ARTICLE Why read the Bible?
ARTICLE Why obey God?
ARTICLE Why seek Wisdom?
ARTICLE Why is there Evil?
TheSower Volume 15 Issue 4 | 4th Quarter 2013
The quarterly magazine of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International速
The things of God are deep and profound, and often require much study. We must prepare our minds to accept that not all the answers we seek are “easy answers.”
n this issue of the Sower we are focusing on “Why” questions. The Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion, and that people who are unsure, who doubt and are “double-minded,” will not receive what they want to from the Lord—and we would all like to receive from the Lord. Although there are certainly things that we will not know about God and about life, there are many questions that can be answered if we have a proper understanding of Scripture, so there is great benefit in knowing the “Whys” of life. The things of God are deep and profound, and often require much study. We must prepare our minds to accept that not all the answers we seek are “easy answers.” Even when we hear the correct answers, we often will not immediately recognize them as being right, nor can we decide about them just by thinking about them for a few seconds. The Psalmist tells us, “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” (Ps. 119:99). Sadly, studies show that not only do most people not “meditate” on the Word, that is, to think over and over
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about it, they do not even read it regularly. This leads to people trusting their opinions and the thoughts that come to them naturally, rather than training their minds to “think God’s thoughts” and trust what God says. But God warns us about trusting our human opinions: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12). There are many benefits to knowing the “whys” of life. At the top of the list is that it puts us in a position to be able to truly love God. He invites us into dialogue with Him, via His Word, to discover some of the “whys” in life and dissolve our doubts. “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isa. 1:18). Then, as we enter into the mind of God, which He expresses in His Word, and figure out some of the “whys” of life, we are able to respond with love to the love He has shown us; as Scripture says, “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Knowing “why” allows us to have a deeper relationship with God.
John W. Schoenheit
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Credits Publisher Spirit & Truth Fellowship International
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Volume 15 - Issue 4 - Oct/Nov/Dec 2013
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Executive Editors John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Editors Janet Speakes Renee Speakes Magazine Designers Ryan Maher Austin Williams
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Why? - Intro by Dan Gallagher
Why read the Bible?
Why is there Evil?
by John W. Schoenheit
by John W. Schoenheit
Staff Writers John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Production Coordinator Dustin Williams
Research Websites TruthOrTradition.com Over one thousand articles pertaining to many biblical issues. BiblicalUnitarian.com Explore an entire website dedicated to the truth of One God & One Lord.
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In this issue of The Sower, we endeavor to answer the “why” of many important matters of faith, so that we will all be better equipped to reach the world with the truth of the Good News.
People can be deceived into thinking that they don’t need to read the Bible because they “seem” to get along fine without it.
Thank God there is a Day coming when there will no longer be sin, sickness, death, and evil.
Why seek Wisdom?
Why did Jesus have to die?
by Charlotte Dugan
You may view the electronic version of this magazine at STFonline.org/sower View back issues at STFonline.org/sower All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. References taken from other translations or versions will be noted, e.g., King James Version=(KJV). In verses or quotations from other authors, the author has emphasized words by placing them in bold print. Words inside [brackets] have been added by the author. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
God’s creation speaks of times and seasons: a time to plant and a time to uproot.
by Dan Gallagher One of the most profound evidences that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised savior of Israel and mankind, is his fulfillment of hundreds of predictive prophecies about his birth, life, and death.
by Dan Gallagher Page 14
Jesus Christ died so that there would be a substitutionary sacrifice for sin that would allow good people to live forever.
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Why? by Dan Gallagher
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or years I approached learning in the typical fashion. From grade school through college I had been taught that learning was based on memorizing and storing lots of facts and information in my brain. An educated person was seen as someone who could readily draw upon his or her cerebral bank and withdraw the necessary information when needed. For the most part in my schooling, questions were discouraged and the students who could regurgitate information the best were rewarded with the highest grades. Those who tended to be more inquisitive, asking why, how, or what, were often given the clear message that their questions were not appreciated. It seems that children are born with a natural state of inquisitiveness. Every parent encounters the stage of development when the child learns to use the magical word “why?” I refer to this precious time of their young lives as the “Age of ‘Why?’” They learn that this simple three-lettered word can have great power. It can be the key to unlocking many of the mysteries of their small world, such as “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do we have eyebrows?” “Why do birds sing?” and then, at one point the question even becomes, “Why do I have to obey you?” There is a time when they even discover, much to mom and dad’s consternation, that “Why?” can be asked as a never-ending response to any statement. “Why?” Why?” “Why?”… A youthful mind is an inquiring mind, and conversely, an aged mind is often calcified, unwilling to learn new information and new ways. Older people often gain a reputation for being closed-minded, rigid, and resistant to change—and learning always involves some change. We even have the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick.” In many cases they have lost the youthful passion for “why,” no longer care about “what,”
