"Seven Questions and Seven Answers; One for each day of the Week usually posted by Saturday"
Are You a Growing Christian?
Are you growing? Here are some ways you can tell.
What do you think about?
One of the first signs that you are growing in Christ is that you think about what Jesus has done on your behalf. You reflect upon it and you praise Him for it. Your sins are forgiven and you’re on your way to heaven. What a glorious thought!
What are you doing with your life?
You’re saved, but you don’t stop there. You develop muscles and become a strong warrior to the glory of God. You become an active member of the Lord’s army. Let me ask you: Is the devil afraid of you? Are you an overcomer or are you overcome?
If you are saved and still sitting on the sidelines, shame on you! Indeed, shame on all of us if we’re not exhorting and encouraging one another to lay down our lives to get into active service for our Lord!
Are you evangelizing and discipling others?
A father is one who has children. Do you have any spiritual children? This is a mark of a growing Christian—that you are multiplying yourself (what God did in you) by sharing it with others. When you appear before the throne of God, will you be standing there alone? Or will you be standing with children you have “parented” in Christ?
Do you know why we have so many flabby Christians? They come down the aisle of the church, get baptized, then come Sunday after Sunday and just sit, soak, and sour. They do not exercise. They don’t have daily quiet times; they’re not sharing Christ in their communities and neighborhoods; they’re not ministering in their church.
Why Should Christians Live on Mission?
Paul and Barnabas set the standard for the church’s mission work when they obeyed God’s call to go forth. The local body of believers—those left behind to share Christ with neighbors and friends—equipped the men for their journey. They did so for the same reasons that apply today:
1. The spiritual condition of mankind. Romans 1:21–32 describes this sinful world. Unchecked sin leads people down a slippery slope toward a depraved conscience and, ultimately, a darkened mind that cannot perceive what is right. Every unbelieving person is sliding on that treacherous path.
2. God’s spiritual provision. The Father responded to mankind’s plight with grace: He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to save the world. On the cross, Christ bore the sin of every person—living, no longer alive, and yet to be born. The offer of salvation is for all; God’s grace is blind to race, creed, and color (Romans 10:12). Those who believe in Jesus are forgiven their sin, and they will spend eternity with the Lord.
3. The commission from Jesus Christ. Acts 1:8 says we receive the Holy Spirit so we may bear effective witness to those who need salvation. Notice that we don’t simply begin at home and work steadily outward. People everywhere are waiting for the Good News. The word is to be carried far and fast.
The purpose of the church is to worship and witness. Some will go and some will send, but all are called to the work of spreading the gospel. This is not a suggestion; it is a command (Matthew 28:19). Believers living in God’s will are all to be involved in missionary work.
When Will Jesus Return?
Dr. Ray Pritchard
During a radio interview two days after an earthquake and tsunamis wreaked so much devastation, the host asked if this could be a sign of the Second Coming of Christ. It is a relevant question in light of what Jesus said inMatthew 24. When the disciples asked, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (v. 3), Jesus offered six "signs" of the Second Coming (vv. 4-14). We can call the third one Natural Disasters (vv. 7b-8): "There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains."
When a woman is pregnant, she knows from the calendar the general time when the baby is due. Her body begins to send specific signals as the day approaches. Those signals are called labor pains. They begin with low intensity and low frequency. Sometimes they can go on for several days and then suddenly stop. They may start and stop several times (so-called "false labor"). But eventually the labor pains start in earnest. Even then the tempo is slow and steady. As time passes, the pains come more frequently and with greater intensity. In the end the pains come rapidly and finally in one great burst the baby is born.
Something like that will happen at the end of this age. The coming kingdom of Christ will be preceded by an unprecedented period of seven years of suffering and worldwide travail. The clearest picture of that seven-year period is found in Revelation 6-19.
The "signs" we see around us remind us that there is much evil in the world. And the picture of the "birth pangs" teaches us that there is a flow or tempo to world events that is controlled by our Heavenly Father. We simply cannot be certain how the current tragedy fits into the larger prophetic picture. To say "I don't know" may not satisfy our curiosity, but it is far better than pretending to know something that God alone knows.
Don’t Heap up Empty Phrases in Prayer
Jesus said that when we pray we should “not heap up empty phrases” (Matthew 6:7). Later he lamented a hypocritical form of worship by quoting the indictment that first came through Isaiah: “These people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).
We must be so careful when we bow our heads to pray, or lift our voices to sing. God is not impressed when we utter mere words such as “Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah!” He is looking for worshippers whose spirits (i.e., minds, hearts, and thoughts) are engaged in expressing the meaning of those words (cf. John 4:23). It is easy to melodically recite lyrics of Christian songs, but it takes concentration, sincerity and thoughtfulness to truly worship in song. We should never hide behind fine sounding words while our minds wander through a set of thoughts about something else.
