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God Has Spoken

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Although it might seem like just another year, 2017 marks a special anniversary for a historic event. Five hundred years ago, in 1517, a monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed His ninety-five thesis to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany. Appalled by the Roman Catholic Church's horrific twisting of God's word, Martin Luther felt compelled to oppose the tyranny.

When his list of contentious points was discovered by the people, a wildfire of argument and discussion broke out and eventually led to what we now know today as the Protestant Reformation. Out from this era of spiritual awakening came five Latin phrases: "Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone), “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone), “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone), “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone), and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory). Although these concepts of grace, faith, Scripture might seem commonplace to you, they were life-saving rediscoveries during this bleak period. 

Although all of these points of doctrine are absolutely essential for retaining Christian orthodoxy, there is one of them that lays a firm foundation for the rest to stand upon, and without it we would kill ourselves by doing what is right in our own eyes, no matter how noble the intentions might be. 

Sola Scriptura basically teaches that the Bible alone is are highest authority. This doctrine does not sympathize with any teaching, tradition, or idea that can't point to a chapter and verse to establish it's validity. Your bright ideas, creative solutions, and innovative tactics concerning life, godliness, and church must all bow the knee before "Thus saith the LORD."

God has spoken.

His word is true. His voice expects to be obeyed. Divine retribution is extended to those who think lightly of this authority. However, don't take my word for it. Let’s examine this ancient book to see if that's what it claims. 

As we peek inside this library of heavenly revelation, we find this issue of authority to be of critical importance extremely early on in the biblical story. The first conflict of the human mind between good and evil is fought in the historic battleground of Eden. God made the heavens and the earth and it was all very good. Man enjoyed a blissful paradise as long as he submitted himself to God's word concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:15–17).

However, you know how the story goes. All of that happiness ended when mankind doubted God's Word and bought the Serpent's lie, "has God really said...?" (Gen 3:1). Because they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, all the sons of Adam are born hostile towards their Creator.

Let's consider another example. This one was recorded for us by Moses in Leviticus 10. The nation of Israel has just been redeemed from the iron clutches of Egyptian oppression by the sovereign hand of their omnipotent God. Now at Mount Sinai, Yahweh is revealing His perfect law to the people in very specific details. Observe what happens when we think lightly of the Consuming Fire's written Word: Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.' So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” Leviticus 10:1-3 NASB. What is happening here? Has God gone off the deep end? Isn't this a bit of an overreaction? The crux of issue is that of worth. When you or I think lightly of or disobey God's clear commands, it necessarily portrays a low view of our Maker.

We're basically saying to the world that God is not worth the time of day. This type of attitude tells our peers that the uncreated One is of so little consequence that it really doesn't matter if you take Him seriously. That is why He says "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored" (Lev 10:3).

At this point in the article, you might be tempted to think that the current New Testament era in which we live is void of this kind of language. Please don't kid yourself. Our God, the LORD, does not change (Mal 3:6). Jesus had stern words for those who let their customs overrule what was written:

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.' He answered them, 'And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, "Honor your father and your mother," and, "Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die." But you say, If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father." So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the Word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"” Matthew 15:1–9 ESV

If we allow the commandments of men, no matter how good the intentions may be, to dictate the way we do worship, church, evangelism, marriage, family, and the preaching of the gospel, then we'll be nothing more than a people who honor Christ with our lips while our hearts are far from Him.

This scarlet thread of supreme loyalty to the voice of our good Shepherd is seen distinctly in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. When departing for Jerusalem, Paul warned the elders from Ephesus that from among their own selves false teachers would arise. His last words of wisdom commended them to God and the word of His grace (Acts 20:32). Paul commanded young Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of scripture (1 Tim 4:13) and to the teaching and preaching of that scripture (2 Tim 4:1-2). Paying close attention to the book ensured salvation for the teacher and the taught (1 Tim 4:16).

Much more biblical evidence could be investigated, but I hope that you are beginning to see what the Bible thinks of itself. Israel wanted to be like other nations, and God drove them into exile because of it. Today churches want to be thought of as relevant and cool, so we try to dumb down the gospel so that people won't be offended by it. If you're afraid to take God at His word, you'll lose the saving message of the cross faster than you can say apostasy.

