Misquoting Jesus

Have you ever heard of the book “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman? He is a liberal historian who has investigated the Gospels and the life of Christ.  He says this about liberal scholarship in his book “Did Jesus Exist?”

“Their [liberal scholars] agenda is religious, and they are complicit in a religious ideology.  They are not doing history; they are doing theology. 

 

“To be sure, they are doing their theology in order to oppose traditional religion.  But opposition is driven not by historical concerns but by religious ones…

 

“They look at our society and see what incredible damage religion has done to human lives: from sponsorship of slavery to the refusal to grant women reproductive rights to the denial of the possibility of gay love and marriage. They look at the political scene and see what awful political power the religious right yields: from imposing certain sets of religious beliefs on our society or in our schools to electing only those political figures who support certain religious agendas…

 

“I have to admit that I have a good deal of sympathy with these concerns.  But I am also a historian who thinks that it is important not to promote revisionist versions of the past for ideological reasons rooted in nonhistorical agendas.  The writing of history should be done by following strict historical protocols.  It is not simply a means of promoting a set of personal likes and dislikes…

 

“But neither issue – the good done in the name of Christ or the evil – is of any relevance to me as a historian when I try to reconstruct what actually happened in the past.  I refuse to sacrifice the past in order to promote the worthy cause of my own social and political agendas.  No one else should either.  Jesus did exist, whether we like it or not.”

Bert D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? Pp. 338-339

 

This is food for thought!

GODSPEED

America, a “Christian Nation”?

I was reading the Bible to my 4 year old son the other night, when I noticed at the beginning of this little Gideon distributed Bible were several hymns; two hymns in particular caught my attention: America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) and the Star-Spangled Banner.

First, the Star-Spangled Banner – it is our national anthem, but we only sing the first verse at ball games or when the flag is raised at the Olympics.  What caught my attention is the final verse, which reads:

 

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I bolded certain words that praise the Creator God who “rescued” and in whom we as a nation at one point declared as a motto: “In God is our trust.”

 – What does it mean “Heav’n rescued land”?

 – Who is this “Power” that deserves praise for rescuing and preserving us a nation?

 – Who is this “God” in whom we as a nation once trusted?

What stands out to me is the words “Heav’n” and “Power” start with a capital “H” and a capital “P” – and it is this “Power” that is being praised in the song for rescuing and preserving our nation when we fight for a just cause.   The song is not explicitly saying this is the God of the Bible (or more specifically Jesus) but consider these points:

(1)    “Heaven” in the Bible and more specifically the Gospels was used interchangeably with “God.”  For example, when Jesus says in Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” this phrase is used interchangeably with what Jesus says in Mark 1:15, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

In Dr. Blomberg’s commentary on Matthew he points out, “The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is a circumlocution for the kingdom of God, reflecting pious Jewish avoidance of the divine name.  The expression appears only in Matthew, but it occurs thirty-three times and is largely interchangeable with ‘kingdom of God,’ as 19:23-24 makes clear.  ‘Kingdom of heaven’ perhaps refers to the fact that all power and authority in heaven are given to Jesus.” (p. 73)

In other words, if the authors of the Star-Spangled Banner knew this, then could it be they were pointing to the God of the Bible as the one who rescues and who is the Power that preserves?

This leads to my second point to consider:

(2)    Notice at the end of Blomberg’s quote that all “power” and “authority” in heaven are given to Jesus.  I assume Blomberg is referring to Matthew 28:18-20, in which Jesus says, “All authority and power in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go make disciples…”

So could it be that the one who rescues and who is the Power that preserves (according to the Star-Spangled Banner) is referring to Jesus Christ?

This leads to my third point to consider:

(3)    Jesus’ name in Hebrew means “Yahweh” Saves = “God” saves (i.e., rescues).  Again in the song the Star-Spangled Banner there is a phrase that says, “…may the Heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!” Could it be this “rescue” to “Heav’n” is referring to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s rescue plan to save humanity through Jesus? Could it be the song was referring to our nation being a nation that believes this Gospel?

Second, the song America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) has several verses with reference to God.  Since this is a super long song with 13 verses I will only point out two, verse 4 and 13:

(Verse 4) Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.  Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light, protect us by Thy might, great God our King.

 (Verse 13) Trump of glad jubilee! Echo o’er land and sea freedom for all.  Let the glad tidings fly, and every tribe reply, “Glory to God on high,” at Slavery’s fall.

In verse 4 notice it speaks of our “fathers’ God” being the “Author of liberty” and that it is in this song we sing to “Thee” = Him, God.  It is also God that Americans were calling upon for protection as the Great God and “our King.”  This all these words are biblical words and point toward Jesus Christ being our ruler and King, for the very word “Christ” means “King” and “Anointed One.”

In verse 13 it speaks of jubilee, a biblical word for the release of people from debt and more specifically the release of slaves announced by Jesus.  Jesus spoke about this in Luke 4:18-19 (see Isaiah 61:1-3) and declared it fulfilled for His followers in Luke 4:21.

