clock-winding god might have set up the machinery at the beginning of time and then let it run). No vital forces propel evolutionary change. And whatever we think of God, his existence is not manifest in the products of nature.”

Reasons that treat God as meaningless, Relative philosophy.

Some philosophers think that religious language doesn’t mean anything at all, and therefore that there’s no point in asking whether God exists.

They would say that a sentence like “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is neither true or false, it’s meaningless; in the same way that “colourless green ideas sleep furiously” is meaningless.

Logical Positivism, or Verificationism.

Logical Positivists argued that a sentence was meaningless if it wasn’t either true or false, and they said that a sentence would only be true or false if it could be tested by an experiment, or if it was true by definition.

A more accurate version of this idea can be found here:

Since you couldn’t verify the existence of God by any sort of “sense experience”, and it wasn’t true by definition (eg in the way “a triangle has 3 sides” is true), the logical positivists argued that it was pointless asking the question since it could not be answered true or false.

These particular philosophers didn’t only say that religious talk was meaningless, they thought that much of philosophical discussion, metaphysics for example, was meaningless too. This philosophical theory is no longer popular, and attention has returned to the issues of what “God” means and whether “God” exists.

Note for philosophers

This is how one prominent philosopher put it:

“We say that a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which it purports to express – that is, if he knows what observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as being true, or reject is as being false.” A. J. Ayer

Ayer actually preferred a weaker version of the theory, because since no empirical proof could be totally conclusive, almost every statement about the world would have to be regarded as meaningless.

A proposition is said to be verifiable, in the strong sense of the term, if, and only if, its truth could be conclusively established in experience. But it is verifiable, in the weak sense, if it is possible for experience to render it probable.
And this led Ayer to dispose of the God question rather brusquely:

“…There can be no way of proving that the existence of a god…is even probable.
For if the existence of such a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis. And in that case it would be possible to deduce from it, and other empirical hypotheses, certain experiential propositions which were not deducible from those other hypotheses alone.
But in fact this is not possible…For to say that “God Exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false.” A. J. Ayer

Reasons that treat God as a psychological factor, Psychological explanations of religon.

Psychologists have long been fascinated by religion as something that exists in all societies.

They ask whether ‘religion’ is actually a name given to various psychological drives, rather than a response to the existence of God or gods.

Such a belief is clearly atheistic.

Religion, to the common man, is a:

“system of doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to him the riddles of this world with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future existence for any frustrations he suffers here.” Freud, Civilization and its Discontents.
Religion comes from emotions, Human beings believe in God because they want:

A father figure to protect them from this frightening world
Someone who gives their lives meaning and purpose
Something that stops death being the end
To believe that they are an important part of the universe, and that some component of the universe (God) cares for and respects them
These beliefs are strongly held because they enable human beings to cope with some of their most basic fears and as a crutch.

Atheists argue that since religion is just a psychological fantasy, human beings should abandon it so that they can grow to respond appropriately to deal with the world as it is.

Freud

Sigmund Freud tackled religion in great detail and had several ideas about it.

One of his theories was that religion stems from the individual’s experience of having been a helpless baby totally dependent on its parents. The infant sees its parents as all-powerful beings who show it great love and satisfy all its needs. This experience is almost identical to the way human beings portray their relationship with God.

Freud also suggested that childhood experiences caused people to have very complex feelings about their parents and themselves, and religion and religious rituals provide a respectable mechanism for working these out.

Freud also described religion as a mass-delusion that reshaped reality to provide a certainty of happiness and a protection from suffering.

Reasons that treat God as a social function, Sociological explanations of religion

Some people think that religions and belief in God fulfil functions in human society, rather than being the result of God actually existing.

Ludwig Feuerbach

Ludwig Feuerbach was a 19th century German philosopher who proposed that religion was just a human being’s consciousness of the infinite.

He said that human ideas about God were no more than the projection of humanity’s ideas about man onto an imaginary supernatural being.

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), a French sociologist, thought that religion was something produced by human society, and had nothing supernatural about it.

“Religious force is nothing other than the collective and anonymous force of the clan.” Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.
He believed that religion existed, but he did not agree that the reality that lay behind it was the same reality that believers thought existed.

Religion helped people to form close knit groups, in which they could find a place in society. Religious rituals created mental states in those taking part which were helpful to the group.

To put it another way; religious rituals do not do anything other than strengthen the beliefs of the group taking part and reinforce the collective consciousness.

Religion fulfilled the functions of:

Giving a meaning and purpose to life
Binding people together in groups
Supporting the moral code of the group
Supporting the social code of the group
Durkheim thought that this was enough to give people a feeling that there was something supernatural going on.

Since it is in spiritual ways that social pressure exercises itself, it could not fail to give men the idea that outside themselves there exist one or several powers, both moral and, at the same time, efficacious, upon which they depend.

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life,
Durkheim said that religious beliefs divided experiences into the profane and the sacred – the profane were the routine experiences of everyday life, while the sacred were beyond the everyday and likely to inspire reverence.

Objects could become sacred, not because of any inherent supernatural resonance but because the group fixed certain ‘collective ideals’ on an object.

Karl Marx’s criticisms of religion, Marx’s view of religion.

Karl Marx thought that religion was an illusion, with no real God or supernatural reality standing in the background. Religion was a force that stopped human societies from changing.

A social institution

Marx believed that religion was a social institution, and reflected and sustained the particular society in which it flourished.

He went further. Religion was a tool used by the capitalists to keep the working-class under control.

Religion provided the working-class with comfort in their miserable oppressed circumstances, and by focussing attention on the joys to come after death, it distracted the workers from trying to make this life better.

Religion cheats human beings

Furthermore, it took the noblest human ideals and gave them to a non-existent God, thus cheating human beings of realising their own greatness and potential.

Religion disguises the true wrongs

Marx argued that the illusory happiness provided by religion should be eliminated by putting right the economic conditions that caused people to need this illusion to make their lives bearable.

Religion was like a pain-killer (hence Marx’s famous reference to it as “the opium of the people”), but what was needed was to cure the sickness, not sedate the patient.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Target: Christianity

The Marxist analysis of religion was principally aimed at Christianity as Christianity was the dominant faith in the industrial societies which Marx was criticising.

God is not apparent.

God is Loving.

This is one of the more unusual arguments used to show that God can’t exist:

God is perfectly loving.

God knows that human beings would be happier if they were aware of the existence of a loving God.

So if such a God existed, he would make sure that everyone knew it.

There are lots of people who aren’t aware of the existence of a loving God. Therefore such a God does not exist.

First atheist writers

Most histories of atheism choose the Greek and Roman philosophers Epicurus, Democritus, and Lucretius as the first atheist writers. While these writers certainly changed the idea of God, they didn’t entirely deny that gods could exist.

Epicurus

Epicurus put forward the theory of “materialism”: The only things that exist are bodies and the space between them.

Epicurus taught that the soul is also made of material objects, and so when the body dies the soul dies with it. There is no afterlife.

Epicurus thought that gods might exist, but if they did, they did not have anything to do with human beings.

Religion was the human activity of trying to live in the way such noble (but unknowable) gods might live.

The soul cannot survive separation from the body, since it is necessary to understand that it too is a part.

By itself the soul cannot ever either exist (even though Plato and the Stoics talk a great deal of nonsense on the subject) or experience movement, just as the body does not possess sensation when the soul is released from it.

Lucretius

Lucretius did not deny the existence of gods either, but he felt that human ideas about gods combined with the fear of death to make human beings unhappy.

He followed the same materialist lines as Epicurus, and by denying that the gods had any way of influencing our world he said that humankind had no need to fear the supernatural.

Quotations on The Nature of Things

“This terror, then, this darkness of the mind,
Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light,
Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse,
But only Nature’s aspect and her law,
Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:
Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.
Fear holds dominion over mortality

Only because, seeing in land and sky
So much the cause whereof no wise they know,
Men think Divinities are working there.
Meantime, when once we know from nothing still
Nothing can be create, we shall divine
More clearly what we seek: those elements
From which alone all things created are,
And how accomplished by no tool of Gods.”

