- $136,714.13 District of Columbia
- $118,000.00 Liechtenstein
- $111,000.00 Qatar
- $81,200.00 Luxembourg
- $69,900.00 Bermuda
- $64,609.90 Delaware
- $59,500.00 Norway
- $57,500.00 Kuwait
- $57,000.00 Jersey (the island not the state)
- $53,296.35 Connecticut
- $51,600.00 Singapore
- $51,300.00 Brunei
- $51,044.13 Alaska
- $49,647.88 Massachusetts
- $47,728.82 Wyoming
- $47,705.27 New Jersey (the state)
- $47,500.00 United States average
- $46,724.35 New York (the state not the city)
- $45,500.00 Ireland
- $44,600.00 United Arab Emirates
- $44,600.00 Guernsey
- $43,957.50 Minnesota
- $43,800.00 Cayman Islands
- $43,800.00 Hong Kong
- $43,162.41 Virginia
- $42,860.75 Colorado
- $42,727.46 California
- $42,500.00 Andorra
- $42,300.00 Iceland
- $42,000.00 Switzerland
- $41,900.00 San Marino
- $41,439.21 Illinois
- $41,313.29 Washington (the state not the city)
- $41,151.11 Nevada
- $40,500.00 Netherlands
- $40,445.95 Maryland
- $40,400.00 Austria
- $39,770.52 New Hampshire
- $39,314.80 Hawaii
- $39,200.00 Canada
- $38,953.19 Rhode Island
- $38,625.90 North Carolina
- $38,601.04 Nebraska
- $38,536.19 Texas
- $38,521.96 Iowa
- $38,500.00 British Virgin Islands
- $38,244.10 Wisconsin
- $38,200.00 Australia
- $38,200.00 Sweden
- $38,200.00 Gibraltar
- $37,914.36 South Dakota
- $37,719.03 Pennsylvania
- $37,554.82 Georgia
- $37,500.00 Belgium
- $37,400.00 Bahrain
- $37,300.00 Equatorial Guinea
- $37,200.00 Denmark
- $37,037.62 North Dakota
- $37,000.00 Finland
- $36,830.47 Michigan
- $36,700.00 United Kingdom
- $36,484.34 Ohio
- $36,381.10 Tennessee
- $36,235.97 Indiana
- $36,102.48 Kansas
- $35,500.00 Germany
- $35,493.14 Vermont
- $35,400.00 Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
- $35,189.24 Oregon
- $35,033.99 Missouri
- $35,000.00 Isle of Man
- $34,600.00 Spain
- $34,100.00 Japan
- $33,700.00 European Union average
- $33,616.80 Arizona
- $33,599.80 Louisiana
- $33,419.31 Florida
- $33,346.90 Utah
- $33,300.00 France
- $32,749.78 Maine
- $32,446.41 Kentucky
- $32,100.00 Greece
- $31,786.22 South Carolina
- $31,601.59 New Mexico
- $31,400.00 Italy
- $31,100.00 Taiwan
- $31,000.00 Faroe Islands
- $30,700.00 Bahamas
- $30,394.87 Alabama
- $30,334.56 Idaho
- $30,225.34 Oklahoma
- $30,000.00 Macau
- $30,000.00 Monaco
- $29,605.52 Montana
- $29,600.00 Slovenia
- $28,805.89 Arkansas
- $28,600.00 Israel
- $27,900.00 New Zealand
- $27,395.68 West Virginia
- $26,087.88 Mississippi
- $22,997.39 US Virgin Islands
- $18,983.89 Guam
- $18,499.23 Puerto Rico
- $11,199.32 Northern Mariana Islands
- $8,638.41 American Samoa
Our forefathers were willing to suffer. Many suffered through wars or financial hardships. Today, from the boardroom to the street, we don't seem to be willing to suffer. We are impatient and sell our children and grandchildren into debtor's slavery so that we can have it all now. We are angry at the credit card company or the store sales person when we can't have what we want. We push and shove others out of the way on the freeway and during retail sales. What happened to that patient generation that willingly endured suffering? In Romans 8:17 the writer of a letter to ancient Rome reminded them that we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Are we willing to be a generation ready to suffer for the good of others?
2. If we don't do something, Antichrist will rise and persecute Christians. Actually, prophecies do not indicate that Christians can stop it but only that Christ's return will save us out of it.
