Wednesday, August 27, 2014

HOW MANY WITNESSES DOES IT TAKE?

When one's life was in the balance, God told Israel that it took at least two witnesses to convict him or her of a crime.  This is repeated over and over again throughout Scripture.  Here are a few examples:

*  Numbers 35:30.
*  Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15.
*  Matthew 18:16.
*  2 Corinthians 13:1.
*  1 Timothy 5:19.
*  Hebrews 10:28.
*  Revelation 11:3.

Let's look at the number of witnesses Jesus Christ had, which saw Him after He had been crucified and buried.  If believing two witnesses should convince a jury of the truth of the charges against a criminal, wouldn't the testimony of two witnesses be sufficient to convince someone that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead?  Well, I have some really good news for those who are struggling with believing the Gospel; there are hundreds of witnesses who testified that they saw the risen Lord!

There are at least six books in the New Testament, written by five different men, which tell us about the resurrection appearances of Christ--Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and 1 Corinthians. At least three of these Bible writers actually saw the risen Lord--Matthew, John and Paul--and thus they wrote from first hand experience.   As we study these inspired documents, we learn that Christ appeared to the following people, in the following order:

*  Christ was first seen by Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9; Jn. 20:1-18).
*  Christ was seen by the women returning from the tomb (Mt. 28:9-10).
*  Christ was seen by Peter (1 Cor. 15:5; Lk. 24:34).
*  Christ was seen by two on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35; Mk. 16:12).
*  Christ was seen by the ten disciples (Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-24; 1 Cor. 15:5).
*  Christ was seen by the eleven disciples (Jn. 20:26-29).
*  Christ was seen by the seven disciples (Jn. 21:1-22.
*  Christ was seen by more than 500 people in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6).
*  Christ was seen by James (1 Cor. 15:7).
*  Christ was seen at His Ascension (Mk. 16:19; Lk. 24:50-51; Acts 1:3-12).

NOTE:  After the Ascension, Christ was also seen by:
              Stephen (Acts 7:55-56).
              Saul (Acts 9:1-7; 1 Cor.9:1; 15:8).
              John (Rev. 1:9-18).

Now, suppose you are asked, "How do you know Jesus rose from the dead?" 
Hundreds saw Him, and billions have had their lives changed by Jesus Christ!
After all, He said, "I AM THE RESURRECTION!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

LUKE: THE GOSPEL OF REPENTANCE

Yesterday, I wrote about the "two-sided coin" we call "salvation."  In Luke 24:47, Jesus told His disciples to preach two things:  repentance and remission.  Perhaps that is why Jesus sent them to preach the Gospel in two's (Lk. 10:1); one would play the "bad cop," and the other would be the "good cop."  The first would inform the lost about their guilt and its consequences, and the other would offer them the hope of salvation found through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 2:8).

It is clear from Scripture that Jesus' mission was to save souls.  Early in His ministry, He declared, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Lk. 5:32).  When His disciples suggested that fire be called down from heaven on those who challenged Jesus, He replied, "For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Lk. 9:56).

Later, when questioned about some who were killed by Rome, Jesus told them that they were no more righteous than those who were slain.  He said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3).

In His parable of the lost sheep, He contrasted being lost with being repentant:  He said, "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" (Lk. 15:7).

He told those who criticized Him for going to Zacchaeus' house:  "This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:9-10).

Just a side note:  Luke, who was also the author of the Book of Acts, continued his focus upon the lost needing to repent.  He called on Israel to repent (Acts 5:31; 13:24; 19:4), and for the Gentiles as well (Acts. 11:18; 20:21).

Repentance occurs when one hears the Gospel, and believing it, turns from going his own way, to following Jesus.  It is like when the "light bulb" comes on:  you see, for the first time, not only where you are headed, but you also see the Lord beckoning you to follow Him.  It is the greatest "Gestalt Switch" of all.  You no longer see Jesus as a historical figure; you see Him as your Savior, your Lord!  It is like the picture of the frog which "miraculously" turns into a horse's head, or the picture of the old witch that suddenly changes into the picture of a beautiful young woman!  Once you see Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you will never see Him any other way.

"Why seek ye the living among the dead?
He is not here, He is risen!" 





Monday, August 25, 2014

REPENTENCE AND REMISSION OF SINS SAVES

According to Webster's Dictionary, "repentance" is defined as:  "The act of repenting, or the state of being penitent; sorrow for what one has done or omitted to do.  The Blue Letter Bible defines "repentance" as "a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done."  The Greek word, μετάνοια (metanoia), which appears twenty-four times in the New Testament, always refers to one having "a change of mind."

Jesus told His disciples the importance of repentance, when He said, "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:47).  He was clearly stating that remission was just part of the equation.  How important is repentance?  It is equal to remission!  So, what is remission? 

"Remission," as it is used here, means "forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty (The Blue Letter Bible).  It is the "Good News," the Gospel, that Jesus "died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). 

The Gospel is preached to the lost - the lost man believes what the Gospel says (he is a sinner, Jesus died in his place, and God raised Him from the dead to show His sacrifice was acceptable to God - Rom. 1:4) - the lost man changes his mind, that is, he repents and acknowledges Jesus Christ as his Lord!

One might ask, "what caused the man to have a change of mind?"  The answer is two-fold:  for one, the Gospel has the power to change one's mind (Rom. 1:16); and secondly, God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, convicts the lost man of his condition, and the truth of the Gospel.  Jesus said,

It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.  And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.  I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come" (Jn. 16:7-13). 
 
