Saturday, January 28, 2012

God’s Temple, the Christian’s body

This message will obviously be uncomfortable to some – especially for Christians [or, so-called “Christians"] who have little (proper and priority) regard for the Triune God’s revelation Scriptures. This message concerns our very "bodies." And, I know that when it comes to talking about peoples' very bodies, some people become personally offended. However, I make no apologies. (If, you are offended, it is because you have personally taken [on] needless and illegitimate offense).

If I say some things and bluntly say them, and if I support what I say, by preaching and teaching the Scripture Bible faithfully; and if what I preach and teach is disturbing to you, then, it ought to disturb. And if you, the hearer are upset, then what you might be feeling is your conscience being stirred and / or bludgeoned by the influence force of God's "Hammer." [Jeremiah 23:29] I might also add, the Scripture, also claims of itself, to be a "two edged sword," "piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and, is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12-13

Our present masquerading Christian culture

What constitutes an ignorant and fallen Christian? Regretfully, our present culture is anything but "Christian." And, I contend, that most of what is passed around as "Christian," is no more "Christian" than the proverbial "Man in the moon." In other words, what is "Christian" much of the time is only "masquerading Christian behavior" and spoken platitudes. It is quite genuinely different than the actual teachings of Jesus - His actual recorded Words in the Gospels and His Words elsewhere in the remainder of the Scriptures.

We are told in the Holy Scriptures, that in the "last days" there will be people acting wickedly and that they will have "the form of godliness," but in reality, they will be "denying its power." Moffatt's translation states: "for though they keep up a form of religion, they will have nothing to do with it as a force." The New English Bible translation well states: "They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God, men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality." 2 Timothy 3:1-5

And the Scripture says that this will be the case with people in general. It does not say that this "form of religiosity" and the "denial of its reality" [its power; authority] will only take place in the lives of the ungodly:

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" II Timothy 3:1-5

"Having a form of godliness; preserving the outward form of religion, but, denying its power; denying its reality." That is the "Masquerade." That is the grand and glaring "Deception."

Charles and Camilla -- A public example of “Having a form of godliness,” yet, “Denying its power”

The news media widely reported about England's Prince Charles and his "for years" mistress, Camilla. According to the media, they had some civil marriage ceremony, and then afterwards, they received the Church's blessing from one of England's clergy.

Where did Charles and Camilla go wrong? Obviously, they went wrong when they both engaged in their own fornicating affairs with each other, which had been common knowledge for years. But then, they opted for a legalized marriage and sought to make something holy of which had been unholy. Where was the admission of any guilt on their part for their past fornication and adultery? Perhaps we had all missed that part in the news, but I think not. And then, Charles and Camilla were presented by the old mainstream liberal media, to be worldwide role models! Not that what they had been doing, for years, was anything new or innovative -- the cheating and the adultery. But I suppose Prince Charles and his former mistress, Camilla, exemplified the changing cultural drift of misplaced sinful attitudes and values.

Prince Charles and Camilla's actions, along with scores of couples throughout the world today, take the following route:

After having trashed traditional values, morality and marriage, by their continued lifestyle of fornicating [type of cohabiting] behavior, they then turn around and desire the blessing of the Christian Faith -- the Christian Church, by attempting to embrace the traditional values and vows of the Christian institution of marriage, they had thus, previously trashed!

The "Masquerade" - The "'Form' Of Godliness" II Timothy 3:1-5

So, with Charles and Camilla, we have a somewhat, recent example of taking upon themselves the "form of godliness" (religion) when in actuality they were "masquerading" and denying its "power (reality) of godliness!"

They could have exercised the "power (reality) of godliness" and confessed their past and present sins and rebellion against God and His Commandments. They could have, after true contrition and repentance [then] began to live their lives in accordance with "God's Program" of faith in Christ and "exercise" themselves "unto godliness." And then, God could have been a reality (a power) in their lives. But the huge problem (all along), being -- is that they had to do things their way! And they are now obviously continuing to do things their way and not God's way!

Christians fall into the same trap

Christians who fall into this same type of lifestyle trap, and if they continue in this type of lifestyle - doing things their way with their own bodies, rather than God's way, they will never rise to the level of realizing their true identity with (and in) Christ! In fact, they are, in reality, living their whole lives, desecrating God's Image and their own bodies, of which God calls, His "temple!" They are, in a very genuine spiritual sense, playing "Russian Roulette."

Focus

The New Testament Christian Scripture which I have based this topical message, speaks very directly concerning the individual Christian's physical body. It says:

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

The Christian’s Physical Body Belongs to God

Years ago there was a song popularized by Frank Sinatra: "I Did It My Way." Hell will be littered with the souls of the damned and they will screech out in agonizing forever torment, gnashing their teeth, regretting that they did things in their life upon earth, "their way."

