Enjoy these entries - we hope they make you think.
You cannot prove God exists using the scientific method. If God created all material things, He exists outside of the universe as we know it. The painter does not dwell within his painting.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11.3)
Atheists often demand we prove God from science, and they claim anything we cannot prove from science does not exist—which, we should reply, is absolutely, obviously, inherently false. We all know some things which exist in the real world but which we cannot detect or prove with science. I’ll give these two: Morality (good and evil / justice) and Logic (reality and truth).
Morality Exists. Therefore, God Exists.
If there is an ought—a real right and wrong—in this world, then there is a standard of authority. Where does that standard of authority come from? We have only two options: from heaven or from men.
Is evil real? Do we have a right to insist that murder and rape are wrong? By what standard? Who gets to make those rules? Is rape wrong just because some men got together and wrote a law? Is it wrong just because I think it’s wrong inside my brain? If man—either individually or collectively—decides morality, then no absolute standard of morality exists. One group believes it’s okay to rape while another believes it’s abhorrent. In the absence of an objective standard, who’s to say which is right?
If we say rape and murder are objectively and always wrong, we admit to a standard of ethics outside of man and mankind. Where did that come from? The One True God is the best explanation.
Scientists cannot account for love. Why would a father protect his son with his life? The evolutionist says it’s an inbred evolutionary response meant to protect the human species. But doesn’t evolution teach “survival of the fittest”? In this situation, the father would be the fittest and the son would be weakest, so why does the stronger give his life for the weaker? And why do all fathers everywhere nod their heads and agree he did the noble and right thing?
More generally, why do the strong care for the weak? Why do we have a moral tug in our hearts to stand against bullies and thieves?
Society says we should treat one another with respect, no matter our station in life, how much money we have, how strong we are, etc. In fact, we expect those with more to help more. This is what the government appeals to when they say the rich should “pay their fair share.” While this is a bully tactic of government to take money from the people, they are appealing to the standard of love we all know to be true. We all believe the rich have a higher responsibility to help the poor. (Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor doesn’t correct anything, morally speaking.)
Logic Exits. Therefore, God Exists.
We expect the sun and moon and stars to always be where they always have been. We expect the thing we throw into the air to come back down. We expect a chicken’s offspring to be another chicken. Our world demonstrates coherence, reason, and consistency. We can understand this world and explain many things in terms of mathematics, cause and effect, and scientific laws. There’s a reason why many great scientists have been believers—they believed in a rational God who created an orderly world. The atheistic evolutionist cannot explain why water always runs downhill. They believe in the law of gravity, but they don’t understand why the law exists.
Because things happen in orderly ways on this earth, we can reason from observable facts to make educated guesses and then test those guesses, refining them, and discovering more about this world. Albert Einstein shocked the world with his mathematical theorems, many of which turned out to accurately describe reality around us. How did he do it? He depended upon consistency in the natural order of things.
If laws exist, there must be a Lawgiver. Whoever knew a rule made by no one? Scientists do not make the rules; they merely discover and describe them.
Atheists claim that no one knows anything for certain. The so-called “rules” we know today might not be correct, but they are the best way of describing the natural world. Just because scientists don’t know things for certain doesn’t mean constant natural laws do not exist. It is good to realize the limitations of man’s ability to discover and describe reality, but only irrational fools claim reality does not exist.
We cannot measure God on our scales or see Him with the most powerful telescope or microscope. He created all the things we study with those instruments. We who live inside His painting are seeking Him in the brush strokes and colors. “Prove there is a painter,” the skeptic says. “I don’t see Him anywhere in this world.” That’s because He is not in this world. He made this world.
Though we cannot see Him, evidence of His handwork, design, and artistry lies all around. The moral laws and the natural laws around us lead us to know that Someone spoke those laws into existence long ago. Praise God, He has spoken and explained many things to us through His revealed word. The Painter has communicated with His art.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11.6)
While of the world, we thought and acted like the world, but now that we know Christ (and are known by Him) our habits are changing. You must be "transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12.2), an inward change which results in a new lifestyle.