3. Christians behave better and are wealthier than their non-Christian neighbors. Actually, Paul described Christians as the weak of the world, not worldly wise. The difference is that they are saved.
4. Modern Christianity is an exact copy of the ancient way. Modern Christianity is very different than that described by Christ and experienced by the ancient Church, with a major exception: Faith in Christ is still saving faith and that is the most important thing.
- Council of Nicaea (325 AD) began the Creed of Nicaea, set the date of Easter.
- First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) finalized the Nicene Creed.
- Council of Ephesus (431 AD) declared Mary the Mother of God (theotokos).
- Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) defined the two natures of Christ, divine and human.
- Second Council of Constantinople (553 AD) confirmed the first four general councils.
- Third Council of Constantinople (680-681 AD) defined two wills in Christ, divine and human as witnessed in his prayers before his crucifixion.
- Second Council of Nicaea (787 AD) regulated the use of icons.
Infallibility of Papal Ex-Cathedra Teaching
- How many ways was bread used in the Bible? (e.g. shew bread, manna, unleavened bread, Jesus born in Bethlehem = house of bread)
- Is Jesus exhorting us to cannibalism when he encourages us to eat his body?
- What does it mean to eat Christ's body at communion?
- Why do Catholics kneel during the Eucharist?
- Why do they believe that the bread and wine become literally the body and blood of Christ?
- Why do Catholics take the Bible literally when it says "this is my body...this is my blood" even when Protestant literalists do not?
- It is recent vocabulary, first approved in 1215 by the 4th Lateran Council. So why do they not also believe Christ is literally a door or a vine or that the leaven of the Pharisees is literal too?
- Does taking this literally make Christians cannibals?
- Is the cup then also literally the new covenant? Let's be consistent.
- Is the bread only symbolic, literally Christ's body, or something in between?
- What does it mean to only eat Jesus once and thereby gain eternal life?
- How can true bread, Jesus be consumed yet also be eternal?
- How does eating Christ's flesh grant us eternal life?
- Does partaking of communion in some way give us eternal life?
- Is this magic, or superstition?
- Is the bread of communion, food of immortality?
- Is there something deeper such as faith and a relationship that is hinted at here?
- How are we related to Jesus as a person is related to bread?
- How does living bread live in us?
- As we consume immortality, do we become immortal too?
- Were people offended only at the thought of cannibalism, or also that Jesus' said his origin was heaven?
- If this was scandalous, would that same body ascending to heaven offend them more?
- Is substituting the word believing for the word eating just too simplistic, or is there something more here?
- In a consumer society, we consume the world and remain empty. How does internalizing Christ combat our poverty in wealth?
- What does grain go thru to become bread? Could that picture what Jesus went thru to become our bread?
- Why did Jesus not say, I am the candy or the honey of life?
- Why did Jesus reveal this bread in 3 steps -- there is bread from heaven, he is the bread, his body given for the world is that bread?
Or maybe consubstantiation
Believe in an ancient Creation
Give a generous donation
Working on spiritual formation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination
In weekly celebration
of eternal renovation
raising hands in adoration
with appropriate gyration
harmony and notation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination
Preacher got the right quotation
from his Bible translation
Helping us avoid temptation
and every kind of aberration
So we're free of accusation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination
Tithing by our calculation
So he's got some compensation
from this whole congregation
for his steadfast dedication
and his Bible education
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination
Got the right dispensation
for this modern generation
Got to be in preparation
for the coming revelation
there's no time for relaxation
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination
This whole world's in termination
ready for annihilation
Looking for glorification
and the coming manifestation
a great victory celebration
But if we don't know Jesus
there's no salvation
only empty imagination
- He confessed freely, "I am not the Christ"
- He said, "I must decrease"
- Jesus said that there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he
- Some who testify about Jesus are weird, but that's not important
- God chose John for a special mission long before he was born
- John's message of preparation for Jesus was repentance
- A change of heart is always the best preparation for Jesus
- John never veered from his role, not even to become a disciple of Jesus himself
- John's imprisonment and execution did not occur because of Jesus, but because he criticized Herod
- unlike his condemnation of the Pharisees' stubbornness, Jesus was merciful towards John's crisis of faith
- Jesus assumed that John actually was part of this reign, so a crisis of faith, doesn't necessarily keep us out of the kingdom of heaven
- Preparing for Jesus ought never prevent us becoming disciples of Jesus
- never spend so much time in spreading the message of Christ, that we fail to come to Christ
- someone can indeed create a very impressive ministry and still not have come to discipleship in Christ
Perhaps we need to learn how to discuss respectfully by esteeming each other better than ourselves, give others grace to have different opinions and learn to forgive each other for our prejudices and sometimes hurtful words. What a shame it would be if Christians really did shut up! Sometimes the Gospel will offend, but not always. Could the problem sometimes be ours? Do we need to learn how to discuss our faith in a manner that is more attractive and less offensive?