It was against this pagan and vile immoral "backdrop," in which the First Corinthian Bible letter was written to the Corinthian Christians. The Corinthian assembly of Christians had many problems to be addressed - and that they were, with two Scriptural letters from the Apostle Paul. But the most challenging problem to the Corinthian body of Christian believers, was to keep themselves clean and clear from all the moral defilements that were part and parcel of the morally corrupt Roman Empire.

No “Right to privacy”

When the Lord says in His Scripture that our bodies are His temples, He means that we don't have a "right of privacy." God will not afford us that so-called and ill-conceived Supreme Court concept. We don't have a right to our own bodies - they belong to the Lord. They are His temples.

A military story

A friend of mine related to me some of his military experiences. One story was an incident that took place at the DMZ at the border of North and South Korea. A couple of drunken U.S. military soldiers wandered across the demilitarized zone and cut down, what was regarded to be a sacred North Korean tree. The two drunken soldiers never made their way back. They paid for their desecration and destruction of the sacred tree, by having their heads chopped off.

The self desecration and destruction of one’s body

The Lord says that the Christian's body is His temple and that if the Christian defiles it, the Christiaian will pay with dire and sorry consequences. The desecration of one's body isn't restricted to sexual immorality. It includes anything and everything that we may do to our own body that may hurt, harm or shorten its life. And the grave sin against the defilement of God's temple, a person's body, is that there is the added offense and crime of sinning against the First Commandment -- "Thou shall have no other gods before me!" [Exodus 20:1f] When we make ourselves and our own preferences, options, to take the place of God's Will and His Commandments in our lives and bodies, we are then sinning against the First Commandment and defiling His "body temple."

The 5th Commandment [Exodus 20:13] can also be sinned against in that we can set in motion the eventual "murder" of our own bodies with destructive behaviors such as overeating; drunkenness; smoking; and, an excessive reliance upon prescription drugs. Also, we can sin against God's temple, by not receiving enough exercise and securing enough sleep. Added to these self destructive [slow suicide, life shortening lifestyles] are also other ill-advised lifestyle behaviors.

The continued desecration and destruction of God's "body building" without contrition and repentance [godly sorrow; decision and change] -- and faith in the Lord Jesus, will lead the soul straight down the road to death [hell] everlasting. Galatians 5:19-21 ; Luke 18:9-14 ; Luke 19:1-10

This has been a very long message and I will say no more except to end with the reading of Hebrews, 13:4 and 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. The good, gracious, loving and just Lord can sum up, far better and beyond, some of the divine revelation reality truths that I have attempted to relate to you:

"Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Hebrews 13:4

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For the "two," He says shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or, do you not know, that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Please note some of the following Gospel Scriptures [below] as their is forgiveness and reconciliation with God for having desecrated his body temple.

Amen.

Above Message and Related Scriptures [below] -- Intended to be utilized in a simpleworship format:

Also: For a couple of other (more formal) worship formats:
The Order of Morning Service
The Order of Matins

Related Scriptures To the Above Message

Old Testament:

Psalm 51:1f -- A Psalm of forgiveness and cleansing

Isaiah 64:1-9 -- The humble soul will recognize the Triune God as father and master potter maker

New Testament:

Luke 15:1-10 -- Heaven has much joy over one sinner's repentance

Luke 15:11-32 -- Christ's Parable of the Prodigal [Lost] Son

Luke 18:9-14 -- God has mercy upon the soul that confesses his sin

Luke 19:1-10 -- The appropriate corresponding response of a sinner who sought Christ

2 Corinthians 4:1f -- The grateful and spiritually alive Christian will recognize his person and body as being a humble "earthen vessel" of which the Lord uses for His Glory.

Please note: The Following Scriptures are clear instructions for Christians on dealing [living] with sin within the "Christian 'camp:'"

1 Corinthians 5:9-10 -- "The Corinthians mistook Paul's letter to mean that, on separating from sin, they should disassociate themselves from all immoral persons, including non-Christian people. Instead, Paul meant that they should separate from immoral persons in the church who claimed to be Christian brothers." 1 Corinthians 5:10-11

1 Corinthians 5:11 -- "With such a one do not even eat......"

"Calling oneself a Christian while continuing to live an immoral life is reprehensible and degrading, and gives a false testimony to Christ. If the true Christian has intimate association with someone who does this, the non-Christian world may assume that the church approves such immoral, ungodly living and thus the name of Christ would be dishonored. Questions could arise concerning the true character of the Christians own testimony." Romans 16:17-18 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

