We All Have A Gift!

We all have a gift. This gift is from God. Those who have opened it are called Christians. Perhaps one reason some people are so offended about the greeting “Merry Christmas”, is because it is a reminder of the gift they have left unopened. There it is under the nicely decorated evergreen tree forgotten and neglected. It may even get moved later on, after New Years Day, placed in a box with all the Christmas decorations and trimmings. “Perhaps I will open it next Christmas” many will explain.

If you are struggling with what to give your fellow employee, a partner at work, a family member or even the delivery person at your doorstep, consider helping them remember the gift they have left un-opened under their tree. The gift of Christmas is for everyone no one is left out.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,2Peter3:9 BSB

Helping someone un-wrap the gift of Christmas is the best gift you can give. Perhaps what you share may be something like this.

“Do you know why we celebrate Christmas? It’s the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Some people have trouble with that right off the bat. You may be saying to yourself I don’t need a savior I’m fine. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, I have a good job and a family, I love them, I provide for them and do my best not to cuss around them and behave properly. God is love and I think He will let me into heaven. What kind of God would send a good person to hell anyway?

That’s right God is love and He has given you a gift.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 WEB

Perhaps the reason you don’t un-wrap this gift is because you don’t realize how much you need it. Like a person floundering in the ocean at risk of drowning any moment you flail away and dismiss the rescue boat that has pulled up beside you. I felt the same as you once and then one day I realized what Jesus Christ did for me. His love and concern for me, and for my soul compelled Him to die an agonizing death on the cross. He did not have to, He chose to die on the cross. He said Himself

“ No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”            John 10:18 NLT

There must have been a very good reason for Him to do this. God says we are all condemned.

“all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”                   2 Thess NIV

There is no one without sin – we all fall short and we are all destined for eternity in hell.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous–not even one” Romans 3:10 NLT

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our  Lord”  Romans 6:23 NLT

Everyone has broken the Ten Commandments no one has lived a perfect life, except our savior Jesus.

“but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” This is a free gift. We are not able to save ourselves. Nothing we do will save us from God’s perfect and just penalty.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”  Isaiah 64:6NLT

Only the grace and mercy of God can save us.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Eph 2:8 ESV

God sent His son that

“we may have life and have it more abundantly” John 10:10 KJB

That we might be spared the penalty of sin which is death and eternal separation from the God of justice, who is also the God of mercy. Jesus received our penalty for us and as a sinless offering has fulfilled the demands of justice.

“And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-25 BSB

We celebrate Jesus birth like the angels did when the shepherds heard their singing in the heavens. Jesus is our reason to celebrate. The Bible says

“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” Phil 2:10. NLT

He is uniquely qualified to be our savior, these are his qualifications:

  • He is God, Jesus is the triune God in the flesh.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1NLV

 “ and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NIV

Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28 BSB

  • He is the fulfillment of prophecy.His birth was announced ages before he came. From the first book to the last, the Old Testament is filled with prophecy of His birth, His life, His death and Resurrection. The most recognized prophecy is from Isaiah.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 ESV

  • His birth was miraculous. He was indeed born of a virgin.

“the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).Isaiah 7:14 NLT

  • He lived a sinless life although tempted as we all are, He overcame temptation.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 BSB

  • He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. His miracles were witnessed by many and were a testimony of who He was.

Men of Israel, listen to this message: Jesus of Nazareth was a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.” Acts 2:22 BSB

  • He died on the cross fulfilling prophecy.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 ESV

  • He was raised from the dead, having fulfilled the demands of justice He was the first to be raised to life.

For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.”    Psalm 16:10 NLT 

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1Cor 15:20 NIV

 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:12 ESV

He appeared to many before returning to heaven as His friends watched him leave.

“He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” 1Cor 15:5-7 BSB 

When Jesus had led them out as far as Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” Luke 24:51 BSB

  • Finally He sent the Holy Spirit to testify of the truth and to indwell all believers with the power to share His message of love, life and liberty.

