Sunday, December 22, 2013

PEACE ON EARTH

EACE ON EARTH December 20, 2013 By Ron Graham December 19, 2013 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14. We see this verse included on so many Christmas cards every year and it always gives me joy to read it. The Heavenly Host pronounced this to the shepherds as they watched over their flocks on the night Christ was born. It seems the angels just couldn’t contain their joy and appeared to men praising God and pronouncing peace on earth. They were announcing the birth of Jesus who would give His life so we can live. He is the only way to peace, but it is up to each of us individually to accept His peace. First let’s take a look at world peace. Is there peace on earth? Have you seen the news lately? We read of wars and rumors of wars, persecution, violence, murder, riots, and on it goes. Where is the peace that the angels sang about? “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. We hear of peace talks, peace treaties, and peace accords. World leaders gather and try to come to some sort of agreement regarding world peace, but the one most important element is missing from the negotiations by world leaders. What is that missing element? It is the Prince of Peace. He is rejected by these world leaders who don’t understand that no true peace will come on this earth until the Prince of Peace rules. “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:15-16.Only when Jesus reigns on earth (and one day He will reign on earth) will this world observe unprecedented peace. That peace will last for 1,000 years. Of course, after that millennium of peace Satan will be unchained and he gets one last chance to deceive the masses. At the end of those 1,000 years of peace, all those who follow Satan and reject Christ will end up in the Lake of Fire forever. That may sound harsh to many of you, but that’s the price of rejecting Christ and His salvation. It isn’t a secret and each individual has a choice. Saber rattling, then wars, and then man’s foolish attempts at establishing peace on earth are a cycle that began thousands of years ago and will continue its cycle until Christ once again steps foot on planet earth and brings real peace with Him. Can anyone really imagine 1,000 years of peace on earth? It’s never been so in the past. Since Adam sinned and he and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden humanity has been in turmoil because it seems easier and more appealing to go the way of the world rather than follow God’s word. As a matter of fact, there have always been wars somewhere on earth. God didn’t want it this way, but knew that sinful man would be at war with one another. He knew that nationally and individually there would be strife. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7. I have a license plate frame on my car that reads “Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace”. That is so true. Peace on Earth is a choice that we each have to make for ourselves. It is inside of us when we become indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but if we do not submit to Christ we will not find His promised peace. Peace comes from being right with God…choosing His ways by denying self and following Him. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34. What does it mean to “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”? Basically each of us is self-centered. We want everything on our own terms. Salvation is wonderful as long as we don’t have to change our ways of doing things. By taking up our cross we see things as Christ does and our choices are based on His ways even if our human self thinks things would be better our way. In order to have the peace which passes understanding, everything in our life needs to be turned over to Jesus. Our choice of friends (are they fellow Christians), job (if you are a Christian you don’t want to be a bartender), entertainment (what do you look at on the web or what movie did you just watch). If Jesus rules our choices, peace will live in our hearts. Since the day Adam sinned we have been separated from God, but as the angels sang about peace on earth, they were proclaiming joy that God was born to reconcile man to Himself. We need to understand that peace will only come through Jesus. Turmoil and unrest are caused by the wrong choices we make. Do you feel angry all the time? Are you confused because you think that once you accepted Christ everything would be perfect? “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. God does not bring confusion. The turmoil, confusion, and anger in our life are there because we make poor choices. When a Christian makes choices based on Christ’s ways there will be peace inside of us no matter what is happening around us. Conflict arises when choices are made that are opposed to Christ’s ways and peace that passes all understanding is forfeited. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”James 3:16. You cannot have Heavenly peace if you are living a worldly lie. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Does it surprise you that Jesus did not promise us peace in the world, but tribulation? He spoke these words to His disciples just before His arrest. He wanted those faithful followers to know that it was not going to be easy to follow Him. Throughout the ages it has not been easy to stay true to Christ. Every born again believer in Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and we should all have peace within us, but for the most part humanity all around the world will never see peace on earth. They are those Christ-rejecters who are endlessly roaming the highways and byways of life completely oblivious to what’s coming – tribulation such as humanity cannot imagine. It isn’t easy to make Godly choices today, but after the Rapture it will be worse. Many in this lost in space crowd have no idea that peace on earth is impossible until the Prince of Peace returns. Jesus Christ will return and establish His Kingdom, His earthly rule as a monarch, our King of kings and Lord of lords. Praise God, can’t wait. Christ promised that after His death He would send the Comforter. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:16-18. The Comforter, that is the Holy Spirit, dwells within every born again Christian and He is our source of peace. Don’t fight Him. Inner conflict happens when a Christian makes choices that are ungodly. This conflict only brings a lack of peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. Unless you submit to Jesus Christ, you will have no peace. Unless you know the Prince of Peace you will never know true peace. God bless you all, Ron Graham

