|Posted by pastorsloan on October 11, 2013 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
While participating in an open air preaching opportunity at Temple University, our group ran into a young man named Kendell. Or maybe it would be better phrased, a young man named Kendell ran into us. Kendell was an angry young man. To be fair, Kendell said he was not angry when I made a statement that could see that he was anger. Of course, he yell at me "I'm not angry." You be the judge. Kendell wanted proof that God exists. He had already encountered one of the groups we had on the campus that was not far from ours. When he encountered our group, it think he burned even hotter. Kendell had all the answers to everything we would say to him. It was obvious that he was well studied in the ways of atheism. He must have watched every video on YouTube where atheists "destroy" the Christian apologetic. Kendell was well coached. Kendell would not accept the Bible as evidence that God exists. When I offered my Bible to him, he refused. He actually said he would throw it away if I gave it to him. Kendell was a very angry young man. But my interaction with Kendell left me with some thoughts about witnessing to atheists.
Kendell's agitation at the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ led me to consider Romans 1:18. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." Think about a can of your favorite carbonated beverage. Everything is calm about it. The beverage wants to say inside the can. But shake up that same can, and beverage wants to get out. When the pressure is released, the beverage comes rushing out. Now think about the atheist who has been suppressing the truth. Their atheism is nicely contained. It is suppressed and under control. When the preacher of the gospel enters their world, their can of atheism is shaken. The pressure builds. They let it out, and it goes all over the preacher. No wonder the atheist is angry. We are upsetting their whole world. The supressed knowledge of God is trying to come out again because of the preaching of the world. We must understand that this will be the case. Maybe it will not be as messy as it was with Kendell, but we are none the less loosening the cap on their suppressed knowledge of god.
Another thing that stuck out to me about Kendell was the fact that he was asking for proof that God exists. He calmed he even asked God to prove to him that He exists. But here is one thing I have noticed, atheists only tend to listen to other atheists. I thought afterward that I should have said to Kendell, "If you want proof that God exists, why are you only listening to people who believe He does not?" Atheists like to think they are objective and intelligent. But truth of the matter is that they are just as skewed as we are. They only accept the evidence that they like. They reject the Christians evidence without examination. The problem with Kendell seemed to be that his ability to be object was clouded by his emotions. Ever listen to an atheist talk about Christians. They are hateful, mean, and intolerant toward us. Not because of the "evidence", but because they are emotionally invested. To accept the existance of God and the witness of the Scriptures would leave their world in chaos. Everything would be overturned. To put it bluntly, they love their sin, so they find any and every reason to reject the God of the Bible.
Kendell also kept asking if the Bible was our only evidence for the existance of God. Of course, we know that creation also declares His glory, but that was not his point. Kendell was accusing us of circular logical. He believed that the Bible can not the evidence for God because it says God exists. It is circular. But the Christian should not say that. The Bible is not evidence for God' s existance because it says God exists. The Bible is proof of God's existance because it is communication from God. Any reasonable person would say that communication from someone is evidence that they exist. The Bible proves that God exists because it is His message to us. Of course, the atheist says that the Bible is only the work of men. Why? Because they believe God does not exist, therefore God can not communicate. In order to get an atheist to accept the Bible, they must be willing to give up their presuppositions that God does not exist. Until they are will to receive God's revelation about himself, the atheist will not believe any argument we offer.
That leads me to my last point. You can not argue someone into the Kingdom of God. We can not convert anyone. Conversion is God's work.
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
The condition of the human heart is such that it can not and will not believe unless God does the work. This is what I pray that God will do for Kendell and the others I met that day. May God be glorified in taking sinners who deny His existance, and turning them into powerful proclaimers of His saving grace and mercy.
Pastor Howard Sloan is the pastor of St. Paul's Reformed Church in Bedford, PA.
All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version.
|Posted by pastorsloan on October 9, 2013 at 1:05 PM||comments (1)|
|Posted by pastorsloan on August 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
ARE THERE MANY PATHSTO GOD?