The Armor of God
Our spiritual arsenal must be God's weaponry not the hocus-pocus invented and practiced by some. Most Christians are familiar with the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-18). We need truth, righteousness, faith, the gospel of peace and the word of God. Paul ends by reminding us that spiritual strength comes from God alone, so we need to pray, ask God for his help. We never know in advance when the enemy will attack, so prayer for God’s protection is vital.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 complements Paul's list: “faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” Here Paul uses the trio of faith, hope and love. We will be spiritually stronger if these qualities are at work in our lives.
We are at war in at least three areas: our own selves (the flesh), the world, and supernatural evils.
War with the Flesh
Sins of the “flesh” include sins of the mind, such as pride. Paul describes the inner struggle we all face in Galatians 5:17: “The sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” The sins of the flesh also include jealousy, selfishness and hatred, as well as sexual immorality and drunkenness (verses 19-21).
Our spiritual troubles can also come from genetic weaknesses, or child abuse, or bad habits. Paul tells us to put to death the deeds of the flesh and not let sin reign in us (Romans 6:11-12; 8:13; Colossians 3:5). This is spiritual warfare. Greed (for example) is a spiritual problem, even when evil spirits are not involved. Sin is a spiritual power, and the only effective way to fight it is with the Spirit of God in us.
War with the World
Western culture promotes materialism and individualism, which can damage our spiritual health, and influence our attitudes toward sex, money, power, success, other ethnic groups and other religions. Some influences are positive; others are not. The Bible helps us assess cultural customs as good, bad or neutral.
1 John 2:15-17 helps us here: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Everything this world offers is only temporary. The things of God are permanent.
The world appeals to the flesh. These two spiritual enemies work together. People have fleshly desires, but without God’s help are less likely to resist them. So society often promotes self-indulgence and self-reliance. We need to be aware of it and be suspicious of values that we take for granted. By his death, Jesus destroyed the power that Satan had over us. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.
War with Supernatural Evil
A third enemy is the supernatural world. Some people over emphasize evil spirits and others want to ignore them. Paul clearly says that we struggle against evil powers in the heavenly realms—the spiritual world in general. We were all influenced by the spirit that works among the disobedient (Ephesians 2:2-3).
This evil spiritual realm works with both our culture and our sinful nature. That is our spiritual warfare. But we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). By his death, Jesus destroyed the power that Satan had over us (Hebrews 2:14). We can be confident that that the Lord will rescue us from every evil attack (2 Timothy 4:18).
Satan is a defeated enemy, but he is still harassing us with guerrilla warfare, masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He stalks us like a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8). How do you fight a devil like that? It's really rather simple. Resist him and stand firm in the faith (verses 9-10).
The Power of Resistance
The strategy is simple: resist. How? By faith! The Bible does not prescribe any special words or rituals; no unusual anointing or prayers. Neither Jesus nor the apostles went searching for demons to defeat as the key to spiritual growth or effective evangelism. They expelled demons when a problem was unavoidable, but they did not search for clandestine demons or territorial spirits. Jesus defeated Satan not through aggression, but by resisting him with the word of God, and then by dying on a cross.
Resistance is powerful. James teaches that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7) probably looking for an easier target. No one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Christ keeps us safe. When we trust in him, evil spirits cannot harm us (1 John 5:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).
So we should stand in faith and resist the temptations of the devil that appeal to our desires, pride, selfishness or ungodly cultural influences. How do we resist? Put on faith and righteousness, truth and the gospel, and pray always.
The devil even tries to deceive us with wrong spiritual warfare. Some unbiblical concepts include compulsory prayers over inanimate objects, such as rocks. This is not a sin, but it is not biblical. Some of these techniques give evil spirits far more attention than they deserve. They treat demons as legitimate powers instead of usurpers. Many of these ideas are superstitious, borrowed from magic, and focus more on techniques than faith in Christ. It is often a case of casting out demons by Beelzebub. We can only win through Christ, and he did not teach us any such strategies. We cannot improve on what he himself did.