Friday, November 29, 2013

THE SEEDS AND THE SOWER

November 29, 2013 By Ron Graham November 28, 2013 “And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;” Matthew 13:3. Jesus spoke many deep lessons in parables. What is a parable? Well, Strong’s Concordance says “a parable: an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”. Jesus used common examples in His parables that the people could relate to, but the lessons He taught are important. This parable of the sower is easy to understand and most of us can relate to the scattering of seeds because we grow flowers or vegetables. Farmers sow on a larger scale and have large fields in which they plant seeds that will grow into wheat or some other necessary crop. Before planting season they usually have many containers filled with seeds sitting nice and secure in their big old barns. What would happen if farmers would choose not to plant the seeds? What if they just stored the seeds in their barn instead of planting their fields? If the farmer chooses to keep the seeds all to himself his fields will remain barren. Come harvest time what will he have? Seeds. Unplanted seeds just sitting there stored in a barn; nobody would benefit. The farmer in the parable didn’t know where every seed landed…some of the seeds fell on stony ground “Some fell upon stony places where they had not much earth” Matthew 13:5a. Some fell in thorns “And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them.” Matthew 13:7. It was up to the farmer to plant the seeds, not be sure that each seed fell in perfect soil under perfect conditions. So it is with Christians. Like the farmer, Christians have seeds that need to be planted. You and I read and study our Bibles, and some even do so faithfully every day. As we study God’s word we grow in our knowledge of Him and His ways. If we are diligent we acquire a wealth of understanding. What good is all that knowledge if we keep it stored in our personal little barns? We need to plant seeds wherever and whenever we can. The seeds we plant can make the difference between spending eternal life in Heaven or eternal death in Hell for someone who is ready to hear God’s truth. Once we’ve acquired all those seeds of Bible knowledge it’s time to ready ourselves for getting it to the worldly fields of lost souls. What kind of believer would we be if we just kept all that knowledge to ourselves? We would be like a farmer who refused to plant his seeds…deliberately neglectful and very foolish. You see, the knowledge we’ve received from studying God’s word doesn’t actually belong to us, at least not to us alone. No matter how much we learn about God’s word through prayer and diligent study, if we don’t plant seeds by sharing with others we hinder the harvest. God’s word was meant to be shared. Simply put, God’s word is public domain. How do Christians plant seeds of the word of God? In order to plant we must study and learn God’s word. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15. As we learn more through our careful study of His word we are able to answer questions from others. Many tragic things happen to people and they often ask “Why would a loving God allow this to happen”. That is your opportunity to explain that we live in a fallen world and God isn’t to blame. Of course, you need to understand the first chapters in Genesis: God created everything in six literal days, Adam and Eve lived in a beautiful garden where everything was provided, but Adam chose to disobey God after Eve listened to the voice of Satan and that is where tragedy in life began. Sin and death entered God’s creation. Only if you understand what happened in the Garden of Eden can you explain God’s plan of salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John3:16-17. Only with knowledge of God’s truth can you give a Biblical explanation and plant good seeds in the mind of a non-believer. There are many ways to plant seeds. My wife and I pray before our meals. We even pray in restaurants. Usually when the waitress brings our food I tell her that we are going to pray and thank God for our food. Then I ask if there is anything we can ask God for on her behalf, or any praises we can thank Him for. Often the reaction is rewarding. The waitress sees that someone cares and it is as if a burden is lifted from her. One instance stands out in my mind. It was an extremely stormy evening and when I asked our young waitress if we could pray for her she told us there had been a death in her family and a favorite uncle was travelling in the storm to attend the funeral. He was late and she was concerned. She stayed with us as we prayed, then thanked us. Before our meal was finished she came bustling over with a smile on her face saying that her uncle had just walked into the restaurant. We stopped right then and thanked God for that blessing. A prayer was answered …a seed was planted. We have all had experiences in our lives that can be used to plant seeds. I was an alcoholic and I also have gone through a divorce. I would not recommend either of these experiences for anyone. Even though I was not a Christian at the time I went through these things I can use my experiences to understand what others are facing. Now that I know Jesus I can plant seeds and encourage others to put Him first and seek His wisdom. Don’t be tempted to alcoholism by taking that first drink. Make a godly choice in marriage – when choosing a spouse and during the course of the marriage put God first. Divorce and alcoholism aren’t God’s plan, but I can use my experience to plant seeds of encouragement that may help keep marriages intact or overcome any addiction. What we’ve learned of God and His will for our lives is a benefit that we can pass on to others. Like the farmer who plows his field, plants his seeds, and then benefits from the result, we too benefit from our due diligence. Likewise, many people can benefit through our seed sowing efforts by absorbing the truth of God’s word. God’s word was always meant to be shared and distributed. Don’t think that it’s up to you plant, water, weed, and harvest. If you are tuned in to the Holy Spirit’s promptings you will know when you are to plant a seed, or if it is time to water seeds someone else planted. Jesus said “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.” John 4:36-37. When I was a young boy my aunt made sure I went toSunday school. The seeds she planted took a long time to germinate but she did what she could. Others along the way watered those seeds, including my wife. Finally those seeds grew and I thank God for the many people who had a part in bringing me to Christ. Now I plant seeds, or sometimes I water seeds already planted. Sooner or later each Christian will be asked a question about their faith. In order to plant proper seeds, all of our answers need to be based on God’s word and not on our own feelings or ideas. That’s why studying God’s word is so important. We can never fully know everything taught in the Bible, but if a Christian stops studying his or her Bible how can they give Godly answers? As Christians we are all teachers, and we must understand there will be severe consequences for passing along bad seed. In other words, if we’ve changed our Master’s seed or mixed it up with some bad seeds from Satan, and then sowed it in place of the whole truth of God then we must be prepared for the consequences of our erroneous actions. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” James 3:1. There will be a high cost paid by those who teach a false Gospel. Clearly there are challenges to spreading the Gospel, but if it were impossible God would never have told us to do so. Sometimes the ground just needs some extra tilling and fertilization mixed in to reactivate all the nutrients in the soil. “For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” Jeremiah 4:3. Some hearts are like thorny ground and the thorns need to be removed first. It might take a little work on our part and it might even be painful. Another way to plant seeds is to live our faith. “Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22. Our choice of friends, words, and actions all reflect our faith and others see our resolve to serve Jesus. Just as an example assume that your co-workers are angry with the boss. They are saying disrespectful things about him and expect you to join in their slander. Jesus said “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37. Standing firm on God’s word will plant seeds that show obedience to God. Even our actions in our daily living can be a witness and proof as to Whom we follow. Planting seeds can become a habit. It gives us a good feeling when we share God’s truth. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. Our actions should show our love for God. So often we think a mission field is a far off place where special people go to spread God’s word and plant seeds. It is true that there is a great need to reach those in foreign countries, but what about your neighborhood? I own a movie called “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry”. It tells of a man who hired a youngster to mow his lawn, then invited the boy and his friends to study the Bible with him. Soon Mr. Sperry asks the boy to mow the lawn of a crippled neighbor. The deal was that the boy was not to reveal who had hired him to mow the lawn. As the story progresses it comes out that the neighbor had been driving the car which caused the accident in which Mr. Sperry’s wife had been killed. The seeds Mr. Sperry planted taught the young boy many lessons and it also was a lesson in forgiveness to the neighbor. Those are the kind of seeds each of us need to plant. We cannot sow defective seeds and expect them to grow properly. What would happen to the farmer’s crop if he had sown his seeds sparingly or if he bought seeds he knew were cheap but defective? His harvest would be poor indeed. We can’t plant good seed if we don’t study our Bible in its entirety. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” Isaiah 28:9-10. God has not changed His mind on any point in Scripture. If we stand firm on every precept we will plant seeds that will draw people away from their sin and closer to God. Too many people try to change His word so everyone feels like they are OK and going to Heaven. Instead of teaching the entirety of God’s word they ignore many Scriptures, even though those Scriptures might mean the difference between life and death. If we just ignore sin around us, our silence makes it seem as if the sin is acceptable. In love, plant only seeds which will show God’s truth. Jesus never once said that planting seeds would be easy. He never said to avoid painful subject matter if it might make someoneuncomfortable. Plainly we see quite the opposite when it comes to sharing the Gospel of Christ “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:” Luke 12:51. Difficulties can arise as we go about spreading God’s word and sometimes we’re confronted with uncomfortable situations. We might even make our loved ones turn away from us or loose friends. As we read through the New Testament we read the writings of men who planted seeds in spite of every conceivable risk to life and limb. Paul was beaten and imprisoned many times, as were Peter, John, and the rest. I’ve heard it said that anyone can see how many seeds are in an apple, but only God can see how many apples are in a seed. These men planted seeds that today are still bearing fruit. As you read this commentary you see Scriptures included that were written nearly 2,000 years ago but still are producing a harvest. How about you? Are you planting seeds that will grow over the years and bear fruit? Or are you planting defective seeds that will not produce true believers? The harvest is coming and time is short. Study God’s word and then obey Him so that the seeds you plant will grow and mature for an abundant harvest. God bless you all, Ron Graham