The question of whether there are many paths to God is an important one. Life beyond the grave hinges upon the answer, so it deserves serious consideration. This question or belief can be express in a number of ways. Some frame this positively saying “there are many paths to God.” Others frame it negatively as an accusation against Christianity – “How can you say that Jesus is the only way to God?” Two premises frame the issue for us.
Premise 1: God is knowable. The belief that there are multiple ways to God presupposes a belief that God is knowable. Premise 2 relates to that. Premise 2: God is reachable. This follows from the desire to reach God. Anyone who strives to know and get to God must believe that his can be known. The question comes down to how,and who is this god that we are trying to reach. If these premises are true and there is more than one way to God, and we are all trying to reach the same God then three things follow.
1. God would not be good. If we are trying to know and reach God, then we must believe that God worth knowing. What kind of good God lets us try to figure it out on our own? Each man choosing his own path will most likely end up with people getting lost, and not getting to their destination. Imagine setting someone on the edge of the woods and telling them that on the other side is a castle where they will rest in comfortable beds, eat the best food, and enjoy the best fellowship with people including the good king himself. Then tolding them, “Off you go, you’re onway. There is a path in there somewhere.” Would not a map be useful in finding the way? Or at least a compass? Maybe some better directions? This is what it is like to say that God is good but expects us to find our way on our own. It does not make sense.
2. God would be inconsistent. Let’s say that the various religions of the world are different attempts to reach God. They are different maps, if you will. Some believe in one god. Some believe in many gods. Some believe in an afterlife. Some believe in reincarnation. Some believe innothingness. Either some of these “maps”are inaccurate inventions and misinterpretations of man, or God has given us contradictory information. That is a god of confusion. That sounds like a god who does not want to be found, rather than one who does. If God is knowable, why would he leave us confused about who He is? So what it comes to is that either God is inconsistent or we are.
3. God would be a liar. If God is behind the religions of the world,the problem is actually worse than God being inconsistent. The religions of the world, along with our self-made efforts to reach God come to drastically different and often contradictory conclusions. If these religions are all efforts to reach God, then God lies to us about who He is IF God is in all of these religions. Could it be that God is not the liar? Does God give us intentionally misleading directions? What kind of God is that? Maybe man is the liar.
The truth is that left to our own devices, we will look for or create a god of our own image before we ever seek the true God. This is why the world is full of contradictory ways to God. The Bible explains this phenomenon to us.
For although they knew God, they did nothonor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in theirthinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, theybecame fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resemblingmortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Each one of us has the knowledge of God by virtue of living in His creation. The problem is that we suppress and distort that knowledge. Why? Because our basic nature as human beings is flawed and broken because of what the Bible calls sin. Not only do we suppress and distort the knowledge of the true god, we create gods of our own invention. This is why God gives commands against making false gods in the Ten Commandments.
Exod 20:3-6 “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
We want a god of our own choosing, yet the true God is there to be known. If God desired for us to know Him, it would make sense that God would reveal Himself to us. He has in the Bible. The Bible clearly states that there is only one way to the Father and Heaven. A good, true, and consistent God is the one revealed in the Bible, and the one who gave the Bible to us. If God desired for us to reach Him, it would make sense for God to bring us to Himself. He has in Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And there is salvation in no one else,for there is no other name (the name of Jesus Christ) under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The problem is that we are unable to find our own way to God because of our sin.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
That is why God made a way for us in, Jesus Christ.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
In the work of His son Jesus, God does something marvelous. God gives His own son as a wrath satisfying sacrifice (that is what propitiation means). We deserve the wrath of God, but Jesus takes it for us. Then we receive it by faith with repentance of our sins.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
When we truly place our faith in the wrath satisfying work of Jesus Christ and turn from our sins in repentance, God brings us into relationship with Himself for all eternity. It is a relationship characterized by newness of life, growth in the knowledge of the God, and surrender to His glory and will. If you are serious about knowing and find God, be found by Him today. Ask God to forgive your sins because of the finished work of Christ, and go forward in that newness of life. Seek out a church that is committed to the word of God as the true road map to knowing God. Tell others that you have found the true way to God.
