Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Great Cast—Where’s the Plot?

~ Matthew 1 – Like Reading a Phone Book? ~

The Old Testament begins with Creation—an immensely important foundation for what follows. The New Testament begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ—an equally important foundation for all that follows.

Is the first chapter of Matthew dull, boring, and unimportant? Absolutely not! Matthew 1:1-17 provides the blood line of Jesus Christ. (Luke 3:23-38 provides the blood line of His mother Mary.)

The “begats” (King James Version) of Matthew are one of the most important parts of the Bible. One could define the Old Testament as “the family history of Jesus Christ.” The historic blood line from Adam to Jesus Christ is documented in Matthew 1. The New Testament credibility stands or falls on the accuracy of this genealogy.

The genealogy can be divided into three groups of fourteen. The first group, Abraham through King David, was a period of theocratic rule (God was considered the supreme authority). The next group following David until the Babylonian captivity (King Solomon into the time of Jechonias) was a period monarchial rule (authority was in an individual). The final group, Jechonias through Jesus Christ, was a time of hierarchical rule (multiple levels of rule determined by rank / level and topic).

From a historical standpoint it is helpful to realize that the genealogies were kept in the temple, and when Titus destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., the genealogies were lost. However, when Jesus was making His claim of being a descendant of David and a descendant of Abraham, the genealogies were still there, and although His enemies questioned just about everything else, they never questioned Jesus’ genealogy. The reason is obvious—the genealogies proved that the Lord Jesus was who He claimed to be as a far as His ancestry was concerned. He is the son of David, and He is also the son of Abraham. He came in that line which God said would produce the Messiah. Matthew begins by declaring this fact in the very first verse of his Gospel.

The Jews of the period never questioned that Jesus Christ was the son of David and therefore could be the Messiah. They did question whether or not He was God in the flesh dwelling among mankind.

CONTEMPLATE: Why are four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EXTRA: 6-month Feedback

~ A BIG Thank You to All ALN Readers! ~

First Post: October 21, 2009
Blog Existence: 6-months
Number of Posts: 33

U.S. States with Readers: 42
Countries with Readers: 35 – Included are readers on all six of the inhabited continents as well as a number of island nations.
Languages Read In: 10

Summary: God is blessing beyond our imagination.
(1) The readership noted above.
(2) Two individuals have inquired about salvation.
(3) Another Christian blog site requested permission to post one of my blogs in entirety.
(4) Several other blogs have added ALN to their favorite blog lists.

Thank you!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“Evangelist” vs. “Witness” - 2of2

~ All Christians Are Witnesses ~

Last week we looked at the three New Testament references related to “evangelism.” This time we summarize the numerous New Testament references regarding “witnessing.”

First, consider a clear statement: “You [all Christians] will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you [all Christians]; and you [all Christians] will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). All Christians are His witnesses whether they intend to be or not! In other words, you cannot change God’s character—but you can sure damage His reputation!

Throughout the Bible all saints are repeatedly exhorted to be witnesses, and by implication all are exhorted to speak forth. But as we have seen, there is a difference between witnessing and evangelizing. There are many places in Scripture where witnessing is a clear command to all Christians.

In the Old Testament we find that “witness” is always a singular term because it referred to a single entity, the nation of Israel. Just as CHRISTians bear CHRIST's name today, in the Old Testament Israel carried God's name. For example, we listen to Solomon's great prayer of dedication, “... so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears Your Name” (1 Kings 8:43b). In those days the unbelievers sought out the Israelites, who were God's witnesses.

In the New Testament we find that the Church is to go to the unbelievers, such as in the passage previously quoted (Acts 1:8). We cannot expect the unbeliever to come to us today, any more than a business with a better mousetrap can expect customers to beat down their doors. In the New Testament we find that “witnesses” are often plural. This is because individual Christians are all to be witnesses.

What is a witness? A witness tells about something which they have personally experienced! To witness about Christ one does not have to be a theologian. “One thing I know, once I was blind but now I can see” (John 9:25). You can do that! You already have everything you need to witness. Monday coffee breaks often find people witnessing about what they did over the weekend, whether attending a sports event, a concert, a party, or an outdoor activity. It is natural to witness about that which one is excited about. The key question then becomes: “Are you excited about Christ and what He has done for you?” If not, the problem is an issue of the heart rather than the intellect!

When your faith has vitality, witnessing becomes as natural as breathing. What the Church needs is Christians who are growing and maturing in such a way that their lives are marked by “life abundant” and true joy.

The disciples never claimed to be evangelists for Christ; however, we frequently read that they considered themselves to be God's witnesses on earth. For example, Peter says “we are witnesses” in Acts 10:39. God has always had His representatives on earth.

