Challenged by the Bible

I am often challenged by scripture.  Challenged to learn and understand.  Challenged to live and prove.  Challenged to be who God would have me to be through his divine revelation, the Bible.

As I’ve stated before, I am a “biblio-theologian.”  The Bible speaks for itself.  I don’t follow a systematic theology (such as Calvinism, Arianism, Catholicism, etc.).  I let the Bible and God’s Spirit be the only rule in my life.

I might note that the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s tool.  He works hand-in-hand with what God has revealed to us and guides and directs us according to the truths and teachings of Scripture.

Here’s where the Bible has challenged me:

I am a sinner in need of salvation (Romans 3:10-18, 23)

God loves me and his greatest desire is to save me from sin and its penalty (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9)

God sent Jesus to pay for my sins, so that I don’t have too, he is my propitiation (John 3:16; Romans 3:24-26)

Through faith in Jesus being the risen Son of God, I receive salvation (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:1-2; Acts 4:12)

Faith involves believing in Jesus, confessing Jesus, repenting of my sin, being immersed in water, and living a life of holiness (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10;  1 Peter 3:21; 1 Peter 1:13-2:17)

But finding all this out and following through in faith is not all there is.  The Bible continues to challenge me.  Here’s how:

It challenges me to live in a holy, sin free manner (1 Peter 1:14-16; Romans 12:1-2)

The Word of God is like a double-edged sword

It challenges me to know and love God more (Matthew 22:27)

It challenges me to make Jesus known to others (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:21)

It challenges me to serve others (Galatians 513; Ephesians 6:7)

It challenges me to love others (Matthew 22:29; John 13:24)

It challenges me know and understand it’s truths, the hopes it presents, the help it provides, the joy it instills.

The Bible will, in the heart of those who will let it, challenge and change them, perfecting them into the likeness of Christ, our hope and joy, our Savior and friend, our Lord and provider.

All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account”  Hebrews 4:12-13.

All scripture quotations are from Holman’s Christian Standard Bible

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The Thief on the Cross

Jesus and the repenting thief

When we talk about salvation, one of the questions that comes up a lot is about the thief on the cross.  He wasn’t baptized.  Since he wasn’t baptized, is baptism really necessary?

Some of the key aspects of “rightly dividing” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God involves understanding when something happened or was taught and it’s relationship to the whole of the subject as well as taking all of what the Bible says about any given topic.

Let me illustrate this in a silly way.

“All bald men are going to heaven!”  Bold statement for sure.  I love Leviticus 13:40.  It states; “If a man loses the hair of his head, he is bald, he is clean.”

Being clean, or cleansed is a justification that God gives to the sinner.  Freed from sin, cleansed from unrighteousness.  Understanding that we can therefore say, if a man is bald, he is saved.

Now there are several problems with this, besides the comedy and stupidity factor.  It was taken out of context; the immediate context of Leviticus 13 and the book of Leviticus.  These are the laws of God and understanding of the ways of God and chapter 13 is specifically about leprosy and not spiritual cleansing.

The correct understanding of Leviticus 13:40 is, just because some guy is bald, does not necessarily mean he has leprosy.  It just means he lost his hair.

Applying scripture willy-nilly, out of context, with various biases will lead to warped understandings and the development of false doctrines.  So what about the thief on the cross?

Read this article by Robert R. Taylor, Jr. about the thief on the cross.  I think it will enlighten you.

http://www.scripturessay.com/printpage.php?id=748

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The Sinner’s Prayer

Early on in our discussion about the elements involved in a person’s salvation, someone commented that I had left out the sinner’s prayer.

Here’s the link to my reply https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/whats-the-bible-say/.

The problem with the sinner’s prayer in my estimation is simply that it is not found in scripture.  No where is there a sinner’s prayer recorded or do we read about any salvation experience where someone prayed a sinner’s prayer.

In fact, if we do a little research about the sinner’s prayer, it’s only about 500 years ago that it was first practiced and it didn’t get refined until Billy Graham.

Follow this link to this treatise/exposition about the history of the sinner’s prayer as well as a rebuttal to it’s validity.

http://www.bible.ca/g-sinners-prayer.htm

Let me reiterate what the Bible does teach about a person coming to salvation.

