This is a question that was asked by Pilot of Jesus over 2000 years ago and I would guess it’s a question still asked today. Although most don’t go around asking the literal question, because so many are completely blinded to truth. They will say they speak the truth, and would be offended if they were called a liar, but isn’t it “true” that we are all liars? (Romans 3:13)
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” – John 18:38
Certainly we’ve all exaggerated the truth, or “stretched the truth”.
We all have told flat out lies in order to protect ourselves from something, so it’s undoubtedly true that all have lied and we are all in need of the truth, but I go back to the question, what is truth? Is it a noun or a verb? Is it something we can grasp and hold onto or just something we do or don’t do?
John 17:17-18 Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
In very plain language Jesus tells us the answer. The word of God IS truth!
This is unbelievable for most people, but Scripture reveals this to us throughout its pages and therefore, we must not take this for a true truth, or one of those things we just know and forget about. Like the truth that you woke up breathing this morning. Did you forget what a miracle that was? Or when you turned on the light switch, light just appeared? How often do we just forget the simple fact that God’s word is true?
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul…
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple…
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart…
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes…
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever…
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold…
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb…
Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11
Before our souls were converted by the truth of God’s word, everything we held dear, every thought we had, every desire of our heart was wrong. That is a bold statement right? How can I say that?
Before salvation our hearts were wicked and unable to please God, so no matter how “good” your intentions, or no matter how noble your desires, they are unable to make you right for salvation. Your good intentions are still at best self-seeking and we are blind to the deceitfulness of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).
We can’t even begin to get our minds around this because we like ourselves. We are deceived by sin.
Psalm 19:12-14 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
Only through the truth of God’s word can one be made right with God and bring wisdom to salvation. It’s the truth of the matter. As a wicked and dying world scoff and deny this truth, we beloved, have the opportunity to tell them what IS “truth”. We can share the good news, there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem, that death could not conquer God, nor thwart His plan. That’s the truth.
Who was Noah? He’s getting a lot of attention these days because of a movie, but those that have knowledge of the Biblical Noah, see a very different man than portrayed by Russell Crowe.
Genesis 6:9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.
Is this a contradiction in the Bible? Is it possible that Noah could actually be just and perfect?
The word in Hebrew is tsad-deek’ which means just, lawful, righteous (man), and the word perfect (taw-meem’) means without blemish, complete, full, perfect. These words really mean what we think they mean but how is this possible?
In just a few more chapters we will see that after the flood Noah has a vineyard and became drunk (Genesis 9:20-21). How can we reconcile this? 1 Corinthians 6:10 tells us that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We see similar language with Job. There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1)
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans that there are none righteous…Romans 3:10-11 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is one who understands; There is none who seeks after God…”
Paul is quoting from the book of Psalms here and referencing Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3 and we also see this in Isaiah.
Isaiah 64:6-7 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities.
Our iniquities have taken us away from God, the word means perversity, or moral evil, fault, iniquity, mischief or sin. We all understand that we clearly have sin, don’t we? Did Noah and Job somehow perform better at keeping God’s law and finding favor with Him than we are capable of today?
If we really think about it, it seems there would have been fewer distractions and less opportunity for sin doesn’t it? No television to watch, the women wore those bland gowns and not the tight shorts we see girls wearing today, but yet when we read about the wickedness of man in Genesis chapter 6 it appears that sin was every bit as rampant as it is today.
So how can Noah really be a righteous man?
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Do we see it?
Faith is the answer, it’s the only that can save and cause us to be righteous.
Our righteousness is only found in faith in Christ and that faith was every bit as present in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. To be complete in our understanding of Scripture we can’t be “only” New Testament Christians. We must believe that by faith God has been working all through redemptive history to draw His people to Himself.
This is no small concept for us today, because if we don’t grasp this, we don’t grasp the reality of God working in His elect all throughout time. We will miss how the whole of Scripture is pointing to Jesus. How He satisfied the righteous requirements of the law and that it is all about faith in Him, not something we can perform to be good enough.