Take the apostle Paul for example. After fighting tooth-and-nail against the Christian "sect" (as he saw them), Christ knocked him into the dirt and showed him how much he would have to suffer for Christ. Immediately he reversed course and began to publicly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, reasoning with any who would listen. One day he killed Christians; the next day he joined them.
So it is with all Christians—there is a definite change in our habits. One day we are of the "sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2.2); the next we are falling on our knees praying to Jesus as Lord and King. One day we wonder what "Christianity" is about; the next we cling tightly to our Bible, knowing it is the inspired and holy word of God.
Not everyone's conversion feels quite so dramatic, but we must understand the change involved in stepping from the world into the family of God.
One of the first signs of a changed heart is a converted mind. The proof of a reborn soul is an intense love for God's word as absolute, bedrock, divine truth. Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians:
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1.15–19)
Paul wanted the Christians to know certain things about God and about their salvation. How would they come to know these things?
...by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3.3–10)
Through the Holy Spirit, God made known to Paul the mystery of the gospel. Paul wrote it down, and he preached and taught that gospel. That is how God chose to continue revealing the gospel of His Son—through the reading and teaching of Scripture.
God put the church together in great part to give us an environment which fosters growth in the word.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4.11–16)
All those gifts God gave the church in verse 11 have to do with teaching and preaching—the passing along of God's word. Notice the benefits of staying in the word and continuing in a steady teaching / learning environment:
- You will be built up in Christ
- You will attain the unity of the faith
- You will come to know the Son of God
- You will grow up in Christ
- You will take part in the growth of the whole body of Christ, the church
Every Christian should habitually be in the word, whether it's listening to the Bible read or taught (by a competent teacher!) or reading and studying for himself. Is your life characterized by a love for the word and a continual hungering and thirsting for righteousness?
STAY IN THE WORD!
In the teen class, we are studying the Apocalypse (Revelation) of John. We noticed in the book’s introduction some helpful pointers as to how we should interpret the contents.
The Time Is Near
Christ showed John “things that must soon take place” (1.1) and that “the time is near” (1.3). The original recipients of the letter were seven churches in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (1.4, 11). John was to send Jesus’ messages to each church. How do you think they heard “things that must soon take place”? Do you think they thought, “Well, to God one day is like 1,000 years and 1,000 years is like a day, so when God said ‘soon’ and ‘the time is near,’ He probably means a couple of thousand years in the future”? No, God does not confuse His people. The first century Christians would have naturally understood that their generation would see the things revealed in the book.
Jesus used similar language in Matthew 24.34, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
It is funny how every successive generation seems to think they are the target time in which the prophecies of Revelation will be finally realized. Perhaps it speaks to our narcissism.
Revealed in Visions
John bore witness to “what he saw” (1.2). What follows is a series of visions Christ gave to John. The beloved apostle was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” when he heard a loud voice behind him saying, “Write what you see in a book” (1.10–11).
Anyone familiar with Old Testament prophecy (such as Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc.) understands visions can be pretty weird, and they often demand explanation. For instance, Daniel saw a series of beasts in Daniel 7. The fourth beast had 10 horns, and another little horn popped up and uprooted three other horns. Daniel didn’t know what to make of it, so God explained what the beasts and the horns represented. They were not to be taken literally, but each detail was a sign or symbol of something real. The beasts represented kingdoms, and the horns represented individual kings.
To rightly interpret the visions of Revelation, you should study Old Testament visions. Listen closely to God’s explanations in the texts, and it will greatly aid you in understanding the signs and symbols of John’s Revelation.
Meant to Be Practical
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it” (1.3).
The Christians were not to hide this book or keep it a secret. They were to read it aloud so all their people could hear it and keep what it commanded.
