the first century gospel testimony

Now I would remind you, brothers,

Of the gospel I preached to you,

Which you received,

IN which you stand,

And by which you are being saved,

If you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:

That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

That he was buried,

That he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

And that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,

Most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (Paul).

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle,

Because I persecuted the church of God.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,

Though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV)

Thanks for reminding us Paul of the foundation of our faith …

Thanks very much for reminding us!

Bernie

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a simple and personal reminder today

I have been crucified with Christ.

It is no longer I who live,

But Christ who lives IN me.

And the life I now live in the flesh

I live by faith IN the Son of God,

Who loved me

And gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

Thank you Jesus!

Bernie

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wrapping my hands around faith

Let’s start with a few key passages (certainly not all inclusive … but some of my favorites) of Scripture in this personal exercise regarding faith …

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that IN Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might RECEIVE THE PROMISED SPIRIT THROUGH FAITH. Galatians 3:10-14 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF FAITH, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)

And without faith it is impossible to PLEASE him (God), for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, OUR GOD WHOM WE SERVE IS ABLE to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. BUT IF NOT, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:14-18 (ESV)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is GROWING abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your STEADFASTNESS and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are ENDURING. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (ESV)

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE for you.” Matthew 17:20 (ESV)

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith BY HIS POWER, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (ESV)

Here’s my work-in-process definition/understanding of faith …

  • Faith is grounded in Christ Jesus … PERIOD.
  • Faith flourishes and lives in our love relationship with Jesus, the brethren and world around us.
  • Faith declares that my hope is IN God and His plans, purpose and will … not my own
  • Faith says ‘God is able’ and ‘I am not’
  • Faith is based on God’s ability, character and promises … it is not based on always getting ‘our’ way … in fact, getting ‘His’ way and wanting it to be ‘our’ way is the objective
  • Faith confesses ‘God’s will, not mine, be done’.
  • Faith exercised is how we please God … confirming our belief, declaring our trust and exercising our passion to draw near to Him.
  • Faith grows according to the hand of God in the midst of all our circumstances and relationships … before taking any credit for endurance or steadfastness, remember Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith.
  • Faith, in small doses like a mustard seed, unleashes the great power of both the heavenly and abiding presence of God … Father, Son and Holy Spirit … IN and THRU our lives and the lives of those surrounding us … to do the impossible … ALL for the glory of God.

So what would you add or take away?

Bernie

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whose likeness and inscription indeed?

In our family devotion time last night we came upon Luke 20:19-26 where those very bastions of integrity and divinity – the scribes, chief priests and their spies – are trying to trick Jesus into protesting the taxes of Rome and consequently bringing down the wrath of the Roman Empire upon Himself, eliminating the pesky carpenter from Nazareth … how’s that for an opening?

You know, I can never read this passage without wanting to interject a couple of lines … I have bolded my editorial inserts below …

The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”

So then Jesus posed a question to the spies, “In whose image were you created? And whose inscription is upon your hearts?” In a prideful moment they quickly responded, “God’s.” (see Genesis 1:27, Jeremiah 31:33)

And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

(BTW … submit is a synonym of the word render …)

Amazed, indeed!

Any questions?

Bernie

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an interesting Bible study idea re Psalm 119

I encountered this little tidbit of wisdom while reading Ancient Paths: Rediscovering Delight in the Word of God by Corey Russell. Read and consider …

‘Matthew Henry, a theologian and minister of the 17th century best known for publishing a commentary on the entire Bible recounts how his father recommended he read Psalm 119 in order to cultivate a love for the Scriptures:

“Once pressing the Study of the Scriptures, he advised to take a Verse of Psalm 119 every Morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in the year, and that (saith he) will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scripture; and he often said, All grace grows, as love to the Word of God grows.”’

While I have yet to give this a try, Lord willing, it may be in my future … and I love to read that such a saint as Matthew Henry was taught by his father how to develop a love for the Scripture … one day may some or all of my children and/or grandchildren say the same thing of me … ALL glory to God!!!

And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. Psalm 119:47 (KJV)

May it be so in my life as it was in David’s Lord!

