Archive for the ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ’ Category

Why did Jesus speak in parables?

December 8, 2018

Parable of the Sower - Matthew 13 - Seed, Soil, wayside, stony ...HT graphic:  gbcdecatur.org

That’s a question that Ligonier.org – The teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul answers in a video presentation. There is also a transcript to read.

Excerpt:
He actually answers that question Himself, or gives one answer to it, when He tells the parable of the sower and the soils and His disciples don’t get it. They come to Him and say, “What was that all about?” and He explains it to them.

He says, “I’m giving these explanations to you because you’re my disciples. But one of the reasons I tell these parables is because when I tell the parables it actually makes clear whether people really grasp the meaning of the kingdom or not.” (See Matthew 13:11-17, Mark 4:10-12, or Luke 8:9-10.)

I don’t know if it’s said so often these days, but there was a time when people constantly said to ministers, “You should tell more stories like Jesus so that we can understand.” But Jesus didn’t tell these parables so much so that people would understand. They were really test cases of whether they understood the gospel that He preached in other words. When you think about it, that’s the case.

The Parable of the Sower is the gateway to all of the parables of Jesus.

Parable of the Sower | BibleOpia BlogThis explains why people can be at different levels of belief in their lifetimes.  It explains why people can “fall away” from faith in Jesus Christ.  The Bible is an honest book, telling us the truth about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, while also informing us about the sins, errors and failings of mankind.

Personally, I have gone through several “crises of faith” in my 64 years on this earth.  A person who once loved (the agape kind in Christ, no less!) my husband and I made a sudden and devastating decision to abandon us.  Why?  Over a simple argument that could have easily been resolved.  In addition, he also rejected any family members, friends, acquaintances that he perceived as “siding” with us.  This occurred over a year ago, but when it first happened I cried day and night for three months.  I thought, how could this person do such a drastic, painful and heartless thing? Where is the forgiveness?  Where is the reconciliation?   I asked and prayed, “God?  Where are you in this?”  Now, I realize that it is a situation that needs to be resolved in the life of this person.  We are just the “collateral damage,” so to speak.  If this person is supposed to be a true Christian, then why this rejection, even after apologizing and asking for forgiveness?

Apparently, a person can reject those that he used to love unconditionally; and be totally indifferent about it.

Last Christmas, the pastor mentioned to pray for those who are in estrangement situations.  Much weeping and sniffling could be heard from the congregation.  I never knew how prevalent the act of disowning family members was until I did some research on it.  Rejection hurts – terribly!  But with faith and love in Jesus Christ, we can overcome.  Why?  Because He has “overcome the world” through His death and resurrection to life!  In eternity, there will be no tears, pain, hate, indifference, warfare, sin, or rejection.  Why?  Because the imperfect world we live in now will be gone, and a new life of love, peace, joy and worship of God will replace all of those negative and painful things that we endure while on this earth!  That is why the lovely list (love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, goodness) in “the fruit of the Spirit” also contains the term longsuffering.

As Jesus told us in Scripture, there will be those who will reject Him – and the Gospel.  Then, why would we ever expect to never be rejected by people who have obviously been negatively convinced against us?  I really don’t know how this person can live with himself.  It’s very sad.  However, people make bad choices all the time and then need to live with possible regret and future consequences.

Moving on with this post.

One of the more popular posts here at this blog is entitled, The Importance of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares.

Within that post, we also read about the Parable of the Sower:

Jesus told us that there will be those who will reject the Gospel in the Parable of the Sower

Mat 13:18

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower:

Mat 13:19

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

Mat 13:20

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

Mat 13:21

“yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Mat 13:22

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Mat 13:23

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

As Christian evangelists, we are to “plant the seed” through spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God does the rest! The verses in Matthew reveal the many ways that a person who hears the Gospel either “goes by the wayside,” or, “receives it with joy but only endures for while and then stumbles because of persecution,” or,  “allows the word to be choked out because of the cares of this world and deceitfulness of riches.” All of these can cause a person to become unfruitful.

We may inquire further to discover what Jesus meant when he stated (in Matthew 13:23) “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it.”