Look how clearly Paul tells us this truth.
Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This is an awesome statement about God and what He has done. There is no righteousness outside of faith in Christ. There is no possibility of pleasing God by our own hand. There is only faith in Christ to save us from our sin. This is the whole narrative behind Noah’s story. He wasn’t righteous and just because of who he was. He’s righteous and just because of who Christ is.
Can we see the humbling reality of how big this makes God? If we think we have something good to offer, or somehow we bring anything but our poor wretched selves to the table, we are deadly wrong. Everything the Bible shows us is about God. If it’s about us then we are serving the wrong god.
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 And we have such truth through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
If this does not bring you to your knees consider that your knowledge of Him is what He can do for you, not what you can do for Him. If He is your Lord then you will serve Him out of a pure heart to know Him more intimately and serve Him with urgency, for His profit and for His glory, not for your benefit.
As I mentioned last week we don’t think very much about sheep in this day and age and it’s logical that we think little about shepherds. The role of a shepherd has changed in this modern day and it doesn’t have the same meaning it had in biblical times. The work of a shepherd still exists today in areas of the world and people still care for sheep in the way that the scripture describes for us.
Let’s take a look at why the role of shepherd is important today for those of us that call ourselves Christians. The word shepherd quite obviously comes from the joining of the two words sheep and herd. So a shepherd is one who herds sheep. It can also mean pastor or one that works in the “pastures”.
1 Samuel 16:11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”
Isn’t it interesting that David was a shepherd, the man after God’s own heart and would be the first acceptable King, started as a lowly shepherd. We also see that Abraham, Moses, Jacob all were shepherds. Jesus described Himself as the “Good Shepherd” that lays down His life for His sheep. The metaphorical use of shepherding and the important role of shepherds are as significant for us today as it was in the times of Christ.
We can see that God uses the lowly to reveal His greatness. Shepherds were considered the bottom rung of society, shepherding was not a glamorous job. It was a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job. Sheep never stop being sheep. They need constant care and watching over. We saw in the article about sheep that they need constant watch because there is so much danger for them. They easily contract illness and cuts which can cause disease. They are very susceptible to attack from predators.
So you might say, “Well this is moderately interesting but how does it affect us today?”
There is a tremendous amount of New Testament application to the role of being a shepherd, but for the sake of this article, being shepherded. What does it mean to be shepherded by those called to be shepherds?
Ephesians 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
As established above the word pastor here is the same word as shepherd (poimēn) which means literally or figuratively to be a shepherd or a pastor. We can see that Christ Himself has appointed men in your life to be your pastor, for what purpose…for the purpose of equipping you for the work of ministry and the edifying of the body.
This really is the primary purpose of the church and the work of those that are in ministry as pastors and elders. It’s not to stand on the stage and give you a pep talk about life, or provide you with a motivational speech to keep you going until next week.
The pastors job is bring the weight of scripture to bear upon your life. That you would be edified and equipped for the work God has for you. Not to fill the seats with his wonderful charm and quick-wit.
The shepherd will do the unpopular things to keep his sheep healthy. He will pin them down and pull bot flies out of their infected flesh. Doesn’t this make the 23rd Psalm come to life?
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures…” Just think about this for a moment, it’s not your own desire to lie down in a green pasture, you must be made to do it.
“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” If you are a child of the King you will be led on the path of righteousness, for His name’s sake.
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Sometimes the shepherd must use the rod to correct, even when it’s unpopular.
1 Peter 5:2-4 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
What an overwhelming charge give to those that Christ has appointed. They are told to be examples and overseers. They are accountable for souls, and we generally just want to be sheep, right? We desire our own way, and we might want some accountability, but not too much.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Here is a charge to us sheep. We are to willingly place ourselves under the authority of our shepherds, as we willingly place ourselves under the authority of Christ. We have established earlier by looking at Ephesians 4:11 that Christ Himself has placed those shepherds and now we must obey and be submissive.