Curses and hexes have no real power of their own. If a demon carries out a curse it is by the demon’s choice, not by any inherent power of the words. We have no need to explore the demonic world to find hidden curses or come up with special words to counteract the words of a mere mortal. All we need is Christ.
Some people see a demon behind every bad attitude, or physical abnormality. Many mental illnesses are caused by physiological malfunctions not demons. They can have spiritual repercussions, but are not always caused by evil spirits. So we should be cautious about diagnosing anyone as having a demon. Claims of demon possession are often wrong.
Genuine symptoms of demon possession could include:
· a hostile reaction to the name of Jesus
· the presence of an unnatural, foreboding feeling of evil
· involvement in the occult and witchcraft
· prominent feelings of unforgiveness, bitterness and anger
· supernatural strength, and
· self-abusive behavior.
None of these guarantee demon possession, but a diagnosis should be made very carefully by someone who is more experienced in these things.
When a demon is encountered, a church leader can simply take authority in Christ’s name, and command the demon to leave. No shouting or conversation is needed. There is no need to find out the demon’s name or anything else about the demonic world. Whatever a demon says is likely to be false, anyway. A demon might try to stall for time by causing a distraction, so we need to be firm in commanding the demon to leave, by the authority of Christ.
Then we need to teach the person to resist becoming contaminated again, giving them the truth of salvation, the gospel of hope, faith in Christ, encouraging them in a life of righteousness, prayer and Bible study, surrounded by people who will help them.
We do not need to fear the demonic world. Its power is limited. Satan’s main strategy is not outright possession, but deception. Demons work through the society around us, appealing to our own sinful nature, trying to deceive us into wrong ways of thinking and wrong ways of behavior. They use fear, guilt and ignorance. The antidote is faith, forgiveness and the truth of the gospel.
Some people have claimed that long-time church members can be possessed by demons and need to be delivered. Could a demon really be in a Christian heart? Some preachers teach that part of the plan for world evangelism must include defeating Satan and tearing down spiritual strongholds. Demons are in charge of nations, cities, even local communities they say. It is claimed that these demons have to be sought out and expelled before effective evangelism can take place. Must Satan be defeated in this manner before evangelism can take place or is that only possible after Christ returns?
Deliverance, bondage breaking, the binding of curses and the tearing down of satanic strongholds are fads pre-occupying many Christians today. Some popular and sincere church leaders are teaching and encouraging these and similar ideas. But is it safe? Are there pitfalls? Some of the best sellers in a Christian bookshop are on the subject of spiritual warfare. What is a balanced and biblically defensible view?
The Bible is clear that there is such a thing as spiritual warfare. 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:12 indicate that Satan is warring against the efforts of Christians in order to prevent the spread of the gospel. The Bible also explains that through Christ this battle is already won. We have the victory! (Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37-38). There is a clear foundation of biblical teaching that we already have the victory in Christ.
Spiritual Warfare Hogwash
A few important principles will help us sort out the hogwash that is sold in the Christian market place from the biblical truths regarding spiritual warfare. How can you tell if a particular teaching is real or rubbish?
Does the teaching support a dualistic world view, the idea that God and Satan are equal? The Bible teaches that Christ has already overcome the world (John 16:33) and that Satan is already defeated (Luke 4:1-13; Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:15). Dualism diminishes God, putting him on an equal status with Satan. This teaching is the basis of much deliverance ministry and is fundamentally wrong. We have the victory. God is greater than Satan.
Does the teaching lead to animism or superstition, that humans must manipulate or control the energy of evil spirits? This idea comes from ancient religions, New Age thinking, witchcraft and sorcery. It places trust in magic rituals rather than Christ. Sometimes phrases like “in Jesus’ name” are used like a magical incantation. Some people try to manipulate the spirit world. The apostles did not go on a “search and destroy” mission for demons. When confronted, they acted, but did not go around picking fights with demons and looking for trouble. The “deliverance” approach is pre-occupied with Satan, naively attributing any problem to Satan, which is superstition. We should be concentrating on our relationship with Jesus Christ, not wondering regularly about our relationship with Satan.
