Last Crusade: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Virgin Born, Sinless, and Miracle Working

FCF: Because we are fallen, we need a divine savior

Sermon Introduction

The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal son of God. The Scriptures declare 1) His virgin birth; 2) His sinless life; 3) His miracles; 4) His substitutionary work on the cross; 5) His bodily resurrection from the dead; and 6) His exaltation to the right hand of God.

This post, we will focus on the first three: 1) His virgin birth; 2) His sinless life; and 3) His miracles. Before those, however, we will look at why we call Him “the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Scripture Introduction: There are six passages this week, two for each point.

Matthew 1:23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

Luke 1:31, 35 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus…. The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Hebrews 7:26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;

1 Peter 2:22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–

Acts 10:38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Point 1. The identification, “The Lord Jesus Christ”

We often use these three words together when speaking about our Lord. The Holy Spirit is never one to waste words in Scripture. So why these three?

First, He is called Lord because He is God. In the Ten Commandments, believers are enjoined to never say the Lord’s name lightly. To be sure they never did this, faithful Jews in the time before Christ took care to never say the name of God. Even now, they will use “lord,” or write “G-d.” When reading the Scriptures that have the name of God, they will read “adonai” (which means Lord) instead of reading His name. The tradition goes back very far. Another way to get around saying “God” is “Heaven.” For example, in the Intertestamental book of First Maccabees, when badly outnumbered, one of the brothers in charge of the army tells his soldiers, “Does it matter to Heaven to win by many or by few?” He doesn’t mean the place. He means the ruler of Heaven.

But, you say, calling a man lord can just mean that he’s a superior to you. This is true, but that is not how Scripture uses it. At the end of John’s Gospel, when seeing the holes in Jesus’ hands, Thomas calls Jesus “my God and my Lord.” That is not the confession of seeing a mere mortal superior! That is seeing the divine savior in His glory.

Back then, Jews always used the word ‘lord’ with great reverence. It wasn’t used flippantly, like ‘boss.’ It was something above ‘sir.’ And, as you know, he who is called Lord must be obeyed. To say “no lord” is to say “not lord.”

The second part is “Jesus” which is His personal name. It is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew name Joshua. Joshua was the successor to Moses, and a very beloved name. It means “Jehovah is salvation.” The angel instructed Mary to give that name to the baby before He was born. This part of the name reminds us that He is human, that He took on humanity’s form, like us, so that He could suffer with us. We do not have a God who is far off and never been through what we have. He is with us as we walk along the way. He has been there and carried that heavy cross all the way to Calvary.

He is a person who lived at a specific time and place in history. Christianity hangs its promises not on a man who lived way back whenever, but a man whose place in time can be located. You can go to Jerusalem and walk along the same way that Jesus did. You can go to the places that are believed to be the Garden, the manger, and Calvary.

The final part of the name is Christ. This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. It was not a last name. Joseph and Mary Christ did not travel from Galilee to Judea. It is a title. It means “anointed one” and was used first to speak of kings and priests who were doing the work of God, it came to mean a very certain promised one.

Think about what we see from that full identification. Lord means He is God and He is in charge. Jesus reminds us that He is a man, the savior of the world, the lamb slain for sins. Christ means He is the Messiah, the promised one.

Point 2. His virgin birth (Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31, 35)

Atoning for the sins of man required a human being. God the son had to become a human being. Revelation tells us this “lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world.” God’s first promise in Scripture after Adam and Eve ate of the tree is that “the seed of the woman” will be an eternal enemy of the serpent who had just tempted them into sin. That’s an odd way to put it. A child is the man’s seed, but God here says the woman’s seed. That indicates the promised seed will be special.

As we go along in Scripture, another promise is given. This time, King Ahaz is in trouble. Armies threaten his kingdom. He considers making an alliance though the ally is untrustworthy. The prophet Isaiah comes to him and says that God will give a sign. Ahaz has a moment of false piety and says he will not ask for a sign. Isaiah gives him a sign anyway. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive…”

Now that’s got to get your attention. Everyone knows that virgins don’t conceive. We might look back on prior times and wrongly think them stupid because they don’t have all the cool toys we do, but they knew this fact of life. Virgins don’t have children.