 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49 NLT

What is keeping you from opening this gift from God? Let me help you un-wrap it. Can I pray with you?”

“If only it was that simple you say” well sharing the truth of God’s gift gets easier as you practice and believe me I have not had enough practice. So let us as Christians pray for each other that we have the opportunities and the Holy Spirit power to follow through with helping others un-wrap Christmas. We experience such joy as we watch our loved ones open their gifts. How much more joy is experienced by the host of heaven as they watch someone un-wrap God’s loving and merciful gift to us!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 ESV

 Joy and gratefulness abounds as we repent and embrace the Love of Jesus and His precious gifts.  For the gift of God is one that opens up an abundant gift of many.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”                  Gal 5:22 KJB

I am praying that this post was helpful for you, and you will un-wrap or help someone nearby un-wrap the gift of Christmas!

References

https://gotquestions.org/is-Jesus-God.html

https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/rejoicing-in-heaven/

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2016/why-we-know-the-story-of-jesus-isnt-a-legend-video/

Bible Versions Used

BSB – Berean Study Bible

WEB – World English Bible

NLT – New Living Translation

NIV – New International Version

ESV – English Standard Version

KJB – King James Bible

E is For Evil

Philosophically speaking one may find volumes on the reality of evil. Evil in the broad sense is considered either natural evil or moral evil. A natural evil would be something outside of our influence, the consequential injuries or death resulting from a natural event or disaster such as an earthquake or erupting volcano, or a personal injury or illness. Moral evils result from the intentional actions or non-actions of a moral agent.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains “Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils. By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.”

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/

Theologically there are discussions of how evil is characterized by different religions. Eastern Mysticism and Docetism explain for example that evil is an illusion. Naturalism and Postmodernism explain that evil is subjective as we humans perceive things to be evil.

http://evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-explain-the-question-of-evil-from-various-world-views/

In the Apologetic sense evil is used to argue for both the existence or non-existence of God. The reality of evil is used many times as an objection to the existence of God. In the following article, Aaron Brake does an excellent job detailing reasons why the apologetic “problem of evil” is not a problem for the Christian.

http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2013/why-the-problem-of-evil-is-a-problem-3/

I write of the reality of evil from a christian perspective with an awareness that evil does exist. The fact that one may conclude something is or is not evil does not change the reality. Much like truth, one may or may not believe a truth, however it does not change the fact that the truth is. Some have an acute awareness of the existence of evil, others may have a lesser awareness of evil. One only need to review the headlines of the daily news to see evil acts and their consequences.

Many regard evil as an inherent consequence of a free will. Having the ability or freedom to choose right and wrong since our appearance here on earth, we have chosen wrong many times. The first instance of our choosing wrong is recorded for us in the Bible book of Genesis. Adam and Eve chose wrong by choosing to disobey God and eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Notice the words “of the knowledge of good and evil”. Until that point they had no understanding what evil was. Everything they had was good. Only after deciding to ignore God and choose against God did they realize evil.

Now they had “the knowledge of good and evil”. They soon realized the initial consequences of evil in their immediate reaction of guilt and shame. They covered themselves from each other and hid from God. They remembered what God had said about eating from the tree and were awaiting the consequence.

Romans 6:23 “ the wages of sin is death”

How do we make sense of human evil verses natural evil?

In the article by Aaron Brake referenced above, a summary of Jesus clearest teaching on the problem of evil is given.

Luke 13:1-5

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

“Not only is this Jesus’ clearest teaching on the problem of evil but we see Him addressing both moral and natural evil in His response. Notice that Jesus is first questioned regarding an example of what we would call moral evil: the murder of some Galileans by Pilate. In providing an answer, Jesus Himself introduces an example of natural evil: the falling of the tower of Siloam which killed eighteen.
How did Jesus answer the problem of evil presented to Him? Was Jesus taken back, struck by the profundity of such a pregnant question? His answer is short and to the point: “They weren’t worse sinners, they were just sinners. And unless you repent, you’ll die too.”