Does the teaching promote fear? Some claim that up to 85 percent of Christians are demonized! Ridiculous! God and Satan do not live side by side in the Christian. God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians are not touched by the evil one (1 John 5:18). Jesus keeps us from evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3). We pray deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13) and believe that we are safe in Jesus' hands. We do not need to rely on semi-magical Christian-sounding phrases and a dramatic waving of hands and commands shouted at real or imagined demons.
Does the teaching promote a false view of the Holy Spirit? Some people involved in spiritual warfare treat the Holy Spirit as if He were a powerful angel or even a demon. Jesus abides with us (John 15) by the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:24) and that anointing remains with us (1 John 2:27). We don't have to continually ask the Holy Spirit to come or come back. The Holy Spirit does not take over and control our minds against our will. God did not give us free will in order to take it away from us. Satan wants to remove our free will. We submit to God’s will voluntarily, not by force. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 14:23). Satanic possession causes lack of self-control (Acts 19:16). The Holy Spirit never acts like a demon, and any teaching that suggests that he does is a heresy.
Does the teaching place experience above the Scriptures? Some people place their own spiritual experiences above the teachings of Scripture and defend their position vigorously. Is experience always reality and therefore truth? For the Christian, faith is the evidence of things not seen. Heresies and cults have been built on the visions and spiritual experiences of founders. Be careful when someone claims that his or her experience is more important than the Scriptures.
Does the teaching have validation in scripture? Check the Scriptures, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Many of the teachings and practices on the subject of spiritual warfare are not in Scripture. Some clearly ignore biblical precedent, some go against the spirit of grace, and some are outright pagan. But there is spiritual warfare. We have the victory from God already, but Satan and his legions remain determined in their attack on us. We can relate to the comforting words of Jahaziel to Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah telling him not to be afraid, nor dismayed, because the battle is not ours but God's (2 Chronicles 20:15). James tells us to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
What did Jesus say about spiritual warfare? He said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. He also said that we shall not tempt God, and that we ought to worship only God. When we are tempted to put other things ahead of God, we are certainly losing a battle. Jesus did not go hunting for demons, but rebuked them whenever he ran across them.
Borrowing special ceremonies and fetishes from witchcraft or voodoo and calling it spiritual warfare is crap. Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12-18 that we fight against spiritual wickedness and against principalities and powers. Using the same Greek terms, Paul also states in Colossians 2:15 that through his crucifixion and resurrection, our Savior has disarmed principalities and powers, triumphing over them. He rejoices that we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).
There is nothing to fear. We have the victory. God is on the side of the Christians. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).
Some Christians travel a long way following famous evangelists. Could it be more profitable to stay at home and grow close to God where we live? To say that God's rule is like a common shrub challenges prejudices and paradigms. When others are looking for an electrifying outward show, does the kingdom of God start like something very small, and eventually become just like a large common plant growing in our back yards? That's what Jesus said.
In ancient times a mustard seed symbolized something small. This parable begins with a very small seed which becomes one of the larger common garden shrubs in the Middle East, the mustard plant. The emphasis is on the incredible growth experienced by the kingdom of God. God's rule is like a very small seed becoming a very large plant. That's what Jesus said.
of the Trinity
• He makes determinations or decisions by his will (1 Corinthians 12:11)
• He teaches (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:11-13)
• He guides us into all truth (John 16:13)
• He makes the things of Jesus known to us (John 16:14)
• He convicts the world of sin (John 16:8)
• He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30)
• He can be blasphemed (Matthew 12:31)
• He possesses a rational mind (Romans 8:26-27)
• He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4)
• He can be resisted (Acts 7:51)
• He is distinguished from the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19-20)
• We can have fellowship with him (2 Corinthians 13:14)
|Seed to Harvest|
Can we patiently wait for God to cause the seeds to sprout, the sprouts to grow into a stalk, the stalk to become a head, and the head to ripen into a full kernel? If this riddle pictures God's rule in our lives, then is it picturing a long period of apparent inaction? Yet, despite appearances the kingdom of God is growing, and a harvest will come. That's what Jesus said.
|Seed to Seed|
Without visible cause the soil produces a crop. The seed grows automatically. Martin Luther commented about this text, that after he preached his sermon, he would go home, drink a beer and "just let the gospel run its course." The power of Dr. Luther's sermon was not his education, or his eloquence, but the seed sown in a person's heart.