  • A person must first become a follower of Jesus Christ (a disciple) believing in Him, that he is the Son of God and believing that God raise him from the dead (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10).
  • A person must realize that they are a sinner who will suffer the consequences of sin (Romans 3:23 & 6:23) and that they must repent of that sin (Acts 2:38 & 3:19).
  • A person must profess their belief in Jesus through confession (Romans 10:9-10).
  • And a person must be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).

Of course a faithful life to God follows this as well, but the point is, what does the New Testament teach?

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To Those Telling About Jesus

Directing Others to Jesus

I’d like to share yesterday’s message with you from our series, Jesus said go! This message is called “Being Prepared…What to Say. I hope this encourages the evangelist that every Christians is supposed to be. You can listen to the message at http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/Sermons.dsp. You can access the messages at New Testament Christian Church after noon on Mondays. Here is yesterday’s sermon. All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

It seems like all that we know is the five-finger exercise that Walter Scott taught as he went around preaching 170 years ago. Pointing to each finger in succession, he would teach people what they needed to do to be saved. “Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized.” Sometimes, that’s about all we know.

How many of us have been in a situation where we didn’t know what scriptures to use or what exactly to say?

Let me share one moment from my own experiences. Larry Huebanks our minister and I were sharing with Linda and her husband, Joe. They had been coming to church for a while and were interested in becoming Christians. Larry and I went to their home one evening, but I didn’t know what to say. Not only that I was nervous, scared and embarrassed that I didn’t but I grew up with it. I grew up going to church and hearing this stuff. I went calling with Brother Kenny and the elders and deacons and other men on calling night. I went to Bible college. I hadn’t had personal evangelism class yet, the stuff just wasn’t there. I was an active part of the church, a leader in fact. I couldn’t do more than “believe-confess-repent-be baptized. Larry carried the conversation. In spite of my inconsistency, Linda and Joe were baptized a couple of weeks later. Their boys were baptized about a month after their parents.

But, can you imagine the commercial for someone like me? “Hi, Bruce Bunsen here; whenever you try to evangelize somebody, do you get scared and tongue-tied? Do you ever forget the words you’re supposed to say? Are you afraid of being rejected? Well, have I got a salvation presentation for you. You’ll never wonder about what to say again. You’ll be soooo confident everyone will want you to baptize them….

Today, let’s lose Bruce Bunsen’s attitude and be reminded of some important and even essential things that will be a part of sharing Jesus and leading someone to salvation in Jesus Christ. But remember – You have been sent; “Go and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19. (also, Romans 10:14-15 & 17). You have been given a message; “We preach, Christ and Him crucified.”  1 Corinthians 1:23 (also, 2 Corinthians 5:19b-20). You have been given aid; “God will give you another Counselor, the Spirit of truth – But you know Him because He lives in you.” John 15:16-17.

Can you say with Paul, from Romans 1:16, “I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL BECAUSE IT IS THE POWER OF GOD FOR THE SALVATION OF EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES?”

We MUST preach Jesus. Any time you tell anyone about Jesus Christ, you are the preacher. You’re not preaching a speech like preachers do on Sunday’s when we’re standing behind these pulpits. When you tell about Jesus, you become the preacher.

You’re life, you’re righteous life is a light that draws people to Christ, like a moth drawn to light. But, simply being a faithful Christian without telling people about Jesus, is limiting the message and people won’t understand. Compare this with nature.

  • Nature declares that there is a god.
  • But nature doesn’t tell us who God is, he has to be more than discovered, he has to tell us who he is and he has in Jesus Christ, in what he does in and through the followers of Christ.
  • If God left it up to nature without a declaration introducing us to himself, than we wouldn’t know God at all and we’d come up with all kinds of other man-made concepts about God. And we have.
  • As a Christian, God in his Spirit is in you. You are righteous and holy.
  • Without some explanation, people will not understand, they will not know Jesus, they will assume you’re like a lot of “good people” they encounter that are good from several beliefs and concepts and sources that are not from God.
  • They have to hear the message too, why it is that you’re good.

