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