Many argue that evil is a necessary consequence of free-will. Without the ability to choose evil we would not truly have a free-will. Perhaps that is more correct than we can understand. But we are left with the struggle of how to choose to do good.
Jesus standard of right and wrong baffled the teachers and leaders of the day. He recognized that evil is in our nature and the evil acts we carry out are first born in the un-regenerate mind following the desires of the heart of flesh. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.

Paul writes in Romans 7:24

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Who can escape the mind and body of sin? No one, but by the blood of the lamb the victory over sin and death is won!

Romans 6:6

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
Romans 8:2

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

In the New Testament we read of the change that comes about when one surrenders to the authority of Christ and His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17

“ if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!”

Further on we read of how one is able to walk and maintain integrity in choosing good.

Galatians 5:16

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
As Christians we are called to this distinctive life where we still have a free will and may choose evil to our detriment, but we are more able and empowered to choose good because of the new Spirit nature that lives within us.

#ChooseTruth #ChooseLiberty #ChooseLife #ChooseJesus

Related links;

Does God Exist: The Moral Argument

The Difference Between Ethics and Morality

When the Problem of Evil Gets Personal

How Can God Exist When There Is So Much Evil In Our World Today?

D is For Determinism

Determinism is the idea that events unfold in a predetermined systematic consequential way that is beyond our control. Some call it fate or destiny, others karma and some God’s will. The CARM ministry web site defines Determinism as

“the philosophical view that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural laws. This would dictate that there is no free will in humans and that all events are the result of natural and physical laws.”

It is an interesting thing that I came to the place of decision in this series of major terms of apologetics. I had the opportunity to make choices along the way. I am writing this series using the alphabet as my guide. The first three topics were fairly easy to confirm. The decision for this one came down to choosing to write on the concept of design or on determinism.

I had the opportunity to make a choice. That statement describes our understanding of the concept of freewill, which is directly related to determinism. As I ramble about these two concepts trying to make sense of them, I would like to point out that other wiser philosophers have wrestled with this as well. You will find links to the various types of determinism as you read on.

As Christians we understand the Bible as the word of God. In His word He describes this relationship between determinism and freewill in many places. Beginning with Genesis we see that He has created us with a freewill.

Genesis 1:26-28

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

In these verses we see that God created us in His image. As we study and look upon the characteristics and attributes of God we see that we have a freewill and we are commanded to rule and work and create and multiply within the confines of a godly nature. God cannot do anything outside of His Godly nature He would not be God.

Our calling at creation was to live eternally within the godly nature God has given and to do this willingly as free agents enjoying all the blessings of a god nature freewill.

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This passage reveals a choice that results in a determined outcome. There are types and levels of determinist that look upon freewill with varying amounts of liberty. Hard Determinist argue there is no freewill and all our actions are determined and thus we are not able to do other than what has been determined. This is refuted in the outline below.

At the following site you will find a chart and a very good explanation of the levels of determinism and a refutation of Hard Determinism with an argument favoring Compatibilism.determinismxfreewill-svg1

Created as we were originally before the fall, we were of one nature. Our nature was in the likeness of God. We were allowed to make all of our choices within the framework of that nature. There were multitudes of possible choices all with consequential effects within that nature.

A second nature was introduced at the fall by that which is in direct opposition to God and His creation. We see that nature appear as Eve falls for the lie of the serpent. The freewill choices Adam and Eve had are distorted when obedience to God was made to look restrictive and that God was keeping us from something good.

In this disobedience the choice was made to open up a whole new dimension of awareness and possibilities. However that choice came with a pre-determined consequence that was ignored and overlooked by Adam and Eve and that consequence was death.

This would be considered a deterministic outcome. Within the realm of these two natures regardless of what decisions or choices are made the inevitable outcome will always be death.

From this point on, all of humanity was allowed to work within these two realms, we could choose to live life within the God nature or the anti-God nature. Our choices would always be distorted, compromised and colored by the desires of our newly acquired sin nature. However hard we tried to maintain our lives within the God nature, the anti-God nature would overrule because of the fact that the original choice resulted in the determined outcome of death.

