How can you know you are saved?

The following is the intro to my sermon this Sunday, September 30th, 2012

 

How can you be sure you’re saved?

 

When I was a Jr. High Youth Pastor…each week it seemed like we had someone new accept Christ as Savior…they would be overcome with the joy of the Lord and say that they felt like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders…

And then after a time…I began to notice many of the same students would have a look of consternation on their face…and begin to struggle…and eventually fall away…

There was one student in particular…he accepted Christ…come for 2-3 weeks… then not come for 2-3 weeks…then come back…accept Christ again…and the cycle continued for about a year…I took he and two other students to Taco Bell…and asked what was going on?

He said, “I accepted Christ…felt over joyed…come home from youth group…and am reminded of reality…my parents are getting divorced…my dad drinks…my mom yells…my sister is schizophrenic and suicidal…I hate my life…so I drop out of youth group…but can’t handle it any more…some I come back…accept Christ again…am overjoyed…go home…and reality hits me…”

“I feel like if God is real…then shouldn’t my prayers make a difference…shouldn’t my parent’s change…shouldn’t my sister change? And since they don’t…I question my salvation…I question Christianity…I question if God is real…”

This is an extreme situation…but I believe it is the common experience of many in our culture…what do you say to someone in this situation?

         How do you re-assure them?

         How can you encourage them?

         Perhaps you are right where this person was at?

         You doubt your own salvation …God…and the Bible…

         How can you be sure you’re saved?

 

Join us Sunday September 30th or listen on-line Oct. 1st.

 

GODSPEED

      

        And what difference should it make?

No Little People

Francis Schaeffer said – “There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.”

Schaeffer was talking about how Christians often think they are too small minded, too insignificant, with too little strength, talents, or influence to make a difference and therefore do nothing to try to change the world around them.  To this Schaeffer responds –

“Consider the mighty ways in which God used a dead stick of wood [in reference to the rod of Moses that God used to perform miracles in Exodus]… Though we are limited and weak in talent, physical energy and psychological strength, we are not less than a stick of wood.  But as the rod of Moses had to become the rod of God, so that which is me must become the me of God.  Then, I can become useful in God’s hands.  The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God.”

Jesus emphasized that size and spiritual power do not go together and that there are different jobs to be done by different people with different roles and responsibilities, but as Christians we all stand before God as equals before one Master.  Therefore each individual should seek to be consecrated before the Lord and discern His will and then do it.  In the knowing and doing of His will it is then that we truly will be happy (John 13:17).

Schaeffer goes on to say in his book that there are no little places.  As humans we are drawn to what is big, flashy, exciting, and therefore think if we are not doing what is exciting in an exciting environment that what we are doing and where we are doing it is insignificant.  Francis challenges Christians not to think this way but rather to consider the situation and place that one finds oneself to be the exact place where the Lord has called him (or her) until the Lord leads that person on to a different situation.  Apart from being still and consecrating oneself before the Lord we become complacent, prideful, and can argue over the smallest or biggest of things.  Schaeffer said, “I have seen fights over who was going to be the president of a Sunday school class composed of three members.  The temptation has nothing to do with size.  It comes from a spirit, a mentality, inside us.”  Francis is pointing us to be humble servants and to realize that with more responsibility comes more opportunities to serve, therefore seek the peace of God in all circumstances so that one can serve for the right reasons in the place God has placed him.

In conclusion –

“Each Christian is called to be a rod for God in the place of God for him.  We must remember throughout our lives that in God’s sight there are no little people and no little places.  Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment.  Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if committed to Christ and living under his Lordship in the whole of life, may, by God’s grace, change the flow of our generation.”

GODSPEED

Does it matter if Jesus was married?

First, back then most Rabbis were married.  So culturally speaking it would have been normal.

Second, if Jesus was married he likely would have had children.  This would have created a problem because then people would say his children were literal grandchildren of God the Father.  The orthodox view of Jesus’ nature is he was fully God and fully man.  If he would have had children, his sons and daughters would have been a diluted version of the God-man’s nature and this would have created a controversy similar to the Immaculate Conception of Mary (i.e., Mary having been born without sin so as to be able to give birth to the Son of God).