and have no interest to know “how.” In contrast, truth-seekers, no matter how old, are always on a quest of inquiry. They have a strong need to ask why, what, and how, because they need to resolve doubt, solve problems and augment their knowledge. They are driven by a desire to know and do the truth. Over the past decade I’ve learned many things from my younger friends and co-workers, those commonly referred to as “millennials,”1 those generally born between 1980 and 2000. One common trait among them is that they generally need to know “why” before they are willing to invest the time and effort to learn. This may be one of the consequences to the voluminous amount of information that they have been exposed to through the click of a computer mouse through Internet search engines like Google. The older I get the more I have come to believe that discovering the truth often relies greatly on asking the right question. Questioning helps us break out of the box of stiff mental paradigms which so easily derail us from finding truth. Inquiry is a discipline I have had to develop. When I was younger, questioning was frequently treated as disobedience, sometimes even a lack of trust, especially when done in a religious setting. But without inquiry we are doomed to limited perspectives and possibly even a “tunnel-vision” approach to life. It is one thing for someone to tell me that I need to do something, but quite another when they tell me why I should do it. When I know why, I then understand the value or purpose behind it, and that is motivating. History is full of examples of how, once people began to see the benefit in doing something, especially when it was very difficult, they then marshaled the effort and resources necessary to accomplish it. The diggings of the Suez and Panama canals were done under
some of the harshest of conditions and at tremendous cost, but they happened because people understood the great benefits they would produce. Frederich Nietzsche, a German philosopher from the late 1800’s, once said, “He who has the why can endure any how.” Our younger generation’s sense of needing to know “why” is a good thing and something that lends itself to the spread of the Gospel— provided that we can properly answer it. When it comes to matters of faith, people open up when they begin to see the “whys.” Consider the following questions: Why trust the Bible? Why read the Bible? Why is there so much sickness, evil and death in the world? Why does sin bring death? Why believe in Jesus instead of other religions? Why did Jesus have to die? Why did God raise Jesus from the dead? Why isn’t it enough to just be a “good” person Why should I meet with other followers of Jesus? Why should we obey God? In this issue of The Sower, we endeavor to answer the “why” of many important matters of faith, so that we will all be better equipped to reach the world with the truth of the Good News. Notes: 1. Millennials, an abbreviation for millennial generation, is a term used by demographers to describe a segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000 (approximately). Sometimes referred to in the media as “Generation Y,” millennials are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation.
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Why Read the Bible? by John W. Schoenheit
ne thing the Bible tells us is that God “has given us everything we need for life and godliness,” and the same sentence goes on to say, “through our knowledge of Him” (2 Pet. 1:3). If we want to know who God is and understand His intentions and desires for us, if we want to really glean the best life has to give, then it is imperative that we take the time to read the Bible, His Word, which is His primary communication to mankind. God loves us and wants us to do well in this life and the next, and He has provided us with direct communication from Him so we will be successful. When we ignore the wisdom and guidance in the Bible, we do so at our peril, both in this life and the next. Proverbs 28:26 (NET) says, “The one who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but the one who walks in wisdom will escape.” The same lesson is stated differently in Proverbs 14:12 (NET): “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.” It makes great sense to read the Bible and trust what God says rather than to just do what seems right to us. Feelings can be deceitful, as Adam and Eve learned too late, but the Bible contains wisdom and guidance that can be trusted.
The Word of God is many things, including:
True. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Holy, righteous, and good. “…the commandment is holy, righteous and good,” (Rom. 7:12 NIV84). Useful (profitable). “All Scripture is God-breathed
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and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16 NIV84). Healing. “He sent forth his word and healed them,” (Ps. 107:20 NIV84). Encouraging. “…through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,” (NIV84). A source of peace. “Great peace have those who love your law,” (Ps. 119:165 NIV84). A source of counsel: “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors,” (Ps. 119:24 NIV84). God created us, and He expects certain things from us. Sadly, most people largely ignore what God expects from them because they fail to recognize that their life is a gift from God. They don’t understand that life comes with God’s expectations for us. Instead, most people focus on “What makes me happy?” or “What do I want to do?” rather than “What does God want from me?” and “How can I best serve God today?” People can be deceived into thinking that they don’t need to read the Bible because they “seem” to get along fine without it. But if we really want to understand who God is, to know His Son Jesus Christ, and serve God in a powerful and meaningful way, then we must be willing to make the Bible an important part of our daily lives. The Bible contains many kinds of communication from God: some of it motivates and inspires us, some of it calms or comforts us, and some of it gives us understanding about why things are the way they are in the world. Importantly, much of it guides us in how to live in such a way that we
GOD is a
FATHER he is for you, not against you
“People can be deceived into thinking that they don’t need to read the Bible because they “seem” to get along fine without it.” please God. For the person who has committed his or her life to God, reading the Bible faithfully takes on a whole new dimension. Jesus made us a promise that once we knew his commands and obeyed them, he would show himself to us: John 14:21 (NET) “The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.” These are not idle words. Jesus does reveal himself to us. And in that light, the Bible is not like any other book. The Author is not only alive, but God and Jesus are in intimate communication with us all the time. As we read and reflect on the Word, God and His Son speak to us personally both through the
words on the page and via the gift of holy spirit born in us. Thus, as we read the Bible, we not only can be inspired by the words on the page, we upload a spiritual vocabulary in our minds which The Lord can use to give us insight, inspiration, guidance, correction, and direction. The Word of God tells us that our fellowship is with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and we can really experience that fellowship in a powerful way when we read and meditate on the Bible. We should want to obey God rather than our own feelings; we should want to know how to live holy lives; we should want to be wise rather than foolish; and we should want to love people God’s way rather than love the world’s way (which is really not love at all). Reading, understanding, and thinking about what the Bible says, is an important key to accomplishing all of that – and more!