Now we can look at the many verses of scripture and understand the determinism that appears along with our freewill. We can understand the futility of living a life by all the Godly rules and yet still be overpowered by death.  We can get a better idea of the universal aspect of salvation through Jesus Christ and the cost of being restored to our original nature.

Some verses on Determinism and Freewill

Deuteronomy 11:26  “I am setting before you today…”

Deuteronomy 30:1 -19 “ the blessing and the curse…”

Proverbs 11:19 “ He who is steadfast in righteousness..”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but…”

Joshua 24:15  “Choose this day whom you shall serve…”

Galatians 5:1 “Stand therefore in the liberty…”

Compatibilism

What is Compatibilism?

The next two resources give an explanation of how Determinism and Freewill are Compatible.

 

In reflecting on Determinism and Compatibilism I have come to realize that the choices I make are either motivated by the sin nature or the Spirit of Christ. Many times I find my prayers are to make the right choice not out of fear of a determined condemnation but of love for the one who has rescued me from fear and death, and that this love would rule my heart and mind always.

These verse are helpful in reminding me there is a way to choose the right path.

Romans 8:1-2

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

Philippians4:8

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

 

 

Give Me One Good Reason!

Bradley Bowen, the author of “Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus “, states that he doubts he could ever be persuaded by New Testament evidence that Christ was seen alive after his crucifixion.Theologian and Cold Case Investigator J. Warner Wallace points out that

“While many skeptics argue only non-biblical sources can be trusted for the information we have about Jesus, the ancient Christian record about Jesus is the most reliable.”

If New Testament accounts are not proof enough of the resurrection it is un-likely that extra-biblical evidence would convince Mr.Bowen. However,  testimony from non-biblical sources does help affirm the reliability of scripture. The earliest of the non-biblical accounts of Jesus would be from the writings of Josephus. The following is from his writing in 93-94 A.D. called “Antiquities” this segment is called the “Testimonium Flavianum”.

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; ……He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold”

I’m certain that Mr. Bowen is among the skeptics that would discount this evidence by claiming this segment was added to the document. It is probable but unlikely that this was a later insertion for it is found in every known copy of “Antiquities”. Notably, this is the only one of Josephus writings of biblical relevance that is in dispute.

Bowen then asserts that he has no proof that Christ was dead when He was placed in the tomb. Choosing to ignore testimony from scripture he must rely on the extra-biblical testimony. Josephus and writings from Thaylus 52 A.D.and Tacitus 56-120 A.D. and Pliny the Younger and others testify to the historical accuracy of the Gospel in their description of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection. But if Bowen is looking for a local non-biased coroners report, there are none.

Mr. Bowens conclusion that God did not raise Jesus from the dead is false, because he relies upon one of these three statements being false.

“JNR3. At least one of the following beliefs is false: (a) Moses was a prophet of God, (b) the Old Testament was inspired by God, or (c) Jehovah is God “ – Bradley Bowen

The author fails to prove any of the above false and bases his conclusive statement on these words.

“I am confident that JNR3 is true”.

If the non-biblical sources referred to above are sufficient to prove the reliability of scripture, then it would be logical to conclude that Jesus is who He claims to be. If Jesus is God as He claims and God does not lie, then the words of the Old Testament and the prophets such as Moses whom Jesus refers to and quotes from are true.

Without presenting any evidence at all Bowen merely concludes he is confident these statements are false. He ignores the testimony of Jesus, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the testimony of the Apostles, who died as martyrs for their belief in the resurrection.

Not only does he refuse to acknowledge the validity of the claims of the New Testament writers, several of which write within 30 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he ignores the extra-biblical testimonies of the same as well. Mr. Bowen will not be persuaded by reason for he has no reason to be persuaded.

Bradley Bowen -“Argument Against The Resurrection of Jesus”

J. W. Wallace – “What Does Christianity Say About the Nature of Jesus”

J. W. Wallace – “Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable”

http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/flavius-josephus/antiquities-jews/