Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Should Christians Observe the Sabbath?

Recently a Christian asked me a great question about the Sabbath. They were wondering whether or not we as Christians should be practicing the Sabbath today and what the Bible had to say about it.  Here were some of my thoughts.

Since Jesus Christ came as the promised Messiah, He fulfilled “every” requirement of the Law so that God’s people were no longer under bondage to fulfill the Law but under the grace of Christ that came through the shedding of His blood.  The approximate 613 laws in the Old Testament that were placed upon the Jews found their fulfillment in the “One” person and redemptive act of Christ.  This is very important in that the Law could never save but it served to point to our need for a Savior.  This is not to say that the 10 commandments would not apply to us any longer.  In fact, all of the commandments can be found repeated in the New Testament apart from the command to keep the Sabbath.  Romans 6:14 explains to Christians that they are no longer under the Law but under grace through the work of Christ.  If we want to be technical, the Sabbath principle was not technically focused on the day of the week (although it was Saturday for the Jews) but the emphasis was to have a designated day where no work would be done (Ex. 20:8-11) and God was the complete focus of worship.   According to Acts 2:46-47, the early Christians were meeting every day of the week for worship and not just on the “Sabbath” (or Saturday).  In the early church, if there was a specific day that was primary for much for their worship it was Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).  

The early church, which comprised of a great number of Jewish converts, had much transition happening in their lives.  All they ever knew was the Mosaic Law as they waited for their Messiah.  They had to make sense of their faith, their traditions, and the work of Christ.  There is always a feeling of safety in keeping tradition, which is why we can be so strong on imposing our own traditions on others.  There is nothing wrong with making one day our specific day of corporate worship over another.  In fact, Paul told early Christians who were struggling with special holy days to give grace and freedom in this area (Romans 14).  He encouraged believers to be fully confident for themselves that their actions would bring glory to God—which should be our focus today as well.  

Is there anything wrong with choosing Saturday over Sunday???  Absolutely not.  Sunday has been a day that has worked for Christians for many years and many things are shut down in respect for that day.  I feel it works best for us but for some people worshiping on Sundays is not possible because they work that day.  I believe that Galatians 5:13-15 sums up the principle for Christians to follow in respect to choosing the way that we worship.  It suggests that although you are free in Christ to choose (because He has set us free from the bondage and weight of the Law) how we worship, don’t allow our freedom to be a stumbling block for others and be careful judging others in these matters.  Each person will give an account to God for all of his or her actions, whether good or evil (Matthew 12:36).

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Have You Heard of the 4 Spiritual Laws?

You may or may not have heard of the 4 Spiritual Laws.  Just as there are physical laws that govern the physical universe, so are there spiritual laws, which govern your relationship with God.  These four laws help us to understand how to share Christ with those who do not know Him.

The first law is, God loves you, and offers a wonderful plan for your life.  God's Word tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."  Jesus Christ said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly" (John 10:10).  In other words Christ came in order that our life might be full and meaningful.  Many people do not experience this abundant life because....

The second law tells us that man is sinful and separated from God.  Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life.  We are told in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Man was created to have fellowship with God; but, because of his stubborn self-will, he chose to go his own independent way and fellowship with God was broken.  Since God is holy and man is sinful, there is a great gulf that separates them both but we learn from the third law the only way to bridge that gulf.

The third law informs us that Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin.  Through him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.  Romans 5:8 tells us that Jesus Christ died in our place, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Not only did he die but Christ rose from the dead.  We are told that, “Christ died for our sins…  He was buried… He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)  God bridged that gulf that separated us from Him by sending His sinless Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.  Knowing these three laws is not enough...

We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives~~this is the fourth law.  Jesus Christ said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20).

You see, receiving Christ involves turning from our self to God (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us the kind of person He wants us to be. It is not enough just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins.  Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience.  We must receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of our personal will.  Please share this Good News with others this Easter~~it truly is the reason for the season.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

7 Costs of Being an Evangelistic Leader

For many churches, evangelism is not talked about a great deal and it is not a priority in their ministry.  If we aren’t talking about evangelism then we can be assured that many of us aren’t really doing evangelism.  Many explanations could be offered for the death of evangelism in our churches.  Tom Rainer cites various reasons why evangelism is difficult work with churches and Christian leaders.
  1. It is spiritual warfare. Satan and his demonic horde do not want people to know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the manifestations of demonic opposition are many, you can be assured the evangelistic leader will confront such opposition again and again.
  2. You will be viewed as narrowed minded. John 14:6 does not sit well with culture. Though Jesus Himself said He was the only way, truth, and life, leaders will be rejected and opposed for such “narrow-minded” thinking.
  3. Something else must be sacrificed when you are an evangelistic leader. Your time is limited. You have sermons to prepare. You have hospital visits to make. You have counseling appointments. You have way too many meetings. And hardly a day goes by without a new and unexpected crisis arising. You must sacrifice something else to take time to share the gospel with others.
  4. Some of your members will complain. You have some church members who will complain about anything that does not serve them personally. It may be headed under the passive-aggressive guise of “I’m not being fed,” but you can be assured some of your members will oppose your leadership in evangelism.
  5. New converts will be seen as threats or inconveniences in your church. True story. In one of the churches I served as pastor, a lady tried to get me fired because the “new people” were “messing up our church.” New Christians are needy. Some longer-term members don’t like to give up their comforts for others.
  6. Discussing theology is easier than doing theology. I wish we spent an equal amount of time sharing the gospel as we do talking and debating theology. Yes, we need to take bold stands for the truth. But we don’t need just to stand there; we need to do and go.
  7. You will have to break out of your holy huddles. It’s more comfortable hanging out with people who are like us and who believe like we do. But you will not have that luxury if you become an intentional evangelistic leader in your church. You will discover new relationships with non-Christians, which means you can’t spend all your time with Christians.   


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Should Christians Practice Lent?

I was recently asked by a couple of Christian men about the biblical purpose of Lent and whether or not Christians should be practicing it.  Many Protestants are not familiar with the term due to the fact that many of them don't practice it.  The Lent season (approximately 46 days, not counting Sundays) began in the 4th century and it was a period of time that was used for fasting, eating in moderation, or self-denial of something special.  Lent would begin on Ash Wednesday and last all the way until Easter Sunday.  For some who practice Lent, they may choose to refrain from smoking, eating meat, eating chocolate, not drinking coffee, or even turning off their television for a time.  It was a way of practicing self-denial of something special that meant something to an individual in hopes of gaining a greater measure of grace or blessing from God.

However, the Bible teaches that grace cannot be earned and it is the free gift of God (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 5:17).  Lent is encouraged as a sacrament in which believers receive an extra measure of grace or blessing.  No place in Scripture are Christians asked or told to practice Lent.  In fact, God's love for us cannot be any greater than it already is by practicing some act of self-denial.  Jesus Christ is the fullness of God's goodness towards us.  In Scripture Jesus encouraged those who desired to practice fasting to do so privately and not to make it a public matter in order to receive the accolades of others (Matthew 6:16-18).   Ash Wednesday (the beginning day of the Lent season) is the day that ashes are placed upon one's forehead to express their humility and penitent heart towards God. 

There is nothing at all wrong with fasting.  In fact, God desires that we walk in humility towards Him as a lifestyle.  His desire is that Christians are constantly aware of sin that exists in their lives and that they seek to walk in holiness every day of the year and not just during Lent season.  Lent should not be a time for us to boast of our sacrifice for God rather we should boast in the cross of Jesus Christ alone.  Christians are free to practice Lent if they feel so led to do so but they should always have a repentant heart and a life bathed in holiness.