Don’t Blame God! A Biblical Answer to the problem of Evil, Sin, and Suffering
This is a book about the goodness of God. The Bible says that God is love, but it is hard to believe that if you think He is the cause of suffering and death. This book shows what He says in His Word: that God does not cause suffering and death. God is for you, and His abiding love is fathomless. Read key chapters of this book online at: TruthOrTradition.com/dbg Order online at
or call 1.888.255.6189 M-F 8:30-5 (EST)
Oct/Nov/Dec 2013 The Sower 7
Why is there Evil? by John W. Schoenheit
ankind has struggled with evil, sickness, and death throughout time. The problem of the existence of evil has been discussed for millennia, and so there is no way that this short article will cover all the aspects of it in detail. However, we will discuss two of the most important aspects of evil that are at the core of the debate, which are, “How did evil start?” and “If God is good, and powerful enough to stop evil, why does He allow it?” A major reason that the debate about evil has been going on for so long without a satisfactory resolution is that people start with different assumptions. Many of these assumptions have to do with their understanding of God’s nature and topics such as free-will. Based on those fundamental assumptions, we believe that both questions, “How did evil start?” and “Why does God allow evil?” are answered in part by a proper understanding of free will and justice. However, before we discuss that, it is important to understand what “evil” is. God created the universe to be a certain way, and He also created living beings to behave in ways that were in accordance with His intentions and standards. Acting according to God’s standards is “good” and “loving,” and acting in a way contrary to those standards is “bad” or “evil.” The exact nuances of what behaviors are evil and what about them makes them evil is too large a subject for this paper. For now it will have to suffice to say that God created the universe and He is the one who determined what makes certain things good and others evil. 8 The Sower Oct/Nov/Dec 2013
“If God is good, and powerful enough to stop evil, why does He allow it?” According to Ezekiel 28:12-19, the spiritual being we know as “the Devil” was created perfect and blameless.1 God’s created beings, including the Devil and angels, have free will, which means He can fellowship with us in a genuine way; a way that would be completely unavailable if we did not have free will. We all understand this: we can only have a genuine loving relationship with others who can exercise the choice to be loving in return. We do not have “fellowship” with something that has no real ability to choose. However, the downside to free will is that we do not have to do what is good; we can choose to do evil. At some point in the ancient past, the Devil made the freewill choice to rebel against God. The evil that began in the heart of the Devil spread as he
convinced other angels to follow his lead. The New Testament refers to the evil angels who follow the Devil as “demons” (the Devil and his angels will eventually be destroyed in Gehenna. Cp. Matt. 25:41). When God created Adam and Eve, the Devil convinced them do evil and sin against God, and mankind has sinned ever since. The evil that is caused and engineered by the Devil, combined with the evil mankind does, is the source of the evil in the world today. We are in a much better position to understand the evil in the world when we realize that God is not in control of all that happens on earth today. God gave the oversight of the earth to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:28). They forfeited that dominion to the Devil, something he clearly stated when he offered it to
Jesus (Luke 4:6). That is why Scripture says the Devil holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and is in control of the world (1 John 5:19). If the Devil is the one who has control over the world, the evil we see around us such as hurricanes, floods, and famines; poisonous snakes and dangerous animals; and sickness and disease are orchestrated by the Devil, and the evil perpetrated by people is a result of people’s freewill choices. So why is there evil? Because of the Devil’s, demons’, and people’s freewill choices and the consequences of those choices. That leaves us with the question, “Why does God allow the evil to exist?” There are many reasons for it, but let’s just start with one: how would you propose that God stop the evil that you do? For example, what should God do when you have an evil thought? Should He take over your mind and force you not to think that way, or perhaps try to “train” you by giving you an electric shock? Most likely you find both of those solutions repulsive. Both actions described would require God to override your free will. So one reason there is evil is that God will not take away free will just so we will be obedient. He wants each of us to come to the point that we make the freewill decision to obey, and that brings us to the next point. When the Devil originally sinned, God could have destroyed him, as He will one day in the Lake of Fire. But what message would that have sent to His creation? A clear one: “Obey Me or die.” That is not the kind of universe God wanted to rule—a creation full of fear. God wanted a creation in which people made the freewill decision to obey Him based on love, and that could only happen if His creation really saw and understood the terrible consequences
of disobedience. Although the universe seems to be a terrible place in many ways, when we think about it, God is really being loving by allowing people to make freewill choices. We know that God is being loving because He is respecting the freewill choices of His creation, even though those choices sometimes hurt Him and may even cause harm to ourselves and others. To take away free will just so people would live godly lives would be controlling, not loving. Furthermore, as the years go by, God works in people’s lives to show them how loving He is and how harmful bad decisions can be. God is doing a couple of great things at one time by allowing this earth to continue in its fallen state. One thing He is doing is assuring that His wonderful everlasting Kingdom will be populated by many saved believers. Another is that He is showing to the whole universe the terrible consequences of disobedience so that when His Kingdom starts and the Devil, his demons, and evil people are no more, everyone will have clearly seen why they should obey God from the heart, and how terrible things can be if they do not. There is a new world coming, and angels and people will still have free will. But we will not go through another cycle of disobedience and rebellion. The lesson that doing things God’s way is the best way will have been well learned by everyone. Thank God there is a Day coming when there will no longer be sin, sickness, death, and evil. Note: 1. It is our belief, along with that of other theologians, that Isaiah 14:12-21 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 are actually about the Devil, who is the real “power behind the throne” of ungodly earthly kingdoms.