Many today overlook the practical nature of Revelation, as they misinterpret the visions to fit various historical periods, and they bog themselves down with theories on what political power or person is the beast and what the mark of the beast is going to look like.
But Jesus intended Christians to hear the things in these visions and repent and be faithful!
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do thing works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (2.5)
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, I and I will give you a crown of life.” (2.10)
“I have a few things against you…therefore, repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (2.14, 16)
“Hold fast what you have until I come.” (2.25)
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (3.3)
“Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” (3.10–11)
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (3.19)
Is It for Us Today?
Is it practical for modern readers? If most of what was prophesied has already taken place, why should we worry about it?
- We study Old Testament prophecies even though they have mostly been fulfilled. We study them because they build our faith and teach us of God’s unwavering faithfulness and about how He thinks and works.
- John’s visions have mostly been fulfilled, but the principles endure. Revelation concerned a specific judgment upon Jerusalem, but the lasting principle is that God judges individuals and nations. The call to repentance is just as important to hear today as it was to the early Christians.
- We might ask why those Christians in Asia should have been worried about God judging Jerusalem. What did it matter to them? The Jewish nation serves as an object lesson to all of God’s people—if Israel failed to receive God’s blessing because of their faithlessness, how much more shall we expect judgment for our unbelief and rejection of the Lord Jesus?
- Christians still wait expectantly for the visions in Revelation 20–22 to be fulfilled. There is still the final judgment of Satan and his forces and all who are on his side (not written in the Book of Life). There is still the New Heaven and New Earth in which God will make all things new.
So, yes, God’s people should continually read aloud, hear, and obey this great book!
Matthew focuses on the Messiah (Christ) of Old Testament prophecy, proving and explaining Him. He quotes many Old Testament scriptures throughout his book. More than any of the other gospel writers, Matthew uses “kingdom of heaven” (32 times) rather than “kingdom of God” (5 times). The other gospel writers never use the term “kingdom of heaven.” Matthew also applies the term “son of David” to Jesus 10 times in his book, whereas Mark and Luke use the term 3 times each and John never does. This makes sense, when you realize Matthew is focusing on the Jews as his primary audience, while the others have a wider audience in mind.
The Five Sermons
Jesus preaches five major sermons recorded in Matthew’s gospel, each which ends with the marker, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings” and some transitionary language immediately following.
Matthew 5.1–8.1: The Sermon on the Mount begins with, “He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, his disciples came to Him.” It transitions to the next events with, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching…When He came down from the mountain…”
Matthew 10.5–11.1: The Sending of the Twelve begins with, “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them…” It transitions to the next events with, “When Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.”
Matthew 13.1–53: Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven begins with, “Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.” It transitions to the next events with, “And when Jesus had finished these parables, He went away from there.”
Matthew 18.1–19.1: Lessons on Humility and Forgiveness begins with, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus.” It transitions to the next events with, “Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, He went away from Galilee…”
Matthew 24.3–26.1: The Return of Christ begins with, “Jesus left the temple and was going away.” It transitions to the next events with, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said to His disciples…”
The Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew helps us understand the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. Next time you read through the gospel, keep your eyes open for “the kingdom of heaven” and related terms like “Our Father who is in heaven…”
Jesus talks about…
The timing of the kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” He preached. He taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come” (6.10), and John the Baptist was not in the kingdom (11.11–12). Peter was to be given the keys to the kingdom (16.19), and their generation would see the kingdom (16.28).
The nature of the kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” He preached at least nine times in the gospel, six of which are in chapter 13’s sermon (13.24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47; 18.23; 20.1; 22.2). Those in the kingdom are poor in spirit (5.3) and persecuted (5.10). They have a high view of Scripture (5.19) and of righteousness (5.20). They don’t just preach, they practice (7.21). They are like little children (19.14), and the rich can only enter the kingdom with great difficulty (19.23). Jesus called it, “My Father’s kingdom” (26.29), and it would be open to the Gentiles (21.41–43).