Notice at the end of verse 13 that the hymnist speaks of the abolition of slavery, which is a Biblical concept rooted in the Old and New Testament and ultimately fulfilled in Christ, and that this abolition of slavery would bring every tribe and nation together to say “Glory to God on high.”

My point? It seems our founding fathers of this great nation knew the Bible, believed it, trusted in God, and used God’s ideas rooted in the Bible to form a free nation under God that seeks justice for all.

I never learned the above in public school or even college.  It took reading the beginning of a Gideon distributed Bible and knowledge of the Scriptures to put two-and-two together to formulate these thoughts.

Honestly, it makes me sad to think that we sing parts of these songs as our National Anthem or in learning about the Revolutionary War in school, but that we are not taught the full picture.

GODSPEED

Authentic Community

 

Francis Schaeffer wrote: “There is a tradition (it is not in the Bible) that the world said about the Christians in the early church, ‘Behold, how they love each other.’  As we read Acts and the epistles, we realize that these early Christians were really struggling for a practicing community.  We realize that one of the marks of the early church was a real community, a community that reached down all the way to their care for each other in their material needs.”

 

Schaeffer, in writing about the Christian community, coined a phrase – The Beauty of Human Relationships.  He used this phrase to summarize the quote above.  Essentially he was describing what it looks like, feels like, smells like and costs, in practical terms, for the church to be in fellowship with one another.  We read about this fellowship among Jesus’ immediate followers called the disciples in the Gospel accounts.  We read about the early church “devoting themselves” to be “members of one another” in community (Acts 2:42 & Rom. 12:5).  We read about this koinania [Greek for fellowship] in Church History books.  We read about this sacrifical living in modern books like “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan.

 

I believe it is through living this crazy type love that we will earn the respect of the next generation of this skeptical world.  May we, at Grace Church, strive to become a practicing community that lives out of an authentic faith to build a real community like what we read about in books and Scripture.

 

May we be an Authentic Christ-centered Community.

 

GODSPEED

What It Means To Be A Christian

My wife wrote this for a blog she will be writing.  She wrote:

What does it look like to follow Jesus (according to Jesus)?

Being a Christian means knowing who Christ really is.  Being a Christian means having a relationship with Christ.  Being a Christian means following Jesus.

It does not mean acting good, having a one-time spiritual experience, “confessing Jesus” while your behavior goes on unchanged, just being ‘moral,’ building your life around one or two verses, repeating the “sinner’s prayer” and then sitting back and doing nothing as you await His return, or surrendering to God only those areas of life that aren’t too costly.  The word “Christian” means “little Christ” and that is exactly what we are supposed to be—an on-going transformation into the image of God’s son.

I have read books that challenge me and map out what the true Christian life looks like.  I have watched and studied other women and men of God as they strive to live out the difficult principles of the Word.  I see how the Spirit is at work in my life as I strive to put the commands of scripture into practice.  I regularly experience the reality of grace when I am confronted with my sin and then, once again, have to turn back to God in repentance.

As I thought about this post, I collected quotes from famous authors and re-read some of the books that have had the greatest impact on me.  But honestly, I don’t want you to hear about Jesus and His expectations from me or anyone else.  So I read through the book of Matthew and underlined every directive, description, or warning that Jesus gives to and about His followers.  These are all the words of Christ:

__________________________________________________________________________________

4:4 It is written, ‘Man(kind) does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’

4:7 It is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

4:10 …For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’

4:17 Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.

4:19 Come follow Me… and I will make you fishers of men.

5:3-11 Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… the merciful… the pure in heart… the peacemakers… those who are persecuted because of righteousness.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

5:16 …let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments [the law and the Prophets- a euphemism for the Old Testament] and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…  But anyone who says “you fool!” will be in danger of the fires of hell.

5:23 Settle matters quickly with your adversary…

5:28 …anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body that for your whole body to be thrown into hell…

5:32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman causes her to commit adultery.

5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

5:39 Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and to not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

5:44 Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

6:2 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets.

6:5 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting.

6:21-24 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is there will your heart be also… You cannot serve both God and money.

6:25 …do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.

7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

7:5 First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

9:9 Follow me.

9:13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

10:10 Freely you have received, freely give.

10:16 I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

10:19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

10:22  All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

10:27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

10:32 Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

10:37  Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worth of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

10:42 And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

11:28-30 Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

12:36-37 But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

12:50 Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

13:23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

15:18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and these make a man unclean.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean.

16:24 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?

_____________________________________________

Okay.  I’m going to stop there.  That is half of one of four Gospels and there’s so much more in the other three and a half.  As I type these verses, I am overwhelmed again by how far I have to grow and how much I have to learn.  I am amazed at the breadth of teaching, the nearly unreachable standards, and the non-negotiable tone of Christ.