Also note: Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26 -- "'hate' his father".....a vivid hyperbole meaning that one must love Jesus even more than his immediate family Malachi 1:2-3

[Above 1st Corinthian and Gospel Scripture notes, quoted from the 1984 c. NIV Study Bible]

Finally -- The Holy Scriptures are replete with examples of what God regards as sin and what He has done in the past to keep his people free from sin's contaminations. A few [among many] Scriptures are: Exodus 32 ; Joshua 7 ; Numbers 12:1f


Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak" --
by Victor Buksbazen -- Isaiah 53:1-12 -- an in-depth view of and the prophecy of Christ, hundred of years before his birth. Isaiah 53:1-12 underscores the truthfulness of Divine Revelation as exemplified in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Please note: Topical Messages, by subject

Pastor (emeritus) Nathan Bickel

Please also note:

The "Words in Season" topical messages and related worship format are not intended to discourage or replace the Christian worship and assembly of Christians at their particular places of church worship. As this website's author, it is my prayer and hope, that many souls will find the topical messages, related worship format and other material, a useful and valuable Christian resource.

The Christian Faith: Parts 1-3
2 -- How the saving (believing) process of the Christian Faith takes place
3 -- What are the tell-tale signs that a person has been “Saved” [is a Christian]

Note: This edited message was previously posted online by Pastor emeritus Nathan Bickel

Saturday, January 21, 2012

All religions are not "roads" that lead to the same God! - What makes the Christian Faith most credible?

One of the most popular misconceptions is the misleading notion that "All religions are but various avenues (paths) that lead to the same God." Often added to this universal cardinal [false] belief, is the notion that, "As long as a person is sincere, that is what counts!" Nothing could be farther from the truth. Do all roads lead to Bay City, Michigan? Of course not! But often people, when they are confronted about their own immorality and mortality, they will conveniently abandon intellect, logic -- and, especially their conscience.

If we are to acknowledge "hook, line and sinker," the politically correct and multicultural ideas of the day and accept the notion premise that all religions have equal value, then we would have to accept without reservation and prejudice the rabid, murderous and destructive religious beliefs which motivate Muslims to strap bombs about themselves and their children, while they ruthlessly position their own bodies as explosive projectiles.

After all, these human bombers are sincere. They believe in Allah [their god]. They believe in all earnestness, according to their religious belief, that if they sacrifice themselves for Islam, that they will be transported to eternal happiness and the waiting sensual embrace of umpteen female virgins. This extreme terrorist (perverted version of religious belief) is, considered, (1) a road to God; and, (2) it is firmly held, with all sincerity. It meets the universally held criteria of the popular notion (conception) that "All religions are but various avenues (paths) that lead to the same God," and, "As long as a person is sincere, that is what counts!"

Jesus Christ makes it clear that He is the "Road" to God

The Christian New Testament Gospel of John is a very fascinating book, all in itself. It is mainly a Collection of the sayings of Christ, (humanly written, yet, God, authored), by one of Christ's 12 earthly Disciples. If a person who reads this Gospel seriously, cannot recognize the uniqueness of Christ, then, that person, is totally missing out on the thrust of this literature masterpiece.

In the 10th Chapter of the Christian New Testament of the Gospel of John, Christ is recorded to have spoken one of his famous "I am" discourses. Christ talks of Himself, as being the "Great Shepherd" and the "Door" [of the sheep] and the one who lays down His life for the sheep.
I have always been captivated with the one verse - above all the other 42 verses in this chapter. That verse, is, verse 8: "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers......" John 10:8

Here, Christ exclaims his uniqueness. He claims His exclusivity. He makes the assertion here and in other Gospel statements, that He alone is the one and only avenue [road] to God. We can talk grammatically about present, past and imperfect tense, etc. - but this one lone verse, is, of an "eternal" tense. It directs us to Jesus Christ's eternal presence, as His claim is similar to that, found in New Testament, Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 22:13 - "Alpha" and "Omega"- "the first and the last;" "the beginning and the end." Furthermore, these Scriptures coincide so closely with that of Colossians 1:12-20.

I believe it can be not only safely said, but categorically and clearly indicated, that Christ does not and would not believe our cultures' false and misleading misconception of: "All religions are but various avenues (paths) that lead to the same God." Nor could it be said, that Christ would endorse the political and multicultural concept that "As long as as person is sincere, that is what counts!"