Jesus had to come as a man so that He would have man’s nature. Jesus had two natures, God and human, both at 100%. He was fully human and fully God. That allows Him to be the mediator between God and us. We have one nature, and it is broken. He has two, and they are complete and perfect. We have Adam’s nature, a sinful nature, but the Holy Spirit protected Him from the broken part of the human nature.

Before we go to the next point, I want us to see one more thing in the announcement in Luke. All three members of the trinity are named in it. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… the power of the Most High will overshadow you… shall be called the Son of God.”

In Romans 5, Jesus is called the Second Adam. Just as the first Adam had no human father, neither did Jesus. In fact, Luke calls Adam the “son of God” in Luke 3. This draws the two together in a theme. They aren’t the son of God in the same way, but they are the both the son of God. Paul continues that the first Adam failed but the second Adam succeeded. Can’t you get excited about that. That victory over sin, and Jesus was tempted to sin just as we are, made it possible for all of us to be victorious!

Seed of the woman. The virgin born. Detailed in Matthew and Luke’s gospels to show us that He is both human and divine. While Mark and John don’t say virgin born, both of them let us know that Jesus’ birth was known to be unusual. In fact, neither Mark nor John tell us anything about Jesus’ childhood. Matthew and Luke do. In Mark, Jesus is called Mary’s son. That’s odd. A person was called by their father’s name. In Matthew, Jesus refers to Peter as “son of Jonas.” In John, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being illegitimate. Paul calls Jesus the “son of the woman.”

While the Virgin Birth is not repeated all over Scripture the way the death and resurrection are, it forms an important part of how we view Jesus. He is all man and all God. His human nature and divine nature together make Him the link between God and man.

At this time of year, the old lie runs around that Christians use December 25 as Christmas because they were trying to overtake a pagan holiday. Actually, we can read they they choose that date. It wasn’t just grabbed from the air. The early church writes about why they took December 25. It’s because they were working from a tradition that important men died on the anniversary of their conception. Since Jesus’ date of death is known, 14 Nisan, they calculated the year in which He would have been born and the date of birth then falls on December 25th. Our Eastern Orthodox brethren celebrate Christmas on January 7. That is because they calculated a different year of death. The Jewish calendar does not line up with our calendar exactly, so dates from one year to the next can be in different places against ours.

Point 3. His sinless life (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22)

Since Adam, we have all fallen. We’re born with original sin on us. As David said, “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:4). Jesus had no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.

There are many things I can imagine. I can imagine a person who likes dry toast with warm milk. I can imagine not doing certain things in the past. I can imagine making different decisions. I can imagine not doing many sins, but I can’t imagine being completely sinless. I would like to be, but I won’t be.

The Messiah had to be sinless to make the sacrifice for us because sin was the problem. Some say it takes a thief to catch a thief, but to atone for sin once and for all required a high priest with no sin who was also the sacrifice.

Mankind desired a solution and it had to come from outside themselves. But it had to be a man to do it. We needed a high priest without sin. And with the sin nature in us already, the Messiah had to come in such a way as to avoid that sin nature: hence, the Virgin Birth. By not having a human father, He had no original sin.

Understand me, He was tempted. We are told about the temptation in the wilderness several times. Later, we read that He was tempted in every way we are but never sinned. Something to conclude from this: temptation is not sin. I’ll repeat. It is not a sin to be tempted. If it were, Jesus would have sinned. However, Jesus overcame the temptation. And God promises to provide a way out for us when we are tempted to sin. God never desires for us to sin, and He never makes a situation where the only choice is to sin.

A very old heresy says that since we ought to live a sinless life, God has made such within our grasp. That is, by sheer force of will and careful actions all our life, we can be without sin. The originator of this heresy also concluded that Adam’s sin marred his soul but not anyone else’s. There’s a reason the church condemned that teaching hard!

This argument against original sin is refuted in Scripture many times. Let us look at Romans 5, just for an example:
• “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (verse 12).
• “Many died by the trespass of the one man” (verse 15).
• “The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation” (verse 16).
• “By the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man” (verse 17).
• “One trespass resulted in condemnation for all people” (verse 18).
• “Through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners” (verse 19).

Six times in eight verses. You can add to that Romans 3:10-18; Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1; and many others. Gee, it’s almost like God is making sure we know that we sin because it’s in our nature.