David Guzik has a good commentary about that verse:

d. Good ground: As seed falling on good ground brings a good crop of grain (Matthew 13:8), so some respond rightly to the word and bear much fruit.

i. This soil represents those who receive the word, and it bears fruit in their soil – in differing proportions (some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty), though each has a generous harvest.

e. Therefore, hear the parable of the sower: We benefit from seeing bits of ourselves in all four soils.
– Like the wayside, sometimes we allow the word no room at all in our lives. – Like the stony places, we sometimes have flashes of enthusiasm in receiving the word that quickly burn out. – Like the soil among thorns, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are constantly threatening to choke out God’s word and our fruitfulness. – Like the good ground, the word bears fruit in our lives.

i. We notice that the difference in each category was with the soil itself. The same seed was cast by the same sower. You could not blame the differences in results on the sower or on the seed, but only on the soil. “O my dear hearers, you undergo a test today! Peradventure you will be judging the preacher, but a greater than the preacher will be judging you, for the Word itself shall judge you.” (Spurgeon)

 

Guzik goes on to reveal another aspect of this parable, and it has to do with “good soil” and ultimately asking ourselves, “what kind of soil am I?”

ii. The parable was also an encouragement to the disciples. Even though it might seem that few respond, God is in control and the harvest will certainly come. This was especially meaningful in light of the rising opposition to Jesus. “Not all will respond, but there will be some who do, and the harvest will be rich.” (France)

iii. “Who knoweth, O teacher, when thou labourest even among the infants, what the result of thy teaching may be? Good corn may grow in very small fields.” (Spurgeon)

iv. Even more than describing the mixed progress of the gospel message, the parable of the sower compels the listener to ask, “What kind of soil am I?”

The Ligonier essay continues:

Think about the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). We all know what the answer is to the question “Which man went down justified?” but that’s only because we don’t really grasp the parable. Nobody listening to Jesus thought it would be the tax collector who went away from the temple justified.

I sometimes say to people, “Just think about these two men. You’re an evangelical Christian. Which of these two are you more like? Don’t you say to God, ‘I thank you that I’m not like other men’; ‘I thank you that you’ve helped me to discipline my life’; ‘I thank you that you’ve helped me to give away money rather than hoard money’? When you begin to think of those things, actually you sound more like the Pharisee.” And that’s very, very uncomfortable: to discover that, even though you trust in Christ, there’s a Pharisee deep down inside you.

Jesus tells these parables to probe inside us to see whether we really understand the gospel and whether the gospel is really beginning to transform our lives.

They’re not just stories. They’re weapons in spiritual warfare.

Hat tip: Ligonier.org

How Biblically Illiterate America is Being Deceived

September 24, 2018

Back in September of 2016, someone recommended that I should read a book entitled, “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle.  In a previous post, I asked the question what do you think about Eckhart Tolle?   One of Talk Wisdom’s long time readers wrote that the book helped her and in her opinion, perhaps I was being too judgmental against the young man who had encouraged me to read it.

She wrote:

I decided to comment because I have read the power of now and I love it! I think it is a beautiful ode to Jesus’ teachings. I did not get anything but messages of love from it and I too felt compelled to share it as I share bible verses. I guess your post made me feel bad about that, as if I was somehow not as good of a Christian when this book has brought me nothing but joy and strength in my Christianity.

Of course, it isn’t my intention to harm anyone’s “joy and strength in [their] Christianity.”  However, we are warned in the book of Jude* that there will be “certain men [who] have crept in unnoticed” who are “ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God[fn] and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Readers can to go that previous link (above) to read the rest of the conversation.

Today, I read a very comprehensive post about Tolle and his book at CIC Ministry.org.

I need to acknowledge Truth 2 Freedom’s blog for sharing an excerpt from that commentary which led me to the CIC Ministry website.

First, I want to say that I understand that many people are on their own life’s journey and along the way, they may find themselves taking a “detour” while searching for truth.  Been there, done that!  I was raised in the Catholic church, and when I read and studied the Bible, the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus Christ led me towards the need to be born again.

[Please see John 3 and this excellent commentary.]

When individuals find something that works for them (in the here and now) as did Tolle’s book for both the young man in my previous post and commenter Jennifer, my goal is not to disparage them in any way. My goal is to hopefully steer them toward God’s truth – which is found only in the Bible.

Here is an excerpt from the CIC Ministry essay:

The “Pain-body” and Interconnectedness

 

A common theme in neo-paganism is the transpersonal soul and interconnectedness of all things.6 Tolle’s pantheism has the same theme. In his case he posits the existence of a “pain-body” which is something like karma. He says:

 

Strictly speaking, you don’t think: Thinking happens to you . . . The voice in the head has a life of its own. Most people are at the mercy of that voice; they are possessed by thought, by the mind. And since the mind is conditioned by the past, you are forced to reenact the past again and again. The Eastern term for this is karma. (Tolle: 129)