So . . . what do you preach?  What is it that you say?

  1. PREACH JESUS

That’s what they want is Jesus. There aren’t too many people that you and I will encounter who will dislike or even hate Jesus, but there are those who will not know about him and those who won’t accept him. Remember, they love Jesus but it seems, they don’t care too much for the church.

Let me suggest you read through the book of Acts this week. There you will find several messages presented at the right opportunity about Jesus, about what God is doing in this world through Jesus and through Jesus’ disciples.

  • Explaining what appeared to be drunken babbling and it was the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Explaining the healing of a lame man who had been crippled since birth.
  • Explaining the Scriptures when an Ethiopian official was curious to understand what he was reading.

They preached Jesus in every single case. What happened were opportunities presented to Jesus’ followers and they preached Jesus, without fear, and with passion and conviction.

The first message about Jesus we have recorded is in Acts 2, curious circumstances that are interpreted by somes as a bunch of guys being drunk. It was the work of the Holy Spirit and their curiosity and accusation offered the opportunity for Peter (and the other apostles in this case) to tell about Jesus.

ACTS 2:11b-12 – “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?

Not only were there those who accused them of being drunk, some were amazed at what they heard and how they heard it.

1st) They Heard the Wonders of God in Their Own Language

The Israelites were supposed to tell their children about the wonders of God. God did some significant and mighty things on behalf of the Israelites. Such as when they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. They built an altar with 12 stones from the river bed to memorialize that moment. Then the they could tell their children, when they asked about the altar, what amazing thing God had done.

Let me suggest some of the amazing things that you might share with people.

Jesus:

  • Who cares for people (he healed bodies and souls, hearts and minds)
  • Who is the Son of God showing God to the world, who he is and what he is like
  • Who is our high priest, mediating on our behalf with God
  • Who died and rose again to redeem us from our sins
  • Who is coming back as King with salvation as the reward for the believer.

Jesus in you:

  • How he reached you and you chose to accept and follow Jesus
  • How he brought peace into your heart and life
  • How he helped you overcome sin, addictions, fears, etc.

There can be more. When you examine Scripture and your own life, you will see a lot more clearly the things that you can share and what will reach one person may not impact another. If you prepare yourself, what you know and understand, you provide the Holy Spirit with the tools in your life which He will use to reach out to others. Always remember what 1 Peter 3:15 tells you. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

What happens is that they hear the wonders of God in their own language. You get to help them see what God has done and in a way that they can understand.

Here’s one way to illustrate it. Those old water pumps you use by hand, would often need to be primed with a little water to be able to draw water from the well. Your life primes the well of their lives which makes it possible for them to hear the message that will quench their thirst.

That’s where what Peter said in Acts 2:14 comes into play.  “Let me explain this to you.”

Helping them understand what they are seeing.  It is God at work.  It is about Jesus Christ.  It is for your salvation.

As the commercial goes, “But wait, there’s more.

2. Explain Salvation

There are those who will want to pursue this faith that you know and profess. They will ask a question or respond to an invitation that answers the question for them, the same as was asked on the day of Pentecost to Peter. What shall we do?

They’ll want to know what to do to be saved. And you can teach them the elements involved in faith. The things that must happen in their life to receive salvation and forgiveness and eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s reply was based on something that had already happened.  They believed in Jesus.

Believe

When they hear the Gospel they will either believe or not. But belief is never enough, because belief is not commitment. It is understanding at some level. It is acknowledgement of Jesus. It is the beginning of faith. You could even say in an example of being born again, it isn’t birth, but it is conception. It is where they start, believing in Jesus.

Here, at New Testament Christian Church, we believe in Jesus, the Son of God, the crucified and risen Lord. John 3:14-14 & Romans 10:8-11

Repent

And they will want to repent. It should be natural to do since we are all guilty of sin. Just as Peter said, “Repent….” When we realize we have offended God and it means condemnation, a guilty verdict against us, we are going feel sorry for being so bad, so we will want to make a change, we will want to be different. Repentance is necessary because what it does is prepare the heart to receive grace because we have become humble before God, we realize our weakness as humans and that only God can handle the mess we have put ourselves in. 2 Corinthians7:10-11; Acts 3:19

Confess

If someone wants Jesus, they’re going to want to tell about him.  \We call that CONFESSION. “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” That’s what we lead people to say as one form of confession when they are being baptized. It’s Peter’s confession. It’s the truth about Jesus accepted into the life of that person wanting to be saved.