But we do know that God wants us to live perfect lives. He says twice, “be perfect, for I am perfect.” So how? Jesus is our example. How do we live a perfect life? We ask God to change our nature. Our old nature will take us to sin. When God removes the heart of stone, as the prophet calls it, He replaces it with a heart of flesh. That’s the new nature, from God, that can overcome sin. That’s the only way. Change out that old nature for a new one. This is the nature that Christ had, unmarred by original sin and completely uncorrupted.

However, we will make a choice. You see, every part of mankind has been touched by sin. Every part of us has been corrupted. We are not as we should be. Only a man could make the needed sacrifice, but only God would be without sin. Hence, the God-man. Hence, God the Son came down as a man, born of a virgin, to live a sinless life, and make the sacrifice that we could not.

Point 4. His miracles (Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38)

When we think about what makes Jesus the Messiah, His miracles are on the list but a little ways down. For the early church, the miracles of Christ played a major role in proving He was from God. It was believed back then that miracles could not be done unless the person was a prophet of the God most High. When Jesus did miracles, they noticed that He was not in the power structure of the day. He wasn’t a priest.

While some believe that the ancient world was very open to miracles and saw miracles in every little thing no matter how mundane, the time of Jesus was actually very skeptical of claims to miracles. They had to be investigated and authenticated. It wouldn’t do to just claim they had happened. This is similar to Paul challenging his critics to come to Jerusalem and see where it all happened.

But Jesus’ miracles showed that He was from God. Miracles still happen today. Jesus promised that we would do greater miracles than He did. And we even see this happening in the New Testament. Jesus touched people to heal them, but Peter’s shadow falling across a man brought healing.

As the Gospel of John tells us, the things that Jesus did could not be contained if all the books in the world were added up. There were places when He healed many, and places where He healed few because of their lack of faith. His hometown was one of the places where He healed few. Also in John, Jesus staked His reputation on the miracles, “at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11).

How do we know if a miracle is real? Beyond the question of seeing it with our own eyes or having a person we trust confirm it, what makes a miracle a real miracle? Is it how it goes against the laws of nature? We know that Satan can perform tricks to delude others. Consider other religions that have miracles in their traditions. Do you think they were so fooled they wrote things that didn’t happen? No, they happened, but they were not from God.

The main question we should ask about a miracle is this: Does it glorify God? That is the heart of the matter. A genuine miracle will glorify God. A counterfeit miracle will distract from God. All of Jesus’ miracles pointed to God and glorified God.

Conclusion

What will you do with the Messiah? He is our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you act like you believe it? Maybe you don’t or didn’t until today. Take this time to come to God. Make things right! You will never have a better chance than right now. In some ways, He is not like us. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and performed miracles. Those first two are completely out of our capabilities. We’ve already been born and are sinful. Miracles can happen at our hands only by His grace and to His glory.

However, we can be made spotless by His actions. If we put our faith in Him, He will remove our sin. That miracle can be granted at anytime. All you have to do is respond to that call on your heart right now. Respond and repent, turn from your sins.

Faith, the kind of faith He gives, will always be responded to. That’s a miracle waiting for you.

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The Coward’s Son

Last night (11/11/17), I finished drafting my latest short story, “The Coward’s Son.” This story of Derke and Manegold trying to clear a man’s name ended around 9,000 words. Used to, that was too long for a short story. They needed to end at 6,000 max. I still like to have them under 10K. A prior adventure of Derke and Manegold can be read in the freely available Fellowship of Fantasy anthology Fantastic Creatures. (“Destiny’s Flight” isn’t necessary to read before “The Coward’s Son,” DF just takes place before TCS with some of the same characters.)

“The Coward’s Son” came about after listening to an Old Time Radio adaptation of Robert Buckner’s “The Man Who Won the War.” (It was either Escape! or Suspense! that performed the adaptation.) My story is very different, but I say this to note where the inspiration came from.

The adaptation spins a tale about an English naval officer who really won WWI but does so by disobeying orders. Since he cannot prove the actions he took (his allies cannot be located), he is drummed out of the service for insubordination. Years later, he has died in disgrace, but his son wants to join the royal navy. The father’s name must be cleared before the son can be a midshipman. The story is told from the POV of the officer, explaining through a letter his actions. The radio edition differed in several notable respects from the print edition.