Third, in the New Testament the Church is described as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:21-33, specifically vv. 25-32).  If Jesus had a human wife, then this theology would contradict reality and be confusing.

Finally, it is silly to speculate about the above because the fact of the matter is that no one who personally knew Jesus ever mentioned a wife or children.  If he were married with children, wouldn’t this have been a significant detail for the Apostles or his disciples to mention?

GODSPEED

Was Jesus married?

Have you read the article titled “Harvard scholar’s discovery suggests Jesus had a wife”?

In this article the scholar says that the partial manuscript (1.5 inches by 3 inches), which was written in the 4th century AD says, “Jesus said to them, my wife.”

This fits in perfectly with what I just preached last Sunday (listen to “Obstacles to fellowship” http://www.gracechurchseattle.org/media.php?pageID=5).

The problems with the article about the Harvard scholar’s discovery is 4-fold: (1) she says it appears to be from a gospel; (2) she says it was written between the second half of the 2nd century and the 4th century; (3) she says it was written by Christians; and (4) it contradicts what we know from credible sources.

I am not saying the discovery is not a real document, but what I am saying is the document was written by Gnostics who did not have authority to speak about the historical Jesus.  Let me explain:

(1)    The first point to debunk in the article about the Harvard scholar’s discovery is she claims the partial manuscript appears to be from a gospel.  The problem with this is there are only 4 gospels that were / are considered credible by a majority of Christian scholars and historians.

All 4 gospels found in the New Testament were written before the end of the 1st century by an Apostle or an “amanuensis” (a secretary or writer on behalf of an Apostle).  This means these Apostles knew, touched, walked with, and witnessed the life, preaching, and miracles of Jesus of Nazareth.

Rodney Stark mentioned in his book “The Triumph of Christianity” that the Apostles would have been taught from the beginning to memorize Jesus sermons and sayings.  He also points out that one or more of the Apostles would have kept notes.  The combination of memorizing, there being 12 Apostles and hundreds of disciples, plus one of the Apostles taking notes would have made it relatively easy to recount the stories, sermons, and sayings.  Plus, each of them witnessed the miracles and more than 500 people at one time say the resurrected Christ after he was raised (1 Corinthians 15:1-6).

My point is that the Apostles had authority to write about Jesus and they never mentioned that Jesus was married; this assertion comes 3 centuries later by Gnostics who did not believe many of the core Christian teachings.

In Church History (which is really Western History but the public school system and liberal scholarship has neutered history by re-writing it and by trying to demonize any truly Christian movement) the Christian scholars came together to finalize the “Canon of the New Testament.”  The word “Canon” means measurement.  The idea is there needed to be a measurement for what all churches would consider to be authoritative concerning Jesus’ life and teaching.  The “Canon” included 3 measurements: (1) the Scripture had to be written by an Apostle or his “amanuensis”; (2) the Scripture had to agree with theology in the Old and New Testament; and (3) the Scripture had to be in use as Authoritative Scripture by a majority of churches.

The question about the Harvard scholar’s discovery is does it measure up to the rules for being in the Canon? If not, then at best the “discovery” was written by an ignorant Christian who is flittering with heretical ideas; at worst the “discovery” is from a Gnostic gospel, which is heretical and not historically accurate pertaining to the life of Jesus.

(2)    My second point is the Harvard scholar says the partial manuscript was written between the second half of the 2nd century and the 4th century.

The problem with the dating is even the news articles point out in two different stories that she did not truly know when the fragment was written: (1) in the Yahoo news article she dates the manuscript fragment to the 4th century – but she needed help from other scholars to determine this; and (2) in the Fox news article she dates the fragment in the second half of the 2nd century because this is when other similar “gospels” such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip began to appear, which has similar theology.

So she at first dated the fragment to the end of the 2nd century because she thought the theology was similar to other Gnostic gospels written during that time, then she was corrected by other scholars and the fragment is given a date during the 4th century.  So at best, if it was from the second half of the 2nd century the author of the fragment was 3-7 generations removed from Jesus and never would have met Jesus or an Apostle or disciple of Jesus.  But it is most likely the author was about 300 years removed from the life of Christ and therefore had no authority based in history to claim Jesus had a wife.