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Why Seek Wisdom? by Charlotte Dugan
hen is the right time to plant spinach? Do you have to have a rooster around for hens to lay eggs? What do these questions have to do with God, the Bible, or wisdom? Much. When I first began a life of homesteading with all of its inherent work and time spent with plants and animals, I was deeply aware of a question nagging at me: Why? Why draw out and plan the layout of my garden, why spend the time and great effort to turn compost ripe with the deep smells of decay burning my nostrils, why haul it wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow into the beds, preparing them to receive plants? Why not just hop in the car, drive to the store and purchase what we need for the week like everyone else? I felt very drawn to homesteading, yet at the same time that desire can leave me feeling like a bit of an outcast. Indeed, the question of why was posed to me on many occasions and from many different viewpoints. There was the woman who worried I should be spending my time with other people instead of plants; there was the mother at the homeschool co-op who remarked, upon tasting some of my homemade cheese, “Who makes cheese? And why?” Not fully understanding why myself, it came to a climax one day as I worked in the hot summer sun. The temperature was easily in the upper 80’s, and there I was, poring over the plants, weeding, working, sweating, finding myself quite at home, feeling my natural stopping point still an
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hour or more off. I felt acutely aware of being wired differently than most folks, and again I questioned God about His design for my life. I stopped and looked up to the puffy clouds above, to the place I understood God to be when I have to look for Him, and I asked Him, “Why? Why did You make me this way?” There was no booming voice from heaven that day and no visit from an angel under the nearby tree where we could discuss the matter over an iced coffee, but little by little, as I continued to follow the urge to learn, dig and harvest, I began to see deeper reasons and connections between us and the soil that I never could have unearthed had I not continued. Many of those insights came when I would open the word of God after a strenuous day in the field. It occurred to me that the thing we are seeking when we ask the question “Why?”
is wisdom; we are asking to see the reason and inner workings of a thing. And one such awareness that I began to understand is how our heavenly Father wove into the physical world around us an understanding and common sense that can evidently be seen and understood only by spending time outdoors. Proverbs 8 speaks from the perspective of first person beginning with verse 4. Wisdom, personified as a woman, is speaking: Proverbs 8:4 “To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.” Wisdom goes on to encourage us to listen to her, laying out her attributes and the benefits she offers to us:
“God’s creation speaks of times and seasons: a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Proverbs 8:6, 8, 12, 15, 18 6) Listen, for I have worthy things to say. 8) All the words of my mouth are just. 12) I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. 15) By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just. 18) With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. And then Wisdom tells us of her origin: Proverbs 8:22, 23 22) The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; 23) I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. It is interesting to note that the verses that follow pile up diverse aspects of the physical world: the oceans (v. 24); the mountains and the hills (v. 25); the earth, its fields or any of the dust (v. 26); the heavens (v. 27); the clouds above and the fountains of the deep (v. 28); the sea and its boundary (v. 29); and the foundations of the earth (v. 29). Why? What is the connection between wisdom and the physical creation? When I first read this it stood out to me that “wisdom”, as an entity separate from God, does not exist. God is wise, and God has and gives wisdom to those who ask for it (James 1:5). And yet, we read in verse 30 that Wisdom, as a “person,” “was the craftsman at his side” as creation
commenced. This, then, is a figure of speech designed to grab our attention. God personified wisdom as if it were a woman to grab our attention and to see something deeper. Proverbs 8:30, 31 30) Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31) rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Wow—what a statement about the physical world around us! This section is written as if Wisdom, “friend and fellow craftsman” with God, looked at all of God’s ideas and said, “Brilliant! That is exactly how I would have done it!” God’s creation speaks of times and seasons: a time to plant and a time to uproot. But do we recognize seasons and times in other aspects of life? Do we expect a harvest when we have not planted or invested in something? Do we recognize when it’s time to move on, when the “season” has ended? Can we wisely apply this understanding outside of the garden? Do we understand the laws governing growth and how to apply them to our children, a fledgling relationship, or even to financial matters? Do we spend enough time around God’s creation itself, watching and listening and asking Him to give us the understanding and wisdom inherent in how it functions? There is much to see and hear. So much so that Solomon, who is considered the wisest man who ever lived, was given great insight into the physical world by God Himself.