Because it is profitable for us! Doesn’t it make sense that when sheep have illness and disease and the shepherd digs out the nasty infection that can kill his sheep; that is profitable for that sheep? Do we make that connection? Have you considered the last time you fought against God’s desire for your life and you refused to obey or submit? If your shepherd was faithful in his calling, he did his job.
Did you fulfill your requirement?
May we humble ourselves today, for the plan God has put in place for the profit of His people.
Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may it more abundantly. John 10:7-10
What are sheep, and what is the significance of them in the Bible?
Most people will read their Bibles and rarely consider the importance of the reason Jesus uses this metaphor to describe believers. The majority of us live in urban areas and the most we think of sheep is when we see a mattress commercial showing us the imagery of counting sheep. It’s just not something we think much about.
In our modern society being compared to sheep is very insulting, as we think sheep are stupid, they are followers, and are most often led to slaughter. Everyone wants to be a leader; nobody wants to be a follower. We want to be strong-willed, independent and self sufficient. This is the American way. To be otherwise is weak and needy.
On our recent trip to Israel, for the first time in my life, I saw sheep grazing on the hillsides and actual shepherds walking with them. It was quite an incredible scene. The shepherds are a group called Bedouins and they are nomadic Arabs, they live a very simplistic life in the hills surrounding Jerusalem.
Sheep are very needy and this is one of the reasons most people have no interest in being associated with this idea of being one. Sheep would not last long if left to their own devices; they are easy targets for predators having very little natural defenses. This is why sheep flock together, which provides protection. Those that act independently are an easy target for predators.
Sheep need lots of personal attention and care; they often wander off and when left on their own will not live long. A small cut can lead to infection that will quickly kill them, and because they are easily preyed upon sheep naturally hide their weaknesses and illness. Sheep are very susceptible to external parasites, such as bot flies that will lay their larvae into the flesh and it will eventually cause death if left untreated. A shepherd must be diligent to inspect the condition of his flocks.
Despite what most people believe, sheep are not stupid, although they behave “stupidly” and not generally for their own benefit. They have the ability to understand human voices and even know their names. They will follow their shepherd and not another, but instead flee.
“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of stranger.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. John 10:3-6.
How many people really understand this illustration? Isn’t this still true today? Do you really want to think of yourself in this way? This may be a good barometer of your spiritual health. Are you independent of the church and mostly do your own thing, or do you desire to be led as though you realize you need shepherding.
Sheep don’t think about the fact they need a shepherd, it’s just a reality that they do.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38
Next time we will take a look at the role of the shepherd and Christ being the Chief Shepherd.
And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” And they remembered His words. – Luke 24:4-8
This past weekend I had a business trip and had the opportunity to have dinner with some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was a very enjoyable time, and the food was great. One of my friends was interested in our recent trip to Israel. So I spent some time going through a few pictures and talking about the trip.
He asked an excellent question to begin the conversation, wondering if this had deepened my faith. One of the things about walking where Jesus walked is just that. If you “believe”, and I mean really believe it can’t help but deepen your faith.
I told my friend that “belief” and faith are a gift of God, and I can attempt to prove things to people but without the gift it’s an intellectual belief and not an awakening of the heart belief that distinguishes the true believer from the false believer. As James writes, even the demons believe… (James 2:19) So if we see that the demons believe, we must realize there is a different kind of belief.
This is the difference between life altering beliefs, and just “oh yes, of course I believe in god”. The gift of God that comes through understanding His revealed will to mankind through His word. Living and desiring obedience in all areas of your life.
I’ve been continually reminded, especially recently, of the way the human heart can deceive. There is such a razor thin line between what most people will believe as obedience, and what God looks on as obedience. This is the thin line between eternity in heaven or hell. God is deadly serious about our obedience, not that it can save you, but it is the proof of your salvation.
As our conversation progressed through the evening my friend asked me an almost startling question. It surprised me because I hadn’t even considered it. He said to me, “where do you think Jesus’ bones are today?” And then he told me about a National Geographic program that they thought they had discovered the bones of Christ.
Uhhh…. Wow, I really hadn’t considered that.
