03 September 2010

Who IS Jesus?

Seems like silly question for a pastor to ask, but I find it more abundantly important today more than ever.

When we get into conversations with non-believers, one of the first things that draws them to learn more is the conviction of their sin. This is a work of the Holy Spirit not us. Understanding that they have sinned, and understanding that they have sinned against God that has authority over them makes sense to a lot of people. Once they come to that understanding, they next step is to understand a need for forgiveness of that sin- what we call salvation.

“Salvation” is a funny thing. Because in spite of the fact that its Christian meaning is virtually universal in its definition, how we come to receive salvation is where people get tripped up.

To the evangelical Christian, Salvation can only be had one way. Through the biblical Jesus, and belief in Him as your openly means to salvation by faith, through the grace of God. Why do we believe this? Because this is what scripture clearly teaches. Today we are seeing a wide variety of ways to salvation being perpetrated against the Christians in America by an equally wide variety of media faces.

John Travolta and Tom Cruise have their scientological views on salvation. Oprah and Eckhart Tolle have their views on the subject. The Dali Lama has been all over TV as of late. Now, we are dealing with the Mormon theology being shoved in the faces of Americans and being sold as orthodox Christianity. This is a real danger to Christians in America. Why? Because our foundation on the truth of biblical Christianity has been eroded to the point where not only has the foundation been exposed, it has been washed away.

In a recent discussion of this topic with some friends and fellow pastors, one man had this wisdom to offer:

“It occurred to me… that very few people today are familiar with Walter Martin’s ministry. Walter in his book “Kingdom of the Cults” and his radio programs, inculcated into a lot of us who were around at that time a framework with which to judge what is a cult and what is not, what is orthodox Christianity and what heresy.”

One of the things that he taught so clearly by Dr. Martin was that every one of those groups that we should consider heretical and a cult, had a misconception about the nature of God. Heresy follows a misconception about the nature of God. Here we are today having a debate about who Jesus is. I wonder why?

The Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus is “Michael the arc angle” (and thus he could not have paid the price for mankind’s sins not being our kinsman redeemer), the Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is a created being and the spirit brother of Lucifer (and thus he could not have paid for our sins either because he is not our kinsman redeemer), etc., etc. Walter for a very long time refused to consider Roman Catholicism a cult because it held a proper view of the nature of God, although it is steeped in works salvation, but he reconsidered this later on including them in the discussion, but without the brand of “Cult”.

Who you believe Jesus Christ is determines his ability to save; in other words, the source of your salvation. Believing in another Jesus is to believe in another gospel, and the first chapter of Galatians tells us that if anyone comes to us delivering us another gospel than the one Paul and the disciples had taught, and that they (the Galatians) and we have received, that we are to consider him “anathema” (headed for hell).

Because Walter Martin and his ministry have faded so far to the background, I think that a lot of people today are not concerned if someone believes in any old Jesus (however you want to define him) for salvation. Our current media darlings are often perpetrating a hoax on us; sometimes deliberately, and sometimes from the behind the blinded eyes of one fooled by the enemy. We must show grace, and we must have compassion, but we must not be blind ourselves to the results of those misleadings either way - in the lives of those precious children of God we call our friends and family.

Otherwise, Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and whoever else comes along teaching or believing in a different Jesus, is going to get a foothold in people’s lives. In our commission of making disciples, we are tasked with pointing out heresy. Unfortunately, those who fight to defend truth are often branded as evil because to point to heresy, we must also point fingers at those teaching it. Funny thing is, Jesus did exactly that. Ask the Pharisees.

31 August 2010

Purpose Part #2: Corporate/Chuech Purpose

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

What is often called the Great Commission is an excellent place to start when dealing with the purpose of the church. It is just the beginning of defining the purpose of the church, but this verse, accompanied by a couple others really help to take what is a very large and seemingly insurmountable task, and putting it in simple terms that should call us all into action.

When Jesus spoke these words He was speaking to the foundation of the New Testament church; His disciples. At this point just eleven of them, and these same men would soon be ‘elevated’ to the position of Apostles. These were the men, along with Saul of Tarsus who would become our beloved Apostle Paul, would take the message of the gospel to all the corners of the known world. By their retelling of the gospel story as firsthand observers, by their confessing to its truth, by their expounding of the words of Jesus - the world would be changed forever as the foundations of the Christian church, the Body of Christ, would be laid by their hands, and their blood. Yes, Jesus died so that we might be saved, but these Apostles (with the exception of John) also gave their blood, and their lives so that the church might live and that you and I would have the opportunity to become part of it.

How did these men do this? By making disciples. By baptizing. By teaching. Solid leadership makes disciples, but solid leadership without a continued zeal towards seeing that those who are discipled are nurtured pointless.

How many of you remember Pathagrium’s Theory? Can you tell me why the name Pavlov is famous? If Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is so important to mankind, how is it that so few of us can define and explain it? I don’t ask these questions to make us feel in adequate, or to show that these things are so important to world events that we should be shamed for not knowing the answers. I ask it just to prove the point that if any of us felt as though our lives, our futures, our eternity relied on knowing the answers to those questions, don’t you think that we’d have kept studying them? And more to the point, if we felt the lives of our friends, family and children was totally dependent on them getting the right answers when asked about those questions, don’t you think that we’d have been teaching it to them over and over and over?

The life of every single man woman and child is dependent on God. If we took our work in fulfilling the Great Commission as seriously as it really is, we’d not only know our purpose as a church, we’d be living it. Yes, our purpose as a church is to work together as a body to make disciples, but it is more. It is to continue to teach them, to help them grow. If you look at today’s verse it is not just to make disciples, but we have been commanded to teach them.

Paul does an excellent job in defining what is going on here in his letter to the Ephesian church in chapter 5

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Each being different parts of the body, we are all called to do something. None of us are called to sit on the sideline as cheerleaders. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard, “Oh I’m not an evangelist (or a missionary [or insert Christian work here…]), but I support those who are.” Really? How? Giving money to help fund church activities and missionaries and the spreading of the gospel is vitally important, don’t get me wrong, even the smallest local congregation has bills that must be paid, but God has called us to be ‘busy at His work’, to ‘not be slothful’, and to make disciples. We do this as a TEAM, as the BODY OF CHRIST. We must all be at this work together. We work to knit ourselves together, to equip each other, edify each other, all for the work for the ministry. THIS is our purpose as a church, as the Body.

Be strong. Be strong in the word. Be bold in declaring not only your faith but that others need Jesus as well. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can defend yourself against the world. Be equipped. Teach those who God has put in your sphere of influence. Be the body.