“Whilst human kind
Throughout the lands lay miserably crushed
Before all eyes beneath Religion- who
Would show her head along the region skies,
Glowering on mortals with her hideous face-
A Greek it was who first opposing dared
Raise mortal eyes that terror to withstand,
Whom nor the fame of Gods nor lightning’s stroke

Nor threatening thunder of the ominous sky
Abashed; but rather chafed to angry zest
His dauntless heart to be the first to rend
The crossbars at the gates of Nature old.
And thus his will and hardy wisdom won;
And forward thus he fared afar, beyond
The flaming ramparts of the world, until
He wandered the unmeasurable All.

Whence he to us, a conqueror, reports
What things can rise to being, what cannot,
And by what law to each its scope prescribed,
Its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time.
Wherefore Religion now is under foot,
And us his victory now exalts to heaven.”

Morality and secularism, Christianity is pronounced immoral

A powerful, but rather unexpected attack on Christianity came from a group of people, including the writer George Eliot, who thought that Christianity was immoral.

They said that there was something totally unethical in the behaviour of a God who behaved like a “revengeful tyrant”.

According to the doctrine of original sin, God was prepared to punish people for a wrong that was not their fault, just because they were human beings. What sort of God was it, they wondered, who then decided to let us off this unfair punishment because he had punished his son instead of us?

One of the first to argue this was James Froude in 1849:

“I would sooner perish for ever than stoop down before a Being who may have power to crush me, but whom my heart forbids me to reverence.” James Froude, 1849

The philosopher John Stuart Mill said in 1872, “I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures, and if such a being can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.”

Campaigning atheists used a less subtle attack on the Bible’s morality, complaining that it contained far too much violence and improper behaviour to be a suitable read for young people! (Church think about this for a moment!)

Secularism

The 19th century saw a serious campaign against the Churches by the secularist movement.

Their particular target was the state church, the Church of England, which was highly privileged.

Until 1828 no-one could hold a public office without signing up to the beliefs of the Church.
Until 1836 only Church of England ministers could conduct marriages.
Until 1871 only members of the Church of England could teach at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Blasphemy: The law against blasphemy was strict in Victorian Britain.

George Holyoake (1817-1906) was the last person in England to be imprisoned (in 1842) for being an atheist. He was jailed for 6 months for a speech which included the line: “For myself, I flee the Bible as a viper, and revolt at the touch of a Christian.”

Charles Bradlaugh

Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was one of the most prominent of the Victorian atheists. He edited the National Reformer, which itself was prosecuted for blasphemy, and in 1866 was one of the founders of the National Secular Society.

Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament in 1880, but was not allowed to take his seat because he would not swear a religious oath but wanted to affirm. He was re-elected several times over five years, but did not take his seat until 1886.

When he eventually took his seat he became Britain’s first openly atheist member of Parliament.

The discovery of evolution, Science begins to undermine religion.

In the second half of the 19th century the theory of evolution put forward by Charles Darwin, and other scientific discoveries, undermined the value of religion as a way of explaining the nature and existence of the world.

Theology and Bible scholarship

During the 18th and 19th centuries, academic research began to undermine the literal truths of religion and throw doubt on the existence of God as a separate supernatural being.

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes had noted even earlier, in 1651, that Moses could not actually have written all the books of the Bible that were attributed to him.

In 1779 J G Eichhorn suggested that the stories in the Book of Genesis, were not actual history, but were myths, like the stories of Greek and Roman mythology. Furthermore, he said, these stories should no longer be read as if they were the actual word of God.

Other theologians began to work with the ideas of Hegel to portray religion, and religious stories and beliefs in general, as symbolic ways of demonstrating truths about the spiritual life of humankind.

Literary analysis of the text began to cast great doubt on the Bible itself as a reliable historical document.

The German, D F Strauss, said in 1835 that the New Testament stories about Christ should not be interpreted as literally true, but as a dress of religious symbolism clothing the life of of a Jewish teacher, as the Jews and muslems do today.

God is a human invention

In 1841 Ludwig Feuerbach argued that God was a human invention, a spiritual device to help us deal with our fears and aspirations.

This was bad news, because human beings projected all their good qualities onto God and saw him as compassionate, wise, loving and so on, while they saw themselves as greatly inferior. Thus humanity alienated itself from its true self.

Anthropology, Anthropologists, too, were casting doubt on previous certainties.

Research into comparative religion revealed that there was a great deal of similarity between the rituals and stories of many religions – even tribal religions seemed to have elements in common with Christianity.

This posed the big problem of how Christianity (or any other religion) could claim that it was the only true faith, and how any religion could claim to be the unique result of God’s revelation, since all religions seemed to share so much in common.

Nietzsche

At the end of the 19th century the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) announced that God was dead, and that humanity had killed him.

Nietzsche said that it was no longer possible to believe in the Christian God. Modern people, he thought, did not really believe in God any more and it was this unbelief that had killed off God as if He was like fairies.

This had serious ethical consequences. Western society’s entire moral code was based on Judaeo-Christian ethics, and sooner or later people would realise that if they no longer believed in God, they could not live by a moral code that was based on God.

Nietzsche wasn’t just proclaiming the death of God, but something even more radical – for Nietzsche there was nothing left to believe in, certainly not God, but not even any external world that might provide a source of meaning and purpose for humanity.

Nietzsche was particularly critical of Christianity. He thought that it was not only false but depraved and corrupt, a “contradiction of life”.

5 Types of atheists.

Humanism: While atheism is merely the absence of belief, humanism is a positive attitude to the world, centred on human experience, thought, and hopes.

The British Humanist Association and The International Humanist and Ethical Union use similar emblems showing a stylised human figure reaching out to achieve its full potential.

Humanists believe that human experience and rational thinking provide the only source of both knowledge and a moral code to live by.

They reject the idea of knowledge ‘revealed’ to human beings by gods, or in special books.

Postmodernism: Postmodernism does away with many of the things that religious people regard as essential.

For postmodernists every society is in a state of constant change; there are no absolute values, only relative ones; nor are there any absolute truths.

This promotes the value of individual religious impulses, but weakens the strength of ‘religions’ which claim to deal with truths that are presented from ‘outside’, and given as objective realities.

In a postmodern world there are no universal religious or ethical laws, everything is shaped by the cultural context of a particular time and place and community.

In a postmodern world individuals work with their religious impulses, by selecting the bits of various spiritualities that ‘speak to them’ and create their own internal spiritual world. The ‘theology of the pub’ becomes as valid as that of the priest, or say, murder yesterday was bad, but today it ‘feels right’ so just do it.

The inevitable conclusion is that religion is an entirely human-made phenomenon.

Rationalism: Rationalism is an approach to life based on reason and evidence.

Rationalism encourages ethical and philosophical ideas that can be tested by experience and rejects authority that cannot be proved by experience.

Because rationalism encourages people to think for themselves, rationalists have many different and diverse ideas and continue in a tradition from the nineteenth century known as freethought.

However, most rationalists would agree that:

There is no evidence for any arbitrary supernatural authority e.g. God or Gods.
The best explanation so far for why the natural world looks the way it does is the theory of evolution first put forward by Charles Darwin.

All human beings should have fundamental rights. Some rationalists and humanists go further and argue that animals should also have rights as they are living, sensate beings.

Society is should be an “open society”, where each individual is able to live “freely and equally practise their chosen life stance, and in which human potential is realised to the benefit of the individual and the community at large.” (Levi Fragell, President of International Humanist and Ethical Union, 2001)

Secularism: Secularists oppose religion or the religious being afforded privileges, which – put another way – means others are disadvantaged.

They believe that the reduced numbers attending church show that people have chosen to give up faith. They say this underlines the unfairness of giving any special privileges or rights to faiths.