Friday, November 22, 2013

BELIEVE IT, JESUS IS GOD

BELIEVE IT, JESUS IS GOD

November 21, 2013
By
November 21, 2013


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:1-3. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that Jesus was and is God? In the first few verses of the Gospel of John, the deity of Christ is confirmed. This is a very basic truth and is stated throughout the Bible. In fact, the most blatant sign that a religious group is a cult is that they deny the deity of Christ. Jesus, the Word, existed “in the beginning”. When was that? Well, that’s before time began and He created all things. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. Compare Genesis 1:1 to John 1:1. Genesis tells us that before anything else existed, God existed. John 1:1 says that in the beginning was the Word (or in Greek, “logos”). Genesis tells us that God spoke and everything came into existence. John writes “the Word was with God and the Word was God”, and all things were made by Him. John makes it clear that Jesus is God. John goes on to say “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. We know that there is only one God who has three distinct personalities…God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God the Son. He stepped into His creation to redeem what Adam lost.
A common statement heard from those who deny Christ’s deity is that He never said He was God. Well, yes He did. He said it many times. John wrote a lot about Jesus’ deity and in the first verses of his Gospel we see it very clearly. We also read in Revelation, which Jesus dictated to John, that Jesus says “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8. Is this just a poetic thing to say? No, Jesus is stating that He was there in the beginning (He created everything) and He will be there at the end. The word in the Greek for “Almighty” is “päntokrätōr” which is defined as: 1) he who holds sway over all things 2) the ruler of all 3) almighty: God. This is a clear statement by Jesus that He is the beginning, the end, and God Almighty.
Now let’s look a little farther back in time. We all know the account of Moses and the burning bush. He saw a bush that was on fire, but was not consumed by that fire. He found that interesting and went to take a closer look. The LORD spoke to Moses from that bush. He told Moses to take off his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground. “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” Exodus 3:6. From surrounding verses we know that the voice from the bush was a Theophany, an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to set them free. Moses had many excuses as to why he couldn’t do what God asked, but when he ran out of excuses he asked God what he should say if they asked the name of the One who sent him. “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Exodus 3:14. God told Moses to tell the Israelites “I AM” sent him. He didn’t need any other name or description. Jesus used that name sometimes when talking to the Pharisees and they understood exactly what He meant. They knew He was proclaiming Himself to be God. For instance, after a long conversation recorded in John chapter 8, wherein the Jews accused Jesus of being conceived in fornication, Jesus said to them “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:56-58. Just in case we don’t understand that Jesus was saying that He is God (I am), which is blasphemy to the Jews, the next verse says “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” John 8:59. The Jews understood exactly what Jesus meant when He said “Before Abraham was, I am”. That is why they were so eager to stone Him. Jesus said He was God.
There are many more instances recorded by John wherein Jesus says that He is God. For instance in John chapter 10, Jesus was having another discussion with the Jews. When I say “discussion” I really mean heated argument. This one took place in Jerusalem and the Jews asked Him how long before He would tell them plainly if He was the Christ – in Greek it is “Christos” meaning the anointed one, the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus stated that He had told them but they didn’t believe Him, because they are not His sheep. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.John 10:27-29. The Jewish leaders were not His sheep; only those who hear His voice and follow Him belong to Him. Then He finished His statement by saying “egō kai patēr esmen heis” which is translated “I and my Father are one.” John 10:30. To our English ears this sounds as if Jesus was saying that He and His Father had the same ways of doing things. This might have been a valid idea, except for the reaction of the Jews and the conversation which followed. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; buy for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” John 10:31-33. You see, the Jewish religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus was saying. If a mere man claimed to be God it was blasphemy and that was a stoning offence. They wanted to stone Him because He stated that He is God. There many other places where it is recorded that Jesus stated that He is God, and it is a worthwhile study.
Now, let’s look at His death on the cross. Under the Law there were many animal sacrifices to cover sin. None of them could take sin away. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:1-4. God set up the animal sacrifices to foreshadow the once for all sacrifice which Jesus would make on the Cross of Calvary. God never ever required human sacrifice. Never. Human sacrifice was practiced by pagans who worshipped Satan. They called their gods by various names, such as Baal, Molech, Kronos, etc. These false gods were Satanic and demanded sacrifices of human blood. These demons are still around today. If Jesus Christ was a mere man, then His death on the cross would have been human sacrifice and unacceptable by God. On the other hand, since He is God His shed blood on the cross takes our sin away when we accept this free gift. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. John the Baptist knew that Jesus was God.
Jesus was fully God and fully man. Only the blood of God could take away sin completely, but He also had to be our kinsman (human) in order for His sacrifice to apply to us. According to Jewish Law if a man was forced to sell his possessions a kinsman, or close relative, could redeem it for him. “If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.” Leviticus 25:25. The first man, Adam, sold his possession to Satan. Only a kinsman (another man) could redeem it. That is why God Himself had to step into His creation as a man in order to become our kinsman redeemer. He had to be fully God for His blood to be our once for all sacrifice. He also had to be fully human to be our Kinsman Redeemer.
Even the Prophets spoke of His deity. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6.We’ve all seen this on Christmas cards, but have you really looked at it. It tells of the coming Messiah…Jesus. “A child is born”…a human virgin named Mary was impregnated by God the Holy Spirit and gave birth to a child. “A son is given”…God gave His son. Now look at the names “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty GodThe everlasting Father. Jesus is God. He is our kinsman Redeemer. He is the Lamb of God which takes away our sin. He is our once for all sacrifice. Neither the deity nor the humanity of Jesus is negotiable. If we diminish either He is unable to save us.
In Acts we read that Paul was concerned about the Ekklesia in Ephesus. He called the leaders of that congregation together and warned them Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:28-30. Notice that Paul says they are to “feed the church of God”. The King James translation says “church”, but the real word is “ekklēsia” which is the congregation believers in Christ…Christians. Paul says this “Ekklesia of God” was purchased with God’s own blood. Yes, Jesus is God. Paul knew that false teachers would enter into the midst of the congregations and pervert the truth. He knew that many would follow their lies. Denying the deity of Christ is indeed “speaking perverse things”.
“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins.” John 8:24. The translators inserted a word into the text that does not appear in the original Greek, and I also omitted it. They added the word “he” afterI am. Once again Jesus stated that He is the “I AM” who spoke toMoses. Many people corrupt and pervert the truth of Christ’s deity. Don’t be one who believes the lies. Believe it, Jesus is God. The blood of bulls and goats cannot save you. Human sacrifice is abominable and cannot purchase salvation. Only Christ Jesus could accomplish that. Only God Himself gives eternal life. Believe it.