Excluding repentance from the equation, is, in effect, ignoring the work of the Spirit!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

JESUS: RESURRECTED LORD OF THE SAVED

YOU ARE A SINNER
Romans 3:10 - "There is NONE righteous, no, not one."
Romans 3:23 - "For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

THE PENALTY FOR SIN IS DEATH
Ezekiel 18:4, 20 - "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."
Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death."
 
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO WORK YOUR WAY TO HEAVEN
Ephesians 2:9 - "Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Titus 3:5 - "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us."
 
THOSE WHO ARE SAVED, ARE SAVED WHILE STILL IN THEIR SIN
Romans 5:8 - "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Acts 9:1-5 - "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:  and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?  And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutes."
 
SALVATION IS THE GIFT GOD GIVES TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE
Romans 6:23 - "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Ephesians 2:8 - "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
 
WHEN WE BELIEVE THE GOSPEL, WE ARE SAVED
Romans 1:16 - "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
Romans 10:9-10 - "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS!

The Bible begins and ends with information about Jesus Christ.  The first verse, in the first book, says:  "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."  "God," is referring to Jesus!  How do I know?  By looking at what the rest of the Bible says about the act of creation!  We read:

*     "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" (Jn. 1:3).  We know by the context of verse one, verse ten, and verse fourteen, that "Him" is referring to Jesus Christ!
*     "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9).
*     "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him:  and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:16-17).  Again, the context of the chapter is about Jesus.
*     "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2).
*     "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11).

As I stated above, the Bible ends focused upon Jesus:

*     "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.  And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.  And let him that heareth say, Come.  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:16-17, 20).

I can hear the devil whispering in your ears, "What about everything in between?"  Jesus answered that Himself:

*     "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Lk. 24:27)!

Friday, August 22, 2014

WAITING TO BE SAVED IS EXTREMELY RISKY

Some teach that those who do not get saved prior to the Rapture, have no hope of being saved after the Rapture, a view based upon a misunderstanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, which says: 

"And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:  that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

But that makes no sense.  God specifically speaks of two human ministries which will proclaim the Gospel during the Tribulation.  In Revelation 7:4-17, John writes of 144,000 sealed witnesses; twelve thousand from each of the twelve Tribes of Israel.  Later, in Revelation 14:1-5, the 144,000 are mentioned as having been martyred during the Tribulation, perhaps just as the Lord's witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12.  There, John tells us of two witnesses who are killed for preaching the Gospel, but that God resurrects them, and they ascend into heaven (further witness that their testimony is true)!

God's proclamation of the Gospel during the Tribulation is not limited to human beings; He has an angel whose mission is to warn the world.  John wrote: 

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Rev. 14:6-7).

Again, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 describe individuals who reject the Gospel during the Tribulation.  They are not talking about people who reject the truth before the Rapture.  These are people who willfully decide to follow the devil's man (see the context of 2 Th. 2:3-9).  These are people who reject the truth and receive the LIE that the man of sin is to be honored as God, and worshiped.  These are those who deliberately choose to take the mark of the beast and worship this evil man. According to Revelation 14:9-11, those who take the mark cannot be saved. Their destiny is Hell. Thus, during the Tribulation, those who willfully identify with the devil's man are doomed (2 Th. 2:12).  In that day the issue will be very clear: worship God (Rev. 14:6-7) or worship the devil's man (Rev. 14:9-11).  One's choice will determine one's eternal destiny.

If a person refuses to believe on Christ prior to the Rapture, there is still hope that he will trust Christ after the Rapture.  However, it is always dangerous to reject the truth, no matter when you live.  The time to be saved is today, not tomorrow.  The time to believe is now.

 
"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation!"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

SAVING FAITH: BELIEVING THE GOSPEL

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten, and cast into prison in the city of Philippi (v.19-24).  The Word says that at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to the Lord, loud enough for everyone to hear (v. 25).  Following an earthquake which released all the prisoners, the jailer, fearing he would be blamed, was about to kill himself (v. 26-27).  Paul stopped him by telling him all the prisoners were still there (v. 28).  When he had verified that none had escaped, and having heard the prayers and praises of the two men, realizing they were obviously men of God, he asked:  "...Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  Their answer was:  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." (v. 29-30)!

Because one must hear and believe the Gospel in order to become a born again child of God (Jn. 1:12; 3:3-21; 16:7-15; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-4), one might speculate that Paul and Silas incorporated the Gospel message in their prayers and praises.  Perhaps they did, but the context tells us that they "spake unto him the Word of the Lord..." (v. 32).  Romans 10:17 says, "...faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Some are quick to point out that "the thief on the cross" did not hear the Gospel, and yet Jesus told him he "was saved," which is basically the same thing as being with Jesus in paradise (Lk. 23:43).  However, let's look at what the "good thief" knew.  He, like the Centurion, knew that the man hanging on the cross next to him, must have been the Son of God (Mt.27:54; Mk. 15:39), and there was even a sign above His head that declared it in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (Lk. 23:38)!

He basically knew the Gospel:  Jesus was dying, and based upon his statement, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Lk. 23:42), he also knew Jesus would rise from His grave!  He called Jesus Lord!  He knew of His pending death, naturally followed by His burial, and that He would be resurrected - is that not the Gospel? 

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand....For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:1-4)!

Have you heard?  Do you believe?  Do you long for Christ's return? 
That is the faith which saves!