My story starts with the same premise of a disgraced soldier and his son, but, as it should be since this was not a retelling, is very different inside. Where Buckner tells about the event that cost the officer his career, my tale is from the POV of the son. We see only a little of the events with the father, Sir Greeth Martel. The son Michael is a squire of age to be knighted, but that cannot happen because he is the son of a coward. Michael goes on a quest to clear his father’s name. Accompanying him are Manegold, Derke, Manegold’s father, and a dwarven knight. Where do they go? The same place his father’s actions were deemed cowardly–The Citadel of Shadows.

I will not spoil the story for anyone, but it turned out very different than I planned. For one, I didn’t expect to be writing a dungeon crawl when I started! It was actually going to explore an old battlefield and speak to witnesses and soldiers of the battle. Secondly, I realized I have written about wyverns (small dragons) but never about the great ones. At that point, the final guardian in the story became a dragon. Finally, I really didn’t think there would be a riddle in this story like in “Destiny’s Flight.” Though, I have been told by several people whom I tested it on that this riddle is much harder.

As soon as “The Coward’s Con” gets back from the beta reader and receives its final work over, it will be submitted!

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Last Crusade: What is Truth? This is Truth!

What is Truth? This is Truth!

FCF: Because all people have fallen from our created state, we must rely on revealed truth.

Scripture Intro: Turn to John 18:34-40. We are familiar with much of Pilate’s story in the trial of Jesus. According to all the Gospels, Pilate tried to let Jesus go but succumbed to pressure from the Jewish rulers. In this one time, he was indecisive. However, Pilate’s record as prefect was one of distinction. Others held the prefect office for three years. However, Pilate held it for 10 years, from AD 26 to 36. In that time, Pilate ruled over taxes and construction projects. He was determined to rule well.

Notice that once he was warned do this, “or you are no friend of Caesar.” The Caesar referred to was Tiberius, an exceptionally authoritative ruler who removed his opponents with all due haste. Pilate had to rule well or he would be removed as a failure and possibly executed. One thought on why Pilate was sent to Judea (a punishment) is that he had backed the rebel Sejanus but was too powerful to execute for treason. Failing in Judea would strip him of that power. This may be why the threat of “no friend of Caesar” struck Pilate so hard.

We know very little about the man. We don’t even know the circumstances of his death. There are several possibilities, but none are certain.

Here in John, we see more of what makes Pilate tick. Read with me the account of Pilate questioning Jesus in John 18:33-40.

John 18:33-40 33 ¶ Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 ¶ Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. 39 “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Sermon Intro: Standing in judgment of Jesus, he asks the most important question any man can ever ask: “what is truth?” To our utter astonishment, he turns away before Jesus can answer.

What do we learn of Pilate from this? We know he was a powerful Roman and well educated. Most Romans of his standing would have a favorite philosopher that they considered their teacher, even if the philosopher was long dead. We know that Pilate was open to the supernatural speaking to humanity because he married a mystic. His wife has dreams where she believes she hears from the other side. Pilate does not listen to her.

Pilate knew that the most important question is truth, but he didn’t think Jesus had the answer. Did he think anyone had the answer? Probably not. If he did, he would have waited for an answer.

However, we need to ask that same question. “What is truth?” Everyone on earth needs to answer that question. Then you have a second question you need to ask. “What do I do with Truth?”

Point 1: Truth Must Be Recognized

John uses the word “truth” 27 times in the Gospel. It is John who records Jesus saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” It’s an important concept to John. Where do we get truth? People generally make three options for the source of truth: 1) Reason and logic; 2) Authority; 3) Scripture.

Every one of these has a place in life. We use reason and logic everyday when making hundreds of decisions. Do I want cappuccino? Depends on how much I’ve had this week and how late in the day. Which way do I go to work? How foggy will it be to go through the bottom today? For most decisions in a day, this is a fine answer. Reason it out. This is using the brain that God gave you.

However, reason can only go so far. Science, which claims reason as its base, has limitations built into the system. Science can only work with what can be measured and repeated. Look at that, right away the nature of miracles rule them out of science. Miracles are unique events and not repeated. History is the same. Do you realize that you cannot prove George Washington lived by the scientific method? Historians have a different method, but since there was only and will be only one George Washington, the scientific method cannot prove it.