If you do a little research, then you'll find out that this is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church was doing. No Biblical literacy among the common man added with the fact that the Pope's words were considered to be of equal weight as God's word gave birth to a horrible damning man-made religion of works.

How then shall we escape if we neglect this so great salvation? Let us heed this Divine mandate: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15 ESV).

God has spoken. Your responsibility is to abide in His Word. Remember your beloved Savior and the immeasurable riches of His love towards you. Let Calvary capture your heart and compel you to stay faithfully following your King.

We're saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in scripture alone to the glory of God alone!

in Kids

My Sunday School Teacher

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I vividly remember all of those Sunday mornings almost thirty years ago. The paint in the room was forever being touched up, leaving me with a perpetual sting in my nose. The linoleum was chipped in more places than not, and my big Sunday School room could easily be partitioned into several smaller rooms with the rickety accordion divider. Didn’t all churches in the eighties use accordion dividers?

My classmates were the same boys and girls I had grown up with through nursery. The boy who always answered every question first. The super blonde kid who was picked up by the church bus every Sunday morning and dropped off at home every Sunday afternoon. I never met his parents. The brunette girl who never let me have the markers I wanted to use to color in the shepherd staff or Jesus’ beard. My best friend in Sunday School, the girl who I sat next to in class every week. We were all there.

Our teacher was a woman in her early thirties. Back then, perms were the way to wear your hair and she was no exception. She often wore a long cotton skirt and some kind of sleeveless shirt. Our old church building didn’t have air conditioning and our upstairs Sunday School rooms could be sweltering. Hot to the point of summoning ancient smells from the water damaged ceiling tiles.

I remember how strong her arms were as she led us in games and held high the weekly teaching picture. Every week she would gather us in a circle and read to us from the Bible. I learned about how God created the Earth and everything in it. I listened about Noah and how his family had to board that huge boat in order to survive the flood. I remember being baffled when she explained the Tower of Babel to us. Did those people really think they could build a tower to reach God? As years went on, she revealed more to me about Jesus and His word.

My Sunday School teacher always explained things to us at our level. It wasn’t complicated or overly drawn out. I never learned about great theologians, historical controversies or latin root words. I learned about a man named Jesus and how wonderful He was. I heard about what He did for me on the cross. I put my faith in Him and a seed was planted that, over the years, has continued to grow.

My Sunday School teacher wasn’t magical. As a matter of fact, I found out years later that she had only become a Christian a few years before beginning to teach our class. What she taught us about the Bible was all she knew. It wasn’t profoundly deep, but the impact was.

Her life, much like mine today, was busy. She had several children at home, a part-time job, other commitments, and ample reasons to not help with my Sunday School class. I believe her one reason to say yes far outweighed all of the reasons to say no. My Sunday School teacher was my mom.

Even as a new Believer, she understood how critical, imperative, vital, essential, and necessary it was to plant the seed of the gospel in the hearts of her children and her children’s friends.

Was it convenient? I doubt it.

Was it exhausting? Most likely.

Was it difficult? No more so than any other task we’re asked to step up to as adults.

Was it rewarding? I say yes. Eternally yes.

I was once the little girl in Sunday School who cried when the boy behind me yanked my ponytail... again. I was the girl in Sunday School who had to go to the bathroom five minutes after entering the room. I was the girl in Sunday School who asked my teacher to tie my shoes multiple times in one class period. But most importantly, I was the girl in Sunday School who received a gift. A gift of time, a gift of patience, a gift of deliberate dedication. My mom, as busy as she was, said yes and for that, I’m forever grateful.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Pslam 127:3

in Blogs

Trending Reads | January

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How to Respond to the Refugee Crisis

The scope of today’s refugee crisis is truly unprecedented, affecting nearly 60 million people. Never before have so many been displaced, put in danger, and forced from their homes. In Syria alone, more than half of 22 million people have either been displaced or killed. More than 4 million have fled to neighboring countries. I share these numbers to remind us of the sheer enormity of this crisis...

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6 Attributes of Churches That Make Disciples

IMB exists to partner with churches to empower limitless missionary teams that are evangelizing, discipling, planting, and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. But we know that discipleship does not happen by chance...