God bless you all,
Ron Graham
In twotug@embarqmail.com
www.straitandnarrowministry.com

Friday, October 18, 2013

TARES AMONG THE WHEAT

TARES AMONG THE WHEAT
October 17, 2013


What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it the way we act or what we believe that determines if we are a Christian or just a pretender? “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.” Romans 10:9. God’s word makes it clear that it is our faith that makes the difference. Many people say that they believe in Jesus Christ, but if that belief is just “head knowledge” and they don’t “…believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead…” then their words mean nothing.

How far would you go to prove you’re a Christian? I’ve heard the hypothetical question “If you were hauled into court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” For many people around the world, this isn’t hypothetical. In Muslim countries it is a crime to be a Christian, yet there are many brave people who stand firm on their faith in Christ. It is our faith that determines our salvation, but that faith should be evident by our actions “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”James 2:19-20. Many people sitting in a pew each Sunday say that they believe but show no fruits of their faith, and non-Christians often do great works yet deny Christ. True faith should be proclaimed by our mouth and also shown in our actions…not for our own glory but for that of Christ Jesus. Our daily walk should reflect who we are in Christ. Our living for Christ should be so obvious in this life that even when viewed by the most hardened Christ-rejecter he should be 100% certain he’s witnessing a true and devout follower of Jesus Christ. You might say the true Christian is wheat, while those who just mouth words of faith but live according to the world are tares.

Jesus spoke many deep truths in parables. One of those tells of the wheat and the tares.“The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.” Matthew 13:24b – 26. We all know what wheat is but what are tares? It is a grain that resembles wheat, but has no value. In fact the seeds are poisonous. When it grew in a wheat field it was allowed to mature, but at harvest it was separated out and burned. Why has it become so difficult, especially in our current age, to make a determination as to which of those professing to follow Christ are the “wheat” and which are the “tares” currently infiltrating the ranks of the true believers? What is it that has changed in society today that gives us cause to ponder Jesus’ words “But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity”? Luke 13:27. It’s easy to say you’re a Christian but it’s a lot harder to stand firm for Jesus Christ in the face of adversity. Call yourself a Christian all day long but if you’re not walking the walk you’re probably one of the tares.

“So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares” Matthew 13:27. In our Lord’s parable even the servants of the householder had no difficulty noticing the difference between wheat and tares – good seed and bad – true believers vs. phonies. How did they know? They had knowledge. Today we hear many false doctrines being taught, such as “there are many paths to Heaven” or the “name it and claim it” heresy among others. Only studying God’s word will teach you the truth. In knowing the truth you will know the difference between the nourishing wheat and the poisonous tares.

Jesus was asked to explain this parable, and Matthew 13:37-43 records His answer. Jesus is the One who sows the good seed, the field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, the tares are the sons of Satan and he is who sowed the bad seed, the harvest is the end of the age. Although we can see the corruption happening within the Christian community, Jesus doesn’t confine the location of the tares to within the Ekklesia. Soon the Ekklesia will be Raptured and these tares will continue to grow. There will be many people who will come to know Jesus after the Rapture and the tares will continue to corrupt until the final judgment when the wheat is harvested and the tares are burned.

Christians, we need to understand that God gave us His inerrant word and it has not changed one iota in meaning. We need to stand firm on His word and not be swayed by the lies planted by Satan. God’s word is quite clear that Jesus Christ is God, but Satan plants the poisonous tares by spreading the lie that Jesus was just a prophet or merely a very nice man. A very nice man would have died and been buried. But Jesus shed His blood on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin. He arose from the grave and His victory over death gives all true believers eternal life. God’s word makes it quite clear that all sexual activity outside of a one man one woman marriage is a sin. Homosexuality is an abomination to God, but Satan plants the poisonous tares by saying that it is just a choice of lifestyle. How many single people sitting in pews on Sunday morning have spent Saturday night in bed with their girlfriend or boyfriend? “It’s just human nature” says the father of all lies, but God’s word tells us differently. I choose to bring up sexual sin because it is widespread, condoned, and encouraged in music, TV shows, movies, and books, but any behavior that is contrary to God’s word needs to be changed. Our schools are even teaching our children how to commit sexual sin. The wheat will grow strong in the Lord, but the tares will poison those who partake of it.

Satan uses the same subtle lies today as he used to confuse Eve in the Garden of Eden. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5. Satan began sowing tares long ago, and the idea behind the enemy’s deception is to bring about a subtle “change” that, over time, will confuse those looking into Christ’s Ekklesia. They will be confused as to what Christianity is and what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. He means to deceive those seeking something more out of life than just their mundane daily existence. If Christians feel that it is OK to live the same sinful lifestyle of the unsaved, why should the lost of this world see a reason to accept Christ? The life of a Christian is filled with hope which extends beyond the confines of this life. That’s exciting! Many people are seeking God but Satan in no way wants them to find Christ as their answer. Instead of learning the truth of who Jesus is, Satan will give the seeker a false gospel to follow thereby diverting that person off the true path that leads to salvation and onto the other path that leads to destruction.

We can see and know with little doubt who the tares are. Who are they? If you have to ask that question you’re in trouble. But I’ll give you a little help. If you know someone who claims to be a Christian but they also claim there are errors in God’s word, or else they don’t even believe God’s word, they are tares. If they don’t believe Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven then that would be a huge red flag and they are tares. A tare is someone who spreads the poisonous claim that the Bible was written to people a long time ago, but people have changed and so the Bible is outdated and needs to be amended to fit today’s world.

“When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:” Luke 13:25. Are you wheat or are you a tare? You need to honestly ask yourself that question today because there will come a time when it is too late. The door will be shut. Today may be your last day on earth and you will face eternity in Heaven or in Hell. The choice is yours. If the Rapture happens as you are reading this commentary, will you go with the wheat or be left with the tares? True Christians will be taken, but the tares will be left here to face God’s wrath. The Tribulation, and more specifically the last half of that time of judgment known as the Great Tribulation, will be filled with unimaginable horrors. Jesus said “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Matthew 24:21. If you are living a life filled with sin and opposed to God’s word, don’t wait another minute to accept His free gift of salvation and change your life. The harvest is coming and tomorrow may be too late.

God bless you all,
Ron Graham

Friday, September 27, 2013

WHEERE IS THE UNITY

Where’s the Unity
April 25, 2013
 
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:20-21. As believers, born from above, we should be unified in Christ. Where is the unity that Jesus prayed for so long ago? God the Son and God the Father are one. We know this because the Scriptures tell us it is so. They have unity in that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. We too, the children of God, are to be united as one in Christ. Christ prayed that we be one.
 
Sadly, that prayer for unity which was spoken directly by the Creator of the universe has for all intents and purposes been ignored by much of the Ekklesia. Why? The unbridled festering of disagreements and anger has led to a splintering of the body of Christ. Instead of being the Ekklesia – the called out assembly of Christ – and looking to His inerrant word to lead us and guide us, most Christians look to the “church” to tell them what to believe and how to act. What is the problem with that? The Ekklesia is a unified body where Christ is sovereign and His word final, but a church is filled with the doctrines of men and causes division.
 