Secularists are particularly concerned about education. They think that religious schools are divisive, and damage the prospects of a harmonious and diverse society.

Secularists are not against the right of individuals to have a religious faith. What they oppose is special treatment for religious beliefs and organisations.

They think that the protection already given by the law, including human rights legislation, should be sufficient to protect believers from assault or discrimination.

You may be surprised to know that while most secularists are atheists, some

Some Atheist Symbols

Some Atheist Symbols

secularists are actually believers in a faith. While they believe, they don’t think that belief is a reason for special treatment.

Charles Bradlaugh was one of the founders of Britain’s National Secular Society. His political activism kept the atheist point of view in the limelight during Victorian times.

Some secularists go further; they want religion to be regarded as a private matter for the home and place of worship – and that the state should be blind to religion.

They also seek to separate those bits of our present-day culture that originated in religion from the religions that inspired them.

Unitarian Universalism: is not an atheist movement, but a religious movement into which some atheists may comfortably fit. The movement proclaims the importance of individual freedom of belief, and it includes members from a wide spectrum of beliefs.

Unitarianism and Universalism began in the 18th century as a reaction against some Christian doctrines. The movements joined together in 1961.

Is it atheist?

The movement does not have an official definition of God, but allows members to “develop individual concepts of God that are meaningful to them.” Members are entirely free to “reject the term and concept altogether.” (Continued on next Sermon)

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JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES (Part 2)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 10, (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:

4. Their Distortion of The Word “Jehovah”.
J.W. teach that the only name for God is “Jehovah” in the O.T and the N. T. and all other names like Lord (kyrios) and God (theos) are added years later and that we’ve distorted His name.

Where do they get this, you ask? Well let’s look at this issue:

· This is their argument from the Watchtower and Tract Society, “The evidence is, therefore, that the original Scriptures has been tampered with, the same as the text of the Septuagint (Greek translation of the O.T.) has been. And, at least from the 3rd century A.D. onward, the divine name in tetragrammaton

form has been eliminated from the text by copyist…In place of it, they substituted the words “Kyrios” and “theos”.”

Tetragrammaton = the Hebrew consonants YHWH, for Jehovah. This is what the J.W’s want us to believe. It’s better translated – Yahweh!

But in reality, Jehovah is a word created by a 13th century Catholic Spanish Monk named Martini. He took the consonants of “Adoni” and “Elohim” to Latinize the word and it was very popular since then.

Now get this, the J.W. agree with this as they said in 1969, “While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yahweh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of the people’s familiarity with it since the 13th century.”

Bruce Metzger said, “Jehovah does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew.”

So J.W. believe that they need to restore the true name of God and expose the cover up and yet they aren’t!!

Their argument explodes in there face because of the evidence is to the contrary and rather elementary.

· It can be shown from literally thousands of copies of the Greek New Testament and not one does the Tetragrammaton appear, not even in the Book of Matthew, which was possibly written in Hebrew or partly in Aramaic.
5. Their Discounting of Christ’s Atonement.

Mormons have a non-sufficient atonement and the J.Ws. are no better off.

From they’re teaching, “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” “Jesus was no more and no less than a perfect human…thus, when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not an incarnation, not a god-man, but perfect man, lower than angels.”

Now watch…this discounting of the atonement messes up their salvation also. If you don’t have an all-sufficient atonement you can’t have an all-powerful salvation! If Christ can’t do it for us then whose left…us! I don’t think so!

The Watchtower Society states, “Salvation depends on works. Grace is more or less the opportunity for human beings to earn their salvation by total obedience to the Watchtower Society. Grace does not involve a free gift of salvation.”

Close to 200 times in the New Testament salvation is said to be by faith alone!

Romans 10:9 “…If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved.”

Romans 10:13 “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

What do these verses have in common? Call on the Lord Jesus not Jehovah! The J.W. mistranslate these verses if you didn’t already know!

Revelation 4:11 – The J.W.’s translate this “Jehovah” but correctly translate Romans 10:9 – because if they did then Jesus is Jehovah God!

Blaise Pascal the great 19th century Christian thinker wisely said, “Truth is so obscure in these times and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”

THEIR DRAW.

Why they’re so appealing, why so many “buy into” what these groups are advocating…Their message “sounds real.”

Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way (which seems) right to a man, but its end is…death.

You see, Satan’s most powerful tool is a mixture of truth with error. That way, there’s at least a small “ring of truth” to it, so it sounds plausible, and the person ends up swallowing the false along with the half-truth.

It’s Satan’s handiwork.

Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.

It’s really no big surprise why it’s so appealing…
The Master Deceiver, the crafty serpent, the father of lies knows how to persuade and convince people to believe lies and refuse the truth of the gospel.

They encourage a misplaced trust.

Matthew 24:24 – For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead…

Rather than seeking God and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal truth through God’s Word and the message of the gospel, cults mislead people

to put their eternal trust in someone of questionable character and who is himself/herself lost, who himself/herself actively resisted and rejected the Holy Spirit.

2) They offer a false hope, and foster a false sense of security.

1 Peter 1:13 — Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Rather than leading people to put their entire trust in Jesus, who IS our Blessed Hope, cults offer individuals a false hope.

The false hope of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “I’ll be more likely to be part of the 144,000 in heaven because I’m NOT a trinitarian…I honor Jehovah by what I believe!” Oh, by the way, there are many more than 144,000 who have been a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses…so even mathematics tells us a bunch of them aren’t gonna make it into heaven even if they were right (which they clearly ar not).

In advocating a “secret truth” or “new truth” they are leading people away from the saving truth. For many years, no non-Jehovah’s Witness was ever allowed entrance into one of their Kingdom Halls (what we would call simply a worship center).

Romans 1:15 — …they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.

They lead people away from Jesus, away from the Gospel, away from the one way to the Father.

In short, they are leading people to hell, leading them to being eternally separated from God.

OUR DUTY.

What we can and should do in light of what we know and what they’re teaching…

1) Study and know the Bible.

2 Timothy 2:15 — Study to show yourself an approved workman of God, rightly dividing the word of truth.

We need to know Scripture for ourselves, to avoid being deceived ourselves. But we also need to know Scripture so we can give answers to others who ask.

2) Speak so others can know the truth.

1 Peter 3:15 — But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

One of the reasons cults are so effective is because the truth sometimes isn’t getting out as clearly & powerfully as false teaching.

How to handle a JW

I believe that we Christians have a duty to bring the Gospel of truth to the Witnesses, and it is not enough to shut our doors in their faces when they call at the most inconvenient times. These are people who are lost to the Lord, people who are following another gospel which is no gospel. If they are trying to earn their way to a new life after Armageddon, and we are at the receiving end of their preaching, we are still called to love them into the Kingdom of Christ.

Know whom you believe.
When the J.W comes to your door (as he will or, more often, she will), do not say “I belong to such and such a church, or to such and such a denomination”. He has been trained in the Kingdom Hall to use this reply as the first in a deliberate series of steps designed to wean you from your Church into the congregation of Witnesses. He is highly trained in method and psychology. He will attempt to find some part of your life with which you are unhappy or disgruntled (that minister who never came to see you when you were ill; the terrible state the world is in; the fact that you live alone and no-one seems to care for you etc).

No! When the Witness calls, do not answer his questions; instead, as soon as you can, tell him that you love the Lord Jesus Christ. Tell him that you have surrendered your life to Him, and that you have a personal relationship with Him. If you get the chance give him examples of what Jesus has done for you in the past week, and how you experience the power of the Lord working in your life today. This may confuse him, for many Witnesses have little spiritual experience in their lives.

Know what you believe.
There is an answer for all his arguments. You need to know that answer for your own safety, but, remember, you will not get very far with a J.W if you argue with him. He is trained for arguments. He thrives on argument. The only thing that is going to make any impression on him is the quality of life that arises from the fact that Christ is God, and lives in you.