The devastation of sin upon humanity

It is an almost universal conception that "heaven" is a place of peace and perfection. Yet, our earthly existence is cluttered and fraught with every kind of imperfection imaginable and, unimaginable. [Romans 1:18-32] The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures correctly call this "imperfection," - "sin!" Psalm 51:5 and Romans 3:23

This "sin," entered a perfectly created (by God) world, when the first humans "sinned." They "disobeyed" God - which is one definition of sin. Later on, the Triune God instituted His Ten Commandments. To violate (or disobey) these commandments, (also) constitutes, "sin." And, the Bible makes it clear that all humanity, past present and future is stuck with the deplorable, degenerative and damnable ongoing human condition of sin. Romans 5:12 and Romans 1:18-32

God's just punishment for sin

It is both illogical and inconceivable that a fallen (sinful) humanity can have any part and parcel with a Holy Creator God. Yet, people often and mistakenly continue to believe and live that they can please God and gain the perfection of heaven in the life to come, by their own agendas and efforts. Sadly, this is not God's agenda and plan. [Romans 3:19-20 ; Titus 3:3-7 and Ephesians 2:1-10] Unless a person is clothed with the proper garments of Christ's righteousness, he / she is doomed to die in one's sins. Matthew 22:2-14 ; Romans 10:3 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 2:1-9

Christ, God's Son - the only One who could carry humanity's load of sin

Why is Jesus Christ "the only 'Road' to God?" Because He was [is] the holy Creator's sent One who came to earth for the expressed purpose of dealing with mankind's sin problem. Why would you desire to look to a sinful (dead and gone) leader of another religion? Why would you desire to claim Allah for the true God, when this earthy representative was just as imperfect as every human being? Why would you desire to embrace any religion that has zero capacity to deal once and for all - and, for all eternity, with your sin problem and the whole worlds'?

The Hebrew Old Testament and Christian Scriptures make it very plain in many of its writings, that only one person could satisfy the demands of Holy Creator God for all the sins of humanity, - thus making it possible for individuals such as you and I, to gain the [needed] perfection "clothing" of heaven. That person was [is] the [holy and without sin] God-man, Jesus Christ. 1Timothy 2:3-5 and Matthew 22:2-14


What makes the Christian Faith so unique?

(1) The Divine origin of Christ [John 1:1f ; Luke 1:1f] -- and also His

(2) Sinless Divine Sacrifice. [Isaiah 53:1f ; John 3:14-21] -- and, finally, Christ's

(3) Bodily Resurrection from the dead [Matthew 28:1f ; 1 Corinthians 15:1f]

Christ was qualified [Hebrews 4:15 ; Hebrews 9:28] to rescue (save) you and me from our damnable condition and eternal consequences of sin, which, if left untouched and unforgiven, will send us into a Godless eternity - hell, itself. Ephesians 5:5-6 ; Luke 16:19-31 ; Matthew 25:10 ; Matthew 25:30 ; Matthew 25:41 ; Matthew 25:46

The follies of this present culture would pressure us to believe the lie that we can forge our own road to God

Don't think for a moment that you can travel the road to God, fueled on the fumes of your own goodness or efforts. [Ephesians 2:1-10 and Titus 3:5-7] Don't delude yourself into thinking that in order to be fashionable and accepted, that you must accept the present prescriptive beliefs of society.

Friend, know for a spiritual and Biblical reality, that you can do nothing to rescue your wretched sinful self and soul from God's just and holy punishment upon all your youthful, present and future sins. Know that you have no "covering" of your own, except for that of the holy and priceless blood of Christ which was shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins! Isaiah 53:1f

Will you for one moment believe that One far greater than yourself loves you enough to have dethroned himself of heaven and to have been born a sinless human baby? Will you for one moment believe that, the [once] infant Christ lived in a human body, apart from this world's sin, and offered Himself to take away your just and promised eternal punishment, for all your sins?

My dear sinful soul - in order to escape your future banishment from a holy and just God and his perfect heaven -- and, to avoid an eternal hell, [Luke 16:19-31] you must travel the road that He has designed. You must come by way of Christ - the only true and holy God who offered Himself for you and your imperfect self! John 3:14-21 Once, you have believed Him and entrusted yourself into his present and eternal care - then, and only then will you be able to fully understand and comprehend why, "All religions are not roads that lead to the same God" - and, "What makes the Christian Faith most credible?"

Amen.

Above Message and Related Scriptures [below] -- Intended to be utilized in a simpleworship format:

Also: For a couple of other (more formal) worship formats:
The Order of Morning Service
The Order of Matins

Related Scriptures To the Above Message

Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures

Job 19:25-27 -- God's suffering servant, Job, realizes his Redeemer God.