I’d like to premise this study with what God tells us never to do. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6. God tells us not to add to His words. The Hebrew word “yakach”, translated into English as reprove, actually means to judge. Certainly no one wants to be judged by God for adding to His inerrant word. Verse 6 above seems to place a high risk for anyone desiring to tamper with the Scriptures. Therefore the translators of the original text should have been very careful as they went about translating the original languages into English. That holds true for all of the various translations into English or any other language. The above warning must be taken seriously. There are other warnings within the word of God concerning adding to or even taking away words from the Scriptures.
 
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2a. God, speaking to the Israelites, makes it clear that adding to or taking away from His word would be a huge mistake. “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32. Here God confirms His command that they were not to add to or take away from His word. No one should have been more keen to keep God’s word pure than the Bible translators.
 
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19.  These verses attest to the fact that there is a high price to pay for tampering with the Book of Revelation specifically, but from the above Scriptures we can see that God says what He means and means what He says. He does not want His word watered down or altered.
 
For some time now I’ve referred to the saints as the assembly of the called out. In doing so I’ve primarily used the Greek word for assembly, which is Ekklesia. Why do I use the word “Ekklesia” instead of “church”? Well, the Greek word “Ekklesia” does not mean “church”. As a matter of fact there is no Greek word that is translatable as the English word church.
 
The definition of “church” is 1) A building used for public Christian worship. 2) A particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, building, and distinctive doctrines: “the Church of England”. (Put “define church” into Google and this is what you see).
 
 That definition certainly doesn’t describe a unified assembly of believers. The first definition doesn’t even describe it as human! The second indicates human agenda in interpreting the Scriptures.

 
Now let’s look at the definition of “Ekklesia” as defined in Strong’s concordance. There is a long list of meanings, but as related to Christians it says: 1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting. 2) a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake. 3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body. 4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth. 5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.
 
“And they, continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42. The apostles heard the doctrine directly from the lips of Jesus, so what they taught is what we need to follow today. Have you ever asked someone if they are a Christian and received the response “Yes, I’m a Methodist”? Or a Lutheran, or a Baptist, or insert the division of your choice. What does that mean? It means that the person you are talking to is holding to the doctrines of men rather than the God-breathed Scriptures.
 
Because of being a “church” divisions have occurred at a phenomenal rate. Christ’s Ekklesia divided? Where in His teachings does He ever refer to His followers as a divided body? No, we’ve been horribly deceived over the years thus the body of Christ has become fragmented and for the most part ineffective. Doctrines of men have tiptoed in and caused division. Some say you have to be baptized in order to be saved, some say you are only really baptized if you are baptized in “our church”. Others say you must speak in tongues for evidence that you are saved, others say tongues are eerie and shouldn’t be used. Still others rely on a Pope or a priest to tell them what to do and think. Only when we drop our “church” ordained prejudices can we understand Acts 2:42 and continue steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship.
 
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We aren’t to pick and choose which Scriptures we like or don’t like.  God inspired all Scripture and it is perfect in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Diligence must be taken to study the Hebrew and Greek to understand what a word really means, rather than what it was translated to say. The entirety of the Bible must be considered when discerning Scripture. It only takes a simple lack of wisdom to add to or diminish from Scripture and corrupt God’s meaning and cause division.
 
When Jesus spoke His prayer of unity it was not about a fragmented unity or a separated unity, but a complete and united body, each person with his/her own purpose. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5. But overall, unity in Christ is now horribly fragmented. Oh sure there are splinters of believers who have united together, but never were they to form denominations or place names of dead men on the buildings. The Ekklesia was never about men but always about Messiah Jesus.
 
As believers we are commanded “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (NASB). Today we have built Christian ministries around men (pastors, popes, bishops, doctors, you name it) who usurped the authority of Christ as Head and have built around denominational titles and names separating His body into corporations. These corporations, known as churches, are registered with the government in order to establish their tax exempt position. What does that mean? It means that the government limits what they can teach from the pulpit. Instead of teaching the whole of God’s truth they must be politically correct or lose their tax exemption. There are no words too strong to describe this monstrous deception. Words that do come to mind are: abomination, heresy, anathema, reprobate and blasphemy.
 
We are to gather around the name of Jesus, not the name of a building, rented store front, or a pastor. We have literally robbed Christ of his rightful place and therefore His glory in His body has departed. We have replaced the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the works of men. We have replaced our first love (a true love and obedience toward Jesus Christ) with works oriented philosophies of men and million dollar buildings. Unity? Not hardly.
 
Rather than having two or three gathered together in His name, we have multitudes gathering in a name totally foreign to the word of God: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and numerous other associations which indicate no reverence to Jesus our Christ. This forming of congregations under other names has been one of major disrespect to our God and Saviour, Jesus the Christ and His prayer for unity.
 
Once the reference to believers switched from the people (the Ekklesia) to a building of stone and wood (a church), all Christ centeredness within the body was lost. We lost body ministry, unity, supportive relationships, fellowship and community. The funds that normally went to the poor and widows and orphans now go to the institutional structures and organization. This was a major shift (from people to building) and delivered a key blow to the function of the body of Christ. The intention of Christ uniting His believers in one body was thwarted by the traditions of men who translated our scriptures for their own benefit…not Christ’s. Because of this switch, ministry became skewed.
 
So, what can be done to reverse this horrible separation of the body of Christ? The doctrines and interpretations of men need to be dropped. Instead of a being a church, we need to be the Ekklesia, the called out assembly who are united by the Blood of Christ. Fellowship with the Ekklesia, but study God’s word prayerfully to learn the Apostle’s doctrine as they heard it from Christ.  Don’t “go to church” and be divided, but be united in the Ekklesia.
 
God bless you all,
 
Ron Graham
 
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed
 

NOT JUST LIP SERVICE

September 26, 2013

Have you ever questioned your salvation? Have you ever thought that even though you say that you have accepted Christ for your salvation there is a chance you didn’t mean it and He hasn’t accepted you? If so, the following words can be very disturbing. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21. This verse can and should cause us to ask some serious questions about our salvation. There will be some who have said the right words and do wonderful things, but their commitment to Christ isn’t sincere. That is just lip service. These words recorded in Matthew 7:21 are a warning to those who think they’re justified (saved), but in reality are just going through the motions. Their faith in Jesus isn’t real and their salvation is just imagined. At one time I was one of those who thought I was a Christian and had nothing to worry about. I know now that I was on the broad road to an eternity in Hell and only a right relationship with Christ has given me the promise of eternal life with Him.