I Kings 4:29, 32-34 29) God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 32) He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33) He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34) Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom. Once I began to see the relationship between the physical world, how it functions, and its inherent wisdom and understanding, I understood why God calls us out to it, why He put man in a garden in the very beginning. The Scriptures are ripe with too many examples for this writing—from sowing and reaping, to ants, to pruning, to an east wind, and the connection between sin and the earth itself, as well as its inhabitants— so let me encourage you to go and seek for yourself, and ask of God as you get out of the indoors and sit under a tree, considering the innumerable questions that spring from the earthly connections around you—Why? Oct/Nov/Dec 2013 The Sower 11
Why Jesus? by Dan Gallagher
here are innumerable belief systems and religions available for people to follow, so it only makes sense that people would ask, “Why should I choose Jesus over all the others?” Clearly, if the purpose of religion is to help people by promoting compassion and acts of kindness, then there are plenty available that do that. Or, if religion is supposed to teach people to be virtuous, moral, or to exercise selfcontrol, then there are many that do that, too. And if a faith system is intended to provide peace, tranquility, and personal self-acceptance, then there is no shortage of belief systems that provide that. But if one’s faith is intended to help him have a genuine relationship with the Creator, then only Jesus can do that, even though there are many religions that claim to do the same. Many people do not understand the distinct differences between the teachings of Christ and those of other faiths. The central purpose of what Jesus taught was not about how to be a better person, or how to increase personal self-esteem, how to have greater happiness or a life free of discomfort and pain. Rather, Jesus’ teachings were intended to reconnect man with God so that people could once again have the family relationship with God as The Father, which was what God always intended. This relationship was destroyed when Adam rejected God and rebelled against Him, and it is restored for all who accept Christ.1 12 The Sower Oct/Nov/Dec 2013
Messiah, just as he said he is.
There is voluminous written evidence and innumerable eyewitness accounts to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.2 Additionally, over 500 people saw and interacted with him after his resurrection from the dead (Matt. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20, 21; Acts 1:3, 9-12; 1 Cor. 15:3-7).
Predictive Prophetic evidence:
“Why should I choose Jesus over all the others?” Admittedly, the claim that Jesus is the only sure way to have a full relationship with God may seem arrogant to some, so it is legitimate for them to ask, “What proof do you have that what he said was true?” The historical and prophetic record proves beyond any doubt that Jesus is the
One of the most profound evidences that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised savior of Israel and mankind, is his fulfillment of hundreds of predictive prophecies about his birth, life, and death. The fact is that many of the prophecies about the Messiah were beyond human control, such as the circumstances of his birth, his location of upbringing, the timing, manner, and details surrounding his death, and the details of his burial. There are over 300 specific prophecies concerning the Messiah, the majority of which Jesus fulfilled (some still remain, which he will fulfill when he returns). Below is a short list of just some of the prophecies fulfilled in him: 1. He was to be of David’s family—2 Sam. 7:12-13; Matt. 1:1 2. He would be born to a young woman (virgin)—Isa. 7:14;
Matt. 1:23 3. He would be born in Bethlehem—Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:6 4. He would minister in Galilee and Nazareth—Isa. 9:1-2; Matt. 4:12-17 5. He would be announced in advance by an Elijah type—Mal. 4:1, 3-5; Mark 1:2, 3 6. His mission would include Gentiles—Isa. 42:6; Luke 2:32 7. His ministry would include healing—Mal. 4:2; Matt. 12:10 8. He would teach through parables—Ezek. 20:49; Matt. 13:3 9. The leadership would reject him—Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:12-13 10. He would make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem—Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:6-9 11. He would be smitten and the sheep scattered— Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31 12. People would cast lots for his garments—Ps. 22:18; Matt. 27:34 13. He would be pierced—Zech. 12:10; John 19:34 14. Not one of his bones would be broken—Exod. 12:46; Ps. 34:20; John 19:33 15. He would die among criminals—Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:28 16. He would make his tomb with the rich—Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-60 17. He would rise from the dead—Ps. 16:10; Jonah 1:17; Luke 24:6, 7
The mathematical probability that one person could fulfill all of these prophecies is beyond comprehension. It was reported that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) calculated the odds of Jesus fulfilling just eight of the prophecies and the result was 1 in 100 trillion.4 These are the same odds as a blind man selecting one specific silver dollar among those covering an area the size of Texas two feet deep. Furthermore, the chances of one man fulfilling merely 48 prophecies is the same as 10 to the power of 157, which is more than the odds of finding one atom among all the atoms of all the known galaxies of the universe. In other words, the fact that Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies is proof beyond mathematical comprehension that he is the Messiah. Certainly for the committed skeptic there may never be proof enough, but for those who are genuinely seeking answers, the evidence is clear that Jesus is who he said he is, and he did what the records say he did. Notes 1. God’s Word tells us that all who accept Jesus as their Lord and who believe God raised him from the dead will be saved (Rom. 10:9,10). This includes receiving sonship, the gift of holy spirit, everlasting life, and many other things. 2. The Gospel records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Book of Acts clearly describe his life and deeds. Additionally there are historical records confirming his existence and death. 3. Taken from Dr. Chuck Missler, Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, 2002). 4. Source: http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/ message1503477/pg1
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Why did Jesus have to Die? by John W. Schoenheit