I told my friend that my worldview, doesn’t allow for that. If I believe the Bible, which I do, the Bible tells us Christ is alive, and He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He was crucified, and raised from the dead. If we don’t have this, then we don’t have Christianity. It’s just another dead faith like Buddhism, Islam or hundreds of other false religions. They have no hope in anything other than their own righteous acts.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
This is crystal clear! We have eyes witness accounts that saw Christ crucified, Old Testament Scripture prophesied that He would die, prophesied that He would rise again and then we have over five hundred eye witness accounts of Him alive. I have no opportunity in my life to believe anything other than this. This is the truth and the cutting of God’s word.
If I disbelieve anything in the Bible, I disbelieve it all. I can’t have it any other way.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
I hope in the substance of God’s word, and there is evidence of things that I personally have not seen, but it’s not a blind and ridiculous faith. It’s not a faith that requires me to do things to obtain favor with God and earn my salvation. It’s faith that by God’s good pleasure, He chose to save me, yet I must believe and I’m responsible not to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
All around us today are people that have some sort of an intellectual understanding and a surface level belief in a god, yet don’t know the One True God of the Bible in an intimate way. This God must be believed to inherit eternal life, or the price of disobedience and disbelief will be eternal separation from Him and anything good. A place of torment, where the God that poured out His wrath on His Son to pay for sin, will in turn be poured out on those in disbelief.
That’s what the Bible teaches and we can choose to ignore, disbelieve or whatever form of denial we might want to employ, but it doesn’t change that reality. Why?
Because He is Alive!
Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
If this is news to you please consider what the Bible has to teach us about God, if you are a believer He is there with the Father making intercession for you and me.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Is God just in damning men eternally to hell?
Don’t pass over this question, because this is one of the hardest questions the Believer and non-believer will ever wrestle with. I admittedly struggle with it myself, because I know people that, unless God pours out His mercy, will spend eternity in hell. It really comes back to a fairness question in most people’s minds.
One of God’s attributes is justice and we can’t have a complete God without Him being just. I will not be able to completely cover this subject in one post and if you are bothered by this writing I’d encourage you to dig deeper, this writing is meant to arouse sleeping souls, and stir up Believers to preach the good news. Without the remedy of Christ we are all without hope.
As many question the validity of a place of judgment, Love asks, “Is God just in damning men eternally who sin temporarily in this life?” Even if someone lives only a brief time on earth, Love claims that such divine action is just for the following reasons. First, our punishment is not based on the amount of time that we sin, but on the fact that we sin, as when a thief is sentenced to prison for much longer than then the time it took him to break into a house. Second, we commit sin against an infinite God and so deserve infinite punishment, just as the penalty for striking a public person, such as a prince, is much greater than for striking an ordinary man in the street. Third, if we lived forever we would sin forever, or “as long as” we can, while we are alive. Fourth, we continue to sin in hell even after we leave earth, and so further provoke the wrath of God. Finally, even a momentary lapse into sin shows that we reject the infinite kindness of God and so deserve infinite punishment. That momentary sin justly brings eternal punishment ought to cause us to avoid “slight thoughts” of sin against an infinite and just God who imposes such torments, and any accusations of severity against Him for imposing them. Apart from His secret work of grace in salvation, He may even choose to do so in an infant who lives “but a minute in this world.” 
Most people will reject this. Most people that consider themselves Christians will reject this, and we must not shrink from the discussion. It will be unpopular. The question will always turn to the fairness of God. Friends, we do not want fair, we want grace and mercy. If God dealt in “fairness” we’d be without hope. It wasn’t fair that Christ suffered the wrath of God, the just for the unjust.
In connection with just in general comes a question related to the impartiality and universality of judgment; “Will most men and women in the world be tormented in hell?” Love believes that most will, and his confirmation of it he consider to be “one of the most dismal Doctrines” that a pastor can preach. First, most will go to hell because most do not look to Christ to deliver them from such a torment—whether Jews, Muslims, heathen, or Papists. Second, even among those who “profess Jesus Christ,” many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:14), as most are “either profane in life, or hypocrites in heart.” 