2 Samuel 12:1-23 - King David's sin exposed and his recognition of that sin

Psalm 51:1-12 - King David's prayer of confession and his recognition of God's forgiveness and present and eternal deliverance

New Testament Christian Scriptures

John 1:1-36 -The eternal uniqueness of Christ; His Divine origin and that He is the "Lamb of God" sacrificed for the sins of the world

Acts 17:16-34 - The resurrected Christ who will judge the world according to His Righteousness

Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak" -- by Victor Buksbazen -- Isaiah 53:1-12 -- an in-depth view of and the prophecy of Christ, hundred of years before his birth. Isaiah 53:1-12 underscores the truthfulness of Divine Revelation as exemplified in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Please note: Topical Messages, by subject

Pastor (emeritus) Nathan Bickel

Please also note:

The "Words in Season" topical messages and related worship format are not intended to discourage or replace the Christian worship and assembly of Christians at their particular places of church worship. As this website's author, it is my prayer and hope, that many souls will find the topical messages, related worship format and other material, a useful and valuable Christian resource.

The Christian Faith: Parts 1-3
2 -- How the saving (believing) process of the Christian Faith takes place
3 -- What are the tell-tale signs that a person has been “Saved” [is a Christian]

Note: This edited message was previously posted online by Pastor emeritus Nathan Bickel

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Authentic and Counterfeit Prayer

Christ tells the parable to "some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." He describes the Pharisee. A Pharisee was a member of a religious sect which rigidly observed the written Jewish Law and insisted on observing the "oral" [traditional] law which grew out of the popular usage of Jewish law.

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14

The Pharisee

The religious leader in Christ's parable essentially, trusted in himself. And, as the parable enfolds, the Pharisee actually prayed to himself. Apparently, he prided himself in his religious observances and heritage. He asked no petition from God, but only congratulated himself!

Furthermore, the Pharisee was not conscious of any need that he may have had. Instead he denigrated and "put down" other people, as highlighted by his remarks about the Tax Collector:

"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.'" Luke 18:11

The Pharisee exhibited no devotion; no dependence upon God; no contrite emotion, but only pride and self trust, despising, others.

It might as well be noted, that the Pharisee's prayer was showy. Far be it for me to judge the religious / spiritual intents and motivations of a person's heart, but, I think it is fair to question people and professed Christians, such as the current and popular football star, Tim Tebow, for ostentatious behavior in public. [Luke 20:47 ; Matthew 6:3] That behavior, no matter how religious it may appear, smacks of a "Pharisaical nature," as noted by Christ's parable of the proud Pharisee and the humble Publican (tax collector). Luke 18:9-14

The Tax Collector

The Tax Collector's attitude and character, as opposed to the Pharisee, was so much different. You could say that it was the exact, opposite. Tax Collectors in Roman times often were unscrupulous characters. They had the habit of cheating the public and keeping some of the collected tax money for themselves. They had a "thing" going with Roman soldiers who were in, "on the take." The Tax Collectors would pay off the soldiers who would then make sure that the people paid their taxes. The tax bill would be exaggerated and, unfair, for the common people, but lucrative for the Tax Collectors and the accommodating Roman soldiers.

Christ states in His parable, that two men went to the Temple to pray. The Tax Collector was truly humble. He realized that he was nothing before God. His body language was such that he did not make a big show, but beat upon his chest, sighing the simple prayer:

"God be merciful [propitious] to me -- the sinner!" Luke 18:9-14

The Tax Collector's Prayer Sprang Out of a Deep Conviction of Sin

It is apparent that the Tax Collector's prayer is evidence of a conscience at work. The man was definitely "struck!" He doesn't pray: "God, be merciful to me, 'a' sinner," as some translations of the Bible have it, (as the original Greek language makes it clear). He prayed: "God be merciful to me, "the" sinner!" The Tax Gatherer takes personal blame for his sin! He doesn't blame other people!

Not only, does the Tax Gatherer understand that he is "the" sinner, he knows that his sins are against God! He comes to God, with no excuses. He readily recognizes that he has sinned against God. He isn't only concerned about his outward conduct, but he is grieved in his heart about his wicked inward conduct. He recognizes God's Law pointing to an offending sinful attitude, desire, disposition and thoughts.

Unlike the holier-than-thou Pharisee, the Tax Collector is so overwhelmed with his own sin, that he gives no thought at what others are doing and how they are behaving in the Temple, but he cries out as if he were the only one guilty before God: "God be merciful [propitious] to me -- the sinner!" Luke 18:9-14

The Tax Collector's Prayer Sprang Out of a Sense of Helplessness

The tax gatherer's prayer was a prayer for mercy. Without making any excuses, he readily acknowledged his sin before God. His urgent and earnest cry was not based upon any merit of his (own) as he realized that he could do nothing to gain God's favor. And, that's the reason why he plead for God's Mercy. He had no merit on his own behalf and had to throw himself upon God's favor, for the forgiveness of his sin.