od wove into the fabric of the universe the spiritual law that sin would result in death. Romans 6:23 says it this way: â€œthe wages of sin is death.â€? One reason we can think of which explains why He did this was to assure that there would be a way to rid the universe of evil.1 The nature of evil is that it is self-centered and unconcerned with the wellbeing of others. It is arrogant and blind, and truly evil people go on hurting themselves and others until they are stopped, which always involves force. God designed the universe so that evil beings will one day be put to death, which will stop their evil forever. However, lots of people who are generally good people sometimes do evil things. That would mean that since the wages of sin is death, everyone who has ever lived would die as a consequence of their sin, because everyone has sinned. God provided a way to escape the penalty of an everlasting death by providing a substitute who would die in place of each sinner. In fact, God very apparently set the principle of a substitutionary sacrifice after the first sin in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam that on the day he sinned he would die (Gen. 2:17), but we can see that Adam did not die that day. What did happen, however, was that an animal, most likely a lamb, was killed as a substitute in place of Adam and from its skin God made clothes to cover Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). From that time forward, the sacrifice
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of animals provided a temporary covering for sin. It is also a ritual that reminded people that the wages of sin was death, but something could die in their place so they could live. The Law of Moses went into great detail about how to properly perform an animal sacrifice so that “it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for people,” (Lev. 1:4 NIV84). For example, Leviticus 1:3-5 showed how the sinner would place his hand on the head of the sacrifice, thus identifying himself with it, and then kill it while the priests caught the blood. This showed the sinner that his sin was the reason for the death of the animal, and also that the animal’s death made atonement for him. Thousands of years of animal sacrifices passed before “the Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ, was born. Then the New Testament writings, especially Romans and Hebrews, made it clear that the animal sacrifices had been symbols portraying the means by which God righteously could forgive the sin of the sinner, but the actual forgiveness for sin came by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So why did Jesus have to die? He had to die to pay once and for all the price that sin required. Those who accept him as their Lord and Savior can claim him as their complete substitute for their sins. Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God,” was the substitute who died in place of those people who wanted to live forever. That God required the
sacrifices and then, after that, belief in “the” sacrifice, Jesus Christ, weeded out the genuinely evil and arrogant sinners. The evil people rejected the sacrifices and the Christ who could have saved them. The prideful and blind nature of sin meant that people who were genuinely evil reject Christ and thus will die and not be part of the next world and everlasting life. This is clearly attested in the Bible. Proverbs says, “Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance” (Prov. 14:9 ESV). At the time of Christ, the religious leaders rejected the baptism of John and repentance from sin: “…but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him [John]” (Luke 7:30 ESV). At the time of Paul, the Jews rejected the teaching about Jesus Christ, and Paul said to them that they took the Word of God and “…you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46 ESV). Thus, Jesus Christ died so that there would be a substitutionary sacrifice for sin that would allow good people to live forever. But the particulars of sin and the sacrifice for sin provided a way that works to exclude those people who reject God and His sacrifice for sin. Notes: 1. See article: “Why Does Sin Bring Death,” by John Schoenheit
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Why did God Raise Jesus from the Dead? by Dan Gallagher
n order to answer this question, we must first remind ourselves of the spiritual law God established when he set up His creation, which is that sin would result in death (Rom. 6:23). The short answer is that unlike all the rest of humankind, Jesus never sinned, so his death was without any spiritual justification—and this meant that God had the right to raise him back to life. To fully understand Jesus’ death we must consider a number of different perspectives. Speaking from a governmental point of view, Jesus died because the Roman authorities condemned him to death and then executed judgment, despite the fact that Pilot declared him to have done nothing worthy of death (Matt 27:24). From a religious perspective, the Jewish leadership demanded his death because he acknowledged he was the Messiah, the anointed and chosen one of Israel that God had promised would come (Matt 26:66). From God’s and Jesus’ perspective, he voluntarily gave his life in the sense that even though it was unjustified, he did not fight against the sinister powers in play. Although he could have prevented it at any time, he chose not to (John 10:17, 18). And finally, we must consider the perspective of the spiritual battle. The power working behind the scenes that orchestrated Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and the Jews who demanded that he die was that of God’s archenemy, the Devil. In his
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blind hatred of God, he unleashed his rage and fury against Christ to try to prevent God from bringing about His plans and purposes. One section of Scripture that is often overlooked tells us that had the Devil and his minions understood the spiritual ramifications of Jesus death, they never would have killed him. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NIV84) 6)We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7)No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before
time began. 8)None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. This section of Scripture is significant in providing insight as to why God raised Jesus from the dead. What God accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus is so big that, in spite of his pure hatred and rage against God and His son, had the Devil known what God was going to do, he never would have killed Jesus. The Devil overstepped his authority when he unlawfully executed Jesus. God raised Jesus from the grave because he was without sin, and further, the shedding of his sinless blood was a sufficient payment for the
price of the sins of all mankind. This opened the door for all who believe in Jesus to receive the forgiveness of their sins and to ultimately be freed from the bondage of death. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, He now has the right to do the same for all others who accept Christ. Jesus is called the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:23) because he
is the first of many who will be freed from the cords of death (Heb 2:14). And lastly, the death and resurrection of Christ ushered in the Age of Grace, the time period in which we now live. This is a time when mankind can be saved by God’s grace without the burden of works. All who confess Jesus as Lord and believe
in their hearts that God raised him from the dead receive the free and permanent gift of holy spirit. It is a token and a guarantee of the new life to come. This wonderful gift was made possible through Jesus’ resurrection, and by it God has demonstrated his great multifaceted wisdom to all His creation (Eph. 3:10).