There is something powerful about the Word of God that changes us. It grows in us, mysteriously and miraculously. The Gospel is powerful. It grows in us. This then is a parable of hope. God's rule is growing night and day whether we sleep or get up. That's what Jesus said.
|Sower & the Seeds|
This has been called appropriately the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly. We do not know how the seed of the kingdom brings forth results. There is power in a seed. When seeds grow, it is a miracle. So is the rule of God in peoples' lives. Like the man we do not know how it works, but it does, night and day. That's what Jesus said.
Weekly altar calls are not wrong, but they are not mandated in the Bible and are relatively recent. They can incite emotional decisions rather than true repentance. They also they have a high failure rate perhaps because they seem to focus a church's attention on quick decisions more than long-term discipleship. Is there a better way?
Notice that this seed is only cast once. Does this parable infer a more care free use of our energies in the scattering of kingdom seed, rather than being overly anxious? Certainly, the kingdom of God is like a man who cast seed on the ground. That's what Jesus said.
Preaching Manual is an updated edition to the free online version available at Knol.
I'm pretty nervous about this because you know how the public likes to devour and criticize. Oh, well, I just gotta do it anyway. Sigh! :)
PS: That's my father-in-law's hand in the picture, holding his Bible. It's all in the family.
So Jesus has told his disciples to abide in him, let his words abide in them, abide in his love and all this so that his joy may remain in them and that they may produce fruit that abides. Jesus did not specify what he meant by everlasting fruit, but talked about love, which Paul later included at the top of his list of fruit. Christ left his disciples and so us with a concluding command in the next verse, love each other. That's what Jesus said.
Abraham and Moses were the friends of God. He confided his plans to them. Some people call themselves our friends so they can lead us astray, or get something from us. True friends will put their lives on the line for us.
Transparency and openness suffer in a harsh, judgmental, legalistic church environment. True friendship can only exist under grace. Only then can we open up and share our lives.
Would you say that we are group of true friends, because we can openly communicate our deepest feelings, and that everything that we have learned from our heavenly Father we can make known to each other? That's what Jesus said.
What kind of friend says, "You're my friend if you do what I say?" In a friendship between equals that would not work, but in a friendship with God, there is nothing relevant besides what he commands. Many people imagine they are obeying Christ if they follow the rules of men. We prove our friendship with Jesus by doing whatever he commanded.
We often hear that we are called to be in a relationship with God. Those words are not in the Bible. But, friendship is a relationship, and we are called to be friends for eternity. We are called to be a community of friends, friends of Christ. In John 15:14 that's what Jesus said.
What kind of friends do we have? Do they only love us because we are willing to follow them into bad behavior or so they can get something from us? Would our friends be willing to die for us? What kind of friends are we? Do we entice others to do bad things? Do we just use our friends for selfish reasons? Are we willing to die for our friends? That's what Jesus did.
Jesus said, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, meaning a joy that abides or remains. So what Jesus actually told his disciples was to remain in him, that his words should remain in them, and that they should remain in his love. Why? So that his joy would remain in them.
What is this utmost joy? It helped Jesus go through the most horrible experience of the cross, so it must be wonderful. As we obey Christ and love each other, we too can experience this kind of full and abiding joy. That's what Jesus said.
What about waiting shows love? Does a person who waits until marriage for sex show love to a future spouse? Does a person who waits for God to promote them rather than play dirty politics show love? Remaining is a key lesson of the parable of the true vine. We are to remain in Jesus, let his words remain in us, and therefore remain in his divine love. That's what Jesus said.
First, this passage addresses those in Christ. If you are not yet in Christ, then the first step is to be in him. If we are already in him, then let us choose to remain in him and let his words remain in us. How can his words remain in us if we do not hear or read his words? How can we have Jesus without the doctrines that Jesus taught? How can we separate the Word from his word?
Do Christ's words remain in us or are we bored with him? If so, how can we expect to ask for anything in prayer? Let's remain in him and his words in us. That's what Jesus said.
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This is a 52 lesson Preaching Manual free to view online. It is designed for lay and professional preachers and theology students. It is arranged for use over an entire year, but is adaptable to various time frames and levels of competence and skill.
Just click on the title to this blog or here.
There are two opposite extreme views of doctrine today. On the naïve extreme are those who teach that doctrine is irrelevant, impractical or divisive, and yet that teaching is itself doctrine. On the other extreme is denominationalism, those who overly emphasize non-essential doctrines or distinctives and brand those who disagree with their narrow views as heretics.
