Our faith rests upon God’s witness

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:16-21

The Christian Faith is not built upon cunningly devised fables. It does not rest upon the visions of one or two founders as is the case with some religious offshoots. The Christian Faith is a religion based on historical fact — witnessed by not only a privileged few, but by 12 apostles, numerous prophets and hundreds and even thousands of eye witnesses.

The Apostle Paul could testify in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

If people had doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, there were ample numbers who had witnessed Jesus’ death and had seen Him alive again after His resurrection. They didn’t have to take the word of one or two witnesses. The events surrounding Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were witnessed by so many they were undisputed. If you notice in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ enemies didn’t dispute the things He had done; they disputed by what power He had done them.

Peter himself was a witness of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And, as he says in this epistle, he (along with James and John) was there on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus (cf. Matthew 17:1-9) when God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

And Christians have far more proof and documentation upon which to build their faith than just Peter’s testimony. As he writes, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

As Christians, we have the testimony of Scriptures, written over a period of about 1,600 years by approximately 33 different authors – though, in fact, the Bible has only one author, God who moved men to write and guided them in the words they wrote so that all of Scripture is God’s own inspired or God-breathed Word (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-17; cf. 2 Samuel 23:1-2).

And so, the Christian Faith rests upon solid truth – upon the witness of so many eyewitnesses who were so convinced of the truth they gave their lives for it, and upon the witness of God Himself who gave us the Scriptures and has preserved them down through the centuries as a witness of the truth that we might be made “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15; cf. Matthew 5:18; 24:14).

Yes, the Scriptures reveal the holy will of God and our utter failure to live up to His law, but the same Scriptures assure us that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

Indeed, we would do well to pay heed to the Scriptures “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” When we read our Bibles, attend church where the Scriptures are faithfully taught and listen carefully to God’s inspired Word, the Scriptures are like a light shining in a dark place – they reveal to us our sinfulness and they reveal to us salvation through faith in Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, the Light of the world (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; cf. Psalm 119:130).

God grant that the light of His Word shine in our hearts and reveal to us Christ Jesus and salvation through faith in Him. Amen.

[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Stablish your hearts and wait for the Lord’s coming

“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” James 5:8

God urges us to wait patiently for that day when Christ Jesus returns in judgment upon all those who have disobeyed the Gospel and continue in rebellion and disobedience against the Lord God and to be glorified in all who have believed the Gospel and place their faith and hope in Christ Jesus and His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

And that day is coming soon – the Lord delays only because He is being patient with us and long-suffering, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

While we patiently await that day when Christ shall come and judge the living and the dead and set up His everlasting kingdom of righteousness and holiness, God urges us to establish our hearts in the truth. We are to continue in His Word that we might know and believe the truth – that we might be made wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and be equipped to live our lives in that faith (cf. John 8:31-32; Acts 2:41-42; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Colossians 3:16).

And the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh. It will not be long before “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31). God would have us establish our hearts in the truth of His Word that, when that day comes, we be found ready and trusting in the shed blood of Jesus for forgiveness, life and a place in God’s everlasting kingdom.

We consider the example of the farmer who plants his seed and waits patiently for the needed rains and then for the harvest, the example of the prophets who were persecuted for their witness to the truth and yet persevered, and the example of Job who suffered much until God richly blessed him once again (cf. James 5:7-11).

And we are assured that, if we by the grace of God endure in the faith, we will receive a crown of life and dwell forever in glory with our crucified and risen Savior (cf. Revelation 2:10; 3:11; 2 Timothy 4:7-8,18).

O gracious Savior, establish our hearts in the Gospel and grant that we hold fast to You and Your cross unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Whose word is the Bible? How should we use it?

Sad to say, even among those who call themselves Christian, many do not regard the Bible as God’s unerring word. Rather, they view it as any other book written by men and pick and choose what they believe to be true and what they regard as opinions of another time which are not binding today. But true followers of Christ Jesus have a different attitude toward the Bible, that of Jesus, who regarded every word of the Scriptures as God’s revealed truth.

Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). The Law and the Prophets was what the Old Testament Scriptures were called, and a jot is the smallest Hebrew letter and a tittle, the smallest part of a Hebrew letter. Jesus regarded every letter, even the smallest part of a letter, true and important.

He also said, when referring the wording of the Old Testament Scripture: “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). And, in rebuking those who did not believe in Him, Jesus said: “Ye have not his [the Father’s] word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:38-39). Jesus called the Scriptures the word of God the Father and told His hearers to search the Scriptures because they testify of Him and His work.

Jesus said: “Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). And, Jesus, when praying for His disciples, said: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

The Bible is true throughout

Believers in Christ Jesus believe that each and every word, as well as the entirety and whole, of the Bible was given by inspiration of God and is therefore the true and unerring Word of God, for that was the view of our Lord Jesus and that is what the Scriptures say of themselves.

The apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21). The prophecies of Scripture are called a sure word because they were not written by the will or decision of men. Rather, they were written when the Holy Spirit moved men to write, gave them the thoughts they expressed and guided them in the words they used to express those thoughts.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16); and to the church in Corinth, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). The Scriptures are called God-breathed or inspired because they are the words and truths taught by the Holy Spirit Himself.

Of David, the writer of a great many of the psalms in the book of Psalms, the Bible says this: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:1-2).

The Scriptures, like Jesus, testify to the truthfulness of all of the Bible. In Proverbs 30:5, we read: “Every word of God is pure.” Psalm 119:160 says, “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

It is because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God that the Bible, which is made up of 66 books and letters written by about 40 human authors over a period of almost 2,000 years, is in total accord and agreement throughout. That’s something not found outside the Bible.

The Word of God has not been lost or corrupted

Though many believe the Word of God has been lost, at least in part, or corrupted over the centuries since it was first recorded, Jesus’ testimony and the teaching of the Scriptures say otherwise. Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come … Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:14, 35). Jesus said the Gospel will be preached unto the end of time as a witness to the nations and, though heaven and earth pass away, His words will not pass away. And, again, He said: “Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

The Scriptures themselves, which are the Word of God, testify: “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89); “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8; also quoted in 1 Peter 1:24-25).

Therefore, followers of Jesus believe the Word of God has been faithfully preserved by God down through the centuries as a witness to all the nations, that it is still accurately recorded in the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Majority (Received) Texts, and that it can be read and studied in faithful Bible translations such as Luther’s German Bible, the King James Version and the New King James Version of the Bible.

And, since the Bible is the Word of God and every letter is important, followers of Jesus reject and discourage the use of texts and translations of the Bible which are unfaithful to the preserved texts and corrupt the Word of God. In fact, God warns against it when He says: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2); “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28); “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18-19); and, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

The Bible is the only source and judge of Christian doctrine

Since all of the Bible is God’s true and unerring Word, followers of Jesus believe and teach that the Bible is to be the source and judge of all Christian doctrine. What is not in accord with God’s Word is not to be taught as Christian doctrine. Christians believe and teach as Christian doctrine only what is taught in the Bible, nothing more and nothing less!

It is as Isaiah wrote: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Jeremiah also wrote: “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:28-32).

Psalm 119:128 reveals the attitude of a true believer to God’s Word when it says: “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.”

St. Paul wrote to Timothy: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

And, the Scriptures hold up the example of the Bereans, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

People often say there are many ways to interpret the Bible, but there is really only one right way and that is to interpret it as God intended it to be understood. Therefore, followers of Jesus look to the Scriptures to find the correct interpretation of Scripture. Christians let the Bible be its own interpreter; thus, passage interpretations which are not in agreement with other clear passages of Holy Scripture are rejected as erring interpretations. Remember that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Isaiah wrote: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Followers of Jesus read and study their Bibles

Finally, followers of Jesus diligently study and hear the Bible for it reveals to mankind the only way of salvation, which is through faith in Christ Jesus, and it guides the Christian in living according to God’s Holy will. The Scriptures “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15); and we read and study the Scriptures because they testify of Christ Jesus to give us a knowledge of Him and all He has done for our salvation (John 5:39). As John wrote, those things recorded for us in the Bible “are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). And, of course, followers of Jesus read and study their Bibles and listen attentively when it is read and explained because, as the psalmist says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Colossians 3:16).

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

The Rich Man and Lazarus

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:19-31

We should note first of all that Jesus’ illustration of the rich man and Lazarus may be much more than a parable, for it is told by Jesus as if it is a true and factual account. Whether an actual historical event or a parable, we can still learn much from Jesus’ telling of it.

The rich man is not identified by name; but the poor beggar’s name was Lazarus, which means “God is help.” Even though Lazarus was poor and full of sores, we know that he was a true believer in God, as his name indicates, because he was taken to heaven when he died. Even though the rich man was greatly blessed by God in material things, he did not believe or listen to the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets). This can be seen by the fact that there were no fruits of faith in his life in regard to poor Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, and by the fact that his soul went to hell when he died.

In addition to teaching that one’s soul goes either to heaven or to hell when he dies, Jesus warns against living life solely for the enjoyment of the good things of this world. One’s first concern should be to heed the Word of God and repent, turning away from sin and the selfish use of this world’s goods to faith in Christ, who died to redeem us from sin and death. As a fruit of true repentance, we will then put to death our selfish and sinful desires and use the goods of this world to help those in need. We will not close our hearts to the poor and needy but will do all we can to help them.