True Christianity demands everything we have.  There is not one passive statement in the above quotes.  We must love God supremely.  We have to be willing to sacrifice everything.  The gospel transforms our words, our bodies, our thoughts and the way we use our money.  Our relationships will be affected.  There is no area of our life that we can hold on to and control.  It will all be brought under the rule of Christ if we truly belong to him.  If your head is swimming and you feel like you need a little help knowing what all this looks like in real life, God wisely has provided a great cloud of witnesses to help you apply what Jesus taught.  He also has preserved the law and the prophets (the Old Testament) and the writings of several disciples (the New Testament) which can illuminate this narrow path for you.

It’s easy to make Jesus into just some great moral teacher- if you don’t actually read His words.  He is a self-proclaimed King (John 18:37).  He says that He is the only way to God (John 14:6).  He is the giver of abundant life on earth (John 10:10).  He is the giver of eternal life (John 5:24).  He says that if we do not believe in Him we will die in our sins (John 8:24).  C.S. Lewis makes this statement, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

If you like some of what Jesus said but aren’t striving to apply everything that He taught, then call yourself ‘Gnostic,’ or ‘spiritual,’ or ‘new age,’ or invent a different term like ‘only-when-it-doesn’t-hurt-Christian.’  True Christianity is difficult.  True Christianity will cost you.  True Christianity states that we must die to our self, take up our cross and follow Christ – it’s the cross, not a cruise, people.  You would have to be really desperate to take this whole “Christianity” thing on.  Or maybe just so thirsty for a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  Or maybe just desperate for Someone who can truly provide rest.  Or for Someone who will love you unconditionally.  Or for Someone who can offer real healing.  Or for Someone who can set you free.

In summary, Jesus died so that we might live.  The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  His gift of life is free to me, but growing in Christlikeness will cost me—ME: my desires, my appetites, my emotions, the control of my life, the direction of my life, my comfort, my resources… everything.

It comes down to this: Jesus died.  Now it’s my turn.

GODSPEED

Time with GOD

Dear Grace,

Time is something we do not have enough of and so how we use our time is so important. 

I spent some time with the LORD today combing over the Scriptures trying to understand them, to understand GOD and His ways.  For about 3 years now I have been reading the Bible really slowly, trying to understand every word, reading every footnote in my Ryrie Study Bible (NASB) and reading every Scripture reference.  Today I read 1 Chronicles 15, the section about when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. 

What stood out to my today were 4 things:

(1)    David had made a mistake by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in the wrong way (on a cart driven by Oxen instead of having the Levitical Priests carry it by poles – 1 Chron. 13:7-14).  The result of brining it in the wrong way was the Ark almost fell off the cart and Uzza stuck out his hand to steady the Ark and the LORD’s anger burned against Uzza and he was struck dead by the LORD.  So David was angry, and in 1 Chron. 15 he realized it was his fault for not obeying the LORD about how the Ark was to be brought in, so David repented (1 Chron. 15:13) and assembled the Israelites and commanded the Levites to obey GOD and carry the Ark.

What we can learn from this is that even in the little, seemingly insignificant things, GOD’s way is best and we are called to follow His ways.

(2)    The Ark of the Covenant was brought in with praise music and all the people were celebrating and dancing with joy.  The music being played was with lyres, harps, and loud-crashing cymbals (1 Chron. 15:16; see also chapter 16).

What we can learn from this is joyous celebration with loud music, even with drums is ok among God’s people.

(3)    David took off His royal robes to humble himself and to celebrate with the people.  He was like the average Joe, dressed down and celebrating with humility before the LORD (1 Chron. 15:27-28; see also 2 Sam. 6).  David was criticized by his wife Michal for taking off the royal robe (1 Chron. 15:29; see also 2 Sam. 6:20-23).  Notice in reading 2 Samuel 6:23, his wife’s criticism resulted in the LORD’s punishment of her, as my footnote in Charles Ryrie’s Study Bible explains:

“The Lord condemned Michal to the disgrace of childlessness.” – Ryrie Study Bible, see note on 2 Sam. 6:23

What we can learn from this is humble, loud celebration of the goodness of God is pleasing to the LORD and that when our hearts are right we do not need to worry about what people might say. 

(4)    Finally, one of the footnotes about the type of music being played pointed to Psalm 6.  If you read Psalm 6 it begins with a lament, an appeal to God not to punish David, and calls upon the LORD to purge evil from among GOD’s people.  In other words, David’s worship began with a lament for not bringing the Ark in the way the LORD had instructed him to and the end of the song called on GOD to be the one who protects David and Israel from their enemies.

What we can learn from this is that if you take care of your character, GOD will take care of your reputation.  So follow the LORD first and let Him take care of you along the way.

So let us praise the LORD and may we do it with humility and may it be a sweet sound, an aroma that is pleasing to our LORD God.  The very words I just wrote remind me of Amos 5:23-24.  In that passage the LORD calls for justice, especially by the leadership (v. 24) above His call for technically right sounding worship (v. 23).  In other words God desires our worship to begin with right relationships and without right relationships the noise of worship is just that, noise.  So may we as the Church put off sin, purge evil, put on justice, put on love, and put on mercy.

 

GODSPEED