Doesn't the Scripture say:? "It is by grace you have been saved; through faith; an that, not of yourselves; it is a gift of God; not by works - lest any may should boast." [Ephesians 2:8-9] The Pharisee was boasting, but not the Tax Collector! God puts every human being on the same level. The Scripture says: "There is no difference - for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!" Romans 3:23

It is, at this point where many Christians, fail. At times, Christians give vent to the devil, the push and pull of the corrupt culture - and, their own fallen sinful natures. Like the holier-than-thou Pharisee, Christians, often love to pat themselves on the back and take credit for whatever good they think comes from them and from whatever they feel, "they" are accomplishing. Christian churches in their weekly worship service bulletin announcements, are rife with examples of Christians self congratulating themselves for special monetary offerings and works of service to the local church. Christians, often daily forget that God's Mercy and their own merits are incompatible. They often overlook the reality of the words of that one notable hymn: "All depends on our possessing, God's abundant grace and blessing."

You who would access network TV or Internet video "Christian" preachers and worship services - beware of those who preach a mixture of [human] merit and mercy!

It isn't that we "find Christ," but rather that "Christ finds us!" "We love Him, because He first loved us!" [1 John 4:19] Turn off the radio or TV; close out the Internet video when you hear that mixture of merit, your own self worth and effort, coupled, with God's Mercy! That wicked convoluted message, isn't the Bible's message, but the diluted message of sinful humanity! If you can't detect within a supposed "Christian" message, the Scriptural truths of Christ's atonement for human sin and that by grace through faith the good Lord justifies the sinner, [Ephesians 2:8-9] then, above all, be very suspect and highly skeptical!

The Tax Collector's Prayer was a Cry of Faith

The New Testament Greek text makes it clear that the Tax Collector was aware of the "atonement." [Ιλασθητι - hil-as-kom-mai] -- Ιλασθητι means, mercy. This mercy that the Tax Collector sought was God's Mercy that was based upon "sacrifice," - blood. He prayed that prayer in the Jewish temple where there was a continual burning of animal sacrifice. He was approaching God, only on the basis of sacrifice - the blood that God required! The Scripture tells us that it is only through Christ's sacrifice - His holy precious blood shed for us that makes it possible for us to approach God. It isn't our own sense of self importance. It isn't our own worthiness. It isn't our own efforts or our own merit - but, only through the merits of Christ and His finished work on the Cross for us!

In short, the Tax Collector did not attempt to justify himself. He was truly penitent. He was truly humble and sorry for his sins. He trusted in God's Sacrifice for Him. He trusted in God's justification. He had faith - not in himself, but in God's Mercy - God's sacrifice of blood for him!

You who trust in yourselves and your own goodness - know for a spiritual reality that your attitude and practice of self righteous prayer is anathema before God. The Scriptures declare that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." [Matthew 16:17] God will not hear your prayers of pride and self importance. Like the prayer of the Pharisee, he will turn His ears away. You will only be praying to yourself. Prayers not based upon God's Mercy will be only words without penitent thoughts. They will be like the prayer which Shakespeare described: "My words fly up; my thoughts remain below; words without thoughts, never to heaven go!"

Authentic (genuine / successful) prayer is the prayer of the Tax Collector, as told by Christ, in His parable. Unless we approach God, because of His Christ, who was sacrificed for our sins, our prayers are only human pleas without true merit. We must come as the Tax Collector in true humility and earnestness. We must make our appeal to God on what He has done for us on the bias of His Mercy in Christ! May the Lord grant that we pray like the Tax Collector:

"God be merciful [propitious] to me -- the sinner!" Luke 18:9-14

Amen.

Above Message and Related Scriptures [below] -- Intended to be utilized in a simple worship format:

Also: For a couple of other (more formal) worship formats:
The Order of Morning Service
The Order of Matins

Related Scriptures To the Above Message

Psalm 51:1-19
Ephesians 2:8-9
John 1:12-13
Luke 18:9-14

Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak" -- by Victor Buksbazen -- Isaiah 53:1-12 -- an in-depth view of and the prophecy of Christ, hundred of years before his birth. Isaiah 53:1-12 underscores the truthfulness of Divine Revelation as exemplified in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Please note: Topical Messages, by subject

Pastor (emeritus) Nathan Bickel

Please also note:

The "Words in Season" topical messages and related worship format are not intended to discourage or replace the Christian worship and assembly of Christians at their particular places of church worship. As this website's author, it is my prayer and hope, that many souls will find the topical messages, related worship format and other material, a useful and valuable Christian resource.

