Monday, November 28, 2011

Did Jesus Only Appear to be Human?

[Editor's note: Ignatius served as the third bishop and patriarch of Antioch and was a student of the apostle John. He died as a martyr in Rome soon after writing this letter.]

But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, He became man in appearance [only], that He did not in reality take unto Him a body, that He died in appearance [merely], and did not in very deed suffer, then for what reason am I now in bonds, and long to be exposed to the wild beasts? In such a case, I die in vain, and am guilty of falsehood against the cross of the Lord. Then also does the prophet in vain declare, "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn over themselves as over one beloved." These men, therefore, are not less unbelievers than were those that crucified Him.

But as for me, I do not place my hopes in one who died for me in appearance, but in reality. For that which is false is quite abhorrent to the truth. Mary then did truly conceive a body which had God inhabiting it. And God the Word was truly born of the Virgin, having clothed Himself with a body of like passions with our own. He who forms all men in the womb, was Himself really in the womb, and made for Himself a body of the seed of the Virgin, but without any intercourse of man. He was carried in the womb, even as we are, for the usual period of time; and was really born, as we also are; and was in reality nourished with milk, and partook of common meat and drink, even as we do.

And when He had lived among men for thirty years, He was baptized by John, really and not in appearance; and when He had preached the Gospel three years, and done signs and wonders, He who was Himself the Judge was judged by the Jews, falsely so called, and by Pilate the governor; was scourged, was smitten on the cheek, was spit upon; He wore a crown of thorns and a purple robe; He was condemned: He was crucified in reality, and not in appearance, not in imagination, not in deceit. He really died, and was buried, and rose from the dead ....

Taken from "The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians" in Writings of the Early Church Fathers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"If I am saved and all of my sins are forgiven, why not continue to sin?"


Answer:
The apostle Paul answered a very similar question in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The idea that a person could “trust in Jesus Christ” for salvation and then go on living just as he/she lived before, is absolutely foreign to the Bible. Believers in Christ are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit changes us from producing the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) to producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Christian life is a changed life because the Christian is changed.

What differentiates Christianity from every other religion is that Christianity is based on what God has done for us through Jesus Christ—divine accomplishment. Every other world religion is based on what we must do to earn God's favor and forgiveness—human achievement. Every other religion teaches that we must do certain things and stop doing certain other things in order to earn God's love and mercy. Christianity, faith in Christ, teaches that we do certain things and stop doing certain things because of what Christ has done for us.

How could anyone, having been delivered from sin's penalty, eternity in hell, go back to living the same life that had him on the path to hell in the first place? How could anyone, having been cleansed from the defilement of sin, desire to go back to the same cesspool of depravity? How could anyone, knowing what Jesus Christ did on our behalf, go on living as if He were not important? How could anyone, realizing how much Christ suffered for our sins, continue sinning as if those sufferings were meaningless?

Romans 6:11-15 declares, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”

For the truly converted, then, continuing to live sinfully is not an option. Because our conversion resulted in a completely new nature, our desire is to no longer live in sin. Yes, we still sin, but instead of wallowing in it as we once did, we now hate it and wish to be delivered from it. The idea of “taking advantage” of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by continuing to live sinfully is unthinkable. If a person believes himself to be a Christian and still desires to live the old, sinful life, he has reason to doubt his salvation. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Recommended Resource: Got Questions? - The Book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Get Ready for Spiritual Warfare?

When it comes to the Christian life, we will either gain or lose ground. We will either win or lose. But we have to be involved in the spiritual battle. Spiritual pacifists will be knocked down, because the Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground.

It is up to us to fight the good fight of faith. So we need to suit up and learn the principles from God’s Word that teach us how to be more than conquerors in Jesus Christ.

First, we need to put on the full armor of God as we engage in the spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:11 tells us, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (NKJV).

The phrase “put on” carries the idea of doing something once and for all. It speaks of permanence. The full armor of God is not something we put on and then take off again. We are to keep it on all the time.

Second, we need to be aware of the fact that Satan is not the equal of God. The devil would like us to think that whatever God can do, he can do, as though they were two sides of the same force.

Although Satan is a powerful spirit being, he is far from God’s equal. You see, God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. God is omnipresent. God can do anything that He wants to do, anywhere and anytime.

Satan is none of those things. He has limitations as to what he can do.

Third, we need to realize that the devil will primarily attack us in the realm of the imagination. The apostle Paul mentioned this in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (NKJV).

The devil knows that if he can get us to think about something, we are only a step away from actually doing it. He knows that our minds are “command central.” It is here that we reason. It is here that we remember. It is here that we dream.

Our minds are the hard drive, the place where everything originates. Satan knows that it is only a short step from a thought to an act.

Last, we need to understand that the devil works with two very close allies: the world and the flesh. “The world” is the world system that is hostile toward God. It is living for personal gratification, our own will above all else.

Then there is the flesh. When the Bible speaks of the flesh, it speaks more of the depraved, fallen human nature in which we are gratifying sensual appetites.

Taken from “The Winnable War” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).





Friday, November 11, 2011

Question: "What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?"


Answer:
All people are accountable to God whether or not they have “heard about Him.” The Bible tells us that God has clearly revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1:20) and in the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem is that the human race is sinful; we all reject this knowledge of God and rebel against Him (Romans 1:21-23). If it were not for God's grace, we would be given over to the sinful desires of our hearts, allowing us to discover how useless and miserable life is apart from Him. He does this for those who continually reject Him (Romans 1:24-32).

In reality, it is not that some people have not heard about God. Rather, the problem is that they have rejected what they have heard and what is readily seen in nature. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This verse teaches an important principle—everyone who truly seeks after God will find Him. If a person truly desires to know God, God will make Himself known.

The problem is “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). People reject the knowledge of God that is present in nature and in their own hearts, and instead decide to worship a “god” of their own creation. It is foolish to debate the fairness of God sending someone to hell who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ. People are responsible to God for what God has already revealed to them. The Bible says that people reject this knowledge, and therefore God is just in condemning them to hell.

Instead of debating the fate of those who have never heard, we, as Christians, should be doing our best to make sure they do hear. We are called to spread the gospel throughout the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We know people reject the knowledge of God revealed in nature, and that must motivate us to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Only by accepting God’s grace through the Lord Jesus Christ can people be saved from their sins and rescued from an eternity apart from God.

If we assume that those who never hear the gospel are granted mercy from God, we will run into a terrible problem. If people who never hear the gospel are saved, it is logical that we should make sure no one ever hears the gospel. The worst thing we could do would be to share the gospel with a person and have him or her reject it. If that were to happen, he or she would be condemned. People who do not hear the gospel must be condemned, or else there is no motivation for evangelism. Why run the risk of people possibly rejecting the gospel and condemning themselves when they were previously saved because they had never heard the gospel?

Recommended Resource: What About Those Who Have Never Heard? by Ronald Nash.