This week I was asked about an eyewitness evidence of the Gospels. I referred to Luke 1:1, 1 John 1:1,3, and 2 Peter 1:16, which all speak of eyewitness testimony. Then the Gospels read like it too—the accounts corroborate with one another, but are not copying one another, so they read eyewitness, which wouldn’t be identical, but wouldn’t contradict either. People often want something extra-scriptural and first century figure, Papias, wrote, “For unlike most people I took no pleasure in those who told many different stories, but only in those who taught the truth. Nor did I take pleasure in those who reported their memory of someone else’s commandments, but only in those who reported their memory of the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the Truth itself.” John in his Gospel expressly claims to have written as an eyewitness (1:35-40, 13:23, 21:24). Regarding Paul, the flow of 1 Corinthians 15, argues for the bodily resurrection and he says that he saw Jesus like Peter and James, etc.—vv. 5-8, and in v. 8, “last of all he was seen of me also.” “Also” translates kago, which means, “in like manner” —in a passage on bodily resurrection he says that he saw Jesus in like manner as the other apostles. 1 Corinthians 9:1, “Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” He saw Jesus as they.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
When we say there is one truth, we mean in part there is one story. There are not two versions of the story of this world. Someone may perceive something different to have happened, but only one thing happened. People may have a different version, but the facts are the facts. When it comes to the basics of this, we have the Bible. God gave it to us to understand, but we have to want to understand it. We can know it, but we have to humble ourselves under it. It is not a play thing or a hobby. The Bible, however, does present the truth about life, answering those most basic questions. It tells the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story like we are supposed to know it, because it is the truth. Someone may choose something different, but it is not the truth. We can know it, and we actually do know it. Romans 1 says we know it, but we suppress it. We may invent a different ending to rejecting it, but that’s a lie. Sometimes I say we have to project ourselves forward into eternity. We do. This is living by faith, but it is also something God designed us to do. We do it all the time. We see an end and then we function to reach the most desired. A child sees a test at school. Time draws near. He prepares, foreseeing how he will be tested. We have a project at work and we do what it takes to get ready for it. We should apply that same tack to our life.
I think most people reading here would want the nation to change. You the reader think that many changes are needed. Right now as you read this, do you agree? Do you think that changes are needed and that you would like changes? With that established, how will that take place? To start, we can’t allow things that are already established, that are right, to slip. We’ve got to be sure that we keep everything that we have, like it is, except better, which it should always be. The first step is maintaining what we have, not dropping it, and being vigilant to do so. It takes vigilance, because we face constant erosion, as you know. The pressures are against preservation of the truth in belief and practice. We shouldn’t easily forsake what we have practiced for decades, even centuries, because we prefer a different application of scripture. The second step is growing. We can’t preserve without gaining. Some kind of stalemate will only lead to loss. We can’t go backwards. We must go forwards. But all of this is our responsibility. We can’t expect others to maintain and grow if we will not do so. All of this, that I have written, starts with you personally, then your family, and finally the whole church. These three are “we.” We are not ready to change other people and other families, and then other churches, if we can’t keep ourselves where we should be.
After God created the world, before the fall, He gave man a mandate, which we read toward the end of Genesis 1, which was first to raise a family, stated as be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth, and second to earn a living, written as subdue and have dominion. Those commands have not been rescinded for mankind. Christians then still are to be doing these. That means that our work, as long as it isn’t sinful, can contribute to that instruction from God. Married couples should have children and raise them and the family improve conditions on earth with its work. It’s not just earning a living, but making things better in material, social, and spiritual ways. God’s Word gives a basis for fulfilling this mandate. So this is more than a matter of “evangelizing in the workplace.” Sure, that should be done and that would be a part of accomplishing God’s command in His way. However, the work alone can be God’s work. At the same time, a church must complete the Lord’s Great Commission. To get both done, a whole church needs to all be doing some of that. For the gospel to be preached to everyone, we need everyone, not just a few “really dedicated,” or maybe just those too gullible that they “don’t understand” that they don’t need to do anything. We’ve got to have everyone in the church be a part of we are to complete the mandate and the commission.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” I’m writing that because that is where we already stand, regardless of the condition of the world and this country. And I tell you that, because I think, and you might agree, we are at a pivotal, serious, consequential, sort of tipping point in history. We’ve had some hard times with the various wars we’ve fought in American history, and the time in which we live has not been one where we’ve experienced massive deaths like we have in the past. But that reminds me of the false prophets, who said “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace. Before things become the worst they’ll ever be, things very likely will look very good. They won’t look good to God, but they could look good to people with little discernment. You’ve traveled down descents that went from gradual to steep. You see those emergency pull-offs for big trucks. The steepness of our descent has increased and we’re getting to the bottom much faster than when we did before. Those factors that could slow us down have also deteriorated. While we sail at a faster descent down this slope, that doesn’t look or feel so bad to most. The hitting bottom is where you really find out. Let’s not be a factor that increases the speed downward or the descent. We should inhibit it, even if we were far from it.