Science also runs into a limit with descriptions. Imagine being born blind and someone describing the color “blue” to you. Even if you were a scientist yourself who know everything that a man can know about light, you won’t grasp the color. The same thing happens with someone born deaf. Even if they knew every scientific thing about how sound travels through air, the experience of voices raised in praised or a symphony will be missed.

Reason cannot be the ultimate authority because it cannot deal with unique events or the unmeasurable. So much of what is truly important it unique and immeasurable.

The second option is authority. Authority means taking the word of someone else that they are speaking the truth. If the person is trustworthy and wise, this is a valid option. When the mayor tells you to stop burning your trash in town, you had better. When you go to the pastor for counseling and he tells you to stop the smoking, listen. Teachers, professors, law officers, church leaders. When you ask your plumber about the new faucet, you are listening to his area of expertise. Agree with them or not, these are authorities, and we have to pay attention to them. An authority may lose his standing with us by incorrect advice or moral failing. This is listening to who God told you to listen to. As our ultimate authority, Jesus falls into this category.

But authority runs into the problem that it is human and thus itself broken. What do you do if an authority tells you to do something against the word of God? This was even a problem in the early church as Jude, the half brother of Jesus, warns us:

Jude 1:1-4 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The third category is revealed truth. We take Scripture to be the revealed word of God. Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God, and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Thess 2:13). In the Assemblies of God, this is our first fundamental truth.

The first bit of truth in this world is that God exists. He has revealed himself through nature and our conscience. The heavens declare the glories of God. Inwardly, we know what is right and wrong. The existence of this conscience, and that it is so consistent across the world until people learn how to sear it shut, testifies to God’s existence.

What we learn from the Bible that reason alone cannot tell us we call “special revelation.” From studying the trees and stars, we can know that God exists. By our conscience, we know that we are broken. But we cannot know that God sent His Son to make us whole. We know this from special revelation.

Truth from Scripture is different in that it is inspired, that is “God breathed” (2 Tim 3:15-17). God breathed means that the Holy Spirit moved upon the writers so that what they wrote was exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted them to write (2 Peter 1:21). In some cases, He spoke to them audibly. In others, He gave dreams. Others, the Spirit moved on them as they wrote, taking their love of writing and giving wisdom that would last the world over.

There is much more that could be said about Truth. How God’s Word will stand forever. How it cannot fail. It is also fascinating to study how the books of the Bible were recognized by the early church as the Scripture they were. God moved so that the inspired books could not be stopped from being recognized.

Point 2: Truth Must Be Understood

When Jesus spoke, he spoke in the language of the common people. That means in the Land, He taught in Mishnaic Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, because all three languages were used. Not only in their language but in the type of teaching they were used to. He gave sermons, as the people were used to, and the Gospels records more than 35 parables. The Jewish people were used to parables, short stories, a couple of paragraphs at most that take everyday items and situations and give them a spiritual meaning. If you read other Jewish writings, there are hundreds of parables.

If Jesus lived today and was asked to teach on gossip, I believe he would give this parable:

“What is gossip like? To what does the thing compare? It is like a dandelion gone to seed. Once you blow upon the head and scatter the seeds, you can never pick them all up again.”

That’s an image everyone who has ever picked a dandelion can understand. You simply cannot pick up all the seeds once they all fly. And now you’ll think of that in a situation when gossip is an option.

With Scripture being the truth revealed to us, we have to understand it. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew with about 200 verses in Aramaic. When those who followed the Torah spoke those languages, there was no need for anything different. However, after the exile, a large number of Jews lived in Alexandria, Egypt. They spoke Greek more comfortably than Hebrew, and they wanted their Scriptures in their language.

To that end, between 250 BC and 150 BC, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. This had a bonus that the Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria had not foreseen. Now others could read the Hebrew Scriptures and meet the living God there. Discovering Judaism became easier than ever. And people did convert. This version, called the Septuagint was used even in Judea and Galilee. Jesus and the Apostles quote from it.

And as the Greek language was the common language throughout the Roman empire (yes, more so than Latin, people knew Greek), when Christianity came with its Scriptures in Greek, it spread like wildfire.