The Christian Faith: Parts 1-3
2 -- How the saving (believing) process of the Christian Faith takes place
3 -- What are the tell-tale signs that a person has been “Saved” [is a Christian]

Note: This edited message was previously posted online by Pastor emeritus Nathan Bickel





Saturday, January 7, 2012

Miracles

Miracles - - Why some people have a difficult time accepting their reality

I don’t think there are many people who haven’t heard of a particular miracle. These “miracles,” are happenings that are amazing and without rational explanation. In fact, that is the definition of a “miracle,” – some particular incident which has happened, that should not have happened, - (at least) according to the laws of nature and unadulterated science. Theopedia.com gives an excellent definition:

"A miracle, broadly defined, is any action in time where the normal operation of nature is suspended by the agency of a supernatural action." -- theopedia.com

Miracles can range from a failing parachute landing survivor, to someone coming back from the dead. Recently it was widely reported in the news, about a mother and her newborn baby, dying, – only after long moments (afterwards) of coming back to life. Miracles can take the form of very unusual happenings which take place among almost impossible odds. The continued existence of the modern state of Israel is one of them. After being outnumbered by her enemies in the 1967 Six Day's War, there is no rational explanation why her multi nation (numbered) attackers did not prevail.

This past week the Associated Press had a story of a Japanese Atom bomb survivor:

“Double Atomic bomb survivor dies in Japan: -- TOKYO – Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only person officially recognized as a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings at the end of World War II, has died at age 93. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip for his shipbuilding company on Aug. 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city...." - abcnews.go.com

Often, when people think about Miracles, they think of the miracles recorded in the Bible

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are full of history’s recorded (documented) miracles – those ranging from miracles of nature, to miracles of healing. Often one of the miracles which comes to mind and was depicted in a 1950’s movie, was the parting of the Red Sea and the crossover on dry land by the people of Israel. [Exodus 14-15 ; Hebrews 11:29]. The global flood and Noah’s Ark, comes to mind, [Genesis 6-8] along with the Lord's destruction of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorah. [Genesis 10:1f] Often we can think of all the miracles performed by the historic Christ of the Christian New Testament Scriptures, – not only miracles of healing, but miracles such as feeding 5,000 plus people with a couple of handfuls of food. [John 6:1f] Greater miracles than healings can be called to mind -- miracles of people being raised from the dead, – not after a couple minutes, but after hours. Luke 7:1f ; John 11:1f ; Matthew 27-28:1f

The major reason why some people have a difficult time accepting the reality of miracles

One of the greatest of all miracles is Creation. [Genesis 1:1f-2] If a person cannot believe the first verse of Holy Scripture, he or she will always have problems believing in miracles and accepting their reality. If a person cannot believe in a one supreme eternal, all knowing and all powerful God, he or she will always be plagued with doubt about their existence and future. People often neglect to realize that Creator God is not confined by the natural laws that He, Himself, put in place. For instance, God not only created the law of gravity, but, He, Himself is not confined by it. He has often, (as recorded in Scripture) worked His specific miracles outside the laws of nature -- being (of course) above nature.

However, there are a fair amount of people who will accept the religious values of evolutionists who teach that humans exist because of random chance, and that we are somehow, products of the primeval slime. In spite of having no scientific basis for their theory, these evolutionists, (and those who follow them) dismiss the Triune God of the historical Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. These type of people firmly deny the Lord's creation, in their limited knowledge of "rational" human perception. They will dismiss and deny human life (personhood) in the womb -- yet they will go berserk to find the discovery of one single molecule on the planet, Mars.

So much for the ability of humans to deny and dismiss their Maker. Essentially, a soul in its unregenerate state, does not have the ability to believe, understand and appreciate and practice the Christian Faith, or give homage to the One Triune God, who dispenses faith, to whom He may.

Why the Miracle of the Virgin Birth [Luke 1:26-38] could be considered the greatest of all miracles

If you were all powerful; all knowing and all holy – why would you desire to give up your place in (perfect / sinless) heaven and become born as a human baby, - and, then, in addition to that, – after birth, spend the next 33 human years on sinful earth, before you would die, one of the most humiliating and excruciating deaths? Yet, that is what God, who created you and me, did. As the song lyric describes, "He left the splendor of heaven, knowing His destiny…."), - so that He could render Himself the perfect sacrifice to satisfy an angry and judgmental God, because of all of our sins against Him and our fellow human beings.

You might be wondering why the “Christian” God is supposed to be far better than anyone else’s’ particular god?