Love cites four additional reasons that most are destined for hell and in conclusion says “If most are to be damned, we must see the folly of allowing the opinions of the majority to lead us in life and should try our hearts to know whether we are of the few that will be saved. We should not be offended at the “fewness of the number of believers,” but lament over the majority that will face such torments, rouse ourselves from delusions of the great number of believers in the world, and not hold “any ill thoughts against the mercy of God” that most men perish. 
These words are painful for me to write, and humbling for me to consider. Many people that I know, many people that I love, many people that you know and love will spend their eternity under the wrath of God. Anything good we have now will be vanquished and only misery and torment will remain. No waking up the next day and a better day is on the horizon, only pain and suffering.
Today there is hope if you are in Christ. Are you a new creation? Have you turned to Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sin? Don’t fight against God and despise His truth, but turn to Him and be saved.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38
- Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 280-85. Cf. WCF, 10.3 and the Canons of Dort, 1.17.
- Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 286-300.
- Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 300-304.
We spent the final three days of our Israel journey in the city of Jerusalem which means “City of Peace”, and as we consider the tremendous turmoil and fighting that has taken place in this area I really have to consider what it means to have peace. True peace can only occur when we are in right relationship with God, not peace in the terms that so many think (Matthew 10:34-39). There will be peace someday, but that will only occur once Jesus returns.
Jerusalem sits atop a mountain, and in the Old Testament it is said to be the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2), we know this to be accurate as we look at 2 Chronicles 3:1 and we see Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. This really gives context to our reading when Jesus tells His disciples they are going “up” to Jerusalem when they are actually north of Jerusalem in the region of Judea after having come out of Galilee (Matthew 19:1). In our modern vernacular we generally refer to up and down by the direction of north or south.
Matthew 20:17-19 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify, And the third day He will rise again.”
Jerusalem is an incredibly busy and thriving city. It is a mix of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and pagan all living together in a hodge podge of interesting interaction. You would never know this by the news accounts. As we traveled from one section to another the contrast is stark. It’s pretty easy to identify the Muslim neighborhoods. To put it plainly they are trashy. They do not believe or care about keeping their neighborhoods clean. There is trash everywhere you look. I’m not saying this to be critical, even though the Jewish neighborhoods might be cleaner; they are both worshipping a false god, but to our minds we somehow want to equate external cleanliness with internal cleanliness. We know the Lord didn’t see it that way.
Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
There is so much to say about Jerusalem and all of the false worship that occurs in this city, and as the Jewish people rejected Christ as the Messiah they became idolaters.
Jesus’ words are so incredibly true and clear, when He said the road was narrow and that very few will find life, He meant it (Matthew 7:13-14) It’s overwhelming to me to see so many have missed the Savior and have invented a religion that attempts to gain favor with God by their own hands.
I was humbled to be able to pray where Jesus prayed as He knew what was before Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then to stand on the stones where the Roman guards cast lots for His clothing and see the road He would have bled. That precious blood that has washed away my sin is almost too much for me to consider. As Pastor’s Tim, Mike and Voddie prayed in that location there was not a dry eye as we considered the horrible price He paid to redeem His people. Then as we had an opportunity to see Golgotha and the spot He was crucified and the Garden Tomb where He laid, what else can I possibly say? His plan is perfect and we must submit to this God, the One True God. Satan can distract us so easily with shiny things and with religious systems that are really close to the truth, but are not the complete truth.
It was an amazing experience to see the Bible come to life and to see the incredible accuracy which the writers of the Scriptures have written. These were not simplistic and less sophisticated people, as so many want you to believe, but inspired men of God that wrote as the Holy Spirit inspired them (2 Peter 1:19-21).
I walk away from Israel with a desire to share the news of the One that came to earth and humbled Himself to His Father’s plan. I must share the Good News, because it’s “news” and it’s “good”. I must tell people that their sin separates them from a Holy God and that separation produces death, but God has provided a way for those that will place their trust in Him.