However, over time, Greek was used less and less. For those in Rome, the Scriptures were translated into old Latin and then into the common man’s Latin, called the Vulgate. As missionaries went out into the world, one of their first tasks would be to translate the written word of God into whatever language these people spoke. The people always wanted God’s word in their tongue. It does no good if no one can read it, and a written word lasts beyond the spoken word.

That’s why even today, missionaries translate the Bible into new languages for the people they want to reach. And the act of translating, of learning a new language and then translating the Bible into it, shows the people how important the missionary views their conversion and how much God cares for them. Loved them enough to die and rise again far away? Okay. Loved them enough to send a missionary to spend years translating the Scripture into their language so they can read how he died and rose again? That’s important.

Point 3: Truth must be Acted Upon

The final point is that truth must be acted upon. First you have to recognize it. Then you have to understand it. But the first two acts will only leave you stranded on third base. Once you understand truth, you have to chose to act on it.

Imagine finding a chest in your backyard that contained one million dollars. Would you rebury it? No. You’d claim it and take it to the bank. Truth is the pearl of great price that any merchant would sell all he had to gain.

In the ancient world, philosophers were respected. It was recognized that they sought truth. They wanted to know what truth was. Some of them oddly denied that truth was knowable or denied it was the same from person to person. Amazing how old fallacies never die.

The first step you take towards acting on truth is to accept Jesus as your savior. Once you’ve done that, you have to read his instructions. Many ask about which translation as there are so many these days. But we should remember that “the religious problems of this world are not caused by people reading different translations; the most serious problem is that many read no translation.”

As people read the Bible, the Holy Spirit will illuminate their minds to the meanings and how to apply it their life. I cannot tell how many times I have read a passage and then feel that nudge that I need to change a line of thinking or attitude because of it.

That same Spirit who helped the authors first write it will help us understand it. Don’t believe it? Read John 16:12-15 and 1 Corinthians 2:10.

John 16:12-15 12 ¶ “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

1 Corinthians 2:10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

The believer is promised that the Spirit will help him understand while reading.

God gave us His Word as truth, and the Spirit is pleased to shed light on that truth.

Conclusion: In conclusion, we ask the final question: “What do I do with truth?” What happened to Pilate here was a tragedy. He was forced to make a decision. He could either stand for truth or he could surrender truth. Pilate chose to surrender. He allowed the charge of treason to stand and even had a sign placed on Jesus’ cross that read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Calling oneself king of a Roman territory was rebellion.

Pilate surrendered in the war on truth. What will you do? Will you take truth as your guide and let it lead you? Will you reject it and seek other truth? I do not mean seek more truth. There is a difference in more truth and other truth. More truth adds to what we have. Other truth seeks to replace it.

Jesus is truth and gave us truth. What will you do with Jesus this day?

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The Last Crusade: Be Holy, for I am Holy

FCF: Because we have a sin nature, only God can make us holy.

God commands, “Be Holy for I am Holy” in both the Old (Leviticus 11:44, 45) and New Testaments (1 Peter 1:13-16). He repeats it several times in Leviticus. If God says something once, we know to listen. If he repeats it, we know it is important. The question then becomes, what is holiness and how do we attain it?

Our first parents had one rule, and they broke it. “Don’t eat from this specific tree.” But it wasn’t just them. Every person after that has managed to break God’s laws. These sins separate us from God and require Him to restore the relationship. But sin has damaged us at that point. We’re even born with a sin nature because of their actions. Even beyond the original sin passed down from parent to child, we make choices to break God’s laws.
Coming back to God is a choice we make. God calls, we respond. God knows who will respond.

Some branches of Christians will say this, “I am saved, and I am being saved.” They are using the second saved in what we term sanctification, the process performed by God to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. It is how God makes us holy. We proved long ago that we can’t do it.

Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God (Rom 12:1-2; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:12). Scripture teaches of a life of “holiness, without which no one can see God” (Heb 12:14). By the power of the Holy Ghost, we are able to obey the command, “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16).

Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit (Rom 6:1-11,13; 8:1-2,13; Gal 2:20; Phil 2:12-13; 1 Pet 1:5).

Sanctification comes in three stages. When saved, God declares us righteous in His sight. This is sometimes called “legal sanctification.” After conversion, as we seek God and His will for us, we continually grow in grace, and God takes our bad habits. The final stage comes in Heaven. At that time, we are finally cleansed and purged of our sins.