Bernie

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the power in the unsaid … Jesus and the rich young man

In some reading last night, I once again discovered the account of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man and I saw some things with a different insight … consider this passage …

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV)

This is such a fascinating and interesting encounter and conversation … one that way too often is explained away … vs. really being taught. And it seems to me that there is as much depth and insight in what Jesus left unsaid as what He actually said. Quite frankly, the rich young man was not ready for the truth … and it seems like Jesus knew that. After all … after Jesus told him there is only one who is good, he still thought he had a chance …

This young man … like many of us since … was looking for a way he could save himself. But the truth … a man cannot save himself unto eternal life … only Jesus Saves. In John 14:6 Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

But alas Jesus give the man an opportunity to do a true assessment of his righteousness based on personal obedience … an assessment which if honestly conducted would have revealed the futility in his question. But the man’s response ‘Which ones?’ discloses that he did not believe ALL commandments must be kept. And yet James 2:10 reveals, ‘For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it’ … and that accountability is in the form of death … not eternal life.

And Jesus continues to go along with the questioning of this young man … listing only six commandments … all commandments from a horizontal perspective. He even touched on the second greatest commandment.   But there was one glaring omission of the horizontal Ten Commandments … you shall not covet. A commandment many a rich young man has struggled with … and one he was struggling with even in this whole conversation about obtaining eternal life. (BTW … covet is defined as to want something you do not have … very much).

Also interestingly enough, Jesus did not address the Ten Commandments from the vertical perspective … including the greatest commandment (You shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself any graven image, You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind). From all we see here, it is doubtful the rich young man could have done much better assessing his obedience to these commandments … I know I would have difficulty doing an honest assessment of my obedience to these vertical commands.

Yet the rich young ruler then declares of the listed horizontal commandments ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Then Jesus very subtly raises the bar from good and prepares the rich young man to enter into his moment of truth … if you would be perfect

Jesus then instructs the young man how to take his earthly treasure that will fade away and convert them into heavenly treasures … an act that would ultimately reveal where his heart was truly abiding. Unfortunately, the man went away sorrowful revealing the true state of his heart … something he had been unable to see otherwise.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

As you may have noted the teaching above occurred during the Sermon on the Mount and prior to Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man as does the passage that follows … with a penetrating message that regarding the rich young man is really self-explanatory.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)

Reflecting and considering what ALL these passages of Scripture have to teach me …

Teach me Holy Spirit … teach me!!!

Bernie

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cancer and the promise of Romans 8 28

When I’m faced with trials and tribulations like the latest cancer news, there tends to be a number of steps or phase I go through … not all of them I’m sure as God desires. The good news is I am aware of where I falter and I have no doubt that God is working and growing me in those areas with every trial …

Maybe you can relate …

Oftentimes, at the onset of one of these trials my first response is laced with worry, anxiety, fear and doubt … either because it’s something I don’t understand, I really don’t want to go through or I just can’t visualize a ‘happy ending’ outcome. Next, comes a bit of withdrawal … maybe even a bit of a lockdown … the door of communication is closed to those around me who love me … specifically my wife and my Lord and Savior. Then both my wife and Jesus starts knocking at that door … knowing that where I currently am is destructive and accomplishes nothing. And then the dimmer switch on the Light in my faith closet begins to be turned up to bright as the Lord lifts me up out of myself and IN to Him and His love and presence.

The faith journey resumes once again … in conversation with my wife, in prayer with God, in reading the Scripture. As recorded in God’s word, revealed by the Holy Spirit, and even experienced in my personal life I sense myself being led to passages and verses on God’s attributes/character, God’s love, God’s promises and God’s expectations of us in the midst of trials and tribulations.

It would seem to me that my faith and hope is grounded in a constant reminder of those four aspects of God … and when I need them most is not the time to run away from them or from God … it is the time to run to God. And for me, this is usually easier said than done. But hopefully, in time, these will become my first responses.  After all, Jesus has already won this battle … that truth just needs to become a living realization in my walk of faith.

Today just wanted to share another devotional from John Piper’s e-mail / app devotional Solid Joys. Read and consider the power of the promise found in Romans 8:28 … that is exactly what I’m doing today!

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Devotional for April 2

Better Than Everest

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest.

Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside Romans 8:28, all is confusion and anxiety and fear and uncertainty. Outside this promise of God’s all-encompassing future grace, there are straw houses of drugs and pornography and dozens of futile diversions. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. There are card-board fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and antiballistic missiles. Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28.

Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28, everything changes. There come into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown over anymore. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.

When God’s people really live by the future grace of Romans 8:28 – from measles to the mortuary – they are the freest and strongest and most generous people in the world.

Their light shines and people give glory to their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)

http://solidjoys.desiringgod.org/en/devotionals/better-than-everest

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Thank you Pastor Piper for the reminder … thank you Lord for your promises!!!

May it be Your will that I faithfully live inside the walls and promise of Romans 8:28!

Bernie

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