What the Bible Says
The Bible says that doctrine is important. People were astonished at Christ's doctrine (Matthew 7:8). He taught people to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:12). Jesus' parables were doctrine (Mark 4:2). He taught people how to discern that his doctrine was right (John 7:17). The early church continued in the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). Those who taught contrary doctrines were avoided (Romans 16:17).
Paul warned the Ephesians not be be carried about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and told Timothy to warn people not to teach any other doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3). He wrote to Timothy to give attention in his preaching to doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13) and that preachers who labor in doctrine are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). The Bible is profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16). We are warned that some will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). Titus was told to teach what is consistent with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ do not have God and we ought not receive their teachings into our homes (2 John 1:9-10).
Some people quote Matthew 7:1-5 to claim that we should not judge, implying that we also ought not judge the doctrines of others. Yet the word judge in English carries both a positive and a negative meaning. These verses in Matthew are about a judgmental, critical spirit, not about righteous judgment, discerning between right and wrong. Verse 15 of the same chapter says to beware of false prophets. How can we beware unless we can judge rightly or distinguish between false and true prophets?
Is doctrine important for salvation? Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will be saved (Matthew 7:21). Some call him Lord, but do not do as he says to do (Luke 6:46). Even Christians can be led astray by those who use the name Jesus but actually preach another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Zeal without knowledge is dangerous (Romans 10:2), yet it important to know that Jesus will not cast out those who come to him (John 6:37).
Heresy vs. Orthodoxy
The word heresy conjures up visions of torture racks and persecution, but heresy is a real problem in the Church and has been for 2,000 years. Every church has a battle with heresy. What are the biggest heresies today? What exactly is heresy is also a matter of dispute. Like ancient heresies, many modern heresies can be summed up by the fact that they distract us from Christ, the central Person of Christianity. Some Christians think that there must be something they need more than Jesus Christ. They seek spiritual gimmicks, gurus and wiz-bang formulas. People are only too happy to make merchandise of them in the Christian market place.
The word orthodoxy simply means right teaching. Teaching which has been agreed upon since the early Church and which has stood the test of Christian history can generally be thought of as orthodox. This normally includes churches which believe in the teachings of the Bible, the Trinity and the Nicene Creed. However, we need to be cautious, because even some preachers which claim to believe these things have aberrant teachings. How can we discern what is right in individual cases? Several principles will help us in general:
• Whatever blatantly contradicts the Bible is heresy.
• Whatever is contrary to the Gospel is heresy.
• Whatever contradicts the Creeds is heresy.
• Whatever contradicts what the Church has historically regarded as essential is heresy.
If we look at the essential teachings of the Church, we can categorize heresies along the same lines. There are heresies about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Angels, human kind, sin, the Bible, salvation, the Church, and the future. A look at the heresy troubling the Colossian church can help us with some further principles.
A very popular variety of heresy today denies the value of a good education in Scripture, rational thinking and learning to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It relies overly on dubious ideas that people pull out of thin air and for which they blame the Holy Spirit. This is a variety of existentialism which stresses an individual's unique experiences and is very negligent to check the authenticity of those experiences against the rock solid teachings of Scripture and 2,000 years of Christ's leadership of the Church.
Filled with Knowledge
Let's look at Colossians 1:9-12. We hear a lot about being "filled with the Holy Spirit" today, but not much about being filled with love and grace. All of those things are needed, but Paul also prayed that the Colossians would be filled with knowledge. In some modern circles knowledge is despised, yet everything must be in balance. We need proper knowledge to discern between what is good Christian teaching and what is rubbish or heresy. There is also a lot said today about spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12) yet the gift that tops the list is wisdom and that is neglected. Perhaps if we had more wisdom, we might be able to use other spiritual gifts better.
We are also admonished to live a life worthy of the Lord. Let's ask ourselves if our lives are worthy. Let's not judge others wrongly, just ourselves. Are we living a life worthy of the Lord, or are we just frittering it away on useless pursuits? Paul also encourages us to joyfully give thanks to the Father. Do we? Are our prayers just "gimmee" prayers or do we also remember to give God thanks in everything? I remember a person several years ago started writing a list of all the things they were thankful for and soon they had written a whole book. I believe it was published.