Too often we place a high value on works. How often have you tried to talk to someone about Jesus and they tell you that they are a good person and they do lots of nice things for others, so of course they think they will go to Heaven when they die. Do you also feel that way? “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”Matthew 7:22-23. These words are from Jesus Himself. He doesn’t argue with these folks and deny that they have done good works and even do them in His name, but still He says that He never knew them. Why? Because they never did accept His death, burial, and resurrection as the basis for their salvation. They think that salvation is up to their own doings and is based on works not faith. Jesus very clearly said “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6. Works won’t save anyone, only faith in Jesus.

In Biblical times there were only two people groups. First there were the Gentiles. This group was made up of all nations. Most were idol worshiping pagans. The second group was called out from the first group when God called Abraham to follow Him instead of the pagan ways. Eventually this group of chosen people became known as Jews. They were given the Law through Moses and were required to do the works of the Law in order to try to stay right with God…which was impossible to do perfectly. These two groups still exist today, but there is a third group which is made up of people from the first two groups. The Ekklesia…the Body of Christ…Christians. “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Ephesians 2:14-16. Jesus broke down “the middle wall of partition” and it is only faith in Him that brings salvation to those who are now known as born again Christians. The works of the Law will not save anyone, nor will any other type of works.

There are many people today who profess to be Christians and even do many good works in the name of Jesus Christ, but when it comes to being in a loving relationship with Him the evidence just isn’t there. “I never knew you” spoken by our Creator will be sad words to hear at the end of a life filled with good works, but ignorant of Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Do you boast of all the wonderful things you do for others? Think about your motive for doing good things. Are you trying to earn your way into Heaven? I’m sure we all have had Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses knock on our door and try to convince us that they have the way to be saved, or so they hope. Both of these groups are very deceived and they do not know Jesus. They are trying to work their way to God, but the god they worship is not God as described in the Bible. Sadly, the lip service of these deceived people will be among those who hear “I never knew you”.

Is it wrong for a person to do good works if they are Christians? No. It is incumbent upon Christians to do good works. Not to earn salvation, but because we love Jesus. James has a lot to say about faith and works. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17. Our love for Jesus and what He has done for us should instill in us a need to serve Him well and do good works. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” James2:18. These works are not for our own glory nor are the merely lip service. They are sincerely done for Christ and other people can see Christ living in us. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.James 2:26.

According to Jesus Himself, it isn’t what we do for Him it’s our relationshipwith Him that matters. He wants us to know Him personally and include Him in all that we do. “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20. These words were written to those living in the End Times. That’s us. Jesus wants each one of us to have a personal relationship with Him right now. The more we trust Him the deeper our relationship with Him will be; the deeper our relationship the more we will love Him. By placing our lives, our trust, and our hope in His hands we will be a part of the type of relationship that He wants and expects, one that we should desire as much as He does.

When we say yes to Jesus Christ changes happen in our life; we become born again, which will be an obvious sign that something about us is different. Our friendships will change, our language will improve, our love for Him will be obvious. We will desire to do good works for Christ, but our faith is what brings salvation. Those who are truly born again will never hear those heartbreaking words “I never knew you”. If one’s works do not come from a love of Christ, those works are works of inequity. Jesus says so.

Who did Jesus have in mind when He spoke the words “…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Matthew 7:23b? These workers of iniquity are those who have not been forgiven because there was no real acceptance of Christ’s finished work on the Cross. That means they are not a part of Christ’s Ekklesia. They do not trust Christ alone for salvation. These words will be spoken to those who haven’t truly accepted Jesus. An actor on the stage can read a script and say “Lord, Lord”, but unless those words come from his heart they mean nothing. Conversion comes when we first decide to place our faith, trust, and hope in Christ alone for salvation. This new relationship is sealed by the Holy Spirit who is now living inside the new believer. Our faith in Jesus Christ is the key. We no longer try to work our way to Heaven, but understand that it is faith alone that has brought salvation. Lip service has been replaced by a desire to serve our Lord.

On the other hand, Satan, the father of all lie, wants to see that no relationship between God and His creation is ever established. He’s got one agenda and that is to confuse, disrupt, corrupt, and to lead astray all who will accept his lies rather than believe the truth given to us by our Creator. Could the words of Jesus be any clearer? “Not everyone who saith unto me Lord, Lord…”Matthew 7:21a. Search the Scriptures for yourself to be sure that what you are being taught and what you believe about the Creator of the universe is true. All roads don’t lead to salvation and works won’t save you. Jesus is the Son of God (fully human), but He is also God Almighty (fully God). If you don’t believe this truth about who Jesus Christ is, you’re headed down the wrong path. Satan would have you believe that you are “good enough” and “works will save you” and that it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus. Satan is a liar.

Many people try seeking the truth but end up in a fully apostate congregation or false religion. Jesus is kept on the outside knocking to be invited in. His words, “I never knew you” are a sad commentary on our times because the real truth of the Gospel has been ignored by many. False teachers abound who try to water down the Gospel in order to give everyone a warm fuzzy feeling about themselves. Sin is not confronted and people are allowed to continue in sin in order that they aren’t made to feel bad or feel they have to change a lifestyle. God’s word is very clear that homosexuality is an abomination, as is other sexual sin. But false teachings of many of our mainstream denominations teach the lie that God didn’t really mean what He says in His word, or that times have changed. All a person has to do is say “Lord, Lord” and that’s acceptable. Just give lip service. This false teaching allows many people to think they’re in good shape for eternity, but according to Jesus Himself that just isn’t the case.

Apostate doctrines are being preached from too many pulpits. The congregation is being fed, that’s true, but if poison is mixed with food it is still deadly.  Many Christian worship services are led by pastors who are not grounded in God’s word and they water down the Gospel. Being politically correct has no place among Christians and we need to study God’s word in order to be able to stand firmly upon it and not just give lip service to our King.

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, God our Savior, nothing is more important. “Going to church” won’t save you. You may have memorized hundreds of Scripture verses, but still don’t understand who Jesus is. Reading your Bible through in a year won’t bring salvation. Not eating pork or only attending worship services on a certain day isn’t what Jesus wants. All of these actions are based on works.  The question is do you know Jesus the Christ, and just as important is the question does He know you? Is your salvation based on faith alone or do you just give lip service? Commit yourself to establishing a personal relationship with Jesus. You won’t be sorry as you’ll avoid hearing these heartbreaking words “I never knew you.”  

God bless you all,

Ron Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com
www.straitandnarrowministry.com
ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Thursday, August 29, 2013

WHAT DO YOU MEAN REPENT

What Do You Mean, Repent?
August 29, 2013

Some believers are confused when it comes to the word repent and therefore have doubts about salvation. The confusion stems from our misunderstanding of the meaning of repentance as it’s used in the Bible. The Greek word “metanoeo” is translated into English as repent and it literally means to change one’s mind about something. When this word is used in the New Testament, it means to change our mind about sin and the need for a Saviour. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 3:1-2. When John told his listeners to repent it was a warning. He was trying to get them to change their minds about their need for a Savior. John knew that Messiah was soon to begin His ministry, and he knew that he was the one chosen to alert the Jews that Messiah was near. “As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of the one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths strait.” Luke 3:4.