Know what it is you hope for.
It is obvious that the J.W. lives under a system of justification by works, no matter how much he will protest to the contrary. The reward of all his hard work is life in an earthly paradise which has been renewed after the devastations of Armageddon. (Out of the 6 million active Witnesses today, only about 8,000 believe that they belong to the heavenly class!).

The Christian needs to know the promises of the Bible which deal with the hope that lies before us. It is quite plain that the Kingdom of Heaven is already a reality in the heart of the one who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord. He is experiencing a downpayment on the powers of the age to come already. His is not some vague hope held out in the future, but an absolute cast-iron certainty which is his now, because his hope rests not on what he himself has done, but on the faithfulness of God.

Know what you possess.
The Witness denies that the Gifts of the Spirit operate today. He teaches that they died out with the death of the last Apostle in the last years on the first Century. For him the history of the church from that point onwards is one of a gradual but accelerating drift away from the Bible in a church which has become more and more apostate. Finally, in the 19th Century, God called the Witnesses out of the world to be a purified testimony to Him in these last days.

It is at this point where we Christians must stand and face the Witnesses. If we try to counter them in our own natural strength we will undoubtedly fail, for we will be facing them on their own terms. But Christians have been given supernatural weapons by God, gifts of wisdom and knowledge, gifts of faith and miracles, gifts of prophecy and healing, gifts of tongues and the interpretation of tongues, and, not least, the gift of discernment of spirits.

If you have faced a Witness as I have on many occasions, it doesn`t take long for you to realise that, behind the outward face the Witness seeks to present, there is indeed a `spirit of the Witnesses`, a hard, bitter spirit. Many of their converts are women left in the home all day by husbands who are out for long hours earning money. These women, lonely, with time on their hands, feeling unloved, easily succumb to the person who calls and seems to be interested in them as a person. Before they know it they are ensnared in the system.

The Witness finds his refuge in a society which asks him to be different from everyone else. Any attempt to get them to see another point of view is seen by them to be part of the `persecution` that the Witness is constantly (and sometimes unconsciously) seeking. All this leaves them with a `spirit`, a spirit which can be discerned. That spirit can only be faced and triumphed over when a Christian faces them with the power and love of God.

JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES (Part 2)

JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES (Part 2)

God tells us that we are experiencing an `earnest`, a downpayment, on the powers and experience of the age to come. He is giving us powers to face a world which has rejected Him, to love that world powerfully into His Kingdom. These are the only weapons that we dare face the world with, or the Witness with. Use every gift that God has given you, and these alone, to show the Witness that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and for ever – God incarnate in human form.

Bringing It Home…

In speaking to our friends, neighbors, who are involved in the cults we’ve mentioned, we need to…

Be kind. — This is not the time to “beat them over the head with the Bible.”

Be understanding. — The cults are attractive and persuasive.

Be loving. — Our focus is not on winning an argument, but in helping a person.

But be straightforward and urgent too. — We’re talking about the difference between eternity with God or eternity separated from God.

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Islam (Part 2)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 8, (Continue)

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Christianity and world religions. Today I will discuss Islam 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. My purpose in these two messages 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.

If you were with us last Sermon, you know that the word “Muslim” means “one who is submitted.”

And “Islam” means, “submitted,” or “surrendered.” (not “peace” as some are saying these days. The Arabic word for peace is “salaam.” It’s a related word because Muslims believe that those who are submitted to Allah experience peace.)

Last Sermon we covered the background on Islam, it’s founder, Mohammed, and it’s history from Gen. 16 in the Bible up till today. Since we covered Muslim history last Sermon, we’ll stick with Muslim theology this Sermon.

The SCRIPTURES of Islam

As Christians, we believe that the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – is our authoritative book from God. We believe it is the Word of God. For Muslims though, the only authoritative uncorrupted revelation from God is the Qur’an (Koran) which is considered God’s most recent and final work that supercedes all others.

The word Qur’an means “recitations” which is based on the angel Gabriel supposedly instructing Muhammad to recite the revelations he received. In length, the Qur’an is slightly shorter than the New Testament (four-fifths its length) and contains 114 chapters called Surahs. Eighty-six of the chapters were revealed during the time Muhammad was in Mecca and 28 while he was in Medina. Each chapter is divided into verses (ayat). The surahs are not placed in any type of chronological or logical order. They are generally arranged according to their length with the exception of the first one, which functions more as a short introductory prayer.

Muslims dare not touch this sacred book without first being washed and purified. Neither do they ever hold it below their waist. They carry it to war, write sentences from it on their banners, tie it around their neck as a charm, and always put it on the highest shelf or some other place of honor in their homes. For Muslims, the Qur’an is considered the inspired word of God.

In Surah 10:37 it says, “And this Qur’an is not such as could be produced by those besides Allah…”

Also in Surah 17:88 it states, “If the whole of mankind and jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the life thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.”

Another very important book for Muslims is the Hadith (tradition) which is a collection of the sayings and actions of Muhammad. These sayings also called sunna (custom) cover nearly ever aspect of life. When Muhammad died, Muslims were convinced that God’s revelations to the world were completed.

In Surah 5:4 it says, “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

Muslims also believe that the Torah of Moses (Pentateuch, first five books of the Old Testament), the Psalms of David, and the Gospels given to Jesus are all holy books, but that all of them have been corrupted by Christians and Jews to the point that they are not fully reliable.

Surah 2:75 says, “…and a party from among them indeed used to hear the Word of Allah, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know this.”

Surah 3:71 says, “O followers of the Book! Why do you confound the truth with the falsehood and hide the truth while you know?”

How the Qur’an was written?

In Surah 7:157 Muhammad referred to himself as “the Prophet who can neither read not write.” According to Islamic tradition, different fragments of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad verbatim by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years (Surah 25:32; 17:106). After each occasion, Muhammad recited these words to those present. Many of Muhammad’s devout followers memorized these portions as they were revealed. In Surah 73:1-7 we are told that Muhammad’s scribes wrote these revelations on “pieces of paper, stones, palm-leaves, shoulder blades, ribs and bits of leather.” Other parts of the Qur’an are based on Muhammad’s teachings which were written from memory by his followers after Muhammad’s death.

One of the hallmarks of Islam is the belief that the Qur’an is a miracle from God because no error, alteration, or variation has touched it since its inception. However, history indicates that there were several differing texts before the final copy was delivered to the Muslim people.

About one year after Muhammad’s death, many of those who could recite the Qur’an by memory had been killed in various battles. As a result, Omar, the second caliph (successor) of Islam, ordered the compiling of the Qur’an because he feared that the knowledge of it might fade away.

Some time later, it was discovered that several Muslim communities were using different versions of the Qur’an. Fearing that this might lead to doctrinal confusion, Othman, the third Muslim caliph, ordered the Qur’an edited which resulted in the official revised version of the Qur’an. Several copies of this newly revised Qur’an were sent to each major center in the Islamic empire and all the other copies of the Qur’an were recalled and burned.

This version of the Qur’an has basically remained the same to this day with the exception of the infamous “Satanic Verses”. As a result of the people of Muhammad’s own tribe rejecting his new revelations, he gave in to their pressure and said it was okay for them to worship the three daughters of Allah – named Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat. This was to appease Muhammad’s people.

Eventually these verses were deleted from the Qur’an when Muhammad reverted back to monotheism. You may remember that in 1989 an Indian writer named Salman Rushdie brought up this forbidden topic when he wrote his novel The Satanic Verses. As a result, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran condemned him and called for his assassination. A $3 million bounty was placed on his head, and he has been hiding ever since.

What if you disagree?

Socrates once said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” That philosophy can also be applied to what we believe. Norman Geisler in Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, p. 10 says, “The unexamined faith is not worth living.”

Acts 17:11, “The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.”

Muslims are discouraged from asking questions about their faith.

Surah 5:101-102, “O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith.”

Muslims believe that asking questions about Islam can cause you to lose your faith in Islam. Generally, when someone has something to hide, they don’t want you to ask questions.