Scripture quotations are from TheHoly Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®;), copyright ©2011 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
|Posted by pastorsloan on April 16, 2013 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
The title of this may shock you. After all, isn’t the point of religion toprepare us for and get us to the afterlife? If religion won’t do it, then what hope is there? Why is being religious not enough to gain heavenly reward. What is sufficient to give us what we so desperately desire from this life and the next? These are important questions with which we must wrestle. The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian church about some of these same issues. What does he say to them about the trap of religious activity?
First, who are the Galatians? They were a body of first century Christians located in modern day Turkey. Teachers had infiltrated the church trying to get them to be circumcised in order to truly be saved. Paul writes to correct the Galatians and warn them that is it not practice of religious rites and rituals that provides eternal life. He describes the situation this way:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)
Paul refers to what is occurring in Galatia as a“different gospel” and a distortion of “the gospel of Christ.” The basis of our right standing with God was being misrepresented. Paul concerns over a distorted gospel, which is really no gospel at all, are still valid today. Many believe that the exercise ofreligion is the essence the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul himself was one who trusted in thepractice of religion to attempt to gain right standing with God. He describes himself this way:
For you have heard of my former life inJudaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14)
Paul’s religion stood out far and above many of hiscontemporaries. His practice of religion was zealous, so zealous that he sought to destroy the early church because it opposed the religion he so deeply loved and practiced. It was not until God opened Paul’s eyes that he saw the truth about the church. He also saw that it was not in the practice of religion by which right standing with God is found, but through Christ alone. Now a group had entered the Galatian church who was teaching that something needed to be added to Christ – namely circumcision.
Paul even had to correct Peter who was fearful of those who taught circumcision.
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:14)
So what is the issue for us today? The issue is not about circumcision, but about whether any religious practices are the key to right standing with God. For us it could be baptism, attendance at religious services, charitable acts, or any number of religious activities, that we may feel contribute to our right standing before God. Paul cuts to the heart of the matter.
yet we know that a personis not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
What does it mean to be justified? Justification is the act of God whereby we are declared forgiven of all of our sin because of the work of Christ on the cross, and credited with the righteousness of Christ. Paul instructs the Galatians (and us by extension) that is not by the practice of religion that we are made right with God. It is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. We trust what Christ has done for us is sufficient and that nothing else needs to be added to it by us. It is simply received by trust in Christ. Paul examines the issue.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21)
But Jesus Christ did NOT die for no purpose because no one is right with God by obedience to the law. Paul further explains.
Now it is evident that no one is justified before Godby the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not offaith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed usfrom the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursedis everyone who is hanged on a tree”— (Galatians 3:11-13)
We deserve of the curse of God because of our sin. That curse is hell – eternal punishment from God. All of which Christ took on for us on the cross. Is really for me? Am I really a sinner? What does that sin look like which put Christ there?
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality ,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
These things describe our lives. Even if we have not committed every sin on this list, we have a least committed some. You can see why religion is not enough. We have a big problem. Our sins can never be out done by our efforts at righteousness. So how are we made righteous before God? We turn from our sin in true repentance and receive the work of Christ on our behalf as a gift of God through faith alone.