Continually, I run into people who are unwilling to part with their politically correct, multi-cultural (secular) mindset. To them all religions have some redeeming (equal) value. And, in their minds, it doesn’t matter what religion one believes or practices – just so long as the believer and practitioner are sincere.

Recently, a well know media anchor man was hauled out on the (politically correct) carpet because he said that the world renowned golfer, Tiger Woods, would be able to salvage and survive his double life marital adulteries and find some peace and forgiveness, if he would, but, embrace the Christian Faith:

"Journalist: Jesus Christ - 'two most explosive words in English language'" -- WASHINGTON - Fox News analyst Brit Hume says he doesn't regret urging Tiger Woods to become a Christian so the golfer can find forgiveness for marital infidelity. Hume told CBN News that "Christianity is a religion for sinners -- and I think that Tiger Woods has an opportunity here, and my prayer would be that he would take it." Hume has been denounced for saying that he doesn't think the famous golfer's belief in Buddhism "offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith." -- onenewsnow.com

The Miracle of God being born into human flesh – makes the true [Triune] God, obviously authentic and unadulterated:

It’s the “forgiveness” aspect, that makes the Christian Faith so genuine and effective. It is the “forgiveness” thing, that makes God being born into human flesh, the most astounding miracle. Why? Because the whole purpose of God dethroning and debasing Himself upon our world, was because of His eternal love for sinners, such as you and I. And because of that eternal love of Christ, being made Man; living a holy life; suffering and being sacrificed for all of humanity’s sins – because of that divine love, there is the divine rescue from sin and all its eternal devastating and damning consequences.

God knew and knows the eternal consequences of human sin for His creation. [Luke 16:19-31 ; Matthew 25:31-46] Ever since the first humans sinned [Genesis 3] the Triune God has made provision for the sin problem. In fact the whole thrust of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is testimony to the reality of God providing an eternal escape from human sin and its damning eternal consequences. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 ; John 3: 14-21

Friend – if you have a difficult time accepting the miracles recorded in the historical pages of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, I can do nothing to convince you of its divine origin and truthfulness. Only by God’s grace can you come to accept His overwhelming loving presence for your needy sinful soul and His divine revelation in the Scriptures. May you hear, read and study those Scriptures – because in those sacred pages are its prime miracle Focus and prime miracle Author. John 5:39 ; 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Amen.

Above Message and Related Scriptures [below] -- Intended to be utilized in a simpleworship format:

Also: For a couple of other (more formal) worship formats:


The Order of Morning Service
The Order of Matins

Related Scriptures To the Above Message


Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures:

Genesis 1:1f -- The miracle of Creation

New Testament Christian Scriptures:

Luke 2:1-20 -- The miracle of the birth Christ -- Note the preceeding Scripture: Luke 1:26-48

Colossians 1:26-27 -- The miracle of Christ formed in the Christian believer

1 Corinthians 15:1f -- The miracle of the resurrection

1 Timothy 3:16 -- "Great is the mystery of godliness...."


Oh the height of Jesus’ love higher than the heavens above
deeper than the depths of sea, lasting as eternity.
Love that found me – wondrous thought – found me when I sought Him not.
______________________

All that I was, my sin, my guilt, my death, was all mine own;
All that I am I owe to Thee, my gracious God, alone.

The evil of my former state was mine, and only mine;
The good in which I now rejoice is Thine, and only Thine.

The darkness of my former state, the bondage, all was mine;
The light of life in which I walk, the liberty, is Thine.

Thy Word first made me feel my sins, it taught me to believe;
Then, in believing, peace I found, and now I live, I live!

All that I am, even here on earth, all that I hope to be,
When Jesus comes and glory dawns, I owe it, Lord, to Thee.

Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak" -- by Victor Buksbazen -- Isaiah 53:1-12 -- an in-depth view of and the prophecy of Christ, hundred of years before his birth. Isaiah 53:1-12 underscores the truthfulness of Divine Revelation as exemplified in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.


Pastor (emeritus) Nathan Bickel

Please also note:

The "Words in Season" topical messages and related worship format are not intended to discourage or replace the Christian worship and assembly of Christians at their particular places of church worship. As this website's author, it is my prayer and hope, that many souls will find the topical messages, related worship format and other material, a useful and valuable Christian resource.

The Christian Faith: Parts 1-3

1 -- What is meant by “Believing” and / or, being, “Saved?”
2 -- How the saving (believing) process of the Christian Faith takes place
3 -- What are the tell-tale signs that a person has been “Saved” [is a Christian]

Note: This edited message was previously posted online by Pastor emeritus Nathan Bickel