An Islamic commentator on the Qur’an warned Muslims, “The Holy Prophet himself forbade people to ask questions– so do not try to probe into such things.” (Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur’an, Vol. 3 pp. 76-77)

What Do Muslims Believe?

As Christians there are several doctrines that we share in common with Muslims. For instance, we believe in a resurrection, the final judgment of God as well as hell and so do they. We believe in angels and so do they. We believe in Satan and so do they. We believe in heaven and so do they (although it is usually called the Gardens of Felicity”).

However, there are some major doctrines that are distinctive to Islam that we do not have in common.

• What Muslims believe about the BIBLE

2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy ever came from human initiative. When people spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them.” (NJB)

As Christians we believe that the Bible is accurate and without error because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and not by man. That being the case, the Bible is without error or contradiction. Muslims on the other hand view the Bible as being corrupted. They do not believe that the New Testament contains the actual words of Jesus, but rather other people’s words about Jesus. Therefore they believe Jesus’ words have been corrupted.

On the other hand, Muslims believe the Qur’an is God’s Word. It is important to emphasize this point because if the Qur’an is the word of God then it should not contain any errors and it should hold true for all times. However, such is not the case.

Surah 4:82, “Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”

If the Qur’an contradicts what the Bible says, Muslims believe the Qur’an. But the dilemma is that the Qur’an in Surah 2:136 claims to believe in, continue and not contradict the Bible. But does it?

• The Bible says that God created in 6 days, but the Qur’an says that He created in 8 days (Surah 41:9-12). The Qur’an even contradicts itself on this point and says in Surah 10:3 that it was done in 6 days.

• The Bible says that all of Noah’s sons got onto the Ark, but the Qur’an says that one son was left behind(Surah 11:32-48).

• The Bible says that Abraham’s father’s was Terah, but the Qur’an says that his name was Azar (Surah 6:74).

• The Bible says that Abraham was going to going to sacrifice Isaac, but the Qur’an says that he was going to sacrifice Ishmael (Surah 37:100-112).

• The Bible says that Abraham had 8 sons, but the Qur’an says that he only had 2 sons (Surah 37:100-112).

• The Bible says that Joseph was bought by Potiphar, but the Qur’an says that he was bought by a person named Aziz (Surah 12:21).

• The Bible says Jesus was born in a stable, but the Qur’an says He was born under a palm tree (Surah 19:22-25).

• The Bible says that Zacharias was not able to speak for several months, until John the Baptist was born, but the Quran says that it was only for 3 nights (Surah 19:10).

Another contradiction found in the Qur’an is the way that Muhammad received his calling from Allah. In

the Qur’an there are four versions of his calling, all happening in a distinctly different way. (Surah 53:2-18; 81:19-24; 16:102; 26:192-194; 15:8; 2:97)
• What Muslims believe about GOD

Upon a careful examination of the Qur’an it becomes clear that Muhammad had some serious misconceptions about the teachings of Christianity. He thought that Christians worshiped three Gods – the Father, the Mother (Mary) and the Son.

Surah 5:116, “And when Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods, besides Allah, he will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had not right to say…”

As Christians, we believe that there is one God and He is a Trinity consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all three being co-equal and co-eternal persons. In other words, God is one in being, but exists in three persons.

• The truth of the Trinity can be seen in the OLD TESTAMENT in that God speaks of Himself as “we” (Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; Isaiah 6:8).

• The truth of the Trinity can be seen in the NEW TESTAMENT in baptism (Matthew 28:19), at the birth and baptism of Jesus (Luke 1:35; Mark 1:10-11), in Paul’s prayer (2 Corinthians 13:14), and in Jesus’ prayer (John 14:16-17).

• The truth of the Trinity can also be seen in the BIBLE in that all three are called God (John 6:27; John 20:28; Acts 5:3-9).

Muslims believe that Allah is their God. The word Allah was derived from al-ilah which had become a generic title for whatever god was considered the highest of all their gods at the time. During the days of Muhammad, each Arab tribe used the word Allah to refer to its own particular high god. Before Islam began, the Moon god was the central focus of prayer and worship at the Kabah. In fact, it was the chief of the 360 different gods being worshiped in Arabia at the time.

The Arab tribe into which Muhammad was born was particularly devoted to Allah the Moon god. Muhammad’s father’s name was abd-Allah and his uncle’s name was Obied-Allah. These names reveal the personal devotion that Muhammad’s family had towards the worship of Allah, the Moon god.

When people prayed to the Moon god they used the name Allah. The symbol of this Moon god was the crescent moon, and was constantly found on ancient pottery and artifacts of worship. As a result, Islam adopted the crescent moon as its own religious symbol.

The Moon god was worshiped by praying toward Mecca several times a day, making an annual pilgrimage to the Kabah which was the temple of the Moon god, running around the Kabah seven times, touching a black stone set in the wall of the Kabah, and gathering on Fridays for prayer and giving alms to the poor. These were all pagan rites practiced by the Arabs long before Muhammad was born. They also serve as a part of the framework for the five pillars of Islam practiced today.

Muslims believe that Allah could never have a son. To say this would be blasphemous. Muslims call Allah by His “99 beautiful names”, but never refer to him as “Father” because to them God is unknowable and transcendent. To Christians, God is both transcendent (above us) and personal (near us).

Surah 19:88-92, “And they say: The Beneficient God has taken (to Himself) a son. Certainly you have made an abominable assertion: The heavens may almost be rent thereat,

and the earth cleave asunder, and the mountains fall down in pieces, that they ascribe son to the Beneficient God. And this is not worthy of the Beneficient God that He should take (to Himself) a son.”

Surah 3:64, “…we shall not serve any but Allah and we shall not associate none with Him.”

Muslims teach that anyone who believes in the Trinity will go to hell.

Surah 5:72, “Surely whoever associates others with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire…”

Therefore Muslims do not believe in the Trinity.

Surah 4:171, “O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His apostles, and say not, Three.”

In addition the god of Islam, Allah, is presented in the Qur’an as an autocratic ruler who is aloof, impersonal and unknowable (Surah 5:40). The Christian God on the other hand is close, personal and knowable.

• What Muslims believe about JESUS

One of the most mentioned individuals in the Qur’an is Jesus. He is mentioned 35 times. If you were to talk to a Muslim about Jesus they would eagerly say that they believe in Him. In fact, they believe that in order to be a true Muslim one must believe in Jesus.

“No Muslim is a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus peace be upon him, in Adam peace be upon him, in Moses peace be upon, in Noah, in Abraham, in Ishmael, in Isaac in Joseph in David peace be upon them all. If any Muslim rejects faith in any of these messengers he ceases to be a Muslim. But what we believe is that these messengers were only sent for a particular group of people at a particular time period, and their complete message was not sent for the whole of humanity but was only sent for a specific group of people at that time period.” (www.islamicoutlet.com)

What exactly do Muslims believe about Jesus?

• The Bible says Jesus is God, but Muslims believe He was only an APOSTLE

John 20:28, “Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (GW)

Surah 5:75, “The Messiah, son of Marium is but an apostle…”

Surah 5:17, “Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely, Allah – He is the Messiah, son of Marium.”

• The Bible says Jesus is the Son of God, Muslims believe He’s only the SON OF MARY

Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (NIV)

Surah 9:30, “The Jews call ’Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!”

The Qur’an uses the phrase “son of Marium” (Mary) the majority of the time when referring to Jesus. The phrase “Son of Mary” is used only once in the New Testament by the Jews who did not believe in Jesus. (Mark 6: 3,7)

Muslims believe that words like father or son imply that God would have to have a wife. They reason that Jesus could not be the son of God since God doesn’t have a wife.

What they fail to understand is that Jesus is God’s Son not in the sense that the Father procreated Him, but rather in the sense

that Jesus Himself is just like the Father in all His characteristics and attributes. The ancient Semitics used the phrase “Son of…” to indicate likeness or sameness of nature and equality of being. This is why when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Jews understood He was
claiming to be God.