That is the Gospel. And that is what I learned in Israel.
As we continued our trek around Israel we hit some incredible locations such as Masada which was a mountain top fortress built by Herod the Great, and more notably was occupied by a group of Jewish rebels that held the fort against the Romans after the first revolt and ended in a mass suicide of 967 people.
We also toured the Qumran which was an ancient settlement of the Essenes, a Jewish sect that copied the Dead Sea Scrolls and hid them in the caves surrounding where they lived. They were what I would consider almost an ancient Puritan group. They lived communally, rejecting any sort of personal wealth, and focused on living pious lives. They not only copied the scriptures, they also wrote commentaries and expositions of the scriptures and a complete copy of the book of Isaiah was found which perfectly matches the Isaiah that we read today.
It was quite encouraging to climb the hills where David hid from Saul with 300 of his men. We saw the accuracy of God’s word as it says that David convinced his men not to kill Saul. I thought how could David carry on this conversation in a cave with 300 men and Saul not hear him? The cave is located with a fresh water spring that had a powerfully running stream down through it which would have concealed their voices.
1 Samuel 24:1-5 Now it happened, when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, “Take note! David is in the Wilderness of En Gedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats. (There are still wild goats roaming around there). So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave.) Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.
How incredible to see God’s word so convincingly come to life and affirm its incredible accuracy. For the Believer this trip was just a great confirmation of what we already know, God’s Word is truth. For the non-believer they will continue to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and ultimately bow before the King.
What I’ve most powerfully seen is the responsibility of the Believer to share the “Good News” because this world is dying in its sins and trespasses. Let’s be compassionate and tell them they need Jesus.
I had the best of intentions to post each day on our trip to the Holy Land, but REALLY bad internet connections, and super busy days seemed to win out. Since it was such a valuable experience I’ve decided to go back and post a few quick articles to summarize the trip. I might blend a couple together but I want to share the experience and encourage those who may consider a trip someday to definitely do so.
Each day has held a theme and today’s theme was true or false worship. There are many people that are very sincere in their worship; the problem is they are sincerely wrong. What is the difference between something that is true and something false?
God has given His people very specific guidelines for true worship. Believers must worship in Spirit and in Truth, so it is imperative that worship is done according to God’s plan not our own, no matter how that “feels”.
God has provided His word, the Bible, as the guide for how we are to worship.
If your church gathering is more concerned about pleasing people than it is about preaching with authority the word of God you may want to dig deeper into what is true worship.
When Jesus took his disciples up to Caesarea Philippi to reveal Himself to them, He took them to the center of pagan worship, the place pagan’s believed a cave was the entrance to the gates of hell. Jesus shows His disciples He is the source of true worship.
Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
Matthew 16:15-16 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
In ancient times and in modern times, those that depart from God’s commands for worship are either punished or chastened, having worship done correctly is a matter of life and death and Jesus took them to this region to show them the difference.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth and spent the majority of His ministry based out of Capernaum. This is hard to visually understand, because we’ve all heard these names but don’t really understand the relationship and what it would have been like to travel in those days. We just hop in a car and go.
As we took a boat ride today on the Sea of Galilee it came much more into focus for me. Capernaum was home base for Jesus and His disciples, and was a busy town of approximately 2000 people at the time of Christ.
It was here that Jesus performed many of His miracles and changed the course of world history.
Matthew 4:13-17 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the regioin and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Isaiah had prophesied this was the place the Lord would dwell and as we walked this area I was struck by what it must have been like in those days. These were not major metropolitan areas as we know today, just rural fishing villages, but yet all who lived there had busy lives interacting with each other, and Capernaum was a place of commerce and darkness as the scripture tells us.
Can you imagine how the arrival of the Christ turned their world upside down? Especially those He called to be His disciples. Ordinary, common fishermen would learn from Him and then go into the world to spread Christianity across the planet.
How amazing! What kind of a plan was this? Just like Paul would have never considered how God would use him, neither could those fishermen imagine they would become fisher’s of men.