The great paradox is that the excitement of the early Christians for witnessing resulted in their communities being evangelized! Evangelism and witnessing go hand-in-hand but they are distinguished from each other. Be bold in your witness about Christ and what He has done for you, and God will bless you.

CONTEMPLATE: All Christians are witnesses, and sometimes they use words! You cannot change God’s character—but you can damage His reputation.

“Evangelist” vs. “Witness” - 1of2

~ Only 3 References to Evangelism in the NT ~

Throughout my decades as a Christian I have often observed Christians with a guilt complex about their lack of evangelistic effort. I believe a key reason for this is a major misunderstanding of the Biblical concept of evangelism. In particular Christians need to differentiate between evangelism and witnessing.

The New Testament contains a total of three references to evangelism. Good hermeneutic (Biblical interpretation) principles need to be used rather than accepting what has often been taught. Look at the three references and what they clearly tell us.

The first reference to an evangelist in the Word of God is in Acts 21:8, where we read: “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.” Notice the clear use of the word as a title, similar to the way in which one today might say “Billy Graham the evangelist.” Incidentally, Philip—the evangelist is to be distinguished from Philip—the apostle.

The second reference is in Ephesians 4:11, dealing with spiritual gifts in the church: “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” The context clearly speaks for itself.

The third time the word evangelist is used in the Word of God is in 2 Timothy 4:5, where we read Paul's charge to Timothy: “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” Here we see the term used as a specific instruction to a specific individual. “Do the work of an evangelist” again connotes a specific type of calling. How Christians exercise the gift of evangelism may vary. Some may conduct mass crusades while others are skilled in one-to-one evangelistic efforts.

The word “evangelist” appears in Scripture in only three locations. It seems clear from these references that not all Christians are called to be evangelists and therefore are not necessarily commanded to do the work of an evangelist (or to feel guilty about not doing so).

In summary, the word is a title similar to teacher, prophet, and so forth. The title evangelist refers to one who has the particular spiritual gift of effectively pointing unbelievers to Christ. As in the case of the gift of “teaching,” an “evangelist” is called and equipped for a particular type of ministry. No one should make another Christian feel guilty about not being an evangelist.

An important word of caution. I am not suggesting that Christians should avoid doing the work of an evangelist when opportunity presents itself. For example, Christians should not avoid teaching because they do not have the spiritual gift of teaching. Parents for example are to instruct their children and there are many other examples of ordinary Christians teaching others. Likewise, every Christian should be sensitive to the Spirit of God and use whatever evangelistic gift God has given them—little becomes much when God leads you! We are to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit at all times.

Stay tuned! Next week we will look at “the rest of the story” and the topic of being a witness for Christ—something closely related to, but different from, being an evangelist.

Monday, April 5, 2010

7 New Things

~ A Christian Is New—Not Modified! ~

When a person becomes a Christian, all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Seven closely related factors which each Christian possesses are listed below.

A new mind about God / repentance ~ To become a Christian requires repenting of one’s sins. Repentance involves an abrupt change in thinking about sin and about God (Acts 20:21).

A new attitude toward God / conversion ~ Closely related to repentance, conversion is actually the result of genuine repentance (Matthew 18:3). The individual literally becomes new as he is born spiritually (John 3:3). Previously he was born physically—now born again this time spiritually—literally “born from above.”

A new status before God / justification ~ A Christian is justified. This means that justice has been accomplished—their sins have been paid for in full on the Cross (Romans 4:25). God has not dismissed their sins, rather the full price of their sins has been paid by Jesus Christ. Because of the Cross it is “just as if they had never sinned” in God’s eyes.

A new relationship before God / a son of God ~ The believer is now is part of the family of God (1 John 3:1). All creatures belong to God as a result of creation—those who have acknowledged God for who He is and what He says have been adopted into the family of God. As part of God’s family they are entitled to full rights and have a full inheritance (Galatians 4:7).

A new life from God / regeneration ~ A Christian has been regenerated (Titus 3:5). This is not a fixed-up old life but a new spiritual life which coexists with the natural life. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:12-13) A key word in this verse is “know.” There is no uncertainty about the future for the Christian who understands the Word of God!

A new position before God / sanctification ~ The Christian has been sanctified, literally set apart, by God for a new and glorious life, ministry, and future home in heaven (Jude 1). The God who created the universe has set you apart for His glory!

A new place with God / glorification ~ While there is a sense of glory from the time of conversion (Romans 8:30), the ultimate glorification of the believer occurs in the future at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At that time we shall be changed and shall be with God for eternity future.