John 5:18, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (NIV)

• The Bible says Jesus was crucified, Muslims believe He only ASCENDED TO HEAVEN

Luke 23:33, “When they came to the place called “The Skull,” they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.” (TEV)

Surah 4:157-158, “And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty Wise.”

• The Bible says Jesus is the Savior of the world, but Muslims believe He was only a PROPHET

John 4:14, “God sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (CEV)

Surah 19:30, “He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet.”

Islam doesn’t have a savior, it’s a religion of works. It’s a religion based on rituals rather than a relationship with God. How successful a Muslim is at doing what the Qur’an says determines their eternal fate.

Surah 4:57, “And as for those who believe and do good deeds, We will make them enter gardens…”

The most important of all works whereby a Muslim obtains favor from Allah is by performing the five pillars of Islam. Another way to reach paradise is to die fighting for Allah. Islam is so works-oriented that it even teaches that your good works can actually cancel out your bad ones.

Surah 11:114, “…surely good deeds take away evil deeds; this is a reminder to the mindful.”

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)

So, can you see how all of these currents flow together to bring us to where we are today?

Let me make a couple of observations, and then we’ll be through.

1. The Bible predicted that things like this would happen.

Jesus Himself said, You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. – Matthew 24:6

Elsewhere He said to His Jewish followers: …a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. – John 16:2

Because of their belief in Jihad and Sharia, Islamic Fundamentalism is of threat to us physically. But the real battle is a spiritual one. There is a real, spiritual difference between Islam and Christianity.

2. Our greatest defense in this war is prayer.

The Bible says, For our struggles is not against flesh and blood, but against… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers and intercession be made everyone – for kings, and all those in authority… – 1 Timothy 2:1

3. Compare Jesus’ life and teachings to that

of Mohammed:
Jesus: “This is my command: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
– John 15:12-13

Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love the aggressors. Slay them wherever you find them.
– Sura 2:190-191

I have spent many hours reading about the history of Mohammed and how he commanded people’s deaths, and how his followers went out and converted the world with the sword. And I was just so thankful that the God I serve came down and inside of killing, He healed. And instead of taking life, He laid down His own on our behalf. It was very moving to me as I was singing, “That’s why we praise Him… because He gave His everything.”

And I just said, “God, I’m so glad I serve a God like you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Here’s the Bible’s prediction about Jesus, written 800 years before His coming:
A bruised reed he will not break,
And a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. – Isaiah 42:3

Do you know how fragile those two things are friends?

That’s the kind of God the Bible says governs the earth, and wants to govern your life.

Which one seems best to you?

The more we know, the more obvious the choice is, isn’t it?

So in conclusion I think there are many things we can learn from our Muslim cousins:
Prayer: The dedication of the Muslims in their prayer lives puts us to shame.
The Idea of Being Totally Surrendered to God: Christ followers give it lip service, but to what extent do we really practice it?
Caring for the Poor in our Community: a profoundly Christian concept that I often fail at.
But there are some places that I cannot agree with the Muslims on—the belief that Jesus is not the Son of God for instance. Muslims accept he was born of a virgin but not the son of God. Didn’t Muhammad understand that such a birth teaches us that he is in fact the Son of God?

You can believe in his miracles but didn’t believe what they pointed to? And Muhammad didn’t believe Jesus was crucified to save humanity—yet you don’t understand that the name of Jesus means the one who saves? Or to fail to understand the power of the resurrection.

I have to conclude that the Qur’an robs the gospel of Jesus Christ of its power—the power to save, deliver and give hope. I will never agree with my Muslim cousins on this matter. But I still love them. And I can reach out to them.
Even our own President a few weeks ago during his trip, attempted to reach out

Medina has become the second holiest city for Muslims because this is really where Islam developed.

Medina has become the second holiest city for Muslims because this is really where Islam developed.

to the Muslim population when he said that he believed that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

How can Christians reach out to Muslims?
Discussions about religion with Muslims should not be one-sided. Christians must be willing to listen respectfully and learn about the faith of Islam. Christians should pray that God will touch the heart of their Muslim friends and neighbors and make them open to the Gospel. Rather than trying to engage Muslims in heated debate (which generally is unsuccessful), Christians can reach out through meaningful friendships and relationships with Muslims, demonstrating what Christian love, compassion and forgiveness is all about.

As is usually the case, a Christian’s lifestyle can go a long way toward helping Muslims at least to consider the possibility of the Christian faith. On the other hand, if Muslims witness behaviors that are unloving and reflect a prejudice against them this can turn them away.
You can share with your Muslim friends: God is a God of love and mercy, who gives us forgiveness freely, as a gift, because of Jesus, who is the Son of God, not merely a human prophet.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20 Msg.
We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.

I could have gone with 3 Parts, but I will finish here.

PRAYER:
Lord Jesus, I thank you for your love, mercy, grace and the gift of life. Help me to reflect your love to my Muslim cousins should I ever have the opportunity. Help me to learn from them, but help to have opportunities to share with them the fullness of your Good News. Make me your ambassador, your representative in the process of reconciliation among all people. Amen.

For your information, Arabic names and their English equivalents:

Allah = God
Ibrahim = Abraham
Ilyas = Elias
Injeel = Gospel
Isa = Jesus
Jibreel = Gabriel
Marium = Mary
Musa = Moses
Nasrani = Christian
Qarun = Koran
Taurat = Torah
Yahudi = Jew
Yusuf = Joseph
Xakariya = Zarcharias

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Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

Islam

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 7, (Continue)

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

All of us have become very aware of the world religion called Islam. Words like jihad, ayatollah, martyr, and Allah are commonly heard on TV, radio and talked about in American households. The question is,  “Who are these people, the Muslims? Where did they come from? What do they believe?”

Before we dive into the material, I want to say something about the nature of this part of the series. My purpose in these two messages 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.”

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.

So let’s talk about Islam and let me share some historical perspective on this religion.

The name “Islam” means “submission,” or “surrender.” in Arabic.
People who are surrendered are called “Muslims,” because in Arabic, “Muslim,” means “one who is submitted.” to the will of God. Specifically, Muslims are submitted to Allah, the name that has come to stand for the one true God in Islamic understanding.

Today, Islam is the second largest and fastest-growing religion in the world. It claims to have 1.2 billion followers, (one out of every five people) or about 20% of the world’s population. In comparison, all of Christianity, with all its denominations, has about 1.8 billion followers. A United Nations demographic report forecasts Muslims will represent at least half of the global birthrate after the year 2055.

Because of their practice of polygamy (every man can have up to 4 wives, as long as he loves them all equally), and the encouragement they receive to sire large families, where the world’s population doubles every 40 years, Islam’s population doubles every 26 years. and because of the number of recent immigrants to this country, Islam is now overtaking Judaism as the second largest religion in America.

Although Islam was born in Arabia, today most Muslims are not of Arab descent. Indonesia has 172 million Muslims, 83% of its population; Pakistan has 137 million Muslims, 97% of its population; Bangladesh has 107 million Muslims, 87% of its population; India has 138 million Muslims, 14% of its population. Islam is the second largest religion in Europe (over 12 million) and if it had not been for Charles Martel, who defeated the Muslim armies at the Battle of Tours (France) in 732, possibly all of Europe would have fallen to Islam. According to Muslim leaders, there are more than 6 million Muslims in the United States, a little less than half the size of our nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 15 million followers.

An October 8, 1990 article in the U.S. News And World Report stated that Islam is growing at a rate of 400% per year in the U.S.A. Muslims are found in all 50 states with the greatest concentrations in California, the Northeast and Midwest. The oldest mosque in the U.S. was built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1934 and is still in use. Today there are over 3,000 mosques in the U.S. with new ones being built every week. In all, over 65 nations in the world today are Islamic.

Islam is the world’s youngest major world religion that came into existence 1400 years ago. It claims, however, to be the restoration of original monotheism and truth and thus claims to supersede both Judaism and Christianity.