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False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines

For the past few years, lists of Christian bestsellers have been topped by a book claiming fresh revelation from Jesus Christ. Before that, they were overrun by books describing people’s purported visits to heaven. And before the heaven tourism fad, there was the best-selling novel that reframed the doctrine of the Trinity. Meanwhile, the largest church in America is led by a man whose platitudes are indistinguishable from fortune cookies. But it’s not just authors and church leaders who are swerving away from the truth. Theologians and laypersons alike are abandoning traditional understandings of manhood and womanhood, of marriage and sexuality. Never has it been more important for Christians to commit themselves to rejecting false doctrine and pursuing sound doctrine, to ensure they are following teachers of truth, not peddlers of error...

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Laying Aside Your Past

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It's a new year, so naturally, everyone is talking about new year’s resolutions! I know, I know, some of you are saying “I made a resolution last year to not make anymore resolutions,” but I’ve got great news for you. Since resolutions are “never kept,” you can make some this year! What can I say, I like lists, so I can’t resists writing down a few things I want to try to accomplish in the new year. If it makes you feel better, you can call them goals (it does make me feel a little better).

As I was reading, I came across a verse that I thought would help me not be discouraged about things I had not yet accomplished because of one difficulty or another.  

I’m sure many of us have heard the encouragement given by Paul in Philippians 3:13: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it [the goal = fully knowing Him]. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

It's considered that that part about “forgetting what is behind” is the idea of forgetting hardships and moving past them, but interestingly enough, the context of this passage can also imply Paul not wanting to allow his past accomplishments to hold him back. He didn’t want to live in the past. He didn’t want to allow himself to use his past successes as excuses for why he didn’t need to continue striving toward knowing Christ fully.

I find that quite fascinating. Quite opposite of what I would think. However, if I consider the times I’ve talked myself out of listening to the extra sermon material because “I already went to the service. We go every week.”, or explained away the idea of doing a short-term mission trip because “I’ve already done missions overseas,” or skipped being involved in a Bible study because, “I’ve already studied that book of the Bible,” I can start to identify with Paul a little. It can be easy to let past “good things” get in the way of future ones that would help us toward the goal of knowing Christ more fully.  

Paul seems to have a way of shedding new light on things (or maybe I should credit the Holy Spirit). Here I was wanting a verse that patted me on the back and said not to worry about past hardships or broken resolutions and keep pressing onward. Instead, my opinion would be that Paul is speaking to the mature in the faith and saying “Hey! Stay active! Be on the move. God has done great things through us, but He isn’t done with us yet.”

So, as you consider some of the things you would like to do this coming year, try not to rule out things that would help you know Christ more fully just because you’ve already done it. Sifting through our past successes can give us perspective, but we don’t have to let it stall us in our walk with Christ.

From the Archive: Getting Off to a Good Start

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As you begin the journey of 2014 2017, no doubt a great first step is to commit to daily Bible reading. As David wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The decisions ahead of you in the next 365 days need not detour you as long as long as Scripture is your guide.

Before you hit the delete button amidst your chuckling, thinking 1) you’ve heard this a thousand times before and 2) at least among believers, this is the second most common new year’s resolution (probably only behind losing weight) and nothing really new, stop and ask yourself some probing questions: Did I faithfully read the Bible last year? What changes would I experience if I increased my intake of God’s Word? Do I really understand the flow and message of Scripture? Have I ever really read the Bible all the way through? Am I being proactive in helping my family/children get the most out of the Bible? Am I really content with my current level of Bible reading and Scriptural meditation?

My guess is that, after pondering those questions, most, if not all of us, would admit we could benefit from an increase in our intake of the Bible. I know I could! So instead of closing out this post, act! Take the first step and start a reading plan. Then voice your intentions to one or more of those closest to you; this will help provide some accountability. Finally, starting today, get off to a good start and begin reading. Whether it’s through this plan we have developed or another one, like this one here described in this insightful post from the Gospel Coalition on the same subject, make today the first day of your 2017 journey through the Bible.

My prayer is that I, and this blog’s readership, continue to become immersed in Scripture and enamored with God; disciples known by their commitment to the Word of God and the passionate worship of God. As our culture, ironically enough, grows increasingly intolerant of biblical Christianity, it will be crucial that Jesus’ true followers know clearly what He said. That’s revealed in the Bible. What do you say we read it like never before? Ready? Set? Read!

Posted by Todd Stiles with 0 Comments

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