One more important truth should also be learned. If one does not heed the Word of God during his lifetime, there is no other hope for repentance; for the Holy Ghost works through the Law to convince us of our sin and the punishment we deserve, and through the Gospel to reveal our Savior and to assure us of eternal salvation through faith in Him. If one, during his lifetime, refuses to turn from his sins to Christ Jesus, his Savior, there will be no more opportunity for repentance. His torment in hell will be forever! But when one, by the grace of God, heeds the Word and repents, trusting in Christ for forgiveness and life, his soul, at the time of death, will be transported by angels to the bosom of Abraham.

O Jesus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smitten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also written! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all condemnation. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 611, Verse 5)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

Put on the Whole Armor of God

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13 (Read 10-20)

Though we so often don’t even realize it, there is a battle raging around us and within us for our very souls.

As the apostle says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

The devil and his evil cohorts seek to take us from Christ’s kingdom and rob us of the blessings Christ won for us upon the cross by attacking our faith and our life. He seeks to deceive us and lead us away from the true doctrine set forth in the Holy Scriptures, and he seeks to allure us back into the entanglements of sin so that we we do not trust in Christ and despair of His mercy and forgiveness (cf. 1 Peter 5:8-9; Psalm 2; Genesis 3:1).

Since the battle is spiritual, against powerful fallen angels rather than against human flesh and blood, our weapons and defenses need to be spiritual and powerful enough to withstand the constant assaults of our old evil foe (cf. Rev. 12:7ff.). Flesh and blood, human strength and will and earthly weapons are insufficient in this battle. Left to ourselves, we would be overrun and fall.

That is why the Scriptures admonish us: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Only with these weapons of the Lord can we stand against the wiles of the devil. The Lord Himself preserves us!

O Lord, grant that we put on the armor of God, girded with the truth, wearing the breastplate of righteousness, having our feet shod with the Gospel of peace, bearing the shield of faith, wearing the helmet of salvation, wielding the sword of the Spirit and praying in the Spirit always. Amen.

Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible

Brief Summary – Word of God

WORD OF GOD

Each and every word, as well as the entirety and whole, of the Holy Scriptures was given by inspiration of God and is therefore the true and unerring Word of God.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21

All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

The scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17

Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” 2 Samuel 23:1-2

The Word of God has not been lost or corrupted, but has been faithfully preserved by God down through the centuries as a witness to all the nations.

For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:8

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:25

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35

The Word of God is still accurately recorded in the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Majority (Received) Texts and can be read and studied in faithful Bible translations such as Luther’s German Bible, the King James Version and the New King James Version of the Bible. To be rejected are texts and translations of the Bible which are unfaithful and corrupt the Word of God.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:28

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:18-19

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19.

Since all of Holy Scripture is God’s true and unerring Word, the Bible is to be the source and judge of all Christian doctrine. What is not in accord with God’s Word is not to be taught as Christian doctrine.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:28-32

Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:128

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

The Bible is also its own interpreter; thus, passage interpretations which are not in agreement with other clear passages of Holy Scripture are to be rejected.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

The Bible is to be diligently studied and heard; for it reveals to mankind the only way of salvation, which is through faith in Christ Jesus, and it guides the Christian in living according to God’s Holy will.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20:31

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

Do you hear His voice?

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:26-30 (cf. John 10:1-39)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He gave His life for the sheep when He suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose again in victory (v. 11,17-18). But not all believe on Him as their Savior. Many do not hear His voice calling them to repent and look to Him for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal. They do not hear and recognize His voice and follow Him as do His sheep (v. 3-5). Do you hear Jesus calling, recognize His voice and follow Him? Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? (cf. v.14).

What Has Jesus accomplished for all His sheep – even for the whole world? He gave His life for the sheep! “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus, as our sacrifice, made full atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 John 2:1-2).

And Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior, calls to us and offers to us forgiveness and life in His name. He seeks us out as a good shepherd does his lost and wondering sheep. Through the word of His Law, He shows us our sinful and erring ways and the end result – eternal death and everlasting punishment (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-9). And, through the word of His Gospel, He calls to us and offers to us pardon and life, green pastures, still waters and the protection of His rod and staff (cf. Psalm 23; John 10:1ff.; 10:9-10; Isaiah 40:11).

But not all recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd. Those intent on going their own ways, following their own paths and choosing their own pastures and filthy watering holes do not listen to His voice or recognize Him as the Son of God, their anointed Savior. They reject Jesus and the life He offers and gives, even accusing Him of blasphemy (cf. v 25ff.).

Jesus’ sheep – those graciously predestined and chosen of God – hear Jesus calling in His Word, the Bible (v. 27-28). By the Holy Spirit’s working, they come to recognize Jesus’ voice as the voice of God calling them to repent of their wandering ways and look to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep and redeemed them. They hear His voice and follow Him, knowing that He will keep them in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. No one is able to snatch them from Jesus’ hand; for the Father, who is greater than all (and Jesus and the Father are one), will keep them and preserve them in the faith unto the everlasting joys of heaven (cf. v. 28-30; Rev. 7:1-19; Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:28ff.; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Dear Lord Jesus, grant that we hear Your voice calling to us and recognize and follow You as our Good Shepherd and Savior. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Tradition or Commandment of God?