It is admitting the need for salvation. It is admitting that they need Jesus. It is admitting that only God can save them. It is admitting a lot about who they are and who Jesus is and what Jesus will do in their life. Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32-33

Be Baptized

Everything to this point is preparing our life for the salvation God wishes to grant us. It is received in baptism. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.Of course that is Acts 2:38. Immersion is that point of contact with the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s when God does his thing on your life, forgiving you of your sin guilt against him.

Every account of any one being saved in Acts shows us baptism. Jesus was baptized to obey God.  Baptism is submitting to God’s will, obeying his requrement and command. Romans 6:1-10; 1 Peter 3:21

Quickly, once they hear, in order to be saved, one must believe in Jesus the risen Son of God, repent of their sin to God, confess Jesus risen from the dead and the Son of God, and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

Not too hard.

But the power is not in you personally. It’s not in your actions, or your speech – the word you say, it is the power of God at work through you. He is at work to draw people to him. He is at work calling people to salvation to his Son and you are his hand and feet, his voice and his representative.  He has sent you, not in your own will and power, but in his grace and he is in you to reach and preach Jesus to those who you will encounter with THE message of truth, life, and hope, which is the message of salvation.

One thing I have learned is this. When someone believes, we must invite them to accept Jesus and be baptized.

Joe had been coming to church for a few months. I met Joe when I was going door-to-door inviting people in our little town of 411 to a revival Joe had been coming and Joe was going through a very difficult time in his life. He was disabled and unable to work so he was living on a very limited disability income. He had custody of his step-son who was a handful to say the least.  And Joe had been arrested for buying marijuana which he used as a sleep aid because of his back problems and inability to sleep otherwise. His world was difficult and appeared to be falling apart when we met.  He came to the revival, was welcomed by the people of the congregation and began a journey toward Christ.

Joe had a brother-in-law who was a minister in a charismatic church, but resisted that message because it seemed they were more interested in being judgmental about a person’s life than in the real change that comes from knowing and accepting Christ. That’s how Joe perceived it.

Joe and I would visit in his living room and in my office and talk about faith and life. He believed in Jesus and was really feeling guilt about failing God. One day when he came into the office to visit, I think he was just seeking reassurance that the circumstances of his life would be alright. Shortly after he set down and we began to talk, I sensed that I needed to ask him a question.  I said, “Joe, do you want to be baptized?” We had talked about believing and the need for repentance and salvation and the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask Joe to accept Jesus at that moment. And without a bit of hesitation, Joe looked right into my eyes and said “Yes, I do” and asked when. I said why not right now. With a huge smile he said, “Yes, why not now.”

We called Helen and Marsha and Glendola to come and share in his immersion as witnesses and encouragers and we baptized Joe that morning. Immediately after coming out of the water, he raised him hands in the air, looked up to God and with joy and passion thanked God that he had been saved.

Ask them. Invite them to accept Jesus. The Spirit will let you know when. He knows their heart and he leads your mind.  Ask them.

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PS: This video was shown at the beginning of the service in relation to the message.

Dead to Sin, Alive to Christ

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace”  Romans 6:1-14.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I have done a lot of funerals.  A large portion of them are for people I never knew, but a lot for folks who died of old age, and I have preached the funerals of several tragic situations.

The thing is, that when a person dies, (generally, in our society) we bury them.  We lay their body in a box of some sort, dig a hole and we bury them.  We don’t lay them on the ground and sprinkle some dirt on them, we lay them into the ground and cover them with soil.

When Jesus died, they buried him.  Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and they laid him in Joseph’s cave tomb.  They buried Jesus.

You and I are lost in our sins (Romans 3:23).  We are guilty of sin against God and deserve punishment.  That punishment is often called death.  Since we are dead in our sins, a burial must take place.