The Founder = Mohammed, who is believed to be the last and great prophet of Allah. No one knows the exact date of Mohammed’s birth, but we can narrow it down to within a few years of 570 A.D. [Born 570A.D. in Mecca]. – lived 570 – 632 A.D.

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is believed by Muslims to be the last and greatest prophet of God. Mohammed taught that Jesus was a prophet, though a lesser one. According to Islam, there have been approximately 124,000 prophets throughout history. Jesus has a special place in Islam, though, in that Muslims believe that Jesus will one day return and preach to the world again. There belief is that, upon his second coming, Jesus will appear as a Muslim, urge all of his followers to convert to Islam, and then he will unleash his sword, destroying all churches and synagogues, and killing all Christians and Jews who have not converted before he turns the leadership of the world back over to Mohammed.

Let’s review the timeline for Biblical events in relation to Muhammad. The NT was completed by 100 AD, so Muhammad was born after that in 570. The Qur’an was complied after his death in 632 AD.

Muhammad was born in what is known as Saudi Arabia in the city of Mecca, along the Arabian peninsula. It was an oasis town of about 3000 inhabitants, not far from the coast of the Red Sea. He lived in difficult circumstances. According to historians who recorded Mohammed’s life approximately 100 years later, Mohammed was born into a minor branch of a Bedouin caste of merchant traders called the “Quraysh” .  His father (Abdulla) died before he was born and his mother when he was 6 years old. He went to live with his grandfather who died after the next 2 years. Then he was reared by an uncle named Abu Talib. He grew up in a respected family but lived in poverty. Although it’s not certain, many biographers say that Mohammed’s uncle, or at least the extended family he was part of were the care-takers for a black meteorite called the “Ka’ba Stone”

He was a native of Mecca the site of a sacred shrine “the Kabah” which was the center of idol worship in his day and time. They had 360 gods and the Moon-god was their chief deity. The “Kabah” was a cubed shaped building—“Kabah” means cube. The Kabah contained a black stone (probably a meteorite) One of the ways they worshiped was by making a pilgrimage to visit this stone. Mohammed taught that Abraham had placed the stone there and made it one of the holiest relics of the Muslim faith. which is still regarded as a holy object by Muslims today and it has become the holiest city of the Islamic peoples .

Muhammad worked as a merchant since Mecca was the center of the trade caravans. At the age of 25, Muhammad married his 40 year old, wealthy, widowed employer. of his clan named Khadijah. He proved very adept at running her family’s business. Together he and Khadijah had 6 children, 4 healthy daughters and 2 sons who died in infancy. After Khadijah’s death, Mohammed married several more wives.

His newfound wealth allowed him the leisure pursue his interest in religion. Each year he spent the month of Ramadan in a cave meditating. He was drawn to the Jews and Christians who worship only one God and not all the plethora of gods that were being worshiped in his city.

Mohammed did a lot of praying on his own, in solitude, often in caves and, over time, began to hear what he believed was the voice of God. One night, in 610 Mohammed had a visitation which he believed to be the angel Gabriel which told him “In the name of thy Lord the Creator, who created mankind from a clot of blood, recite!”

Mohammed memorized what the vision told him to recite and began relating what he heard in subsequent visitations to his family and friends.

According to Islamic tradition, different fragments of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad verbatim by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years (Surah 25:32; 17:106). After each occasion, Muhammad recited these words to those present. Many of Muhammad’s devout followers memorized these portions as they were revealed.
In Surah 73:1-7 we are told that Muhammad’s scribes wrote these revelations on “pieces of paper, stones, palm-leaves, shoulder blades, ribs and bits of leather.”

Prophet Muhammad, was selected to be the prophet, the Qur’an is thought to be revealed to him through Gabriel and other ways. And it was a quote at a time. And today it is the same Qur’an that we have as was 1,400 plus years ago. He was illiterate. He could not read or write. And then this revelation came to this illiterate man. He conveyed it to his followers and they recorded it at that time. And many millions of Muslims have memorized the Qur’an word for word, and even the pronunciation the way it was pronounced by Prophet Muhammad.

The word Qur’an means “recitations” which is based on the angel Gabriel supposedly instructing Muhammad to recite the revelations he received. In length, the Qur’an is slightly shorter than the New Testament (four-fifths its length) and contains 114 chapters called Surahs. Eighty-six of the chapters were revealed during the time Muhammad was in Mecca and 28 while he was in Medina. Each chapter is divided into verses (ayat).

The surahs are not placed in any type of chronological or logical order. They are generally arranged according to their length with the exception of the first one, which functions more as a short introductory prayer. Muslims dare not touch this sacred book without first being washed and purified. Neither do they ever hold it below their waist.

When Muhammad died, Muslims were convinced that God’s revelations to the world were completed.
One of the hallmarks of Islam is the belief that the Qur’an is a miracle from God because no error, alteration, or variation has touched it since its inception. However, history indicates that there were several differing texts before the final copy was delivered to the Muslim people.

About one year after Muhammad’s death, many of those who could recite the Qur’an by memory had been killed in various battles. As a result, Omar, the second caliph (successor) of Islam, ordered the compiling of the Qur’an because he feared that the knowledge of it might fade away.

Muhammad developed the conviction that he had been ordained a Prophet and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan, polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence, idolatry, hedonism and materialism.

Eventually, he became disgusted with the idolatry that had permeated his society and attempted to rid Arabia of all idol worship. The Arabian tribes disliked this and, as a result, forced him to leave Mecca after preaching against idolatry in that city. He then fled to Medina on July 16, 622 to establish his Muslim community. This became known as the migration of The Hijra—or Muhammad and his followers, including his wife.  This date also marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. This date also marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. So this is not 2004 for the Muslims but the year 1424, which is based on a lunar calendar as the Jewish calender is.

Mohammed began telling his friends that of all the gods they were worshiping, only one, the god they called, “Allah” was the true God and demanded absolute submission to himself. In addition, he taught that God had called him as Allah’s last and great prophet.

His first converts were his wife, a favorite slave whom he had freed, and his cousin Ali. As his number of followers grew, the city fathers in Mecca started to become uneasy. So in 622 he left Mecca for an oasis settlement 250 miles north called, “Yathrib,” which, once he had gained power there, he renamed, “Medina.” “Medina” means “City of the Prophet.”

Medina has become the second holiest city for Muslims because this is really where Islam developed.

Aside-note – Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest city. They revere the site where Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Isaac. They also believe that as Mohammed was dying, God transported him to that site and from there took him to heaven. That site happens also to be the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, where the original Jewish Temple had been. So Jews and Muslims to this day dispute over the Temple Mount area, making for all sorts of tensions between them.

In Medina, Mohammed preached about all manner of things, both religious and secular. For Islam, there is no distinction between the two. All aspects of life are governed by doctrines of faith. So Mohammed taught on matters of marriage and divorce, inheritance, punishments for theft, treatment of the poor, even questions of diet and personal hygiene. And he carefully spelled out how relationships should go between his followers and nonbelievers.

As Mohammed spoke, his followers would memorize his words, or scratch them on parchment or palm leaves or pieces of leather. 100 years later, his followers would take these oral remembrances and various written fragments to compile the Koran, the authoritative book of the Muslim religion.

Chief among Mohammed’s teachings was that at sunrise, sunset, and three other times during the day, Muslims should prostrate themselves towards Jerusalem and offer prayers to Allah.

At first the people there in Medina, welcomed him, but eventually they too turned against him. As a result, Mohammed gathered an army and conquered the surrounding tribes and forced them to accept his religion at sword point.

Mohammed began having conflict with some of the Jewish tribes who inhabited Medina. So one by one, he exiled them from the city. The final Jewish tribe, named the Banu Qurayza so infuriated him by fraternizing with his enemies that he slaughtered all 800 adult males and sold their women and children into slavery.