This is a special challenge when someone else is leading us in prayer during a church service or at a Bible study. Those words coming from the one composing and vocalizing the prayer must be echoed in our own minds and then thoughtfully directed to God from our own hearts. When we are leading in prayer or praying privately, we must be careful to never “heap up empty phrases” which our minds never grasp or our hearts never direct to God.
Real prayer and real worship require our minds. Don’t switch them off. Don’t let them wander. God deserves our full attention and desires our attentive communication.
Did the Jews Expect a Messiah?
Strictly from the gospel accounts, the expectation of the Jewish Messiah comes through clearly. For example, Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) both understood the importance of Jesus's birth, and Simeon in particular detailed the Messiah's role as "a light of revelation to the Gentiles [non-Jewish nations]." When the magi arrived (Matthew 2), the scholars in Israel directed them to Bethlehem as the Messiah's birthplace.
John the Baptist, in answer to the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem, immediately confesses he is not the Messiah (John 1:20). The apostle Andrew calls his brother, Peter, to Jesus by saying, "We have found the Messiah" (John 1:41). Later, the Samaritan woman at the well knows the Messiah will come (John 4:25), and the crowds listening to Jesus argued not about the reality of a Messiah, but His place of origin and what signs were appropriate (John 7:27-31).
In Acts 5:36-37, Gamaliel hints at the Messiah "fever" of the age. Two other men at around the time of Jesus had gathered a following by claiming to be the Christ. Neither, however, could fulfill the prophetic requirements, and consequently their followers dispersed.
Beyond the Bible, Jewish rabbis had long expected and made reference to the Messiah based mostly on Old Testament prophecies. A review shows that their statements align with the New Testament fulfillment: His existence before the creation of the world; His preeminence over Moses and the angels; His sufferings; His violent death for His people; His kingdom; and others. However, their expectations also included speculation beyond Scripture, which is why many rejected Jesus as Messiah.
In addition, several works written prior to, concurrent with, and soon after Jesus's life and ministry make reference to a coming Messiah. These works, called the Pseudepigrapha because the authors wrote under false names, offer glimpses into the expectations of the Jewish people scattered throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.
Should Christians Isolate Themselves from the World?
When I was in elementary school, we had a little game that we would play in which we would touch someone and say, “You have cooties.” Of course, we had to have a way to defend ourselves, so when someone would touch us and claim they just gave us cooties, we would say, “Not me, I don’t have cooties.” Then we would hold out our hands, revealing the handwritten initials, C.P., which stood for “cootie protection.”
I think Christians are sometimes that way around unbelievers. They appear as though they are avoiding all contact with them. I can understand not wanting to be influenced in a bad way. But how about influencing others in a good way?
Jesus said that as Christians, we are to be salt and light. In Jesus’ day, salt was used as a preservative. It was rubbed into meat to stop the rotting process. So, as salt in a culture, Christians are to stop the spread of corruption. But another thing salt does is stimulate thirst. So we are to stop the spread of corruption and stimulate a thirst for God in others.
In addition to being salt, Christians are to be light, which means that we are to proclaim the gospel and do good works. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
We are called to be salt and light—to live a godly life. It is God’s job to identify the fake Christians, to determine the true from the false.
God has planted us as believers in this world. He has put His people in the culture to influence it, to make a difference. God is not calling us as believers to isolate, but to infiltrate
Why Did Jesus Teach in Parables?
Compared to His earlier teaching during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus's turn to parables might seem odd. He'd used clear instruction to teach His followers how to live and about the Kingdom of God, and He'd exhibited the Kingdom in a tangible way through His miracles. But suddenly, when the crowds come to hear Him, He hops into a boat and speaks in parables, stories about sowing seeds and gathering wheat (Matthew 13).
When the disciples ask Him why, since they obviously noticed the change, His answer may seem even more astonishing: "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been granted" (Matthew 13:11). In other words, the parables are meant to divide the crowd. While this may seem as if Jesus denied some people access, the difference He means is not in the message—but in the response.
The parables themselves present clear stories from everyday events that many in the crowd would recognize. Jesus did not code His teaching to prevent some people from understanding, since all equally would understand the imagery. All those gathered there certainly comprehended the aspects of the stories related to their everyday lives. Instead, His teaching divided the listeners into two groups based on their own responses.
His miracles had attracted many, and others had perhaps been astonished by His earlier teaching. But the parables themselves, just as in the story of the seed falling on various places (Matthew 13:3-9), revealed the true nature of their responses and their real decisions. Those committed to the Kingdom of God would seek and find further understanding. But those uncommitted—perhaps listening only because of the initial excitement—would reject the teaching as unintelligible.