In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we read, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
God does not save us to allow us to continue in sin! In fact, we are told that we cannot habitually sin and be saved. That is not to say we will never sin as I have heard some teach. We still sin. The difference is that now the conviction comes and we don’t want to make it a habit.

1) Initial Sanctification

Sanctification first comes to us when we are saved. At that moment in time, God declares us righteous. This begins our journey to true holiness. You might say that God has given us the property labeled holiness. It is now our job to go to that property.
Because of Christ’s work on the cross, God now sees us wrapped in our sins but instead He sees God’s Christ’s righteousness upon us. This is a great reversal. Christ, who knew no sin, took upon himself our sins so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).

It is because of this change at conversion that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, can call the Galatians “holy ones” even though some of them were in very bad shape. Upon conversion, we are set free from the chains of sin to do God’s will. We are now headed in the right direction but not nearly at our destination.

2) Progressive Sanctification

What is declared and legal is not the same thing as what is actual. This part is a process. We move through the Spirit into greater and greater holiness. Having seen the cost of our sin upon Jesus, we want this to happen. Now God is good. As Jesus said, “Which of you, being evil, when his son asks for bread will give him a stone? How much more so will your Father in Heaven, who is good, give you good things when you ask for them?” When we ask God for cleansing, of course He will give it!

The old is taken from us and purged as we live. For us, it will take a lifetime until that true holiness is achieved. The Apostles did not consider themselves to have arrived even after walking with Jesus for years and learning to minister from Him. We certainly will not.
The question is not have you arrived at sinless perfection; the question is are you trying to become better? Paul says that he had an intense longing to be more pleasing to God every day (Phil 3:13-14). He knew he had not laid ahold of perfection.

Like babes, we start with milk and move onto the solid food of God’s Word. We grow through becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). By reading the Word and by daily prayer we grow nearer to Jesus.

During this growth, the Holy Spirit ministers to us. At this time, we are of a divided mind. Before conversion, we didn’t have a sin problem. If we wanted to sin, it was no problem. However, now we are in God and if we want to sin, it is a problem. At this point, we are of a divided mind. We know to do good but still want to do evil because in our own strength we cannot.

We can only overcome this by the Holy Spirit, “putting to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom 8:13).” By Him who loves us “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Galatians 5 reminds us that if we “live by the Spirit” we won’t “gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

We tend to think of this as a fight between our higher nature and our lower nature. That’s not the case, we are the battleground between our sinful nature and indwelling Spirit of God.

Some teach that in this life, the sin nature is completely cut out, root and branch. I wish this were so! But we root it out only as much as we follow the Spirit of God. Only by an act of faith can we continue to find victory over sin (1 Cor 10:13).

Colossians 3:7-14 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him– 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 ¶ So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

We do not come to a place in this life where it becomes impossible to sin. Mores the pity. It is only in the Lord that we gain victory. We have to give the Holy Spirit room to work.
We fail. We stumble. We sin. But the Holy Spirit does not cast us out. Jesus promised to send us an Advocate, and when we stumble, our Advocate defends our case. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, he have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). We have to confess our sins. Then we are cleansed.

A final warning here is that if we continue in sin we can leave aside our salvation. How can we, who have tasted the joy of salvation want to return to the mire of sin.

3) Final Sanctification

At conversion, we are declared sanctified in Christ. Throughout our lives, we grow in Christ and by the Spirit become more holy. When will this end? When will we find that holiness we long for?

When we die, those who have kept a relationship with Christ will be in a state where failure cannot happen. CS Lewis puts it this way, “You cannot want anything wrong anymore.” We will be holy!

“We will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52). To get to that glory, the present sufferings we go through are as nothing.

Conclusion

Where are you in your sanctification? You aren’t dead, so you aren’t fully sanctified yet. If you’re saved, you’ve started the journey. Now let’s take more steps together. You don’t want to stop at just being declared sanctified. You want to keep going. How many of you want just the down payment when you sell a car to your neighbor? Why do you think God wants just the down payment from you?

This is God’s work in you. You have to want it, but it won’t happen without God’s work first. The fact that you want it is God already working in you. That tug at the heart every time you start to sin. That’s the Spirit working to make you better.

Grow in holiness by daily prayer and Bible reading. A relationship cannot happen without the two people spending time together.

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