Jews felt that the Law could save them, and they worked very hard to obey it. The problem was no matter how much they tried to follow the letter of the Law they failed. Not because they were just bad people. No, they failed because everyone sins. The Law was meant to teach them what sin is and that they needed God to save them. John told them to change their minds about it…to repent. They had to recognize they couldn’t save themselves, nor could the Law save them. They needed to change their minds about their need for a Saviour.
Peter was a man who failed, but he repented and became everything Jesus knew he could be. He had walked and talked with Jesus, but still ran scared when Jesus was arrested. Later we see him as a man of God who gave his life to serve Jesus. He lost his fear and spoke boldly regarding Christ. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36. Peter was speaking to Jews here, and explained to them who Jesus was. He convinced them of their need for a Saviour. Peter persuaded them to change their minds about who Jesus is. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:38.Peter’s words made them realize they needed more than the Law. They needed the Saviour and they had crucified him! What were they to do? “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38. Before anything, they had to change their minds about Jesus and about sin.

Often non-believers don’t believe that they’re sinners and therefore don’t feel the need for a Savior. They don’t even know what sin is. What is sin? It is rebellion to God. It is doing things that God says not to do. People don’t automatically understand what sin is. So, if we have a friend who isn’t a Christian and lives with their boyfriend or girlfriend, that person doesn’t realize that they are sinning. Or a person who has chosen a homosexual lifestyle can only be convicted of the sin of that lifestyle after they learn what sin is. Only after they understand that they sin in general will they understand their need for saving grace through Jesus. Once that grace is accepted they will become aware of specific sins and repent…change their minds. The Holy Spirit brings us new understanding. Over time the change of mind regarding Jesus and the brokenness over specific sins have become so intertwined that we commonly but incorrectly define repentance as involving both.

In Scripture we don’t see that a person has to confess every sin they have ever committed before they can be baptized. We see examples of people being baptized immediately who change their minds about who Christ is. They aren’t schooled first or taught some sort of catechism. Philip was told to go to a certain road that went from Jerusalem to Gaza. He obeyed and there he encountered a man from Ethiopia. This man was reading from Scripture “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Isaiah 53:7-8.  Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading and the man said no. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” Acts 8:35. Philip didn’t hammer him about his sins, but he “preached unto him Jesus”. The man was convicted. When they came to some water he asked to be baptized and Philip baptized him. He didn’t grill the man on sin or the doctrine of a denomination. “And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” Acts 8:37-38. The Ethiopian eunuch just needed to change his mind about Jesus…about his need for a Saviour.

Another incident involved a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. He had a vision of Peter coming to him, and Peter had a vision of unclean things being lowered in a sheet. Peter wanted no part of these unclean creatures “And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” Acts 10:15.Three times the sheet was lowered and three times Peter couldn’t understand why these unclean things were seemingly approved by God. But when men came from Cornelius and asked Peter to go with them, Peter went. When he came to Cornelius’ house he was told “…Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Acts 10:33b. Did Peter begin by listing off sins that they needed to repent of? No. Once again the sermon was all about Jesus. He ended by saying “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:42-43.The Jews, including Peter, were astonished that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit. After all, they were not schooled in the Law, so how could they even understand what God considered sin? “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts 10:48a.

Some use the visible signs of brokenness and contrition as evidence that a person is sincere in asking to be saved. Others include behavioral change as evidence of repentance. But as you can see from studying the book of Acts, both are man’s inventions that can’t be supported Biblically. In the above examples those who believed did not repent of their sins. Some didn’t know what sin is. They were told about Jesus. They changed their mind about Him. The only clear precondition for salvation the Bible gives us is belief. “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 6:28-29.

The first deaths in the Bible were those of Adam and Eve. They were immortal before Adam sinned but fell to mortality (death) at the moment of their sin. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Gen. 2:17. God gave us free will. He wants us to love Him by choice. He gave one “rule” to Adam and Adam chose to sin. Adam had a beautiful relationship with God, lived in Paradise, was immortal, and everything he needed was easily within reach. Then he chose to sin. Suddenly the relationship he and Eve had with God was broken. Suddenly he was spiritually dead. Suddenly his mortal body began the long process of physical death. Through many years Adam watched as sin became more and more prevalent. Adam lived a long life and easily could have known Noah’s father. Adam watched the world become so sinful that God had to destroy everything. Do you think he was repentant? I do. But there were still many things to happen before the gap between God and man could be restored. Being repentant over sin is one thing, but understanding the need for a Saviour is another.

The first actual shedding of blood was in the preparation of clothes for Adam and Eve. When they realized they were naked they made a covering out of fig leaves. Have you ever felt a fig leaf? This is typical of man’s attempt at covering sin…fig leaves are very rough and they would be painful to wear. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21. God was teaching them that it was by the shedding of innocent blood that they would be covered before Him, not by the works of their own hands. It symbolized that our righteousness (covering) would be imputed to us by the shedding of innocent blood (the Lord’s) not by our own works.

After the Flood, Noah’s sons and their wives repopulated the earth. Once again sin flourished. God called Abraham and the chosen children of God were established. Eventually the Jews went into captivity in Egypt and Moses was chosen by God to lead them out. On Mount Sinai the Law was given. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24. Adam and Eve had one rule that they couldn’t keep, The Law listed all of what God sees as sin and gave a list of sacrifices to be offered as a covering for sin. It was just a temporary covering and very rough – like the fig leaves. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4. No matter how repentant a person was, the animal sacrifices were only a covering over of sin. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10. Thank You, Jesus.

When a person is presented the Gospel, there should be conviction. The question arises “What is the Gospel”.Literally the word means “good news”, but to understand the good news one needs to understand the bad news. Everyone is separated from God because of sin. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.  Romans3:23. There is nothing we can do on our own to bridge the gulf to God. That’s the bad news. The Good News is that God Himself bridged the gap when He entered His creation and became our once for all sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. We must change our minds about our need for a Saviour…about the only way to God. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6. Once we realize we sin and change our minds about the need for Jesus Christ in our life, then we begin the life long process of sanctification. We will begin to see sin in our life and repent of it. With God’s help we can remove anger from our life, or lust, or little white lies. Sins big and small are all covered by the blood of Jesus.

Do you need to change your mind about Jesus? Do you know someone who needs Him in their life? Now is the time to make a decision. Now is the time to change your mind – repent – and accept Christ’s sacrifice. Then, begin to understand sin. God will help you remove it from your life one sin at a time. Each time you fail He will forgive you when you confess your sin to Him alone. He loves you.