Tolle explains that we have been “mind-possessed” and a false self (ego) has developed that is identified with the mind and thinking (which is a bad thing). The emotions are also a dimension of the ego and they are problematic as well. Then there is the “pain-body” that connects us to all the negative vibrations of the human race. Our problems are not just ours, but those of the unconscious human race who went before us. Tolle describes the “pain-body” in its individual manifestation:

 

The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. It consists not just of childhood pain, but also painful emotions that were added to it later in adolescence and during your adult life, much of it created by the voice of the ego [i.e. thinking]. It is the emotional pain that is your unavoidable companion when a false sense of self is the basis of your life. (Tolle: 142)

Keep in mind that the “false sense of self” is the belief that we have a unique, independent existence, that our personal identities are meaningful, and that our unique identities can be defined objectively. The true self is consciousness of Presence, I Am, Now, and other ways of describing deity. It appears to me that Tolle’s pain-body idea is a replacement for the biblical idea of sin. Our problem is not that we have rebelled against the unique creator God who has given us His moral law, but that we have allowed our thoughts, emotions, and addiction to forms to define us and keep us from becoming conscious (i.e., aware of our deity).

In this scheme of things, there is also interconnectivity or collective karma:

 

The pain-body, however, is not just individual in nature. It also partakes of the pain suffered by countless humans throughout the history of humanity, which is a history of continuous tribal warfare, of enslavement, pillage, rape, torture, and other forms of violence. This pain still lives in the collective psyche of humanity and is being added to on a daily basis. (Tolle: 142, 143)

So this “pain-body” is a huge problem, endemic to the human race, and the cause of the many problems we encounter. The solution for Tolle, of course, is to realize that it is illusion, escape from thought that attaches us to ego, and awaken to our real identity as I Am.

Christ has a role in helping us with this problem of pain-body suffering:

 

Why is the suffering body of Christ, his face distorted in agony and his body bleeding from countless wounds, such a significant image in the collective consciousness of humanity? Millions of people, particularly in medieval times, would not have related to it as deeply as they did if something within themselves had not resonated with it, if they had not unconsciously recognized it as an outer representation of their own inner reality—the pain-body. . . . Christ can be seen as the archetypal human, embodying both the pain and the possibility of transcendence. (Tolle: 144)

Tolle introduces the idea of Christ, and cites Jesus often as a teacher of the new consciousness. But he makes no effort to actually understand what the Bible tells us about the person and work of Christ. Christ came to die for sins, not to embody pain and possible transcendence. God’s wrath is directed against sin. That wrath is satisfied for believers by the once-for-all shed blood that Christ offered. The new consciousness “Christ” that Tolle describes is not the Christ of the Bible. We do not need to merely identify with Christ as the one suffering pain, but to repent and believe the gospel. But that idea will not be presented by Oprah through her huge media network. Instead, Tolle and his ilk get massive promotion. People are attracted to such a “Christ,” but this attraction does them no good; rather it leads them to further deception.

Take note that the ideas presented by Tolle are offered as the wisdom of the spiritual masters that he has gleaned, modified, and presented as the means of obtaining the “new earth.” He sees no need to present evidence or proof that the universe is as he says it is. It would be counterproductive, in his way of thinking, to do so. Why? Because evidence causes our minds to spring into action and analyze things, and thoughts are the problem—the awakened consciousness is the solution.

Thus we see odd claims tossed our way with no evidence reinforce them. Consider these statements:

 

Thoughts consist of the same energy vibrating at a higher frequency than matter, which is why they cannot be seen or touched. Thoughts have their own range of frequencies, with negative thoughts at the lower end of the scale and positive thoughts at the higher. The vibrational frequency of the pain-body resonates with that of negative thoughts. (Tolle: 147)Thus our collective pain-body is attracted to negative thoughts, which causes addiction to unhappiness. Here is why: “This is because the pain-body at that time [when you have negative thoughts] is living through you, pretending to be you. And to the pain-body, pain is pleasure” (Tolle: 147).

I think this sort of idea is what attracts many people to the Oprah/Tolle understanding of spirituality. If the negative thoughts their listeners and readers wish to be rid of are merely a pain-body (that is, not them) resonating at a lower frequency, then perhaps finding a different state of consciousness would solve the problem. The problem is not our own sin and guilt, but an unfortunate equating the interconnected pain and guilt of unconscious humanity with who we really are. If we find a way to awaken to the reality of our own divinity, all that pain will instantly disappear. It will be seen for the unreality it is.

But is there any reason to believe this material which has no evidence for its veracity? What if it is all a lie and our guilt really is our guilt and it needs expiation not relegation to the category of “illusion”?

Good question, isn’t it?