To compare the two articles they are listed below:

http://beta.local.yahoo.com/news-harvard-professor-discovers-reference-jesus-being-married.html?woeid=2367105&lat=42.358631&lon=-71.056702&statecode=MA&cityname=Boston

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/09/18/harvard-scholar-discovery-suggests-jesus-had-wife/#ixzz26u37P92j?test=latestnews

The above argument leads to my third point…

(3)    She claims the partial manuscript was written by Christians.  The problem with this is Gnostics are not Christians.  She says, “…she dated the time it was written to the second half of the second century because it shows close connections to other newly discovered gospels written at that time, especially the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip.”

The Gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Philip were Gnostic.  Gnosticism taught that spirit is good and flesh is bad.  That the true God created the spirit realm and a renegade demiurge named Yahweh (Old Testament God) created the physical universe, which is evil.  They taught that a spirit named Jesus was sent from the true God and that he (Jesus) only appeared to be human but really he was just a spirit, like a ghost.  They taught Jesus only appeared to die, appeared to rise from the dead.  They taught Jesus gave secret “gnosis” (knowledge) to liberate you from this evil universe back to the spirit realm and the one true God.  The Gnostics were divided about how to live in this evil world and they developed multiple different philosophies, the two basic being: (1) live in extreme asceticism controlling your flesh and don’t get married; or (2) do whatever you want because all that matters is you are spiritual.  This, the Harvard scholar says, is the reason the Gnostic text is so important because supposedly the Gnostics who thought it was ok to get married were trying to establish that Jesus himself was married.

The main point above is these Gnostics were not Christian because: (1) they denied the Old Testament God was the one True God; (2) they denied Jesus came in the flesh; (3) they denied Jesus really died for your sins; (4) they were either legalistic or had no moral code; and (5) they rejected the writings of the Apostles.

At the end of the 1st century John the Apostle, who actually walked with Jesus, wrote the Gospel of John to give correct theology about the historical Jesus and he wrote 1, 2, and 3 John to combat Gnosticism.  In chapters 1-2 John states that the ones not in the truth are those who deny Jesus came in the flesh and who deny they are sinful and in need of Jesus to propitiate (die for) their sins to appease God and restore fellowship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.

(4)    The final point is the Harvard professor’s discovery contradicts what we know from credible sources.  In other words, there is nothing from people who actually knew Jesus to suggest Jesus was married.

Whoever wrote the fragment did not have authority to speak about Jesus from an historical perspective.  We have already concluded that other scholars helped the Harvard professor to date the article to the 4th century, meaning whoever wrote the fragment never would have met Jesus.  So my question is why is this the first time a statement about Jesus being married is coming up? There were hundreds if not thousands of statements written about Jesus by this time; if he was married, then this would have been mentioned.

The fragment “discovered” by the Harvard professor should not be counted as authoritative concerning Jesus’ life and if He was married because: (1) the fragment is not from a credible Christian gospel; (2) the fragment is from the 4th century; (3) the author of the fragment was not Christian; and (4) there is no credible historical evidence Jesus was married.

GODSPEED

Churh Fellowship and 1 John 1:5-2:2

Dear Grace,

God is doing something awesome in our midst and at the same time Satan would love nothing more than to find a weakness to stop the work of God.  So what can we do about this?

We need to continue to build an environment of trust and right relationships.

How do we do this?

The Bible says that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities, and powers of darkness (Eph. 6).  The Bible also says, “[4] The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine powers to demolish strongholds.  [5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

What these two sections of Scripture are saying is that when we face dificulties we need to pray, have faith, take thoughts captive, and purpose to practice good patterns of communication.

We are in the book of 1 John in the sermon series and the passage for this week is saying that sin is an obstacle to fellowship with God.  It is also saying that sin is an obstacle to relationships between people.  The passage is not saying we will never sin as Christians, but that we need to confess our sin so that the obstacles that block relationships can be removed and so that fellowship between Christians can exist and be sustained.

Friends, may we as Christians commit to the following as we grow and mature as a church — may we come into the light when we have sinned, may we admit our sins to God and one another, and may that confession remove obstacles that stand in the way of relationships.

Praying with you!

GODSPEED