“The Devil overstepped his authority when he unlawfully executed Jesus. God raised Jesus from the grave because he was without sin, and further, the shedding of his sinless blood was a sufficient payment for the price of the sins of all mankind.”
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Why isn’t Being Good “Good Enough” to be Saved? by John W. Schoenheit
t is very common for people, when speaking of being saved, to think they are safe simply because they believe in God and consider themselves to be “a good person.” Sadly, that belief is based on some wrong assumptions, is unbiblical, and has fatal consequences. The reality is that on the Day of Judgment there will be a lot of sadness when people who have relied on their own goodness find out that they will not be saved on the merits of their own “goodness”. So why is “being good” not good enough? Everlasting life is so valuable that no one could ever be good enough to deserve it or work enough to attain it. Good works do not get us saved; it is sin that keeps us from being saved. Sin is breaking the commandments of God, and God has made it plain that sin results in death (Rom. 6:23). Every person is a mixture of good and evil. The best of us sin against God many times, and the worst of us do some “good” things. So salvation is not a balancing act of good versus evil; if we even sin once in our lives, we deserve death. Sin creates a debt. We all realize this to some degree. When people sin against us we get upset and angry. We feel the person “owes” us something, even if it is just a sincere apology. Similarly, our sin against God creates a debt, and the payment for that debt is death. That brings up an important point: each of us can pay for our own sin if we want to reject Christ. We can pay for our own sin by dying. But then we are dead! If we want to have everlasting life, we have to find someone else to pay the debt for us. Thankfully, Jesus Christ did just that: 20 The Sower Oct/Nov/Dec 2013
he paid for our sin by dying in our place. The sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament were a portrait and type of Christ showing that an innocent one could pay the debt for a guilty one, and that is what Christ did, which is why one of his names is “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). God is love. That is why He created us—so He could love us and we could love Him. Because He loved us, He was concerned about our sin and the debt it created that He knew we could not pay. So He sent His Son to die in our place and pay our debt so we could live forever with Him and His Son. An amazing offer! On the other hand, God loves us so much that He will not force His opinion on us. He
Everlasting life is so valuable that no one could ever be good enough to deserve it or work enough to attain it. Good works do not get us saved; it is sin that keeps us from being saved.
will not force us to accept His Son; He will not force us to live forever with Him. If our decision is to reject His guidance and His Son and to pay for our own sin, it will break His heart, but He will love us enough to respect our decision. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God made it clear in His communication with mankind, the Bible, that He wants all people to be saved by believing in His Son, Jesus (1 Tim:2:4). This can be confirmed over and over by simply reading the New Testament. For example, when Peter spoke to the leaders of Israel, he said, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12 abridged). Similarly, when Paul went to Philippi, the jailor there asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” (Acts 16:30, 31). The Book of Romans, the first Church Epistle in the canon of Scripture, says over and over it is by trusting in Jesus that people are saved. The “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:22). God “justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). “God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:24). Romans 10:9 is especially clear: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Many more Scriptures could be quoted, but it should be clear that the Bible says salvation comes by having faith in Christ.1 To make the way of salvation even more clear, however, God specifically says that salvation does not come by works.
There is no “good deed” that will get anyone saved: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9). So the message of Scripture is, if you want to be saved, trust in Jesus—that God raised him from the dead and he is now our living Lord. To many people it seems “right” that God will save them if they are good enough. But God warns us against thinking that way: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). No one is good enough to deserve to live forever. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and payment for your sin, do not wait and hope you will live long enough to do that “some other time.” Take Jesus as your Lord today. If you have accepted Christ as your Lord, congratulations– forever with God and Christ is a long time, a long and glorious time! Note: 1. God is love, and He loves people and wants them to have everlasting life. Thus, fittingly, there is a provision for people who have never heard of Christ if they do the requirements of God out of their hearts (Rom. 3:13-16). However, it is clear that this group of people does not include those who have heard of Jesus and “reject the truth” (Rom. 3:8).
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Oct/Nov/Dec 2013 The Sower 21
Why Should We Meet with Other Followers of Jesus? by Dan Gallagher For many people, church membership and attendance has been substituted for the discipleship relationship that Christ intended and desires.