As the Messiah (Christ), Jesus is marked as the King of prophecy who now sits on the throne of David as a forever king. He had a humble beginning, born to poor parents (13.55–57) and raised in an obscure village of Nazareth. As a travelling rabbi, Jesus was homeless (8.20) and spent His time with the dregs and fringes of society (11.4–6) and was gentle in spirit (11.28–30; 12.18–21). He continually frustrated the Jewish leadership, entered Jerusalem as a humble king riding on a donkey (21.1–11), and was finally crucified in a shameful and painful death—rejected by His own people.
But He taught with authority (7.28–29). There was not a physical problem He couldn’t fix (see chapters 8–9). He didn’t just argue with the Jewish leaders but often confounded and cornered them (12.1–14; 15.1–9; 21.23–27; 22.15–46).
After His resurrection (glory and praise to God!), Jesus said to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Amen!
Jesus is the son of David, heir to the eternal throne of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus is the Son of Man, God made flesh.
Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one, with all authority over all things.
Do we believe that heaven will be worth the trouble and tears, the sorrows and struggles, the toiling and pain? Do we believe we will enjoy it better than this life? Are we looking forward to what God has prepared for us?
Perhaps our good days present the greatest threat to our faith: the days we feel excellent and energized, like we are masters of our own destinies. Our good days can make us lose focus on spiritual reality. As a young man before marriage, I really hoped Jesus didn’t return right then because there was so much I wanted to do and experience in this life. Do you feel that way sometimes? Is this life so captivating and pleasurable that you don’t want it to end?
The more trouble we experience, the greater a Christian’s hope becomes in a life beyond this one. In a sense, then, pain and trials are gifts of God which increase our character and our faith. “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom. 5.3–4). Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Another danger to our faith is our fuzzy expectation for what lies beyond the veil. What will we experience when we cross the Jordan, when we sleep the sleep, when we descend into Sheol? What does our resurrection promise? Where is our hope?
What is your picture of heaven? Do you fully expect it to be awesome?
Dear Christian, in Christ Jesus you have eternal life! “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2.25). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3.16). “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6.54).
This is the HOPE of every Christian. “…having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3.7). This kind of hope is an expectant certainty of gaining the promise of God. This is not the “I hope I win a million dollars in the lottery” kind of hope. It’s the “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” kind of hope. We hope by faith in the sure word of the Lord.
God wants you to KNOW you have eternal life:
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5.11–13)
God create this life for us, and there are so many wonderful, beautiful, thrilling aspects to it. And this is the world under the curse of sin! How much more wonderful, beautiful, and thrilling will eternal life be, in which there is no sorrow, pain, or tears? A contemporary song explores the idea of what it will be like:
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine… (by MercyMe)
I think we should imagine. It’s going to be real for us in the not-too-distant future. It’s already real for those who have gone on before us. I have loved ones who have crossed the Jordan already; I’m sure you do, too.
God tells us He will one day destroy this current world with fire and create a New Heaven and a New Earth (2 Pet. 3.10–13; Rev. 3.12; 21.1, 10). I don’t know how He will do that or what it will look like, exactly, but the promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth does not sound like floating around on clouds strumming harps for eternity. No, I am looking forward to a robust economy with fulfilling work to do, amazing food to eat, and glorious fellowship.
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21.5)
We are told we will have a body like Jesus’ new body (1 Cor. 15.49; Phil. 3.20–21). There won’t be any marriage, but we will be like the angels of God (Matt. 22.30). We will have real bodies, and we will recognize and know one another. And we will be with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit forever! God once walked with Adam and Eve in the garden; He will do that once again with us. I’m looking forward to a new city with a river running through it. The Tree of Life will be bearing fruit constantly on the banks of that river (Rev. 22.1–2).
And we shall reign with Christ forever and ever (Rev. 22.5; 2 Tim. 2.12).