He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” Mark 7:6-8 (Read 1-13)

Do religious traditions ever stand in the way of obedience to the Word of God? Indeed, that’s an important question to consider because, so often, it happens.

Consider the scribes and Pharisees in Mark 7. They found fault with Jesus and His disciples because Jesus’ disciples ate without doing the ceremonial washing prescribed by the tradition of the elders. And, as a result, the scribes and Pharisees were unwilling to hear the message of the Gospel proclaimed by Christ Jesus or look to Him for salvation. They even carried their following of tradition so far as to negate God’s command to honor father and mother by saying the money or resources they had were devoted to God upon their death so they could not be used to care for their aging parents.

This prompted Jesus’ words: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

But we must also ask ourselves if our traditions, perhaps also passed down to us from our fathers, ever get in the way of obedience to God’s Word. Does our zealousness for tradition keep us (or others) from hearing the Gospel of forgiveness and life in Christ Jesus?

So, we ask ourselves the question: Tradition or Command of God? If it is the command of God, we must cling to it and seek to follow it; but if it is tradition, it is not sin to discard it. And, if it is tradition, it cannot be elevated to the level of commandment of God.

And, do our traditions stand in the way of hearing the Gospel of life? Do they keep us or others from coming to Jesus and trusting in Him for forgiveness and life? If so, are our traditions worth the cost?

O dearest Jesus, grant us the wisdom to judge ourselves and our traditions that we might never let traditions keep us from following Your Word and that we might never let our traditions keep us or others from hearing the Gospel of forgiveness and life for the sake of Your holy and precious blood shed for all upon the cross. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Trouble and affliction can be for our good

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word … It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:67,71 (Read Psalm 119:65-72)

Have you ever looked at your troubles as good for you? If you are sick, if you are suffering financial hardship, if your life has fallen apart, could this be for your good? The psalmist tells us of the benefits of affliction: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word … It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

Sometimes we need to be afflicted with sickness, disease or trouble before we will wake up and see that we have been going the wrong way in our lives. Sometimes we need to feel the consequences of our own sin and indiscretion before we come to our senses and turn back to the LORD God and His ways.

But not all affliction and suffering are the direct result of some particular sin in our lives. Yet God still deals with us for our good. Though our outward body may be withering away from disease; yet, through this affliction, we may be drawn deeper into God’s Word and be growing stronger in the inner man (that new spiritual life created in us by the Holy Spirit through the promises of God’s Word). We may lose everything we have in this world and yet gain and possess, through faith in Jesus Christ, forgiveness for all our sins and the everlasting riches of heaven.

In my own life, I have often seen that it is the troubles and hardships of life that drive me back into the Scriptures for comfort and guidance. It is through the things I have suffered that I have come to love and appreciate the truthfulness and consolation of my Bible. And when death itself stares us in the face, where else can we go for answers but to the very Word of our Creator and Redeemer!

O almighty and everlasting God, thank You for the afflictions in my life, for bringing me to see the error of my ways and the goodness of You and Your Word, for drawing me into the Scriptures and assuring me of forgiveness for all my sins and of the everlasting joys of heaven for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of Your beloved Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Planting the Word

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

This parable of Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a man who sows his seed and waits until the seed of itself springs up and grows, maturing until the harvest. Then the farmer puts in the sickle for the harvest. The farmer can only sow good seed, cultivate the crops, and wait for the fruit to mature. He cannot himself make the seed grow and produce fruit. The kingdom of God is like this in that all we as Christians can do is sow the pure Word of God. We cannot make it grow or produce fruit.

The power to create spiritual life and produce fruit lies in God’s Word and not in us as the sowers (cf. Rom. 10:17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). It is our task to sow the Word of God; but the results must be left up to the Holy Spirit, who brings people to saving faith in Jesus Christ and also sanctifies them through God’s Word. Cf. John 3:5-8.

We cannot see how faith is created in the heart, nor should we expect to harvest immediately after the seed is sown. Our Lord has given us the simple task of sowing the good seed of God’s Word. The rest is up to Him!
Let us then diligently sow the Word! By means of God’s Law, the Holy Spirit will convict men of their sins and show them their guilt before the Almighty God. By means of the Gospel, He will comfort them with the assurance that their sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death in their stead.

If we only sow the Word, we need not worry about the results. They remain in God’s hands, and He has promised that His Word will not return unto Him void (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). Let us sow the Word and await the harvest!

On what has now been sown Thy blessing, Lord, bestow; the pow’r is Thine alone to make it spring and grow. Do Thou in grace the harvest raise, and Thou alone shalt have the praise. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #46, Verse 1)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.