The Secret is there is no Secret
Let's look at Colossians 2:2-12. What is the mystery of the universe? Have you watched a science fiction movie lately? Often times they will talk about the secrets of the universe, or the force, or some such thing. Yet we Christians know the mystery of the universe. It is Christ. All, not just some, but all of the hidden treasures of wisdom are hidden in him. Yet Christians get so easily bored with Christ and start to seek after other things, as if those things are going to give us something better. Perhaps it's like a 40 year old man having a mid-life crisis and seeking another woman, somehow thinking he is missing out on something. In reality, instead of adding something to his life, he is destroying something very precious.
So it is when Christians are deluded into thinking that there must be something better than Jesus Christ, that they are somehow missing out on something. Christians sometimes travel a long distance to hear visiting speakers, thinking that if they don't they will be missing out on something. Amos talks about people who roam from sea to sea, and run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but do not find it (Amos 8:12).
The answers are not far off in some distant place, but right in our own back yards. Paul warned the Colossians Christians against hollow and deceptive philosophies. He was not saying that all philosophy is wrong. Some people study philosophy in school and many parts of it are worth studying. However, there are philosophies which are hollow and deceptive. The Christian church is not immune to such ideas. Too often Christians fall prey to the trap of depending on human principles and materialistic values of this world rather than on Christ (verse 8). We need to be like the Bereans with our noses in our Bibles checking up whether or not what is preached are mere human principles or biblical ones.
Faith is Personal
Let's look at Colossians 2:16-23. Do not let anyone judge you. Your faith is between you and God, yet sometimes Christians are apt to judge one another over non-essentials. We do not have to let anyone pressure us into a particular pattern of belief other than our faith in Christ. If some want to speak in a tongue, that’s certainly not a sin, but let's not let them pressure us if we don't want to. If some want to abstain from alcohol, that's fine, but it is not a biblical requirement, and let's not let people judge us for our moderation. If someone wants to observe a particular day as a Sabbath in honor to God, that is wonderful. However, let's not let them pressure us into something that neither Jesus nor the apostles commanded for the Church.
There are so many rules and regulations which are of men, which Jesus did not require of the apostles and they did not require of the Church. The Jewish Christians of Colossae were trying to impose Old Testament rules mixed with perhaps Gnostic philosophies upon the other Christians in the church. Paul corrected this as a heresy, because those ideas were based upon a false premise: that Christ was not sufficient. Yet, Christ is sufficient.
Christianity is Christ
Paul reminded the Colossians that the reality is found in Christ. We are Christians and that means that what Christ preached is sufficient for us. Paul also warned about those whose unspiritual minds puff themselves up with idle notions. They have lost connection with the Head. If we too lose that connection with Christ, the Head of the Church, what good is our Christianity? It is no longer Christ-ianity, but something else.
Such human commands and teachings fool many Christians even today. It is heresy. Indeed many ideas seem like wisdom and worship, but are false humility and certainly not the core of Christianity. Christianity is about Christ. Some practices actually have more in common with non-Christian religions of Asia or Africa than biblical Christianity. Many of today's Christian fads are not about Christ, but something else, often about making money from naïve Christians.
In order to claim that new wacky doctrines are authentic, badly educated people twist the Bible, contradict the Gospel, ignore the creeds and take no notice of how Christ has led the Church for 2,000 years. If an idea contradicts the Bible, it is garbage. If an opinion opposes the Gospel it is junk. If an otion contradicts the Creeds it is rubbish. If a vision contradicts the essentials of Christianity it too is heresy.
Cleaning out the Divisive Crap
Dividing the Christian church over a matter that Jesus did not think was important enough to command his disciples is crap. What did Jesus say about false teachings? Jesus warned against that form of religion that involved the commandments of men. The religious leaders of that day had fallen into this trap, as has every modern Christian church to one degree or other. We are all so easily tempted to make our church’s interpretations of scripture into dogma and canon law. Instead Jesus instructed his disciples to teach the things that he had commanded, saying that it was not his own doctrine, but his that had sent him.
Heresy is really any teaching that detracts from Christ and distracts us from what he taught. By that definition, heresy is everywhere and in every church to some degree or other. Are we satisfied with Christ, or do we believe that something else must fill the void in our lives? Are we fooled by some of the hawkers of cheap substitutes, who line their pockets with our money and do not give us what really satisfies? We don't need to travel the world looking for Christ. He is here. He invites us to meet him here in prayer and study of his word. All the fullness we will ever need is in him and in him alone.