od has designed mankind for relationship, and across the world and in every culture we see that throughout history people have loved to gather. People are communal by nature and social interaction is woven into the fabric of what makes us human. Of course there are individual exceptions generally occurring when people lose trust in others, oftentimes as a result of abuse or some other relational toxicity. But for the most part, whether we are introverts or extroverts, young or old, male or female, people love interacting with others, and certainly Christians are no exception in this regard. Beyond the natural tendency for people to want to be with others, we should ask ourselves, “Is there a reason why followers of Jesus should make a deliberate effort to meet?” Ask anyone nowadays, “How and when do Christians meet?” and you will be told that for the most part, “They meet in churches on Sundays.” This, however, was not what the original followers of Jesus did. The New Testament records many accounts of Jesus’ followers meeting in a variety of ways. In the first century, a person’s conversion meant they were usually immediately accepted into the community of believers. Many times Christ’s followers were no longer welcomed in the mainstream Jewish and Gentile communities, which necessitated their dependence on one another for support. Without formal institutions and 22 The Sower Oct/Nov/Dec 2013
buildings dedicated to worship, people relied upon informal meetings in homes and other settings where they taught, worshipped, ate, and supported one another. The historical record speaks loudly that much of their success, as evidenced by the signs, miracles, and wonders God performed through them, was a direct result of their commitment to, and support of, one another. The record of Acts states that they were “devoted” to four principle things; the Apostles’ teachings (doctrine); fellowship (a full and mutual sharing); breaking of bread (meals and social interaction); and prayer (praise and worship). Act 2:42-44 42) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43) Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. Part of the Apostles’ doctrine included the message that they were all very important and unique individual members of the Body of Christ. The physical metaphor of the human body with all its diverse yet necessary parts was a clear message that spoke loudly to them all. Although they came from a very stratified culture, they enjoyed liberty and freedom
in Christ. This was a completely new experience and they soon learned it was God’s will that they love one another, serve one another, and submit to one another. Coming from their various backgrounds, whether slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, they learned that who they were was irrelevant to their membership and participation in this new spiritual reality. One of the principle reasons why these first followers of Christ so faithfully met was so they could carry out his commission to “Go and make disciples…” (Matt. 28:19, 20). Making new disciples as well as growing in their own personal discipleship required being involved with other followers. There are over fifty “one another” commands and none of them can be accomplished if people are not with one another on a regular basis.1 Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we are to “not give up on meeting together.” This verse merely says that we are to make sure that we are meeting with
others. It does not say that we must be having “meetings” in the way that traditional churches do nowadays. It didn’t take long before the vibrancy and enthusiasm of the first-century church gave way to ceremony and institutionalism. For many people, church membership and attendance has been substituted for the discipleship relationship that Christ intended and desires. When we meet with the right heart and purpose, Jesus promised that he would be there too (Matt. 18:20). Being where Jesus is, among other believers in the Body of Christ, is a big reason for me to want to meet with others. Notes: 1. The following is a link to further study on the “One Another” commands. http://www. truthortradition.com/modules.php?n ame=News&file=article&sid=765
When we meet with the right heart and purpose, Jesus promised that he would be there too (Matt. 18:20). Being where Jesus is, among other believers in the Body of Christ, is a big reason for me to want to meet with others. Oct/Nov/Dec 2013 The Sower 23
Why Should We Obey God? by Dan Gallagher
hroughout the ages many people have consciously decided to not be concerned about God, who He is, or what His desires are for mankind. The fact is that it is very easy to not only ignore Him, but to even go so far so as to deny He exists. God, in His righteousness and benevolence, has granted humankind the right to accept or reject Him. Either choice comes with consequences, but choosing to obey Him provides some definite advantages both now and in the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV84) For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. Thinking in terms of life now, God the Creator of all life tells us that He has given us everything we need for “life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). It only makes sense then that if we are to get the maximum out of this life, we should pay attention to Him, work to understand His intentions, and learn from Him how life should be lived. Recently I purchased a gaspowered hedge trimmer. The store vendor showed me the basics of how to operate it. He pointed out the On/Off switch, showed me the button to push to prime the gas, the choke tab, and the pull string. As I drove home with my new purchase I had images in my mind of a beautifully manicured yard, the result of my horticultural skill and 24 The Sower Oct/Nov/Dec 2013
The main reason we should obey God is because we love Him, and there is no other way to show it. my deftly wielding my new cutter. Soon I stood sweating and frustrated in my driveway as I strained, pulling and pulling on the starter. After a little while I realized the mistake I had made by flooding the carburetor with too much gasoline. I had failed because I had neglected to learn the proper way to run the hedge trimmer. How sad it is that many people approach life in the same way that I approached my hedge trimmer. We all know on a very practical level that we must take the time to learn how to properly operate equipment and also that it must be used according to the makers’ instructions. A wrench is a terrible hammer because it was never intended to be used that way. One reason we need to obey God when it comes to how we live our lives is
because He is telling us how to get the best results. God’s desire has always been that people everywhere would love Him completely. Jesus, when asked what was the most important commandment, said that it was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Most everyone has experienced someone saying that he or she loves you, but then doing unloving things. No one wants people to treat them lovingly one minute and the opposite the next. When it comes to love, God is no different in what He desires or expects from people. Quite simply, for God, “love” is spelled O-B-E-Y, and He expects that those who truly love Him will demonstrate it through their obedience
to Him. This theme is clear and repeated throughout God’s Word. Proverbs 21:3 (NIV84) To do [obedience] what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. John 8:31 (NIV84) To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to [obey] my teaching, you are really my disciples. Jesus never spoke of pleasing God
in terms of knowledge, but in terms of obedience. John 14:23-24 (NIV84) 23)Jesus replied, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24) He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Luke 11:27-28 (NIV84) 27) As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” 28) He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” God’s love language to us is His mercy and grace. Our love language to him is our obedience. The main reason we should obey God is because we love Him, and there is no other way to show it.
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