God bless you all,

Ron Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com

Thursday, August 22, 2013

PROGRAMMED TO RECEIVE

PROGRAMMED TO RECEIVE

August 22, 2013
By
August 22, 2013

“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” Mark7:13. Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees who had once again confronted him for not obeying their traditions. Jesus, of course, rebuked them for holding to the tradition of man instead of holding God’s word in higher esteem. Today we also see that man’s traditions have crept into the preaching and teaching of God’s word placing non-biblical parameters on the body of Christ. God never intended this to happen.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all Ekklesia’s of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. Many manmade traditions have been instituted as scriptural doctrine over the years and it can be confusing to both Christians and non-Christians. There is only one author of the Bible and He will teach us His word if we allow Him to. The confusion comes when a particular group tries to build doctrine upon one Scripture rather than taking the whole of Scripture into account. For instance, some people contend that speaking in tongues is evidence of salvation. Is that Biblical? Speaking in tongues is very Biblical, but not as proof of salvation. It is only one of many gifts of the Spirit. To confuse things even more, some teach that the gifts stopped during the first century. Why do we listen to man’s teachings alone without due diligence in searching the scriptures for ourselves? Because of these confused traditions and teachings many people walk away confused.

We can be sure that people will always allow themselves to be programmed to receive what is being taught, displayed, preached, and viewed. Why? Because it is easier to just let someone else tell you what the Scriptures teach rather than studying them for yourself. Most people have no intention of becoming involved in the actual planning or leading of worship services, thus what is presented to them is sufficient and they hope not too bothersome. Much of what transpires in most assemblies of the saints is not biblical but simply man’s traditions prearranged for convenience sake. Communion? Oh yes, we celebrate it every so often if we remember. When it is celebrated, it is only offered to those who meet the particular denominations idea of what a Christian is, such as membership in that particular group.  In the early days of Christianity there were no Baptists, or Methodists, or any other denomination. They were one body. They were the Ekklesia – the called out body of Christ. When the “Church” began (not the Ekklesia, but the Church) man began making rules that God never ordained. Thus, there is much confusion.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40. Attending services at a local Christian assembly and worshiping God at that location at a preset hour, on a specific day every week, for a nominal amount of time can be viewed as somewhat holding to the admonition by Paul to keep the assembly decent and orderly. But what is the purpose of all that organization if those in the pews don’t learn anything other than man’s traditions. Many people feel that an hour in a pew is sufficient regarding their duty as a Christian. Here’s one for you, many of those people sitting in those pews are not born again and yet they go through the motions of bowing their heads, joining in singing of hymns, and placing their tithe (another tradition) in the collection plate, all as though those things were allowing them an inside track to God and perhaps a special seat at His right hand.

What about all of the many translations of God’s word? As we examine the English versions of our Bibles and compare them to the original languages in which the Bible was written we find some conspicuous variations from that of the original languages. In many instances we find that words have been added to our English Bibles which do not show up in the original manuscripts. Why is this? Perhaps the reason was to try to help us understand more fully the intent of God and His word. That hardly makes for a plausible excuse. After all, is our God not capable of giving us all we need to understand or to discern His word? Of course He is. So why add the extra words? Could it be that the enemy has infiltrated the ranks of those doing the translating? Certainly. From what we see occurring in today’s English translations, this is not only plausible but unequivocally true. We now have non-gender and politically correct versions that water down God’s meaning. Who cares what God thinks as long as everybody is happy and not offended by truth?

Every born again follower of Jesus Christ should be relying on God to instruct them in His word not merely a man. God cannot be corrupted but man can. The enemy can’t get God to change His word “…the scripture cannot be broken” John 10:35 but he can and has convinced mankind that the Bible would be better understood if we were to simply add a few words here and there, or conversely remove a few words now and then.

God is fully capable of keeping His word pure but he will not interfere with those who wish to follow their father the devil and do his bidding by adding to or taking away from God’s inerrant word. The original manuscripts are God breathed, the English translations of those words are the works of men. Which course are you going to take to get to the original intent of God’s words? Man’s or God’s? Most of us don’t know Hebrew or Greek, but there are concordances available for help.

For many, many centuries the Ekklesia of Christ has been content with how things were set up in their congregations. Does anyone understand what has transpired in regards to “doing church?” In the beginning of the age of the Ekklesia of Christ all believers were given the designation of minister. Now days we sit in a pew and there is only one minister. We listen to his words flow like a lark singing. There’s a joke here and there to lighten the mood so the seriousness of God’s word doesn’t upset anyone. Most Christians are quite content to listen to the lark sing, especially when it comes to actually being an active part of God’s Kingdom. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1:22. We are programmed to receive the idea that only those who are “ordained” by a denomination are qualified to serve the Lord. Every Christian is ordained of God.

People, we have been dumbed down to a point that we now just sit and listen to the words of our Pastor while he tells us what the Bible says. Excuse me but that Pastor is merely a man and not God. Why do we take man’s word for what the Bible proclaims when God is perfectly willing to extend His truth to our minds? “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11. By the way, the Scriptures they searched were Old Testament Scriptures. Many denominations omit the Old Testament from being taught. No prophecy or history is taught, let alone the reason we need a Saviour.

“…even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” 2 Peter 3:15-17. Peter tells us that the unlearned and unstable wrest with the scriptures unto their own destruction. The Greek word “strebloō”, translated into English as “wrest”, means “to twist, turn awry (skew), to torture, to pervert, of one who wrests or tortures language in a false sense”. Mankind has been twisting and torturing the Scriptures for so many years that the falsehoods that have arisen from all that torture are now accepted as truth and have become Christian traditions – and are not to be assaulted by anyone.

One tradition that has always interested me is the place where most Christians go to worship God. It’s always been a bone of contention with me. If we are to be pilgrims sojourning on this planet spreading the Gospel to all of mankind, why are we building these huge expensive buildings to last hundreds of years? Just how Biblical is it for Christians to spend enormous amounts of money on large elaborate building projects while many of God’s children (saints) suffer from hunger around the world? A mindset of materialistic comfort has taken over the body of Christ. Plush comfortable buildings are built for a place to go to worship. Interestingly, for the first 200 years as the Ekklesia of Christ was first established it flourished and the meetings of the saints took place in one another’s homes.

As followers of Jesus Christ we should be worshiping Him every day, not just on Sunday. As Christians we should know that our life is only held together by Christ and thus every moment we have is His. The problem with going out to a building to meet every Sunday is that when the meeting is over so is the worship. The worshipping and praising of our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, should never end – should never end.

When we study the word of God and allow Him to be our teacher, we soon realize that we’ve been taught many traditions of man in lieu of God’s precepts. If my brethren who desire to be taught the truth will allow their God to instruct them when it comes to the accuracy of interpretation, only then will they challenge these traditions of men as well as wrong doctrine. It’s not difficult to learn from God Himself, it only takes a firm desire, patience, and a willingness to study when others are off playing and conforming themselves to the world. Are you programmed to receive, or are you listening to God?

God bless you all,

Ron Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com
www.straitandnarrowministry.com
ron@straitandnarrowministry.com
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