There is much, much more to read, so I suggest going over to CIC Ministry.org to read the entire commentary.

Today, there are so many different viewpoints being expressed by various Christian denominations, it can be difficult to ascertain what is truth via the Bible vs. human errors that can be taught due to social and politically “correct” ideology.

With that said, I also suggest reading about the Berean Bible Society.  People may ask, what does Berean mean?

Answer:

What is a “berean” anyway?

Thanks for asking. We get asked that a lot. Being called a Berean comes from Acts 17:10-11. In verse 11 it says that those from Berea (hence, the Bereans) were nobler than the people in Thessalonica because they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”So, when we say that someone is a “Berean” we mean that they do two things: (1) They have an open mind and willingly receive the Word of God when it is taught to them and (2) But then, they check out what they were taught by comparing it with the Scriptures.Both aspects are important. Some people are so closed-minded that they will not even listen to anything new or that might threaten what they already know. Others are so gullible that they accept whatever is told them without ever checking it against what the Bible says. Both extremes are to be avoided.

A Berean is one who has a balanced viewpoint. We listen to what someone has to say because we are eager to learn the word of God more perfectly. We realize that we have not learned it all. But then, we take what we have heard and compare it with the Bible. Then, if both match, we have learned something and increased our knowledge of God’s Word, rightly divided.

*******

*Jude 1:4
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God[fn] and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I truly believe that it is more compassionate to share the truth of the Bible with people who may get trapped in deception!

And yes!  It can be painful for both the person currently “in the fire” as well as the Christian who is trying to “pull them out of the fire,” right?

Isn’t the reward of eternal life worth it?

Jude 1:20
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

Jude 1:21
keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Jude 1:22
And on some have compassion, making a distinction;[fn]

Jude 1:23
but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire,[fn] hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Jude 1:24
Now to Him who is able to keep you[fn] from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Jude 1:25
To God our Savior,[fn]
Who alone is wise,[fn]
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,[fn]
Both now and forever.
Amen.

Hat tips to all links.

Basic Training – Being Berean: 8 Steps for Comparing Teaching to Scripture by Michelle Lesley

September 14, 2018

In the past here at Talk Wisdom, I have often mentioned the need for Christians to be “Berean” in their beliefs regarding discernment while examining the Scriptures and also when sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  My previous posts are listed at this link.

Today, I found a great blog written by a Christian woman named Michelle Lesley.  Her recent post entitled Basic Training Being Berean: 8 Steps for Comparing Teaching to Scripture is one of the best I have ever found on this topic!

The post is excellent and very thorough in describing exactly why we, as Christians, need to follow the “Berean Way.” It is also a guideline on discernment when evaluating churches, the pastors that lead them, the teachings that are given at churches as well as the various teachings one may find through all of social media online.  The importance of utilizing  discernment and the “plumb line of Scripture” is that which establishes what we are to deem as truth vs. error by those who claim to be Christians.

Excerpt:

How do you know if what your pastor, you Sunday School teacher, your favorite podcast preacher, or your favorite Christian author is teaching you matches up with what the Bible actually says?

Did you know that you’re supposed to examine what you hear and read by the measuring stick of Scripture and reject anything that conflicts with it? Or do you just take for granted that if someone is a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity, he must know what he’s talking about, and what you’re hearing or reading must be biblical Christianity?

If you didn’t know you need to examine what you’re being taught, or you’ve always just assumed that if someone calls herself a Christian teacher what she’s saying must be biblical, sadly, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the overwhelming majority of the visible church. I’ve been a faithful church member all my life and, to this day, in the churches I’ve attended, I’ve never heard a pastor or teacher proactively preach or teach this biblical concept. I was nearly forty when I “stumbled across” the concept of being a good Berean – through a para-church ministry.

What does it mean to be a Berean, or discerning, or to “test the spirits”?

The term “Berean” comes from a little story in Acts:

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
Acts 17:10-12

“Testing the spirits” comes from 1 John 4:1:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Some Christians have an extra measure of discernment – “distinguishing between spirits” – as a spiritual gift:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;…to another [is given] the ability to distinguish between spirits,
1 Corinthians 12:4,10b

But all of these passages have the same foundational concept. All Christians are to believe what rightly handled, in context Scripture teaches, and reject whatever contradicts it. Although it is the responsibility of our pastors and church leaders to teach and lead us to distinguish between true and false doctrine, we are not to depend solely on others to “do discernment” for us. We need to learn how to be good Bereans ourselves.

How do we go about that?

 

Read the rest HERE.

 

Hat tips to all links and graphic sites.


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