A few years ago up in Sacramento I was talking to a man who did not like the biblical truth of one way of salvation. He wouldn’t take one way of salvation unless there were several ways. There is only one way. That’s the truth. I asked the man if he was against there being one cure for certain diseases, because that is often the case. He paused for a very long time before answering, because he knew he was in trouble. If he said, “yes,” then he was a hypocrite. To give him some credit, he said, “no,” and said that did give him reason to think about what I was saying. What I found was that it was just an excuse, not a reason. The real reason is that he likes being in charge of his own life, but that doesn’t sound very credible. If I talked even longer, or even again, we could explore the idea that he isn’t even in charge of his life, because there are so many factors related to the fall that leave him in slavery to the consequences of sin and its curse. Men go looking for the one cure for a disease. This is normal. Billions of dollars are spent by the general public to prolong physical life on average a few years. On the other hand, the public will spend nothing to extend life through all eternity. Men count on this life. It means everything to them, and the next life means almost nothing. Churches and the individual Christians in them take charge of the cure for the second death.
Jesus in the kingdom parable, the parable of the soils, says that “he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). The good soil is the believing heart, someone who is receptive to the good news and is saved through the gospel, which had been sown there. You see from Jesus that every genuine believer will reproduce. In a sense, everything living reproduces. This characterizes a living thing. Jesus doesn’t say why one good ground will produce more than another ground. He isn’t even saying that the plant that reproduces the most was planted on the best soil. I don’t think we should deduce that for several reasons. From the context itself, we know that reproduction will occur only in good soil. We know from 1 Corinthians 3 that God gives the increase and that the sower is irrelevant. For that reason, 1 Corinthians 4 tells us that what is important is faithfulness. We will be judged on faithfulness. You might be faithful and only see 30 and someone who is less faithful sees 100, because he is sowing on more productive soil. We shouldn’t be discouraged by a lack of productivity. We just want to be faithful. So my concern for you is, are you faithful? Fearfulness and faithlessness are unacceptable.
What you think is what you do, so if you want to do something different, you have to think different. Many negative thoughts are not going to contribute toward success in life. I’ve got to battle those thoughts myself. Almost all of our thinking comes from the outside and come into our mind via the senses. To live successfully, you’ve got to choose the source of your thinking, which must be the truth. In the end, success is judged by and determined by the truth. The truth is found in Scripture, the final arbiter of truth. The Bible is the sole authority for what we believe and do. You are off the mark if you don’t follow what God’s Word says. Therefore, to be a success you’ve got to think what the Bible says and to do that, you must feed your mind with the Bible. The problem here is the tendency just to let whatever is out in the world to feed your mind with whatever is in it. It’s easy just to allow yourself to have the world control your thinking. This is living by sight, instead of by faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. We’ve got to control the thinking agenda. You have to choose what you are going to think about, which means choosing to read the Bible, listening to sermons from scripture, and then making the plans to obey all that. You’ve got the ability as a Christian, God’s grace, but you’ve got to want it and be vigilant with it. Will you?
Common in scripture are the words, “be fulfilled,” and speaking of the fufillment of a prophecy. Ezra 1:1 reads, “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia.” Matthew 1:22 says, speaking of the events of Christ’s birth, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.” Then there are a lot of those in the gospels, all pointing to Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. People should have expected Him. Do you think this is true? Do you think people should know? There is nothing like it and people don’t know about it. They don’t hear it in school any more, since the public school has removed the Bible. Television doesn’t show a true presentation of scripture. When Hollywood makes a film, it’s trying to pull in an evangelical audience, as in this recent film, Exodus, but it isn’t telling the truth, just attempting to make money with entertainment. Over thirty times we get the “be fulfilled” language in the gospels, testifying to prophecies that authenticate the truth of God’s Word. The story of the world is God’s story. The truth about it is the truth of God’s Word. He tells us and He wants us to tell others. They might now want it, and might not listen, but we’ve got to keep trying. Will we?
You can tell when you believe something. You see your little child crawling toward the electrical outlet and then putting his finger on the socket, massaging it and prodding and poking it. What do you do? You might even run to stop him. You might yell, “Stop!” There is a heaven and a hell and a future kingdom. You believe that too. Right? So what is your behavior, having believed or believing that? Do you do anything? Christians believe and then maybe they don’t believe. I understand there is a difference. You can actually stop your child from being electrocuted. There is an instinct within you, part of your own self-preservation, and your nurturing, to stop a child from putting his finger in an electrical socket. If you warn someone about his soul, you’ve been conditioned into thinking he won’t like it or he won’t listen and he’ll reject it. It seems like a waste of time on the level of digging a ditch and then filling it. I also understand that society sees you as great for saving a child and really, really stupid for not saving one. Society hates you for warning about hell. Nevertheless, you believe, as a Christian, that hell and heaven is real, and the kingdom is real. You believe that. What do you do? Even if you don’t believe they will listen, God wants you to do that, and you believe that too. Right? If we believe, let’s let our behavior show it.