Then once we have been justified by faith and righteous a wondrous thing happens. We live life by the power of the Holy Spirit
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
Our lives are transformed and empowered. No longer do we keep the law on our own effort, which is impossible. We live by the spirit of God, free from slavery to the law, and freed to love and serve both our neighbor and God.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Paul instructs the Galatians (and us) not to go back to such foolishness again. He also instructs us to use the freedom we have in Christ to serve one another and so honor God.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
You see our keeping the law by religious expression, moral obedience, or simple acts of goodness to our neighbor do nothing to make us righteous. Yet we are redeemed so that we will express our faith in a thousand different ways to the glory of theFather. What a difference? What freedom in Christ from trying to do enough? Saved by religion? Never. Saved by God’s grace? Always and only.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, EnglishStandard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministryof Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
|Posted by pastorsloan on September 25, 2012 at 1:55 PM||comments (1)|
The following is a tract idea that I would like to do in the style of a Christmas card. Let me know what you think, or if you would be interested in it.
What is the true meaning of Christmas. So much of what we are told is part of Christmas has nothing to do with it. Often it is taking one part of Christ or Christmas and emphasizing it to the exclusion of others. We must be careful to get Christmas right. What are we often pointed to as being the meaning of Christmas?
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corintians 8:9)
Often times generosity is portrayed as the message of Christmas time. There is nothing wrong with generosity. In fact the Bible commands and commends generosity on the part of those who have received the grace of Christ. Still, making Christmas about generosity is to miss the point.
Sometimes the lesson of the Christmas story is portrayed as learning humility. The Bible speaks about the humility of Christ.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
But if we stop there, we are left with Christ being only an example of humility that we should follow. Christmastime is meant for us to reflect on His humility and humbled by it. But that is not the central point. Jesus’ humility is for the purpose of saving a people from their sins, not just to teach us to be humble.
Another thing we might get from the Christmas message that is not central to its meaning is obedience. Because Christ was obedient, the message is then made to be that we must be obedience. While obedience is good and commanded in Scripture, it is not the central part of the Christmas message. Obedience to God is a response to God’s work in and for us. Jesus’ obedience is not just to get us to learn to be obedient to God. If we miss that, we get Christmas wrong.
PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! Luke 2:14
We are used to hearing “Peace on earth, good will to men!” It is all over our Christmas cards. Christmas becomes about peace and good will to men. But in fact is that God is bringing about peace with those whom He pleases. If we do not see Christmas as a act of God to bring about peace, we get Christmas wrong.
TO GET CHRISTMAS RIGHT, YOU HAVE TO FIRST GET CHRIST RIGHT
If you get Jesus Christ wrong, you get Christmas wrong.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. ….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)
We must see Christmas as the entrance of God into the sphere of human life for the purpose of redemption. To see Him as anything other than the miracle of the God-man is to get Christmas wrong.
TO GET CHRISTMAS RIGHT, YOU NEED TO GET THE PURPOSE RIGHT
The angels say to the shepherds in Luke 2:11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Jesus did not just come to be an example, He came to be a Savior. In Matthew 1:20 we read these words.
But as he (Joseph) considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Our sin separates us from God and leaves us as an object of God’s wrath. That is far from peace, love, and joy. That is the purpose of Christmas. We needed a perfect man to be a perfect sacrifice. Only God Himself could fit that role. That is the purpose of Christ in Christmas.
TO GET CHRISTMAS RIGHT, YOU NEED TO GET YOURSELF RIGHT
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)
Christmas is more than about gifts, meals, and parties. It is about more than about God coming to earth. It is about God coming to earth so that we might become children of God. If you want to celebrate Christmas right, it begins by making sure that you are right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. We do that by placing our faith or trust in Jesus Christ as the one who has taken the penalty of our sins upon Himself. We also repent of our sins, which means not just that we are sorry for our sins but that we put them away in our lives. Then following from that comes generosity, humility, obedience, peace, and joy as we live our lives in the light of the great gift God has bestowed upon us in sending His son for us. May you know the true meaning of Christmas and keep it all of your days.
Rev. Howard Sloan is the pastor of St. Paul’s Reformed Church in Bedford, PA. He is also the coordinating secretary for the HRA. All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version.
|Posted by pastorsloan on September 25, 2012 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted by pastorsloan on September 25, 2012 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
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