With that history of conflict, once his forces had forced Mecca to surrender to him, he instructed his followers from then on to no longer face Jerusalem when they prayed, but to face Mecca. From its inception, Islam was an aggressive religion. This spirit of conquering and converting eventually led to the idea of jihad or “holy war” which was the primary means of the spread of Islam in its early years.

According to one book I read, (and this is a little hard to believe, so I’ll read it right from the text.) “It was in the time-honored tradition of the desert for a people in need to attain their material requirements by raiding.” – The March of Islam, p. 37

During one raid in which the Muslims were outnumbered 3 to 1, the Prophet decreed, Not one who fights this day and bears himself with steadfast courage.. shall meet his death without Allah bringing him to paradise!”
With that incentive, they routed the superior force, and Mohammed instantly became a widely admired figure, his fame spreading throughout the Bedouin tribes.

At this point, the messages he received about the Qur’an began to change—they became focused on ordering society and the laws of society. He now was more a political leader over an Islamic state than spiritual leader. Eventually he returned to Mecca after battles with armies there.

Mohammed died on June 8, 632. At the time of his death in 632 A.D., all of Arabia was under Mohammad’s control and ruled by the teaching of Islam. In only 100 years after his death, Islam had spread throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East; eventually it conquered Spain, Turkey, India and also part of China.

This caused great conflict amongst his followers. Some believed that the movement should continue with one of Mohammed’s relatives as successor. Still others believed that in Arabic tribal tradition, the most able man should be chosen as successor. This argument gave rise to the two great factions of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, and their argument continues to this day.

The larger faction chose a friend of Mohammed’s named “Abu Bakr” as his successor. Within 2 years, Abu Bakr had not only subdued all those who had defected at the death of Mohammed, but his generals had conquered all of Arabia.

From there, Abu Bakr and his generals and successors then conquered Palestine and Syria. From there they swept east and overcame the Persian empire. Moving north, they began eating up Byzantine territory, and riding west, they conquered Egypt, then Tunisia, Carthage, and all the way to Morocco on the Atlantic shores. From there they turned northward and conquered Spain in the name of Allah.

Within a hundred years they had enveloped 2/3s of the Mediterranean, most of Asia Minor parts of India and to the borders of China.

Per Mohammed’s instructions, Jews and Christians, “people of the book,” as he called them, were allowed to practice their religion by paying a head tax to the Muslim state. If they converted, they were exempt from the tax. Pagan peoples, people who worshiped multiple gods were given the choice of converting to Islam or death.

The only thing that stopped Islam from taking over the then-known world were the Frankish tribes of France on the west and the Byzantine Christians of Constantinople on the east.

After that, they continued their advancing more slowly, reaching a peek in the 12th century, fostering great works of architecture, astronomy, mathematics, and poetry, while keeping alive the classic works of Plato and Aristotle and other greats.

In the 14th century there was a new burst of conquering fervor as the Turkish people’s of central Asia were converted. One of their tribal leaders, Othman, founded the Ottoman Empire, which sacked Constantinople in 1453 and had pushed on to Vienna by 1529 and came again to try to sack it in 1683. According to most modern historians, only the bravery of the Austrians and Poles kept Islam from conquering Europe at that time.

The Ottoman Empire ended in 1922 when the British and French partitioned all of their lands into smaller, more governable provinces with names like, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and so on.

Where we stand today [Islam Today] is that in 1917 there were 600,000 Arabs and 80,000 Jews living in Palestine. The Arabs thought that was too many Jews, but during and after WW II, Jews began pouring into Palestine to create a homeland for themselves.

Muslims, remember, consider Jerusalem to be their third holiest city, so they didn’t really like that. And of course, native Palestinian Arabs weren’t real keen on sharing their limited land and resources with all this religious and racial outsiders. By 1945 Jewish and Arab terrorism and guerilla warfare was going on in Palestine and the British decided to disentangle themselves from the whole region. Fighting between the two factions grew fiercer. The British withdrew on May 14, 1948 and Israel declared itself a nation.

Israel was immediately recognized by the United States, and immediately at war with Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. As Israel’s Prime Minister, Ben Gurion was declaring independence, his generals were fighting off enemies in every direction.

Israel has been attacked by her neighbors three times, and every time she has both beaten them back and expanded on her original 1948 territorial boundaries.

That has been a growing source of frustration for her Arab neighbors.

In addition, the Unites States has always been Israel’s closest ally, strongest financial backer, and representative on the Security Council of the United Nations.

In the early part of the 20th century, American companies began drilling for oil all over the Middle East. The Standard Oil Company was reaping such huge profits from their business with these countries that one after another, starting with Iran in 1951, each Arab nation nationalized all oil interests in their countries, taking over all ownership, control of flow, and all the profits from their oil fields.

Since that time, their wealth has been steadily increasing, their populations rising substantially, and they have educated their brightest and best in all the great universities of the west.

So that, in recent years, they have begun to possess the wealth, manpower, and know-how to not only export Islam, but their more extreme elements have been able to increasingly do things that express their frustration with the world and the way they perceive themselves to be treated by the west.

Of particular consider to conservative Muslims is the corruption of the world by western consumerism with our emphasis on materialism and sensualism and secularism.

The PILLARS of Islam

Islam is primarily a religion built upon human effort or works. The most important works or duties that are acknowledged by Muslims can be summed up in what are commonly referred to as the “Five Pillars of Islam.”

1. The duty of the CREED – The first duty of every Muslim is to “bear witness” which is done by sincerely reciting their creed before at least two witnesses in order to become a Muslim. A faithful Muslim will repeat this creed constantly thereafter. The Muslim creed consists of these words: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.”

2. The duty of PRAYER – All Muslims submit to a very rigorous prayer regimen on a daily basis. Five times a day Muslims respond to the call to pray. No matter where they might be, Muslims face toward Mecca, place their forehead on the ground and then recite prescribed prayers. They do this at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk and two hours after sunset. Then every Friday, they are required to meet in the Mosque to pray and hear a sermon. Muslims are required to say up to 17 ritualistic and repetitious prayers every day. These prayers involve confession of sins which begins with the purification of the body and ends in the purification of the soul.

3. The duty to FAST – During the Islamic month of Ramadan (the ninth lunar month of the Islamic year) Muslims commemorate Muhammad’s receiving of the Qur’an by abstaining from foods, liquids, and sexual intercourse during daylight hours. They are allowed to partake of these though from sunset to sunrise during this time.

4. The duty to give ALMS – Muslims are required to give 2.5% (one-fortieth) of their income to the poor and needy.

5. The duty of the PILGRIMAGE – Every Muslim is expected to make a trip to

Mecca the site of a sacred shrine, the Kabah, The Kabah contained a black stone.

Mecca the site of a sacred shrine, the Kabah, The Kabah contained a black stone.

Mecca at least once in their lifetime, provided they are physically and financially able to do so. Those who are unable to do so personally, may perform this duty by proxy.

Recently there has been much said about the Islamic jihad which literally means “struggle.” Some say that the jihad is a sixth pillar of Islam and one that is looked upon differently by the various factions in this religion. For instance, extremists interpret jihad as literal warfare against non-Muslims, and believe that Muslims who die in a holy war are assured of a place in paradise. Moderates suggest that the jihad refers to specific battles mentioned in the Qur’an fought by Muhammad against his enemies (non-Muslims) and should not be applied universally or taken literally for today. They say that jihad can apply to leading a virtuous life, helping other Muslims through charity, education, or other means; preaching Islam; and fighting to defend Muslims.

When asked if the Islamic jihad refers to a “holy war” Muslims living in the West frequently quote the Qur’an in Surah 2:256 which says, “There is no compulsion in religion.” However, the last ten years of Muhammad’s life was lived in almost constant warfare converting people to Islam and also the Qur’an condones violence and contains many violent statements towards those who are not Muslim. For instance:

Surah 2:216, “Fighting is enjoined on you, and it is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (Continued on next Sermon)

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