Now, we’re not going to bury your living physical body, but since we’re lost in sin, since that spiritual death has occurred, baptism is the burial.  But it is so much more.

Romans 6 teaches us so much about baptism.

  • It is burial with Christ, verses 3-4.  We are then united with him in his death which was very simply for our sin.
  • It’s is raising with Christ, verse 5 & 8-10.  We are then united with him in the life that he now lives.
  • It is being dead to sin, verses 2 & 6-7.  Sin no longer has the power it did over us.
  • It is being given a brand new life that was different than before, verses 11-14.  We have chosen to live life as Jesus Christ lived life.

Sin is so bad.  It injures the heart of God.  Because it separates us from his love.  And he hates that.  He wants to share his love with us and until we are freed from sin, we can’t return that love.  In fact, God’s love saves.

Once we believe in Jesus, who died to pay for our sins, when we have come to the point of confessing Jesus and repenting, than when we are baptized, we are united with Christ’s death, when God “sprinkles our hearts to cleanse us” (Hebrews 10:22).  Once we are cleansed from our unrighteousness, we are freed from sin, joined with Christ, and given eternal life with God and now we get to live.

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Here’s the Water

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated Christmas. I opened a few presents, and have enjoyed and appreciate each one.

I often think of baptism in terms of a present.  The present isn’t effective until I receive it and open it.  I can’t wear it or use it or play with it until I receive it from whoever is giving it to me and then open it and baptism…is opening the present.

But I think that description is a little incomplete as an analogy for baptism.  A better picture is the physical process of birth.  Late in 1956 my parents had a moment of passion and in that moment I was conceived.  Was I born?  No, I was conceived.  I wasn’t born until about 9 months later (Dr. Schwartz claimed that I was 3 weeks late) when my mother went into labor and I popped out and the air touched my skin, and light hit my eyes, and I drew breath, all for the first time.

The process of salvation involves birth.  Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Then in verse 5 to Nicodemus’ response Jesus said, No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and the Spirit.”

Think about it.  God chose for our salvation to be like being born. Obviously, as Nicodemus noted to Jesus, a person can’t go back into their mother’s womb and be born again.  That’s just ridiculous.  Jesus is speaking of something much more significant.

Let’s build the analogy.  One is not born until birth happens.  In the process of salvation, the first thing that must happen in a person’s heart and mind is belief.  Once the Gospel is shared with them, they either believe or they don’t.  Belief is like conception.  Some believe and some don’t (cf. John 3:16-21).  It’s where the making of life begins.  So . . . when is a person born?  At birth and in the analogy, birth takes place at baptism.  The water and the Spirit.

Remember these two passages; Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Acts 2:38 and, “Corresponding to this, baptism now saves you. Not the washing away of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,” 1 Peter 3:21.

Birth happens when a person comes through the water. This happens at both births.  The physical birth from a mother’s womb and the spiritual birth.  With baptism, the water is not magical, but it provides the moment of change and a symbol of Jesus’ death and burial as described in the first verses of Romans 6, when we come in contact with Jesus’ death.  But when a person chooses to obey God by believing, confessing, repenting and then submitting themselves to being baptized, God has promised that he will forgive their sins which means salvation from condemnation to hell, and a promised life with God for eternity, his Spirit in their life, adding them to the church, and more.

He was returning home to Ethiopia in his chariot. Whether he had stopped to rest or was riding along at whatever speed, this guy comes up beside him.  The Ethiopian was reading from the book of Isaiah (Is. 53:7-8) and this guy, Philip,  asks him, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”  He didn’t.  His reply was, “How can I unless someone helps me?”  And he invited Philip into the chariot and asked him, “Please tell me, who is the prophet talking about?  Himself, or someone else? And Philip began explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ to him beginning with that Scripture.

They were travelling along when they came to some water and the Ethiopian asks, “Here’s water.  What prevents me from being baptized?”  Philip replied, “If you believe with all your heart you may. The Ethiopian said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They stopped and Philip baptized the Ethiopian.

This is recorded in Acts 8:26-39.

One aspect of the Gospel is that to receive Christ and salvation, one must be baptized.  “Here’s the water . . . ?”

Next: The picture baptism is.

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